Veggie Lasagna

Who doesn’t like veggie lasagna, and IF you raise your hand, why are you here?! I make many variations of veggie lasagna that I will post as it begins to cool down here in California…..if ever. I had a lot of requests for this lasagna and I figured it was safe to start with a basic veggie lasagna that can be customized to you or your family’s liking.

Is anyone else slightly traumatized by lasagna? Just me? My mother used to get the Stoufer ones ALL THE TIME, and if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough you know I am not the biggest fan on marinara or red pasta sauce EVEN MORE SO frozen sauce. Well, ONE TIME, and I repeat that it was only ONE TIME because everyone else in the household wanted regular lasagna my mom bought me vegetarian frozen lasagna which of course was made with alfredo. It was gross too! So, I didn’t eat lasagna until I began blogging and even then it was a few years before I dared to make my own. Now, I am a lasagna advocate. Dirty secret: I still don’t like and haven’t made red sauce lasagna. Oops. Maybe, I should work on that?

P.S EVERY YEAR for Christmas dinner my mom STILL tries to bring those nasty lasagnas in the house. She says “let’s just do something simple this year for Christmas dinner and get frozen lasagnas” and then baby jesus rolls over in his grave. No, Santa can pack those frozen lasagnas up and dump them over the Pacific.

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Ingredients
1 Box No Boil Lasagna Noodles – these things are amazing
3TBSP Kerrygold Butter
4 Cups Whole Fat Milk
2 Cups Grated Parmesan
3 Cups Shredded Mozzarella
4 Zucchini – Cut in half long ways then cut the halves in slices
2 Cups Mushrooms – Sliced
3 Cups Broccoli – Finely Chopped
1 Cup Sauteed Yellow Onion & 2 Cloves Garlic
3 TBSP Flour
2 Cups Ricotta
1 Egg
Fresh Basil
S&P
Red Chili Flakes
2 Roma Tomatoes for Garnish

How To

First you’ll need alfredo sauce, and you can absolutely buy store bought as I will not judge you, and I do it often. Yet, if we are making lasagna we are making lasagna…..I even have a pasta maker I could have dug out but I was having a flare up that day in my right hand so no rolling dough for me!
Alfredo is one of the easiest cream sauces to make and to make it a little tiny itsy bitsy healthier I use whole milk rather than cream. Take 3TBSP of butter and melt over medium heat, once melted add 3TBSP flour and whisk that around so the flour cooks(1-2 mins), and then add your milk. Let this come to a simmer and add the grated parmesan. Your sauce should thicken up once it comes to a simmer and boom – sauce is done! I let the sauce cool before assembly.

While your sauce cools you can make your ricotta mixture. In a bowl put the ricotta, egg, S&P, sauteed onions & garlic, red chili flakes, and some chopped basil. Mix.

Assembly – Take a ladle of your sauce to the bottom of your baking dish, lay out a layer of noodles, generously coat that layer of noodles with the ricotta mixture, lay out your veggies in any fashion you desire(I keep my zucchini thicker cut so that they don’t turn to mush, also no bake noodles are PERFECT for zucchini because they absorb any water the vegetable lets out), layer of cheese, and more sauce! Repeat until you are out of noodles or out of ingredients.

Foil the top of your lasagna and place in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and let cook for an additional 15-20 minutes to let the cheese on top get nice and bubbly.

I garnish with some chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, and mix those with some olive oil, S&P, and a squirt of lemon. Lasagna is heavy and this is a fatty dish so having some acidity helps cut through the fat and cleanse your tongue for the next bite! I hope you enjoy!

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Crispy Polenta with Mushroom Gravy (Vegetarian)

I love polenta. I love creamy polenta, crispy polenta and polenta on the bottom of a pizza crust. What is polenta? Corn meal. It is just corn meal. Polenta is used a lot in Italian cooking as it is their little personal version of grits…..also corn meal. I decided to make this for a quick breakfast, #meatlessmonday dinner, and I maaaay make a version of this as a holiday appetizer.

Now, generally I make my own polenta because it is embarrassingly easy but for this venture I bought the imported tube straight from Italy to make my polenta discs. If I make this as a holiday appetizer I will make my own as any store bought food, even from Italy, the flavor was lacking. Please know I would only EVER buy store bought polenta for crispy polenta as the setting and cooling has already taken place. Never ever should you buy this for creamy polenta.

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Ingredients
1 Tube of Polenta – Cut into discs of your desired thickness
8 Mini Portabella Mushrooms
2 Cups of Vegetable base gravy (I make my own)
2 eggs
Parmesan
S&P
Green onions & Tomato for garnish

How To
Can’t get easier than this! Once your discs are cut place them in a pan with some oil or butter or both and crisp both sides up! The store bought polenta has a higher water content so it took about 5 minutes on medium heat per side to crisp up. Fry yourself up an egg and begin to make your layers. Ours were as follows: Polenta, tomato, egg, gravy, Parmesan, green onion. Done! The outside of your polenta cakes should be crispy while the inside remains creamy. Quick dinner, snack, lunch, or impressive appetizer!

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Mushroom & Lemon Cream Sauce – Chicken

I love dark meat, yes it is true. I also love thighs: my thighs, fat thighs, Chris Pratt’s thighs, and chicken thighs…..which is what we are talking about today. Do yourself a wonderful favor and cook with some dark meat because dark meat is heavenly. You cannot argue that! I make this dish so often that I never thought to publish a recipe since to me it isn’t anything special, but good lord I posted a picture on Facebook and I thought I was going to get eaten alive. Y’all came after me. Enjoy! This also takes 30 minutes to throw down from start to finish so this fancy meal real isn’t that time consuming.

Ingredients
4 Bone in – Skin on Free Range Chicken Thighs
2 Cups Sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1/2 red/white onion diced finely
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 Lemon worth of zest & Juice
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Cup Whole Fat Milk
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 TBSP Kerrygold Butter
2 TBSP Flour

P.S I never said this recipe was healthy.

How To

Start getting a pan hot on medium-high heat, I used my cast iron skillet. Put your butter and a little oil of your choice in the pan. By mixing your butter and oil you get a higher burn temperature so that your butter doesn’t burn and ruin your whole dish. While the pan is getting hot salt and pepper your chicken thighs ON BOTH sides, love everyone equally. Place the thighs skin DOWN in the pan – your pan should sizzle – kitchen music. Let the thighs sit there and work their magic DO NOT touch them for 4-5 minutes and by the time you flip them over they should have beautiful brown caramelization. Now, you can finish your chicken in the pan but I threw mine in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes because I wanted to finish my sauce by the time the chicken was done and you NEED those pan drippings. Chicken is in the oven. Throw a another pat of butter in the pan you used to cook your chicken and toss in the garlic, onions, and mushrooms. While you are moving everything around you will notice the drippings coming off the bottom of your pan….we want this! Once your onions are translucent add your flour and let it cook for a minute or so and then finally add your fluids: milk and broth. Stir everything together and let your sauce come to a simmer so that it can thicken. I add in the parmesan and lemon juice & zest right before plating so that it stays bright and fresh. I served this with mashed potatoes, then sauce, then chicken placed on top. The side dish pictured is brussel sprouts roasted with balsamic and walnuts.

I hope you enjoy!

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Loco Moco

If you follow my Facebook ….. which hello? It’s me. You will know I LOVE Loco Moco. What is Loco Moco? Loco moco is a meal in the contemporary cuisine of Hawaii. There are many variations, but the traditional loco moco consists of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. Thank you, Wiki.

I have been going to Aji Japanese Bistro which is nestled in the El Dorado Hills Town Shopping Center almooooost every weekend, and they make the most amazing Loco Moco. I have a problem. Well, this past weekend I hosted a Cousin Cult Party and decided I would just make my own version! What is Cousin Cult, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like. Mikaela (my cousin & photographer) and I find it very important to spend time with family so we often plan Cousin Cult parties filled with food, cards against humanity, and funny movies. The other night’s theme was Christmas in August as Mikaela and I are holiday freaks! My two brothers came as well, Jacob and Lucas. Pictures below if you dare. Fill your life with memories and food!

Ingredients
1Lb Grass-fed Ground Beef
2 Cups of White Rice (Serving is 4 people) – Cauliflower rice could also be used here, wild rice, brown or whatever you dietary needs
8 Finely Chopped White Mushrooms
2 Cups Beefstock
1TBSP Flour
2 TBSP Kerrygold Butter
2 TBSP Soy Sauce
1TSP Sesame Oil
S&P
Garlic Powder
1TSP Rice Wine Vinegar
Bundle of Green Onions for Garnish
2 Eggs per serving

How To

Always start with your rice because out of all the items we are preparing rice is going to take the longest. Now, I have a rice cooker, but if you do not follow the instructions for the rice you choose to use. I do put the sesame, soy, and vinegar IN the water I am cooking my rice in as it infuses the flavors throughout the entire cooking time so no matter how you choose to cook your rice make sure to put those ingredients in.

Beef Patties – the simplicity of this dish is key so I ONLY use S&P and garlic powder on my little meat patties and fry them in butter until medium rare(once again, any temperature you prefer is fine). Out of the pound of ground beef I made 6 patties about half an inch thick and smooshed down to the size of my palm, and I have little hands. The patties took only 4-5 minutes on each side on high heat for a medium/rare cook. Let them get those crispy bits on their tops.

Gravy – In the pan that we fried the beef in begin your roux – add the butter and then cook the flour and add beef stock. I add the mushrooms last as I like them to have a bit of bite left but you can saute them in beef fat/butter and then make a roux and add stock.

Eggs – Traditionally, the eggs are served fried and medium so the yolk mixes with the gravy and rice…..gurl. Make your eggs the way you like but fried over medium is how they turned out for this recipe.

Assembly – Take your beautiful rice and place on the bottom of a bowl, add your beef patty, gravy, and finally your eggs. I garnish green onions and maybe some hot sauce! I hope you like this dish and are willing to try it!

Enjoy the random pictures of Cousin Cult night and yes, I do eat store bought frozen fries and weird cinnamon rolls out of a cardboard tube…..I am a real person.

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Sweet and Spicy Chili and Beer Cheese Sauce FRIES
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Left to Right: Lucas, Yours Truly, Jake, and then Mikaela as a snowman!
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Kyle isn’t really a cousin but he wore a taco Christmas shirt so we let him in ❤
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Weird Cardboard Cinnamon Roll “Christmas Tree”

Shredded Beef Panini with Horseradish and Caramelized Onions

I will just go ahead and quote myself here and say “You will find the best moments of your life happening when you’re two glasses deep in champagne and eating a grilled sandwich for brunch” – Farewell 2016

Still is true. Paninis and grilled sandwiches make the world turn or at the very least they make mine. Take the time to make shredded beef and take the time to make caramelized onions. Make the world turn.

Ingredients
3lbs Grassfed Beef Chuck roast (I had leftovers….you won’t need this much just for sandwiches unless you’re having a party….and then go you!)
Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I can never find white cheddar – where is it?!)
1 Red Onion
1 TBSP Kerrygold Butter
Cream Style Horseradish
Good Quality Sourdough Bread
Panini Press (if not – you can grill in a pan)

How To

Okay, there are two important components here – 1. the meat & 2. the onions. I made the meat a few days before and all I did was cut up two onions, some garlic, S&P, chili flakes, some beef broth, and threw all that with the roast in my crock pot for 8 hours. Shredded that baby up and complete!

Onions – caramelized onions take time but trust me they are well worth the wait and the tears. And, I mean you will cry by how little you end up getting once they are done! One large onion turns into just enough for two sandwiches and a couple bites while standing over the stove!

See! That is IT! Still worth it. DO NOT LISTEN TO THE LIES THAT TELL YOU CARAMELIZED ONIONS TAKE 5 MINUTES! No, sorry it doesn’t work that way. If you want real caramelized onions get ready to be in your kitchen for 45 minutes. You may use any onions you like but I prefer either vidalia (yellow onion) or red. In order for the sugars to break down properly in onions you must cook them low and slow. Now, they don’t require a ton of babysitting, I do other things in the kitchen while they cook down, and I’d say the last 10 minutes or so I babysit them. Slice your onions in any fashion you prefer, add in some oil and butter, and then let them be at a low heat for the next 30 minutes or so. They should look like the second picture above. Life changing!

NEXT!
Grab some delicious cheese, good bread, and butter both sides of your bread. Assemble your sandwich and throw that baby boy on the panini press. I do not put the horseradish on until the sandwich is finished as I like the hot/cold effect.

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Dry Diggings Distillery – Whiskey Tasting Adventure

This blog probably should have been WWWB…Wine Whisk WhiskEY & Bliss as it is no secret that I love my whiskey. What do you think my answer was when 2nd dad aka Mikey aka Uncle asked if I’d like to go whiskey tasting? Um, YES. Not only does this blog support local and small business but so does my entire family!

Y’all Dry Diggings Distillery is the Hogwarts of whiskey: magical, secretly hidden, and extremely educational. Nestled in the heart of El Dorado Hills this local business/distillery gave us one exciting afternoon. Now, if you’re a whiskey hater…..why are you here? Just kidding. In all seriousness there is a wide variety of spirits available at Dry Diggings and ALL made in house, AND the people running the show are incredible so go anyways for a fun afternoon and memorable experience!

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Please welcome Michelle, my aunt to the blog! She isn’t cooking anything on this post but she went along for the tasting because that’s just what family is for. Kyle and my amazing grandpa went as well but apparently we didn’t take pictures with them….oops. Next time! Mikey and I collab quite a bit you may remember him here & here. We continue! All of us in attendance being whiskey tasting virgins.

We take the short drive to the distillery and upon parking Michelle looks over at me from the backseat with bewilderment across her face and asks “is this it?!” Hogwarts. The distillery is located inside your run of the mill business building! It is totally awesome. We walk through the door, were immediately greeted with a smile, and continued down a short hallway that then transported us into the magical place of Dry Diggings Distillery.

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Our tasting was hosted by Darci and she was absolutely delightful. My family is loud, funny, the best(slightly biased), and memorable and Darci put up with us the entire time! Whiskey and spirits tasting is not what Michelle and I initially thought which was taking numerous shots of whiskey until you can’t remember your name. No, the tasting in TOTAL is only equal to about 1 and a quarter shots. You also can pick your tasting here from whiskey exclusively which is what Kyle chose or the rest of the party’s choice: a mixed flight of both whiskey and spirits. Darci loves where she works and we all could immediately tell the minute she began to explain each bottle, how the idea for it was conceived, the entire process from start to finish, and the uniqueness in taste for each whiskey/spirit. The love for the art of spirits and whiskey absolutely radiates here. I am not going to give too many of the secrets/facts/education away here(sorry) but I feel it is absolutely imperative to hear and experience in person. If you are in the Sacramento area…if you are in California make the drive to this amazing local business. I am telling you that you will not regret it.

Fun fact: Whiskey/Spirit tasting is totally different than wine tasting! Duh, right? Michelle and I are expert wine tasters but had quite the learning curve here and Darci walked us through every step of the way. A fun trick we learned was to breathe in, take a sip, and then breathe out to really capture aromas and flavors while tasting. We tasted an odorless and tasteless vodka….this is how vodka is supposed to be guys if done right. Interesting, right? We had a white rum, cherry brandy, rye whiskey(one of the favorites), an apple brandy lovingly referred to as Apple Jacks(also a favorite of the day), and plenty more whiskey. Darci had a memory for every drink she poured which made the afternoon personal as we in turn told stories and laughed until our hot jaws hurt. Christine, the owner’s daughter joined as well and had a laid back fun personality to match. The tasting itself takes just a little over an hour. We all bought at least 2 bottles for our homes, in addition to her two bottles Michelle got some ginger soda for moscow mules, I bought hot sauces, bloody mary mix, Apple Jacks, and Kyle got a whiskey, and Mikey bought the amazing vodka.

Overall this was a forever memorable day not only because I got to spend it with my family but by the time we left Dry Diggings they also felt like family. Anyone that doesn’t kick us out for crude jokes, asking for a coke with whiskey, likes camping, and puts up with us becomes family. An event you will surely not forget is spirit and whiskey tasting at Dry Diggings Distillery! Check them out and tell em I sent ya! The whole group is going back in October for the official tour so stay tuned! Also stay tuned as one day we’ll get grandpa and Mikey to go wine tasting!

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