November 30, 2011
November 30, 2011
The Tale of the U.S.S. Lasagna
This year, my friends and I decided to start a new tradition. The busy holiday season makes it difficult to get everybody together on the same date. Some of us have two to three Thanksgiving dinners to attend with family. So we figured, why not add one more dinner to the weekend of gorging and celebrate Thanksgiving with each other.
The original plan was to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. However, when talks were leaning towards a “Turducken,” we knew the menu planning got a little out of control. We snapped back to reality and realized we are not hosting our own Friendsgiving Day special on the Food Network, and decided to make lasagna.
Unfortunately, I had already cooked ten pounds of potatoes for the original plan of a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. Oh, well. In the grand scheme of things, mashed potatoes and lasagna sound like a perfect pairing, right? A little extra carbo-loading never hurt anybody!
There were ten of us total for the first Friendsgiving. We enjoyed a massive, seven layered lasagna filled with a blend of cheeses and a homemade three meat sauce. My contributions of homemade sourdough, a warm arugula and spinach salad topped with lemon pancetta dressing, and mashed potatoes seemed like nothing in comparison with this behemoth of a lasagna (the thing was cooked in a large roasting pan for God’s sake!).
By the time the first slices (measuring 6” W x 6” D x 4”H) were dished out our calm and low key Friendsgiving suddenly turned into a Man vs. Food challenge. The men were sweating and breathing heavily trying to finish these giant slices while the women of the group shook their heads in disgust and ate their lady sized portions.
When dinner was over, we played The Game of Things. Which if you have never played, you simply must! It is like Apples to Apples except you make up your own answers. Playing in mixed company, women and pre-pubescent man-children, definitely led to some funny and inappropriate answers.
During a round of the game, somebody’s bad handwriting was misread as U.S.S. lasagna instead of less lasagna. The nickname stuck and our first Friendsgiving will forever be known as the tale of the U.S.S. Lasagna.
November 25, 2011
The third family recipe I wanted to share with you this week is from my grandfather. Or as we called him, Dziadzia (Jah-Jah), which is the Polish word for Grandpa. He was a feisty Polish man. He survived World War II living in Poland and Germany. He loved farming, gardening, his family, and warm cans of Pepsi.
He passed away about three years ago. Holidays are tough without the ones we love, so what better way to remember them than through sharing stories and cooking the food that reminds you of them.
When we were younger, my grandfather’s house was always stocked with our favorites: small cans of Mott’s Apple Juice, the buttery sugar cookies in the blue tin, kielbasa and rye bread sandwiches, and Orange Crush.
We would go over to my grandfather’s house for Sunday dinners and holidays. He would cook his famous buttery chicken with the skin on, mashed potatoes, cucumber sour cream salad, sauerkraut, and cabbage rolls.
Any time we want to remember our grandfather, we make his cabbage rolls. They are easy to make, slow cooked, and so comforting.
1 lb Ground Beef
2 teaspoons of Grated Onion
1 teaspoon of Salt
½ teaspoon of Pepper
½ Cup Cooked White Rice
12 Large Cabbage Leaves, blanched and slightly wilted
2 Cans of Tomato Sauce
1 Cup of Water
3 Slices of Bacon
Combine the ground beef, grated onion, salt, pepper, and cooked rice in a large bowl.
Boil about 4 quarts of water. Cut the core out of a head of cabbage. Place the head of cabbage in the boiling water and cover with a lid. Blanch the cabbage until the leaves start to wilt.
Take one leaf of cabbage and place about two heaping spoonfuls of the beef mixture at the base of the leaf. Fold in the two sides of the leaf, and then roll the cabbage leaf forward to form sort of like a burrito.
As you work your way into the smaller leaves of the cabbage you might need to cut some more of the tough stem off of the leaves before you roll it.
When you have used up all the beef and made about 12 cabbage rolls, place them in a 9”x13” pan. Pour the tomato sauce and water over the rolls. You may need to add more water to ensure all the rolls are covered. Place the three strips of bacon on top of the rolls.
Cover the pan with tin foil and cook the rolls in the oven at 325 degrees for two and a half hours. When the rolls are done, remove the strips of bacon. Cut them into small pieces and place them back into the sauce.
The rolls go great with mashed potatoes smothered in the tomato sauce from the pan.
Every time we make this dish or gather together for holidays, I know you are with us Dziadzia. Love you!
November 24, 2011
I am so happy that I am not cooking a huge meal today, (cook like a champion today, for those of you that are). My husband and I are headed to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ house.
My mother-in-law has her menu set. So, it makes it kind of hard to contribute something to the meal. I figured I would use this day to give some attention to the somewhat neglected courses: appetizers and dessert.
The first two ideas that popped in to my mind were from other food blogs.
For my appetizer, I am making Cranberry Salsa from the How Sweet It Is blog. I love this recipe because it allows you noshing and mingling time before the main event without filling you up.
For dessert, my Everest, a homemade cheesecake. This was my first attempt at cheesecake. As you all know, I am not a very confident baker, so having the fate of dessert in my hands is kind of scary. Luckily, it was a success. Joy the Baker’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake was so easy to make that I have no worries about this being a huge hit at dinner tonight.
I just want to take a moment and express my deepest thanks to all of you, friends, family, and fellow foodies who read this blog everyday. I am so happy and thankful to be able to share my passion and dumb stories with you all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I wish you all and your families nothing but happiness and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day!
November 23, 2011