One-Pot Stovetop Lasagna

Like everyone else, being at home means more opportunities to cook nourishing and delicious food for my family. Also, time to go down rabbit holes of recipes featured on Instagram, to cooking blogs, to lists of best recipes. Here’s a version of a recipe I found on Food52. It’s quick and easy and tastes amazing.

Here’s what you need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound Italian sausage (if encased, then casings removed)

1 yellow onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced, or one tablespoon of garlic paste

crushed red pepper (a pinch, or more, depending on how spicy you want it)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatos

1 jar pasta sauce (any tomato-based variety you like)

9 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

handful of torn basil leaves

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin and patted dry

Here’s what you do:

1. In a high-sided pan with at least a 3-quart capacity and a lid, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the sausage, stirring often and breaking up the meat until it browns, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove the meat from the pan, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper, and cook for about 7 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent.

3. Add the meat back to the pan, along with the oregano, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer for about five minutes.

4. Break the lasagna noodles in half. Nudge half of them under the sausage, trying not to press them to the bottom of the pan so they don’t burn. Place the rest over the top of the sauce, and then use a spoon to push them down under the sauce. Simmer for about 12 minutes so the noodles get tender.

5. Dollop the ricotta cheese over the top of the sauce, and swirl slightly to melt some into the sauce. Sprinkle with the basil. Then arrange the fresh mozzarella slices on top. Simmer, covered, another 5 minutes, until cheese gets melty.

6. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes and then serve.

Enjoy!

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Dengu (aka Kenyan Lentils)

For Christmas this year, we were invited to celebrate with a wonderful group of Kenyans. One of my favorite dishes was a simple stew of lentils, tomatoes, cilantro and red onions. I asked the chef for the recipe, and then played with it a bit to make it my own (including following the general cooking guidance of the Creamy Dreamy Beans recipe). Hope you enjoy!

Here’s what you need:

1 pound lentils (I did black lentils)

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder or similar spice blend (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin

Leaves from 2 bunches of cilantro, divided

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 red onion, diced

4 roma tomatoes, diced

Here’s what you do:

1. Soak the lentils in plenty of cold water overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the lentils.

2. Place the lentils in an ovensafe pot, and cover with cold water (about a finger or two above the lentils). Add the salt, the turmeric, and the curry powder, and place over medium heat, uncovered. Allow the beans to cook and the water to heat to just before boiling, stirring occasionally. This will take about 30 minutes. Near the end, preheat the oven to 335 degrees.

3. When the water is about to boil, turn off the heat. Stir in the cumin, the leaves from one bunch of cilantro, the three garlic cloves, and 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

4. When the lentils are done cooking, remove the pot from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out of the peel and discard the peel.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat in a skillet or frying pan, and cook the onion until it starts to become translucent, about 4 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, scoop enough lentils out of the pot to fill the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook the lentils and onions until the moisture is all gone and the lentils begin to stick slightly. Turn off the heat. Use a potato masher to lightly mash the lentils, then return all the lentils and onion to the pot.

6. Next, turn the heat back to high and add the tomatoes and cilantro to the frying pan. Again, using a slotted spoon, scoop enough lentils out of the pot to fill the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook the tomatoes, cilantro and lentils until they just begin to stick. Turn off the heat, use the potato masher to lightly mash the lentils, and then return the lentils, tomato and cilantro to the pot.

7. Place the entire pot of lentils over medium-high heat until they come back to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

You can serve over rice, with chapati or naan, or just in a bowl.

Enjoy!

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Teriyaki Tofu

Here’s what you need:

1 package extra firm tofu

1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon neutral oil (I use safflower oil)

1 tablespoon garlic paste or 2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 tablespoon ginger paste, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1/2 inch fresh ginger (minced)

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons mirin or sake

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Optional additions: 2 green onions, sliced; handful of chopped cilantro; one cooked portabella mushroom cap, cubed; head of broccoli, microwaved for 2-3 minutes

Here’s what you do:

1. Drain the tofu: Place the tofu on top of two paper towels, then place two more paper towels on top of the tofu. Place a heavy item on top–like a cast iron skillet. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Remove the wet towels and replace with dry ones, replace the skillet, and let rest another 15 minutes. Then, chop the tofu into small cubes.

2. While the tofu is draining, make the teriyaki sauce: add 1 teaspoon oil to a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Then, add the brown sugar and cook, stirring often, until it starts to bubble. Add the mirin or sake and let some of the alcohol burn off. Then add the soy sauce, lower the heat to medium, and allow to simmer.

3. Fry the tofu: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a nonstick pan over high heat. Toss the tofu cubes in cornstarch. Then, add all the tofu to the pan and allow to sit and crisp/brown, for about 5 minutes. Flip the tofu pieces around, and allow to crisp/brown on as many sides as you’d like.

4. When the tofu is fried, turn down the heat to medium/low, add the teriyaki sauce and any other optional additions to the pan. Stir to combine.

Serve over white rice, or over a cabbage salad, and enjoy!

Cabbage salad suggestion: Combine 1/2 head green cabbage shredded/chopped, one sliced cucumber, 1 sliced green onion, 1 chopped handful of cilantro, 1/4 cup peanuts or sliced almonds, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar. When you pour the hot teriyaki tofu over the top, it gently warms and cooks the salad just slightly.

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Creamy Dreamy Beans

Perusing Instagram one night, I came across a picture of this delicious looking pot of beans. It led me to a recipe that was, while a bit time consuming, really quite simple and hands off at the same time. And the results are amazing! [Also try following this general technique to make Dengu (aka Kenyan lentils).]

Here’s what you need:

1 pound dry beans (I did white navy)

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

sprig of thyme, rosemary, or tarragon, or some sage leaves, or some cilantro, or some basil, or any other fresh herb you like

1 teaspoon dried dill

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

freshly ground pepper

Here’s what you do:

1. Soak the beans in cold water for 10 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

2. Place the beans in an ovenproof pot or casserole pot with a lid (I used my Le Creuset). Cover with cold water so that it goes 1-2 inches above the beans.

3. Place the pot of beans on the stove, over medium-low heat, uncovered, and warm until right before it boils (about 30-40 minutes). While waiting, preheat the oven to 335 degrees.

4. Add the garlic, the herbs, the salt and the olive oil. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven. If you’d like to thicken the beans, use a potato masher on some of the beans. Remove the sprigs of fresh herbs (if desired) and squeeze the garlic out of the peel. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Serve as is, or mixed with Parmesan cheese, or over pasta, or in a quesadilla, or…

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Pantry and Freezer Scones

Perusing the NY Times, I came across a recipe that said you could use old bananas for something other than banana bread–scones! I read through the recipe and decided I’d rather make mine with raspberries and a bit of orange zest. But with any flavor thrown in, these should be delicious.

Here’s what you need:

2 cups flour (or up to 1/4 cup buckwheat flour and the remainder all purpose flour)

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 stick of butter, frozen

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, or one diced ripe banana (I did raspberries and 1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup rich dairy (I did 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup whole milk)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugars.

3. Grate the butter on the large holes of a grater. Toss it into the flour mixture, pinching and squeezing until it blobs together.

4. Add your fruit. Then mix in the vanilla and dairy.

5. Dump the sticky, clumpy dough onto a floured surface. Pat it together. Then place 6-9 round blobs of the dough onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press them to flatten slightly.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden topped and just firm to the touch.

Enjoy!

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Cherry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake

Since cherries are in season, I’ve been buying them. A lot of them. Maybe too many. Sooo, I need a recipe to use some of them up. Cue Cherry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake. This may have been one of my favorite cake recipes so far. Hope you like it too!

Here’s what you need:

Topping:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (I used the really thick, sweet good stuff. My favorite brand is MiaBella.)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3 cups cherries, pitted

Cake:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 stick butter (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons), softened

1 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup milk (I did 2%)

Here’s what you do:

1. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir until the sugar melts. Stir in the cherries and bring to a simmer. Then turn off the stove and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Now you will need three bowls to make the cake: The smallest one for the dry ingredients, a medium one to beat the egg whites, and a large one for the butter mixture, and to put everything together.

4. In the small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

5. In the medium bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and beat until stiff (but not dry).

6. In the large bowl, beat the egg yolks, butter, white sugar and vanilla until soft and fluffy–about three minutes.

7. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk (so two rounds flour and two rounds milk). Fold in the egg whites in three remaining rounds.

8. Dollop the thick batter over the cherries, and then spread it around.

9. Bake for about 45 minutes–until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a tray to remove it from the pan. (I waited too long so mine stuck.) Allow to cool and then eat.

Enjoy!

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Like-Banana-Bread-But-Better Cake

Updated for Like-Banana-Bread-But-Better Muffins

We always seem to end up with overripe bananas, which is actually great because then I can make banana bread! I’ve tried several recipes, and this time decided to try a banana cake recipe. We didn’t do frosting or caramel, just the cake, so it felt like eating banana bread. Which is totally healthy, right? But better…

Update: I wanted to make this again, but a bit lighter. So I cut the butter and made this into muffins, and they are still so delish. The modifications are below…

Here’s what you need:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 stick butter, softened (FOR LIGHTER MUFFINS: 1/2 stick)

2 eggs (FOR LIGHTER MUFFINS: 1 egg and 1 egg white)

3 tablespoons sour cream (FOR LIGHTER MUFFINS: 1/2 cup instead)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-3 mashed very ripe bananas

1/2 cup walnuts (FOR LIGHTER MUFFINS: add as desired)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Using a hand mixer, combine the sugars with the butter. [FOR THE LIGHTER MUFFINS: Combine the sugars, butter and sour cream.] Then beat in the eggs one by one.

4. Then mix in the sour cream, vanilla and mashed bananas. [FOR THE LIGHTER MUFFINS: No additional sour cream here.]

5. Fold in the flour mixture, then stir in the walnuts just to combine. [FOR THE LIGHTER MUFFINS: Add a couple of walnuts here and there to the individual muffins as desired.]

6. Pour into a greased 9-inch cake pan [or muffin tins for the LIGHTER MUFFINS], and bake 40-45 minutes [or 30 minutes for the LIGHTER MUFFINS] until a toothpick comes out clean and it’s golden on top.

Enjoy!

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Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding

While visiting my parents this weekend, my dad whipped up a batch of his amazing rice pudding, and I felt inspired to make some at home. I read a bunch of recipes to find the right ratio of liquid to rice, and think this one hit the mark. My kids can’t get enough!

Here’s what you need:

1 cup arborio rice (sushi rice or jasmine rice should also work)

2 cups water

1 can coconut milk

Enough additional milk to get the milk volume (including the coconut milk) to 5 cups (mine ended up being about 2 cups coconut milk, 1 cup whole milk, 2 cups 2% milk)

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup apricot jam (or jam of your choice)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Optional: 1/2 cup sliced almonds; chopped up mango or juice from one mango; chopped up dried apricots

Here’s what you do:

1. Bring the water to a boil. In the meantime, thoroughly rinse the rice.

2. Add the rice to the boiling water, cover and reduce heat, and allow rice to absorb most of the water, about 7-12 minutes.

3. Add the milks, the jam, and the sugars to the rice. Increase the heat to medium-high until the milk begins to simmer. Lower the heat to maintain the simmer, keep uncovered, and stir often as the mixture thickens, about 25 minutes.

4. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes until the pudding really thickens.

5. Turn off the heat. Stir in the almond extract and any optional additions.

6. Allow to cool and then enjoy!

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Easy Zucchini Soup

At the end of my maternity leave, I had a few hours to myself each day as Jacob transitioned to day care. One day, I found myself at the Santa Monica public library, perusing the cookbook section. I came across a Jose Andres book all about veggies. This soup looked simple and delicious, so I gave it a try. I made a few changes from the recipe and the result was fantastic. Enjoy!

Here’s what you need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced, or a generous squeeze of garlic paste

4 zucchinis, cut into large cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

5 wedges Laughing Cow cheese

Here’s what you do:

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onion, garlic and salt until the onion is soft and translucent (but not browned), about 5 minutes.

2. Add the zucchini pieces and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook until the zucchini softens, about 10 minutes.

3. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the zucchini/onion/water mixture to a blender and combine with the cheese wedges until smooth. (There will be little green flecks from the skin of the zucchini.) Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Enjoy!

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Anzac Biscuits (aka Really Yummy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies)

While I maternity leave, I had the opportunity to read a lot of books. Because breastfeeding takes a lot of time, and babies take a lot of naps (on their moms). And with books on my phone, I always had access. I was particularly into books by Liane Moriarty (think Big Little Lies), and read one book called “The Hypnotist’s Love Story.” In this book, set in Australia, a stalker breaks into a house and bakes Anzac biscuits. They were discussed a lot. And I thought to myself, what are these? So I did some research, bought one of the necessary–but probably not available in the US but easily accessible on Amazon–ingredients, and made them. They are easy and they are YUMMY!

Here’s what you need:

1 stick unsalted butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup (here’s what I bought: Lyle’s Golden Syrup)

2 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter and golden syrup in the microwave in a large bowl until bubbling. Whisk in the hot water and baking soda (it will keep bubbling).

3. Whisk in the sugar and salt until fully combined. Then add the flour, oats, and coconut and until a dough is formed.

4. Scoop the dough using a heaping tablespoon, roll in your hands, place on the cookie sheet, and then press down lightly with your fingers. Give them some space in between as they really spread.

5. Bake for 10 minutes–the edges should be golden and the center will cook a bit more as it cools. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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