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January 2011

Who loves you, artichoke baby?

I made an artichoke dip. Not finding a recipe quite like I wanted, I just mixed and matched what I learned about them, baked it, and made crostini for spreading.

I forgot I wanted to add a squinch of lemon juice. I'd recommend that. Here's what I did use, and I think it's pretty good:

12 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream (this is approximate. I just added it until it seemed like the right consistency.)
5 oz shaved aged parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt

sprinkled with seasoned bread crumbs and paprika.

This is very chunky and semi-cheesy, which is how I like it. Many of the recipes I saw, though, used much more cheese and much less artichoke. Obviously, it's one of those things you easily adjust for your own taste. Next time I will definitely add the lemon juice, but I thought it was still pretty good this way. A splash of lemon juice is always a good idea; brightens it up. Another suggestion I'd make is to shake in a few drops of hot sauce.

For the crostini, I just chopped up some Italian bread, brushed it with olive oil, sprinkled sea salt on it, then baked it. That's basically all it is, though it's cool if you rub garlic cloves over it before baking, too.

Here are some lazy phone pix. :-)


And behold the artichoke in nature...


A Cosmo-style cocktail for gin lovers

This is a somewhat large and strong drink. A little sweeter than my usual taste, but not cloying.

3 oz gin (I used Hendrick's. Tanqueray Ten or Miller's would be good. Not so sure about Sapphire, since I don't like that, but it does work with fruity mixes. Probably not Junipero, though that makes a swell martini.)

1 oz orange liqueur (I used, and usually have, Patron Citronge.)

1 oz cranberry juice cocktail (Try one sweetened with sugar, not corn syrup, so it's cleaner on the palate.)

1/4 oz fresh or bottled unsweetened lime juice (I use Nellie & Joe's when I don't have fresh limes.)

I shook this with ice and strained it into a cute little wine glass. Of course, a regular cocktail stem is fine. Or you could pour it into a short glass over ice and add just a splash of soda. Garnish with orange or lime wedge; last night I was too lazy, but that is not a good excuse at all.


Oh—I don't enjoy pointing this out, but you could use vodka. Only you'll want a citrus-infused one, to parallel the floral essence of the gin. And then it's just a plain ol' Cosmopolitan, which you probably already knew how to make, anyway...!

Slow-cooker lasagna, a pictorial + recipe

I make this differently in winter than summer. In summer, I usually make my own sauce, but in winter, it's semi-homemade or from jars. Also, I don't always use meat. I think lasagna is best without it. But when I do use meat, I use a little extra sauce.

Yesterday I decided to try it in the slow cooker. I  cooked it on high for a little less than 3 hours, then broiled the top in the oven. I am not sure the amount of time that would be best if you cook it on low, but if you have a timer, you can set it to turn on and then off 30 minutes before serving.

Here's how I did it yesterday in a 7 quart (about 7.5 liter) slow cooker, to serve 6 with leftovers:


1/2 large onion, medium dice

1 1/2 lbs mild Italian sausage, casing removed

Cooked the onion in a large pan with olive oil (I buy large bottles of extra-virgin at Costco and use it in just about everything,) then added sausage, broken up and stirred til almost done.

2 jars of Wegman's pasta sauce (they had it on sale for 89 cents recently so I bought lots. It has only nice ingredients in it,) stirred in. Plus most of another jar for assembly, which I would not use if I left out the sausage.


Cheese filling:

This part is mostly not negotiable. It is the martini recipe of lasagna filling; simple, classic, always correct.

4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated + another 2/3-1 cup

3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated (usually I use parmiggiano, and romano would be okay.)

2 eggs

2-3 tbs mixed Italian seasoning (adjust depending on the sauce you're using)


Also: 12 pieces lasagna pasta, uncooked. (unless using oven, then cook in boiling water for only about 5 minutes.) In a lasagna pan you need 16.

Put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, add 3 pieces lasagna, broken to fit. Obviously you don't need to break them if you're using a standard lasagna pan (or two cake pans, with one less layer in each.) Layer sauce, then 1/3 cheese mixture over it, rinse, repeat twice. Add the final 3 pieces of lasagna, spoon over some sauce, and then enough mozzarella (and more of the other cheese if you like) to lightly cover the top.


If you bake it in the oven, you bake it at 350º covered for about 50 minutes, then remove the foil to brown it for another 15-20 minutes. Let it cool before serving.

For the slow cooker, I added a little extra sauce around the perimeter to make sure the noodle edges would be cooked. I could tell it was done and ready to be browned by how it looked all melded together, and stuck a knife through the middle to check the noodles. It went through easily at just under 3 hours, but I could tell it was not mushy. Then I put the crock in the oven and browned it on the low broiler setting for about 5 minutes.


If your slow cooker is smaller than 6 quarts, this recipe will be too large. I would suggest comparing this recipe to another casserole one you like to adjust quantities. If you make this recipe using 9x13 cake pans, you can freeze one for later. You can cook it for the first 45 minutes, let it cool for a few minutes, then seal it well to freeze, thaw and reheat later. Or you can freeze it uncooked, as well—it'll take a couple of hours to cook from frozen that way.

Leftovers for lunch? Are the best. Even though this picture really is not.