Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homemade Chocolate Bark LolliPops

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Some years back, at a craft show, I bought this wooden tree lollipop holder. It’s the perfect seasonal table centerpiece to showcase my Homemade Chocolate Bark Lollipops.

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Prep Time: 40 minutes (includes making the lollipops and decorating)
Cook Time: 5 minutes (melting the chocolate)
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 24 lollipops, 12 white, and 12 chocolate
Equipment: 4 rimmed baking sheet pans, parchment paper, 1 24-ct package of lolly pop sticks (with the wrapper and ribbons included), 2 large mixing bowls, 2 medium-sized mixing bowls, 8 small ramekins or small dishes for toppings

1 24-ounce package of white almond bark
1 24-ounce package of chocolate almond bark
1/4 cup peppermint candies, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup caramels
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup mini M&M’s
1/4 cup of dark chocolate covered espresso beans
1/4 cup of candied pineapple, roughly chopped
coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons of ground Chipotle spice (more if you like it spicier)

To start, roughly chop both types of chocolate and place them into large bowls with smaller ones next to them. Chopping the chocolate ensures that you’ll have evenly melted chocolate and will prevent the chocolate from burning. Undercook the chocolate slightly because the heat will melt the rest of the chocolate as you stir it.

Follow the instructions on the package for melting the almond chocolate bark in the microwave. This process is usually done by placing the roughly chopped chocolate into a glass mixing bowl, microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir with a spatula. Repeat in 30-second increments, stirring then repeating the process until chocolate is just melted.

The larger bowls are for melting the chocolate that will be used in making the actual pops. The smaller bowls are for 1/4 cup of each flavor of melted chocolate for drizzling over the opposite flavor of chocolate lollipops.

To the white almond bark add ground Chipotle powder for a little heat, stir to combine. I love to see the red specks of ground Chipotle running through the white chocolate.

I’ve lined four baking sheets with parchment paper to make for easy removal later. After both almond chocolate almond barks are melted, use a tablespoon as a way to keep the lollipops all the same size. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper, spreading the chocolate out (not too thin) into a (2 1/2-inches in diameter) round disk. Take the lollypop stick and swirl into the bottom of the circle. The melted chocolate will cover the stick as it’s placed into the chocolate. Quickly before the chocolate hardens, add the coarse sea salt and the toppings you choose to each one. I like to mix and match different toppings.

After the chocolate lollipops have hardened, dip a fork into the opposite flavor of chocolate, on a few or all, shake the fork over the lollipop making the opposite flavor of chocolate into a rustic splattered design.

The lollipop sticks (available at any craft store) will come with clear plastic wrappers and ribbons. I placed my Homemade Chocolate Bark Lollipops into my wooden lollipop tree and used it for a table centerpiece.

Any leftover chocolate I’ll make into shards of chocolate bark with and set out in a candy dish for family and friends.

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Thanksgiving Dinner For Two

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I know it can be overwhelming when your hosting Thanksgiving at your house. How about when the kids are all grown up, living in other parts of town or even in an different state. The plan is to all get together for Christmas, but this year, they would host their Thanksgiving feasts in their own homes. So we decided, since we weren’t going be all together this Thanksgiving, we’d Skype each other and sends pictures of the dishes that we made. I took off a few days from work because I love to cook for Thanksgiving and the challenge for me was cooking this special meal for just Steve and me. What I came up with was wonderful. Before I start, I just want to say that this meal that I put together would be a perfect way to use your leftovers if in fact you have any. First I want to tell you that I presented this recipe in the roasting pan that the turkey is normally cooked in. It worked perfectly with all the components of the dish, with it’s high sides and all. The idea here was to have all my favorite flavors and sides, but make it in one pan instead of all kinds of dishes for just the two of us. Let me start at the beginning. The turkey and the brine.

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For the two of us I thought a 3 pound boneless turkey breast would be perfect. Now for the brine. In a large container I add 2 quarts of room warm water, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1/2 a cup of dark brown sugar. Then I whisk this salt and sugar until it has completely dissolved into the water. Next 2 cups of cold apple juice, the zest of 2 oranges, the zest of 1 lemon, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of tri-color peppercorns. I stir this up and then refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour, to cool the brine down before adding in the turkey. Now I just submerge the turkey into the brine, put the lid on, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Now I did this around 8:00 am in the morning, the day before Thanksgiving.

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On Thanksgiving morning, I start with my home made cranberry sauce, or relish as I call it. I start with 1 package of fresh cranberries in a small pot. To that I add 1/4 cup of water. the zest of 1 orange, 2 tablespoons of the juice from the orange, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of packed dark brown sugar. Give everything a big stir and then bring the cranberries up to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Let all this simmer for around 45 minutes on low stirring occasionally. The cranberries will start to pop and the liquid will thicken. After the cranberries have thickened, like you see in the last picture, take the pot off the heat let rest and become room temperature before placing them in a container in the refrigerator.Next I start to work on my sweet potatoes, and my sausage, mushroom and butternut squash dressing.

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Now the turkey is still in it’s brine spa, and the cranberries are now in the frig. I’m starting on roasting off my butternut squash and sweet potatoes. All I did was to peel the veggies and dice them up. I put them on sheet pans in 1 layer so they caramelize nicely. I set the oven at 450 degrees and these should only take 30-40 minutes until they are fork tender. In a small bowl I put 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. I mixed that up, drizzled all the veggies with olive oil, and sprinkled the seasoning over the veggies. Then I tossed them through with my hands so they were all covered with the seasoning and oil and made sure I spread them out again in 1 layer.

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Now when I first brought all my groceries home. I always prep whatever veggies I can so when I’m ready for them it’s one extra step that I don’t need to worry about. That’s what I have done here with my leeks like you see in these pictures. I just trimmed them up and rinsed them really well to get rid of any sand that my be trapped between the leaves and I packed them in a damp paper towel in a resealable plastic baggie. Next in a large saute pan, while my other veggies are roasting, I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the saute pan that I had on med high heat. I sliced up the leeks and add them to the hot pan. I sprinkled in a little Kosher salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. When the leeks were just softened, I threw in a bag of thawed frozen artichokes. Now this is my Italian spin on the traditional green beans that are usually served as a side. I saute the artichokes with the leeks until they are nice and caramelized. When they are done, about 10 minutes or so, I set them in a bowl until I’m ready for them.

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Next, it’s time to brown the Italian sausage, using the same saute pan that I cooked the leeks in I start to brown of the sausage. I start them on med low until the sausage is cooked through. Then I turn the heat up to get a nice brown color on the sausage. I take the sausage out of the pan using a slotted spoon to drain most of the fat. I do leave 1 tablespoon of the sausage fat in the pan but I also add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. This will give extra flavor to the veggies. Leaving the heat on med high, I add in 1 large diced onion. Once the onion starts to soften, I sprinkle in a little Kosher salt and pepper. Then I add in 4 ribs of celery that I sliced, and 1 pint of sliced cremini mushrooms. I don’t salt this until the mushrooms have released all their liquid, this gives them a chance to brown nicely. Then I season this stage with a little Kosher salt and pepper. I also add in 1 tablespoon of dried thyme, and 1 tablespoon of dried sage to the veggies. I stirring the continuously. Now at this point I add in a splash of low sodium chicken broth to loosed all those bit stuck to the bottom of the pan from the veggies and the sausage that was cooked off in this pan. After the  chicken stock has evaporated, remove the veggies from the pan and put them in the bowl with the sausage. Now it’s time to pull out the butternut squash and sweet potatoes out of the oven and toast off our bread to add to the dressing.

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I have here in the first picture 1 loaf of Ciabatta bread that I just cubed and toasted off in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or so until the bread had the texture of crunchy croutons. To that I add 2 cups of store bought corn bread stuffing crumbs for some sweetness. Then in a large container I added the bread and the butternut squash to the sausage, celery and mushroom veggie mixture. I tossed them all through gently, not to break up my squash.. At this point the dressing is done with the exception of the liquid being added to it. Next for the flavorful broth that’s going to be added to the dressing.

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In a sauce pot on med heat I have 1-1/2 boxes of low sodium chicken broth, 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons of dried sage, 1 tablespoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. I let this heat up until the butter and seasoning have all blended together and the broth is nice and hot. Now I don’t like my dressing to be too soggy, but I do want it to be completely absorbed through the dressing. What I do is to add the broth 1 ladle at a time, giving the dressing enough time to absorb all that it can without turning it into a big mess. Next for the sweet potatoes.

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In a large bowl I have the sweet potatoes that I’m going to mash with 1/2 a stick of room temperature butter, 1/2 a cup of packed dark brown sugar, a 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. With an electric mixer, I just mix all these ingredients together until smooth.With the exception of the topping for the sweet potatoes, all the sides are ready it’s time to take care of the turkey. The turkey has been in it’s brine for around 24 hours and it’s time to take her out. I take the turkey out of the container, drain everything out, and fill it up with fresh water to soak the turkey. I want to get any extra salt rinsed off of the turkey. Then I”m going to take the twine off that the turkey is wrapped in so I can dry it off completely. I’ve made a flavored butter that I’m going to rub under and on top of the skin.

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In a small bowl I have 1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter along with the zest each of 1 orange and lemon, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, and 4 leaves of fresh sage. I chop the herbs up and add them into the butter with a sprinkling of Kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix that all together and then spread this flavored butter all under the skin and over the top of the turkey. With the oven set at 350 degrees, I roast the turkey off. Now after the turkey has been in for an hour, I takes it’s temperature to see how much longer this 3 pound breast needs to roast for. It turns out that it roasted for another 20 minutes, but you want to check it regularly, because every oven may be a little different. You want the internal temperature to be 165. Now because for my dish it’s going back into the oven, I’m going to take it out at around 155 degrees. I’m then going to let it rest for around 15 minutes on the counter before I remove the skin, and dice it up.

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The dripping from the bottom of the roasting pan, I made the gravy. On med high heat, I added 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter to the dripping, due to the fact that the size of the turkey didn’t produce a lot of fat. I then added 3 sage leaves, and 1/2 a cup of flour. Whisking that constantly, until the flour was cooked out, I slowly added in 1 box of low sodium chicken broth. Whisking and scraping up all the bits on the bottom of the pan, the sauce began to thicken. When it get to the thickness I like, which is usually once it comes to a boil. i turn the heat off and it’s ready. I ladled some of the gravy into the diced turkey to keep the turkey moist for the next stage of this dish.

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In the roasting pan, I removed the gravy and placed my leeks and artichoke mixture at the bottom, then layered the turkey that had been tossed with some of that delicious gravy in. Next came the sweet potatoes.

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Here I added the sweet potatoes with a brown sugar and pecan crumb topping. All I did was to add 1 cup of chopped pecans to 1/2 a cup of dark brown sugar, with a pinch of Kosher salt. Mixed all this together and sprinkled it all over the top of the mashed sweet potatoes. Moving on to the dressing, which goes on the top.

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So now what I have here is a complete Thanksgiving dinner but layered into one pan. I baked this in the oven for an hour at 375, covered. Then I removed the foil and baked for another 15 minutes until the top was golden brown and beautiful.2014-11-26 14.57.35

Now the dessert, are my pumpkin tartlet cakes filled with a delicious pumpkin cheesecake frosting.  I’ll tell you about this is my next post. You won’t believe how easy and delicious this one is. Earlier I mentioned that it was just going to be the two of us this holiday. I wanted the table to be elegant but simple. A white table runner, white plates, silver flatware, and just wine and water glasses for each of us. The centerpiece a cornucopia of the season’s harvest to give the table some highth with 3 mini pumpkins for some contrast. Finally a few candles to give the table a touch of light.

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Homemade Lasagna

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Do I dare to say that we all love Homemade Lasagna? I’m going to say YES. This recipe is going to utilize using leftover meat-filled tomato sauce.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I make a pot of meat-filled tomato sauce, Sunday Gravy as my nana used to call it, I always make too much. I’ve either put the sauce in the frig, thinking to myself, I’m going to make something with this sauce tomorrow and just never get around to it.

So often, life can get really busy and time can get away from us. Not anymore! Making two meals from the same meat-filled tomato sauce does take some planning but, having the sauce ready makes pulling together a Homemade Lasagna much easier. I don’t ever have to think about how I’m going to use my leftover meat sauce anymore. I’m just going to make my Homemade Lasagna.

How To Freeze Uncooked Lasagna:
Once you make the lasagna, you can freeze single-serving portions in a freezer-safe storage container or freeze the entire pan. If you decide to freeze your lasagna, cover the entire lasagna, baking dish included (most ceramic dishes are freezer and baking safe), tightly with several layers plastic wrap making sure there are no gaps where air could get in and cause freezer burn. This way it will keep as fresh as possible until your ready to bake.

Note: It’s important that you don’t plan on freezing lasagna made with ingredients, including the meat, that’s been previously frozen. Food that’s frozen more than once also suffers when it comes to flavor and texture

When making lasagna, because there are so many components to the dish it can seem daunting. Just by eliminating, having to make, one of the ingredients makes this dish so much easier. The link for Meat-Filled Tomato Sauce is at the bottom of this post.

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I’m using Grana Padano cheese for this recipe. It’s very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano in flavor and texture but not quite as expensive. The cheeses come from two different regions of Italy which, without getting down into the weeds, basically means there’s a difference in the grass the cows eat. There’s a great piece called Grana Padano v. Parmigiano-Reggiano at helped me understand how and when I could substitute one cheese for the other.

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This style of lasagna sheets is my favorite. I like the flat thin pasta style for my lasagna. They’re much lighter in texture than the traditional lasagna sheets and they’re oven-ready. This is awesome, I’ve eliminated two steps while making this dish.

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Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields: 12 servings
Equipment: 12-inch sautépan, 9 x 13 x 3 baking dish, 6-quart Dutch oven, 6-quart saucepot,2 large mixing bowls, ladle, rubber spatula

2 boxes of Barilla oven-ready lasagna sheets, (safe to not to run out of sheets)
10 cups of meat-filled tomato sauce (for my recipe, meat-filled tomato sauce, click the link below, baked Cavatappi)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, (2 tablespoons for the mushrooms, 4 tablespoons for the *roux, 2 tablespoons to *dot the top of the lasagna, and 2 tablespoons to grease the baking dish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
2-quarts whole milk, heated
1 1/4 cups of Kraft shredded Mozzarella, reserve 1/4 cup for Bechamel sauce
1/2 cup of freshly grated Grana Padano, reserve 1/4 for the top
1-15 ounce container whole milk Ricotta
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoon flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped, reserve 2 tablespoons for the top
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Part 1
. Leftover Meat-Filled Tomato Sauce.
Click the link below, for my Baked Cavatappi recipe.

Part 2. Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms.
In a large sautépan on medium-high heat melt unsalted butter with olive oil. To the pan add the sliced Portobello mushrooms and dried thyme, stir and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until brown. Once the mushrooms have browned and released all their liquid add 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper, stir to combine. Transfer the sautéed mushrooms to a bowl. Set aside. It’s time to move on to the next step.

Part 3. Bechamel Sauce.
To make the Bechamel sauce, start with a large saucepot on medium heat, heat the milk to just under the boiling point. In a Dutch oven (or heavy bottom pot) melt unsalted butter. Add all-purpose flour whisking together until the flour and butter become smooth, blonde in color, and paste-like (this is what’s known as a *roux), 2 minutes. Add freshly grated nutmeg then slowly add the heated milk, continuously whisking. Add 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Switch to a wooden spoon continuing to stir as the sauce thickens, coating the back of a spoon. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Off the heat add the shredded Mozzarella, grated Grana Padano cheese, and 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley, stir to combine and set aside.

Part 4. Ricotta Mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, add whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 beaten large egg, 1 tablespoon of fresh finely chopped Italian parsley, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. Mix together until combined. Set aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 x 3 baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.

Part 5. Assemble The Lasagna.
Start with 2 ladles of meat-filled tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking sheet. Spread the sauce around evenly to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish. Place the lasagna sheets down over the sauce for the next layer. If the sheets don’t fit perfectly, it’s ok if you need to slightly overlap them so they fit the size of the baking dish. Refer to the pictures above. Next, ladle the Bechamel cheese sauce, Using a rubber spatula, evenly spread the cheese sauce over the lasagna sheets. Add the slice sautéed Portobello mushrooms on top, placing them so they’re evenly set throughout the layer. Lay another layer of lasagna sheets, then ladle the ricotta mixture on top. Use a rubber spatula to gently spread the ricotta mixture over the lasagna sheets. To the ricotta layer, evenly add 1/2 a cup of the Mozzarella cheese. Lay on the final layer of lasagna sheets. Ladle the remaining meat-filled tomato sauce spreading it evenly all over the top. Sprinkle remaining shredded Mozzarella and remaining Grana Padano cheese over the top. Dice the remaining butter into tiny pieces and *dot the top the lasagna.

Tip: Spray the dull side of the aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray. This will prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.

Part 6. Baking Lasagna
Bake covered
for 45 to 50 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes. Garnish the top with the remaining chopped parsley.

Let rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing. This way it will have set.

Directions For Baking Lasagna Once It’s Been Frozen:
Preheat the oven to 375- degrees F.
When you’re ready to bake the lasagna start by defrosting it overnight in the refrigerator. If it’s still not completely thawed at that point, take it out of the frig, remove the plastic wrap. Allow the lasagna to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until heated through and bubbly around the edges.

*Roux: A roux is flour and fat (butter) cooked together and used to thicken sauces.
*Dot: To scatter butter in bits over food.


Baked Cavatappi

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