I will admit, a lasagna made with matzo crackers had me a little skeptical but I was proved wrong. It turned out great. Substituting the lasagna noodles with matzo crackers gives it a similar texture and a little different flavor, but in a good way.
the spinach sauce
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups frozen spinach, chopped or 1 can of spinach, chopped
1 container ricotta cheese (32 oz)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Matzo crackers, lightly salted
1 lb ground hot Italian sausage
1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Make the spinach sauce:
In a large pot, combine the butter and olive oil on medium heat until melted. Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté until they are translucent and fragrant.
Add the flour and whisk until it is all incorporated. Cook this mixture on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir this béchamel mixture frequently.
Add the 2 1/2 cups of whole milk and whisk until combined. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture has thickened.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese and spinach into the white sauce. Heat this on low. If you are using frozen spinach, heat until the spinach is warm and fully defrosted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.
Make the white sauce
In a separate bowl, add the ricotta cheese, egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk this together.
Brown the hot Italian sausage
If you have sausage links, remove the casings.
Heat a pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the sausage in the pan.
Break the sausage apart with a spatula to get it into as many pieces as possible.
Stir occasionally as it browns. Reduce the heat if it’s browning too quickly. This should take 8 to 10 minutes.
Let cool before assembling the lasagna.
Assemble the lasagna
Add a thin layer of the spinach sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
Add a layer of matzo crackers. You can break the crackers as needed to make a full layer.
Add 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the matzo cracker layer. Spread this out evenly.
Add a layer of the browned ground Italian sausage.
Sprinkle a think layer of crushed red pepper flakes.
Repeat with additional layers of spinach sauce, matzo crackers, ricotta cheese sauce, sausage, and red pepper flakes.
Once you reach the top of your dish (or run out of ingredients for layers) pour on the 1/2 cup of whole milk across the top, then cover with mozzarella cheese. The milk helps add moisture for the matzo crackers to absorb.
Cover the dish with foil and place it on a baking sheet (in case it flows over). Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
Remove the foil and allow the top to brown for an additional 15 minutes.
This recipe was inspired by a number of online recipes we found, but mostly by one of my favorite sites, The Spruce Eats. They have some variations that include other vegetables and other cheeses. They also suggest using store bought Alfredo if you’re short on time or use marinara if you want a more traditional red lasagna.
We added the nutmeg to the ricotta sauce and the sausage and red pepper flakes that weren’t in the original recipe. You could make this without the sausage or you can also use other sausages, like a breakfast sausage or even ground beef.
We found a couple versions and had to try it. We didn’t have grapefruit juice but we did have some Fresca, which actually worked really well. Here’s our version for one drink.
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Fresca (or any grapefruit soda)
2 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 drops of bitters
1 grapefruit slice (optional)
1 preserved cherry (optional)
Add the bourbon, Fresca, and basil into a cocktail shaker and then fill the shaker with ice. Shake well and then strain into a cocktail glass with a large ice globe (or 5 ice cubes). Add the lemon juice and two drops of bitters.
You can garnish with a slice of grapefruits and a cherry.
If you have fresh grapefruit juice, you can substitute the Fresca with 1 oz of grapefruit juice and 1/2 oz of simple syrup.
We found this recipe a couple of years ago on the back of a box of pasta at the City Market grocery store in Breckenridge, CO. There are a bunch of variations online, but this one is really simple and we use it as the base for our variations.
Options: • If you make broth from your Thanksgiving Turkey, this is a perfect use for that broth. • If you’re using sausage and in a rush, you can slice the sausage into thin slices. It’s not traditional but it gets the same flavor. • If you’re like us and make large batches of Italian Meatballs, you can use your leftovers in this recipe instead of the sausage. Just cut large meatballs down into 1/2 inch pieces. • We found a recipe that includes cherry tomatoes. We add those, too, from time to time because we like the extra flavor, even though it’s not traditional.
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken broth (use fresh if you have it)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb Italian Sausage (or your favorite sausage) or Italian meatballs
1 cup Acini de Pepe pasta
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (optional)
3 cups of baby spinach or kale (or a mix of both)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (for garnish)
Salt & pepper for taste
Prep your vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for 4 minutes, of until they are starting to soften. Add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
Add the chicken broth and red pepper flakes (optional) and bring it to a boil.
Roll the sausage meat into 1/2 inch meatballs. or cut it into small slices. If you’re using traditional meatballs, cut them into halves or quarters so they are about 1/2 inch.
Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 4 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
Add the baby spinach or kale, and the acini di pepe pasta and cherry tomatoes (optional) and simmer for 7 more minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Serve up in large bowls. Add the chopped parsley as a garnish on the soup.
We ordered some food from a local restaurant supply company that has started delivering to consumers. First off, the quality of everything they delivered was much higher than any grocery store. Now we know where the good stuff goes.
They had some squash so we included acorn squash in our order and it was so good. We’ve baked them, grilled them, and stuffed them. This stuffing is probably my favorite.
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or Italian seasoning if preferred)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 egg, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut 1-inch off the top of each acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. If necessary in order for the squash to sit upright, cut off a small portion of the bottom. Rub the melted butter in the cavity of each squash and sprinkle the inside with kosher salt and ground pepper. Set squash on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, brown the ground pork until no longer pink. Remove the meat from the pan, add the olive oil and saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 10 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
Return the pork to the pan along with the cooked rice, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stirring constantly, heat mixture thoroughly, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool for 20 mins and then mix in the beat egg well.
Divide the mixture evenly among the squash, top each squash with its lid and bake for 1 hour or until the squash is tender.
OK, we tried our hand at making pizza dough again. We tried in the past and just couldn’t get the right taste and texture with any consistency. Then we found the fresh dough from Trader Joe’s and started to use that because it’s so much easier and the dough is good. For Christmas I got Curt a gift box from Marcelli Formaggi called Trattoria Pizza Maker’s Kit. It has everything you need for a truly authentic Italian pizzeria experience.
I had to find a new recipe to use for the flour that is included in the kit. We ended up using the recipe provided on a card that is included in the kit. That recipe is below. I also reached out to some friends who are my go-to people for help, advice, and inspiration in my cooking. Luke is a professional chef and is now teaching future chefs. Josh is a fellow Italian American from Texas that has some awesome kitchen skills in both Italian cuisine and traditional Texan food (think BBQ, smoking, and similar items).
Here are their suggestions and then at the end is the recipe from Marcelli Formaggi.
One 12” NY Style Crust 150g flour 4g sugar 2.5g kosher salt 2.5g instant yeast 8g olive oil 100g water
blend dry ingredients in food processor-add water and oil and blend until dough forms-place in greased bowl and cover for 4hrs (or in the fridge overnight)-punch down, shape in a ball, refrigerate 1hr-remove from fridge 1hr before baking-shape, top, bake.
I am not particularly a pizza kinda guy. But my go to is.. 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon instant yeast 6 ounces of water
Combine dry ingredients, then add water. Mix, cover, and let rise at room temp for 8-10 hours. Divide dough in half, roll up in balls, and place in bags or a container to rest in ths fridge for 2 days. Let rest for an hour or so at room temp before using. That’s enough for two small pizzas
Here is the recipe that came with the Trattoria Pizza Maker’s Kit from Marcelli Formaggi.
I do want to point out that this is for a pan pizza, so it’s very runny and meant to be poured into the pan, not rolled out like a traditional pizza. We didn’t realize this and started adding flour on the second day. Then even more on the third. We were using a 1000 gram bag and ended up with about 50 grams left. The dough rested in our refrigerator for two more days, so a total of 4 days after we initially mixed the dough.
In total, we ended up with 3 lbs of dough and separated it into 3 sections. We used one section to make pizza, and ended up dividing this section into two 10-inch pizzas. Both pizzas were awesome, so about 950 grams works, it’s just that this is a whole lot of dough and you might not want to make so much unless you’re having a pizza party.
I was going to update the recipe below, but wanted to leave it because I want to try it next. If you don’t want to make a pan pizza, try one of the recipes able from Luke or Josh.
Yield: 1 10″ x 14″ pizza Time: 7 to 10 hours
300 grams Caputo 00 Chef’s flour
6 grams of salt
3 grams instant yeast
300 grams room temperature water
2 tablespoons semolina flour, or as needed, for dusting
Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. Add the water and mix with a spatula to form a wet dough, resembling a thick batter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, use a rubber spatula to fold the dough. Pull on corner to the center and then give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the process. Do this a total of four folds and then flip the dough over, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, repeat the folding process and then, instead of flipping the dough in the bowl, flip it out onto a pizza pan that’s been lightly dusted with semolina flour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, gently stretch the dough to fill the pizza pan. Cover the pizza pan and let it rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours before adding topping and banking the pizza.
Preheat oven to 500 F
Add toppings to your pizza and bake for 20 minutes, turning the pan at least once during the process.
Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan to cut.
We always have a lot of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. This year it was just the two of us, so we had even more than normal. We did get a smaller turkey (it was only 13lbs) but we made full sized dishes of everything else. One reason we made so much was for the leftovers. Our favorite thing to make with the leftovers are Thanksgiving Tamales.
For this recipe, you’ll need leftover cornbread stuffing, turkey, and fresh made turkey stock. Our cornbread stuffing has chorizo and peppers so it adds a nice flavor. Also, if you didn’t make any stock from your turkey, go ahead and use chicken stock. If you have leftover cranberry sauce, grab that too.
This recipe should make about 20 tamales, depending on the size of your corn husks and the thickness that you put the masa on the cornhusks. We used the Maseca tamale masa that you should be able to find in major super markets or from Amazon.
Making tamales is not complicated, but it helps to “see” it first so check out some youtube videos to help out. Here is how Pati Jinich makes hers as a point of reference
1 cup masa
1 cup stock (turkey or chicken) or water
1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
1/2 cup stock (turkey or chicken) or water
Start by mixing the masa, 1 cup of stock, lard, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix this together until it’s a grainy paste. Once this is mixed well, mix in your stuffing. The extra half cup is for blending in the stuffing. You want the mixture to have a grainy paste texture again, so it will probably be too dry after you add your stuffing. Slowly add the extra 1/2 cup until you get back to that texture.
tamale dough (from above)
1.5 lbs turkey pulled into small pieces
20 corn husks
Soak the corn husks in water for a few minutes, until they are soft and flexible. Then remove from water and drain them off. They don’t have to be completely dry.
Spread a thin layer of tamale dough on the corn husk over the top half of the husk.
Place a few pieces of turkey in the center of the husk. If you have leftover cranberry sauce, a thin line of this sauce is a nice treat to add to the tamale.
Fold one side of the husk over to the other side, where the tamale dough from each side come together. Push them together to make it firm, then fold the bottom part up over the seam. Then place the tamale into the steamer pot. We lay our pot on it’s side and place them in with the folded side down.
Once you’ve filled the husks with the dough and turkey, steam them over water for 2 hours. Check the water level regularly and replenish as needed. One tip is to put a penny in the bottom of the pan (in the water). If you hear the penny start to rattle, it’s time to add water.
Time: For the Roasted Pumpkin – about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours
Time: For Soup – 1 1/2 hours
Autumn is probably my favorite season. I love the seasonal flavors that start showing up on plates as we move from light summer fare to heartier savory foods. Pumpkins and other winter squash are some the best ways to celebrate this season. You can search for butternut squash on my blog and find a number of recipes. Last fall the supermarket put the huge heirloom pumpkins on sale for 4 for $1. We got $5 of them. You can do the math, but just know it was A LOT of pumpkin. This is the soup we kept coming back to last year.
We used a large Fairytale Pumpkin for this recipe. This pumpkin can come in colors from dark green to orange and has a fairly thin skin. The flesh is firm but not fibrous like Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins. It’s also bright orange. Making the roasted pumpkin filling is very simple and because it’s so easy, I don’t know why you’d want to use a can of pumpkin if pumpkins are available. We put salt and pepper on the chunks of pumpkin before we roasted them, but if you want to use of them for sweet dishes, just roast them without any seasoning and you can use them as you need.
1/2 stick (4 TBSP) of salted butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallot
6 cups of diced roasted pumpkin (not canned – we used Fairytale)
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon cayenne (optional and to taste)
1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Olive Oil or sour cream for topping
Tabasco Sauce or your favorite hot sauce
Red pepper flakes
These instructions are divided into two parts. The first part is for roasting the pumpkin. If you’re using canned pumpkin, skip down to the instructions for the soup here.
For this recipe, we used about 1/2 of a large Fairytale Pumpkin. However, we cut up and roasted the whole pumpkin. We will freeze the pumpkin that isn’t used and use it later in either another soup or one of my favorites, pumpkin ravioli.
Heat oven to 400 F and put foil down on 2 large baking sheets.
Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Keep the seeds for roasting them once the pumpkin is done in the oven.
Cut the pumpkin into 2 to 3 inch chunks, then toss them in a bowl with olive oil. Using our largest bowl, it took a couple bowls to get them all coated. Then we place them on baking sheets and lightly sprinkled salt and pepper on them. (Note: You can skip the salt and pepper if you want to use the roasted pumpkin for sweet dishes.)
Roast the pumpkins for about 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender. We had large chunks and it took about 1 hour. Plus, we’re in Breckenridge, CO, and it usually takes food a little longer to cook up here at this altitude. We turned the pans every 20 minutes or so to make sure they heated evenly.
Let the pumpkins cool, then cut the skin away. Note that you can cut the skin away before roasting but some pumpkins are pretty tough when raw, so we’ve found it much easier to cut the skins away after roasting.
Cut the chunks down into 1 to 2 inch cubes.
Instructions for the soup
Melt the butter on medium heat, then add the onion and stir to coat onions. Cook the onions for 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, garlic, shallots, ginger. Continue sautéing these for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft.
Add the chicken stock, pumpkin, cayenne, cumin, and nutmeg and stir thoroughly. We added little salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup mixture for an hour.
Use an immersion blender to blend the soup mixture into a smooth consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to blend the soup in small batches.
Taste the soup at this point. We added a little more salt and pepper and then 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a couple splashes of Tabasco sauce. We like things on the hotter side, so just add it if you like the heat. We let our soup continue to simmer for another hour with the cover on it so it wouldn’t evaporate.
Serve the soup hot and top with either a splash of olive oil or sour cream. If you roasted the pumpkin seeds, sprinkle some of these onto the soup.
We made this soup for two grown men and there was a lot left over. We think this is a great thing! We’ll have soup again, but you can use this soup in other dishes. We’ll reduce the soup and then add it to some marinara for a pumpkin pasta sauce. You can also add 1/2 cup of this soup to Italian Wedding Soup to give it an autumnal flair.
This oil comes from a recipe on the New York Times food website. It’s included in their recipe for Ramen with Charred Scallions, Green Beans, and Chili Oil. We haven’t made the whole recipe, but the oil alone is worth making.
2 tablespoons red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup of neutral oil. (grapeseed, vegetable, or canola)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (of course you can add more)
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Put the red pepper flakes and the salt into a heat resistant bowl.
Put your neutral oil (we used grapeseed), ginger, and garlic into a small saucepan. OK, we like garlic so we used 4 cloves, but that’s just us. Heat this mixture over medium heat until it bubbles. It will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the oil mixture from the heat and carefully pour the hot oil over the red-pepper flakes and salt.
Add the sesame seeds and the sesame oil. Stir well.
Let the oil mixture sit for at least half an hour to give the flavors time to meld. Make sure to shake or stir well before using it.
This chili oil can be stored in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to a month and indefinitely in the refrigerator.
Pozole is a Mexican stew that has a base of hominy. You can find versions with chicken and pork and they can either be green or red. When you’re searching for it online, a lot of the recipes use the Americanized word Posole.
This recipe originated on the side of a big can of hominy that we found at Sam’s Club. It was the Juanita’s Foods Mexican Style Hominy in a 110 oz can. We had never made this before and thought it sounded fun. The recipe on the can started with a fresh whole chicken and includes instructions on cooking the chicken. We happened to be out of town so we opted to use a rotisserie chicken. This was a great time saver. You could also use a smoked chicken, grilled chicken breast or poached chicken. To be honest, I’m not a fan of poached chicken because it doesn’t matter how many ingredients you add to the water, the chicken always tastes bland to me.
There are very many variations to this recipe that you can find online. Some call for pulled pork and some are “red” instead of green. There are also many different garnishes that you can use. We used the lime wedges and radishes, which seem to be the most popular.
This dish is typically served as a stew so you can add more chicken stock if you want it more soup like. You can also cook it down a little and make it thicker if you want to serve it with tortillas and eat it like a taco.
This serves about 7 to 8 people.
1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, or 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of cooked chicken, cut into pieces
55 oz of Juanita’s Mexican Style Hominy (1/2 of the large 110 oz can)
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
4 poblano peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
6 tomatillos (you can also use canned if fresh aren’t available)
Prepare the poblano and jalapeno peppers by roasting them over a flame until blistered and blackened. You can roast these on the stove top of a gas stove or on your grill. If neither are available, then you can roast them under the broiler with the tomatillos (see next step). Then put them in a plastic bag to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, gently pull the blackened skin away, then seed the peppers and chop the peppers.
Prepare the tomatillos by removing the husks. Then roast them on the grill or under the broiler to give them a nice char. This should take about 5 minutes. Let the tomatillos cool, then chop them into small pieces. If you’re using canned tomatillos, you can skip the roasting step and just chop them up.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven, then saute the chopped onion and garlic for 10 minutes.
Add the poblanos, jalapeno, and tomatillos to the pan and continue to saute until all items are soft.
Transfer the sauteed vegetables to a blinder and puree until smooth.
Remove the skin from the chicken and, using a fork, shred the chicken. Discard the bones (or set them aside for making a stock later).
Add the hominy, pureed pepper mixture, shredded chicken, and 4 cups of chicken stock to the large pan or dutch oven. Mix well.
Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Salt to taste.
Serve with your choice of garnish: lime wedges, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced onion, shredded cabbage, and/or dried oregano.