Meals en Masse: Beef Lasagna

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 16

In preparation for the fact that in two months my life is about to get turned upside down and I won’t have any time or energy to do much, I’m trying to make it a little easier on myself. At least once a week I’m trying to prepare a meal that I can do in triplicate, where we eat one version and store the other two in the freezer. This week I made up a hearty lasagna to feed Papa John and Mrs. Nice, and the other two went into the freezer for some night this summer when we’re willing to brave the heat to get our pasta fix.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 1

Of course I never measure anything when I make lasagna, but I’ll try to give you some approximations here for a triplicate recipe if you’re interested in trying it for yourself (and feeling very smug later when you realize you have two giant lasagnas sitting in your freezer).

First I mixed up the cheese layer, which was 2 750g tubs of cottage cheese (you can use ricotta if you prefer, but if you’re buying in this amount the cottage cheese is way cheaper), 3 rectangular packages of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained, the equivalent of 2 heads minced garlic (or however much you prefer), and a smattering of freshly ground salt and pepper.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 2

Creamy cheesy goodness.

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Then you can chop up your veg. I like to choose vegetables that add substance to the lasagna without competing with individual flavours, so mushrooms (8-10), eggplant (1), and zucchini (2 small) are favourites of mine, together with sweet red peppers (2) to boost the colour.

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Next, a giant sweet onion gets chopped up and added to a large stock pot with a few tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 5

Once those are soft and fragrant, break up your ground meat with your fingers and tip it in. This is about 2kg extra lean ground beef. If you use medium ground you’ll probably want to drain the fat off once it’s cooked.

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When it IS cooked, tip in your veg and let those soften. Add in some of your favourite spices, like oregano and basil.

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Next, about 3 jars tomato sauce.

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Let that simmer down for a little bit.

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Grate up about 2 large bricks mozzarella. When in doubt, err on the side of too much cheese. Always.

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Now get your stuff organized for assembly. you’ll also need 2-3 boxes uncooked oven-ready lasagna noodles. Be smart and spray your pasta dishes before you use them. The glass one is the one I’m making right away, but the disposable aluminum pans are for the freezer – I don’t own enough Pyrex to put them all in the freezer at the same time. Plus the aluminum ones make great frozen tasty gifts for those of your friends who are in a similar situation to myself. HINT, HINT.

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Layer on some noodles, flat in the bottom, then a generous helping of tomato sauce. You’re aiming for about 1/6th of your sauce for each pan.

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More noodles, and then divide your cheese evenly between your three pans.

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More noodles. I ran out of noodles at this point because I only had two boxes, so I had to run out and get more. And it was cold. Hooray for expectant mother parking spots.

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Finally add in the rest of your sauce and smother it lovingly in cheese.

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The ready-made version can be cooked in about 45-60 minutes at 350°F.

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I’m putting in this same photo again so you can see how saucy and liquidy the sauce is, despite its thickness – that extra liquid means the noodles will cook through properly without drying out the dish.

The others need to be wrapped well and frozen. I recommend thawing them before cooking, and they’ll probably take about twice as long to cook through because they won’t already be nice and warm. Enjoy!

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Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 5

I have another recipe for an artichoke dip here, but for Krystopf and Atlas’ baby shower this past weekend, I decided on a lighter version that I got from The Best of Clean Eating 2and it was such a hit that despite it making more dip than I ever thought possible, it was completely gone after just three hours.  Cait liked it so much that she insisted I push forward all other blog posts so that she could get this recipe as soon as possible.  So here you go.  I made this dip the day before the shower and chucked it in the fridge, saving the last step of baking and sprinkling of cheese for right before the party.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 7

Start by defrosting a 10oz package of frozen chopped spinach.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 1

Drain it well (you can see my handprint from pressing on it) and set it aside.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 11

Chop up 4 or 5 green onions and set those aside for now as well.

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Chop up about 1 1/2 cups cauliflower (this is the low-calorie filler in this dip) and pop that in a pot.  You could use frozen cauliflower as well, if you’d prefer.  Cook it until it’s tender and drain it.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 2

Huck the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and add 1 250g/8oz package cream cheese, as well as 3 tablespoons milk.  Purée that sucker to a fine liquid, then transfer it to a bowl for now.

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Chop up a large white onion and several cloves of garlic.  Don’t worry about getting them too fine.  Whip those into a large frying pan with a few drops of olive oil.  Sauté those for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is all soft and see-through.  Chuck those in the food processor you were using before.

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Crack open and drain a 14oz can artichoke hearts.  Chop those suckers up smallish and throw them in the processor.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 3

Take your spinach and chuck that in as well, together with about 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs, a few pinches salt, and a half teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

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Give that a go in the processor until it’s a texture you like.

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Dump it out into the bowl with the cauliflower/cream cheese mixture and add in the chopped green onions.  Give it a good stirring and add more salt or cayenne as required.

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To bake the dip, preheat your oven to 350°F and smooth the dip into a largish-sized casserole dish.

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Bake this, covered, for 20 minutes.

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Uncover it and sprinkle it with grated cheese (this is a mix of mozzarella and cheddar).

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Bake again for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and dip is hot all the way through.  Serve it hot with pita and chips!

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Mags’ Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Today is my little sister-in-law Mags’ birthday and I promised her a pasta dish.  Because I’m not around to make it for her in person, perhaps she can persuade Mrs. Nice to whip it up for a birthday treat.  Her brother certainly enjoyed it.  Happy birthday Mags!

The measurements for this are approximate, and I’m going to jump back and forth between metric and Imperial because I’m Canadian and I can.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Plop about 500g thawed frozen spinach in a bowl, together with 500g cottage cheese, 1/2 cup strong-flavoured cheese, grated (I used romano, but parmesan would also be good), and 2 teaspoons dried oregano.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Stir it silly and then season with pepper.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Take a jar of chunky tomato-based pasta sauce and spread 1/3 of it on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Now take a package of uncooked manicotti shells (usually there are 14 shells in a box) and stuff them with the cottage cheese/spinach mixture. Lay them on top of the sauce in the dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

This was my first one, which I tried to stuff with a spoon.  I got a little too enthusiastic and it exploded everywhere.  After that I used my fingers. And I’m still trying to figure out how to get the spinach out of my kitchen stereo speakers.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

And then when I got to the end of my pan I found I had run out of space, so that’s why they are all spastic here.  Plus I dropped in the leftover cottage cheese/spinach mix as well.  Aesthetics are not really my strong suit.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mix 1/2 cup water with the remainder of your pasta sauce and pour it over the top of the uncooked stuffed noodles.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Bake, uncovered, for an hour, until it is bubbling all the way through.  Then sprinkle with 2 cups grated mozzarella and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Let your lava-like pasta stand for a few minutes before serving.  Not the most attractive photo, but that didn’t stop the Pie from going back for seconds.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Egg Wonton Lasagna

I pulled this from the Get Cracking website and it just seemed so weird that I had to try it.  Plus I have a million wonton wrappers in my freezer that I bought in anticipation of making more gyoza (which of course I haven’t done).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

First we’re going to roast a few vegetables.  Put your oven on the broil setting.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and plop on your veggies.  I have here 2 red peppers and 3 Italian zucchini (or at least that’s what the sign at Costco called them).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Roast them until the peppers are all charred and black.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Let them cool for a bit, then peel the skins off the red peppers.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Then we’re going to boil ourselves some eggs.  In a medium saucepan, cover 6 eggs with water and bring it to a boil.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

When it’s boiling, remove the pot from the heat, cover it with a lid, and leave that to stand for 20 minutes.  This is a different way to produce hard-boiled eggs than I’m used to, but I figure that the Egg Farmers of Canada know what they’re talking about.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Drain the eggs, run cold water over them to cool them off, then peel and slice them.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

I liked how the cold water looked so much I took two more pictures of it.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Egg Wonton Lasagna

While the eggs are doing their thing, finely chop 1 small onion and add it to another saucepan with a drop of olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic (or 2 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar).  Sauté until everything is soft and squidgy.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Chuck in a package of baby spinach and stir that around until it’s all wilted.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Pour in a jar/can of pasta sauce and bring that puppy to a boil, then remove it from the heat.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get all your ingredients ready to go.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

While you’re at it, chop up those roasted vegetables of your’n.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Find yourself an 8″ baking dish (or thereabouts) and ladle about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into the dish.  Line the bottom with some of your wonton wrappers, making sure to overlap them a little bit.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Spread that with some more of the sauce you have left, then some of your eggs.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Plop on a some of your chopped vegetables, then some grated mozzarella cheese (I’m not going to limit you on your cheese — we all have our preferences/weaknesses).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Do another layer of wontons, sauce, eggs, vegetables, and cheese.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

When you are out of vegetables and eggs you should still have some sauce, cheese, and wontons left.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Any remaining wonton wrappers you’ve got, spread them over the top, then the rest of your sauce, and then some more cheese.  Bake in your 350°F oven for 30 minutes, until you can see the sauce at the centre of the dish bubbling up through the top.  Let it stand for a few minutes before you cut it, just so the rowdiness can calm down.  Serves SIX.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

O Canada: Moose Pizza

Moose Pizza

Gren killed a moose and was kind enough to share it with us.

Big Game Hunter

Just kidding.  Gren is about the size of a moose’s hoof.  If anyone were to be killed and eaten in that situation it would surely be the tender tasty corgi.  Hell, sometimes *I* want to eat him.  He does look pretty delicious.

Moose Pizza

Fusselette’s dad likes to hunt and fish and as a result we have a pile of fresh-frozen cod and moose roast and moose sausages in our freezer.  This can only mean good things for you, my readers.

In any case, I couldn’t continue my Canadian feature month without including a dish made from Newfoundland’s biggest (and I mean that in more ways than one) pest.  On an island where “Nature comes in extra large,” moose are certainly vermin to be reckoned with.  I had some more to say about moose back when Rusty and Mags were in town.

Moose Pizza

So.  Yes.  We have moose.  We are going to eat it.  When we were in Gros Morne this summer, I had the opportunity to try moose pizza for the first time.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s a Canadian dish, most likely invented right here on the Rock.  Of course, Hawaiian pizza was invented on the Canadian prairies, so who’s to say?

Moose Pizza

First we start with the dough.  For the sake of variety, I’m going to use a different dough recipe than normal.  This one I pulled out of The Joy of Cooking and cut it in half.

Sprinkle 1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast on the surface of a small bowl filled with 2/3 cup warm water.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast is all dissolved; then you can stir it up.

Moose Pizza

In a larger bowl, mix together 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.

Moose Pizza

Pour in the yeast and water and stir until all ingredients are completely combined.  Then keep stirring for another minute or so.

Moose Pizza

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  You will find you have to add quite a bit more flour in to keep the dough from sticking to the surface.  When the dough is smooth and elastic, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl.  Roll the ball of dough around in the bowl to make sure all the sides are coated.  Cover it with a clean cloth and leave it somewhere warm for about an hour.

Moose Pizza

Preheat your oven to 475°F and start prepping your toppings.  If you are going to use a pizza stone (like we did) then put your stone onto the rack in the oven when you turn it on, so it can preheat too.

I decided that mushrooms and red onion were a good complement to the moose sausage that was sizzling in a pan.

Moose Pizza

I sliced up the sausage as well, and grated some mozzarella cheese while I was at it.

Moose Pizza

When your dough is ready, flatten it into a pan sprinkled with cornmeal, or, if you’re using a stone, onto a peel or surface covered with parchment paper.  I made a circle out of ours, to match the stone.  Make a slight lip at the edges of the dough to keep stuff from spilling off and press your fingers into the dough to make dimples.  This prevents crust from bubbling up.

Moose Pizza

Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil to prevent it from becoming soggy, and sprinkle with some herbs.  We like herbes de provence in our pizza.

Moose Pizza

Crack open a can of pizza sauce.  We generally use half a can for each pizza.  Smooth that sauce on the dough.

Moose Pizza

Add your ingredients.

Moose Pizza

Don’t forget your mounds and mounds of sausage. There might be a bit too much sausage on this pizza, but what’s done is done.

Moose Pizza

And lots of cheese.

Moose Pizza

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Slice and serve!

Moose Pizza