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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 3

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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 4

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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 6

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

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 7

Next, about 3 jars tomato sauce.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 8

Let that simmer down for a little bit.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 9

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

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 10

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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 11

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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 12

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

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 13

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.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 14

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

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 15

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

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 16
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!

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 17

Spag Bol Redux

Spag Bol Redux 16

I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

Spag Bol Redux 17

Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

Spag Bol Redux 2

I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

Spag Bol Redux 5

And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

Spag Bol Redux 1

First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

Spag Bol Redux 4

Spag Bol Redux 6

After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

Spag Bol Redux 8

I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

Spag Bol Redux 9

I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

Spag Bol Redux 10

Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

Spag Bol Redux 11

Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

Spag Bol Redux 20

Turkey Lasagna

Turkey Lasagna

We’ve made quite a few lasagna dishes here at Ali Does It.  Some of them have been pretty fancy, while others were more simple.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the best, as you know.  But sometimes a teensy tweak of those simplest things makes them even better.  This particular lasagna dish is pretty classic, as things go, but I used ground turkey instead of beef for a bit of a lighter meal, and then added eggplant to the mix because I remembered the richness of it in the lasagna I made with béchamel.

This recipe makes enough for two small (7″ x 10″) dishes, and freezes really well.

Dice up an onion or two and sauté the pieces with a bit of olive oil and some minced garlic in a large saucepan until tender and translucent, a few minutes.

Turkey Lasagna

Chuck in a package of ground turkey, and stir it around until it’s all broken up and the pieces are no longer pink.

Turkey Lasagna

Chop up a medium-sized eggplant, two red peppers, and a handful of mushrooms and add those to the mix.

Turkey Lasagna

Add in two cans tomato sauce and simmer that for a few minutes.  If you’re planning to cook this right away, then keep it warm, but if you’re planning to freeze the lasagna then feel free to let it cool.

Turkey Lasagna

In a bowl, mix together two tubs ricotta cheese with two cups chopped spinach (fresh or frozen, your choice).

Turkey Lasagna

Now you can put it all together.  Start with your oven-ready lasagna noodles.  Stick them raw into your dish to line the bottom. Scoop on a generous amount of your tomato/turkey sauce and smooth it down.

Turkey Lasagna

Add another layer of noodles, then a heap (half, if you’re making two lasagnas) of ricotta mixture.  Smooth that down.

Turkey Lasagna

More noodles, and you’re probably reaching the top of your container right about now.  Scoop on a final layer of tomato/turkey sauce and then sprinkle the top with a generous layer of grated mozzarella cheese.

Turkey Lasagna

Let the dish cool completely before freezing, or pop it in the oven right away.

You can bake this, uncovered, from frozen at 400°F for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown.

Here are some of the other Ali Does It lasagna dishes for your review:

Beef Lasagna with Eggplant and Béchamel

Egg Won Ton Lasagna

Roasted Vegetable and Tofu 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

Not the Whole Enchilada

My dad and I have taken to trading off on dinner duty.  Today, he was running around town finishing his errands (one of which included a much-needed trip to the grocery store), so I ransacked the refrigerator and tried to figure out what I could make with what was left inside.

I’d been craving some Tex-Mexicana but I didn’t want to go through the time-consuming (but worth it) effort of making our very popular chicken enchiladas, so I kind of improvised.

First I set two chicken breasts to poach in half chicken broth, half water, so they were covered about an inch with liquid.

The trick with poaching is to bring the water to a boil and then very quickly turn it to low, so you only get the slightest little bubble.

I left them like that for about 45 minutes or so, then drained them and shredded them with a fork.

I set that aside and turned my mind to other things. 

Like grating up some cheddar cheese.  I like lots of cheese.I diced up a large onion and chucked in in a large pan with two teaspoons garlic-in-a-jar and the same in olive oil.

I also diced up a sweet yellow pepper and three small tomatoes fresh from the garden (ah, Ontario produce, how I have missed you!).

I sautéed the onions with the garlic until they were softened.

Chucked in the other vegetables.  How’s that for lovely colour?

Then I added a teaspoon ground cumin and two teaspoons chili powder.  You can of course adjust this to suit your own preferences.

I then added some of the tasty hot sauce leftover from my brother’s wedding.

Then a can (680mL, a little more than two and a half cups) of tomato sauce (puréed tomatoes would also work here).

Let that simmer and thicken on medium heat for about twenty minutes.  Or as long as it takes you to cook your rice.  My rice takes about twenty minutes, if I cook it according to my husband’s very exacting standards.

Add your shredded chicken to your tomato sauce mixture and stir it around until the chicken is thoroughly coated and nice and warm.

Serve over your rice with grated cheddar cheese.

We even had some leftover, so I would say this recipe serves 4 or even 5 (Dad had seconds).  Not bad for a we-have-nothing-in-the-fridge kind of meal.

Italian Pot Pies

Because the weather outside refuses to cooperate, I wholeheartedly reject the idea that it is actually spring out there.  Accordingly, I’m still making the steamy comfort food characteristic of the winter months.  These little pies come out of the oven molten hot, and the tart flavours of the sauce really accent the classy biscuit topping.

This is a Martha Stewart recipe, and it’s quick and easy and a great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce.  Normally the Pie and I use stuff we make ourselves, but tonight I was lazy and so I followed the recipe (shocking, I know).  I apologize in advance for the lighting in the photographs.  It was late in the day and it’s been a rainy week.

Preheat your oven to 450°F and position your rack on the lowest or second-lowest possible level.

In a saucepan or large skillet over medium heat, warm up about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add in 1 medium onion and 2 carrots, finely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender (about 8 minutes).

Add in 1 pound or so of lean ground beef.  Break up the meat with a utensil and cook until no longer pink (about 5 minutes).  You could also definitely do a vegetarian version of this, just omit the meat and ‘beef’ up your sauce a bit.  I suggest cheese.

Pour in 2 cups tomato or spaghetti sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary, and a pinch of salt.  As an aside, I got the above mortar and pestle for about 2 bucks at IKEA.  It’s a very handy thing to have around.

Make a well in the centre and pour in 1/2 cup milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter.  Stir just until dough comes together.

Set 4 8-ounce ramekins on a baking sheet.  Spoon in the meat mixture.

Mound spoonfuls of dough on top.

Bake until the topping is golden and you can stick a toothpick in it and have it come out clean (about 12 minutes).

Be careful, it’s hot!