Food – Sweet & Savoury

I find INSPIRATION everywhere – sometimes in the strangest places

cutting up the ginger & getting ready to make cake
chopping ginger & getting ready to make the cake with all ingredients in the background

These delicious recipes came to me just last week when I was lying in my dentist’s chair with headphones on looking up at the TV on the ceiling (anything to divert my attention away from the work at hand) watching the Food Network channel.  Can you think of a better way to spend an hour while having your teeth cleaned? The two recipes that I saw looked so appealing that I made them both on the same day to rave reviews.

The first recipe is sweet and perfect for guests coming over around or on Christmas day, and the second reminded me that I had not made lasagna in ages.  Both were excellent and I was told that the lasagna was the best ever.  I’ve never followed a recipe for lasagna before but this one looked too good not to follow…with a slight diversion as usual.

Gingerbread Jars with Cranberry Curd

You can use different sized jars - fun way to serve
You can use different sized jars – my version
Nancy's original
Nancy’s original – you can decorate as you like

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra butter at room temperature for greasing the pan
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup molasses
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup crystallized ginger
Cranberry Curd:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pats
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Make the gingerbread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with a little softened butter and line with parchment paper, letting any excess hang over the edges of the pan.

Place the orange juice and raisins in a measuring cup and set aside to soak. In a mixing bowl add the melted butter, molasses and sour cream, whisking until well combined. Add 1 2/3 cups of flour, the ginger, baking soday, cinnamon, cloves and salt and whisk together until combined. Drain the raisins, then add them to the batter along with the remaining 1 cup of flour and the crystallized ginger. Combine with a silicone spatula, then pour into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool completely before cutting the cake into 1-inch cubes.

While the cake bakes, make the cranberry curd: Into a saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar, cranberry juice and salt and whisk until smooth. Once the sugar is dissolved, whisk in the egg yolks, then add the butter. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberry curd thickens and reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and transfer the curd to a bowl to cool.

To assemble: Place a few pieces of the gingerbread cubes in a small jar, add 2 tablespoons of the cranberry curd on top of the gingerbread and top with *whipped cream.

*TIP: I added a little pure peppermint extract to the whipping cream. You can also make it a lot easier and just slice or cut the cake & drizzle the curd over it.

This Recipe courtesy of Nancy Fuller – Farmhouse Rules (the Food Network)

 Lasagna alla Besciamella20151211_195854Ingredients
Meat Ragu:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1 pound ground beef
2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
Three 26.5-ounce boxes strained tomatoes, such as Pomi
1 cup dry red wine

3 cups whole milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 pound no-cook lasagna noodles, such as Barilla
2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
One 8-ounce package part-skim low-moisture shredded mozzarella

To make the meat ragu: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef, sausage, salt, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano and pepper to taste and increase the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned all over. Add the tomatoes. Pour some of the wine into the empty tomato boxes to rinse out the last bits of tomatoes and add to the pot, along with the remaining wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce thickens and the flavors come together, about 1 hour. Add a healthy amount of black pepper.

To make the besciamella: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour to the butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and then loosens again, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking almost constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and use immediately.

To make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread an even layer of the meat ragu over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce lengthwise across the short side of the pan. Avoid overlapping or allowing them to touch the sides of the pan because they will expand as they cook. Press down slightly to let the sauce spread around them. Cover with one-quarter of the besciamella and sprinkle with one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu. Add 3 more noodles, arranging them in the opposite direction from the first layer and breaking 1 of the noodles in half if necessary to fit. Add one-quarter of the besciamella and half of the mozzarella. Make a third layer of ragu, noodles (alternating directions again), besciamella and one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu, then the remaining mozzarella, noodles (alternating the noodles again), besciamella and ragu.

Cover the pan with foil and bake until heated through, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes more. During the last 10 minutes of baking, scatter the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano all over. Let the lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*TIP – instead of the besciamella (Béchamel) sauce I used old-fashioned Ricotta cheese which Valerie’s mother makes and prefers and I did not use any wine for this (surprised,are you?).

Adapted from “One Dish at a Time” by Valerie Bertinelli

Recipe courtesy of Valerie Bertinelli
SHOW: Valerie’s Home Cooking
EPISODE: Ho! Ho! Ho! Company’s Comin

p.s. I have a thing for wearing aprons while cooking and have a little collection going on.  The one I’m wearing in the photo was a gift from my sister & it came with matching pot holders from a little boutique in Vancouver called “Wishlist”.  I have a vintage “Kenzo” with daisies & pockets that a friend picked up in Japan, animal prints from Africa, original white chef aprons and one that says “Living in Zin” that was a gift from friends I visited Napa with.  They all have a story, they’re all very useful and I feel like I’m getting down to business when I put them on.

Do you wear aprons? 



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