Red Turkey Lasagna

I have a confession to make…. I love lasagna.  Rarely will I order it in a restaurant because I know that I love the taste of this recipe and can’t imagine ordering something *out* that I can make myself.  I’m sure that there are tons of variations on this recipe… with or without meat, red sauce vs white sauce, cooked noodles vs the no-bake noodles… but this is my favorite “go to” recipe to use if I’m being honest.  It originally came from a Weight Watchers cookbook but, as with most anything I make, it’s been altered and adjusted to fit our unique tastes.  Here’s how I make it:RedTurkeyLasagna (1)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Dry red wine, about 1/2-3/4 cup
  • Spinach leaves (I used about 1 1/2 cups and sliced them fairly thin)
  • 1 large can pasta sauce (use your favorite… I like a basic meat sauce)
  • 1 16-oz container of low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Italian seasoning (1 teaspoon or so… I simply shake it on until it “looks right”)
  • freshly grated nutmeg (don’t go crazy on this… you just want a hint)
  • 1 package lasagna noodles (you won’t use the entire package… I typically use about 9 or 10)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Spray large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium high setting.  Brown ground turkey, using a potato masher to break up the meat into small pieces.  NOTE:This is the BEST way to brown meat, in my humble opinion. Add onion and red wine to the meat and cook until the wine is thoroughly incorporated.  Add spinach (or any other vegetables you care to add), cook until spinach wilts, then add pasta sauce and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Boil noodles, as directed on package, or immerse them in boiling water until softened.  Drain and set aside.
  • Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, egg whites, Italian seasoning, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Begin to layer your lasagna together. NOTE: I used a 9×9 pan and a 9×3 pan – normally, I’d simply use a single 9×13 pan.  This is where your noodle amounts may vary.  I used 11-12 noodles to cover these two pans, but the rest of the ingredients remained the same.  I also vary the direction of the noodle placement with each subsequent layer so the finished lasagna holds together well.  
  • Start by spooning a bit of the sauce to lightly cover the bottom of your pan(s). Place noodles over the bottom in a single layer.  Top with 1/3 sauce mixture, then dollop half of the cheese mixture over the sauce.  Repeat noodle, sauce, and cheese layers.  Top with noodles and final third of the sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan.  NOTE: If making ahead or freezing lasagna, this is the place to stop.  Cover with foil and pop in fridge or freezer, then allow dish to thaw overnight before continuing.
  • Cover and bake lasagna for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake until lasagna is bubbling and cheese is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow the lasagna to set for 5 minutes before serving.

As I mentioned, this is my favorite lasagna recipe.  Not only is it easy to make, it has delicious flavor and is a simple way of getting vegetables into your meal without much effort.  I like to add a side of garlic toasts to accompany this dish.

NOTE: To make garlic toasts, I start with a roll from the freezer (Ciabatta rolls work well for this, as do sub rolls).  Slice the frozen roll into bite sized slices and lay them on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spray the slices with cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic salt.  When you remove the lasagna from the oven, turn oven off and pop the baking sheet into the hot oven.  The toasts will crisp as the oven cools and be ready to eat by the time you finish plating the lasagna.  I put the garlic toasts into a wooden serving bowl and pitch the foil… no messy cleanup!

I hope you’ll try this lasagna recipe sometime… it makes an amazing dinner and is always appreciated by my neighbors if I am able to share.  Enjoy!

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Recipe: Pinot’d Pizza

Ok… I’m almost embarrassed at how easy and simple this pizza was… well, almost.  The wine portion of this meal came from simply “thumbing” some Pinot Noir over the pizza that I put together tonight for dinner.  Honest!  It’s a lazy, Friday night, so here’s my favorite way to make a homemade dinner without a huge amount of effort… and here’s how I put everything together.

I started with a trip to my local pizza place and purchased a medium size pizza dough for $4.00.  Seriously… $4.00 and I had enough dough to split into 2/3 dough for my hubby’s pizza and 1/3 dough for my own pizza.  It’s the perfect “single-serve” amount of pizza for dinner for me and the cost is totally worth it.  NOTE:  if I’m planning on feeding more people, I would obviously purchase more dough.  My boys like thicker pizzas, so I would have picked up a medium size for each of them and do our 1/3:2/3 split for us.  See if your favorite pizza place sells dough… it’s a huge timesaver!PinotPizza

I had thrown the dough in the fridge when I got home, so I pulled it out to rest for about an hour before starting to make our dinner.  M and I have things down pat when making pizza for dinner.  I make the crusts for everyone and then, together, he/I add all the toppings and such.  My pizza tonight consisted of jarred pasta sauce (go cheap if you like… it’s getting covered after all), a large handful of spinach/arugula mix, cut in thin strips  (this is called a chiffonade), crumbled gouda cheese, mozzarella cheese, and  garlic salt.  I layered everything in order mentioned and added as much or as little as looked right to me at the moment.  The “pre-oven” pizza pic is on the left.  NOTE: for those of you wondering, my husband makes a mean pepperoni pizza with light sauce and light cheese… and NO wine.  LOL.

At the last moment,  I pulled out a bottle of Pinot Noir red wine that I had just opened and used my thumb to sprinkle the wine over my pizza.  Weird, I know, but it was one of those “why not” moments.  The pizza went into a pre-heated 475 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Don’t leave the house or plan to be too far away… this pizza can go from “almost perfect” to “burned” fairly quickly if you’re not watching.

With the extra liquid on top of my pizza, I needed to let it rest for a few minutes before cutting it into 8 pieces and inhaling… I mean, eating… my dinner.  It was a wonderful way to end the week.

May your evening meal be as entertaining AND delicious as ours!

Recipe: Fridge Soup

It sounds like a hokey name for a recipe, but honestly it’s the easiest way to describe this soup. This recipe started when I wasn’t feeling so peppy this morning and wanted to make something that would be healthy, yet comforting… kind of like chicken-soup-on-steriods?

Here’s how it looked just before the arborio rice got nice and plump, thickening the soup…FridgeSoup yum!

I started with half a cooked chicken, some water, bouillon, and James River Rad Red Wine. I had pulled the chicken out of the freezer, so I let the beginnings of the broth cook and warm up the carcass/meat of the chicken. Once the chicken started to fall off the bone, I plucked it out of the broth and shredded it while I pulled the rest of the soup ingredients out of the fridge (hence the name of this soup). I added carrots, celery, spinach, and garlic, chopping everything into similar sizes so they cooked evenly. I also added a little salt and pepper to taste and then re-added chicken to the soup.

At this point, I had to decide if I wanted use pasta or rice… and I chose 1/4cup arborio rice. It was a simple choice but I could have easily chosen orzo pasta instead.

This was a great “feel better” kind of soup. Piping hot, it reminded me of chicken noodle soup, but gave me some different flavors from the red wine and the spinach that were pretty darn tasty. Maybe you can try it the next time you need a pick-me-up kind of soup?

For me, snow and soup go hand-in-hand… and apparently, that’s what we’re getting, weather-wise, to start Spring this year. Hope you’ll try something like this too!

Recipe: Pantry Spaghetti Sauce

I needed to make a quick and healthy dinner tonight and decided to simply search through my pantry and see what I could find.

First, I opened the freezer and found some meatballs that I’d totally forgotten. What goes best with meatballs in our house is spaghetti… but I didn’t have enough sauce to cover everything. I put the meatballs into a 375 degree oven and let them roast until they were browned and toasty. Mmmm…. now for the rest of the story…er… dinner?PantrySpaghettiSauce

To make the sauce, I started with some leftover onion (I had about 1/4 of a Vidalia onion left in the fridge),olive oil, and a touch of butter. I sauteed the onion and then added 2 chopped garlic cloves and about 2 cups of thinly chopped spinach.

Once the sauteed vegetables were soft, I added in a large can of crushed tomatoes and some red wine (like James River Cellars Rad Red wine), then let the sauce simmer for a bit. Salt and pepper, along with some Italian seasonings, had the sauce tasting really wonderful, but it was still missing something.

That something turned out to be a packet of pitted black olives. Once chopped, they added a fabulously salty bit of yumminess that took the entire dinner to a new height. I popped the baked meatballs into the sauce and cooked the pasta (I used about 1/3 of a package of vermicelli) so everything would come together quickly when we were ready for dinner. Hint: Stir in a few ice cubes in with the pasta in the pot when it’s cooked to your liking, to stop the cooking process. I’ve found that it also keeps the pasta from sticking together. Weird, huh?

I hope you’ll consider trying something like this for your next “quick” dinner… it’s amazing when things come together to make something so tasty AND healthy. Enjoy!