Friday, November 18, 2016

Comfort Food

I'm more of a seasonal cook.  Spring and Summer are "eh" - I'm not that inspired.  But, when it comes to Fall and Winter, oh, the inspiration flows.  I can come up with a dozen reasons to make a new dish or craft a new cocktail.  If you've followed the blog, you know that I hate (wait - that's too mild a word), I despise Summer.  But, when Fall arrives, my soul comes alive.  Right now, I'm really into comfort foods.  The cooler weather insists that a meal be warm and comforting, savory and rich and always served with a glass of wine.

When it comes to me as a cook and loving the cooking thing, the funny thing is that it almost didn't happen.  My Mom tells stories of me as a little girl in the kitchen, loving to cook and play in the kitchen.  The thing is, I don't ever remember any of those stories my mother loves to tell of me and the kitchen.

Fast forward to being in my 20's and married, I would do anything to avoid having to be in the kitchen.  As an independent woman and a professional, I resisted the idea that anyone, much less my husband, assume that I should be in the kitchen.  And also, I didn't think I was very good at it.  If I'm not good at something or if I'm not interested in being good at something, you can forget it.  Luckily, I married a man who was a natural in the kitchen.  So, we didn't starve or live totally off take-out.

I like to think that as I aged, my interests changed.  Ronnie believes that Pinterest and an iPad changed our lives (and our waist lines).  Nonetheless, I did in fact discover a love for cooking and being in the kitchen.  I learned to love the act of feeding my family.  I learned to appreciate the art of cooking and trying new things.  I'm not the greatest cook, and sometimes I fail miserably in the kitchen. Ronnie has heard "Just fucking eat it" a few times.  But, I'm open to trying again or moving on.  And at the end of the day, I love a good meal and I love to see my family enjoying a good meal.

Right now, I'm totally obsessed with two recipes (Chili and a Butternut Squash / Spinach Lasagna)  and they're on repeat in our home this Fall. Hope you'll enjoy too!

Chili Recipe (I studied lots of chili recipes and used the best parts to create my own)

30 oz can Stewed Tomatoes
30 oz Tomato Sauce
2 cans of Kidney Beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can of Rotel
1 large can of Diced Chiles
2 lbs Hamburger
1 Onion
1 Green Pepper
4 tsp Minced Garlic
1 tsp Parsley
1 tsp Oregano
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper

Combine Stewed Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Kidney Beans, Rotel and Diced Chiles in a Slow Cooker.  Dice Onion and add to pan with Hamburger.  Drain grease and add to Slow Cooker.  Dice Green Pepper and add to same pan used to cook Hamburger.  Saute with olive oil and Minced Garlic.  Add to Slow Cooker.  Add the rest of the seasonings.  Cook on slow for 8 hours.  Garnish with cheese and sour cream.  


Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna (Recipe from

Butternut Squash Filling:
2 cups Butternut Squash Puree (I used the can stuff but you're welcome to make from scratch)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Spinach Filling:
1 cup cooked spinach (8 oz uncooked)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Other Ingredients:
10 oz lasagna noodles, cooked
1 and 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (or more)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (on top)
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Butternut Squash Filling:
For this filling, you will need to have pre-cooked butternut squash puree or just use canned Butternut Squash. Using a mixer, combine 2 cups of butternut squash puree with Ricotta cheese, milk, salt and nutmeg. Add more milk if needed (to make the butternut squash filling very creamy). Mix very well, taste and add more salt, if needed.

Spinach Filling:
Combine spinach, Ricotta cheese, mozzarella, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix, taste, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Cooking lasagna noodles:
Bring a very large pot of water to boil, and cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions. Rinse in cold water, drain. 

Lasagna assembly:
Prepare a baking dish. Grease the lasagna dish lightly with olive oil spray. Spread 1/3 of butternut squash filling on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top with cooked lasagna noodles.

Spread half of spinach filling over the noodles. Top lightly with Mozzarella cheese. Top with cooked noodles.

Spread another layer (1/3) of butternut squash mixture, then sprinkle lightly with Mozzarella cheese. Top with cooked noodles.

Spread the remaining half of spinach filling over the noodles. Top lightly with Mozzarella cheese. Top with the final layer of cooked noodles.

Spread a generous amount of butternut squash filling (the remaining 1/3) over this final layer of noodles, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and remaining mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup of mozzarella). Generously sprinkle the cheese with Italian seasoning and Basil.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 min. Remove foil and bake additional 10 minutes.

*Side Note - The Hubby is a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy so for this recipe, we added Italian Sausage. If you opt for this, cook sausage according to package directions, slice thinly and add into your layers.  Highly recommend it - the sausage really added to the already tremendous flavor of the lasagna!

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