Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lasagna Roll-Ups

And so it came to pass that Claudia succumbed to the 3200 different versions of lasagna roll-ups on Pinterest. After noting that if I eat one strand of pasta my weight goes up three pounds, I knew that if I was going to give into my recent pasta craving, I wanted it a wee bit lightened up. (So I would gain five pounds instead of ten.) Plus - I loved the ease. All was in place before the family arrived and it goes into the oven just a mere twenty minutes before serving. I am not as young as I was when I started this blog in 2007. In fact some people insist I am almost eight years older. Anything that's easy becomes a close friend of mine.

I combined several recipes and somehow wound up with about seventeen roll-ups instead of twelve.  So depending on how you fill them - this feeds six-eight people. Oh - and I made the filling the night before.

Your favorite lasagna
4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (you could go with 3 cups - but I have a saucy family)
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups ricotta cheese - drained
2-1/2 cups mixture of of shredded mozzarella, Parmesan (you could add asiago or provolone)
1 package spinach, thawed, drained and "dried"
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted - the cheese has enough salt for me)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg (you could up that a little bit)

1. Beat your eggs and ricotta. Add the other cheese and mix well. Add spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well. (Can cover or put in fridge over night.)
2. Bring the marinara sauce (that you no doubt prepared ahead of time) to a simmer.
3. Boil noodles according to package directions. Lay them flat. Put about 1/3 cup of cheese mixture on each noodle - spreading it evenly over all. Repeat until noodles and mixture are used up.
4. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into your baking dish.
5. Carefully roll up the lasagna noodles and place them seam side down in the baking dish.
6. Drizzle or dot each roll-up with some additional sauce. Add a little Parmesan if you like on top of each roll-up.
7. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 24 minutes. Allow to rest for five minutes and serve.

If you dwell with carnivores, you can certainly pass some meatballs and sausages on the side.

I've been living in this nebulous place called "semi-finalist." My last two adult plays have gotten a lot of attention and then been dropped at the last minute. It means one of two things:
- not right for theatre
- not ready yet

Because I don't give up on my plays (especially when I've worked on them for three years), I opt for the "not ready yet" reason. And keep working away - trying to get it ready.

But my "Italian sister" play had a delightful reading this winter - and I am thinking it will find a home.

Of course there's always the possibility that I would get better work done if I paid more attention to the words and less attention to the decoy on the computer.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring Bird's Nest Breads

An amazing thing happened in March. Spring arrived in Minnesota. We haven't seen spring since 2012 and we all thought Spring was tired of fighting the North Wind and had left the Northland for good.  It's the season of baking with cream, milk, eggs, wheat and eggs - all signs of spring and new birth.  May I just say how lovely it is to do so when a blizzard isn't raging? Of course Spring did play an April Fool's joke on us when the temperatures soared to 83 degrees F. (Spring does have a cruel sense of humor, "You want warm, I'll show you warm.") But nobody dared say they were hot.

If you have colored, hard-boiled eggs lying around - this is just the recipe to showcase them. It's a sweet bread - no yeast - no proofing. Mix. Let rest. Braid. Eat. (If you want egg salad instead: hardboiled eggs, chopped green olives, celery, fresh dill and light Hellman's mayo - addicting. When the kids were little, we used to leave some for the Easter Bunny and I would tell the kids the Bunny made egg salad. Specifically, this egg salad.)

But try the bread. It's from Cooking with Nonna and couldn't be easier. She made eight breads out of this and I made six slightly larger ones.

4-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter - softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water)
Optional sprinkles which are never optional in my home

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In a mixer or by hand in a larger bowl, combine sugar, shortening and sugar. When all is well-mixed, add the eggs - mixing well in between each addition. Add vanilla and milk and mix well. In thirds, add the flour and mix - on low speed. When all is added and mixed and doughy - divide into thirds and wrap in plastic. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. While the dough rests, you can rest!

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking pan or two with parchment paper.  Take out your dough balls open at a time and divide in half. Divide in half again and roll each half between your hand until you have a rope about 7-8 inches long. You now have two ropes. Braid them and then twist them into a circle to form the nest.

Repeat with next half. And go on to the next dough ball until you have 6 birds nests. Brush with egg wash and add the not-required-but-recommended sprinkles. Gently push your hard boiled egg in the center of the nest. Bake for 20-22 minutes until the breads are light golden-brown. Cool. Wrap and save or eat right away.

And for my hand-pie loving son-in-law, I have a few of these (because you can never have too much dessert.) Blueberry hand-pies.

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Eastover, Buona Pasqua, Happy Spring! I hope i's a sweet one for all of you.