The Pasta Experiment

Tonight’s meal was inspired by Pinterest and a post I saw there about lasagna rolls.  Basically, it’s a lasagna that’s rolled up with all the goodies nicely inside and the sauce dripped over the top.  I like to think of it as a less messy version, which instantly appealed to me.  I always seem to have trouble eating lasagna, getting it all over and ending up with this pasta goop all over my plate.  Maybe it’s just me.  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Moving on…

Simple but filling lasagna rolls

Simple but filling lasagna rolls

Basically, I boiled the pasta down to an aldente but soft enough to roll easily.  Once that is done, I took my lovely spatula and spread the cheese mix along the pasta.  It’s a mix of low-fat ricotta, parmesean, parsley, sprinkle of basil, pinch of salt and folded it all together.  Personally, I’d like a bit more seasoning but my family isn’t much for it, so I let it be.  Then I just rolled up all up and laid them nicely in a bake dish.  Over the top, I dripped a combo of ground chuck and marinara sauce.  Set it all to bake like you would a lasagne.

Right before it’s done, sprinkle a good helping of mozzarella.  I adore cheese, so there was quite a good helping of cheese on the top.  Then pop that baby back in for another 10 minutes and voila!  Single serve lasagna rolls!

At least they were a lot less 'messy' than the traditional lasagna.

At least they were a lot less ‘messy’ than the traditional lasagna.

Looking back and tasting it, I would like a bit more seasoning in my cheese mix.  It wasn’t bad, but like I said, I’m a fan of seasoning.  Another thing I would do would be to cut out the marinara sauce and use good, old fashioned pasta sauce.  It worked, especially with the meat, but for myself, I might have done away with the meat in favor of a good sauce.  Since I didn’t put the sauce inside the rolls, it definitely needs that to keep it from being a bit dry.  I think I might also mix a little cheddar on top too.  I like my cheese.

Not a bad meal, especially for a first time experiment.  There’s some tweaking to be had, but it’s a start and I like it.

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Easy Irish Soda Bread

When my mother requests I make something, I really can’t turn that down.  A year ago, it would NEVER have happened and I’m not joking.  I’m not joking when I say that cooking wasn’t a strong suit.  I burnt easy mac… in the microwave.  I am the poster child for those who couldn’t cook and now can.  If I can, you can.  Why do I say all this: because this is an easy one but it was REQUESTED.  I had to oblige.

What was it?  Irish Soda Bread.  It’s a quick baking bread that’s great at little mini-loaves for biscuits for a pasta dish or any dish really.  I like my biscuits with something behind them.  The recipe was one I stumbled upon on various searches online so I can’t even say where I got it, but I will say, I had to adjust it a bit.

Cute little Irish Soda Bread biscuits.

Cute little Irish Soda Bread biscuits.

It calls for only one cup of flour to a one cup mix of milk and an egg.  Liquid to flour ratio is a bit off since you kinda need it to be a dough and not a good smelling goop.  I added about 1/2-3/4 cup more of flour, which is mixed with about 1/2 teaspoon soda (sometimes I make it a healthy scoop) and as much salt.  Mix it up and knead lightly and make into little biscuit shapes.  Score the top with an X and away you go.  See, easy, few ingredients and perfect for dinner.

They bake at about 350 degrees for around 8-10 minutes or until golden.  Then butter and enjoy or just enjoy.

Quicky Pie

Just a quicky for today.

When I’m in need of a dessert, I always turn toward a pie.  I can make a pie crust pretty decently and I have my go to one that I love for my fruit pies.  It’s a sweet crust and absolutely yummy and flaky if you don’t knead it too much.  Pies are always great because I usually have the supplies to at least make the crust and find something to put in the middle.  This time around, I knew I wanted a pie and bought some frozen fruit.

Small, little, berry pie

Small, little, berry pie

Now, let me just say that I would rather use fresh fruit than anything canned or frozen.  Yes, I adore cherry pie filling (I’ll eat it straight from the can and be a happy camper) but real fruit it always so much fresher with a sweet crust.  The syrup in most pie fillings can make the crust almost too sweet depending on the fruit and the brand.  Plus, if you use fresh fruit, you can decide how much you want in there.  Sadly, frozen fruit bag do not give you much.  Hardly a cup and a half worth of anything but it’s the next best thing to fresh fruit.  Fresh is rather expensive here in the freezing cold of the Midwest in January.  I had to make do and the mix wasn’t too bad.

With pie crust at the ready, I just mixed the frozen fruit with a good 1/4 cup of sugar and a little flour and topped it off.  It’s a very thin, small thing because I only had one bag (I’d recommend two), but when you’re desperate for a sweet, you make do.  This mix was strawberry, sweet cherry, sour cherry, and blackberry.  I am not a fan of blackberries but that’s alright.  It’s a fruit and I’ll take it.

Just a quick, basic thing, but I did make it from scratch and so it counts.  Maybe I should have chopped up some apples…next time.

Apple Cinnamon Bread on a Cold Day

What does a freezing cold day like today need?  Why, warm bread of course and not just any bread, homemade apple cinnamon bread.

I could have easily looked one up but I was feeling the need to be a bit creative.  It seems pretty basic anyway when you look at it: bread + apples + cinnamon = apple cinnamon bread.  Then, of course, sugar is involved and voila, you have bread.  Now, I didn’t write down the exact amounts, but I’ll do my best to recount it all.

Start off with your basic bread set up: yeast, sugar, a drop of honey (because I happen to like it), milk and water and set to foam up.  My yeast is on the last batch of being good so it didn’t rise like it usually does but it was enough to get through this experiment.

Look at the lovely, cracked top!

Look at the lovely, cracked top!

The next part is making the flavor.  I put together a mixture of sugar and cinnamon so that it equals about 1/4 cup or so (like I said, I didn’t actually measure this out).  In another bowl, I peeled and chopped three medium to small sized granny smith apples (they are the best for baking really) into very small bits like if you were dicing up some onions.  To the apples I added a healthy spoonful of white sugar, a couple of soft brown sugar and a good sized pinch or two of cinnamon.  The cinnamon ratio for both the sugar mix and the apples all depends on your love of cinnamon.  I happen to like cinnamon and it smells up the house wonderfully.

When that’s all done and the yeast has foamed up, add in your butter and egg like you usually do and the usual pinch of salt.  Mix that together, then add the sugar/cinnamon mix.  I added at least 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of flour to thicken it before I added in the apples.  Note that this is A LOT of apples to dough ratio so if you don’t want that many, just use two.  In our house, we love our apples and my mother insisted on adding a third apple.

Then proceed as usual to make the dough, let it rise, punch it down, put it into pans and let it rise again before baking.  This bakes up a little slower and a bit thicker so watch your oven temp and the timing.  In retrospect, I wish I had made little roll/muffins in the cupcake tin because these would be great for breakfast.

The larger loaf with the apple icing.

The larger loaf with the apple icing.

To top it off, I made an apple icing for the large loaf (I left the smaller alone).  This I made using powdered sugar, apple juice instead of milk, a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of butter all whisked together.  I actually like this much better than a sugar and milk combo for a glaze.

Happily, the result was delicious with just the right amount of sugar and lots of very tart and sweet apple chunks.  I give all the credit to the type of apples.  Granny Smith really are the way for baking…eating raw however, my heart belongs to Macintosh.

Bite Sized Peanut Butter Yummies

More sweet tooth moments abound!  This time in a healthy way.  With all the new year resolutions to eat better, lose weight and more, why not look for a healthy-ish cookie?  My mother has this low-cal dessert book she picked up somewhere, so when I was craving something and didn’t want to go for something super-bad for me, I dug around in there.  Then I remembered the peanut butter cookie recipe that tasted like fudge.  I should really try to turn it into a cookie/brownie combo or a truffle…mmmm…

Little bite sized goodies

Little bite sized goodies

The trick is making a smaller batch and making smaller cookies.  Yes, having cookies the sizes of our hands are fun but really bad for you.  Portion control is where it is at when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, at least in my book.  These, I made bite-sized (which doesn’t work when your father and brother clearly don’t care about sharing and eat five in one sitting).

Perfect little cookies for snack time!

Perfect little cookies for snack time!

I almost want to try them with ice cream but I’m a strictly chocolate and ice cream type of person.  Don’t ask why, I have no answer for it. Personally, these would be good for parties because they are small, tasty and just enough to deal with that need for something sweet.

Cover of the low cal cook book.  I didn't see any authors to post a link

Cover of the low cal cook book. I didn’t see any authors to post a link

Since I don’t want to mess with copyright, I will say that there’s no brown sugar, minimal butter and only a light half cup peanut butter.  Personally, I like it like that.  I think if you half your own recipe  or make an even ratio of peanut butter to sugar you should be good.  Or just make them tiny, cute and bite sized!

Homemade and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls.

I stayed out of the kitchen for a few days because, like most of America, I wasn’t feeling well.  Luckily, I did not have the plague/flu but at the same time, I did not want to pass it along to my family.  It all means that I was itching to do something.  When you live at home, you want to contribute in some way, you know?  So when my mother suggested breakfast for dinner (she wanted to make homemade pancakes), I figured homemade cinnamon rolls was a nice companion.

The perks of working at a living history site means historical recipes.  I recommend checking out the Buckeye Cookery and Mrs. Owen’s, both are on Google Play Books for free and are easy to use with some fabulously lovely yummies.  We are given a little ‘house’ cookbook when we are hired on with basic historical recipes and the cinnamon rolls was one of them.  It comes from the Detroit Free Press in 1881.

Homemade cinnamon rolls.  They really expanded in the oven.

Homemade cinnamon rolls. They really expanded in the oven.

It starts off by saying to make a light dough, as if for bread… which means some dry, active yeast (a must in any kitchen in my opinion), milk, water and a sugar for the yeast to love.  I used just honey since later the recipe calls for more sugar and I have to watch my sugar intake.  Typically, with bread, I mix sugar and honey in the beginning and it’s really nice.  Let that foam up (if you use sugar and honey, it foams up a little better for some reason).

Then mix in some shortening (it doesn’t say how much, so I put about 3-4 tablespoons), one egg and some sugar (I ended up with about 1/6 cup when all said and done) and because I’m a little hesitant with shortening (can’t even say why), I put 2 tablespoons of butter.  Mix that with enough flour to make the dough (don’t knead it too much), then roll it out like for a jelly roll.  The recipe calls for you to spread butter and then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar.  Roll it all up, then slice and put into pans like you do for rolls.

They turned into muffins in the cupcake tin

They turned into muffins in the cupcake tin

Now, it makes a lot of dough, which I forgot, so I ran out of room in my little dish, so I was pressed and ended up using cupcake tins.  The rolls were too big for those, so they kinda collapsed on themselves and when you let them rise, they made little muffin shapes which was kinda a nice surprise.

So you let them rise in a warm place and before baking, the recipe says to put a lump of butter on each one, and sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar.  I baked them for about 20 minutes on a medium hot oven.  Just watch them… and note that they really puff up, hence my cupcake ones turning into muffins.

To top them off, I made a simple icing and then ate them.  It’s a nice, fluffy roll instead of the more pastry style that comes from a can.  True be told, I rather like this fluffy, bread-like ones.  They’re more filling and a little less sugary, perfect breakfast muffin.

It’s a Pie Day

For whatever reason, yesterday was one of those days where I just made pies.  Both dinner and dessert were homemade pies, which, to be honest, is kind of a nice way to go when it comes to feeding oneself.  It’s also a bit healthier… maybe not calorie free but certainly it gets rid of all those pesky frozen foods that can’t be healthy.

Homemade chicken pie

Homemade chicken pie

So dinner started off with a chicken and egg pie.  I work at a lovely place call Greenfield Village as one of the historical presenters on the living history sites and we tend to make this pie when we can.  It’s harder there since we can’t just make a quick run to the supermarket for eggs and it uses quite a few eggs.  At the same time, it is rather delicious and simple.

You boil a chicken in some of your favorite spices.  I use parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper because it smells delicious.  The way I season is strictly by smell.  If it smells yummy and makes your stomach grumble, then chances are it will be just as good on the tongue.  Then you let it cook and strip it from the bone.  Simple and easy, just be sure to keep the stock.

After that, boil up some eggs.  I used six for a small casserole sized dish and it worked out wonderfully.  Slice up some potatoes extra thin and make up a flaky pie crust.  The one I used is basic of basic: flour, butter, a bit of milk and then water until it makes a dough.  You want two crusts, like a traditional sweet pie.  Then just layer it up.  I start with chicken, egg, potato and repeat.  Then cover with the stock (see, you need it), it’ll make it juicy and keep it from drying.  And bake.  Not hard at all, but hardy and great for a cold, winter day.  Chicken soup in a pie!

All fancied up Banana Cream pie with Chocolate Pie Crust

All fancied up Banana Cream pie with Chocolate Pie Crust

Now, dessert, I experimented.  I wanted to make a chocolate pie crust and instead of looking one up, decided to make one up.  Turns out, it was delicious.  The chocolate wasn’t overpowering (which was key for me) and great for custard style pies.

Yummy slice!

Yummy slice!

The inside of the pie is banana creme make from two boxes of the instant mix, topped with bananas and whipped topping.  I wanted to be creative but if the crust didn’t work out, I didn’t want to waste a bunch of resources doing everything from scratch.  Next time, I will since it works.

It was a pretty good hit with the family, so I say Pie-Day is an okay type of day.

Chocolate Pie Crust by moi!

1 cup flour, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/8 cup cocoa powder, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, water

Rub the butter into the flour until you form a breadcrumb style mix.  Then add sugar and cocoa powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolk, vanilla and one tablespoon water together, then add to the dry mix.  I use a knife to cut the mixture together and it works rather well.  Mix in water to make dough, careful not to handle it too much or else it will become tough.  Roll out.  Makes only one crust.  If you wanted two, keep the sugar, vanilla and tablespoon water the same when doubling everything else.  You may need more water when making a chocolate crust because you are adding to the dry mixture.