Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pho Real, We Made Lasagna

This afternoon Ryan and I went out to lunch ... to a new restaurant in town ... we'd been drooling over the name of the place for weeks ..!! So we were eager to jump in the car and hit the road.  Well, Thomas is outgrowing his ridiculously cute teddy bear suit ... so we broke out his snowsuit!  Needless to say he was a bit tired, and not too excited about being stuffed into his "Ralphie Suit."  But he's pretty cute, eh?  By the time we got to the restaurant (about 10 minutes later) he was fast asleep, sweating bullets!

The restaurant we went to was Bowl of Pho ... Never heard of Pho?  We made it for dinner several weeks ago.  It's a Vietnamese beef broth based soup with various ingredients - some pretty basic staples are rice noodles, been sprouts, cilantro, basil, thai chilies, and various meets such as filet mignon (raw or well done, thinly sliced), pork, chicken, seafoods (Ryan had shrimp, calamari and err .. squid?), pork belly, etc.  The broth is indescribable - think Chinese 5 spice meets hour-long-simmering with stew bones and other beefy cow parts. YUMM.  In the area? Go to Bowl of Pho ... be sure to order their spring rolls as an appetizer, too, because they are amaaaazing! Yumm. Can't wait to go back.

Here is a great recipe / blog posting about Vietnamese Pho .. it is also one of the recipes we freelanced off of when we made Pho over Christmas.

Good Boy, Otto.
He knows to wait outside the kitchen!
Following lunch, we zipped thru target.  At this point we swapped Thomas from the full winter get-up to just the fleece liner of his snowsuit to reduce sweatyness ... how easy with Columbia!  On our way home he passed out in the car again ... poor dear was so fatigued he let me unbuckle him, pull him from the car and bring him upstairs .. plunk him in his crib .. and stay sleeping.  He napped this way for an hour and a half ... awaking covered in sweat, yet still dry thanks to our Gro-Via diapers! Hooray!

After a fabulous lunch we decided to make lasagna for dinner.  We've been making it the same way for about 5 years, ever since some good friends of mine, Melissa and Elvira, coaxed me away from boiling my noodles.  Never again will I deal with slippery, slimy lasagna noodles ..!  I follow a simple variation from the back of the Healthy Harvest whole wheat lasagna noodles box ... It goes as follows:

Ingredients for the Sauce -
1 Onion
Various Vegetables (if desired) / we use what ever is in the fridge - today? zucchini and mushrooms in the past? carrot, bell pepper, yellow squash .. what ever you'd like.
1 lb (more or less) meat - again, what ever you'd like - I only only ever use hot Italian sausage ... but that's how I was brought up..! You could use regular Italian sausage, chicken, beef, I guess, although that doesn't sound too desirable to me.  Ground turkey? Sure. Spice it up with some fennel, garlic, crushed red pepper, salt n pepper?
Spaghetti Sauce - about 1 jar
2/3-1 c. water

Today I chose to saute my veggies (mushroom / onion / zucchini) in a t. of olive oil ... removing it from the pan ... and then sauteing my sausage separate.  In the past I've sauteed them together and it's fine ... but since I'm watching calories I wanted to be able to save my veggies from the fattyness of the sausage ... it worked quite well.  I was also able to control the "done-ness" of my veggies, leaving them a bit firmer than usual, while still getting that nice dark crust on my sausage .. yumm!  Drain the fat from your meat if necessary.  Combine your veggies and meat, pour the sauce on top (reserving a small amount for the bottom of your baking dish) and add the water.  Simmer these ingredients for about 10 minutes.

Move on to the cheese filling.

Ingredients for the cheese filling -
1 container (or more, if you'd like) Ricotta cheese
1 c. Mozzarella
1/2 c. (more or less to your tasting) parmesian cheese
2 eggs
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (yumm we didn't have any parsley in the house ... I miss it.)

Combine these ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Make your lasagna -
Pour the reserved sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.  Lay down some dry noodles on the bottom.  If they don't fill the pan you can leave them as they are (they'll be fine, I promise), or you can break up some noodles to fill in the gaps if you'd like.  But I promise it isn't really necessary.  Spoon 1/3 of your sauce mixture on top.  Spoon 1/2 of your cheese sauce on top of the meat/veggie mixture.  Add another layer of noodles.  Repeat with 1/3 sauce and 1/2 cheese mixture. Add another layer of noodles.  Top with sauce mixture.  If you don't have a lot of meat/veggies going on at this point it's O.k.  Top with about 1c. Mozzarella cheese and a bit of parmesian cheese.  Cover your pan with tinfoil and bake at 350/375 for about an hour. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it set up for about 10 minutes.

Serve with delicious garlic bread -

tiny little foil gift, warming, waiting 
Slice up your loaf of french bread (we used some day-old bread I had baked on Wednesday...) ... melt some butter in a saucepan ... if you'd like, grab a coffee filter and plunk in 1 clove chopped garlic and a pinch of rosemary (fresh or dried, your choice).  Scrunch up the filter and staple it closed if you've got a stapler handy, otherwise just smush it and it'll be fine ... simmer them together until fragrant.  Use a basting brush to brush the buttery deliciousness onto your bread.  Wrap your bread in tinfoil and place it on the back of your stove top where the heat escapes as your lasagna cooks up and you'll have warm, tasty bread to go with your gooey delicious lasagna.

butter melting w/garlic n rosemary
Sounds good, eh?  And not nearly that much work once you get into the rhythm of things.

A trick I've learned over the years .. cooking for 2 .. you don't need the big 13x9" pan of lasagna .. but you might be craving lasagna and stuffed shells eh?  So make your sauce .. and your cheese filling .. but make your lasagna in a bread pan or an 8x8" pan and use just half of your cheese / sauce mixtures .. boil your shells .. and stuff them with half the cheese, topping them with the sauce mixture.  Either the shells or the lasagna will keep beautifully in the fridge for a day or a few days ... and voila you've got 2 fabulous dinners in 1 ..!  You could also make 2 bread pans of lasagna .. lining one of your bread pans with parchment paper .. freezing it .. and then popping it into a ziplock wrapped tightly in saran wrap .. freezing it until you're craving lasagna again .. see? there are many possibilities. =)

Enjoy <3

1 comment:

  1. That looks so delicious! Like the lasagna I was craving last week that failed.. :( I hope it tasted as good as it looks <3 love you sissy!