Squash Lasagna

Red Sauce
Ingredients:
2 pints tomato puree or diced
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
4oz mushrooms
1/4 cup vodka
olive oil
Italian Seasoning (basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, thyme)
salt and pepper

Lasagna Ingredients:
2-3 squash/zucchini
Tub of Ricotta cheese
Large bunch of spinach (fresh or frozen)
1-2 lbs Shredded Mozzerella Cheese

In a sauce pan on medium-low heat, sweat onions in olive oil with salt until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add tomatoes and turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Add alcohol and return and simmer until alcohol cooks off.
Add mushrooms and cook until softened.
Add seasoning to taste. I lean heavy on the basil and marjoram. Add thyme and oregano to add earthy and spicy balance.
Puree or not depending on desired texture, or if you are trying to hide mushrooms so people don’t complain.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes for flavors to mingle and sauce to thicken.

Slice squash thin (mandolin is very helpful)
Mix ricotta with spinach (sautee spinach first if fresh)

In a 9×13 baking dish put down a layer of sauce. Top with a layer of squash, then a layer of ricotta/spinach, then mozzerella.
Repeat until baking dish is full.

Put baking dish in 350 degree preheated oven. Bake for at least 45 minutes and cheese is bubbling. Blast it with the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top.

Left over squash that doesn’t get used can be sauteed with onion and olive oil and topped with grated Mizithra cheese (or Parmesean)

Bourbon Braised Short Ribs

Bourbon braised short ribs served over penne with a bourbon mushroom cream sauce (This is as close as I can remember to what I made)

  • 6 meaty beef short ribs; about 2 pounds
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup good bourbon
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 diced medium onion (or shallots if going for a softer flavor)
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (more to taste if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoons fresh thyme (chopped), plus 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb penne, or any good thick pasta

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Heat dutch oven on stove over med-high heat.

Dredge short ribs in flour, and brown in oil in dutch oven. Only do a couple at a time so they aren’t crowded.

Once they are all browned, reduce heat to medium low and sweat onions and celery with salt, then add garlic and mushrooms. Cook until garlic is smelling awesome (not burnt).

Pour in the bourbon and scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot (If you are using my cast iron, do not use a metal utensil or I will hunt you down and stab you with it).

Bump heat to med-high and bring to a boil.

Add beef broth and chopped thyme.

Place short ribs in pot. You want them sitting in the liquid, but not completely submerged. Add more beef broth if needed.

Put on the lid and put the dutch oven in the 200 degree oven for at least 4-6 hours, I wouldn’t go more than 8, but I haven’t tried, so that test is up to you.

When you get it out of the oven, the meat should be falling of the bone. Let it cool down for a few hours until the fat has solidified on top, then scoop off the fat.

At this point heat the pot back up on the stove over medium heat.

Once heated, remove short ribs and boil to reduce liquid to thick, sauce-like consitency (thicker than you need, keeping in mind that you are going to be adding cream to it).

While you wait, cook pasta according to directions.

When pasta is close to done, and sauce is thick, add heavy cream to bourbon sauce, adjust spices as desired, then mix in drained pasta.

Serve short ribs over pasta.

Week 45: Vegetarian/Vegan

Eggplant Parm

Sauce:
2 big cans of diced tomatoes (laziness is king)
1 can tomato paste
An indeterminate amount of Cabernet
A few cups of diced onion
A few tablespoons of minced garlic
Olive Oil
Oregano
Parsley
Marjoram
Thyme
Basil
Salt

Sweat onions in olive oil with salt
Add garlic when onions are about translucent
Add diced tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil
Add wine, continue to boil for a couple minutes
Reduce to simmer and add herbs.
Be in a hurry and not want to wait for sauce to reduce and add tomato paste.
Add herbs to compensate.

Eggplant:
Medium sized eggplant
Egg – beaten like a step child
Flour
Grated Parmesan
Mozzarella
Salt

Mix flour salt and parmesan in shallow dish
Put a thin layer of sauce in a baking dish
Slice eggplant and dredge in egg then flour, then arrange in baking dish
Top each layer of eggplant with sauce, mozzarella and parmesan
Bake at 400F until cheese is bubbling
Turn on broiler and brown cheese until desired crispiness
Served with angel hair pasta

Week 44: Cinnamon

  • Cinnamon, Apple, Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Spinach with Cinnamon and Goat Cheese

Sliced apples thin on mandolin, layered them over top of the pork loin, sprinkled on some cinnamon and brown sugar, wrapped that in thick cut bacon, topped with more apples slices and cinnamon and sugar. Placed this beautiful example of pork decadence in a casserole dish and surrounded it with diced sweet potatoes and apples. Sprinkled on some more cinnamon and sugar, then doused it with a couple cups of apple cider and baked at 350F for about 4-5 drinks (maybe 1.5 hours) and the thermometer returned a 160F reading.

The spinach was wilted in rendered pig fat and mixed with a bit of onion, cinnamon, brown sugar, and topped with goat cheese.

It could have been the hard apple cider clouding the senses, but the pork loin was fairly tasty. It wasn’t too sweet, and the bacon added the glory that bacon does to any meal. The sweet potatoes and diced apples added a nice texture difference, and the goat cheese in the spinach was a good deviation from the rest of the flavors. One note, the onion was not a good addition to the spinach. It didn’t play well with others.

Week 43: Roasting

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Oven at 375F
Chicken rubbed with lemon zest-rosemary compound butter
Halfed lemon and rosemary sprigs in the chicken’s bad place
Roasted chicken in oven for about 1.5 hours (160F internal temp)

Diced sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash, onion, bell pepper, garlic and rosemary all tossed in salt, pepper and olive oil.
Roasted with chicken for 30 minutes, then when chicken came out, cranked heat to 400F and went until the potatoes were tender.

Since this was the last week of the weight challenge, I refrained from eating much chicken, but from I did eat, it was decent. If time would have allowed, I would have roasted at a lower temperature and added more seasoning. The vegetables had a good flavor and texture, but next time it will have bacon and the pictures will be lower quality since I will be drinking again.

Week 28: Citrus

Cast Iron Seared Jumbo Scallops with Blood Orange Jus and Basil Oil

Everyone else backed out, so it was just Mike and me. It worked out well, since the smaller crowd afforded the opportunity to use jumbo scallops. The bad part was that blood oranges were far out of season, so I had to use regular oranges with blood orange juice that was quite bitter.

For the recipe, I pretty much stuck to a recipe I found on sunkist.com I did leave out the carrot juice, which was not a good idea since it could have helped cut the bitterness of the blood orange juice.

I may retry this recipe once blood oranges come back in season and I can juice some fresh ones.

Week 27: BBQ and Grilling

  • Bourbon Salmon
  • Bourbon BBQ Chicken
  • Grilled Zucchini, Squash and Onions over Cous Cous

Bourbon BBQ sauce is essentially homemade ketchup with worcestershire, molasses, bourbon, cayenne, and brown sugar

Marinated the vegetables in olive oil, basalmic vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, then tossed the on the grill to get some good grill marks on them. When done, I put them over some cous cous.

Week 25: Regional (something specific to your region)

The glory of living where I do is that I am from the hometown of the Hot Brown, and near Bourbon Country. This is the one of my most successful ventures. I imagine the several quarts of heavy cream and the bourbon made it possible.

Hot Browns – recipe with the deviation of using Wright’s Steakhouse Bacon which made it my favorite thing that I have ever cooked.

Bourbon Bread Pudding recipe (I added a lot more bourbon):

deSha’s Bourbon Bread Pudding

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 24 ounces white bread or rolls*
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons vanilla extract

Sauce

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bourbon

* 24 ounces is equivalent to two pans of frozen prepared rolls.

Combine raisins and brandy in small sauce pan. Heat to simmer, cover and set aside. Use a portion of the butter to coat a 2 inch deep baking dish. Melt the remaining butter and set aside to cool. Tear bread into chunks and alternate layers of bread with drizzles of the heavy cream (this is to maintain the shape and texture of the bread – do not mix or stir. Gingerly folding will work). Set aside for 5-10 minutes. Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add remaining ingredients to egg mixture (melted butter, raisins, brandy and vanilla). Toss egg mixture with breadvery gently to blend. Pour into pan and bake at 350 until browned and almost set, 45 minutes.Prepare sauce: Melt butter, stir in sugar and eggs and simmer to thicken. Take pan off of burner and add the bourbon and hold in warm place to serve. Do not cook the bourbon or it will lose it’s kick. Mix in after sauce is thickened and taken off of the heat. Serve warm topped with sauce. Can also be served cold.

Week 23: 20 Minutes or Less

  • Penne with Asparagus, Spinach, and Bacon

Fairly straight forward meal. Cooked bacon, used fat to saute the asparagus, then added spinach, garlic and onion. Tossed with penne.

Week 22: Sweet or Savory Tarts

  • Apple, Caramelized Onion, Gruyere Tart
  • Lobster Tart
  • Asparagus, Leek Tart
  • Zucchini, Tomato, Onion Tart
  • Sun Dried Tomato Tart

The grocery only had 2 sheets of puff pastry left, so I had to stretch it along with the pie dough I threw together and the puff pastry shells.

The apple, caramelized onion, Gruyere tart, was delicious. I caramelized the onions in a saute pan, sliced granny smith apples into thin slices. Then I arranged the apple slices, topped with onions, the shredded Gruyere.

For the lobster tart, I used the puff pastry shells, and added filled with a mixture of egg, imitation lobster chunks, salt, pepper, and onion, then baked. The batter was a little thin, so a lot leaked out of the bottoms of the shells, but it still worked.

For the next one, I sauteed asparagus and leeks and spread them over puff pastry with Fontina cheese, then baked

The following tart, I sliced the zucchini, diced the tomato and onion and spread it over a pie crust with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I wrapped it up like a torte, and baked it.

For the rest of the shells, I filled with a sundried tomato, onion, oregano, garlic, basil and egg mixture. They didn’t leak a much out of the bottom.