Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I had a good lasagna recipe.  I knew I did, I just hadn't cooked it in more than a year.  Back in 2002 - 2003, I cooked fairly regularly.  It was more because I had to and it wasn't nearly as good (in my opinion!) as what I cook now, but there are a few gems from that time period.  After seeing my lasagna recipe cooked again and looking completely delicious, I decided perhaps it's time to go back through those old recipes and share them.  I had 22 recipes that I identified during that time period as "best bets."  Some of them I've made fairly recently (9 - 18 months ago?) and some of them I've completely forgotten about.  I find it somewhat sad the number of recipes in this collection that rely on mysterious pre-packaged ingredients (jarred pasta sauce, cream of mushroom soup, sweet and sour sauce), so I'm automatically omitting those from the postings and sticking to ones that I'd be comfortable making now!  (And I'm changing all references from margarine to butter ... did I really ever cook with margarine?  scary!)  I'm also passing on posting the desserts as I don't remember them well enough to know how they compare to what I make now!

American Lasagna (adapted from
Notes: Put it together the night before and allow it to sit overnight to give the flavours time to meld.  The last time I made this I used the deer and red wine sausage from William Walters.  If I were to make it again, I think I'd only use that sausage!  Finally, I'd probably put some more green in it if I were making it today and mix some spinach in with the ricotta.

3/4 pounds lean ground beef
3/4 pounds Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine
12 dry lasagna noodles (no boil)
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, sausage, onion and garlic; drain fat. Mix in basil, oregano, brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoons salt, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and red wine. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust thickness to taste. If too thick, add more tomato sauce.  If too thin, add more tomato paste.  Check spices and if needed, add more.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt.
4. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover noodles with 1/2 ricotta mixture, 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese and 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the top.
5. Bake in the preheated for one hour covered and then for an additional 20 minutes uncovered. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Bay Area Burgers (from

1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
4 hamburger buns, split

1. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Mix together the ground beef, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil. Divide into four balls, and flatten into patties.
2. Fry the patties for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. The internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Remove from grill and place onto hamburger buns. Top with desired toppings and condiments.

Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes (from
Note: If I were making this today, I'd probably switch up the cheese a little and add some Gruyere.

4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 onion, sliced into rings
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 1 quart casserole dish.
2. Layer 1/2 of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese over the potatoes, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.
4. Bake 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven.

Fettuccine Alfredo (from

10 ounces fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup butter
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley

1.   Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettucine pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
2. In a large skillet melt the butter and add the chopped garlic. Cook on low for about 5 minutes, stirring often, making sure not to burn the garlic.
3. Pour about a 1/4 cup of the heavy cream into a small bowl. Add the egg yolk and beat together; put aside. Pour the remaining cream into the frying pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. As the cream starts to boil, mix rapidly using a whisk. Slowly add the cream/egg mixture. You do not want the egg to curdle. Continue whisking until well blended.
4. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and continue to mix the cream. Pour in the remaining Parmesan and the parsley, mix until smooth. Immediately remove from stove. Serve over cooked pasta.

Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze (from


2 (4 ounce) filet mignon steaks
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dry red wine

1. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over both sides of each steak, and sprinkle with salt to taste.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place steaks in hot pan, and cook for 1 minute on each side, or until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add balsamic vinegar and red wine. Cover, and cook for 4 minutes on each side, basting with sauce when you turn the meat over.
3. Remove steaks to two warmed plates, spoon one tablespoon of glaze over each, and serve immediately.

Stir-fry Pork with Ginger (from
Note: Making this today, I'd definitely add some strips of bell pepper and bean sprouts!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1/4 pound thinly sliced lean pork
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (mirin)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Fry ginger in hot oil until fragrant, then add pork, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the sesame oil, green onion, and rice wine. Simmer until the pork is tender.

Strip Steak Polynesian

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons honey
4 strip steaks

1. Combine soy sauce, garlic, and honey in bowl.  Add steak.  Cover and marinate steak in refrigerator for at least one hour.
2. Grill steak.  Serve on a bed of rice.

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