Lasagne Bolognese, Chicken Fingers, & Soft Tacos

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In Italian, lasagna refers to one sheet of pasta and its plural form, lasagne, refers to the dish with several layers. This distinction is rarely observed in English. That’s why often in the United States we’ll see Lasagna spelled in the singular form. Over time, my husband and I have specialized in our cooking. When there is lasagne on the menu the family knows  it’s coming from mama. When we traveled to Italy we would love the lasagne that they served there. It is different to the American lasagne that is made with ricotta cheese. In fact lasagne Bolognese (from the city of Bologna) does not have any ricotta in it at all. I prefer to make lasagne over 2 days. On the first day I make the Bolognese meat ragu. This  meat sauce cooks for about 3 hours with primary ingredients of ground beef and pork, carrot, celery, onion, milk, wine, and a small amount of tomato paste. I let the meat sauce cool and refrigerate until the next day. On the second day I make a béchamel sauce which is a butter, flour, and milk sauce with a small amount of parmesan and a hint of nutmeg.  I use either fresh or dried  lasagne pasta sheets. I then prepare for the lasagne assembly. In a buttered lasagne pan I start with pasta sheets, followed by 1/3 of the meat sauce, and parmesan cheese. This is followed by another layer of pasta sheets, 1/3 of the béchamel, and parmesan cheese. You should end up with six alternating layers: three of meat and three of béchamel, with béchamel as your last layer. This classic Bolognese Lasagne al Forno is mouth-watering.

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On the 27th of January of 2015 we were threatened with a huge blizzard which turned out to be all of 1 inch of snow. Hey, I was not complaining.

That day we had ourselves a party of homemade chicken fingers and sweet potato fries. Sure, homemade chicken fingers take longer to prepare but nothing beats knowing what is in your chicken fingers. I like to brine the chicken for several hours before assembling the strips. I use a simple brine of brown sugar and Kosher salt. There are many ways to bread the chicken. You can use panko or regular breadcrumbs. Lately I  have been making a very flavorful coconut panko breaded version. We have cooked chicken fingers 2 ways, deep-fried or baked. Recently it seems that we mostly bake the strips and the family is very happy with the outcome. As for the sweet potato fries, we have made two kinds, store-bought and from scratch. If making from scratch we cut up the sweet potato, cover it in corn starch, and then deep-fry it. We serve the chicken fingers with all sorts of fun dipping sauces: bbq, sriracha mayonnaise, plain yogurt with chili, garlic, and cilantro, honey mustard and ketchup.

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This brings us to tonight. I had previously made a delicious Cuban slow-cooked pork shoulder which is then shredded. I had frozen the leftovers. Tonight we are repurposing this delicious pork and using it in soft tacos. Our family members like different types of shells which is why we usually have both corn and whole wheat shells on hand. We typically use cheddar cheese but we discovered that smoked gouda adds an interesting flavor profile. For toppings I’ll chop green onion and cilantro, and offer store bought salsas and sour cream. The Cuban pork is so juicy that I generally don’t add salsas to my soft taco.

With every dinner we always have green salads with my homemade salad dressing. If we have a vegetable(s) with the meal I generally include that on the blackboard.

Last night my husband and I did some brainstorming on what meals to have this weekend. Stay tuned!

 

 

Driver’s Permit, Salmon, & Gnocchi

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The day that many parents dread is the day when your teenager gets behind the wheel. My son had gotten his driver’s permit in late December of 2013 and on January 26, 2014 my husband began to officially teach our son to drive. That night we celebrated this milestone with a family staple. I am not much of a fish or sea food eater. In fact one of the few fish dishes that I enjoy is my husband’s Bourbon glazed salmon. Whenever he makes Bourbon glazed salmon, he and my daughter make homemade potato gnocchi together. And what a meal this is!

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My hubby and I are by ourselves beginning today since our daughter is attending the Model UN Conference for the whole weekend. He and I will be enjoying leftovers of Spaghetti Al Limone, spaghetti in a delicious olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese and parsley sauce.  Although I often make homemade meatballs tonight we are accompanying our pasta with Chef Bruce Aidell’s chicken meatballs. We also really like Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs and their small beef party meatballs.

My recipe for homemade Italian sauce and meatballs: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/you-dont-have-to-be-italian-to-make-homemade-italian-sauce-and-meatballs/

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl & Snow

Today I share January 25th from 3 years, 2015, 2016, and this year, 2017.

In 2015 I got my wires crossed and thought that the Super Bowl was on the 25th of January. My children read the board and told me I had the wrong date. Oops, I quickly added the word “practice” after realizing my mistake. Also on the board is the word that no one can ever spell including myself “hors d’oeuvres”. I got to practice spelling “hors d’oeuvres” again the following weekend for the REAL Super Bowl celebration. The reason for palm trees  was that my daughter had been on a school trip to Belize earlier in the month. Even after she returned I kept the palm trees to help get me through the doldrums of winter.

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In January of 2016 we had what I termed the Great Blizzard of 2016. It had started snowing days earlier and the children got a snow day on the Monday. That night we made delicious Indian food.

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And that quickly brings us to this year. There is a snowy theme on the board but we have yet to get a real snow storm (shhh don’t say it out loud). Tonight I am throwing together a pasta with ingredients I have in the house,  italian sausage and ricotta cheese. I’ll make an easy tomato sauce and the addition of the ricotta cheese will turn it pink and hence the word “blush”.

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I bring you three quotes from: Paolo Coelho, Sir Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher.

Pizzas, Guacamole & Chimichurri, and Snow Days

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My husband and I started making pizzas during business school (1988 -1990). We would make a variety of 4 to 8 pizzas at a time and share with our classmates. Our pizzas were famous. My husband makes the dough and I help with the toppings. He has perfected his technique over time. In the beginning we used  a pizza stone  but now we use a 30 lb slab of steel that we got from the local steel guy. The slab is preheated to 550 degrees farenheit. He mixes a technique of baking and broiling. My husband has experimented with many dough recipes and his favorite is Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe dough which requires rising overnight. We also have a “quick pizza dough” by Serious Eats that just needs a couple of hours of rising. Some of the family’s favorite pizzas are: mushroom duxelle, pepperoni, sausage & onion, and red pepper & black olives.

Theres a funny story about my son. When he was about 12 he was invited to the New Jersey shore for the weekend by two families. When it was close to dinner it was announced that they were having pizzas. My son went to one of the dads and asked him if he was making the pizza which caused a roar of laughter by the parents present in the room. Connor explained how in his house his dad made pizza. I think that is when Connor discovered that not all dads make pizza.

The Winter of 2014 was very snowy with tons of snow days – days off from school. This particular week the children had 3 snow days, a definite cause for celebration on their part.

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As a Colombian person I have definitely made a lot of latin american food over the years. Here are two links to my Guacamole and Chimichurri recipes found in my other blog.

Guacamole: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/guacamole-a-family-affair/

Chimichurri: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/mi-chimichurri-es-tu-chimichurri/

Lemon Chicken is another staple in our family. It’s the same as Chicken Piccata. It’s chicken breasts in a delicious sauce of chicken broth, wine, lemon, with shallots or onions, capers, and parsley.

 

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Sausage, Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes – A perfect comfort food after snow blowing and shoveling days of snow.

Clearly, we were not getting too  inspired with the quotes since we kept the same one for days. I promise we’ll start changing those.

Playing with the Blackboard

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My husband was the main author of The Kitchen Blackboard in the early days. In the beginning we were updating mainly the meals.  Eventually, I took over doodling on board.

I am very lucky to have a husband who also enjoys cooking. Most weekends he takes over in the kitchen. He is our resident pasta maker. He and my daughter make pasta together.

Raspberry Balsamic chicken is one of our family’s staples.

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Clearly, our resident pasta maker thought very highly of his pasta on January 17th.

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A little family history: My husband and I lived in Brussels, Belgium for almost 5 years (1997 – 2001). Both our children were born there. On the 18th we paid homage to our second home by making a delicious Belgian stew called Carbonnade.

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My husband is also our resident ice-cream maker.

I pulled the quote from a line in the wonderful movie called “About Time”, about a young man who can time travel.

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The Early Days of the Kitchen Blackboard

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Today I am sharing five days of The Kitchen Blackboard from January 10 – 14 of 2014. I’ll be posting consecutive days initially as I catch up to the actual calendar date. Food in our family creates a buzz of excitement. The anticipation of a delicious meal gives our family motivation and drive. The anticipation of a delicious meal is in enough to cure any ailment or sadness. Dinners are “party time” in our family.

My children were picky eaters when they were young. Finally towards the end of elementary school, after much experimentation, their eating patterns changed and we were then able to cook one meal for the whole family. We like to prepare food from around the world: January 10th was Italian, the 11th Moroccan, and the 12th was Vietnamese.  As much as we love cooking we don’t necessarily make new things every night. January 13th was leftover night. We sometimes cook large amounts of a dish and either serve it again that same week, or freeze it for another day. Depending on the dish, leftover night can generate a lot of excitement or a sigh of acceptance  and resignation. That said, my son who is in college now has a newfound appreciation for even leftovers and for just about anything we cook at home.

On January 14th we had European. What European means in our family is a finger food night with charcuterie, cheeses, roasted peppers & artichokes, olives, baguette bread, dips, flavored olive oil,  and anything else fun we can think of. European nights are generally reserved for a Friday night.

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In these early days, we were tracking movies we were watching on the blackboard. The news of the day was the attempted name change of the tower that houses Big Ben in London. You see Big Ben is the clock itself, and the Brits were proposing calling the tower “Elizabeth Tower”. Well, you probably know how that ended up.

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I’m sharing the link below to my other blog to a specific post talking about the time when my picky children’s palates started changing.

https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/colombian-kheema-matar/

I hope you also enjoy the quotes!

 

The Early Days

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I had always wanted a blackboard in our kitchen to write down the menu of the day. So for Christmas of 2013 I got the family a kitchen blackboard. Our family shares a passion for food and cooking, and meals are a very important part of our daily life. Our journaling began with writing down the date and the main meal of the day. My husband, children, and I all took turns writing the menus on the board. We also thought it would be a fun idea to include a quote that pertained to the circumstances of that moment: the date, the season, the mood, or family events. Over time I experimented with other content. By then, our children were in 9th and 10th grade. For a while I tried to share important current events with them and even the SAT word of the day on the board (boring!) I decided instead to acknowledge small as well as big events in our lives. I doodled celebratory banners during happy times and positive messages of encouragement during less happy times.

Well the months and years have gone by really fast. My son left to college fall of 2016 and my daughter is a senior preparing to leave home next fall. I can still remember both of them arriving from high school, yelling their “hola” from the garage door, barreling into the kitchen with their backpacks on their way to the kitchen table to start studying. As they turned the corner into kitchen they would ask, “What’s for dinner?” To which I would answer, “Read the board and make sure you read the quote!” which they would do and then all sorts of oohs and ahs would transpire. Of course, keeping the board updated on a daily basis is definitely challenging. Sometimes updates a couple of times a week is the best I can do. I do most of the updates these days. On occasions that I have been away another family member has taken the initiative of writing on the board and it’s really fun to get back home and read it. Our family has certainly enjoyed our kitchen blackboard. It has become a journal of our meals and of our times together. It has inspired conversations and ideas. It has allowed us to become more “mindful” of our daily lives.

I want to share our kitchen blackboard with you. As much as we enjoy cooking we sometimes struggle with figuring out what to make. In these initial posts I will include multiple days of the journal from 2013/2014 in order to catch up to the current month and day. You will notice a lot of experimentation with the photography as we figured out the optimal position for shooting the pictures. I hope these menu ideas, quotes, and colorful doodles bring you inspiration.

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See my post about Tuscan Bean soup in my other blog:

https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/cannellini-bean-soup-with-sausage/