Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Times They Are A Changin'

We're in a new era. We have a new President who is rapidly making changes and the whole atmosphere in the country seems changed. I don't know if this will change the economy or the fear that seems to permeate the papers and news reports, for there are some who still don't trust Mr. Obama because of the differences in their political persuasion, but we needed a new beginning in my opinion since we weren't finding a way out of the economic and war centered mess our country has been in for far too long.

So for me it is time for changes as well. Our personal financial landscape has changed and so I've changed where I shop and what I shop for. I'm also more particular about what I cook or bake to keep costs down. I love basic recipes and simple ingredients and Italian meals mainly because they reflect the simplicity I'm looking for in meals.

The best simple meal is one that takes little time and tastes really super. Like a simple soup, or marinara sauce that gives the house that inviting scent when people walk through the door for dinner. I love the simple red sauce with just garlic, onions, tomatoes and Italian seasoning would be a great start for spaghetti and meatballs, or even a basic lasagna sauce. using either ricotta or even a good cottage cheese you can make the red sauce mixed with sauted hamburger and then layer the sauce with a ricotta mixture (ricotta, Parmesan cheese, lots of chopped basil with an egg beaten and salt and pepper), mozzarella cheese and lasagna noodles and then repeat the various layers again until all is gone.

End the layers with a coating of mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes covered with foil and then about 25 to 30 minutes more at 375 degrees and then let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. and enjoy the smell as well as the taste!

Marinara Sauce
1 large onion chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Basil
2 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cup water
sauted 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (Lean)

Saute onions adding garlic at the end with a small spot set aside for the spices to hit the pan and smell lovely. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. This will end up being more thank you probably need, but you can always save it and add to past for lunch during the week.

Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Pasta Layers
15 ounces part-skim ricotta or cottage cheese
(1 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8- or 9-ounce package
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (4 cups)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Mix ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in medium bowl with fork until creamy; set aside.

4. Smear entire bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 1/4 cup meat sauce (avoiding large chunks of meat). Place 3 noodles in baking dish to create first layer. Drop 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture down center of each noodle and level domed mounds by pressing with back side of measuring spoon. Sprinkle layer evenly with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon 11/2 cups meat sauce evenly over cheese. Repeat layering of noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce two more times. Place 3 remaining noodles on top of sauce, spread remaining sauce over noodles, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella, then with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna.

5. Bake about 15 to 18 minutes and then remove the foil. Return the dish to the oven and continue to bake for about 25 minutes longer until the cheese on the top is slightly brown and the sauce is bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes, cut into pieces and savor the smell and the taste!

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