Fruits of Labor

There are some wonderful things happening in my backyard. The air has cooled, the grass has begun to turn green, and I have eggplants.  Eggplants I never thought would be.  Last spring I decided I wanted to grow vegetables in my backyard. I decided to build a raised bed. I decided I could grow vegetables that would survive 100+ degree Texas summers.  I have always been stubborn. This is not a new trait.  I planted squash, peppers, zucchini, okra, pumpkins and eggplant.  I watered and watered. Half of everything I planted died in two weeks. The rest slowly shriveled over the next months of hellaciously hot weather, all but the eggplants.  They grew, they flowered, and two days ago…. Bam! Three eggplants.  I had been hoping for one, one $200 eggplant.  I decided one would be enough for me to say it was all worth it. Worth the water, the money, and the time.   I did not just get one, I have three! Maybe even a couple more on the way.  I am so very proud. Proud that I did not give up, proud that I remembered to water daily.   It was just the boost I needed. My first fall plantings are in the ground.  There is kale, and broccoli, carrots and beets. Hopefully they too will make it.  Here is to hope… and watering!

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Mama’s Lasagna

When I think about home, I think about pasta. My mama is a damn good cook. My favorites include spaghetti and meatballs, pasta carbonara, and lasagna with meat sauce. These days my pasta comes sans meat, but I still miss the classics from my childhood. I called my mom last week and asked if she would make lasagna with me, of course she agreed. We called my Auntie Rob for some advice. My Auntie Rob could cook a shoe and have you wanting seconds.  Honestly, the woman is amazing! According to Auntie Rob, letting the lasagna set after you pull it from the oven is the MOST important part. So with this information, my mom and I began, it took all day but it is always worth every minute it takes to prepare.

Three Cheese homemade lasagna:

Ingredients: layer by layer

Red Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can tomato sauce (we blended a can of whole plum tomatoes until smooth)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed and peeled tomatoes
  • basil
  • italian seasoning
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt/pepper

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt/pepper

Ricotta:

  • 30 oz. Ricotta ( the best you can find)
  • basil
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese
  • salt/pepper

Pasta: The pasta recipe can be found on the back of the Semolina package.  We used Bob’s Red Mill and cut the semolina in half, using APF for the other half. I really like the texture the semolina gives the pasta.

  • 1.5 cups semolina
  • 1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about one cup of APF for kneading, rolling and cutting

We started the day making red sauce.  It is important to let the sauce simmer, it really develops the flavor and mellow out the acidity from the tomatoes.   We combined both cans of sauce, a handful of chopped basil, 1 tablespoon italian seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on stove for at least 20m mins, the longer it simmers the better it tastes.

Next we mixed the ricotta. We used 2 15oz. containers of ricotta, salt and pepper to taste, a handful of chopped fresh basil and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Add one egg and stir until combined

Third step is to start on the pasta. Do not be intimidated. Even the baby can do it 🙂

In a large bowl beat eggs water and oil until combined.Using a circular motion mix in flour and salt until combined. Gather dough into a ball and place on well floured work surface. Knead while slowly adding flour until dough is soft and smooth and no longer sticks to hands, about five minutes of quality kneading. Roll dough into a ball, cover in flour and let rest in a bowl for 15 minutes.

Now it’s time to Roll:

Cut ball into four equal portions. Each portion will get the same treatment until all portions are rolled out.

Take first quarter and starting pasta roller on one, roll through pasta roller. next roll one setting number 3. I then take the dough and slice in half length wise. One at a time roll each piece through on setting number 4, and then finally number five. You can cut the dough to fit your pan if necessary. It is only important that each sheet is the same thickness. Continue rolling dough until all four quarters are completely rolled out and to the thickness you desire. Place large pot on stove and bring water to a boil.  Don’t forget to salt your water, don’t be shy, the water should be as salty as the sea.

Slowly cook pasta 2-3 sheets at a time depending on how big your pot is only for about a minute a piece. They should be just under al dente. Give sheets a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and lay out on a towel to dry.

Bechamel time:

Melt butter in a med sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour until a roux has formed. stirring constantly add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Add milk and continue to stir. Add parmesan cheese and a handful of chopped fresh basil. Continue to stir until sauce thickens and smells delicious.

I asked my mom if she had any nutmeg and this is what she pulls out of her pantry

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This nutmeg is only 2 years younger than I am. Seriously, sell by Jul 30, 1986.  Antique nutmeg!

Finally it is time to layer.  I like my lasagna more cheesy than saucy so I always go light on the sauce. By all means if you like sauce, add more sauce!  I start by adding a layer of red sauce just to cover pan. Next a layer of noodles, not overlapping if at all possible. add ricotta mix, drizzle with bechamel and red sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese. Layer one is complete. Start layer two with noodles and continue until there are three layers of noodles and cheese goodness. For the final layer top with extra mozzarella cheese and one last drizzle of bechamel.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins or until golden brown and bubbly.  I cover my lasagna with tin foil for the first 20 minutes and then remove and allow cheese to brown the last 25 mins.

Remove from oven and let it set up for at least 15 minutes. This was by far the hardest part of the whole day for me.

This lasagna is ooey, gooey, and delicious.  My father who does not like a single meal without meat, loved it and said he preferred it to the meat lasagna. That to me, is what really makes it a winner!

Now if you’ll excuse me… It’s dinner time.

Good morning breakfast pie

Want to know a secret? I love pie! Ok, so it’s not really a secret, but it is definitely true. I love all pie, coconut cream pie, key lime pie, pot pie, and breakfast pie. Breakfast pie? I know, most people call it Quiche but Im not very fancy and I’m eating it for breakfast. Pie is so easy to make, hard to screw up, and always delicious. I used to buy my pie crust at the grocery store until I found this article on pie crust over at The Italian Dish. I will never use store bought crust again. This crust is so easy, so fast, and absolutely perfect. Thank you Elaine, you have changed my pie loving life!

It is cold this morning and I am craving pie. Please do not laugh, 45 is cold for Texas. After I wrapped in my warmest sweater and made myself a Chai tea, I whipped up this easy and delicious pie. You can call it Broccoli and Red Bells Quiche, I will call it breakfast pie!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup broccoli. (I used fresh this morning but frozen works just as well)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup jack cheese
  • 1-2 jalapeno ( depending on heat)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper

First I made the pie crust from the link above, as I previously stated it is my favorite crust and super easy to make. While the crust was baking its first round in the oven I chopped all the veggies, and shredded the cheese. While the crust takes it second round sans weights in the oven, I start the veggies on the stove. First olive oil, then garlic, adding shallots and then jalapeno. Add vegetables and cook until just al dente. Season with a few sprinkles of smoked paprika, and a few turns of crushed black pepper, and three big pinches of salt When al dente, I took off the stove and waited for my pie crust to finish round 2. In a large pyrex I poured 3/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup milk to make 1.5 cups of liquid. There are many ratios you can use, and they mostly work just fine. I have previously used more milk than cream, more cream than milk, and all cream. I like the equal parts ratio. It makes me feel like I am being healthy. I know it makes no sense, but I like it that way, and it tastes delicious. Now add four eggs to cream and milk mixture and beat with whisk. I love this part. Its so thick and rich and the pale yellow color is so warming. Next; season with three more pinches of salt, three shakes of smoked paprika and a twist of black pepper. Beat again. Add Veggie mix to pie crust, top with shredded cheese and then smother in delicious egg cream mixture. Bake in 375 oven for 40-50 mins, I always start at thiry five and then check every five minutes until it looks done. Top should be solid but not dried out and cracked. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing. Did you turn off the oven? Somehow I always forget that part. Thank goodness the BF always remembers for me.

I love the way this turned out with the little red sprinkles of paprika. I hope you enjoy this breakfast pie. Next time I think I will add some chile powder for a little more heat. Let me know how it turned out for you.