Dad’s Birthday Dinner: Lasagna and Chocolate Tiramisu

Yesterday Giulia, the eight-year old I watch, and I were having a conversation about wearing a helmet while riding horses. Soon, our conversation turned into something like this:

Me: “…. I wore a riding helmet when I was a kid, but I don’t now that I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, you’re sort of a kid still”

Me: “I’m 24”

Giulia: “Yes…”

Me: “Technically, I’m an adult”

Giulia: “Well, I think you’re half a kid, half an adult”

 

That kid kills me.

Although I am OK with never really growing up… Where’s the fun in that??

It is also pretty fitting to share this story when I planned on talking about what I made for my dad’s birthday dinner last week. This year he turned the big 5-8, but if anyone’s still a kid at heart, it’s my pops. This guy rides his bike to work, plays video games, and KILLS at beer pong! My parents recently took a trip to Italy and ever since they returned my dad has been all about Italian food and culture, so naturally I had to make him an Italian feast for his special day!

 

Giada de Laurentiis' Classic Italian Lasagna

I picked this lasagna recipe because I’ve always had good luck with Giada recipes, and because the idea of making a bechamel sauce for a lasagna intrigued me. Man-oh-man this thing could have fed an army (see in the picture how it’s exploding out of the baking dish… and my dad’s face is in the upper right corner!) and it was goooood. Super rich and very flavorful, although I did cheat and use my favorite bottled marinara sauce (Kirkland brand!) because I didn’t have time to make a sauce. Just make sure to follow the directions and season every step where it calls for it!

We served the lasagna with a simple green salad and a bottle of Chianti my parents brought back from Italy.

The real star of the night though was the chocolate tiramisu I made for dessert. In the past I’ve made some good tiramisu, but if there’s one thing in this world my dad goes crazy for, it’s chocolate. I knew on his birthday I would need to make this classic dessert extra chocolatey to get a five-star approval.

 

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Tiramisu

AND ZOMG YOU GUYS, THIS THING WAS SO GOOD. It made me feel kind of like this:

 

(Sidenote: if you haven’t read The God of Cake you should do that right now, and then make this tiramisu. I found the story waaaay too familiar…)

But seriously, I wish I could put into better words how delicious this dessert was. however, I think the fact that the five of us ate the whole thing that night speaks for itself.

I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe, although I did have to make a few modifications; baking the sponge in a 10×15″ jelly roll pan and reducing the baking time to 8 minutes, using Kahlua rather than Tia Maria and more espresso rather than the Marsala/ dessert wine, and placing the whole thing in a 9″ pie pan rather than a baking dish.

Just thinking about this tiramisu makes my sweet tooth start craving it like crazy! Seriously, make this tiramisu and eat as much as you want, because life’s more fun when you still act like a kid! (And I won’t judge! 😉 )

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Spaghetti with Sausage and Arugula

…Also known as “clean out the refrigerator and throw everything into pasta!”

Which is one of my favorite meals, by the way.

 

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Here’s our cast of leftover characters (minus the spaghetti… and the sausage… even though those are both in the title of the recipe…)

Ingredients:

12 oz dried spaghetti

olive oil

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

red pepper flakes

diced peppers, I used half of a bell pepper and one holy mole pepper (yes that’s actually what it’s called… I grew it in my garden!)

2 sausage links, diced- I used a precooked, mild pork sausage

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

3 cups baby arugula

parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a large stockpot, cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente.

In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, peppers, and red pepper flakes until vegetables are soft. Add in sausage and brown. Pour in the red wine, making sure to scrape up any brown bits, then add in marinara sauce.

Let sauce simmer for five minutes, then stir in arugula and cook until wilted.

Serve sauce over spaghetti and top with plenty of parmesan cheese!

 

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P.S. Lately I’ve felt like my posts have lacked some, well, creativity… Between getting home from work around 7, watching the Red Sox in the ALCS (seriously guys, let’s wrap this thing up in two more games!), and taking an online class, I haven’t left myself a lot of time for cooking. But what is this online class you might ask?? I’m currently taking a Harvard class offered for free through a program called EdX (learn more about it here), called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. Ummm yeaahhh that is right up my alley. I’m hoping to start posting weekly about what the class is talking about, including what we’re doing in our at-home lab. Stay tuned!!!

Tomato and Blue Cheese Pasta with Steak

On Sunday my sister and her boyfriend came over for dinner and we grilled some steaks. They told me to keep the leftover meat, because they never knew what to do with it, since heating up the steak in the microwave would end up cooking it further and making it not as good to eat as the freshly cooked ones.

I love having leftover meat on hand because the easiest thing to do with it is to throw it into pasta, one of my favorite things to eat. It’s also a great way to stretch a portion of meat out further, which is a trick I lived by in college.

 

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When I take a picture I don’t really like, I tend to just slap a couple of Instagram filters on it… Totally makes it better.

 

While it’s hard to tell from the picture, the pasta ends up being coated in a creamy, cheesy, tomato-y sauce that just walks the line of being a satisfying comfort food without feeling like it’s weighing you down.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, and I love it because it’s so simple and easy to make. Seriously, I made it while watching the Red Sox beat the Rays in their last ALDS game, you know I wasn’t about to waste time making anything complicated or time consuming! American League Championship Series, here we come!!

Ingredients:

1/2 lb pasta, whatever shape you have on hand

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

dash of red pepper flakes

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 1/2 cups baby spinach

6-8 oz steak, cooked medium rare and sliced thinly

salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to directions for al dente.

In a large saute pan, heat roughly 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 1-2 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Mix in cheese crumbles and and cook until sauce is thick and creamy (literally around two minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add in spinach and stir the sauce until the spinach starts to wilt. Then, stir in drained pasta and sliced steak, stirring until pasta is coated and steak is just warmed through.

Estimated cook time? Around 15 minutes!

As a side I threw some cauliflower florets into the oven to roast, and I ate them out of my pasta bowl after I was finished so they could soak up the leftover sauce- so good!

Dinner Lately

As much as I love food and cooking, sometimes I don’t feel like putting in a lot of effort into dinner. Here’s a preview of what my minimal-effort dinners have looked like this past weekend:

On Friday I hung out with my good friend and college roommate, Kenna. Senior year we had “wine and cheese night” a few times a month, where we would go to Market of Choice to buy a small wedge of cheese, usually Brie or Camembert, a baguette, and a $6 bottle of wine. The evening would be spent browsing Pinterest, eating and drinking everything we bought, and most definitely not studying for classes.

In honor of our frequent college dinner, we had wine, cheese, and bread, and with the addition of salami, garlic- sauteed zucchini, and blueberry-walnut chutney to serve with the cheese. Because now that we’re adults,* we decided that including a vegetable and a protein source in our meal was probably the responsible thing to do.

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* Obviously I use the term “adults” very loosely, since as you can see we’re eating our dinner on the floor… But Kenna and her husband, David, are getting a dining room table this weekend, woohoo big kids!

Saturday night I was definitely feeling breakfast for dinner, so I went with my breakfast staple, pancakes. By the way, when you work on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, pancakes for dinner and going to bed before 10 is totally the thing to do on a Saturday night, just sayin’.

However, since these were dinner pancakes, and not breakfast pancakes, I could add a secret ingredient- ALCOHOL! And it’s finally fall, which means I can add my favorite fall ingredient- PUMPKIN!

That’s right folks, I made Pumpkin Porter Pancakes.

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Why yes, I do like to serve my pancakes in a giant pool of maple syrup.

 

These pancakes were made even easier, because I had a mix to use and made a single serving amount (yes, I realize it is a very large single serving, but I’m serious about my pancakes).

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of your favorite pancake mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

dash of pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 cup porter (I like Deschutes Black Butte Porter)

1 egg

3 tablespoons canned pumpkin

 

Combine all the ingredients and then cook. I don’t feel like going into the details of cooking pancakes here, because I’m tired, remember?

Fresh Tomato and Meat Sauce

All summer long I watched my tomato plants slowly grow taller and taller, finally taking over the raised garden bed in a massive tomato jungle. Last year, I made plenty of tomato soup to keep in the freezer all year. This year, I started out with dehydrating some for sun-dried tomatoes, but I was really waiting for the time where I could make a giant pot of tomato sauce.

And then the unthinkable happened. It started raining. And the overnight lows dipped down to 40 degrees. In a nutshell, the northwest decided to go straight from summer to winter, and my beautiful tomatoes I had been waiting to harvest split on the vine, or never even turned red.

Luckily, I had just enough previously picked ones to get me one small pot of sauce, which I guess will leave more space in my freezer for beef 🙂

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs tomatoes (I used Romas)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 lb ground beef

olive oil

1/2 cup red wine (whatever you like to drink, I used a Malbec)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano, and thyme

salt and pepper

grated parmesan and fresh basil, for serving

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and next to it place a bowl of cold water.

Trim tomatoes to remove core, and cut an “x” into the bottom of each tomato. Place in the pot of boiling water for 45 seconds- 1 minute, then place in the bowl of cold water to easily remove the tomato skins.

Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing as much of the seeds as possible (but don’t bother making yourself too crazy over them).

Simmer the tomatoes in a medium stockpot until broken down and thickened, about 25 minutes. Add the tomato paste and simmer and additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the ground beef with a small drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until done. Drain excess fat from the pan, and then add the minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is mostly evaporated, making sure to scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the spices, salt and pepper, and tomato sauce to the meat mixture, taste, and adjust for seasonings.

 

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Don’t forget to top with more cheese!

The logical base for meat sauce is pasta, but I served mine over cheesy polenta, and it was some serious comfort food, y’all.

Balsamic Glazed Meatloaf

I was going to go swimming tonight, I really was.

But then I realized I haven’t posted a recipe in three weeks, I already went on a run today, there’s a College World Series game on tonight, AND I have two jobs, which is pretty exhausting…

But mainly I didn’t end up going swimming tonight because my dad poured me a glass of wine and I sat on the couch and drank it. Triathlon shmiathlon.

balsamic glazed meatloaf

Really, it’s about time I shared this recipe- it’s ridiculously good. And yes, I’m talking about meatloaf here, not brownies. The vegetables in the meatloaf give it additional moisture and texture, and the balsamic vinegar is really what makes the meatloaf, if you know what I mean.

It also helps to use beef that is completely delicious all on it’s own. You know, all- natural, completely grass-fed cows that you helped to raise in the temperate climate of Banks, OR….

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Ha. Use whatever meat you want, ground turkey works really well with this recipe because of the additional vegetables.

Also, just kidding Ina!!!!!! I have 7 of your 8 cookbooks and I love you!!!!!!

Ingredients:

Recipe was adapted from here

olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

4-5 crimini mushrooms, finely diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 lb ground beef

3/4 cup bread crumbs, or a mixture of bread crumbs and crushed crackers (buttery crackers like Ritz work best!)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

additional 1/4 cup ketchup + 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar for the glaze

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a large saute pan over medium- high heat, cook the onion, pepper, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until almost soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except for the glaze, and gently mix. Add cooled vegetables to the meat mixture, remembering to just mix until everything is combined, and no more than that!

Press the mixture into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, brush with the remaining ketchup/ balsamic vinegar glaze, and bake for 1 hour.

Or, you can make adorable mini meatloaf’s, by using a mini loaf pan and baking the meatloaf for 20 minutes. Which is conveniently the time and temperature needed to roast Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes….

Your call though 🙂

Toasted Cornbread and Black Bean Salad

The month of May seems to be passing by realllly quickly. And I don’t like it. Which is why I can’t seem to get past wanting Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired food ALL THE TIME. I’m in denial that we’re this far past Cinco de Mayo.

Not to mention that I think margaritas are always a good idea. Especially after deciding to finally start drinking the bottle of Patron I’d been “saving for a special occasion” a few weeks ago (when it actually was Cinco de Mayo). This is obviously a ridiculous thought because I never do anything exciting enough to warrant being called a “special occasion”. Whatever, I digress.

Back to this salad! I had strangely been craving cornbread for the past few days and had been sitting on this recipe and this recipe waiting to make something along the same lines, so I sort of combined ideas from the two to make a more filling meal, rather than a side dish.

Toasted cornbread and black bean salad

Looking at that picture makes me think of My Drunk Kitchen…. The key to good Mexican food is a shit ton of limes! If you have no idea what I’m talking about go watch this right now. You’re welcome in advance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT46FV64dr8

Jargaritas anyone???

Ingredients:

1 batch of your favorite cornbread recipe (I like to mix 1 c medium ground cornmeal, 1 c whole wheat flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 c milk, 1 egg, and 1/4 c melted butter, then bake in a 9×9 greased pan for 25 minutes at 425 degrees…. but that’s just me)

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of a small onion, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 c frozen corn, thawed

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1/3 c crumbled queso fresco

juice of 3 limes

salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and dice the cornbread into 1 inch cubes.

Bake cornbread until dry and crispy, about 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, taste and adjust seasonings.

Mix in toasted cornbread right out of the oven and serve immediately with a large margarita that has a salted rim (mandatory detail).