Squash Lasagna

Red Sauce
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.

Mushroom Sesame Dressing

I have attempted to recreate Tomato Head’s Mushroom Sesame Dressing several times, but since I have never actually had it, I couldn’t try to come close. A trip to Knoxville last weekend allowed me to finally try it, and I was way off. I would have hoped that Amanda would have let me know this.

Since it has been a couple months since I talked to Scott from Tomato Head about them selling their dressing in local stores, we searched Kroger  near her sister’s house on a trip back to Knoxville, but to no avail. We did find Tomato Head Hummus, so the trip was not a total loss.

Now that I have a better idea of what I am aiming to make, I will reattempt it tonight. One thing I know I was missing was a tangy quality that could be lemon juice, or some kind of vinegar. I will try lemon juice first.

I wish I would have brought some home with me.


Part two of the recreating The Tomato Head food was their sandwich, Lucy. Their website lists it as such:

fresh spinach  hummus  carrot  roasted onion roasted portobello  walnut  monterey jack heated

I made the hummus, while Amanda had already grated the carrots, sliced and began to roast the onions, cut the cheese, and toasted some pine nuts (I am out of walnuts).

Once the onions cooked down a bit, I added the mushroom slices and tossed it in the oven. Amanda spread hummus and pine nuts on the buns and when the onions and mushrooms were ready, she layered those and topped with cheese.

A short stint under the broiler and she then topped with the shredded carrot and spinach.

Paired with a salad with last night’s dressing, I will have to say that these were quite good. If we ever make them again, I will be sure to use a denser bread.

Mushroom Sesame Vinaigrette

After eating at The Tomato Head  in Knoxville on Sunday, Amanda raved about the mushroom sesame salad dressing. I didn’t get to try it myself, but I figured that I could find a recipe online. No such luck.

The recipe I tried was a knockoff to some name brand shiitake and sesame dressing. When I followed the recipe, it tasted like cider vinegar with flavoring. I added more oil to subdue it, and was still not happy. After some garlic, salt, pepper, and onion powder, it was palatable. I think that Amanda snuck sugar in it when I had my back turned.

Today, I tried to get the recipe from The Tomato Head, but sadly, they don’t release such information since they are hoping to sell it themselves around Tennessee.  I guess I will have to make a trip down there to get some and try to recreate it.

Week 45: Vegetarian/Vegan

Eggplant Parm

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

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.

Medium sized eggplant
Egg – beaten like a step child
Grated Parmesan

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

Red Beans and Rice

I looked in the freezer and saw that I had a package of andouille from a groupon to a butcher from the summer. What better way to help usher in Winter than some red beans and rice? I ignored the fact that it will be warming back into the 60s for the following several days.

I searched around several different recipes on the web (I have no idea where my recipe is), and settled on this one. I did not have green bell peppers on hand so I desecrated the “Holy Trinity” by using a red pepper I had bought the following night’s dinner. Other than that, I mostly followed the recipe, but doubled it.

As for the creole seasoning, I had to break out the slide rule and scale down the recipe since I only needed a few tablespoons instead of a few cups. Luckily, I have the conversion chart stuck on the side of my fridge. I did cheat by rounding everything to tablespoons instead of teaspoons. The approximately half cup I have left over will have to be used for some other Creole meal.

Simmer down

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.