Casserole · Home Cooking · Italian

Love Me So

Potato Spinach Lasagna

lasagnaCongratulation! You have survived the holidays.  Now it’s time to clear out the fridge of all the goodies that are leftover.  While most leftovers are delicious as they are some need to be reinvented slightly in order to excite the taste buds.  Many years ago my cousin and I were facing a fridge of mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and a ton of turkey.  We also had lasagna noodles…and some cheese…and milk….and nothing else.  Our cupboards were essentially bare outside of the leftovers we had acquired and we were just plain tired of the same old stuff.  So we decided to do a holiday lasagna using our leftovers, and it was delicious.  This is a recipe that can be reworked and tweaked based on what you have left and can also be used outside of the holidays when the fridge (or freezer!) needs emptying.

1/2 lb lasagna noodles (pre-cooked if needed) – I prefer to use Barilla oven ready lasagna sheets
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cups sauted/creamed spinach
1 cup sour cream (opt. if using creamed spinach)
1 1/2 cups favorite alfredo sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325.  
2. Pour some of the alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 9×9 pan.  Place a layer of noodles on top.  Then top with the mashed potatoes, smoothing out until about 1/2 in thick, using about 2/3 cup.  Layer a third of the spinach on top and add some sour cream if using.  Pour a 1/4 cup of the alfredo sauce over top.  Continue the layering, ending with the noodles.  Top with the remaining sauce and the cheese.
3. Bake covered for 30minutes.  Remove cover and then back for an additional 20minutes, or until edges are slightly brown and cheese is bubbling.

I have done this recipe with spinach, mushrooms, corn, and carrots and so far have yet to be disappointed.  Mashed potatoes really are magical, everything seems to combine just perfectly with them, which results in some great taste combos.  If you have more than one vegetable side left, such as roasted carrots, feel free to add it as well!  The trick is making sure the there is enough moisture in the dish to prevent the noodles and potatoes from drying out.  Adding more sauce, sour cream, or Greek yogurt are all great ways to keep things nice and moist in the middle.  Also, if you are using pre-cooked pasta sheets make sure they are cooked al dente in order to avoid a globby mess.  Past experience with this phenomenon is why I have switched to the oven ready variety 🙂

I’m sending this holiday leftover favorite to GoodEats for the Surprisingly Nutritious Spaghetti Link-Up sponsored by Barilla pasta.


For My Own

Potato Perogies perogi

The holidays are now upon us: lights on the trees, carolers at my door, present hiding in the closet, and snow on the ground.  While I could do without the snow, another sign of the season are delicious comfort foods that remind me of past holidays.  When I was in college I tended to go to my best friends’s house for the holidays and at least one of those meals would be perogies.  If we were lucky her brother would make them for us and then it didn’t matter if they were from scratch or from a box, they were just amazing.  This season I decided it was time to attempt making them from scratch myself.  I knew that I could do the filling, a nice garlic mashed potato with some caramelized onions, but the outside had me slightly nervous.  When it comes to rolling dough I’m slightly hit or miss, and on occasion I have been known to start swearing at my pasta machine.  I explored the wonderful internet world, taking notes and trying to figure out what would work best.  I then started experimenting, until I found the right combination of taste and texture.
– 2 cups flour
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
– 1 tbsp dry Italian Seasonings (I used the Pampered Chef version)
– pinch of pepper
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup sour cream
– 1/4 cup margarine, softened
– 2 cups of favorite mashed potato recipe 
1. Mix the flour and the salt.  Add the garlic, Italian seasonings, and pepper.  Beat in the egg and mix well before adding the sour cream and margarine.  Gently knead the dough about 10 minutes, then cover and place in the fridge for 30minutes.  
2. Split dough into two sections and keep the spare dough in the fridge until ready.  Roll out the dough until 1/4in thick.  Use a cookie cutter to shape the dough.  Place about 1tbsp topping in the middle of the circle and then fold over, using a fork or dough crimper to seal the edges. 
3. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and slowly add perogies, cooking until they float to the top being careful to not crowd the pot. 
4.  Once the perogies are cooked there are MANY options for finishing them, I normally saute but have been known to bake them as well.  If sauting, just add some butter to a pan and heat over medium.  Add perogies and cook until lightly brown on each side.  Feel free to add some onions or peppers! If baking turn oven to 375.  Cook on each side about 4minutes.  

When it’s time to eat the perogies the must have topping in my opinion has to be sour cream, however I also like a side of applesauce as a second option.   However I have seen friends eat them with tomato sauces, cream sauces, and even ranch dressing.  The best part about them however is exploring with the various stuffings, because potatoes really do go with everything.  So far I have done perogies with: spinach, onions, sweet potatoes, CHEESE, mushrooms, and chives.  Many years ago I was fortunate to go to a perogi bar while in Poland so I have a long list of possible combinations for future adventures! 

Alles schläft

Mexican Potato Corn Chowder


Tis that time again: International Incident Blog Party!  While I joined into the festivities a little late in the year I had a great time and hope to do it again next year.  From working with lavender to messing around with salted caramel I learned new technique and tricks and had fun.  For the final month the “secret ingredient” was more of a “secret theme” of COLOURS! When I first read that I had two thoughts 1) hehe they said colours 2) flashing back to college and going with my friends to get Indian food.  It was our thing to go on Sunday mornings, as a hangover cure if you will.  Everytime without fail my one friend would make a comment about how to her the Indian food tasted like colors.  For example the palak paneer tasted green while the butter chicken tasted orange.  I’m not sure how this worked, but it also made for an entertaining experience.  My first thought was to attempt to create some Indian dishes, until I was reminded about previous Indian cooking (mis)adventures.  So on to something else. Something colorful and exciting and suitable for the chilly weather.  I thinking my brain process then did something along the lines of warm:soup:spinach:corn:corn chowder:potato corn chowder: Mexican Potato Corn Chowder.  A nice hardy soup with yellows and greens, and then some delicious cheesy corn bread to keep it company.  I decided to take the recipe I had for Potato Corn Chowder, one that in its original form came from the back of a can of new potatoes, and start modifying it.  I knew I wanted to make it creamier than the original and also wanted to spice it up.  I also decided to use my slow cooker, which wound up working out perfectly.

2  12ozcans creamed corn
1 12oz can corn (drained)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup half & half
1 1b potatoes, cubed
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced and seeded (optional)
2 tsp chili powder
1 cup favorite cheese (I used Colby but Jack or a sharp cheddar would also work well)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Turn slow cooker to low and add all the ingredients except the onion and cheese.  Stir well.  
2. Add some oil to a small pan and gently saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown, about 7minutes.  Add to slow cook and cook 7-8hrs on low.
3.  Remove half of the soup and blend well.  Return to slow cooker.  
2. Turn heat to high and add the cheese stirring well.  Season to taste and then cook for an additional hour.  Serve!

I topped mine off with some blue chips in order to add a little more crunch (and color) which wound up working perfectly.  If you have a hand emulsion blender this recipe is a prime example of why those are so amazingly.  Getting the soup into the blender was a pain but the thickness it adds to the recipe is worth the hassle.



Blue Satin Sashes

Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars


“The best laid plans of mice and men oft not go astray.”  Truer words were never spoken, and many times I find that my baking plans tend to veer off course.  This week I was planning to do spread cookies, something I haven’t tried in many, many, many years but was looking forward to.  I had idea involving chocolate, caramel, and crushed up oreo cookies however when I opened the fridge I realized I was too low on butter which just doesn’t work.  So I started digging around in the fridge, trying to see what was available.  Hello there cream cheese (actually neufchatel cheese), how are you doing today?  With that an idea was formed.  The perfect marriage of chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake….without having to make actual cookie dough cheesecake which is a recipe best left for days when nobody is home.  I had the dough and the creamcheese topping ready to go before the oven was heated, so this is a VERY easy recipe to pull together.  I also cut back on the normal amount of sugar used in regular cookie dough figuring the cream cheese would add more than and enough sweetness.  The result was YUMMY!  I have a figure this is a recipe I’ll be making often and based on the reaction of my coworkers today I don’t think I’ll have any issues finding some volunteers to help me enjoy them.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted margarine or butter, softened and cubed
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce (no sugar added)
1 cup chocolate chips

8 oz neufchatel cheese (or low fat cream cheese)
2 tbsp white sugar
1 egg (or egg substitute)

1. Preheat oven to 325 and pre-grease a 9×9 baking pan
2. In a small bowl mix together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Set Aside
3. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter with the two sugars.  Mix in the applesauce and then slowly add the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour and smooth evenly into the pre-greased pan.
4.  Cream the cheese, sugar, and egg together.  Pour on top of the cookie dough and gently spread out over the dough.
5.  Bake for 30minutes.  Turn oven off and let pan cool in the oven for at least 30minutes then chill in fridge for an hour before serving.  Enjoy!

These cookies are amazing and wonderful and since it’s the holiday season the calories don’t count!  When I cut them I wound up with 25 square bars, which was the perfect size for me.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that next week the stars will align and I’ll be able to make the spread cookies.  Although I wouldn’t be against another happy baking accident.


Catch My Eye

Mushroom Ragout


It’s the most wonderful time of the year…except that there is no more Glee until February.  However the good news is that Top Chef All-Stars is here to bring some cheer to the winter.  I have accepted that my top cheftestant is not very well like however I am beyond thrilled that the evil that is Elia has been eliminated.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a certain wine man goes home today, mostly because he insulted the awesomeness that is Candice who rocks an apron and stilettos better than any woman I know.  One of the side effects of Top Chef is that it inspires me to go outside of the box when it comes to planning my own menus.  I start thinking that I can do red wine reduction, or a deconstructed tiramisu, or something else as insane.  Or even worse…I start thinking I can afford some of those pretty tools they are using.  However I am not Prof Blais therefor I don’t need liquid nitrogen to make ice cream and I’m certainly not Casey therefor I can make awesome food ala Miss Hootie Hoo sans the vacuum machine and the sous vide cooking style.  This is a recipe that Fabio would probably be proud of, however I have a feeling a certain Tony would consider it to be too peasant for him.  (enough TC references for you???) 
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
3 cups wild mushrooms, diced or whole if using pearl/button mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp marsala wine
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter 
2 tbsp half&half
assorted Italian spices
freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
1. In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender.  Add the mushrooms and cook an additional 7-10minutes.  Add the tomatoes, broth. water, and marsala and bring to a boil.  Season to taste with basil, oregano, and other delicious Italian style spices.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15minutes.
2.  In another saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.  SLOWLY stir in the flour creating a thick paste.  Add the half&half while stirring, mix well and cook 2minutes.  Add the mushroom mixture and stir well slowly bringing the mixture to a boil, turn heat down and simmer for 10-15minutes.
3.  Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and return to pan.  Mix well with the sauce, top with some fresh cheese and serve!

This recipe is one that can easily be elevated depending on what mushrooms you are able to find, and there are really no limits on what you use.  I have done pearl, cremini, baby bella, potabella, button, and once an assorted wild mushroom collection from Whole Foods.  Have fun and experiment with combinations until you get the right mixture.  
Home Cooking · Slow Cooker

Say it Loud

Shepherd’s Pie
So has everyone recovered from the Thanksgiving overload?  I wish I could say I was good this year but…I think the amount of Pecan Pie I consumed goes against that statement on all levels!  There is just something about Pecan Pie that makes me forget how many calories are in each deliciously amazing slice, yummy!  The end of Thanksgiving also mean leftovers and this year I was left with a VERY large amount of mashed potatoes so time to figure out the perfect ways to utilize those spuds.  Enter: the slowcooker!  I have talked before about how amazing I find slow cooker and how much I try to utilize it this time of year. There is just something wonderful about coming home to an amazing smell and a ready to go dinner that makes winter traffic melt away.   This recipe also involves very little prep in the morning, and when you get home all you have to do is mash some potatoes which is another great way to get rid of any lingering traffic issues.

– 2 cans white beans
– 2 cups frozen edamame
– 1lb baby carrots, broken in half if desired
– 1 onion, cut into wedges
– 2 cups frozen cauliflower florets
– 1 cup frozen peas
– 1 cup frozen corn
– 1 can low sodium cream of mushroom soup
– 1 1/2 cups water
– 2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
– 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
– salt and pepper to taste

1. Stir together all of the ingredients minus the potatoes and cheese in a large slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8-9hrs
2. Meanwhile prep the mashed potatoes using your favorite recipe.  I use one from the Joy of Cooking for Garlic Mashed Potatoes but anything goes!  If you want to make this super easy some grocery stories sell mashed potatoes in the prepared food section.
3.  Season the vegetables to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon the mashed potatoes on top and turn slow cooker to high.  Cook for 30minutes, top with the shredded cheese then cook for a final 30minutes. Serve!

Nice and simple and delicious! Feel free to switch up the vegetables going inside the pie based on what you have available and what your family prefers.  You could also substitute out the 1/2 cup of water for 1/2 cup of a dry white wine for an extra taste.  This can also be prepared using the high setting for three hours in place of step one, and then following the rest of the directions as given.  This recipe is a great base for other simple slow cooker dinners, such as pot pie, vegetables w/dumplings, and tamale pie.