Zucchini Lasagna with Beef & Mushrooms

I posted this so-so photo of the lasagna I made last night, inspired by a Skinnytaste recipe. After many requests for the recipe, here’s my adaptation!

Do not be fooled by the fact that the original recipe is Skinnytaste. As you may know by now, I love cheese. So I was compelled to add extra cheese. Not sorry.

Make sure you salt the zucchini slices, laid out on paper towels. Pat them dry after 15 minutes. If you skip this step, you’ll have lasagna stew because zucchini is full of water.

Use any type of ground meat you like – I used half a pound of venison and half a pound of beef sirloin. Turkey…Italian sausage…it will all work great!

I shortcut the sauce by using jarred. 6pm on a Monday after a full day of work is no time to make your own sauce, so pull out the jar, folks! I won’t tell.

Zucchini Lasagna with Beef & Mushrooms

servings=6

  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, stem end removed, sliced to 1/8″ on a mandolin slicer (this is the weight of the final stack of slices)
  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, venison, etc.)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 jar (around 24 ounces) of your favorite spaghetti sauce (tomato basil works great)
  • 24 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or you could use shredded if you like), plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt, for zucchini

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Slice the zucchini and lay on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.

In a large pan, brown the meat and onion over medium heat. While the meat cooks, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and egg in a bowl. Set aside.

When the meat is done, drain off any liquid. Add spaghetti sauce and mushrooms; stir to combine. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, blot the zucchini dry.

In a deep 3 1/2 quart casserole, layer 1/4 meat sauce in the bottom. Layer 1/3 zucchini slices on top, making the slices overlap. Spread 1/3 ricotta mixture over top; repeat sauce-zucchini-ricotta two more times so you have 3 layers.

Spoon remaining sauce on top of top layer of ricotta. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then 15-20 minutes uncovered until cheese is browned and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Adapted from Skinnytaste.com’s Zucchini Lasagna


Slow-Cooker Chicken & Rice Soup

This nutritious family staple is too easy to not make at home. I make the recipe even simpler by using a slow cooker – by late afternoon you’ll have a fragrant, steaming soup that just needs some cooked brown rice and you’re done! I like to use boneless, skinless cuts of chicken to keep the fat down.

You can use red potatoes instead of rice, if you like. Cut them into 1-inch chunks and add in the beginning so they’re tender when it’s time to eat.

You’ll be seeing more slow cooker recipes from me soon!

chickenricesoup2

Slow-Cooker Chicken & Rice Soup

servings:4-6

  • 1 1/2-2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 whole carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced (including top leaves)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Place the chicken breasts in a 6-7 quart slow cooker. Add all ingredients except rice, cover, and cook on low 6-7 hours.

Remove bay leaves and onion. Shred chicken. Add rice and stir; top with chopped fresh parsley if you like. Enjoy!


Chicken in Savory Tomato Sauce

I got home from work and realized I had no plan on what to make for dinner.

I really hate when this happens! But I had a full pantry and hungry mongrels all around me. What to do?

This is what I did, and I’m glad I did.

The sauce was really rich and delicious…a quick homemade marinara. Simmer some chicken in it, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this before.

I didn’t have any, but tear some basil over the finished plates if you like. Or add fresh herbs for even better flavor!

I sprinkled shaved Parmesan cheese over the top, but you could use mozzarella too.

Something about the crunchy, peppery arugula under that rice really worked here. If that’s not your fancy, serve over pasta.

Either way, this recipe just proves the old saying that simple is better!

Chicken in Savory Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds chicken (any pieces you like; I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into slivers (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small green bell pepper (about 1 cup)
  • 26 ounce container chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • rice or pasta, for serving
  • arugula, for serving (optional)
  • Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Generously salt and pepper the chicken. Add to pan and cook 10-15 minutes, turning once, until browned all over. Remove from pan to a plate.

Drain all but a small amount of oil from the pan (you may not need to do this if your chicken is skinless). Add garlic, onion, and green pepper, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.

Stir in tomatoes and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Put chicken back in the pan, cover, and simmer on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, turning once.

Serve over a bed of greens and rice like we did, or over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!


Salvadorian-Style Red Bean & Short Rib Stew with Salsa Cruda

This is an adapted version of the Salvadorian classic, made with ingredients more readily available to American cooks. The stew is rich and saucy, and the salsa cruda (“raw sauce”) is fresh and a perfect flavor compliment.

In the original version, several hard-to-find vegetables are called for, as well as much less meat. I also add onion and garlic when cooking the chicken. Chayote is a fruit that tastes like a cross between a papaya, avocado, and squash; it’s available in my grocery store, but if you can’t find it, leave it out or substitute yellow crookneck squash.

I like to serve this stew over white rice, with one short rib per person. Give everyone a small bowl of salsa cruda for topping, and you’re all set. ¡Muy delicioso!

Red Bean Stew Closeup

Salvadorian-Style

  • 2 pounds short ribs
  • 3 cans undrained red beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 light or dark green chayote (1 pound), pitted, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice (peel skin with a vegetable peeler, taking off just the top layer of skin)
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage, cut into 1-inch strips
  • salt to taste

for the salsa cruda:

  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes (4-6 count), seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large cooking pot; simmer 1 hour covered.

When ribs are tender, remove them along with the garlic cloves. In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat and brown garlic and ribs on all sides (keep pot of beans simmering while you do this).

While the ribs brown, add parsley, cilantro, plantains, chayote, and salt (if needed) to beans; stir. Add ribs and garlic back to pot. Simmer 20 more minutes or until vegetables are getting tender, then add cabbage and cook another 10-15 minutes until all vegetables are done.

Make the salsa while the pot finishes cooking: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Gluten Free Easy Chicken & Vegetable Pies

So I haven’t posted in a while because my sister Whitney got married! It was total craziness! But so fun.

In the last few hectic weeks I’ve come to really appreciate easy recipes. That everyone can (and will!) eat.

Therefore, I give you refrigerated gluten free dough, frozen vegetables, and leftover chicken. Add a few everyday ingredients in, and bingo – dinner is done! Kids and adults will eat these because they’re yummy, my sister Caroline can eat these because they’re gluten free…everyone is happy.

The chicken base is optional, but it adds a lot of flavor – add it if you have it! You can also use a (non-gluten-free) chicken bullion cube.

If gluten free isn’t necessary…roll out those premade biscuits or croissants in a can and put this filling in. So good.

A few comments:

  • gluten free dough is finicky. If it starts to tear as you’re cutting it, put it back in the fridge to firm up. When you bake it, bake it to well done so it gets crispy but not burned (cover the tops with tin foil if needed).
  • use individual ramekins filled with the chicken and vegetable mixture and cover with a piece of dough, for easier assembly.

Chicken & Vegetable Pies closeup

Gluten Free Easy Chicken & Vegetable Hand Pies

Adapted from rachelschultz.com’s Chicken & Vegetable Hand Pies

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 white onion, diced small (omit if it’s in your vegetable mix)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups frozen cut vegetable mix
  • 2 cups cooked cubed chicken (grocery store rotisserie chicken works great!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 cup gluten free, low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free chicken base (I use RC Fine Foods Brand)
  • 3 ounces gluten free flour (I use Better Batter All-Purpose Flour), or 3/4 cup regular flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2-16 ounce container refrigerated gluten free pie dough (I use Pillsbury, it’s in the dairy section), or regular pie dough, or mini biscuits in a can
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

(If you are starting with raw chicken, cook them in the olive oil over medium heat until cooked through and do not drain the pan; then proceed with onion and garlic below.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the butter and vegetables, stir, and cook until they are thawed and warmed through.

Add the diced chicken, celery seed, chicken base, milk and chicken stock and cook to a simmer. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over everything and mix well; the final filling will be thick.

Roll out half the pie dough to 1/4 inch thickness and slice into 4 pieces. Repeat with the other half of the dough, then repeat all steps with the second pie crust.

On each of 8 dough pieces, add 1/2 cup of the chicken and vegetable mix. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with another piece of pie crust and seal edges well with a fork, or crimp with your fingers. Brush tops with egg. Cut 2-3 small holes in the top to vent. (No need to brush with egg if using biscuit or croissants.) Sprinkle tops with more cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until dough is well done and golden brown. Enjoy!


Creamy Smoked Paprika Chicken Noodle Soup

This recipe takes a comfort food classic – chicken noodle soup – and adds creamy, smoky flavors that transform it into a meal.

Please do try to use the bacon fat – it makes a difference. And if you needed an excuse to make bacon, now you have one!

The broth is best sopped up with some crusty bread (Udi’s gluten free rolls are divine).

I keep it gluten free with gluten free pasta and cornstarch, but regular pasta will work just fine!

Potatoes instead of noodles would also work. Add veggies to your heart’s desire, if you like.

Top with bacon bits…sour cream…shredded cheddar cheese…scallions…yum.

Creamy Smoked Paprika Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3-4 pound whole fryer chicken, skin removed
  • 8 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk (I use 1%)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 whole zucchinis, cut into chunks
  • 8 ounces sliced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 bag/box (16 ounce) gluten free pasta (brown rice pasta works well, or use regular egg noodles)
  • sour cream, shredded cheese and/or scallions, for garnish (optional)

In a large, heavy stockpot, heat butter and bacon fat over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and simmer until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the paprika, oregano, cumin, celery seed, and bay leaves, and add the water. Submerge the chicken, breast side down; it will be mostly (but not completely) covered. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. After 30 minutes, flip chicken over. Continue to cook another 30 minutes or until chicken begins to fall apart; remove to a plate.

In a small container, whisk cornstarch with a small amount of the cooking liquid; add to pot along with the milk. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer vigorously, uncovered over medium heat for 20 minutes; shred the chicken meat and discard bones while the liquid simmers.

Stir in the cream cheese and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the noodles and chicken, and simmer uncovered until the pasta is tender. Enjoy!


Spicy Beef Chili

I have about a zillion chili recipes – this is Mike’s favorite! It is also super easy and doesn’t have to sit on the stove all day if you’re in a rush.

It is quite spicy (but we love that). It is naturally gluten free, and very healthy – I always use low or no sodium canned vegetables. The bacon fat is worth the splurge for a little flavor!

As the picture shows, I was really bad and put it on a cheese biscuit (delicious). But a nice, big bowl over some brown rice is just as good.

We like to top this chili with cheese, jalapeno slices, sour cream, cilantro, chives…take your pick. A fried egg on top might send me over the edge.

Spicy Beef Chili

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean (90/10) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (or use oil)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 15.5 ounce can spicy chili beans
  • 10 can mild or Original Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles
  • 15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 cups broth (beef, chicken or vegetable will work)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon terragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2+ teaspoons salt (to taste)

In a large pot, melt bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; simmer 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Turn heat to medium-high and add ground beef, cooking until no longer pink.

Add chili beans, Ro-Tel, corn, beans, and zucchini to pot, then add enough broth to barely cover. Stir in seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low, simmering 45 minutes to 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so. Season with salt to taste at the end. Enjoy!