Cranberry Muffins

I normally don’t go for muffins, but I wanted to bake something today, but didn’t want to bake something too unhealthy, so muffins it was. Most muffins are actually pretty unhealthy, but I can honestly say these are healthy. They have dried fruit, they do not use sugar (honey or agave instead), and they use whole wheat flour. So you see, they are pretty healthy, and quite tasty at that!

Ingredients:
Oven: 350 degrees
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (If you do not have WW flour, you can use 1.5 cups white flour)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup honey (or agave)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup low fat or skim milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup dried cranberries
zest of 1/2 lemon
Directions:
Line a muffin pan with liners or spray with nonstick spray if you do not have liners.
1- Mix the flours, baking powder and salt in a medium-large bowl.
2- In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, honey, lemon zest, and butter until well combined.
3- Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and add the cranberries and lemon zest. Fold everything together until just combined.
4- Fill muffin cups 2/3 of the way and bake for about 15 mins minutes. Check after 10 mins.
Enjoy!
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Semi Homemade Four Layer Lasagna

Well, maybe I should be more accurate. This is more than semi homemade. We made the noodles and the sauce by hand, but we cheated and instead of making a white sauce and using fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, we used ricotta and Sargento shredded cheese.

I think homemade noodles hold up SO much better than boxed noodles. Homemade noodles don’t get mushy in the oven. It’s a little more effort, but with all the leftovers lasagna usually makes, you’ll end up saving time by not having to make dinners the next few days:) And if you’re making the homemade noodles, you might as well make a homemade sauce because while the sauce simmers, you can make the noodles!

The noodle recipe is from Marcella Hazan. I have that memorized by now. And the sauce recipe is also from Marcella. One time we made her Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce (https://the365cook.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/homemade-lasagna), but this time I just took a sauce recipe from her book that looked like it would fit well in the lasagna. I used my Dutch Oven to layer up the lasagna because my regular lasagna pan doesn’t allow as many layers as I wanted.

So, finally, here are the steps and ingredients:

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1- 5 tbs butter
2- 6 tbs each onion, carrot, and celery, finely chopped
3- 29 oz can San Marzano tomatoes plus two small fresh tomatoes chopped (because one can isn’t quite enough)
4- salt

And about a lb of ground turkey or beef to be cooked separately and added to the sauce later.

For the noodles:

1- 2 cups unbleached flour
2- 4 egg
3- Pasta machine

For the ricotta mixture:

1- 30 oz ricotta
2- 1 egg
4- 3/4 cup shredded cheese

Directions:

Start the sauce first:

1- Place all ingredients into a pot and cook, uncovered, at a very low simmer, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2- Brown the meat and then set aside.

While the sauce simmers, work on the noodles:

1- Put the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well and add the eggs. Use a fork to break up the egg and to incorporate the flour. Use only as much flour as you need to make a dough. Add more if needed. The eggs I use are always super absorbent, so I always need more flour.

2- Once the dough has come together and is no longer sticky, knead for a full 8 minutes.

3- Cut the dough in to about 10 small manageable pieces and start putting through the pasta roller. Start at 7 and work your way down to 4 putting the dough through twice on each number. Once rolled out, place on a kitchen towel. If the pieces are long, you can cut into a more manageable size.

Somewhere in the midst of this, start boiling a pot of water and have an ice bath prepared.

4- Once the noodles are cut, add them to the pot of boiling, salted water. Allow the water to come back to a boil and boil, literally, for about 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath. Take them out and run them under cold water to remove excess starch. Lay on a kitchen towel.

For the ricotta mixture:

1- Mix the egg, ricotta, and cheese together. Easy.

Now preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Add the browned meat to the sauce and stir to combine. Begin to build the lasagna.

Layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, etc. If you have extra noodles, you can cut into strips of pasta and save for later.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to see if a crust has formed. If not, boost up 50-75 degrees and bake another 10 minutes. Do not bake more than 15 minutes is what Marcella Hazan says.

Let cool and enjoy. And of course you know lasagna is always better the second day:) We just had it for dinner last night and I put the rest in the freezer.

Homemade Pierogies

Saturday afternoon I had every intention to make my homemade pierogies to freeze for a quick meal. Every intention. Really. I thought I would start them right after we took our puppy Dexter for a short walk. We get to the boardwalk for our walk and see all the people in the water and you know what happens? We turn around, sprint home, get into our wetsuits, and there goes pierogi making until another day.

So, Sunday rolls around and there’s no excuse. There’s a bad rip current and choppy waves, so I get into the kitchen and make my pierogies. And boy am I glad I did. They look so pretty! And I’ll be glad when I’m busy and need a quick meal!

I always used to make Mrs. T’s pierogies, but it’s my motto that fresh, homemade, and handmade is always better than anything boxed. Besides when you have some spare time, why not get in the kitchen and cook something fantastic that can be frozen for a later date? My freezer is packed with things like that! Sometime this week I plan on making sauerkraut as well!

The dough for this recipe is SUPER easy to work with as long as you keep it chilly. The recipe tells you to moisten the dough to create a seal, but I just used a fork to crimp the dough closed. Let’s see. I think that’s everything. Oh, this is actually a Rachael Ray recipe, which I followed semi closely. If I made any additional changes besides the one listed above, I’ll let you know below. The original recipe can be found here: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/Recipes/rachael-ray-magazine-recipe-search/dinner-recipes/holiday-pierogi-with-brown-butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons onion, diced (optional)
Note that the original recipe has you make a brown butter sauce for the pierogies, but since I’m freezing them, I won’t be making that here.
Directions:
1- In a small pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Mash with 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the cheddar cheese, onion (if using) and season with salt and pepper.
2- In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Make a well in the center of the flour, add the egg and sour cream and stir into the flour.
3- Transfer to a work surface and knead until a smooth, stiff dough forms. Cut the dough into quarters, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4- On a floured work surface, working with one-quarter of the dough at a time, roll out each piece. You don’t have to be be precise in rolling (you’ll see mine below!). You can always re roll leftover dough. But, if anything, make sure to roll the dough out nice and thin.
5- Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter (I used the top of a glass), cut the dough into rounds. Start with one piece of dough and keep the remaining three in the refrigerator.
See my rolling out of the dough was anything but precise! This piece looks like South America!!
6- Place a tablespoon of potato filling slightly off center on each circle. Moisten the edge, if it needs it. Otherwise just press closed and crimp with a fork.
7- In a large pot of boiling, salted
water, cook the pierogi, about 9 at a time, for 5 to 7 minutes. Or freeze as I did. I lined a gallon ziploc bag with wax paper, placed a single layer down, placed wax paper on top of the first layer, added a second layer of pierogies, and went through this one more time. I had two ziploc bags full at the end. I then placed both bags in the freezer.
Enjoy:)