La La Lasagna

I know what you’re thinking. What is this, a food blog? Well, I guess it is sometimes. This blog is for a little bit of everything, and I’ll get back to school stuff soon. I’m so excited about this lasagna recipe, I just can’t hide it. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know I want to….oh wait. That’s a song. Sorry, I’ll try to focus. I want to share with you all a recipe I found that Vitamin D. declared “the best he’s ever had.” And trust me, compliments like that don’t get doled out willy-nilly around here.

Neither Vitamin D. nor I enjoy ricotta cheese. He doesn’t like cottage cheese either, so finding a lasagna recipe that we both like is difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I haven’t even tried to make lasagna for him because I knew he wouldn’t like it.

Until now.

I looked around for a good ricotta/cottage cheese-free recipe and happened upon this one. And for once I didn’t get it from Pinterest! This is a recipe that this woman’s grandmother used to make. It is so simple. Just 1 lb. ground beef (I used turkey), 32 oz. pasta sauce, 1/4 cup water, 9 or 10 uncooked lasagna noodles, and 3 cups mozzarella cheese. I used slices of fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded cheese it called for. Brown the meat then add the sauce and water. Layer it up (1/2 the meat mixture, 9 noodles, half the cheese, repeat), cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. It was actually so easy I was done with it before I could remember to take a picture, and we were so hungry (and it was SO GOOD) that we had eaten an entire row before I could take a picture. But here are the remains of the lasagna:

Lasagna without ricotta cheese

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I always need a good base recipe before I can go “off book.” This is a good place to start. D. suggested adding veggies next time, I thought I could use more ground turkey, too. And it will be great on those cold fall nights that are coming up.

Burrito Babies & Baz Luhrmann

I love a lazy Sunday. Sitting back with a cup of coffee and a great book, curled up under a blanket, with a broadway soundtrack in the background. It’s the perfect day. And I didn’t have anything planned for this weekend, so it was a great opportunity to brush off my Rent CD and finally finish The Hobbit.

But that’s not what happened.

Amid 2 loads of dishes, 4 loads of laundry, and grading a class of papers, I also managed to make some freezer breakfast burritos, a lasagna (Vitamin D. said it’s the best he’s ever had, so you know that recipe is coming to you soon), and a GIANT batch of chocolate chip cookies (for Vitamin D., of course). Not exactly the perfect Sunday, but pretty darn productive so I’ll take it. I was most excited about the breakfast burritos because I now have a dozen quick breakfasts waiting for me in the freezer. And although it was time-consuming (I’m a slow worker in the kitchen), it was totally worth it.

A few weeks ago I found a couple of pins on Pinterest about make-ahead breakfast burritos to freeze. I like breakfast, D. likes burritos, so it was the perfect combination for us. I thought if I was going to lose my “perfect day” to chores and cooking, I could at least do so with a musical in the background. I wasn’t willing to let that part of my day go. So I threw in my worn Moulin Rouge DVD and listened to the film as I cooked.

Now, here’s the thing. I love that movie. LOVE. I vividly remember my sister and I (and our crazy friend) quoting the lines/dancing to the songs/acting it out/being completely ridiculous. We were doing all of this with such passion and fervor my father, coming home from work, could hear us outside the house. But this time something was different. When I would watch it before I would get so caught up in the story and the music that I was blind to the obvious faults of the film. But since I was simply listening to it while I worked in the kitchen and didn’t have the luxury of getting so wrapped up in the film, I was cringing for the last 10 minutes of the film. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I can honestly say that it might be the worst film ending ever. No, not worst. Cheesiest. The dialogue is unforgivable. I love Baz Lurhmann’s productions, but the ending of this one is just…I don’t know. For lack of a better term, I’ll just say it’s too cheesy. And this is coming from a Broadway fan. It was disappointing. I still love the film, but I may not watch the end again (all the good music is over by then anyway).

Ok. Back to the kitchen. The two recipes I used, from here and here, are pretty similar but I still managed to make a recipe mash-up of the two. The pictures from the recipes I used make the burritos look normal-sized. Mine are more like burrito babies. I must have used smaller tortillas or something. But they are adorable. I love my little burrito babies. I just want to pinch their cheeks.

Bri’s Breakfast Burritos (ah, I love alliteration!)

I lb. breakfast pork sausage

10 large eggs

1 large onion (we like onion in these parts) chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

1/4 cup milk

2 cups of shredded cheese (I used a mexican cheese mixture)

Salt and pepper to taste

12 tortillas (I used both flour and whole wheat. The flour was easiest to work with and were a bit bigger)

In a large pan, brown the sausage. Drain and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb some of the grease.

breakfast burritos

In the same pan, cook the onions and pepper until the onion is translucent and the bell pepper is cooked through but still has some crunch.

breakfast burritos

While the onion and pepper are cooking, crack and whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. I used a tip from the recipes above and used my blender for this.

When the onions and pepper are cooked, add the egg mixture and cook them the way you would scramble eggs- stirring gently. Cook until desired doneness (did I make that word up?) and add the sausage back in, mixing it all up.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the egg and cheese goodness.)

Make sure you warm up the tortillas before working with them, or else they will tear open when you try to fold them. Fill each burrito with about 1/4 cup of the egg deliciousness and wrap your burrito babies up, making sure the ends are tucked in.

Wrap your babies in plastic wrap, put them in freezer bags, and you’re done. I don’t trust plastic wrap, nor my ability to effectively use the stuff, so I wrapped my babies in plastic wrap AND foil. I put 6 in each large freezer bag. Voila!

I tasted the egg mixture before I filled the burritos, and it was delish. I haven’t tried the whole thing all together, though. But tomorrow morning I’ll be popping that thing in the microwave for a minute on each side (or 30 seconds for my babies) and I’ll have breakfast for my drive to work. If you try this, or something like it, let me know how you modify it. This seems like a basic recipe- you could add sausage, hash browns, different veggies, the possibilities are endless!

PS- What do you listen to when you are in the kitchen? I’m in need of some cooking/baking music!

Hamburger, Hamburger

Confession time: I’m not exactly a whiz in the kitchen. My sister is, but I never really got that gift. I’m not terrible, mind you. I can get the job done. But nothing I make ever truly blows my hair back, you know? And my dad was so great in the kitchen. Sometimes I miss his cooking. He’d cook for his friends or for big events in our town (which in our town was usually something like a Buffalo Bills football game), and he was always head chef for our family holidays and gatherings at our house. He really enjoyed cooking. He once entered the town’s chili cookoff, which he proudly won. That blue ribbon hung on his refrigerator for years (and he requested that we refer to him as the Chili King from then on, which we did not). He rarely used a recipe, and trying to get recipes from him went something like this:

Me: Dad, can you give me the recipe to make your stuffed mushrooms? [Sidebar: my dad’s stuffed mushrooms are infamous in my home town. Seriously. They are that good.]

Dad: I don’t really have a recipe. But they aren’t hard to make.

Me: Ok, can you tell me how to make them?

Dad: Sure. Take the stem off the mushrooms and cut them up. Put in some meat. You can use beef, or sausage, or whatever you want. Sometimes I put in horseradish, too. And whatever spices you want. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Bake them until the cheese is bubbly.

Okay. Can you see what’s wrong with this? Vague ingredients, NO measurements, no oven temperature or time, and way too many options to “do what I want” when I don’t even know where to start. So when I had a hankering the other day for his hamburger soup that I used to love, I knew it was futile to ask around to see if anyone had his recipe. But I did it anyway…just in case. And guess what?

I was right. No recipe. But I did get at least a list of ingredients that he used, so that was a good start. I also found a kajillion hamburger soup recipes online, so I can of smashed them into one recipe and came up with my first attempt at this soup! And it isn’t half bad! I like it enough to eat the leftovers for lunch. Vitamin D liked it enough to eat it- with hot sauce. But we’d definitely make some changes.

Once I perfect it, it will be perfect for the fall and those chilly football Sundays. I’ll definitely be trying it again (my “notes to self” are at the bottom of recipe). So, since I know you are on the edge of your seat, here is the recipe:

Bri’s Hamburger Soup: Version 1


1 lb. ground beef (I used 95% lean beef)

1 can condensed tomato soup

1 can beef consumme

5 beef bouillon cubes

5 cups water

1 can diced tomatoes- undrained

1/2 lb. mini wheel pasta (or any other small pasta, my dad always used orzo I think. I just thought the wheels looked fun :))

1 diced onion

1 diced carrot

1 diced celery stalk (I’ll be honest- I used one of those pre-cut onion/carrot/celery combos).

1 tbs. Worchestire sauce

1 tsp. hamburger seasoning

Garlic powder and salt to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese to top

(Vitamin D. likes garlic a whole bunch so I threw in some minced garlic. Probably about a tablespoon.)

Steps to Deliciousness

1. Brown the beef and drain (I forgot to drain it. Good think I got the lean beef).

2. Boil the water and dissolve the bouillon cubes.

3. Throw everything into the crock pot. Stir. Cook on low 6 hours.

4. Serve it with some cheese on top and devour.

Next time, I’d go without the worchestire and the beef consumme. I’d add more salt and more broth and have a different pasta, something smaller than the wheels, and definitely about half the amount, if even that. Oh, and I’d probably use tomato juice instead of tomato soup (which my dad did, I think). But other than that, it’s a good basic recipe. Since all I have to go on to make my dad’s recipe is memories of him making it when I was little, it’s a far cry from his soup. Actually, it’s not at all like his soup. Still, it’s not bad. And I don’t mind that it has room for improvement.

I guess this is what makes cooking fun for a lot of people, the trial and error of it. Playing around with ingredients and measurements. Finding what works and what doesn’t. So I’m okay with not making my father’s soup, because I’m making my own. I’m kind of proud of that.

PS- Have you gone “off book” and made something without a recipe? Some people love doing this and some people refuse. How comfortable are you in the kitchen?