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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spicy Turkey Sausage Lasagna

When my friend Laurabee came into town a few weeks ago I threw together a couple small lasagnas, one for us to share and one for the Parental Units since Mom was still in recovery mode from her knee surgery.  Apparently it turned out pretty well because her first question was when was I going to post it? So finally got a chance to throw another together to share with you guys.

Spicy Turkey Sausage Lasagna

5 hot turkey sausage links
4 cups (32 oz.) crushed tomatoes
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
2-1/2 cups ricotta
2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 zucchini, halved and sliced thin
4 cups fresh chopped spinach
oven ready or regular cooked lasagna noodles (14-16)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Remove the casings from the turkey sausage links and tear the sausage into small pieces.  Cook the pieces over medium-high heat in a deep skillet, chopping into smaller bits with a spatula.

Once the turkey sausage is browned, add in 3-1/2 cups of the crushed tomatoes (set aside other 1/2 cup for final layer).  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Reduce heat to low.

In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta with 2 cups of the shredded mozzarella (set aside other 1/2 cup for final layer) and dried parsley.  Set aside.

Chop the zucchini into flat pieces (easier for layering).

Julienne the fresh spinach into smaller pieces. I actually found a spinach-arugula blend that adds another flavor note to the mix.

In a 9 x 13 pan, spread 1/4 cup of the crushed tomatoes you had set aside.  Lay down a layer of noodles.

Cover with half of the spicy sausage tomato mix.  Next add half of the cheese mixture.  Next sprinkle half the zucchini pieces and half of the chopped spinach.

Lay down another layer of noodles and repeat process.

Cover the whole thing with one more layer of noodles.  Top with last 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes and sprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella and the Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.  Uncover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until baked through.

Buon appetito!


If you've never tried them before, oven ready lasagna noodles are pretty good. They do cost a bit more than regular, but if you're into time saving, then they're pretty handy.

The first time I made this I used regular turkey sausage.  I accidentally picked up the hot sausage this time and now I think I would not go back to regular.  It's hot, but not burn-your-face-off-hot.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cajun Spice Pecan Cheese Bites

Since my blog promoters (aka Parents) have been touting these goodies about town, I wanted to get them posted for you all sooner rather than later.  I have some guests posts coming up this week that I think you are really going to like.

Last weekend I helped celebrate my friend Dana's birthday with a mini feast of Cajun goodness.  My contribution to the eatin's were these little treats.  I really wanted to make cheese straws but much to my chagrin, I found I didn't have a cookie press readily on hand so went the biscuit cutter route.

The cheese bites have just that, a nice bite that sneaks up on you.  The pecans make a sweet complement to the red pepper and bring it all together.

Cajun Spice Pecan Cheese Bites

8 tbsp. butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans, small bits

Cream together the soft butter and cheeses.

Add flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper and bring it all together as a dough.

Mine was very crumbly in the mixing bowl, so I transferred it to a rolling mat and kneaded it together until it formed a solid ball of dough.

Fold the pecan bits into the dough until evenly distributed.

With a rolling pin, roll dough out to about a 1/2" thickness and use a small biscuit cutter to cut small discs.  I split my dough in half and rolled out one half at a time, made it easier to manage.  You can re-roll the dough until all is used up.

Place discs on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crispy and golden brown around the edges.

Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pina Colada Upside Down Cake

Was feeling inspired by my last post and decided to tackle a full on upside down cake, but with a TCC twist.  May I just say, "Mwah, delicious!"

Pina Colada Upside Down Cake

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 pineapple rings (fresh or canned)
5-6 maraschino cherries
1 tbsp. Myers dark rum or rum flavoring

1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. coconut liqueur or extract
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup pecan bits (optional)

For the topping, melt butter over medium high heat in a small saucepan.  Add in the brown sugar and rum.  Continue heating until sugar melts.

Pour the sugared concoction in the bottom of a 9" cake pan (square or round, your choice).  Next place the pineapple slices in the bottom of the pan.  Add the maraschino cherries.  Set aside.

I chose a variation on the classic pineapple layout for my plan, but feel free to let your inner culinary artist run free and come up with your own pineapple design.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and coconut flakes.  Set aside.

Cream the softened butter, takes about a minute.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Then add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each well.  Add in the vanilla.

Starting with the flour, alternate adding flour and coconut milk, blending well and making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.

Carefully spread the batter in the pan over the topping mixture.

Sprinkle the pecans on the top of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  I would recommend placing the cake pan on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or foil to catch any spillovers (because there will more than likely be spillovers).  Bake until cake is golden or springs back to the touch when gently poked.

Remove cake from oven.  Run a knife along the inside edges of the pan.  Take your serving plate and put it upside down over the pan.

Using a thick towel or oven mitts, grab the edges and flip the pan and plate over and carefully lift the pan off the cake.  If any of the topping sticks to the pan, scoop it out and plop it on top.

Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes (so that you don't burn your face on the hot sugar topping).