Spaghetti squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

photo (7)

It’s been a looong time readers!  I apologize for my absence, but life gets in the way sometimes.   Over in our household, things have changed radically!  In November our little girl was born, and you know what newborns mean!  Amazement, happiness, wonder, lack of sleep and no time.  Yet, I have to say that we are lucky, she sleeps through the night already and is a pretty easy baby, so that has freed up some time for me to be able to cook again.  Granted, not much time, but on weekends I get to make nice comfort food because the hubby and my eldest daughter are around to give me a hand.

Since the birth of our little one, I have started to eat more vegetables, in preparation for starting her off on the right foot.  What I didn’t expect, is how much better I feel, and how heavy and bloated I get when I eat meat.  Now, don´t get me wrong, I looove meat, but I think I am going to do weekday vegetarianism and save the meat for the weekends!

Just recently I started seeing spaghetti squash at the market, and its been two weeks in a row that I cook it at home.  This recipe was inspired by a Jamie Oliver show I saw last week, but he used butternut squash instead.  This recipe is mine, because I know he didn’t use any béchamel and his was a sort of rotolo, like a rolled up pasta.  I don´t get to watch too much tv now and when I do, I usually don’t get to see the whole program!

I wasn’t sure about this combination of veggies, but it works marvelously and is going to be a repeat offender in our house!  My daughter who only ate spinach in spanakopita, now loves this dish and bonus she gets squash and  spinach!  This is a sunday type meal, since it does take a little bit of extra time to make it.  But please, do try it, I guarantee you will not miss the meat and will keep this recipe to use again and again!

Spaghetti Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

Serves 8

12 sheets precooked lasagna sheets

1 recipe garlic spinach (below)

1 small spaghetti squash, roasted and seeded, peeled and mashed

1 recipe tomato sauce (below)

1 recipe béchamel (below)

1 small tub of ricotta cheese

1 mozzarella, chopped

2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make the lasagna, preheat your oven to 190C (375F).  In a large bowl, mix the squash, spinach and ricotta, try it to see if it needs any more salt or pepper. In a baking dish, spoon some of your tomato sauce on the bottom so the pasta sheets won’t stick.  Then lay 3 lasagna sheets down, and top each with a large spoonful of the squash mixture, a little bit of the mozzarella, béchamel sauce, and then some tomato sauce.  Repeat 3 times until you get to your last layer, which you only top with the remaining béchamel, tomato, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Take off the aluminum foil, raise the heat to 200C (400F) and cook for another 10 minutes.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving (or you WILL burn your tongue off!)

For the garlic spinach recipe:

300 g frozen baby spinach

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

water, to defrost spinach

In a large sauté pan, add the frozen spinach, garlic, oil and water (just enough to cover the spinach, like half a cup).  Over medium high heat, cook the spinach until it defrosts and the water has evaporated.  Add salt and pepper and then place in a fine mesh colander to strain the cooking water out of the spinach.  Place in a large bowl to cool, set aside.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce…

Tomato Sauce recipe:

2 400g tins of pureed tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 dried red chili pepper

1/4 tsp of oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp of olive oil

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, chili, and oregano.  Heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, 3/4 of the can full of water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce….

Béchamel Recipe:

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp flour

3 cups cold milk

dash of white pepper

dash of freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat, add the butter and melt.  When foamy, add the flour and whisk until completely incorporated and let cook for about 4 minutes, whisking constantly.  In a constant drizzle add the cold milk and keep whisking until added.  Continue to cook, whisking to make sure you have no lumps until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Take off heat and add the pepper, nutmeg and salt.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Leek, Bacon, and Mushroom Quiche

Quiche with leeks, bacon and mushrooms

 

quiche with leeks, bacon and mushroom

 

photo 3

 

Last night around 10 pm, I remembered that I had invited a friend over for lunch……uh oh.  I had completely forgotten, and didn’t have anything in mind or ready to prepare.  So I looked in my fridge and pantry……and voila!  I love that you can make a Quiche out of basically anything.  Just as long as you have the mains, which are flour, eggs, cream and cheese, it doesn’t matter what the fillings are.  I think that it’s versatility has made it a mainstay in my house!.  So these were the ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge, but feel free to swap any of the ingredients for the ones you have on hand.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the crust:

250g all-purpose flour

150g butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp cold milk

For the filling:

1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

2 slices bacon, julienned

1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained

1 egg

3 egg yolks

300ml heavy cream

1 1/2 cups Emmenthal (swiss cheese), grated

1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

pinch of nutmeg

 

In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, and butter, mix with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse sand.  Add the egg and milk, and mix with your hands until it forms a ball.  Flatten it with your hand into a disk, and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Saute the leeks and bacon together over low heat for about 10 minutes until soft and bacon is cooked but not crispy.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix the cream, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Add the leek mixture, and half of the grated cheese.  Mix well and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 190C (375F), take dough out of the fridge and place on a counter dusted with flour.  Roll out the dough into a disk that is about 2mm thick.  Place in a buttered tart or springform pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.

Take the dough out, and with a fork pinch all over.  Cover with parchment paper and place pie weights or beans in the pan.  Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 170C (350F) and remove the parchment and pie weights, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Take out of the oven, and sprinkle the remaining cheese onto the bottom of the crust, and then add the filling mixture.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until it is set but still has a slight wobble.  Let cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.  Serve with a green salad and basic vinaigrette!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

Tarragon, Mushroom, and Leek Tart

 

It’s starting to cool down a bit here, not enormously, but in the evenings there is a slight chill in the air;  for me, that means that I can start using the oven more often, and I love it!

I have an obsession with all the ingredients of this tart, but the most recent one is tarragon.  I had never tried it before a couple of years ago, it really isn’t an ingredient readily available in Miami or the Bahamas.  After moving to Spain I started noticing it in the market, and wondered if it tasted as good as it smelled.  I think it is a definite acquired taste, but I liked it more and more every time.

photo (28)

This is a very simple tart to make, but just because its simple doesn’t mean it isn’t elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.  I love these types of meals, unfussy, rustic and über delicious.  Perfect to serve as a starter, or as a main with a simple lamb’s lettuce salad.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

For the shell:

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares

1 1/2 tbsp lard

2 – 3 tbsp ice water

 

For the filling:

2 leeks, thinly sliced

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced (cremini or white)

2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

3/4 cup tarragon, chopped

3 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Gruyère or comte cheese, grated

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 425F (220C).  In a medium bowl place the flour and salt, mix well.  Add the butter and lard, and with your hands or a pastry cutter, mix until all the fats are incorporated.  Add the water, one tbsp at a time, and mix with your hands to form a ball, and just until the dough sticks together.  Add more water if needed (but I only used 2 tbsp).  Wrap in plastic film, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out dough on a clean and floured surface.  Roll out to about 1/8 thick, and place in tart mold, trimming the edges.  Cover with aluminum foil and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Remove from freezer, and add pie weights or beans, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt.  Raise the heat to high and cook until the mushrooms have let out their liquids and it has evaporated.  Add the tarragon cook for another minute, then take off heat.  Let cool.

In a medium bowl, add the eggs, cream, cheese, black pepper and nutmeg.  Mix well.  Add the cooled mushroom mixture.

When your tart has finished pre-baking, lower the oven to 375F (190C).  Place the mushroom mix in the tart shell, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Spinach and Four Cheese Baked Pasta

Spinach and 4 cheese pasta

 

The only way I can get my daughter to eat spinach is to pair it with cheese.  So, I did.  Pasta al Forno, or Baked Pasta, I guess could be considered the great granddaddy of Mac & Cheese.  My family adores Pasta al Forno, so whenever I can, I try to come up with interesting variations.  One of the most important parts of this recipe is making a great béchamel.  Bechamel is silky and creamy, if done properly.  The only thing it requires, is time, a good amount of stirring and a proper roux.

photo (18)

 

Making a roux is easy, ruining it is even easier.  This part of the process requires you to be completely aware and not leave it for a second, because it can and will burn!  The key is cooking it over very low heat, and stirring constantly.  Another tip, is to always slowly stream COLD milk (or cream, if you’re feeling really sinful) into the roux, while stirring vigorously.

photo (19)

 

Your béchamel should be perfect in about 10 – 15 minutes.  When it’s done, take off the heat, and add the salt, pepper and all the cheese you want!

photo (17)

 

I used a mix of Gruyère, Ricotta Salata, Emmenthal (a.k.a. Swiss Cheese) and Old Amsterdam, which has a slightly nutty flavor, similar to a mild cheddar.

Whatever combination, I am sure this will be a winner at dinner!

photo (15)

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6 approx.

1 lb pasta, I used gnocchetti

200 g frozen spinach, boiled and drained

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups cold milk

1 cup cold heavy cream

4 cups mixed, grated cheese

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1 cup bread crumbs plus 1 tbsp butter, melted

Boil pasta according to package directions, draining one minute before the time on package.  Set aside.  In a heavy stockpot over very low heat, melt the butter until foamy.  Add the flour and whisk.  Cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes, whisking constantly.  Slowly pour in your cold milk (or milk and cream), whisking all the time to make sure there are no lumps. Now switch to a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until thickened.  Take off the heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and the cheeses.

Add the spinach and pasta to the cheese sauce, mix well.  Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Add the pasta to a large baking dish, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the butter until thoroughly combined.  Sprinkle on top of the pasta evenly.

Place the pasta in the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the breadcrumbs are nice and golden.  Take out of the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Blood Orange and Ricotta Pancakes with Minted Strawberries

Blood Orange and Ricotta Pancakes

 

On the weekends, my tummy and daughter begs me to make pancakes.  It’s something I have done for, let’s see, 15 years.  That is a lot of pancakes my friends.  Needless to say, I need to vary the ingredients because regular pancakes, as good as they are, get a little boring.  Now, I’ve seen multiple recipes for Lemon Ricotta pancakes, but I have a stash of blood oranges, and decided to switch it up and see what came out.

photo (7)

 

I didn’t use this many for the recipe, the juice from one was enough.  The rest were just juiced to go with our breakfast.  I was pleasantly surprised, the times I have made the lemon ricotta, I really didn’t taste that much lemon.  The blood orange juice gave it a sweeter, and slightly tart flavor.  Adding ricotta made them super creamy and just a little bit denser.  We all loved them, and as soon as blood orange season rolls around again, I know that I’ll be making this on Saturday morning!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

Juice from one Blood Orange

1/2 cup ricotta

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 tbsp mint, in chiffonade

1 tsp sugar

Butter

Maple Syrup

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In another bowl, mix the egg, milk, orange juice and ricotta until combined.  Add to the flour mixture, and whisk just until combined.  Do not overmix, it’s ok if there are still some lumps.

In a small bowl, mix the strawberries, mint and sugar well.  Let them sit until you are ready to serve.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Add a tsp of oil or butter, and wipe the pan with a paper towel so there is just a film of the oil or butter.

Using a 1/4 cup measurement, or a small ladle, place the batter and cook until it bubbles, then flip over.  Repeat with remaining batter.  You should be able to make 6-7 pancakes.

Top the pancakes with the strawberries, butter and syrup.  Serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Fusilli with Goat Cheese Cream Sauce, Bacon and Pistachios

Fusilli with goat cheese cream sauce, bacon and pistachios

 

Lately, with my dieting, work, guest blogging, wedding planning, exercising and dieting, I have been very uninspired to blog.  I mean, who would want to read a post about another chicken breast with spices and a salad????  That is my boring food life at the moment.

Last night though, after a grueling workout, I decided I was going to treat myself.  And treat myself I did.  Not only did I have pasta, that forbidden fruit in dietland, I had it with cream and cheese and bacon.  Yes folks, I went all out, threw caution to the wind and had myself a mini smorgasbord! I was actually planning on having another salad, I had some beets roasting in the oven, the goat cheese ready, the pistachios chopped, just waiting on my rucola to arrive, when I suddenly had a massive craving for pasta.  So, I combined the goat cheese, cream, pistachios with some bacon, and poured that goodness over some pasta.   Let me tell you, my family was happy.  They are not excited at all to be partaking in my diet.

So, if you’re not dieting and you feel like treating yourself too, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Fusilli pasta

1/2 tbsp Olive oil

4 slices of Bacon, finely chopped

2 tbsp of Pistachios, shelled and chopped

250ml Cream

Goat cheese, to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, bring water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meantime, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and bacon, and cook until it is crispy but not burnt.  Add the chopped pistachios and stir, cooking for another 3 minutes.

Lower the heat to low, and add the cream, goat cheese and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese has melted completely.  Turn off heat.

Drain pasta, and toss with sauce.  Sprinkle with some black pepper and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Lightened up Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

Yup.  I’m on a diet.  That is probably the most loathed word in my vocabulary.  I hate to diet, but I need to.  You see, in about four months, I will be wearing a white dress….and you know how unforgiving white is.  I mean, even my chef white’s are black.

Anyhoo…..so, since I have been so completely undisciplined and totally accustomed to eating my heart’s content, I started to dig up some recipes that I know are in Martha Stewart magazines, namely, the Fit to Eat section.  The first one I came across was this one…..and I love me some Mac and Cheese.

I was really dubious about this lightened up version, in the magazine it looks creamy, but after reading the ingredients, I really wasn’t sure how it would hold up.  And, my daughter and Paolo being pasta connoseiurs….oh boy.  I was setting myself up to fail.  But I did it anyway, and let me tell you….it was amazing!  Ok, it obviously isn’t your typical rich mac and cheese, but damn, this was good!  The main component is Butternut Squash, boiled with chicken stock and nonfat milk, then mashed.  Just a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 cup of full fat cheddar, this dish screams deliciousness.  And at only 350 calories per serving?  Sold!!!!

iphone january february 540

 

So, if you’re watching your weight, or just want to make a healthier version of a comfort classic, look no farther than this!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Martha Stewart Living Magazine January 2003

Serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock, skimmed of fat

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni

4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

Olive oil cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.

3.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Transfer noodle mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle over noodle mixture.

4.  Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Per Serving:  35o Calories, 6 G Fat, 18 MG Cholesterol, 57 G Carbohydrate, 505 MG Sodium, 16 G protein, 2 G Fiber

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla