Embarrassingly Easy Meatball Lasagna

One of my favorite things about the Sopranos was how they didn’t mess around when it came to food. Feisty Carmella always served up hearty pasta dishes for the family, even when she and Tony were on limited speaking terms. But I digress.

Tonight I was looking for something similarly no nonsense. So I pulled meatballs out of the fridge, and found marinara sauce and lasagna noodles in the cupboard. Bada boom! Basic ingredients for an easy Italian dinner.

The only curve ball was that I had 6 lasagna noodles. Hardly enough for a typical layered lasagna. So here’s what I did:

-Butter the pan; add three lasagna noodles.
-Pour a layer of marinara sauce, followed by pre-cooked meatballs and spinach leaves. Cover with sauce and a layer of shredded cheese.
-Ideally, here’s where you repeat another layer or two.
-Top with final layer of noodles, sauce and shredded cheese.
-Bake covered at 375 for 45 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Finish by baking uncovered until cheese is adequately melted.

David ate a Tony-size portion, so I’d say it was a success.

Pin Real Life: Veggie Scramble

There’s Pinterest, and then there’s real life. There are farm fresh eggs and vegetable gardens, and then there are potatoes sprouting limbs and eggs about to expire. So today’s brunch creation was a marriage of fantasy and reality.

Inspired by this lovely pin, I was thrown a curve ball when I pulled some scary looking potatoes out of the cupboard. My plan B was to pull some frozen veggies out of the freezer, and go from there.

-Swirl some olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add one chopped clove of garlic
-Pour 3/4 quarters of a bag of frozen veggies, and a handful of frozen breakfast sausages into the pan and cover
-Note: Cut the sausages into slices either before they go in the pan, or after they’ve thawed a bit, like I did (PS – I really like Applegate)
-Once the veggies and sausages are cooked through, crack 4 eggs over the top, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low
-Once egg whites are opaque, remove lid, turn off heat; optionally, sprinkle with shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, or salt and pepper as desired

Part Pinterest, part real life, and totally easy!

Happy 5th Blog Birthday to Me

5 years ago, I was sitting in my SF apartment with David, longing to write about food again. And so, Dinner with David was born. We’ve been through a lot together! Thank you for being a part of it.

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Technology has come a long way in 5 years!

A month before I started the blog, we had just purchased our very first iPhones, so the pictures in the early days were a little scary. I used a regular point-and-shoot for many meals, which required tedious uploading using a cord plugged into my laptop. The combination of iOS photo stream in the cloud, and Flickr’s iPhone app auto upload has changed everything! Not to mention Pinterest – a major source of inspiration and new readers.

I’ve cooked in 5 different kitchens in 5 years!

The size, lighting, appliances and age of my kitchens have evolved dramatically. From a tiny, modern shoe box in SF, where I didn’t even have an oven; to a Formica countered, fluorescent-lit cookie cutter apartment kitchen in Mountain View; to a larger, white-tiled 90s kitchen with wrap around counter in Santa Clara; to a lovely remodeled 80s townhouse with fancy appliances and lighting in Redwood City; to our turn-of-the-century, re-orchestrated down to every surface and fixture, midtown Sacramento kitchen that I anticipated for a whole year.

My favorite part of the whole thing – beyond having an outlet for creative self expression – is the feedback and suggestions I get from my readers. So keep ’em coming!

I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years holds in store…

Easy Like Sunday Morning Crock Pot Pork & Mashed Potatoes

2014 is the year of the crock pot, in my book. But finding recipes that use my favorite staples, like pork tenderloin, without delving into canned this or processed that, can be difficult. So this morning, I borrowed from some basic crock pot concepts and added my own healthy spin, to attempt pork tenderloin and carrot stew with mashed potatoes. Fortunately, it worked!

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You will need:
– 1 onion
– Pork tenderloin
– Baby carrots (1 package)
– Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
– Salt & pepper
– Optional: green onions, butter for mashed potatoes; flour for gravy

Slice a whole onion and spread evenly to create a layer on the bottom of the crock pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add two pork loins (from one package) on top of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pour one small package of baby carrots on top of the pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

For the final layer, add as many freshly peeled potatoes as you can fit on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Cook on low for 6 hours, and then keep on warm while you prepare the potatoes (or as long as needed).

For the mashed potatoes, remove the cooked potatoes one by one with a spoon from the crock pot (they will be soft). Then mash in an oven-safe casserole dish with desired ingredients. I used 1 cube of melted butter, 1 cup of almond milk, 1-2 chopped green onions, and salt & pepper to taste. Keep warm in the oven at 200 degrees until ready to serve.

For gravy, I ladled some of the juice from the crock pot into a small saucepan and whisked in about 1/8 cup of flour slowly. My gravy turned out pretty lumpy, so this part will require further refinement.

I may also add more liquid next go around, so there’s even more juicy goodness. But all in all, this was a hearty and health home style meal without a parade of dishes!

Pin Record Time: Grilled Cheese in a Waffle Maker

I’m sure you’ve seen food tricks on Pinterest that use basic kitchen appliances and tools to make otherwise mediocre meals look amazing. Well, 18 minutes after I saw this pin, David and I were gobbling up cheddar and mushroom grilled cheese (panini, if you’re feeling fancy).

A speedy brunch was the perfect solution to Saturday morning breakfast procrastination (triggered by last night’s pizza massacre perhaps?).

Just chop mushrooms into small pieces, and layer on top of cheddar cheese slices in between sourdough or your bread of choice, and press as needed while it cooks in the waffle maker. (I didn’t use butter, but if you’re inclined, go wild.) Done and done.

Valentine’s Day Pizza Massacre

In theory, homemade pizza with heart-shaped pepperoni sounds like a sweet gesture on this saccharine-soaked holiday. As with matters of the heart, timing is everything, and pizza dough is no exception.

I first cemented the steps last year with much less sophisticated cutlery and no proper pan or pizza stone. But this year, I still found myself staring into the oven wondering why the crust wasn’t fully cooking all the way through after doubling the time listed on the directions.

It still tasted good, once you got past the fact that it required utensils. (Still beats crowded restaurants and overpriced holiday menus!)

If anyone has the answer to avoiding a soupy mess, please let me know. Potential culprits: too much sauce? Mushrooms?

Maybe I’ll get it right in 2015.

Pin Real Life

This week I tried out a couple of new techniques inspired by discoveries on Pinterest. For better or worse, here’s what happened….

Breakfast Bread Bowl

Here’s the original recipe, but my attempt (cooked in a full baguette with almond milk in place of cream) took 45+ minutes to cook the eggs thoroughly, and I adjusted the heat from 350 to 400 degrees midway through.

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One Dish Potato & Sausage Bake

Inspired by pins that showed a casserole dish with a colorful collage of meat and veggies baked to glistening perfection in the oven, I decided to give it a whirl with potatoes, chicken apple sausage and green onions. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Delicious and easy for weeknights!

Going, Going, Gone Goat Cheese Bean Dip

There is a highly addictive bean dip that for years permeated many a holiday party and Super Bowl. Then it took a leave of absence as two primary ingredients posed a bit of a problem: cream cheese and sour cream.

For the big game yesterday, I gave it a goat milk makeover and it was a huge hit. To hear previously restricted party-goers give themselves permission to dig in and enthusiastically go back for seconds, made me so happy. There’s no reason we can’t all enjoy traditionally cream-based party dips!

So without further ado, here’s how to make “Going, Going, Gone Goat Cheese Bean Dip” for your next party:

Blend the following in a bowl or food processor:

1 can Frito Lays Bean Dip (available in the chip aisle)
8 oz goat milk yogurt (replaces sour cream in the original)
8 oz goat cheese (replaces cream cheese in the original)
Half a packet or 3 tbsp taco seasoning
Half a bunch of green onions, chopped

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Cover with Mexican blend shredded cheese (I used a cheddar blend, which is naturally lactose free but shredded goat cheese could work too). Sliced olives can also top the cheese, if you prefer.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees about 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with chips and watch as it makes a disappearing act.

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