Friday, December 27, 2013

Lasagna Roll-ups

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas, celebrating with friends and family! Matt and I had a quiet Christmas, just the two of us, and it was perfect. We cooked a delicious meal on Christmas Eve - glazed ham, brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze, mashed sweet potatoes, and chocolate pudding pie. On Christmas day, I was given an amazing present from my love - a new camera! I can't wait to learn the ins and outs of it and I really really can't wait to start taking awesome pictures for my blog!

Matt was craving lasagna right before the holidays so I decided to try a spin on traditional lasagna by making lasagna roll-ups! They were really fun to put together and even better to eat!

After cooking the ground beef/onion/garlic mixture and the lasagna noodles, it was time to layer each roll-up! This was the really fun part, being so hands on while cooking. Sometimes I forget the fun you can have with cooking and then a recipe like this comes along - such a great refresher to just slow down and get your hands dirty! The first layer was ricotta cheese, topped with pasta sauce, a sprinkling of parsley, and finished with the ground beef. Are they ready yet? I was so ready to eat at this point!

They were really easy to roll up, without all of the ingredients popping out the side, and twelve roll-ups fit perfectly in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. When I was getting to the last batch of three, I was a little worried they wouldn't fit in very easily, but it was perfect fit!

My favorite part was the ease in removing each roll-up when they had finished cooking. It's always really hard to get a nice piece of lasagna out of the pan without the cheese and sauce melting all over the place, making for an unattractive presentation. This was perfect - each portion stayed intact and looked really pretty from the side. I hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dried Cherry and Orange Peel Bark

Wow, it has been such a whirlwind during the last few weeks! Our two week vacation started with a week in North Carolina, a wedding in Tampa, and a week lounging on the beach and drinking out of coconuts in the Dominican Republic - it was just what we needed. It felt like we had been gone for a month, with all of our flight hopping to new places. After all the traveling, we were happy to come back to New York and get in the holiday spirit!

Hello DR!
We bought our Christmas tree the day after we got back to jump right in! Decorating the tree, listening to Christmas music, and having a Home Alone night (large cheese pizza and Coca Cola are a must!) kicked us right into holiday mode - especially with some snow last Sunday evening!

I got even more into the Christmas spirit during my book club. We decided to have a favorite things gift exchange, where you bring three of your favorite thing (all the same item), draw names, and hand out your gifts to your friends while explaining why they are your favorite thing. My favorite thing was a hand painted mug and a box of English Breakfast tea! We had a great time, complete with wine, prosecco, and of course, a holiday spread of delicious goodies!

I had a busy week so I knew I wanted to make an easy, but delicious sweet treat. And what's easier or better than holiday bark?! There are limitless combinations of chocolate and toppings to make any type of holiday bark you fancy. 

Bark before going in the fridge to harden
I knew I didn't want to go with the classic white chocolate and peppermint, so I looked for a recipe with dark chocolate and pops of flavor. I found a great recipe for dried cherry and orange peel bark that was beyond easy to make.

After I melted a pound of semisweet chocolate, I poured it into a 9 x 13 casserole dish covered in parchment paper (a baking sheet of the same size would also work - I just didn't have one that size). I then added zest from one orange and 1/4 cup of chopped dried cherries evenly on top. I wanted to add a little extra crunch element so I toasted some slivered almonds, chopped them up a little, and sprinkled them on top too.

After firming up the bark in the fridge for at least an hour (I did mine for about 1.5 to 2 hours), you can break it apart into random shapes. The flavor is really great - the chocolate is sweet and a little bitter, the almonds add a nice crunch and nuttiness, and the dried cherries add a chewy element and sweetness. The best ingredient by far was the orange zest. The touch of citrus and acidity really made all of the elements of the bark really come together. I highly recommend bringing this to your next holiday get together - it will definitely be a hit!