February 13, 2013

"An Affair to Remember”—Fun Night for Knoxville

Final Draft with Ruffles (1) I saw this poster at Renaissance Terrace, a local assisted living, and thought some of you local folks might be interested.  It sounds like a fun night!

Did you get to go to the prom with your spouse, or significant other? Would you like to create that experience for memories to come? Well this is the event for you! This is a formal event with men wearing tuxedos or suits and the ladies wearing formal dresses or prom dresses. The tickets are $75.00 a couple and $40.00 for an individual. This will include all food, non-alcohol drinks, and entertainment. A photographer and other drinks will be available at an additional charge.
If you have additional questions or if you would like to attend please call 865-523-2920.

February 3, 2013

Lasagna

P1250114(Photo—Lasagna shown near the top of the photo.  Not super pretty, but it is yum!)

I’m a little like Garfield in that my favorite dish is lasagna.  When family members were in town for a recent funeral, I made a big batch of lasagna to have for people visiting from out of town. 

This isn’t exactly a low cal casserole.  Consider using lean ground beef and whole wheat lasagna to help make it a little healthier. 

There are lots of options on this recipe with the amount of seasoning, addition of olives, and types and amounts of herbs that you use.  Feel free to adjust according to your taste buds and what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
1 onion (if you like onion, chop a large one, if you don’t, go with a smaller one)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Cooking spray or oil
1/4 c-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (again, add more if you like it and less if you don’t)
Tony’s seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
2 small containers (6 oz) tomato paste
2 c. water
1/2 c-1 c. chopped and drained black olives (this is completely optional.  I didn’t add them to the batch I recently made because I wasn’t sure if people would like olives or not)
Dried or fresh oregano and basil (to taste, again optional).  I added approximately 1/2 t.dried of each
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
Lasagna noodles, cooked by package directions
10 oz cottage cheese or ricotta
1 small package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed to remove most of the liquid
2 eggs
Mozzarella cheese (at least a 4 cup package but more if you like it really cheesy)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff)

Directions--

1.  Cook the ground beef with the onion and garlic in a bit of oil or cooking spray.  Drain completely.

2.  Add the parsley, tomato paste, water, olives (if using), and bay leaf, and stir together.  Begin adding your seasonings and dried herbs, tasting as you add a little to get the mixture right for your liking.  Let simmer 1 hour or longer. Remove bay leaves.  You can always stop at this point and either refrigerate or freeze the sauce to be used at another time if you choose. 

3.  Mix the cottage cheese or ricotta with the drained frozen spinach and egg. 

4.  Cook lasagna to al dente according to package directions.  There are many people who choose to use their pasta raw, but I never find that the texture is right when it is completed. 

5.  To a deep casserole dish that has been oiled or sprayed with cooking spray, add about 1/2 cups of the sauce as the base layer.  Then top with lasagna noodles and layer with the spinach mixture, mozzarella cheese, more sauce and another layer of noodles.  When you get near the top, finish the layers with lasagna noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. 

6.  If desired, cover well and freeze for another time.  Be sure to pull out the night before you need it so that it thaws before cooking.  Otherwise spray some foil with cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking and loosely cover the casserole.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45min-1 hour (depending on the size of the dish).  In the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the foil so that the cheese is allowed to become a nice golden color.  Enjoy!

February 2, 2013

Focaccia

 P1250114(Photo—a slice of focaccia is shown on the bottom right.  I’ll post the lasagna recipe soon!  We took this photo in haste, right before devouring the meal with family and out of town guests.  Sorry it isn’t a better shot for y’all.)

One of the easiest breads to make is focaccia.  It pairs perfectly with almost any Italian dish, and it always seems to impress guests.  Start to finish, it takes a little less than an hour, and it is well worth the little effort you will need to put into it.  I also find it to be cost effective—compared to store bought Italian bread at about $2 a loaf, you’ll cut your bill more than in half if you opt to make this bread instead, especially if you use coupons. 

Ingredients

1 pack dried active yeast
1 t. white sugar
1/3 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)—you’ll need more as you start to mix the flour into the yeast mixture
2 c. all purpose flour

Topping—good quality olive oil, fresh rosemary, and freshly milled or flaked salt or Italian seasoning

Directions

1.  Mix the yeast, sugar, and 1/3 c. water together and let sit about 10 minutes.  The mixture will foam a bit. 

2.  Mix the yeast mixture into the flour and then slowly start to add warm water until the flour is no longer raggy-looking, thoroughly wet but without being super sticky. 

Note—mixing the right amount of water and flour together when making bread takes a little practice.  If in doubt, err on the side of making it a little wet.  When you knead the mixture (next step), you can add more flour back in to get it right.  It is difficult to say how much water to add because so much depends on how humid your home is when you are making the dough. 

3.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 1-3 minutes.  This step helps to start the gluten working. 

4.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, flip over so that both sides are covered in a bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm part of your kitchen.  Let sit for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.

5.  Punch out dough and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Roll to about 1 1/2 inches-2 inches thick and place on a greased jelly roll pan.  You can make it into an oval, rectangle or simply loosely form it on the pan.  Take your fingertips and press them into the surface of the dough to dimple it.

6.  Brush or drizzle olive oil on the surface and don’t be super stingy.  You want there to be nice little pools of oil in the dimples without it being so runny that you have a mess all over your pan.  Use a salt mill to sprinkle the surface with salt.  If you do not have a salt mill, try using flaked sea salt or an Italian seasoning.  While you can use regular salt, the effect isn’t the same.  If you like, add little sprigs of rosemary to the top by gently pushing the tips of the leaves into the dough.

7.  Bake at 475 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until your desired crunchiness.  You’ll want the bread to be a golden color and no longer spongy.  Some people like their focaccia to be almost like a cracker and others like it to keep the bread texture.  You be the judge.

8.  Serve plain or with olive oil and freshly cracked pepper as a dipping sauce.  This is also really nice with Caprese salad or an antipasto platter.