Tag Archives: Cheese

Lasagna~Lasaña Prepared Two Ways With Oven Ready Pasta

I live in a great area for delicious Italian food. Just about on every corner you will find a family owned Italian pizza place or full menu Italian restaurant. My first attempts at preparing lasagna were with the dry noodles that had to be boiled first. Not the most fun experience, lol! Then I tried the no boil noodles. Not very memorable to say the least. Recently while at my favorite market, I came across these packages of fresh, oven ready lasagna sheets. I could not pass them up as they were priced very reasonable. I had in mind a few different sauces I wanted to test out as well. So, first you want to decide on a sauce recipe for your lasagna. If you have the time, I suggest preparing your sauce one to two days ahead. The flavors will improve as it sits. Then pick your baking dish. I would suggest a deep dish pan for best results. This is only if you want to add several layers to your lasagna. Other pans that work well are loaf pans. This way you could make a few smaller portioned lasagna. It makes it much easier to freeze for a later time and easier to defrost as well. In my experience in lasagna making, it’s best to have extra sauce and extra cheese. Nobody want a dry lasagna and you could always serve the extra sauce on the side or ladle some over the top when ready to serve.

 

Tomato Red Pepper  Sauce

Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. Great for any pasta recipe or add more broth for a tasty soup!
Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. Great for any pasta recipe or add more broth for a tasty soup!

Olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet basil
2 cans whole tomatoes (28 oz)
1/2 cup parmesan or cotija cheese, finely grated

Directions

1. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes(or to taste), oregano and sweet basil. Saute for 1 minutes. Add the whole tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Using a hand held mixer or the blender, blend all of the ingredients until there are no more chunks. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, adding more salt to taste and other seasonings if you like. Add the cheese, if using the last few minutes. Yields about 8 cups of sauce.

 

Light Version of Bechamel

A lighter Version of Bechamel Sauce. Add shredded cheese while still warm for a cheesy pasta dish!
A lighter Version of Bechamel Sauce. Add shredded cheese while still warm for a cheesy pasta dish!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 tablespoons all purpose flour
8 cups 2% milk at room temperature
1/4 cup chicken base (this is optional, but adds a little more flavor)
1/2 teaspon white pepper
1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste

*For a more traditional version, omit the chicken base and use heavy cream or whole milk instead of 2%. Any chef would discourage using lowfat milk, but my sauce was still smooth and extra creamy!

Directions

1. Add the butter to a large pot and heat to medium. As soon as the butter melts, whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue to whisk, so it does not burn, for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Gradually whisk in the milk. Add the chicken base, pepper and nutmeg. Continue cooking on medium/low until sauce becomes thick and creamy. Do not let it boil. Taste for salt. Yields 8 cups.

 

Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce

Mexican Meat Sauce.
Mexican Meat Sauce.

Olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano, diced
1 serrano or jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz. tomato paste
14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of clove
salt to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound lean ground beef

Directions

1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic, poblano and serrano pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the flour, tomato paste and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir well to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Add all of of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Using a wooden spoon, break down the beef and it cooks. Cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Yields about 6 cups.

 

Spinach Artichoke Filling

This recipe for Spinach and Artichoke can be used with the tomato base sauce as well as the bechamel sauce.
This recipe for Spinach and Artichoke can be used with the tomato base sauce as well as the bechamel sauce.

Olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large pickled jalapeño, minced
16 oz frozen spinach leaves (Defrost and squeeze out excess water)
14 oz can artichokes,drained and chopped small
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and pickled jalapeño. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cook until excess liquid reduces. Taste for salt. Yields about 4 cups

Try a few different cheese varieties to add more flavor.
Try a few different cheese varieties to add more flavor. Mozzarella, Cotija or Parmesan and a Tomato Basil Cheddar

 

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Prepared with Bechamel Sauce
Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Prepared with Bechamel Sauce
Sometimes I think it's easier building smaller pans of lasagna. This way you can share with friends, a dish to pass or for storing in the freezer.
Sometimes I think it’s easier building smaller pans of lasagna. This way you can share with friends, a dish to pass or for storing in the freezer.

6 to 8 pasta sheets (5X10)
1 recipe for bechamel sauce
1 recipe for spinach artichoke filling
4 cups of shredded or grated cheese mix
* I used a combination of mozzarella, Parmesan and tomato basil cheddar. Shredded them and mixed it myself
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon flour
*A small deep, disposable lasagna pan works best for 4 layers. I used 2 smaller pans and cut the sheets down to size. I only used 5 sheets.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Depending on the size of pan you will be using, you may have to cut the sheets to fit pan. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.

3. To start, layer some sauce on the bottom. Add pasta sheets to fit. Add a thin layer of spinach mix and a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat the layers until you fill the pan, more or less or until you run out of ingredients, ha ha! You should always end with cheese as the top layer.

4. Cover with foil and place pan on baking sheet lined with more foil. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, under the broiler for the last minute to brown the top. Remove from oven and let rest fro 30 minutes before slicing. Yields 8 servings.

This was my taste testing piece of lasagna...someone had to do it.
This was my taste testing piece of lasagna…someone had to do it.

 

Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce Lasagna~Lasagna with a Mexican Twist

A meat sauce with Mexican flavors to spice up your lasagna recipe.
A meat sauce with Mexican flavors to spice up your lasagna recipe.
I am so happy I stumbled upon these fresh, oven ready pasta sheets. I will never think twice about preparing lasagna again!
I am so happy I stumbled upon these fresh, oven ready pasta sheets. I will never think twice about preparing lasagna again!

You Will Need
1 recipe for Mexican Meat Sauce
5 to 6 oven ready lasagna sheets (5X10)
1 cup chihuahua or mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup pepperjack, shredded
1/2 cup cotija or parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
8X8 pan, but  a small, deep, disposable lasagna pan would work better.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.

2. To the pan, you will add the ingredients in this order to begin. 1. sauce, 2. pasta, 3. cheese. If using the parsley or cilantro, spinkle a little on top of each cheese layer.

3. Then another layer of pasta, sauce and cheese. Repeat 2 more times, ending with cheese on top. You want to add thin layers of meat sauce and cheese so the lasagna does not end up too tall for pan. This is why I say a deep dish disposable pan would work best.

4. Cover with foil, place on baking sheet lined with foil and bake on middle rack for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, the last minute under the broiler. Remove from oven and let set and cool slightly for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Tips~ Whichever pan you use, you will probably have to cut the sheets to fit. I happened to have a vintage Pyrex pan that was exactly the right size for pasta sheets and only had room for 4 sheets.

And if you have a few leftover pasta sheets and ingredients why not try some…

Lasagna Roll Ups

Love the idea of rolling the ingredients in the pasta sheets. You need alot less sauce for this version.
Love the idea of rolling the ingredients in the pasta sheets. You need alot less sauce for this version.
Lasagna Roll Ups Make a Great Dinner For Two!
Lasagna Roll Ups Make a Great Dinner For Two!

I had leftovermexican meat sauce, so I took 2 pasta sheets and filled each sheet with a layer of sauce to cover surface. Add cheese and gently roll up like a cigar. Place in a baking dish lined with sauce and cover with more sauce and cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Broil for a minute to brown the top. Yields 2 servings.

Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole

Poblano Potato and Sausage  Casserole. A couple times a year my husband will bring home this 2 1/2 pound block of extra sharp cheese which happens to be made right here in New York. He forgets that there are only two of us and that he does not really like cheddar cheese, lol! It’s perfectly fine with me. The cheese comes in handy when I am cooking for a large group or need a dish to pass. Once a week, I volunteer to prepare a meal for a group of generous people that give their time to the community. Since I cannot be there in person to volunteer, I do it from my kitchen. I know that the meals are appreciated and I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with a new recipe every week. I do not prepare many casseroles, but they are a tasty, easy and convenient way to share a meal.

Poblano Sausage and Potato Casserole
Poblano Sausage and Potato Casserole
Any sandwich bread will work for this recipe, but try some french bread or bolillos for a heartier casserole.
Any sandwich bread will work for this recipe, but try some french bread or bolillos for a heartier casserole.
With just a little oil, you can brown the potatoes. Cover with lid while cooking and this will help steam and cook quicker.
With just a little oil, you can brown the potatoes. Cover with lid while cooking and this will help steam and cook quicker.

Ingredients

6 slices of sandwich bread (I used wheat), sliced into cubes
2 cups spicy italian sausage (I added turkey, diced
Olive oil
3 cups russet potato
1 sweet onion, diced

1 large poblano, sliced thin or diced
1 jalapeño, seeded, minced
2 1/2 cups extra sharp cheese, shredded
5 large eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for topping
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3  teaspoon pepper
Crushed oregano, optional

Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole. I had a small piece of red onion that I also added in just to use it up.
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread out sliced bread cubes onto baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes or until crispy and dried out. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. Add the sausage to a pan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and heat to medium/low. Once the water evaporates, ad 1 tablespoon of olive oil and contniue cooking until browned and cooked through. Remove from heat to cool. Dice when cooled.

2. In a large skillet, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat to medium. Add the potatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook, stirring often, until potatoes are brown on most sides. Drain onto a large plate lined with paper towels. To that same skillet, ad 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the poblanos, onions and jalapeño. Cook for another 5  to 7 minutes or until the peppers/onions are soft. Remove from heat.

3. Add the toasted bread to the bottom of baking pan in an even layer. Add the sausage, potato mixture and 1 1/2 cups of cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs milk, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and a little crush oregano and smoked parpika. Bake loosely covered with foil paper for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with your favorite salsa. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole
Poblano Potato and Sausage Casserole. If cooking for a smaller crowd, I like to bake individual casseroles for that special brunch.

Chiles Rellenos de Pollo (Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Stuffed Poblanos)

One of my great finds at the farmers market a few weeks ago were these beautiful, hearty, red poblano peppers. I knew as soon as I saw them, they would become a Chile Relleno recipe. I just couldn’t see blending them up into a salsa recipe and not really enjoying it’s full flavor. I found myself with a few chicken breast, cheese and jalapeños in escabeche (pickled), so rellenos for dinner it was. Instead of the traditional egg batter that my mom used to prepare for rellenos, I decided to go with some seasoned homemade breadcrumbs I had in my freezer. And instead of frying them, I baked them instead. I have prepared many breaded recipes in the oven with great success. The results are a crispy and crunchy finish without all the extra oil. The filling was inspired by these great chicken tostadas we used to enjoy on our family trips to Monterrey. Tender, shredded chicken, mixed with Mexican crema, pickled jalapeños and brine. Can’t forget the jalapeño brine, it adds great acidity! The creamy guacamole was perfect too!

Chicken Stuffed Poblanos/Chiles Rellenos de Pollo
Chicken Stuffed Poblanos/Chiles Rellenos de Pollo
So lucky to find these beautiful red poblanos at the farmers market.
So lucky to find these beautiful red poblanos at the farmers market.
Roasted red and Green Poblanos
Roasted red and Green Poblanos

Ingredients
5 large poblanos, red or green
2 large boneless chicken breast (about 1 pound)
olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large pickled jalapeños, seeded and minced,
1/3 to 1/2 cup mexican crema or sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño brine
salt and pepper, to taste
8 thin slices of deli ham
4 to 6 oz. asadero or mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced into thin strips

Saute of red onions, garlic and pickled jalapeños
Saute of red onions, garlic and pickled jalapeños
Chicken and Jalapeño Filling for Rellenos
Chicken and Jalapeño Filling for Rellenos
Chicken and Jalapeño Stuffed Poblanos
Chicken and Jalapeño Stuffed Poblanos

For Breading
2/3 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

*For Homemade Breadcrumb recipe, go to the end of this post

Homemade breadcrumbs are easy to make and great stored in your freezer for a variety of recipes.
Homemade breadcrumbs are easy to make and great stored in your freezer for a variety of recipes.
Rectangular baking pans work best for me when it comes to breading.
Rectangular baking pans work best for me when it comes to breading.

Directions

1. Preheat broiler on high for 5 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil paper, add the washed poblanos. Broil the peppers for about 20 minutes, turning peppers and rotating pan halfway through cooking time. Never leave the broiler unattended. Remove peppers, transfer to a plastic storage bag and let steam and cool.

2. In a pot, cover chicken with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring up to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or until chicken is tender. Let cool in the poaching liquid while you prep.

3. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a saute pan. Add the red onions and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the minced pickled jalapeños, stir and remove from heat.

4. Remove the chicken from poaching liquid and shred finely. In a bowl, combine the chicken, sauteed onion/mixture, crema, lime juice, jalapeño brine, salt and pepper (to taste). Remove blistered skins, stems and seeds from poblanos. Try not to tear the pepper too much. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Set up breading station. I find that a rectangular shallow dish works best. Combine the flour, with salt and pepper in one. Whisk the eggs with hot sauce in number two. Add the seasoned breadcrumbs to number three.

6. Open up the roasted poblano pepper, layer 2 slices of ham across, leaving a small border all the way around. Spread out some of the chicken mixture. Add some cheese  over chicken, roll gently, but as tight as you can. Once they are all filled, dredge in flour, dip in egg then coat with breadcrumbs. Transfer to a lined baking sheet that has been drizzled with oilve oil. Place seam side down. Drizzle a little more olive oil over top of peppers. Bake for 30 minutes, move up to broiler and broil for 1 more minute. Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Yields 4 servings. Serve with rice and your favorite guacamole or salsa for topping. 

Oven Baked Chicken and Jalapeño Stuffed Poblanos
Oven Baked Chicken and Jalapeño Stuffed Poblanos
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Stuffed Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Stuffed Poblano

Seasoned Homemade Breadcrumbs Recipe

Ingredients

8 stale bolillos, sliced into 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder

2 teaspoons annatto powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon vinegar powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne
More salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle with oil and season lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

In two batches, add half of the croutons to the food processor. Divide the spices in half, add to bread. Process by pulsing at first. Process until you get fine breadcrumbs. Spread out onto lined baking sheet and let them dry overnight before storing in a freezer bag (in the freezer) until ready to use. Yields about 4 cups.

Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheese Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheeese Poblano
Chicken, Jalapeño and Cheeese Poblano