Lasagna Grilled Cheese

I’m back in Montana after a week in Iowa for work, and the weather teased us with a beautiful weekend…followed by snow Monday evening. I know spring is a bit flaky here, but this really is feeling a bit unreasonable. The ski area is even closed, don’t the weather gods know when to stop?

In any case I will admit it makes great weather for a cozy grilled cheese, and this is one of the coziest I’ve ever made. It was a huge hit in my test group (okay so it was only four people, but that is four more people than usually give me input) and definitely a close second favorite of mine for this year’s recipe bunch.

Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes and I could happily eat it weekly without complaint. (Especially the sweet potato and spinach version in my Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook – so good!) I opted to try a fusion dish this year and combine my favorite flavors of lasagna with the much less time-consuming preparation of grilled cheese.

I used a homemade pizza sauce I had in the freezer, but any jarred pizza or spaghetti sauce would work just fine. If you have omnivores to appease, a meat sauce would work splendidly – chorizo would add a nice kick too. Pick a sauce with good flavor as it’s a prominent part of the sandwich, but no need to slave all day unless you want to. Freshly sliced mozzarella is critical – you want none of that corn starch so often found in pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheeses which not only throws off the flavor, but simply does not melt as well. A spoonful of ricotta (I always use the whole milk version, but you do you) rounds out the lasagna palate we all know and love.

In order to create the most true-to-form experience possible, we use three (thinner) slices of bread and layer each filling twice between the trio. This admittedly makes it a bit messy to cut and eat, but it’s so worth it to have that extra bit of crisp bread in the center. French bread seemed the obvious choice to me, and a narrower loaf helps the sandwich from being too huge horizontally when it has a lot going on vertically as well. Cooking in garlic-infused olive oil gives that garlic bread essence without it being too overpowering, and if you don’t have the infused oil on hand I recommend adding a sprinkle of garlic powder to your regular olive oil while it’s heating.

Finish the whole shebang with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper (because parmesan is always the answer) and you have a new favorite comfort food. Some chopped and sautéed spinach would also be a great addition, especially if you weren’t planning to serve with a side salad or other vegetable. Just add a spoonful atop the ricotta and you are good to go.

A great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce, I’m looking forward to this becoming a new go-to quick dinner in the future. If, like me, you don’t always have ricotta on hand, I’m thinking goat cheese would be a delightful substitute. If you give any version a try, let me know how it turns out!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

3 slices of French bread (1/4″ – 1/2″ thick)
2 pieces freshly sliced mozzarella (1/8″ thick)
2-4 Tbsp spaghetti or pizza sauce
2-4 Tbsp ricotta cheese

olive oil (recommend garlic infused – or adding a sprinkle of garlic powder)

to taste
parmesan, freshly grated
black pepper, freshly grated

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Place all three slices of bread in the pan so they don’t overlap.
  3. Layer two slices with mozzarella, sauce, and cheese. (You want them to be covered but not overflowing, so likely about one tablespoon of each unless your bread is particularly wide.)
  4. Place the lid on the pan and heat for a few minutes, until empty slice is lightly golden on one side.
  5. Flip empty slice, replace the lid, and continue to cook until the other side is golden, fillings are warm, and mozzarella is beginning to melt.
  6. Top one of layered slices with the empty one, then carefully flip the remaining layered slice ricotta-side down on top of the stack.
  7. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper and heat briefly to allow the layers to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; pairs perfectly with a side salad and a glass of wine.

Notes

Words

Advertisements

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese

This sandwich is dedicated to Kathy, who is in many ways my opposite but has the best insights on the Ames food scene and is a huge fan of beets.

One of my favorite local stores is an oil and vinegar shop by the name of Olivelle. It’s a relatively recent discovery for me but has quickly grown into quite the collection of balsamic vinegars, infused oils, and spice blends. I’ve featured some of their products before, mostly as salad dressings, but they are amazing on basically everything from breakfast to dessert.

Olivelle also does really fun cooking demonstrations where you watch four different courses being made and then get to enjoy eating them. It’s both delightful and delicious and makes for a fantastic girls’ night out. At my most recent attendance, there was a roasted beet salad with a blood orange fig dressing that kind of blew my mind. It was the perfect blend of savory and sweet and a truly great winter salad that I look forward to crafting next season (or maybe this one, if winter continues at its current velocity).

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by the flavor combination, this week’s grilled cheese is highly non-traditional and equally delicious: roasted beets and feta, with an optional (but supremely recommended!) blood orange fig drizzle.

Although I really enjoy roasted beets, I’d somehow never purchased them before this adventure. One of the great things about running this blog is the incentive to step outside my box, and this was no exception to a quality outcome. Like sweet potatoes, beets take a while to roast but you could certainly do it ahead of time and reheat them a bit right before making the sandwich. It’s both a great way to use up leftovers from salad or breakfast hash and worth it to make them specifically for this meal, I promise. The beet and feta filling is not gooey like a traditional grilled cheese, but has a totally new flavor profile that really classes up the final result. It reminds me a bit of last year’s Boursin and veggie version in that it doesn’t stick together very well but is completely worth the slightly messier experience.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Naturally sweet, the beets lend a harmony of sweet and savory that is balanced nicely by the Feta cheese (I also think chèvre would work splendidly), and complimented by my favorite sourdough bread. The denser bread contrasts nicely with the softened filling and the drizzle of blood orange balsamic dressing is the perfect addition to really up the wow factor. Delightful as an entrée or cut up for an appetizer, it was a win with four out of four taste testers and a really fun way to add a twist to an otherwise commonplace meal.

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

As an added bonus, the bright color of beets and balsamic drizzle give a professional presentation to the plate – great for parties! (Especially on a snazzy rectangular plate.)

Beet & Feta Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 beet, peeled and diced into 1/4″ pieces (or smaller)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup feta (or chèvre), crumbled
2 slices sourdough bread
olive oil or butter

Blood Orange Vinegar Dressing
1 Tbsp Olivelle Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Olivelle Harvest Fig Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with olive oil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine beet, oil, salt, and pepper and stir until evenly coated.
  3. Spread onto prepared pan and roast 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  4. When the beets are nearly done, heat a small amount of oil or butter in a lidded nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. In (the same) small bowl, gently stir together 1/4 cup roasted beets (you’ll probably have leftovers) with feta cheese.
  6. Place bread side-by-side in the pan and top one slice with beet and feta mixture. Cover with lid and cook until bread is golden and cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together Blood Orange Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar until completely combined.
  8. Top beets with the other slice of bread (cooked side out) and remove sandwich to plate.
  9. Slice in half and (somewhat) optionally drizzle with blood orange fig dressing.
  10. Enjoy immediately!

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese

Welcome to April! Remember when I said Montana springs are a bit wintery? It is literally 12 degrees as I write this (Fahrenheit, in case you’re reading from a sane country). Good thing it’s perfect grilled cheese weather.

Last year I discovered that not only is April 12 my dad’s birthday, but it is National Grilled Cheese Day, and April is National Grilled Cheese Month. This inspired a delightful series of posts and I’m back with four all-new flavors for this year – check back weekly for each new addition.

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Starting off the series is a traditional pairing, apple and gouda, with a twist – apple cider bread. Inspired by my beer bread recipe, I substituted hard cider in the bread with great success last fall. For this sandwich, I nixed the Brie and also the sugar since all I had around was a pretty sweet bottle of Angry Orchard. If you’re using a dry cider, as I recommend, feel free to leave that bit of sugar in there; it adds a touch of caramel flavor to the bread.

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

There are many grilled cheeses on the internet that call for apple, but most of them do not suggest you roast the apples first. I think this is a mistake as apples take much longer to cook than bread or cheese, and it will result in a possibly cold but definitely crunchy apple in the middle. If that’s what you’re going for (like if it’s not twelve degrees at your house) by all means skip the apple roasting step. For a softer, cozier, and more cohesive apple and cheese experience, pop the apples in the oven for a bit while you slice your bread and cheese and get them warm and tender.

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Rich Gouda and sweet apples are a wonderful match as is, but the cider bread adds a brand new twist and a delicious savory dimension. The bread is a critical component of the Grilled Cheese Experience™ and not to be overlooked. However, if you don’t want to plan a day ahead to make a batch of bread, sourdough would be an acceptable substitution.

I always cook my grilled cheese open face and then sandwich them at the end – this allows the fillings to melt more evenly and more quickly but it does take up more space. If you’re cooking for a crowd, layer all the fillings on one slice of bread and cook those with the lid on until mostly warmed and the bread is golden, then top with your second slice and flip to finish them out.

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Get out your frying pans and prepare yourselves for some new adventures in grilled cheese. Be sure to let me know how yours turn out!

Apple Gouda Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

2 slices apple cider bread (I recommend using a dry cider and no Brie)
2-3 thin slices Gouda
1 small Granny Smith apple

olive oil or butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees1. Line a baking sheet with silicon mat or parchment paper.
  2. Peel (optional), core, and thinly slice apple.
  3. Arrange apple slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, and bake until fork tender, 10-20 minutes depending on thickness.
  4. In a medium frying pan (with lid!) over low-medium heat, warm the oil or butter.
  5. Arrange both slices of bread in the pan, and top each with half the Gouda.
  6. Place the lid on the pan and gently cook until cheese is warm (Gouda does not always get as melty in appearance as other cheeses) and bread is golden brown.
  7. Layer warm apple2 on one of the bread slices (if your apple isn’t just out of the oven, you can add it at the same time as the cheese to warm.)
  8. Flip the slice without apples on top of the other (cheese sides together) and cook for 30-60 seconds more.
  9. Serve immediately; goes great with a hard cider!

Notes

You can also use the broiler, but lower the oven rack below center and pay close attention so they don’t get crisp.

You will have leftover apple but it makes a great snack with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or is perfect for tomorrow’s oatmeal.

Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Quinoa

Springtime in Montana can be a bit….wintery. Around my mid-March birthday is usually the time I stop dreaming about skiing and start wanting to get on the trails again. Unfortunately Montana is more of the “maybe let’s snow until May” mindset which is great for extended ski seasons and less ideal for the hikers and runners.

It also makes it challenging to match meals to the season when the season is January in the morning and June by the afternoon. My brain says citrus and the snow says soup, which can be matched successfully but not without a lot of sighing involved.

Most of the year I start my day with a bowl of oatmeal or a veggie scramble, but as summer gets closer I start looking forward to something new to switch it up. I still want something warm since it’s often chilly in the mornings, but my standard peanut butter and banana oatmeal can feel a bit heavy some days. Having recently seen a couple recipes for breakfast quinoa, I decided to give that a try.

Springtime always means lemon to me, and since I’ve been craving poppyseed muffins lately that seemed like the route to go. Fresh and light with citrus but still a bit sweet and cozy with poppyseeds, it turned into an easy breakfast perfect for those days when I am just not feeling the oatmeal vibe. Much like all porridge creations, there is a lot of subjectivity to what makes a perfect bowl, so use my recipe as a guideline to get you started and then play with it to your heart’s content. I keep mine pretty low sugar and I will not be upset if you want to add more sugar or more lemon juice to bring it up to your par.

I added sliced almonds for a little crunch and a protein boost, and a drizzle of my favorite Meyer Lemon Vinegar on top. An ardent Olivelle fan, I use their products whenever possible, but I understand you may not have access. (Although they do have sellers all over, and they also ship. I’m just saying. They should really give me a commission.) It is not a necessary addition but it does add a boost of flavor and a touch of sweetness that I found complimented everything nicely.

If you, too, need to mix up your mornings a bit, give this a try. With around 15 grams of protein per serving it should satiate you nicely, while feeling fresh and light for spring. Hope you enjoy it!

Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Quinoa
Makes one serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1-3 Tbsp lemon juice (Meyer lemon if you can get it, otherwise regular is great)
enough water to total 1 cup
1-2 Tbsp sugar (or simple syrup)
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)

2 Tbsp sliced almonds
Meyer Lemon Vinegar (optional but fun!)

Directions

  1. In a small pot, briefly whisk together quinoa, lemon juice, water, sugar, poppyseeds, and extract.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in half the almonds, then transfer to bowl. Top with remaining almonds, and, optionally, a drizzle of Meyer Lemon Vinegar.
  4. Serve immediately.

Notes

Pour desired amount of lemon juice into a measuring cup, then add water until the total is one cup.

For reference, I used 1 Tbsp sugar with 2 Tbsp lemon juice because I don’t like my porridges to be very sweet but I prefer a decently strong lemon flavor. If you like a sweeter experience definitely up the sugar and/or reduce the lemon juice.

Chickpea Coconut Curry

I don’t know about you guys, but Montana just got some Serious Winter Weather over the past couple of weeks. I had several runs below zero or in moderate blizzards, and I must say it was a blast. I love to have some properly cold runs to remember when the summer heat gets unbearable. There’s just something about a run where your eyelashes frost over to make you feel like a total badass.

IMG_E5953

Last year during Meatless March, I was forced to discover a new entree at a go-to local Thai restaurant. My previous favorites all centered around meat and rather than try to make them vegetarian, I opted to just choose an inherently vegetarian meal. In this way, I discovered the yellow curry with fried tofu is quite delightful, and have even ordered it of my own volition since.

Chickpea Coconut Curry {{Baking Bytes}}

I saw this tasty looking recipe from Le Creme de la Crumb on Pinterest, and knew it’d be a great addition to my lunch and dinner repertoire. Since I nearly always make vegetarian lunches for myself, I opted to tailor this to fit. I increased the portions a bit and substituted chickpeas for chicken, and ended up with a wonderful vegan dish that is great for the chilly months.

Chickpea Coconut Curry {{Baking Bytes}}

I keep my curries pretty mild, as I’m a bit of a sissy when it comes to spice, but by all means up the ante with additional cayenne or a bit of red curry paste. This dish is warming both in flavor and temperature, and very filling to boot. It also reheats very well which makes it ideal for leftovers or meal prepping. I like to serve mine with a few salt and pepper cashews and a scoop of jasmine rice.

Chickpea Coconut Curry {{Baking Bytes}}

My not-so-secret love affair with sweet potatoes inspired me to use them here, and I think they blend beautifully with the yellow curry and coconut flavors. However, M meal-prepped his own carnivorous version alongside mine, making use of red potatoes and steak, and his dish was excellent as well. It’s a great way to use up whichever vegetables you have laying around even if you don’t have the same ones I used.

Chickpea Coconut Curry {{Baking Bytes}}

Chickpea Coconut Curry

Adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 Tbsp (garlic) olive oil
3 carrots, grated
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, diced2
1 medium onion, diced

4 cups vegetable broth
3-4 Tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

1 or 2 (14.5 oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
1 small zucchini, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup cornstarch
6 Tbsp cold water

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, peppers, potato, and onion, and sauté until onions are softened and translucent.
  3. Stir in 3 Tbsp curry powder, broth, and remaining spices; bring to a boil and then simmer 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.
  4. Add zucchini, chickpeas, and one can of coconut milk, and stir until combined. Taste, and add additional spices or coconut milk if preferred.
  5. If a thicker consistency is desired, whisk together cornstarch and cold water, then stream into pot. Return to a boil, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Simmer gently until ready to serve. Top with a scoop of rice, cashews, and/or freshly ground pepper.

Notes

I like to use one each red and green for extra color.
Also delicious with a regular or red potato, if you prefer.