Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flavors of Fall Dinner Party

Since summer is now officially behind us, it seemed like a good time to start experimenting with the flavors of fall. Once the weather starts to turn cold, it makes me think of comfort foods-- warm gooey pastas, casseroles, and hearty, savory dishes.

On the menu:

  • Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

  • Mary's Hot Clam Dip

  • Apple Butterscotch Bars

  • Lebanese Chicken Pitas

  • Easy Bake Chicken Casserole

Gary and I hosted this guinea pig dinner. I decided to try a recipe from the Hayday Country Market Cookbook that I got last Christmas from my in-laws. I love goat cheese, so this lasagna sounded perfect! The recipe in the book is a bit different, so I've written the recipe the way I did it.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

This is your basic layered lasagna, with a twist. I used:

1 lb. whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked

For the spinach layer:

20 oz. frozen cut spinach, thawed and drained
6 oz. of goat cheese (buy a 10 oz container of goat cheese; you will use the rest at the end)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. nutmeg
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients; set aside.

For the mushroom layer:

About 2 lbs. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (I used baby bellas and white)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine (I used a riesling that I had on hand)
2 TB fresh chopped basil
1 TB fresh thyme
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onions and garlic until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat with the oil. Cook until reduced by half; about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer until the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, thyme, cheeses, and salt and pepper.

Putting together the lasagna:

Grease an 11 x 7 pan. Start with a layer of the mushroom mixture, then pasta, then spinach. Repeat with pasta, mushroom, pasta, spinach, pasta... top with the last 4 oz. of goat cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Uncover and cook under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

The verdict: I liked this a lot... good flavor. However, it came out a little dry. It needs some kind of sauce... maybe some alfredo?

The next two recipes were from Shannon...

Mary’s Hot Clam Dip
From Mary Cooper in the Gooseberry Patch Autumn in the Country 2007 p.49

½ C butter
1 onion – chopped
½ green pepper – chopped
1 tsp garlic – minced
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 – 6 ½ oz cans minced clams
¼ tsp lemon juice
½ C bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan cheese
Assorted crackers

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions, green pepper, garlic, and seasonings (oregano, parsley, and hot sauce) until tender; set aside. Combine clams and clam liquid with lemon juice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes; stir in bread crumbs. Add clam mixture to butter mixture and stir well. Pour into lightly greased 8"x8" baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve with crackers. Serves 6.

The verdict: Very tasty. Great appetizer for a party.

Apple Butterscotch Bars
From Karen Hughes in the Gooseberry Patch Autumn in the Country 2007 p.209

2 C sugar
1 C oil
3 eggs – beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 C apples – cored, peeled, and chopped
1 C chopped nuts
1 C butterscotch chips
Combine sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix in flower, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; mix well. Stir in apples, nuts, and butterscotch chips. Spread in lighted greased 13"x9" baking pang. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes.

The verdict: I am a sucker for any apple dessert-- this one was no exception. Great! Did not have a real strong butterscotch flavor though... I might add more to the recipe.

Here's one from Steph...
Lebanese Chicken Pitas

1 tbsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
1 lb chicken (I used the thin sliced chicken)

Mix above ingredients together. Check taste before rubbing on chicken and adjust to your preference. Rub mixture on chicken and marinate chicken for 1-2 hours.
Cook chicken in skillet with olive oil, until cooked through. Allow to cool slightly, in order to cut. Cut chicken into small strips. Cut 1 onion and 1 green pepper into blunt strips. Sautee but keep crunchy the onion and green pepper. Mix together cooked chicken, onions and peppers. This can be made a day ahead and reheated.

4 tbsp greek yogurt
1 tbsp minced onion
1 heaping tbsp chopped mint
½ minced garlic clove
½ fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine ingredients. Adjust taste to your preference. This can also be made a day ahead.
Serve chicken mixture on lavash bread (or pita-like bread) with lettuce, tomatoes, and sauce.

The verdict: Very nice! The flavors were unusual, but yummy.

Easy Bake Chicken Casserole

1 pkg (6 oz) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1-1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup Breakstone’s or Knudsen Sour Cream
1 bag (16 oz) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed, drained

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare stuffing mix as directed on package; set aside.
Mix chicken, soup, sour cream and vegetables in 13x9-inch baking dish; top with the stuffing.
Bake 30 min or until chicken is cooked through.

The verdict: I'm a vegetarian so didn't partake, but it was gone by the end of the night!

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