Friday, March 29, 2013

Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna Roll-ups

I am not the slightest bit Italian. As if my light hair, blue eyes and freckles didn't give it away,  my distaste for pasta is surely a sign! Growing up in New Jersey, this could be considered a travesty. I don't know what it was, but I just never get a craving for a big bowl of pasta nor do I ever think "I am going to make a pasta dish tonight." Alas, this recipe may have changed my mind for good.

Not only is this meal a nice, meatless version of the original, it also great to make-ahead. This is always a plus for me considering my busy worknight schedules. I considered buying the whole wheat version of lasagna noodles, but I was worried it wouldn't be pliable enough so I refrained. After all, the recipe I followed instructed that it must be al dente to roll up correctly.

Even though Lent is ending tonight, this is a great recipe to keep in mind for that Friday night when you just can't eat another slice or pizza or roll of sushi (who am I kidding, this is never an issue)!

Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna Roll-ups
Makes 6-8

6-8 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 package fresh baby spinach
12 oz fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
3 cloves of garlic
shredded mozzarella cheese (to your liking)
salt and pepper
Jar of bolognese pasta sauce
  1. Cook lasagna to al dente, per package instructions.
  2. Lay out flat on a hard surface and let cool.
  3. Wilt spinach in the microwave with the butter and garlic.
  4. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  5. Spread mixture onto each lasagna strip. Start with less to make sure you have enough of the mixture and add more after all are complete.
  6. Roll up each strip and place in a greased 9x12 or 8x8 (depending on quantity) casserole dish seam side down.
  7. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Ladle sauce and some more parmesan cheese over the noodles.
  9. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes or until cheese melts.
  10. Serve with more bolognese sauce and garlic bread.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guinness Beef Stew & Herb Dumplings

I decided to go back to my roots for this recipe. My boyfriend’s Aunt gave me a traditional Irish cookbook for Christmas this year, and, as we were sitting around the breakfast table Sunday morning, my boyfriend flipped through the book and came across a recipe that caught his eye. He asked if I could (and would) make it for him that night for Sunday dinner. I, of course, was up for the challenge!
To me, there is nothing more fitting for a cold winter night than beef stew. This could be because it is my mother’s favorite too, or it could do with the fact that I am always cold. Either way, this stew recipe hit it out of the park! I got to use an ingredient that I’ve never even heard of (which turned out to be free at the butcher’s), and was able to get over my fear of dumplings.
As Saint Patrick’s Day rapidly approaches (yay!) and you find yourself with over 2 hours to cook, pop open some Guinness, slice up some beef and get down to business making this classic Irish beef stew.
Guinness Beef Stew & Herb Dumplings
Serves 4-5

6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 lbs stew beef (chuck roast)
¼ cup flour
2 tsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups of Guinness (or your favorite stout)

1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup shredded suet (or shortening)
2 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
¼ cup of water

1.       Preheat oven to 325. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish.
2.       Add onions and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until onions are softened.
3.       Put flour in plastic bag, season with salt and pepper and add the beef to the bag shaking until the beef is fully covered. Do this in batches if needed.
4.       Remove the carrots and onions from the casserole dish with a slotted spoon and reserve for later.
5.       Add the beef to the casserole dish, stirring frequently, until browned all over.
6.       Return meat, carrots and onions to the casserole dish.
7.       Pour in stout and add bay leaves, sugar, and thyme.
8.       Bring to a boil, cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 ¾ hours.
9.       To make the herbs dumplings, mix flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl (sift the dry ingredients if you own a sifter).
10.   Stir in suet and parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough. Add more flour and water as needed.
11.   Shape into small balls between the palms of your hands.
12.   Add to the casserole dish and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
13.   Remove bay leaves and serve immediately. Garnish with extra, chopped parsley.