Ground Lamb Casserole

lamb casserole 2I have gone a little crazy for Lamb lately. I am just blown away by the flavor. Move over beef, because you have been replaced. It’s sometimes hard to come by, so when I see it in the store I grab a few and freeze them. I am not much of a crock pot girl, but I do love one pan dinners. This casserole is so tasty and cheesy and comforting, I guarantee you will love it. I wish I could tell you that lamb is better for you, I really can’t. It does contain higher levels of protein, but the fats are about the same. However, where beef is so mass produced and they fatten them up with grain, I would suspect that more sheep are grass-fed. This casserole is layered and baked. It’s creamy, hearty and has all the components, protein, starch, and vegetable in one pan. I knew it was good when my son had 4, yes you heard me correctly, 4 servings at the dinner table. Forget about leftovers, not happening!

Ground Lamb Casserole
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes

Potatoes
6 medium sized potatoes washed and sliced 1/4 ” thick slices
place slices in pot, fill just to top of slices with water,and boil until tender
Drain and place into a 13×9 inch glass baking dish, this is your first layer.
set aside

Cheese sauce
6 qt sauce pot add:
4 tsp butter and melt
4 tbsp flour
stir together and you have a roux
add:
2 1/2 cups milk, whisk in briskly
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
stir until thickened and then shut off burner…
add:
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and 4 slices of american cheese; whisk in until smooth and creamy.
set aside

Ground lamb
1 medium onion cut in half and sliced into 1/8″ slices
2 tbsp olive oil
saute onions over medium high heat until tender
add:
2 lbs ground lamb or divide and use half ground beef and half ground lamb
cook with onions until done, lower heat to medium
add:
2 rounded tbsp flour, sprinkle over cooked meat, stir in completely
add:
1 tsp better than bouillon beef base
1 cup water
The mixture will thicken up into a gravy
turn off heat
add:
1 cup frozen or fresh Corn, optional
1 cup frozen or fresh peas, optional
add:
1 cup of the cheese sauce,  stir into the meat mixture…

pour the mixture on top of the potatoes, this is your second layer

Third layer
Pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top of the meat mixture.

Fourth layer
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup shredded cheese
mix and sprinkle all over the top.
Bake, Eat and Enjoy!

Crab and Lobster Wontons

crab wontonsThis past few weeks Soft shell Maine Lobsters have been on sale for 3.99 a pound. That’s a really great deal. All the stores have had them all cooked and ready to go for 3.50 to 4.00 per lobster. I bought a few, shelled them, chopped them and then wanted to come up with a way to use the meat. There was all of the usual suspects, lobster rolls and salads, alfredo and scampi. But then I thought of wontons. I love bite size foods, and I had canned Crabmeat in my fridge, so I made a cream cheese stuffing. Just lobster or just crab would have been fine, I had both so I used both. If you don’t have a fry daddy, just put a couple inches of vegetable oil in a fry pan or a pot and bring it up to 350 degrees.

Crab and Lobster Wontons

Vegetable oil for frying heated to 350 degrees
1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
1 8oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
cream together and add:
1 cup minced lobster
1 cup crabmeat
1/2 cup crushed ritz crackers
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp old bay seasoning
mix well, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary

To make the wontons…

Have a cup of water handy to dip your fingers in to moisten the wrapper.
Pull one wrapper out of package and cut from corner to corner. You will have two triangles.
Wet the edge of the triangle all the way around the wonton dough with your finger.
Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Try not to get the filling on the wet edges, the moistened dough will stick together like glue on the edges. This is important because when frying they will not open up. Make sure the edges are good and sealed, you may have to squeeze them together for a few seconds to seal. Fill the second one. You can usually fry two at a time. Let cook on one side for 15 seconds or so and flip over. When the wonton looks golden, remove from the oil and place on paper towel. Repeat the process of filling and making more wontons until you have used up all the filling. You will use almost the whole package of wrappers. Serve with Duck Sauce. Make 20 or so.

Raspberry Lemon Tiramisu

slice tiramisuToday I was testing a recipe for an annual, family reunion in Kennebeunk at my wonderful cousin Michael’s house! It was something I dreamed up and I thought a test run would be prudent. I plan on making these in individual dishes, but today it went in a large tart pan. It came out really good. The qualities it has, is a lemony tartness with a hint of Limoncello liquor. A sweet and tart raspberry flavor and a creamy rich mascarpone filling. Then it has a sweet almond crunch from the Ameretti cookies. This one is a keeper folks. The Liquor is quite optional. Don’t go out and spend the money if it’s not already on the shelf. Looks like a-lot of work to make this, but it’s not. It’s a no bake dessert so it’s very quick to assemble. This dessert is a show stopper and it’s really delicious!

Tiramisu
9″ pan

Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
simmer just until all the sugar is dissolved and shut off.
Add…
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup of Nellie and Joes Key lime Juice (found in your bartending section)
If you cant find this use the juice of 1 or 2 limes. Make it as tart and zest as you want.
Set this mixture aside.

Filling
3 egg whites
1 tbsp sugar
beat egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form

In a seperate bowl with an electric mixer, beat…
1 8 oz. container of Mascarpone Cheese
3 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
beat until it starts to thicken up
Add the whipped egg whites and continue beating until thick. About 3 minutes
set this aside

Ladyfingers or Saviordi Biscuits which are the crunchy lady finger biscuits.
you will need 24 -36 of the soft biscuits and 24-30 of the crunchy biscuits.

1 cup of frozen raspberries, thawed and sweetened with sugar and a tablespoon of the simple syrup mixture, mashed into a puree.
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries

Ameretti cookies. These are crunchy Italian almond meringue cookies.
rasp tiramisu 1
Now to assemble…

Tart pan with a removable bottom
very thin layer of the filling, about a half cup
ladyfingers dipped in the simple syrup and placed quickly into the pan, cover the bottom, breaking if needed to fit in all slots
place the ameretti cookies along the edges standing up
pureed raspberries evenly distributed over the ladyfingers
rasp tiramisu 2
1/2 of the filling spread evenly over the raspberries
repeat with ladyfingers, dipped in the syrup and pressing them into the filling slightly
remaining filling spread evenly
fresh raspberries decorated pretty
3 or 4 crushed cookies sprinkled on top…
Voila!   Chill for 3 hours before serving.
rasp tiramisu

Potato and Egg Salad

egg and potato saladI just love potato salad! It’s a comfort food in my mind. I find myself eating it when it’s in my fridge every time I am hungry, no matter what time of day it is. This recipe came from my mother-in-law, Anne. I of course, added a few ingredients and changed it up a bit. Nevertheless,  It’s really good. I have a time-saver for anyone who adds egg to their potato salad. I boil the eggs in the same pot as my potatoes for the same amount of time, and it works perfectly. I immediately pull the eggs out and drop them in some cold water after cracking all around the shell of the eggs. This lets the cold water seep in under the shell and makes peeling the eggs a snap. Use any kind of potato you like.

Potato Salad

5 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
6 eggs in the shell
Boil the potatoes and eggs together for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender
Drain the potatoes and let cool. Place the hard boiled eggs in a bowl of cold water. When they are able to be handled, tap them on the counter and crack all around the egg, place back in bowl.

In a large bowl…
add: cooled potatoes
add: peeled and chopped eggs
1 cup Diced bread and butter pickles, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of juice from pickles
1 tsp onion salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 – 1 cup mayonnaise, put as much as you like. (1/2 miracle whip and 1/2 Mayonnaise are really good too)
1 tbsp. dijon mustard

Mix and refrigerate for at least an hour or two until cold. After prepared taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed!

TJ’s Bleu Cheese Dressing

salad 1The best Bleu cheese dressing you will ever have, (in my opinion). I always double the Bleu cheese crumbles at home because we like it extra chunky. The Bleu cheese dressing was served with buffalo tenders and wings. However, our house salad dressing was zesty Italian. We always made the large batches of zesty Italian dressing at the restaurant, we used straight red wine vinegar and omitted the white vinegar. They sell the small packages at the grocery store and you can mix it up at home. This Bleu cheese dressing on a salad along with zesty Italian dressing is unreal. That’s all we eat in our home. Try it-you will love it.

Makes 2.5 cups of dressing.

16 oz. mayo
5 oz. Bleu cheese crumble
5 oz. sour cream
1/4 c. White vinegar

Mix and let sit at least an hour to absorb the flavors.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Yes, this is the one. The one that wasn’t on the menu! The buffalo chicken pizza that the employees would get on occasion for supper. We were busy at T.J.’s, really busy and at the end of the night, the employees were hungry and tired. So, occasionally we would make pizzas for supper. It took a load off the cooks at the end of the night, not having to cook for 25 people and they could just clean up. Brian and I would make like 8 large pizzas, all varieties, and the employees would get a pizza party. Buffalo Chicken pizza was a favorite. I always used hand breaded fried chicken strips chopped finely and tossed in wing sauce. At home I tend to use un-breaded chicken, broiled, boiled or grilled, usually leftover from a supper. I chop it and toss in a generous amount of wing sauce. Any chicken will do. I buy the fresh dough balls but you can make it if you so choose. I prefer homemade Bleu Cheese dressing because it is chunkier with lots more blue cheese than you get with store bought. Use what ever brand of Bleu Cheese dressing you like. You could always add crumbled bleu cheese to the store bought if you were not interested in making it. Bleu cheese dressing is just one of those items that I always have on hand and it’s always homemade. This pizza is outrageous!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Makes one 16″ pizza
Bake for approximately 9-12 minutes or until it looks browned and crisp

1 dough ball
let the dough-ball come to room temperature before you try stretching it. You can use flour or oil to stretch the dough. I use oil…the dough may be springy and may be resistant to stretching to the size of your pan. If so, after stretching it, let it rest for 5 minutes and then try again, it will stretch to the size you want easier the second time around. Be careful not to rip or tear the dough. Also, while it is resting for 5 minutes, keep it covered with saran wrap or a damp towel so it doesn’t crust over. Place in a pizza pan or on a pizza screen. Take a fork and dock the dough a few times to keep air bubbles from forming while cooking.

1 – 1 1/2 cups of Bleu cheese dressing. Cover the dough.
3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or chopped tossed in
3/4 cup of FRANKS RED HOT SAUCE or more if you wish
distribute the chicken evenly over the dressing.

mix together two cheeses…
12 oz bag shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
use as much of the cheese to generously cover the chicken

Bake for 9-12 minutes until bottom is crisp, let the baked pizza rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Pear Custard Tart

pear custard tartI recently purchased some really ripe and wonderful pears. I had intended to saute them in cinnamon and sugar, top a wheel of brie cheese and then wrap in puff pastry. I was thinking labor weekend was upon us but I was a few weeks off. The pears were ready for use, so I had to do something with them. I remembered back at the restaurant, one time we ordered this case of pear tarts. Brian really liked them so, we would always keep a case in the freezer. They had more of a thicker and shortbread type crust that was crisp. I was in a bit of a time crunch so I used an already pie crust for the crust. I really didn’t know how this would come out since I had no recipe. It was really good. Brian was not at all disappointed. It is really super easy to make and fast. The effort is in peeling the pears and slicing them up. Here’s how I made it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a tart dish with an already pie crust or any crust you prefer.

Peel and slice 6-8 pears
Lay them into the crust evenly until they are all in. You may end up with 2-3 layers.

Custard
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
Beat with a fork until all incorporated.
Gently pour the custard slowly over the pears and let it seep into the crevices. If you find you have more custard than you need, leave it out. It should not overflow the edges of the crust.

Sprinkle generously over top of the pears and custard, ground cinnamon and if you wish grate a little fresh nutmeg on top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the custard is puffed and the top is browned.
chill completely

Top with fresh whipped cream, sweetened and flavored with 1 tbsp. of rum or bourbon