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    Veggie Lasagna

    I’ve been asked several times to add more vegetarian recipes to my repertoire so I dug into the basement of my brain to see what I had produced in the past but for whatever reason never put them to print. I remembered this one that I used to prepare for the vegetarian counselors from my camp days. Most of the work is in the preparation, however, it is well worth your while.

    You will need:

    Eggplant — 2 LBS. approx. I used the Italian variety but the classic will do just fine.
    Zucchini — 2 LBS.
    Mushrooms — 2 LBS. Button work fine but crimini will give you a more earthy flavor.
    Red Bell Peppers — 1 LB.
    Green Bell Peppers — 1 LB.
    Onions — 1 LB. Use a sweet variety such as Walla Walla or Vidalia.
    Bechamel Sauce — 1 Quart. Here is an easy recipe to use.
    Italian Tomatoes — 2 32oz. cans diced or crushed. Try to use San Marzano.
    Ricotta Cheese — 1 LB.
    Eggs — 2 well beaten.
    Mozzarella Cheese — 2 large balls
    Lasagna Noodles — 1 LB package. You can use either the cook or no cook variety. If you use the cook version prepare according to directions on the package however you want them just under al denté.
    Basil — 2 TBSP dry or 4 TBSP fresh.
    Oregano — 2 TBSP dry or 4 TBSP fresh.
    Sea Salt/Cracked Pepper — 2 tspn each.
    Olive Oil 8 TBSP which equals 1/2 cup

    I usually don’t peel the eggplant for this recipe but that’s a personal choice, either way won’t affect the taste. Cut it into 1 inch pieces place in a collander over a bowl and salt liberally toss to coat set aside. Cut the zucchini into 1 inch pieces, set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees then place the bell peppers on a cookie sheet and roast until soft and partially blackened. When they are ready, remove from the oven, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, set aside. Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces, set aside. Dice the onions into 1/2 inch pieces place in a strainer and rinse well, set aside. Using the large holes on a grater grate the mozarella cheese, set aside.

    Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a sauté pan until shimmering. Place the eggplant into the pan and cook just until browned, put cooked eggplant into a large bowl. In the same pan add 1 more TBSP oil and sauté the zucchini until browned add to the bowl of eggplant. Add 1 more TBSP oil and sauté the mushrooms until browned add to the bowl. Add 1 more TBSP of oil and sauté the onions until opaque, don’t let them brown then add to bowl. Peel the skins off the roasted peppers chop into 1 inch pieces and add to the bowl. Sprinkle one TBSP each basil and oregano and 1 tspn salt and pepper over the cooked vegetables and stir to combine, set aside. In another bowl place the ricotta cheese, egg and mozzarella cheese and stir until well combined.

    Lightly oil a lasagna pan then coat the bottom with crushed tomatoes, just enough to make it about 1/2 inch deep. Add a layer of lasagna noodles then spread enough Bechamel Sauce to cover, then add a layer of the mixed veggies then a layer of the cheese mixture. Add a layer of crushed tomatoes sprinkle with some of the basil and oregano. Repeat this process until all of the ingredients are used ending with the crushed tomatoes as the last layer. Cover the lasagna dish with foil place on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 45 minutes, checking occasionally to avoid burning. After you remove it from the oven let it cool for about 20 minutes before service.

    I usually have enough left over to cut into nice sized portions and freeze for another day. ENJOY!

    Gnocchi Marsala

    Sometimes things just pop into my head and sometimes something I’ve sampled brings a flood of ideas. This one is a combination of the two. At a demonstration one of the store managers cooked up a large dish of dumplings with mushroom sauce somewhat of a European entrée. I thought about making a similar item and came up with this offering.

    You will need:

    Gnocchi — 1 LB. — If you make your own that’s great however for those that either don’t have the time nor knack there are a few frozen varieties that can be purchased at most stores. If you can’t find frozen some manufacturers make a dried version.
    Mushrooms — 1 LB. — Use either button or crimini or a combination of the two.
    Marsala Wine — 1/4 cup (approx)
    Stock &#151 chicken, veal or vegetable depending on your personal taste, I wouldn’t use beef as it would overwhelm the mushroom/marsala taste.
    Heavy Cream — 1 cup (approx.) — if you want a lighter sauce you can use half and half or milk.
    Shallots — 1 TBSP finely diced.
    Butter/Olive Oil — 1 TBSP each

    Depending on which gnocchi you use timing here is flexible. You want the gnocchi to be ready just as you are about to finish the sauce which will take about 15 minutes or less to prepare.

    Clean the mushrooms of any excessive dirt and cut into pieces that are about the same size as the gnocchi. In a saucepan large enough to hold all of the mushrooms heat the oil and butter over medium/low heat, add the diced shallots and cook just until they turn a little translucent, don’t overcook them. At the mushroom pieces and cook until they give off most of their liquid, add the marsala wine and cook just long enough to burn off the alcohol. You want the sauce to be a little liquid so if it gets a little too dry add some of the stock. Turn off the heat and add the cream/milk stir to combine then add the cooked gnocchi. Enjoy!

    Apple/Pear Slaw

    Summer is just around the corner, picnics and barbeques are already going strong. Here is a light, easy to prepare slaw that will liven up any gathering. This recipe will make enough for 4 people.

    You will need:

    Apple — one/4 servings, use a sweet variety I used Pink Lady.
    Pear — one/4 servings, make sure it’s ripe I used a Bosch for this version.
    Lime Juice — one medium/4 servings should be enough
    Habanero Pepper — one small/4 servings.
    Fresh Mint Leaves — approx. 1/4 cup/4 servings
    Kiwi — 2 small/4 servings
    Onion — 1 TBSP/4 servings very finely diced, use a sweet variety such as Walla Walla or Vidalia as an alternative you can use a red onion.
    Olive Oil — approx. 1 TBSP/4 servings
    Sea Salt — just a pinch or two

    Use a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Cut all of the fruit into 1/8 inch sticks, roll all of the mint into a log and finely chiffonade. Finely dice the habanero pepper and onion. Add the olive oil, salt and mint to the bowl mix well, add the lime juice and stir once more. Add the apple, pear, onion and pepper stir all to combine. This slaw is best if you let all of the flavors marinate for an hour or so then Enjoy!

    Stuffed Chicken Breast

    I suppose you can call this recipe Chicken Cordon Bleu which technically it is here is my version with a little twist. At one of the food demonstrations I provide an associate was passing out samples of that good old snack “string cheese” and handed me one to try. Since I’ve had string cheese before so I decided to take it home and create a recipe. This recipe will take a little effort but is well worth it.

    You will need:

    Chicken Breast — 6 to 8 oz/per serving. boneless and skinless.
    Ham Slice — one/serving, use a good quality of your choice but stay away from those that have water added.
    String Cheese — one stick/serving
    Egg — one large/serving
    Dijon Mustard — one tsp/serving
    Flour — enough to dust breasts
    Bread Crumbs — enough to coat breast – I use a Panko style crumb.
    Plastic Wrap &#151 enough to wrap the breast.

    Using paper towels pat the chicken breast dry then lay flat on a cutting board, place hand flat on top of the breast and with a sharp knife, preferably a boning knife, insert as close to the center of the breast as possible making a slit at least one inch wide. Slowly push blade into breast using your hand to “feel” it go into the bird. Carefully work the blade around the inside of the breast creating a pocket. After you create the pocket, insert your index finger into the pocket to enlarge without breaking through the meat. To make sure that you do not contaminate the chicken use a rubber glove or wrap you finger in cling wrap/plastic wrap. Set aside.

    Place one slice of ham on a work surface, pull apart the string cheese thin enough to cover the slice then tightly roll the ham to form a tight log. Carefully insert the ham log into the pocket of the breast until it is completely inside. In a receptacle large enough and deep enough to hold chicken add egg and dijon mustard and whisk well. In two separate receptacles add flour in one and bread crumbs in the other. Dredge the chicken breast in the flour, dip into the egg/mustard mixture then dredge with the bread crumbs. Place the coated chicken onto a sheet of plastic wrap tucking the thinner part under the thicker part. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 15 minutes to one half hour. This will help set the coating reducing the possibility of the coating falling off during cooking.

    Place approximately one TBSP of oil, I used olive, into an oven proof sauté pan large enough to hold the breast(s). When the oil starts to shimmer add breasts and brown on all sides. Place sauté pan into a preheated (350 degree) oven and finish cooking. Enjoy!

    Pea/Cheddar Salad

    Summer will soon be upon us and you know what that means, barbeques and picnics. Here is a quick salad that I’m sure you and your friends will enjoy all season long.

    You will need:

    Baby Sweet Peas — 1 LB – frozen is good make sure they are baby which are smaller in size but also tend to be sweeter.
    Sweet Onion — Half of a medium size (about ½ cup) use Walla Walla, Vidalia or other sweet variety – fine dice.
    Celery — two or three ribs (about &#189 cup) fine dice.
    Cheddar Cheese — finely grated to equal the volume of the peas, approximately 1 cup
    Sour Cream — ½ cup
    Mayonaise — ½ cup
    Apple Cider Vinegar — two TBSP – you can add more or use less depending one your taste for the rich tart flavor of a good apple cider vinegar.
    Sea Salt/Pepper — to taste.
    Bacon — thick cut, cooked then finely diced, can be left out if you want a vegetarian version.

    In a bowl large enough to hold ingredients mix mayonaise, sour cream, vinegar, salt and pepper whisk to combine, taste and adjust as needed. The final product should be loose enough to pour over the peas if it is too thick just add a little water to adjust. In another bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients combine peas, celery and onion stir to combine. Pour the sour cream/mayo/vinegar mixture over the peas combination and stir to combine. Taste once more and adjust salt/pepper if needed then add bacon bits and stir once more. Enjoy!

    Cabbage/Peppadew Slaw

    What do you make when you have about a half head of Savoy cabbage, not enough for a whole meal, some Peppadew peppers again not enough for anything substantial? Well you make this recipe.

    I like using savoy cabbage in recipes since there isn’t as much liquid in it as there is in the good old fashioned head you are used to, so if you don’t have the savoy the only thing you need to do before putting this together is to put the shredded cabbage into a strainer/colander placed over a bowl, toss it with a good handful of salt so that any excess moisture wicks out. Rinse the cabbage before adding it to this slaw, don’t worry it doesn’t absorb any salt. This recipe will serve at least 4 people.

    You will need:

    Savoy Cabbage — one half head, shredded
    Peppadew Peppers — two or three medium sized, finely sliced/diced
    Carrots — One medium sized, shredded
    Mayonnaise — 1/4 cup
    White Vinegar — 1 TBSP
    Sea Salt/Pepper — to taste

    In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients place cabbage, peppers and carrots, toss or stir to combine. Add mayonaise, vinegar, salt and pepper then stir to combine completely. I think you’ll like the combination of flavors this slaw has to offer. Enjoy!

    Super Easy Hard Boiled Eggs

    You’ve most likely seen or heard tons of ways to cook the perfect hard boiled egg. Some are easy some not so much. This one, my tried and true version, makes it so easy everyone can get the perfect egg, whether it’s one or a dozen.

    Place egg(s) in a high sided pot large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Fill pot with just enough water to cover by two inches. Set a timer for 20 minutes and put on stove with the heat turned to high. As soon as water starts to bubble reduce to medium. Immediately after the 20 minutes has ended carefully drain the water from the pot and then bounce the eggs in the pot to slightly crack them, fill pot with ice cold water.

    By cracking the eggs in the pot it allows the cold water to get under the shell making them easy to remove. That’s it. Done.

    German Style Potato Salad

    Every once in a while I dig into my past with thoughts of things I haven’t made in some time. Today was one of those days. I had some leftover cooked potatoes which I decided to use for a breakfast plate which reminded me of one of my favorite potato salads. As I have been known to remake old favorites I think this effort is well worth a try.

    There are two things that made sense to change, one is the type of potato the other how they are cooked. Back in the day I used good ole red potatoes which I boiled for use in the salad, this time I chose to steam some Yukon Gold for this recipe. Steaming provides a great texture and retains some of the moisture normally lost when they are boiled.

    You will need:

    Potatoes — one pound small to medium sized Yukon Gold
    Bacon — quarter pound, thick cut, diced. Try to get bacon that has a lot of fat since you will need the rendering for the sauce.
    Vinegar — two or three TBSP
    Sugar — two or three TBSP, white. You might need more to adjust the taste.
    Pepper — fresh ground, to taste.

    Whether you use a steam basket or colander over a pot really doesn’t matter just be sure that you steam the potatoes in a single layer if there isn’t enough room you can steam them in batches. You can tell that they are done when a sharp knife goes into the flesh easily.

    While the potatoes steam put the bacon into a sauce pot large enough to hold it and the vinegar with room to spare. Cook the bacon until crisp, remove it from the fat with a slotted spoon, reserve. Add one TBSP of sugar to the hot fat stirring to combine, carefully add one TBSP of vinegar then repeat with the remaining sugar and vinegar tasting as you go along to get the sweet/sour combination you desire. Keep the sauce warm while you carefully remove the skin from the cooked potatoes, dice them into about 1/2″ cubes. Place them into a bowl with the cooked bacon and then dress with the bacon/vinegar/sugar mixture. Serve warm. Enjoy!

    Chickpeas(Garbanzo Beans) & Onions

    Over the holiday I had a conversation with my son-in-law about some of the foods my mom, may she rest in peace, prepared for our Christmas Eve dinner. If I’m not mistaken it consisted of 13 courses, all meatless and each served individually in a specific order. Some are simple with one or two steps some not so easy. I’ll try to recreate most if not all of them here so come back often to check them out.

    You will need:

    Chickpeas — 1 16 oz can
    Onion — 1 large Walla Walla or Vidalia – diced
    Butter — 1 stick – unsalted
    Sea Salt or Kosher Salt — to taste
    Pepper — fresh ground to taste.

    In a sauce pot large enough to hold both ingredients slowly melt the butter over medium low heat (do not let the butter brown), when it is completely melted and the onion and boil until the onion is completely softened. Meanwhile in another sauce pot add the entire can of chickpeas, liquid included, and bring up to heat. Once the onion/butter mixture is ready drain the chickpeas and add to the butter stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, stir to combine and serve.

    Quick and easy. Enjoy!

    Crab Puffs

    On occasion I find a great item through networking, a while ago I had the opportunity to get a sample of Miller’s Select Special White Crab Meat and promised my contact that as soon as had come up with something using his product I would publish the recipe and let him know. This holiday season was the perfect opportunity to try it out on friends and it got rave reviews. I think that, although there is some effort needed to make this one, your guest will appreciate your work.

    The base for this recipe is Pâte à Choux which, contrary to popular belief, is rather simple to make.

    You will need:

    Flour — 1 cup
    Water &151; 1 cup
    Butter, unsalted — 1 stick
    Eggs — 1 cup
    Flaked Crab Meat — 6 oz as mentioned above I use Miller’s Select due to the fine flake they provide
    Paprika — 2 tsp
    Pepper — 1 tsp (white pepper works best here however black will do just fine)
    Sea Salt

    Place water and butter in a sauce pot, just large enough to hold the liquid, bring to a low boil, once the butter is melted add the entire cup of flour at one time then with a wooden spoon, for some reason metal spoons won’t work as well. Beat the combination continually until a mass is formed and it starts to dry out. Place the flour mass into a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up and cool a little. Turn the processor on to full then through the feed tube slowly pour in the egg making sure it is combined each time before you add more, set aside.

    Place the flaked crab in a bowl, if it is not a fine flake break up any large pieces, toss the crab with the paprika and pepper. Fold the crab mixture into the choux base. Form the mixture into balls using a melon baller dipped in oil, this will allow the mixture to crop easily onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, space them about one inch apart as they will puff up when baked. Place the sheet into a preheated 400° oven baked until golden brown. Enjoy!

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