This has been one long and cold winter. Mother Nature broke records here when she dropped temperatures below freezing for multiple days. When the weather outside is this frightful, I only want to eat cozy, comfort food. This time we turned to our roots for inspiration. Growing up in an Italian family meant enjoying lots of pasta and sauce for dinner. As a result, tomato sauce is my ultimate comfort. It reminds me of home and family and good meals shared. When it was time to meal plan for this week, I knew I would cook up something from my saucy past to confront these winter blues. Usher in…Lasagna.
1.5lb ground beef
box of lasagna noodles
2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce (We use Rao’s Arrabiatta)
1 onion diced
4 garlic cloves diced
1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package of part skim ricotta
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
In a large pot, bring water to boil and cook lasagna noodles according to instructions. In another large pot, saute the onions and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil for 3-5 minutes or until soft, fragrant, and translucent. Add the ground beef and cook thoroughly. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Add ricotta cheese and 1.5 of the sauces and stir in. Let simmer while you wait for the lasagna noodles to assemble the lasagna. Once the noodles are cooked, drain and run cool water over them so they do not stick to one another. In a casserole dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce, overlap the noodles to cover the bottom of the dish, spoon meat sauce over this, top with mozzarella cheese. Add a second layer of noodles, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Add the last layer of noodles, spoon the tomato sauce over the top and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until everything i bubbling and cooked through. Turn on the broiler and bake the cheese until it begins to brown on the edges.
Cheese, Sauce, and Pizza Dough, that’s it. The Italian in me loves to indulge in these three staples. Carbo-loading through all of these winter storms is entirely too easy. When I want to be cozy, I want to wrap myself in a calzone and wake up in Spring. David though is not so much of this mindset. His comfort foods include cheese but would also include something more substantial of the protein variety (good for you, David!). Nevertheless, our marriage is a partnership and therefore we work tirelessly to provide meals that delight both of our palettes. What will we do once we also need to take into consideration Henry’s food interests? Until then, here is a yummy, easy calzone recipe that we are enjoying right now coupled with our favorite kale salad.
1lb pizza dough
1 package of baby spinach
1 container part skim ricotta
3 garlic cloves diced
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 14oz can diced tomato
Divide the dough into 4 pieces, flour, and roll out. In a large pan saute the garlic in olive oil, add spinach and wilt. In a bowl mix together ricotta, cooked spinach, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Spoon mixture on to the four rolled out pieces of dough and fold over sealing the edge with a fork. Bake at 475 for 15-20 minutes or until dough is golden brown. In sauce pan, combine the rest of the Parmesan cheese, pear, vinegar, diced tomato, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer and use as a delicious dip.
We have had 1,000 snow days here in Boston. This is not an exaggeration…well maybe a little. Boston and the surrounding area has just been hit hard by Mother Nature this winter season. One winter blockbuster storm after another pummels the area and leaves us all cozied up in our homes and covered in a white blanket of snow (this blanket is now VERY thick). Most Bostonians are at the end of their patience with Winter 2015 and begging for the Spring thaw to begin. And when it comes to how the winter has impacted my life at work, I am in this camp. It is hard lesson planning for classes that do not meet, reworking curriculum over and over again to fit into the ever shortening schedules, and reaching out to students remotely. This dilemma is just par for the winter course though and we are tackling it as best we can up here in New England. At the same time though, I am loving these snow days.
They feel like an extension of my much too short maternity leave. Henry was born in July which meant that my maternity leave was also my scheduled summer break from school. I had a terribly short 8 weeks home with my newborn and 8 weeks to heal and get myself back in order to face full days at work. It was SO hard. I cried every day and felt aches and pains but had to just deal because that was all I got with a summer baby. These snow days have given me more time to love and cuddle my son full time and I have to selfishly thank Mother Nature for this. It has been an incredible blessing in my home to be able to squeeze in more time with my family, more cuddles with Henry, and more bonding overall. Gosh the bonding alone has filled me with so much revitalized energy. I feel like I really understand Henry’s routine and needs and not just what he is like in the evenings and on weekends when I try to read signs and cues. Being a working mom or a SAHM comes with a multitude of pros and cons. Parents on both sides of this issue could fill pages upon pages with their joys and their challenges. But, right now with these extra 6 days home with my son and husband I feel completely renewed, relaxed, and happy. All year has felt like a sprint from one class to the next to lesson planning to grading to trying to fit in quality time with family and friends to never having any time for myself. I wish I had been able to have a longer maternity leave but I am thankful to have gotten these snow days.
Sometimes you just need a recipe that will take no longer than 15 minutes to throw together and will comfort your family through winter chills and colds. This recipe feels like a “kitchen sink” type of meal. Everything gets tossed in, simmers for a little bit, and serves up nice and quick. Its a win win: fast and delicious.
2 cups shelled edamame
2 carrots peeled and sliced
2 handfuls of shiitake mushrooms sliced
16 frozen pork pot stickers
5 scallions diced
2 32oz chicken broth cartons
1 piece of ginger approx 2 inches in length diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot over medium heat add the chicken broth and ginger. Bring to a boil. Add in carrots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add edamame, mushrooms, rice noodles, pot stickers, scallions, soy sauce, and salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5-8 minutes or until pot stickers are cooked through. Serve in a nice big bowl and enjoy! We definitely enjoyed this while it snowed again outside our window. This is one long winter in New England and still more snow to come!