Sunday, September 20, 2009

Comforting Meals at Their Best

How do you take away any stress involved with having company? Simplify the cooking. If it wasn't for my husband, the arrival of my family would have had me on edge, especially after an insanely busy week of work. The night before their arrival, as I cleaned the house, my husband went nuts in the kitchen – and did it EVER smell great! Within a few hours my husband had dinner for Wednesday night ready to go, breakfast and lunches for Thursday and Friday, and a plan for meals in the evenings.

Wednesday night was the lasagna. Not just any lasagna, my husband's grandmother's lasagna. Already prepared, we just had to pop it into the oven. What a hit, so cheesy and comforting. Here's the recipe.

What you’ll need

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 280 ml can sliced mushrooms
1 225 ml can tomato sauce
1 5 1/2 oz can tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
3/4 cup water
1 280 g package frozen chopped spinach
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 container creamed cottage cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 170 g package sliced mozzarella cheese
1 500 g package Catelli lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

What to do
Sauté onion and garlic in half the oil; add ground beef and brown, breaking it apart with fork. Stir in mushrooms with liquid, tomato sauce, tomato paste, half the salt, oregano and water. Simmer 15 minutes. Combine egg, spinach which has been thawed and thoroughly drained, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, remaining oil and salt. Spread 1/3 of meat sauce in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover with 1/3 of lasagna. Alternate another 1/3 of sauce and lasagna. Spread cottage cheese mixture over and cover with remaining lasagna and sauce. Arrange mozzarella cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Breakfasts were equally insane. Along with greasy bacon and whole wheat toast came one of the best quiche's I've ever had. Dad said it was in fact THE best he'd ever had. Dense and filling, the flavours in this dish were outstanding! My husband made this recipe up so it's less detailed than the others. Sorry, no photo, I was so excited to eat I stuffed my face before realizing the photo hadn't been taken.

What you’ll need
6 eggs
3/4 cup cream
1 cup emmental
4 green onions
1 cup ham

What to do
Mix everything together in a bowl. Sprinkle in a bit of nutmeg. Poor into a pie shell (frozen one you would buy at the store). Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

Celery Root and Cèpe Soup
Sophisticated and rich, this soup is sure to impress. We ate this soup along with the Bell Inn biscuits my husband made. I absolutely love the taste of celery root. My husband got this recipe from an old Food & Drink magazine.

What you’ll need
1/2 oz (15g) dried cèpes (or porcini)
2 medium onions
1 celery root, about 5 inches (12cm in diameter)
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup light cream
Fried bread croutons, optional

What to do
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 3 cups boiling water. Leave the mushrooms to soak for 20 minutes.

Peel and dice the onions and celery root. In a large frying pan with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery root and salt. Stir to coat the vegetables in the butter and oil, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.

Remove the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid, chop them coarsely and add to the vegetables. Carefully strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve and pour into the pan. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Season with pepper and more salt if necessary and let cool slightly.

Purée the vegetable mixture in batches in a blender, then pour into a saucepan. Add the cream then heat the soup gently. If it seems too thick, add more water.

Serve topped with croutons, if desired.

For dessert mom got some strawberries at the grocery store and chopped them up with some sugar. That, along with a little whipped cream turned our leftover biscuits into strawberry shortcake heaven.

Dinner on Thursday was the impressive barbecued margherita pizza, Friday was the equally awe-inspiring smoked beer up-the-butt chicken.

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