I’ve been on another new-recipe kick lately. Many of the recipes I used to use a lot have dairy, and many of them use a lot of meat. In my quest to avoid dairy and cook cheaper meals, I’ve tried these recipes.
I’d never cooked with lentils before, but I’ve heard people say they’re delicious. I searched for a recipe that sounded good, that everyone in our family could agree on, and that didn’t contain any difficult-to-find ingredients. I tasted the lentils before adding the tomatoes and thought they were amazing. After adding the tomatoes, however, I thought the dish was just so-so. We all ate it, but it was a bit thick for my tastes. Granny would probably love it—you could almost stand a spoon up in it. Also, I couldn’t help feeling like I was eating spaghetti sauce, except with lentils instead of meat. Grade: C.
I watched a national beef cookoff on the Food Network, and this is the recipe that won the grand prize and $50,000. Of course I had to try it. The only ingredient I didn’t have on hand was the chipotle pepper (I used canned instead of dried crushed). I found it easily at a regular grocery store, and it was about $0.50 for the can. Not bad. The beef was easy to assemble and tasty to eat. It was spicy, rich, smoky, tender, and a tiny bit sweet. (Note: Jon Boy thought it was okay but not sensational.) I served it with Spanish rice, which I kind of threw together without a recipe, and which left much to be desired. Next time I’ll actually look up a recipe for that. I also steamed some yellow squash as a side instead of serving over the banana squash boats. Grade: A–.
Lasagna is one of Jon Boy’s very favorite dishes. Unfortunately for him, I don’t like cheese, and it’s way too much work for something I can only barely get myself to eat. Thus, we probably have lasagna about once a year. So when I saw this recipe, it caught my eye. It’s fast to make, and the cheese is added at the end (the mozzarella into the sauce, and the ricotta mixture as a topping). It would be easy, then, to separate out my portion of the sauce before adding the mozzarella. That way, lasagna can become a meal we have every few weeks.
Now, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. In fact, I kind of made it my own. For the tomato meat sauce, I used my mother-in-law’s fantastic sauce recipe instead of “doctoring up” a jar of pasta sauce. For the ricotta mixture, I just used the canned parmesan cheese instead of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. It probably wasn’t as good, but it was also significantly easier and cheaper. I also used dried basil instead of fresh.
The result was pretty good, though. I should have cooked the lasagna noodles even longer than I did. Jon Boy said the ricotta topping was quite good. Without cheese, I found it kind of dull, which surprised me. But I’ll probably make this fairly often from now on. Grade: B.
I’m sure there will be more posts like this one to come because I still need to replace some tried-and-true recipes.