Somehow we accumulated a lot of over ripe bananas this weekend. I would feel guilty trashing them so they were put to good use in our smoothies and our favorite banana nut bread recipe.
Today, we are sharing with you our take on the classic lasagna. The traditional lasagna consists of layered pasta sheets alternating with generous amount of ragu, bechamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. After years of making lasagna, Vu has perfected the recipe for our go to lasagna dish–spinach and turkey lasagna.
We buy fresh spinach lasagna sheets from our favorite pasta store, Assenti’s Pasta, in Little Italy. Lately our schedule keeps us pretty busy so we resort to store bought Ragu sauce instead of making our own marinara sauce. One thing that we do not deviate from the recipe is using homemade ricotta cheese, usually made the day before. Store bought ricotta cheese doesn’t quite bring the wow factor. We also use ground turkey instead of ground beef for a healthier alternative.
With Aiden keeping us so busy, we have come to appreciate one pot meals like lasagna to fuel us for a few days.
We hope you’ll love this lasagna as much as we do!
1 tsp salt (for lasagna sheets)
2 tbsps olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1.5 lbs of ground turkey (depending how meaty you like your lasagna)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
2 cups of Roma tomato, cubed
1 16 oz jar of Ragu roasted garlic sauce (you can use your favorite sauce or make your own)
2 tbsps sugar
1 ½ cups of homemade ricotta cheese
2 cups of shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
¼ cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4. Add Roma tomato and Ragu sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Reduce heat and let it simmer, about 15 minutes. (If the sauce is too runny, let it cook for another 10-15 minutes.)
You probably have noticed our absence on the blog lately. The past few months have been a whirlwind for us, moving to a new place, traveling and spending time with our loved ones who have fallen ill, while preparing for a new addition to our family. Yes, we are EXPECTING a little one. It came as a wonderful surprise for both of us.
We had been trying for a while with no success. Fear. Disappointment. Frustration. Sadness. Those feelings overwhelmed me as many months passed and my body would not cooperate. We were ready to see a specialist when it happened.
I selfishly kept the news to myself for a few days, grinning from ear to ear as I went about my daily routine and thought about the new life growing in my belly. Millions of thoughts raced through my head. Every fiber of my being resonated with joy.
After a few days, I could no longer contain my excitement and broke the news to Vu. He was ecstatic. The perfect present for his birthday. Celebration was in order. For this occasion, I made vanilla cupcakes with a mixed berry compote and marshmallow frosting.
It took me three attempts to get the batter right but I finally found the perfect recipe. You can make a cake in place of cupcakes if you want to something special for your own celebration.
These cupcakes were perfect for our celebration of this new life growing inside my belly.
Vanilla cupcakes with berry compote and marshmallow frosting
Vanilla cupcake (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
1 1/2 cup cake flour (not self-raising)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 stick of butter, at room temp
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of milk
3 large egg whites
2 tbsps sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt then set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 3/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
5. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy.
6. With the mixer running, slowly add in 2 tablespoons of sugar, beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Gently fold in half of the egg-white mixture into the flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg-white mixture.
8. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full.
9. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
10. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool completely.
11. Once cooled, use a small spoon and scoop out a small hole in the center of each cupcake, creating a cavity.
Berry compote (original recipe)
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup of sugar
1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the berries and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly until thick.
2. Remove from the heat and chill until cold.
3. If you don’t have berries readily available, you can use seedless or strained berry preserves.
Marshmallow Frosting (adapted from Meringue)
2 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsps water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a stainless steel mixer bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, water, cream of tartar, and salt.
2. Gently lower the bowl over a simmering pot of water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand beater. Do not leave the egg white mixture unattended or stop beating any time during this process.
3. After about 3 minutes, remove the bowl from the heat.
4. Attach the bowl to the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg-white mixture on high speed for 5 minutes. It should look like marshmallow fluffiness.
6. Remove the bowl and fold in the vanilla extract. Set the frosting aside and allow the mixture to cool.
1. Place the cupcakes on a flat surface.
2. Fill each cavity of the cupcake with 1 teaspoon of berry compote.
3. Add the marshmallow frosting to a pastry bag and generously frost each cupcake.
4. Using a hand blow torch, lightly torch the marshmallow frosting to your liking.
Today is officially the first day of FALL. When I think about fall, my thoughts are occupied with the leaves changing color, cooler temperature sweeping in, snug sweaters, warm soups, apple picking in Julian, lots of cooking and gatherings.
Last year, we went apple picking in late October so most of the orchards were closed.
This year, we made the trip to Julian a lot earlier to beat the crowd and pick the cream of the crop. Julian is a historic gold rush mountain town an hour east of San Diego known for its apple crop, cider, and pies from Julian Pie Company.
We drove by a few orchards but the dwarf apple trees at Raven Hill Orchard drew us in. For ten dollars, you get a chance to roam around the orchard, tasting and picking apples at your leisure. Vu and I appreciated the different varieties and abundance of apples. It took me 2 hours to fill up my bag. Yes, I was being picky. Nothing compares to picking fruits right off the trees and sinking your teeth into your hand-picked treasures.
Tired from being in the sun for the whole morning, we took a short break and indulged in a bit of wine tasting at J. Jenkins Winery and Menghini Winery.
They both had a great selection of wine—from sparking, dessert, chardonnay, cabernet, to syrah.
After ten glasses, my taste buds could barely distinguish the different white and red wines but I got a few bottles for Thanksgiving dinner.
Our trip would be incomplete without stopping by Julian Pie Company for some apple pie a la mode.
It was a perfect ending to our Julian trip. Both Vu and I agreed that Julian Pie Company makes the best apple pies, even better than Moms. We cannot wait to bring Betsy next fall!
I put the apples to good use by making Vu’s favorite pie. APPLE PIE. Instead of making the original apple pie, I made the Dutch apple pie, which has a sweet crumb top.
I used a combination of Empire, Jonagold, and Granny Smith apples.
Spending my morning making the crumb crust by hand, peeling and chopping apples was quite relaxing. The tasks are repetitive but therapeutic.
I was too impatient to wait for Vu so I cut a slice and topped it homemade vanilla ice cream that I’ll share in another post.
I loved the crunchy, crumbly top, and tartness of the apple sweetened by brown sugar.
Hot apple pie. Melting ice cream. The combination was delightful.
It was a perfect start to fall.
1 cup brown sugar (more if you like your apple pie a little sweeter)
11. When ready to serve, cut a small slice and top with vanilla ice cream.
Strawberries and raspberries are abundant in summer while currants, whether red, white, or champagne, have a short season, appearing for a brief time in July. If you get lucky, you might catch them in August.
3 tbsps water
I was craving for cake and decided to whip up a blood orange cake. The cake recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s lemon curd cake.
For the frosting, I used my own recipe. A few years ago, I discovered that heavy cream and mascarpone cheese is a match made in kitchen heaven. Since then, I have utilized this frosting as a base for different cakes and changing necessary ingredients to get the flavors I need.
The cake was DELICIOUS.
3. Gently fold in the blood orange syrup. Cover and refrigerate to let the cream mixture harden, about 1 hour.
Two kuri squashes would yield too much soup so I decided to use the second one for a tart. I have never made a tart from scratch and decided to adapt the recipe for tart dough from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It was a workout rolling the dough. It took me hours to finally create a piece of dough that fitted my tart pan. I had to roll out 4 smaller rectangles of dough and pieced them together. The next few days, my forearms remained sore, like I had played tennis for the first time in months. I could barely hold my toothbrush. I decided to be adventurous and added mascarpone cheese to my tart recipe. All my hard work was paid off handsomely.
The soup was light, delicious, and comforting. Perfect for a cold, chilly afternoon. I slurped up the bowl of soup while wrapped up in a thick blanket.
Then I moved onto the tart.
It reminded me of pumpkin pie but tasted more nutty with a mousse like consistency, probably the doing of the mascarpone cheese. What a satisfying meal! This was my first time cooking with red kuri squash and I cannot wait to try it in future recipes.
6 tbsp butter, cubed and room temperature
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour