Friday, February 19, 2010

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies & Bars

I've been working on my paper these past few days (deadline was extended to the 28th), but I've been cooking, too. I don't have much time to write on here as before, so I'll just post mostly photos and the recipe for now. Those are the most important parts anyway, right?
I made oatmeal raisin cookies and bars using the well-known recipe, Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, from the Quaker's Oatmeal canister. They were as good as usual.
If you don't like scooping out cookie dough, it is much easier to make the bar version.
Oh my!
Yum!
O-M-G! Look at those raisins!

They taste very good with or without a cinnamon sugar glaze on top as well. Just be sure not to overbake them, so that they stay soft and chewy. Enjoy!

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Bars
from Quaker Oats Yield: 4 dozen (48 cookies)

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked) (I had only 1 1/4 cups, and it worked fine)
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional; omit cinnamon)

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Cookies: Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Bars: Press dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan (or 9x9 if using half of the dough). The dough will be hard to spread, but it will eventually happen. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered. 24 BARS.

HIGH ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Increase flour to 1-3/4 cups and bake as directed.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili

More than two posts ago, I promised you all that I would write about a healthy recipe I made for my dieting mother when she came to visit me. Years ago, when I was on my diet, I made a turkey chili for her in my slow cooker that was so good that I didn't miss the fatty food! Somehow, I'd lost that recipe and tried many times to recreate the recipe but to no avail.

So, before my mother came to visit this time around, I asked her what she wanted me to cook for her. She immediately replied, "I want that turkey chili you made for me a long time ago." (Yes, it was that good.) I told her for the umpteenth time that I had lost that recipe, and she told me that I needed to try to find it again before she came to visit. She is demanding! haha
So, I turned to one of my favorite sites for recipes, allrecipes.com. I found a recipe called "Laura's Quick Slow Cooker Turkey Chili". It is considered to be quick because of the use of canned beans as opposed to soaking dry beans and slow because of the use of the slow cooker (duh). I added a few extra spices to ensure success because I didn't want my mother to complain. I now think the chili was the real reason she came to visit me hmmm.

Since I knew she was leaving Sunday afternoon, I started preparing the chili Saturday night so that she could have something to eat at home (my mom doesn't like to and doesn't know how to cook very well. Sorry, mom!) Anyway, I asked her to chop the veggies for the chili. Then, I put together everything else while I made her flour tortillas and the cheesecake for my Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake. I was busy in the kitchen, and this was all happening late at night! I set the slow cooker to low for 8 hours, and at 10am the next morning, the chili was ready.
I prepared a bowl of chili for my mom and sat across the table opposite her all while waiting intently for her response. She loved it! She absolutely loved it! I asked her if it was comparable to the other chili I'd made for her many years ago, and she said that it was very close. She also said that I was missing her favorite cornbread (because I didn't make enough for her already haha).

This chili is very good; it really is. Also, if you add enough cheese to it, it could be a good dip for nacho chips. You can make this dish extremely healthy and flavorful or very unhealthy and flavorful. What a win-win situation that is! Don't forget to make the cornbread!

Laura's Quick Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili
very loosely adapted from allrecipes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground allspice
salt to taste
1 pound ground turkey
cumin to taste
Lawry's Seasoning Salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 (10.75 ounce) cans low-sodium tomato soup (I used one can low-sodium tomato soup and one box of Pomì chopped tomatoes)
2 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained
Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)
Small block of favorite type of cheese, grated (optional) (I used cheddar and monterey jack)

Heat the oil in a skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Season ground turkey with cumin, Lawry's Seasoning Salt and pepper (all to taste). Place the veggies in the skillet, and add all the seasonings (from the chili powder to the salt to taste). Next, place the seasoned, ground turkey in the skillet over the veggies, and cook until evenly brown; drain.

Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray, and mix in turkey, cooked veggies, tomato soup, kidney beans, and black beans. Season with additional chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, allspice and salt ONLY if you feel something's missing. You could also add Worcestershire or hot sauce for an added boost of flavor and heat.

Cover, and cook 8 hours on Low or 4 hours on High.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine Lofthouse Cookies

Remember those Lofthouse Sugar Cookies I blogged about before? No? Well, here they are again in heart form. I am really really not a lover of all things pink with hearts. I tried to make the icing red, but it didn't happen. I guess I needed to add the whole jar of dye to get that color. What I ended up with was hot pink! ugh!! This was my first time working with dye, so oh well...

Anyway, as everyone knows, the holiday of love is coming up. I might not have a Valentine this year, and I'm totally okay with that. Relationships bring on too much drama for my needs haha. I enjoy being single, especially while being a graduate student.
So, in honor of this holiday and for the people out there who actually like hearts and the color pink, you should try out this recipe. This is a soft, cakey, delicious cookie. These cookies are so good that I have to control myself from not eating the whole batch.
I made these cookies for my students (and made a few extra for me hehe). I'm trying my best to keep my hand out of their cookie jar. Because if I don't control myself, only one student will end up with a cookie tomorrow LOL! They take some time to make, so make the dough the day before Valentine's. I posted a few process photos below so that you can see how thick the dough is. You'll need a bit of flour to handle the sticky dough, but it's worth all the trouble.
Enjoy!

Lofthouse Cookies
adapted from Recipezaar
For 4-inch cookies, you will end up with two dozen cookies. So, if you make 2 1/2 - 3-inch cookies, you should end up with about 3-4 dozen cookies.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar (in my halved version, I added 2 Tbsp (1/4 cup for full version) EXTRA of sugar to make the cake part a tad sweeter)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sour cream
5-6 cups AP flour, until desired consistency for rolling (in my halved version, I used 2 1/2 cups in the dough and then added about half a cup more of flour while rolling out the dough. I needed more than a cup for the full version.)

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate overnight (or 6-8 hours).


Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Roll out dough to a 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness using a generous amount of flour (I used a combination of flour and powdered sugar for a non-stick surface and flavor). Cut out shapes, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.
Frost (recipe below), and decorate as desired.

Lofthouse Cookie Frosting
adapted from Recipezaar
Yields enough for 2 dozen cookies, so double the recipe, if you need more.

3 1/2 - 4 cups confectioners' sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1/2 cup shortening
5-8 Tbsp (or more) evaporated milk (or regular milk), until you reach the desired consistency
1 tsp vanilla extract
red food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together the confectioners' sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the evaporated milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring, if desired.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Sunday, February 7th, was....*gulp*...my birthday. Whew! There. I said it. I know my mom's proud and shocked. It has taken me years to admit my birthday publicly to friends, students, and strangers. Usually I don't tell anyone and don't even celebrate the day of my birth. I also turn off my cellphone to avoid well-intentioned phone calls from relatives and my ex-girlfriend. I really don't like commemorating the 7th of February, but interestingly, food blogging is the catalyst behind my decision to slowly change my perspective.
For weeks, I have been planning out what type of cake I wanted to make for my birthday. Like I said, I don't usually do anything for my birthday, but now that I have just started baking, I decided to make something special for it. (My friend guessed right that I made this cake for the blog more so than for my birthday haha)

I wrote down notes for my quintessential cake. I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to have layers. I wanted it to be beautiful - no, I wanted it to be stunning. I wanted it to have my go-to cheesecake in it and chocolate. From there, I put together what I'll call a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake made up of an Oreo crust, regular cheesecake filling (to contrast with the welcomed onslaught of chocolate), espresso mousse au chocolat, and espresso chocolate ganache on top.
Since I'm not very creative, I didn't add any frills such as whipped cream decorations or pieces of fruit, and ultimately, I was happy with that decision. It was already more than enough. It was decadent. Smooth. Silky with a slight crunch from the crust. Delectable. Rich. PERFECTION.
I really, really, really don't mean to brag, but every single layer was perfect. Every layer complimented each other brilliantly. I was shocked. I couldn't believe I had made this cake...every single layer. I was proud of myself for planning it out and allowing my plans to come to fruition successfully.
I knew that I couldn't keep this amazing creation in my house for long, so via text messaging and quick visits, I shared slices with my nearby colleagues/friends/neighbors (yes, they wear all three of those hats; I live in graduate housing, remember? :D). They all loved this cake. One person said I should sell it. Another person ate two slices in under 5 minutes. Another couldn't focus on our non-gastronomic conversation even after finishing off the cake and scraping the plate b/c she would interject repeatedly about how delicious the cake was haha.

My mom's birthday card in the background; she just couldn't resist...


Leave a comment, if you like what you see! :D

Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
A creation compiled by me along with two giants in the cooking world.
NOTE
: to make things easier, make the cheesecake and crust on one day and the mousse and ganache on the next day. Cheesecake lasts longer than mousse. Keep this cake refrigerated and will last up to 2-3 days but is best eaten the day it's made.


Layer 1: Oreo Cookie Crust

30-32 Oreo cookies (or chocolate sandwich cookies) for a high crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1-2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Crush cookies in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or mallet. In a bowl or food processor, pour melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and add the espresso powder (optional), and mix or pulse well. Place the oreo mixture at the bottom of a springform pan. Smooth out the mixture with the bottom of a measuring cup or glass. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the cheesecake.


Layer 2: Tall & Creamy Cheesecake
HALVED & adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
For the cheesecake:
1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or combination)

Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream or sour cream.

Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter should fill only half of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. (I pour half of the boiling water before putting in the pan to reduce my chances of dripping water in the cheesecake.)


Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, at which point the top will be lightly browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour. 

After 1 hour, carefully pull the roast pan/springform pan setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there WILL be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.


When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.


Quality chocolate courtesy of Callebaut Chocolate. YUM.

Layer 3: Mousse au chocolat/French Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Tyler Florence on Food Network

6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut; use good chocolate)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp espresso powder (added to intensify chocolate flavor, optional)
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold (do not use half-frozen cream; the whipped cream will curdle)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, and place over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). Melt the chocolate and butter together and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add in the espresso powder. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks to the chocolate, 1 by 1, beating with a whisk until incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Beat heavy cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it begins to foam and thicken up. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
Gradually and gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then, delicately fold in the whipped cream. Take care not over work the mousse but make sure you blend in the cream well. Place the mousse on top of the cooled cheesecake while still in the springform pan. 



Cover the mousse cheesecake with foil, being careful to not let it touch the mousse. (If your springform is too small for this, just use less mousse in the cheesecake and instead eat them in ramekins while you prepare the ganache!) If making the ganache immediately, place mousse-covered cheesecake in the freezer as you make the ganache (the cheesecake should NOT be in the freezer for more than 30 minutes). If making the ganache later, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for a few hours. Either way, the ganache must be cool before you can pour it on top of the cheesecake.



Top layer: Espresso Ganache
HALVED and adapted from allrecipes.com


1/2 cup heavy cream
4.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut semi-sweet and milk chocolate)
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 1/2 tsp dark rum (I used vanilla extract instead)

Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Heat it up just BEFORE it boils. Place the chocolate in the cream, and remove from heat. Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in the espresso powder and rum or vanilla extract. Allow the ganache to cool for about 15 minutes before pouring the mixture on top of the mousse cheesecake.

Release the springform pan. With an offset spatula, smooth the ganache while starting at the center of the cake and working outward. (I did a "crumb coating" by placing a thin layer of the warm, not hot, ganache on top, allowed it to cool in the freezer for 30 minutes, then I poured more on the cheesecake after releasing the springfrom pan so that it could pour down the cake.) Don't do exactly what I did, though. Just pour ganache on top once it has cooled. Keep in mind that the cold temperature of the cake will cause the ganache to firm up quickly, and you may have to pour more on top.

Save the rest of the ganache for decorations (if you whip the ganache when it's cold, you can pipe a beautiful decoration) or save it for something else.
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chocolate Chip Blondies (Not Heath Bar Blondies)

These were supposed to be Heath Bar Blondies, but I had only 5-10 toffee bits left in my possession. Yes, exactly 5-10 bits. So, I had to sub in chocolate chips because I didn't want to go to the store again.

Despite the absence of toffee bits, these blondies were so so so so good, which leads me to my next point. Baking can be a rewarding and gratifying skill; however, at the same time, it can be a curse in disguise!

Case in point - I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when a sudden craving for sweets hit me. I started searching my bookmarks for sweets and rediscovered this recipe from Lovin' From the Oven, jumped up from my seat, and made them. And only 15-30 minutes later, my sweet cravings dissipated with every bite of the warm blondie.
Anyway, try out these blondies. Freeze some of them, and eat one as an award after a 30/60-minute workout :D. Enjoy!

P.S. I will be blogging about a healthy dish I made for my mom while she was here. It was really good! Thanks for your well-wishes about my mom's visit; we had an awesome time. I miss you already, mom!
Heath Bar/Chocolate Chip Blondies
Lightly adapted from Lovin' From the Oven
who adapted it from
3 B's.. Baseball, Baking, and Books

1 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped Heath Bars (I used 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray and line pan with foil or parchment paper for easy removal. Spray the foil or parchment paper with the cooking spray.

Cream together the brown sugar and melted butter. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until blended. Stir in the Heath Bars (or whatever addition you prefer) and pour into a greased 8x8 pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow the blondies to cool completely before cutting.

Photo Advice: If taking photos of the blondies, I suggest refrigerating them for at least an hour before cutting into them. Cut off the edges of the brownies for neater-looking blondies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Breaded Baked Chicken Tenders

Not the prettiest photo, but these chicken tenders were great!

This will be a very quick post because I have a lot to do before my mom's arrival this weekend!! I'm so happy she's coming. Maybe I'll try to coerce her to get in the kitchen and help me cook. Hah! Yeah, right! She's on a diet, so maybe I'll be posting some healthy dishes on here for a change.

Anyway, I made this chicken at the last minute last week to accompany my homemade bread. It was very good. So good that my neighbor took all the chicken you see on the plate in the photos. I only had the two in the sandwich. He almost took the rest of the bread, too!
I don't have a set recipe for this, but I'll post what I did below.

Breaded Baked Chicken Tenders

Oil or cooking spray
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders (about 8-10 pieces)
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Pepper
1-2 cups AP flour
1-2 eggs (I'm selfish with my eggs (hah!), so I use one egg and only crack the second one if necessary)
1-2 cups Breadcrumbs (homemade or storebought; Italian or plain)

Oil or spray a jelly roll pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the chicken tenders, if necessary. Season the chicken with seasoning (or regular salt) and pepper. Dip the tenders in flour, then egg(s), and then breadcrumbs. Place the coated tenders on the jelly roll pan.

Bake the tenders for 15-20 minutes, then flip over the tenders and cook them for 5-10 more minutes.

Serving Suggestions: Serve the tenders as is with sides or in a sandwich or with a dip! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

KAF Walter Sands' White Sandwich Bread

Early subscribers: I have updated my feed so that you'll be able to keep up with my new posts. Please resubscribe if you're tired of looking at the molasses cookies haha.
You may have noticed the bread in the background of the photos of the lasagne I made the other day. It wasn't Italian bread, but I did it eat it alongside the yummy pasta dish because I made this bread a couple days beforehand and didn't feel it was wise to make more bread.
I've made white sandwich bread before, but when I saw the bread on King Arthur Flour's fantastic blog, I knew I had to try the recipe out. This bread will now be my go-to for sandwich bread. It came out soft with a hint of sweetness, and it had a buttery, yellowish hue to it. It didn't overpower the fillings in my sandwiches; it was easy to cut into thin slices. Also, it was perfect with my dip of oil and Italian spices (I should blog about my dip one day).

My breaded chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and mayo! Yummy!

Anyway, I hope you get to try out this recipe. It's very easy to make, and KAF has step-by-step photos of the process to make it all even easier.

TIP: Since I live alone, I don't go through bread as fast as other households. I slice all of the bread, then I wrap the slices in foil (2 slices per foil packet), then I place the foil packets in a freezer bag, and freeze the slices until I need them. So, whenever I need a sandwich, I just take out one foil packet and heat up the slices in a toaster while I prepare the rest of the sandwich!


I'm submitting this lovely, loaf of bread to yeastspotting!!

KAF's Walter Sands' White Sandwich Bread
adapted from King Arthur's Flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 1/4 cups (9-10 oz) lukewarm water (about 105 degrees F)
1 heaping tablespoon honey (or sugar, if you don't have honey. I used honey)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
4 cups (17 ounces) AP Flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules (I'm going to try using ~1 1/2 cup of regular milk in place of dry milk and water)

Mix all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand or regular mixer with the flat paddle. Scrap off the sides, if necessary. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or via a dough hook. Oil lightly a big bowl or use the same stand mixer bowl with a bit of oil in it (that's what I do!). Roll the bread around in the oil, and cover it with a towel or a shower cap. Allow dough to double in size for 60 to 90 minutes in a warm area.

While the dough is rising, butter a loaf pan (my addition). Once the dough has risen, roll the dough out into a thick, rectangular shape on a pastry mat, Silpat, or wax paper. Roll the dough into a tight log the same length as the loaf pan you're using.

Place the rolled log of dough into the loaf pan, cover it with a towel or shower cap, and allow it to rise 1 to 1 1/2 inches over the loaf pan in about 60 minutes. During the last 30 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Once the dough has risen high enough, bake the bread for about 20 minutes. If it starts to get too brown on top, place foil over it and bake it for 10 more minutes. (So, a total of 30 minutes). The temperature of the dough should be between 195 and 200 degrees F.

Butter the top of the bread. Then, allow the bread to cool before cutting into it!!!! Then enjoy! :D

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lasagne al Ragù

More than three years ago, I joined an online weight-loss group on xanga.com. I had lost a lot of weight, gained it back, lost it again, and then gained it back. Through all of those ups and downs, I also had gained a lot of online buddies. Once I began to stray away from this site, I lost all of those friends...except for one -- Laurian.

Laurian and I have met only once, but she knows me more than most of my friends who live close-by. We have much in common. She is an intelligent, graduate student studying Anthropology in Philadelphia, and I'm glad that we still stay in touch.

About a year ago we briefly had discussed the makings of true, authentic lasagne, and I told her that Italian lasagne usually have besciamella (beh-shyah-MEL-lah) or béchamel, instead of ricotta (ree-COAT-tah) or cottage cheese.
Well, last week, we were chatting with each other on MSN Messenger, and she told me that she was looking at my food blog as usual. I didn't know that she visits my blog regularly, but I was happy to know she does. She asked me why hadn't I made that lasagne for her. I told her that I didn't know that I'd promised to make lasagne for her, and she said, "Well, you didn't." She just wanted me to do it haha.

So, this post is entirely dedicated to my best, virtual friend in the world.
Questo è per la mia migliore amica. Ti voglio bene! I love you!


LASAGNE: Because I was making this dish for my friend, I put in a lot of effort and love into it. I bought fresh herbs and vegetables. Also, I purchased lasagne noodles, parmigiano reggiano, and '00' flour imported from Italy, etc.

I am thankful for knowing so many languages, such as Italian, because I was able to find a close-enough to authentic recipe given in the lovely Italian language. I found this video and recipe on Italianfoodnet. It is a fabulous website that contains a bunch of videos of popular, Italian recipes. There are English subtitles on most (but not all) of the recipes, and there are text versions of all the recipes in English. The video for this dish was in Italian, and I couldn't believe that I had understood about 90% of it! I was shocked!

Anyway, I stuck to the recipe pretty closely. I even made the ragù on the site instead of the one I usually make. I thought that this new version of lasagne wouldn't be seasoned well enough, so I added a bit more ingredients such as extra salt, cream, and Italian seasoning. Interestingly, even though the meat sauce or ragù wasn't seasoned as much as my other standby, its flavor matched perfectly with the other components of this dish. You don't want a meat sauce that overpowers the besciamella, parmigiano grattugiato (grated parmigiano), and lasagne noodles. Everything was perfectly balanced.
Surprisingly, I'm not crazy about lasagne. I've tried lasagne at various restaurants, and I'm never impressed by the taste. However, this particular recipe has changed my perspective completely. The besciamella really boosted up the flavor. The lasagne had a lot of oil on and in it, so I will reduce that the next time I make this, and there WILL be a next time. I also didn't add extra butter on top of the dish as the cook does because it just wasn't necessary. Nevertheless, everything was perfect. Please make this dish soon. You won't regret it.
Ragù alla Bolognese
adapted from Italian Food Net (video)

1 lb 3 oz (600 gr) (21 oz) Ground Beef
2 Litres Tomato Sauce (I used about 52 ounces of Pomì crushed tomatoes; it was more than enough)
1 Tomato Paste Tube (4.5 oz)
1 Big Carrot (½ cup) chopped
1 Celery Rib (½ cup) chopped
1 White Onion (½ cup) chopped
3 Glasses of Red Wine (I used about 8 oz of Fre Red Wine, a non-alcoholic wine!! Yeaa!!)
1/4-1/2 cups heavy cream (optional)
1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Sage
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Black Pepper

Heat a large saucepan. Pour in olive oil. Add celery, carrot, onion, and let them brown over medium heat. Then add sage, rosemary, and cook the mixture for 1-2 minutes.

Add the ground beef, divide it well, and cook until the liquid has evaporated (about 5-10 minutes), then season with salt and black pepper.

After 10 minutes of cooking pour in the red wine, and let it evaporate. Add tomato paste, stir well, and add tomato sauce, cover and let it simmer for 1 ½ hour on a low heat. Make sure you season this sauce well before assembling the lasagne.

La Besciamella
adapted from Italian Food Net (video)

4.2 cups (1 Litre) (33.8 fl oz) Whole Milk
about 1 stick (100 gr) (3.52 oz) Butter
about 1 cup (100 gr) (3.52 oz) 00 Flour (I used '00' flour, but you could use AP flour)
A Pinch of Salt (I used more than a pinch of salt. Season to taste)
Fresh, grated nutmeg

Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add salt, some grated nutmeg, and place the pan on medium heat.

Put the butter into a medium saucepan, and place the pan on medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour, and let the mixture cook for about 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat whisking constantly. When the mixture is ready, remove the pan from heat and let it rest.

As soon as the milk reaches the boiling point, pour it into the mixture little by little, whisking briskly to avoid lumps from forming. When the milk is incorporated, return the pan over a medium-low heat, and let it cook for 15 minutes whisking continuously.

When your béchamel is ready, remove from heat. If not using the mixture immediately, transfer it to a large bowl. We suggest you let the béchamel cool to room temperature, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the béchamel, to prevent a skin from forming while the sauce cools.

Le Lasagne al Ragù
adapted from Italian Food Net (video in Italian)

20-25 fresh Lasagna pasta sheets (Soak your lasagna sheets in a pot of hot water if they are hard)
about 8 cups (1½ Litres) besciamella (use the sauce you made; you will have more than enough)
8 cups (2 Litres) Ragù (sauce from above; you'll have more than enough)
2-3 cups (250 gr.) (8.81 oz.) Grated parmesan
80 gr (2.82 oz.) Butter (I only used the butter to butter the pan. I didn't add more on top; it was oily enough from the olive oil)
Extra virgin olive oil

Butter the baking tin, spread ragù along the bottom (I forgot to take a photo of that!) , lay lasagna sheets over ragù and press along the rims of the baking tin.

Spread ragù, add besciamella, sprinkle with grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.

Repeat layers: Lasagna sheets, ragù, besciamella, parmesan, olive oil until you got to the rim of the pan. Fold Lasagna sheet sides so that they will not burn.

Top with ragù, which must cover all Lasagne. Add a little more besciamella. Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan. Add some knobs of butter (optional) and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat oven to 250 C (482 F). Once you place the dish in the oven, lower the temperature to 180 C (356 F), and bake lasagne for about 20 minutes. Remove lasagne from oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!
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