Monday, June 28, 2010

No time? Make a lasagna!

Lasagna is always a crowd pleaser. So much so, that I often forget that it's easily made for just two or four. You can either freeze the lefovers if it's too much, or like we did tonight - just use less ingredients and a smaller dish! Even with our little 8x8 casserole dish, we'll have enough for two big portions tonight and leftovers to re-heat tomorrow.

With only 6 simple ingredients, most of which you might have hanging around already, you can have an italian feast in no time. The best part about this lasagna is that there's no need to pre-cook the noodles. Go ahead and layer them right in still uncooked (and, don't bother to by special "no cook" noodles - the regular ones work just as well!). In the 8x8 dish there's just enough room for three noodles side by side, you'll just need to break off the ends so they fit. Make sure the don't overlap - they won't cook all the way through.

Here's what you need:

Lasagna noodles
Ricotta cheese (about 16 oz)
mozzerella cheese (a few handfuls)
parmesean cheese (about a quarter cup, plus some to top)
red sauce (if you're feeling ambitious you could make your own, but it's just as good with store bought - organic, of course)

Mix together the cheeses. In an 8x8 glass dish, spread a quarter cup of sauce. Then layer noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce continually until all of your ingredients are gone. Bake at 375 for 60 minutes,covered. Top with mozzerella cheese and bake a few more minutes until melted.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whole Foods to the rescue!

Generally, a pre-made, pre-packaged marinated meat is something I would steer you far, far away from. Pre-made marinades are enticing in terms of ease (and usually price) but that's because they're usually full of high-fructose corn syrup, red dye #7, and a whole list of other things you're better off not putting in your body.

This week though, J and I made a discovery at our local Whole Foods that shatters what would have previously been a pretty rigid a5c rule. Whole Foods offers pre-marinated, packaged, perfectly proportioned meat in the butcher section. The ingredient list was no more than 5 or 6 items long, and they were all reconigizable foods that you mostly likely have hanging around your kitchen! With this new discovery though, we saved the mess and the hassel of mixing up a marinade as well as the time it takes to really make a difference in the taste of your meat. Dinner was on the table in a matter of minutes, and while we both loved the ease, the taste was great too! We chose the orange chicken tenders, but there were plenty of other options in flavors and meats. We added salad topped with organic strawberries, apple, and croutons (and I found potato salad at Whole Foods - also free of any unrecognizable/unpronouncable ingredients - heaven!) but the combinations are endless.Truh be told, the Whole Foods version is going to run you more than the high-fructose, red dye #7 version, but it will be well worth it. Make up for the difference by digging through the back of your freezer and using up some frozen vegetables you've had hanging around for awhile. Or, put together a simple salad on the side. Be creative!

Perfect for busy (hot) summer nights, this no-fuss dinner in an ideal a5c solution when you're short on time - and, let's be honest, when do we have bunches of extra time on our hands?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

appetizers on a dime

There are "entertaining on a dime" websites, blogs, and cookbooks all over the place, and most of them are full of great ideas. This recipe isn't one that I've seen yet, though, and it's probably because it's so simple it can barely even be called a recipe:

Warm bread and oil to dip it in is a staple at restaurants like Bertuccis and Macaroni Grill. Not suprisingly, it's inexpensive to make (why did you think it was free at the restaurant?). The most basic of all versions is to simply pour oil in a bowl, and drip some balsamic vinegar across the top (or douse with balsamic vinegar ... that's what we do!). I like to mix in some garlic power and pepper before adding the balsamic vinegar. With my new windowsill herb garden (more to come on that later!) I got a little fancy tonight with some fresh rosemary sprinkled over the top. All you have to do is slice a fresh french baguette, and serve! An appetizer for just a few dollars? That's on the a5c menu any night of the week!

For those of you who wanted to try the gf cookies, my apologies - I never posted the recipe. And, while we're at it, you'll have to excuse the bread and gluten-free cookies in the same post ...

1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredient together, until smooth. Drop by spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

who knew gluten-free could be so good?

More often than not, you'd assume that "gluten-free" and "cookie" are two words that don't belong in the same sentence. Well, this simple (and delicious) recipe from the May issue of Everyday Food (have you subscribed yet? This magazine is an a5c must-have!) is here to show you exactly the opposite. I made these cookies with chocolate chips, and then turned them into ice cream sandwhiches, but it's easily adaptable to be dairy-free as well - just use carob chips (or another dairy free option) and rice-cream or soy dream ... and, voila! A treat that everyone is sure to love - and they'll never know know they're gluten (or dairy) free. Out little secret!

1 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until well blended and smooth. Drop by rounded tablespoon full onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so (until puffy and edges are browned). Let cool on the cookie sheet.


Friday, June 11, 2010

a love/hate relationship (with fruit salad)

Fruit salad is one of those things that I love to eat, but hate to make. It takes an eternity (yes, really) to cut up all the fruit, and by the time you're done you're too tired to eat it anyway.

While I'd love a huge salad of mixed fruit any day of the week, lately I've been choosing one or two fruits, and making single serving portions salad with whatever we have around the apartment - one for each of us. This morning in the fridge we had bananas, 8 strawberries, and two peaches. In no time at all not only did we have banana pancakes and simple fruit salad, but I'd squeezed three servings of fruit into our day before 10 am!

As always, a simple fruit salad is considerably more budget friendly. The container of strawberries at Whole Foods was $2.99, and the two peaches were under a dollar. $4? That is after5chef budget friendly for sure.

Tonight we have a reservation at the Ivy Restaurant for dinner. While this is NOT typically in the a5c budget, J bought one of last weeks groupons. Haven't seen yet? It's a great way to stretch the budget a bit. This particular deal is $15 for $30 worth of food. Haven't seen yet? You've got to check it out:

I'll be back with a picture or two of dinner. In the meantime .... start putting together that fruit salad, it's almost time for lunch!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

here's to new beginnings (and eating your vegetables)

In the last six months I've ... gotten engaged, planned a wedding, started a (fabulous) new job and moved into a new apartment. It's been a busy spring! Now that we're finally settled in our new apartment and wedding plans are well underway, I'm back at the after5chef blog. It's been awhile, and I've got a stockpile of recipes and ideas to send your way.

This new kitchen of ours comes with learning curve. The stove is not only gas, but it's the light-it-yourself kind ... and it's tiny! We've only been here a week, so I haven't done all that much cooking (we've been eating out a lot, as much as this after5chef is ashameed to admit) but I do have one quick tip for the night:

Asparagus is one of the ugly step children of the vegetable family. It's not that great raw (unless it's drowned in ranch dressing maybe) and more often than not it's found swimming in cheese sauce, which for this lactose intolerant a5c is less than ideal. The good news? You CAN eat asparagus! Try this beyond basic recipe:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Spread the asparagus (washed, of course) on the baking sheet and brush very lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt (garlic, pepper ... whatever you'd like!) and roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

I threw a few sliced red peppers on my baking sheet last night too, and what I didn't eat for dinner I put on the salad I packed for work this morning (along with lettuce, sprouts, and sliced turkey!)

A quick easy way to squeeze in one more vegetable, this recipe is worth giving a try. You could, believe it or not, actually LIKE asparagus. J can attest, he was a non-believer... and now he actually suggests it as a side dish!