Tag Archives: appetizer

Baby Lasagnas

Pinterest is a tiny addiction of mine.  Equal parts inspiration and time suck. I like to go and browse and discover and pin things that I’m sure I will create at some point.  And sometimes I do.  But sometimes the pins sit there on my board, unloved and unmade.  The other day I made a list of about 70 (!) recipes that I had pinned that I REALLY wanted to make (and no, that’s not all of them, and yes, I’ve pinned more since).  I’m systematically making my way through the list over the next 2-3 months.

This is a recipe I pinned quite a while ago from one of my favorite blogs, Can You Stay For Dinner?, and I’m thrilled to report they turned out every bit as good as I had hoped, and have come to expect from her recipes.  My version is slightly different from the original (is this any surprise?). Quick to make and seriously, who doesn’t love lasagna that bakes in 10 minutes?  No doubt I’ll be making these again.

Baby Lasagna!  Adorable.  And delicious!

Baby Lasagna! Adorable. And delicious!

Baby Lasagnas
(adapted from canyoustayfordinner.com)

6 oz. lean ground beef
1-2 Italian sausage links
1 cup chopped onion
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (I used about 2/3 of a 28 oz. can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp. dry oregano, divided
1/4 cup red wine (optional
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (or sub 1/2 tsp. dry basil)
1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
24 square wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375˚.  In a large skillet crumble beef.  Remove casings from sausage links and crumble that in there too.  Add mushrooms and onions.  Sauté until meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic and cook and stir a minute more.  Add tomatoes and 2 tsp. of oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and red wine.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so.  Set aside.

Yummy red sauce.  My version uses lean versions of beef & Italian sausage.

Yummy red sauce. My version uses lean beef & Italian sausage.

In a small bowl mix ricotta cheese with 1 tsp. oregano, a few grinds of pepper and fresh basil. Mix well and set aside.

Creamy, delicious ricotta mixture.  Yum.

Creamy, delicious ricotta mixture. Yum.

Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Place one wonton skin in the bottom of each cup, pressing firmly to the bottom and sides.  Divide half the meat sauce among the lasagnas, placing a spoonful or so in the bottom of each cup.

babylasagna3

Top with half the ricotta mixture.  I dropped a spoonful on each one and then gave it a little smear to smash it down a bit.

babylasagna4

Sprinkle with half the mozzarella.

babylasagna5

Gently press another wonton skin on top of the cheese.

One more time...with feeling!

One more time…with feeling!

Repeat the above sequence, with sauce, ricotta and mozzarella.

Ready to go in the oven.

Ready to go in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so.

After they are cool, insert a butter knife down the side and gently lift it out.

After they are cool, insert a butter knife down the side to gently lift it out.

Remove from muffin tin and serve.  Makes 12 baby lasagnas.

Mmmm.

Mmmm.

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Perfect Pesto

I’ve written entries that involve pesto before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done one JUST for pesto.  But I just made a fresh batch and thought it was blog-worthy all by its lonesome.

Maybe you’ve bought pesto at the store.  If you have you know it can be a little on the spendy side, and sometimes it’s not that wonderful either.  Much more economical to make it yourself, and you can’t beat the taste.

Welcome to my basil patch. I’m normally a pretty lousy gardner, but halfway through summer these are looking pretty great, huh?  Although I kill many plants, I usually do well with basil.  Here I have purple basil, Thai basil, and sweet Italian basil (probably your most common variety).

My basil patch.  Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

My basil patch. Pay no attention to the accompanying weed patch.

I bought my basil plants for $2.50 each at farmer’s market, but you can find them all over the place this time of year. If you keep pinching the little flowers off the tops, they will keep growing for most of the summer, especially if you harvest fairly frequently.  I’m about ready to chop another bunch off of these.

I keep the other ingredients for pesto on hand most of the time, so whipping up a batch is super fast, which is good because I love this stuff.  Sandwich spread, pizza topping, tossed with pasta, spread over fish or chicken, mixed into salad dressing, beaten into scrambled eggs…it’s delicious just about any way you can think to eat it.

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves (remove any large stems)
2-3 tbsp. walnuts
2-3 tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper
Olive oil (around 1/2 cup)

Put all ingredients except oil into a food processor.

All ready to whirl up.

All ready to whirl up.

Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated.  (Pulsing instead of puréeing is better since it doesn’t mangle the basil as much, which will result in brighter pesto color!) Drizzle olive oil in a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency you like.  I prefer it to be spreadable, but not soupy.  Taste for seasoning, add salt & pepper if needed.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends.  That way you can really control the thickness.

Be sure to add the oil slowly so it can incorporate as it blends. That way you can really control the thickness.

Store in an airtight container with a lid.  After putting the pesto in the container, drizzle with a layer of olive oil or cover with plastic wrap (set right on top of the pesto).  This will help keep it from turning brown.  It will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  It also freezes well.  I usually store mine in smallish containers so I can have one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer to dole out as needed.

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Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus

Appetizers are something I love, but hardly ever make.  Unless I make them as dinner, instead of a starter for dinner.  But given the opportunity, like a recent family dinner, it’s fun to make (and eat!) something pretty and delicious.  These definitely fit the bill.

I love these little asparagus wrap ups.  They are quick to make, and I like the combination of the crunch of the phyllo dough and the tender bite of the asparagus.  They are a bit of fancy but not hard to make…one of my favorite combinations.  Doesn’t hurt that they also are pretty healthy compared to most appetizer options.

If you aren’t familiar with phyllo dough, it’s very, very thin sheets of dough, which are layered and baked.  I love the light and crispy texture.  You find it in the frozen section of the grocery store.  In most recipes you brush oil or melted butter between the layers, but the cooking spray works great and is a lot better for you.  For a vegetarian version, just leave out the ham, or substitute thinly sliced cheese.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
1 package of phyllo dough
Cooking spray
Thinly sliced ham or prosciutto

Unroll the phyllo dough.  Working quickly, separate one layer and lay it on a cutting board or towel.  Spray lightly with cooking spray, top with another layer, spray with cooking spray, and top with a third layer.  If you like some extra crunch you can also add a fourth layer.  (Cover remaining phyllo sheets with a slightly damp paper towel so they don’t dry out).

With a sharp knife slice the phyllo rectangle in thirds across the long length, and then down in fourths, making 12 squares.  Put a piece of ham on each square.  Place a stalk of asparagus on one end and roll up.  If your asparagus is really skinny, you can put two in each one.

Keep going until all asparagus and/or phyllo is used up.  Pile these on a plate as you finish.  If you don’t cook them all at once, just cover with a towel while the rest are cooking.

All rolled up and ready to cook!

Heat oven to 375˚. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Fill the tray with asparagus rolls, leaving a little space in between them.  Spray with cooking spray (it will help it brown a little better).  You will probably have enough for two or three trays, depending on how big your asparagus is.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until phyllo turns golden brown.  Remove, arrange on a platter, and serve immediately.

Hot out of the oven.

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