Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fried Rice

Fried rice is my number one comfort food. I could probably eat it every day, and I don't care whether it's homemade, take-out or whatever, although I suppose I draw the line at frozen. It's also my favorite way to use up whatever is in my refrigerator. Over the years, I've had a number of people ask me for a fried rice recipe, and I've always had a hard time giving one because it's such a malleable dish. You can add or subtract just about anything. In fact, just the other day, I started typing up a recipe only to realize that I had added so many little footnotes that it was going to be impossible to follow. I think it'll be easier for me to just post different iterations as I happen to make them.

That being said, here's the version I made the other day. Fried rice was not an uncommon breakfast in our household when I was growing up, and that's why I almost always include ham and eggs in mine. Don't be tempted to use fresh rice - it'll get all sticky and gooey on you and turn into mush. Day-old rice is the key to good fried rice; in fact leftover take-out rice is perfect. Also, notice that there really is not a lot of soy sauce in this recipe. Fried rice does not have to be brown.


4 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable, canola or olive oil

1/2 c. onion

1/2 c. sliced mushrooms

1 c. cubed turkey ham

1 tbsp soy sauce

4 c. rice (preferably, day old)

1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 c. frozen peas

Salt & pepper to taste


1. Heat a large pan or wok. Add 1 tsp. oil (or you can use cooking spray) and the beaten eggs, and cook as you would scrambled eggs. Try to leave the pieces big, as they will be broken up later when you add them back to the rice. Remove the cooked eggs from the pan and set aside. I usually just dump them back into the bowl I used to beat them.
I don't worry about contamination from the raw egg because it will get all cooked again.

2. Heat the oil in the same pan over high heat, and add the onions and mushrooms. Saute until onions turn translucent.

3. Add the cubed ham and heat through. Add the soy sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

4. Add the rice. I generally try and break up the rice as much as possible before adding it to the pan. You want the grains to be separated as much as possible.

5. Turn the heat down to medium. You want to heat the rice through, but you don't want it to burn. At this point, I usually add garlic powder and maybe more salt & pepper too.

6. Once the rice is hot, add the peas and stir them in. I throw them in still-frozen since they thaw & cook very quickly.

7. Add the sesame oil and toss thoroughly to coat everything. Sesame adds some nice aroma and helps the grains stay separated.

8. Last, but not least, add the eggs back in. Gently stir until they are hot through. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best Lasagna Ever.

Not to brag, but I make a pretty darn good lasagna. I've been meaning to share the recipe for a while, even though it's not super fancy or unique. It's just really a good classic meaty, cheesy, tomato-y lasagna.

Lasagna was always my favorite Italian dish as a kid. It used to be the dish that I always ordered without fail. Of course, as I got older and my tastes got more sophisticated, I scoffed at lasagna and passed it over in favor of dishes like gnocchi or saltimbocca.

I started cooking it myself at the request of Troy, for whom it was a comfort food from his childhood. After a few years of experimenting and adding and subtracting from various recipes, I finally hit upon a winner. Troy has actually declared my lasagna better than his mom's (shhh, don't tell)! I'll warn you right now though, he likes his pasta super saucey, so this recipe uses a LOT of sauce. I think it must weigh about 6 lbs. (not counting the pan) by the time it goes into the oven. I also apologize in advance for my lack of precise measurements in the directions. I'm not much for measuring.

1 lb. ground beef
2 jars tomato sauce*
1 box flat lasagna sheets (I use Barilla)
(1) 15 oz. container part skim ricotta cheese
(1) 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp each dried oregano & parsley (optional)

*I'm aware that homemade sauce is better, but I usually use jarred for convenience. My preferred brand is Barilla, but lately I've been using the Simply Natural Organic brand from Costco, with very good results. I also usually sneak at least a jar or two of baby food (either carrots, winter squash or sweet potatoes) into the sauce for extra veggies.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Brown ground beef. I usually add salt, pepper and dried herbs as I cook the beef, just to give it some more flavor. Drain off grease and add about 1 cup of tomato sauce. This is also a good point to add some baby food, if you want. Trust me when I tell you that no one will ever be able to taste that it's there. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

3. Squeeze all of the moisture out of the thawed spinach. Combine the spinach in a small bowl with the ricotta, parmesan and egg. Mix thoroughly.

4. In a 9x13 pan, add about a cup of sauce to the bottom. You want to use enough sauce to have a thin layer across the entire bottom.

5. Layer 4 uncooked pasta sheets on top of the sauce. I usually put mine lengthwise 2x2, but you can also do them 4 across. They will overlap slightly in the middle. Don't worry that they don't reach across the entire pan. They will expand as they cook and absorb moisture from the sauce.

6. Spread half the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta sheets.

7. Spread half the meat mixture on top of the ricotta.

8. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella on top of the meat.

9. Spread more sauce (about 1-2 cups) on top of the cheese. Be generous with the sauce. You want to make sure you have enough moisture for the pasta sheets.

10. Repeat steps 5-9.

11. Add one more layer of pasta sheets. Cover with sauce and more mozzarella.

12. Cover the top with a double layer of aluminum foil. I usually spray the inside of the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the cheese.

13. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until heated through. In my uneven oven, this sometimes takes more like 75 minutes.

14. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. This gives everything a chance to set up so that it doesn't all fall to mush the second you cut a piece.

Like I said, it's nothing fancy, but it's quick to put together (especially with those no-cook pasta sheets), hearty and delicious. I'll also add that it's a great dish to let your kids help make - our 2-year-old daughter was delighted to sprinkle on the mozzarella all by herself - which also makes them more likely to eat it, spinach and all!

Sorry, no picture this time since I was just too tired to do anything but cut and eat by the time it was done. I may try and snap one tomorrow if I can.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chicken Katsu

IMG_11245 by you.

I'm starting to think I should just change the name of my blog seeing as how lately I've been cooking more from other blogs than anything else. But hey, better to post something than nothing, right?

Today's entry is chicken katsu, inspired by my love of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, and also from this blog that I bookmarked a while back. Chicken katsu is basically the Asian equivalent of chicken fingers, but served with rice and sauce. Yum.

In retrospect, I don't know why I even needed a recipe to follow since it's really just a thinly cut or pounded chicken breast, breaded with panko and fried. Although I will concede that I would not have known which brand of tonkatsu sauce to buy without guidance.

In any case, this turned out very very yummy - pretty close to my ideal comfort food. Troy declared it to be an almost dead-on imitation of the L&L version and even Miss Pickypants (aka our 2 1/2 year-old) ate a healthy portion dipped in sauce. Extra bonus points for being an extraordinarily quick meal to throw together. Now if only we'd had some macaroni salad...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Meatball pic

IMG_11047 by you.

Sorry, never got around to uploading the other night. As you can see, we were out of spaghetti, so we had whole wheat shells instead. Oh and Troy said that the meatballs and sauce were actually better the next day.