Ravioli “Lasagna”

Making lasagna is an arduous task. All those ingredients. All those layers. All that baking time. Totally worth it, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the stuff of an easy, weeknight dinner. Here’s something that is, “cheating” a bit with ravioli, which takes care of two of the elements of lasagna in one cute, pillowy package – the pasta and the meat. You augment with a few other things and you’ve got dinner in a jiffy! As with many of my recipes, the measurements are more by feel and the customizations are encouraged and totally up to what your family likes.
Ravioli lasagna

Ravioli “Lasagna”

Ingredients:

1 bag frozen beef ravioli (or with other fillings, per your tastes)
Approximately 3/4 jar of pasta sauce of your choice
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more to taste but there’s already cheese in the ravioli)
A few shakes of grated Parmesan cheese or 1/4 cup hand-shredded
Dried basil, oregano and rosemary to taste
Additions if you like: Shredded zucchini or other squash and/or wilted spinach or other greens to up the nutritional value. See also, how we served it at the bottom of this post.

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pour a little pasta sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof dish with a lid, like a casserole dish.

3. While I’ve seen some recipes where you just throw the frozen ravioli in a dish, I haven’t had great luck doing this. The moisture created by thawing while cooking seems to dilute the sauce. Instead, I take the extra step of boiling the ravioli, per package instructions, but cut off the cooking time by one minute. Drain them well and pour them into your baking dish.

4. Cover with the rest of the sauce and distribute your seasonings of choice evenly over the pasta/sauce by rubbing them between your fingers to release the aromas and oils.

5. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top and then the Parmesan. Add a little sprinkle of parsley for looks.

6. Cover and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Because you aren’t really going through layers and layers, and because the pasta was already hot, you are really just melting the cheeses, heating up the sauce and melding all of the flavors together.

7. Serve, spooning out the raviolis, making sure to capture sauce and cheese. This meal is delicious with a crusty bread and a big, crispy salad. We served ours over a bed of shredded kale. It made it pretty, provided a variety of textures and lots of good nutrition.

Ravioli lasagna served

 

 

Pork and green chili burritos

Make-Ahead Pork Green Chili Burritos

I keep thinking life will calm down a little bit and I’ll have more time to cook more elaborate meals. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. How could it, with kids in the picture?! Thankfully, I have enough dishes in my repertoire that taste great but don’t take a ton of time, that I manage to put a good meal on the table ALMOST every night. The night I came up with this dish was definitely a proud moment. I got ooo’s and ahhh’s when I took it out of the oven and raves as the family ate it eagerly. There were enough leftovers for a couple of lunches too and it tasted even better then.

pork and green chili burritos

Under all that wonderful, warm chile cheesiness is nestled pork burritos for an easy dinner.

Make-Ahead Pork Green Chili Burritos

Serves 6-8 depending on whether they are cut in half or not

Ingredients:
6-7 large flour tortillas
1-1 1/2 pounds cubed pork*
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can beans of your choice, drained (I used black beans)
1 large jar 505 brand Green Chile (any brand or variety would do but I liked their All Natural one)
1/2 pound shredded cheese of choice (I used a Mexican blend but you can use whatever you prefer)

To garnish:
Shredded lettuce, diced red onion, avocados or guacamole, sour cream or plain yogurt, cilantro, diced tomatoes – all of these things add a fresh element, some crunch and additional nutrition.

Directions:
1. Cook the meat and onion. If you have a pressure cooker, this is the time to use it. Brown the cubed pork in some oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker, add the onion after the meat has started to brown. Add enough water (plus a chicken bouillon cube if you want for additional flavoring) to cover the meat. Then use the pressure cooker function and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain off the liquid and throw in the garlic. If you DON’T have a pressure cooker, dice the pork into smaller pieces and brown it in a skillet low and slow, adding the onion and then garlic, in that order. Because it’s diced, the garlic can burn easily so it shouldn’t go in until you are almost ready to take everything off the heat.

2. Add the beans to the meat mixture.

3. Spray the bottom and sides of a long baking dish with non-stick spray.

4. Place a tortilla at one end of the baking dish and add some of the meat/bean filling. Roll it up snuggly, keeping it in the baking dish, placing it seam side down. Repeat the process, continuing to assemble the burritos in the baking dish until you can’t fit anymore. For the average baking dish, 6-7 fit. Don’t squeeze them in too much or it will be too difficult to get them out.

5. Pour the green chile over the top making sure every bit of tortilla is covered so that it all stays moist. Then sprinkle cheese over the top, evenly.

6. Spray non-stick spray to a large piece of aluminum foil and cover the dish very loosely, leaving some space between the cheese and the foil if possible. NOTE: If you are making this ahead, go ahead and snugly cover the baking dish and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. Remove the foil for the last five minutes.

7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes (if it has not been refrigerated) at 350 degrees to heat everything through and melt the cheese. If you have refrigerated the dish, figure another 20 or so minutes more.

8. Just like the first piece of cake or pie, the first burrito out of the pan is a tricky thing to manage. If it comes out looking a little mangled, quickly cover that one with all the garnishes and no one will ever know the difference!

9. Garnish as you like and enjoy!

*Helpful hint about the pork – Sometimes you can get pork already diced but a handy trick I use is to buy a large pork loin at my local big-box store. The price-per-pound is usually very good and the meat is lean. From one long one, which is usually about a foot and a half long, I cut off a big chunk to be a roast, six slices for pork chops and then the rest, I cut into cubes. That will be three different meals from one pork loin! Good deal. 

Pork and green chili burritos

Beautiful! And tasty. Add all the fresh veggies you want for crunch and cool.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

I have a few picky eaters under my roof which makes it a real challenge to figure out what to make for dinner. I would be a much more adventurous cook if I could just make what I want and know that the kids would eat it. But, tra-la-la, that’s the lament of most parents, am I right? My pickiest-eater child has suddenly decided to take pity on me (after all of his ultra-picky years) and is willing to try more things. But then the kid who used to eat anything has suddenly decided he doesn’t like rice, pork, steak or chicken. Great. Swapped one for the other. Undeterred by this, and noticing I had a can of coconut milk in the pantry, I set out to create a dish everyone would at least be willing to try and came up with a great one.

Coconut Curry Chicken

A dish even my pickiest eaters loved! If I’d had some peas, I would have added them. Wouldn’t that have looked nice?

Coconut Curry Chicken with Rosamarina Rice

Serves 6

Six boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I buy them frozen at a big box store)
1/2 a large red onion sliced top to bottom
1 small potato, diced (this just extends the meal but doesn’t add any real flavor)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of coconut milk (13.5 ounce)
1/2 t. coriander
2 T. curry powder
Salt and Pepper to taste, added just before serving
Add on: 1/2 a cup of frozen peas
Rosamarina Rice to serve it with (recipe below)

Method:
In a small pan, melt about a tablespoon of butter, then add the coconut milk, coriander and curry powder. Gently whisk until blended. Turn off the heat and set it aside.

Coconut Curry Chicken

The sauce with coconut milk, curry powder and coriander. Don’t add the salt and pepper until you are simmering the sauce and chicken together.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, drizzle some olive oil and heat up the pan. Add the onion slices and saute until they begin to be translucent. At that point, add the garlic and stir for a few seconds. Be careful because the garlic will burn quickly and become bitter.

Coconut Curry Chicken

I love the look of red onions! I sliced them the long way so that the kids who didn’t want onion could easily pick it out (turns out they didn’t!).

Add the diced chicken and turn everything over with a spatula to get the onion and garlic off the bottom of the pan and get things mixed up a bit. Do this periodically until the chicken is beige on all sides. It doesn’t have to be cooked through at this point.

Coconut Curry Chicken

The mixture will thicken as you let it simmer. Don’t cover it or the drops from the humidity that builds up on the lid will drip back down and water down the dish.

Pour the coconut/coriander/curry mixture over the chicken and stir again. Switch out your spatula for a large cooking spoon at this point because the spatula has raw chicken juice on it. Always do this when you are cooking – as soon as all sides have started to cook, ditch the raw-stuff utensil for a clean one to finish the dish to avoid cross-contamination.

Lower the heat and let the whole mixture simmer and thicken until the chicken and potatoes (if used) are cooked through and tender. In the last minute or so, add the peas, which I would have done with my dish if I’d had any. It would have added a nice bit of color and another element of flavor. Serve over the rice (or quinoa or nothing).

Rosamarina Rice

Coconut Curry Chicken

Every time I make rice, I make it this way, with rosamarina because it just tastes so darned good!

1/4 cup rosamarina, also called orzo, found in the pasta section of the store
2 cups rice
4-1/4 cups water (or chicken stock)*
3-4 bouillon cubes (if using water instead of stock)

Method:
Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot. Add the rosamarina and stir almost constantly until it starts to brown. At this point, it will burn quickly so before that can happen, pour the rice over it and stir to prevent the rosamarina from continuing to sit on the bottom of the pan. The butter that’s still in the pan will lightly coat the rice/rosamarina, adding some flavor.

Add the water/bouillon and stir. Let the mixture come to a boil. As soon as it does, cover the pot, turn the heat to low and let it sit to start absorbing the liquid. This usually takes about 20 minutes so I try to time the coordination of making rice with making the entree so they are done around the same time. Resist the urge to lift up the lid or stir the rice because it will effect how the rice turns out.

* Because the rosamarina needs to absorb the water to cook, I either lower the amount of rice I put in or add a little water/stock to compensate.

avocado

Easy Sunday Morning Breakfast

To quote the song, this recipe is “Easy Like Sunday Morning!” My husband and I have a weekend tradition of turning on CBS Sunday Morning and having breakfast in bed. I don’t want to miss a second of this wonderful show by slaving over the stove, yet we want something that’s a little special to go along with our little tradition. Last week, I came up with this idea, using some bits and pieces we had in the fridge. It was delicious!

avocado

Avocado Toast with Cheesy Egg – an easy way to make breakfast feel special and also healthy.

Cheesy Eggs on Avocado Toast

Ingredients:

1 egg per person
1 piece of toast of choice (I used a sprouted grain bread substantial enough to hold up to the avocado)
1 avocado half (or some guacamole)
About two tablespoons of a strongly-flavored, favorite cheese like cheddar, Asiago or Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Fry an egg sunnyside up in some olive oil or butter. While the egg is cooking, toast the bread. Spread half of the half avocado on the toast like it’s thick butter. Or treat the guacamole the same way.

When the egg is done, carefully lay it atop the avocado toast and sprinkle the cheese over the top to taste. You aren’t trying to smother it, just add a little something extra! Salt and pepper to taste.

Break the yolk and help it spread all over the avocado toast so that every bite has cheesy egg, avocado and toast in it. Yum!

Variation: You could also do a poached egg (if you are that talented, which I am not) or just a scrambled egg so that you could even pick it up and eat it like a slice of pizza. But then you don’t get that oozing yoke deliciousness. Your choice!

One-Dish-Meals: Pork Chops, Potatoes & Apples

By Edan Goode

My four children do the dishes in our house. They alternate having “girls’ day” and “boys’ day” where one boy, for instance, unloads and the other boy loads. They fight over whether it’s really their gender’s day or not, that’s how much they hate doing dishes. I treat this as a learning experience, telling them they’ll need to know how to do dishes when they grow up. But really, it’s because I hate to do dishes.

That’s why I’m always looking for meals that can be prepared in one vessel, be it a skillet, pot or casserole dish. I came up with this recipe recently when I had potatoes and apples that had seen better days and needed to be cooked up fast. It was all done in one rectangular, glass baking dish and it was a big hit with the family. Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients:

Here are the porkchops, prepped, just before adding the apples. I left a little bit of chop uncovered for you in the upper right so you can see that I first brushed mayo on it to make the breadcrumbs stick.

Here are the pork chops, prepped, just before adding the apples. I left a little bit of chop uncovered for you in the upper right so you can see that I first brushed mayo on it to make the breadcrumbs stick.

  • Four medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Pork chops (boned or boneless-as many as will fit in the dish) no more than 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry ranch salad dressing mix
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 apple, quartered (or more if you have a lot of baked-apple-lovers)

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Spray the bottom and sides of the baking dish with non-stick spray.

3. Place the potatoes on the bottom of the dish, distributing them evenly. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

4. In a shallow dish, (large enough to dip a pork chop in) mix the Panko crumbs and ranch dressing mix.

5.  Put the mayo in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on just one side of each pork chop, then dip that side into the Panko crumbs, pressing to make sure the crumbs adhere. Place the pork chop, crumb-side-up on top of the potatoes. Repeat with each pork chop, arranging them so they all fit in the dish and don’t overlap.

6. Place the apple slices, peel-side-up, in between pork chops.

7. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes, add another 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your chops. Cut into one chop to make sure it isn’t pink in the center. If it isn’t, and the potatoes and apples are tender, dinner is done!

8. Remove the foil, turn the dish around for even heating and bake until the crumbs start to turn golden and the pork is done.

Serve by removing the pork chops to a plate. Take a spatula and scrape up the potatoes, turning them over so that the browned underside is up, on the plate. Serve the apple slices on the side. Unfortunately, I don’t have a finished photo of the dish to show you. The picture came out blurry. But it was golden brown and tasted so good!

I served this with a salad of mixed greens, diced celery and small cubes of a firm, smoked cheese (almost like a crouton) with a balsamic vinaigrette (1 part Balsamic vinegar to 3 parts olive oil). It was the perfect accompaniment. My son who says he hates pork chops, had seconds! That’s how good it was. And clean-up was easy, making the kids happy.

Apples added, skin-side-up so they don't dry out, the almost one-pot-meal is ready to cover with foil and bake.

Apples added, skin-side-up so they don’t dry out, the almost one-pot-meal is ready to cover with foil and bake.

 

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The Easiest Spaghetti and Meatballs Ever By Edan Goode

I love spaghetti and meatballs. It makes me feel so Italian to eat it and I’m not Italian. Visions of that cute scene in “Lady and the Tramp” come to mind with the two dogs’ little doggie lips meeting over a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. But the idea of making meatballs, what with the different kinds of meat, bread crumbs, egg, herbs, frying, etc., it just intimidates me.

Recently though, my son asked if I could make spaghetti and meatballs sometime. Visions of the entire process, which I had tried once, came flooding back and I immediately felt weary. But then I thought of a way to simplify things, gave it a go and the whole family raved.

Easiest Spaghetti and Meatballs Ever  

Serves 6

4-5 links of spicy or mild Italian sausage
1-2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce, any variety
1 tsp. dried basil or spoonful of pesto sauce * to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano to taste
Spaghetti or any other pasta shape you like

Step 1: Get a pot of water boiling. Remove the sausage from the casings by squeezing it out of one end, in small globs, about the size of a large marble. Let them fall onto a cutting board. When done, quickly and lightly roll each one into more of an actual round ball shape. If they are feeling too soft, put them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before rolling.

Step 2: In a large, non-stick skillet, preheated on medium-high, brown the meatballs, turning them only when they release from the pan. They don’t have to be cooked through at this point, just browned.

Step 3: Transfer the meatballs to a pot with high sides that is large enough to hold the sauce. Pour in one jar of sauce and eye-ball it to see if you feel you need to add some or all of another jar. You want the sauce to be thin enough to ladle over the pasta but still meaty with the meatballs. Let the sauce simmer over medium heat while the pasta boils.

Step 4: Taste the sauce to see if the seasonings from the sausage and the jarred sauce have given you the flavor you want. If not, add the seasonings to taste. Also, if you feel it’s just a little too acidic, add 1 tsp. sugar which will round it out nicely.
* When you don’t have basil or just want extra-wonderful basil flavor, a teaspoon of pesto sauce works beautifully, especially since it also has pinon nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil built in. It’s a good little trick to remember for sauces and soups.

Step 5: Drain the pasta and ladle sauce and meatballs over it, topping with a few shakes or Parmesan Cheese if desired.

Watch the video to see the making of The Worlds Easiest Spaghetti and Meatballs in action:

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