Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crock Pot Lasagna

    Is there anyone else out there who experiences Food Emergencies? I'm sure there are, but allow me to explain. In my world, a food emergency is akin to a craving. When, for reasons internal or external, a certain food becomes immediately necessary. Stress, PMS, good days, bad days, and so on, lead to food emergencies. I myself have been known to have Milkshakes Emergencies, Chocolate Chip Cookie Emergencies, and Fresh Fruit Emergencies, just to name a few :)

    Being Italian, Pasta is basically always at the top of my comfort food list. In all it's many incarnations, homemade pasta is basically love and comfort in a bowl, at for me:. Sometimes, you just need Lasagna, you know what I mean? However, sometimes I just don't have the time to make a traditional lasagna, as much as I would like to. Last year, my wonderful Mama gave me a cookbook that was a compilation of recipes from the people who work at her hospital, and in this book are several delicious stew and pasta recipes that have been designed for a slow cooker. My two favorites from this book are the Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese (that one will probably show up in a later post), and the star of today's show, Crock Pot Lasagna. Yes, friends, Lasagna wherein you can throw virtually all of the ingredients into the Crock Pot, uncooked, forget about it for a few hours, and then have it ready and waiting for you. The only "cooking" you have to do is brown the meat before it goes in. Oh, Crock Pot Lasagna, where have you BEEN all my life?

  BEFORE WE BEGIN: This version does not serve up as neatly as traditional lasagna (the kind you put in the oven and serve by cutting and serving in squares). Getting the lasagna out of the Crock Pot can make the layers more prone to falling apart, so they won't be pretty, perefectly shaped squares, but that certainly won't affect the taste. The flavor is not exactly the same as traditional lasagna either, but it's pretty darn close and goes together in about one quarter of the time. So, here ya go, throw this in the Crock Pot mid-morning and the bubbly, cheesy, meaty pasta goodness will be ready for you by dinner time :) YUM:)

Crock Pot Lasagna
- 6 Lasagna noodles, uncooked
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 lb Italian sausage (you could also use all beef or all sausage, depending on your tastes)
- 1 garlic clove (or 1/2 of a garlic clove if garlic isn't your thing, although I find it hard to believe people like that actually exist 0_o)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded  (okay, I'll be honest, the recipe in the book called for 1 cup, but if you think that's all I used you clearly don't know me very well :) Use however much tickles your fancy:)
- 14 oz. Pasta Sauce, we make our own in my family, but if you do jarred sauce, use your favorite brand.
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 can mushrooms (optional, I've made it both ways, and they're both tasty, again, do as you please)
- 8 oz. Ricotta Cheese (my Mom mixes one egg and a little parsley into the Ricotta cheese, even though the recipe in the book doesn't call for it. I prefer it my Mom's way, but it's your call)

- Grease Crock Pot (Unless it's non-stick. I was tempted to skip this, don't. A thin coating of oil or Pam should do you just fine)
- Break noodles in half and place 1/2 of the noodles in the bottom of the Crock Pot. Brown beef and sausage and drain. Spread half of this mixture over the first layer of lasagna noodles.
- Follow the meat mixture with half of the sauce, water, mushrooms (if using), ricotta and mozzarella. Repeat ingredients in this order for the second layer, ending with the mozzarella cheese.

- Cook on low for 5 hours. Serves about 4 people.

This recipe is enough for about two layers. If you have a bigger/deeper Crock Pot, or you are feeding more people, this recipe can be increased by 1/3rd (for a third layer), doubled or even tripled. That's why I love dishes like this, they can be adjusted to feed as many people as you can crowd around a table. Pasta is Magic :)

To give credit where it is certainly due, this recipe came from the Community General Hospital Family Cookbook:)

Enjoy <3

UPDATE 11/26/11: I would like to apologize for the photo quality in this particular blog post. This was back when I was still getting the hang of food photography and wasn't very adept at getting step by step photos. The next time I make this dish I will reshoot the photos and put them up here so that they better illustrate the recipe :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fresh Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce

I'm back!!!!

Hello My Darlings! After an amazing and amazingly busy summer, I return to my beloved food blog :) I've missed you all so much, and I've got tons of ideas for posts! As the dark months approach, recipes for homey, comfort-type food come to the forefront of my mind. Let's set the Autumnal mood with the aforementioned Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce :)

An apple recipe? In October? The Hell you say!?!?
 No, friends, I am completely serious:) Here a few things I like about this recipe:
- It's not apple pie. Don't mistake me, I love me some apple pie. However, being mid-October, I have had apple pie and apple crisp several times already, and I am ready to move on to a slightly different type of apple dessert.
-If you served this without the butter sauce (or, heck, even with the butter sauce) this cake would be excellent for breakfast. Some hot tea or coffee, the morning paper if that's your thing, and you've got yourself Morning Bliss :)
-It's not too sweet.
- It keeps well, in a covered 9x13 pan, it'll last you for at least a few days, the apple keeps it nice and moist, but not soggy. The sauce can be refrigerated for several days also.

 This one comes from my Mom's vast recipe collection. Enjoy:)

Fresh Apple Cake with Warm Butter Cream Sauce 

- 4 cups apples, peeled and sliced

- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
-2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Butter Sauce (recipe follows)

- Preheat oven to 350 F
- In large bowl, stir together apples and sugar. Add dry ingredients, stir well.
- In separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture in to apple mixture, blending until thoroughly moistened. Stir in pecans if using.
- Pour into greased 13x9x2 inch pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with warm butter sauce.

Warm Butter Cream Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (personally, I don't use margarine, but if you do, or if that's all you have on hand, that'll work too)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla

- Place all ingredients in saucepan; stir. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook for three minutes. Serve over apple cake

This dessert sauce is, in my opinion, quite versatile. It could be served over gingerbread, pumpkin cake, ice cream, anything that could be imporoved by a sweet butter sauce (and, let's be honest with ourselves, what wouldn't?) This apple cake was the dessert for a Sunday Turkey Dinner with the family :) I couldn't be more pleased with it :) Thanks Mama!!!

Love to All :)