Lasagna was one of the first dishes I learned to make. I ate a lot of lasagna when I was in college and working late in restaurants. I found it very helpful to make a big lasagna and then refrigerate or freeze it in portions that I could heat up whenever I was hungry and had no time to cook. Lasagna is a great one dish meal and pairs perfectly with a simple salad.
When I got married and had children I continued to make lasagna on a regular basis. I typically make lasagna on Sundays when I never quite know if my kids will have a friend stay for dinner or my Dad may call and want to have dinner. If you make one big lasagna in the afternoon you will have enough for 6 hungry people. If you have fewer people just save it for another night. Lasagna reheats perfectly.
So let’s not overcomplicate this recipe but I insist that you make the lasagna with béchamel and not ricotta cheese. It makes the dish so creamy and delicious. When I was in Italy years ago I had the best lasagna and the owner of the restaurant told me to always make béchamel for your lasagna so since then I do. Try it and you will see why. You can also add pesto or ground beef to this recipe so consider this Lasagna recipe a base for whatever else you would like to add. If you would like to add ground beef and make it lasagna bolognese all you have to do is brown the ground beef, drain the oil and add the tomato sauce to the beef before layering the lasagna. When adding pesto you should mix it with the béchamel or the tomato sauce. You only need a tablespoon or so. I hope you enjoy. Share your comments!
The night before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to set the table. You will have much too much to do on Thanksgiving to worry about setting the table. Doing it the night before will allow you to make sure it looks great. The most important thing to remember when setting a table is that it is important to have different levels of height, particularly with candlelight. I like to use taper candles or pillar candles and also use lower votives so that the light reflects off of the centerpiece at different angles.
If you are setting a square or round table I like to use one arrangement in the middle and surround the arrangement with candles and other decorative items. Rectangle tables should have two or three arrangements down the middle so it is more linear. The centerpieces can vary in height on a rectangular table if you are using three or more. The goal is for the setting to be interesting and tell a story. Why are we at the dinner? What is the occasion? In my restaurant I believe that people eat with their eyes. It is very important to set the mood for the meal that is about to be served. First pick your color scheme and then decide what you would like to incorporate. Flowers are always nice but also try and use some things that are different like fresh fruit, nuts or herbs. You can also add a little sparkle by using crystal or glass beads. Have fun with it but make sure you remember to save room for the food.
This year I decided to keep my Thanksgiving table very natural. I wanted to bring nature inside. Since we will be hosting a much smaller dinner than in typical years I wanted a more intimate setting. Something that evoked the beauty of close family. Since I live in NYC I wasn’t able to go outside and find branches to use but I was lucky enough to have some sent to me by Wholesale Magnolia in California. I used silver dollar Eucalyptus branches and magnolia branches in my arrangement. Wholesale Magnolia also sells beautiful wreaths and garlands. It is a beautiful way to bring a natural holiday feel into your apartment or house. I surrounded the branches with tiny pumpkins, gourds and pine cones. I chose pillar lighting surrounded by sparkling glass acorns and bronze votives to complete the look of Fall. I placed a small pinecone on each napkin to carry the look across the entire table. You should always place something decorative on each napkin, it can even be a sprig of rosemary.
Cranberry sauce is a staple at the Thanksgiving table. Some people like the jellied cranberry sauce while others prefer a more homemade, chunky sauce full of plenty of whole cranberries. I love the homemade kind of cranberry sauce. I cook the cranberries just long enough so that most burst and turn into sauce but still enough remain whole to give the cranberry sauce some texture.
I add port wine and orange juice to my cranberry sauce so there are a few flavors dancing around the dish. You can add more or less sugar depending on how sweet or tart you like your cranberry sauce. I like it a tad more on the sweet side because I feel that it balances out the flavor of the turkey and stuffing.
Cranberry sauce can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. I take out the cranberry sauce an hour or so before dinner so it is not too cold when served. I like it chilled but not cold.
This cranberry sauce also makes a great gift for friends around the holidays. You can jar it and wrap a ribbon around it before dropping it off at a friend’s house.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene, vitamin K1 and potassium. They also taste great and are beautiful to serve as a side dish. The bright orange color brightens up any dinner plate. I particularly like to serve glazed carrots with chicken or turkey which is why I am sharing this recipe a week before Thanksgiving. The other great thing about this glazed carrot recipe is that you can make it a day or two ahead of time and warm it up in the microwave or in a covered dish in the oven and they will be perfect.
The trick is to roast them in a hot oven so that they become caramelized. I add Tumeric to my recipe because I love the way the yellow Tumeric brightens the dish even more plus Tumeric is so good for you so I try to add it to my cooking whenever I can. So here you have carrots AND Tumeric in the same dish. It’s like a power dish of YUM!
My family loves Caesar Salad. There are many caesar salad dressing recipes out there, some are thick others are thinner. I do not like the dressing to be thick like mayonnaise but I do like it to be creamy. The trick is to whisk the egg, mustard, anchovies and garlic together before slowly adding the oil while continuing to whisk. Caesar dressing should have lots of flavor. Do not be concerned with the anchovies in the recipe, they are there to add salt and a different layer of flavor. I like to use anchovy paste instead of fillets. I think that it blends better in the dressing and is much easier to work with. The anchovies will not make the dressing fishy, they are essential in making a true authentic caesar salad.
It is much better to make your dressing rather than buying one in a bottle. The freshness of the ingredients adds to the overall flavor of the dressing. Caesar dressing has quite a few ingredients but most of them are probably already in your pantry. I always keep garlic cloves, anchovy paste, eggs and parmesan cheese in my fridge. You can always whip up something to eat as long as you have these staples in your refrigerator.
This Caesar dressing recipe will work well with romaine lettuce but I love it with warm brussel sprouts. I serve the Warm Brussel Caesar Salad as a side dish at dinner but you can also serve it as an appetizer. You can make the dressing ahead of time and keep it in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Just store in a glass jar.
Thanksgiving is around the corner and I wanted to come up with an alternative to the traditional roasted turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, tender roasted turkey and I have a great recipe for one but it’s also fun to mix it up a bit.
I wanted to come up with a recipe that would combine several of our Thanksgiving favorites into one dish. I decided to experiment with a kind of Turkey Wellington. The idea was to wrap a boneless turkey breast in cranberry stuffing and then wrap it in puff pastry. A take on a classic Beef Wellington.
Beef Wellington was first created in England many, many years ago. It is a classic dish that my mother would prepare for the holidays. Classic Beef Wellington is made with Filet Mignon, Mushrooms, Prosciutto and Puff Pastry. It is absolutely delicious and I will be sharing my Mom’s recipe at a later date. It is a great dish to serve on Christmas or Christmas Eve.
I wanted to come up with a Thanksgiving all-in-one dish and I loved the idea of wrapping the Turkey Breast in puff pastry. Kind of like wrapping a delicious flaky biscuit around turkey. Instead of mushrooms I put a layer of stuffing which I mixed with dried cranberries. I let the dried cranberries simmer in the chicken broth to soften before mixing in the dried cubed bread. I really don’t want you to be intimidated by this recipe. You can absolutely use a store bought stuffing mix like Pepperidge Farm or you can make your own. I wanted this dish to come together fairly easily and look fantastic on your Thanksgiving table.
So I went to the supermarket across the street from my apartment and they did not have the puff pastry I was looking for so I decided to buy a box of pie pastry. You can absolutely use ready made pie pastry for sweet or savory dishes. I did roll it out a little so the pastry would fit around my Turkey Breast. I also decided to use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix in a bag. I happen to love this stuffing, as did my mom. Of course we would also make homemade stuffing every Thanksgiving but there is something absolutely delicious about this mix in a bag. So we would make both. The other thing I would like to mention is that this beautiful fancy looking dish is very affordable. The total of all my ingredients was just over $30. The recipe can feed 6 people so you are looking at a cost of $5 per person. You can serve the Turkey Wellington with some gravy and sautéed string beans on the side or whatever side you like and you have a beautiful meal to serve your friends and family.
It is important to chill the turkey for a half hour after you wrap it in the stuffing. This will make it easier for you to wrap it in the puff pastry. Please make sure that you buy puff pastry and NOT phyllo dough. The two are similar but are not the same. Phyllo is much flakier than puff pastry and will not work well with this dish. After rolling out the puff pastry I also cut out some leaves out of the puff pastry and rolled a long string so I could make a vine shape on the top of the Turkey Wellington. I think this is a nice touch and makes for a pretty presentation on your holiday table. This is not difficult to do and only requires a knife to cut out the leaf shape. You do not need any special equipment. When you bake the Turkey Wellington the puff pastry may crack a little. This is perfectly fine and helps to show the authenticity of your dish. I think the cracks are beautiful and organic. You made it after all! Cooking is a fluid, natural process and you should not obsess over perfection. Save perfection for baking. Baking is much more precise and leaves less room for error.
I think this recipe is a big crowd pleaser. The turkey stays juicy when baked in the puff pastry and the combination of the different flavors are amazing. This recipe says “home” to me. It is perfect for Thanksgiving or any other Fall or Winter evening.