Cream Cheese Lasagna

Are you the type of home cook that plans your meals ahead of time, or one that cooks on the fly? I lean more on cook on the fly type, but we do make an attempt, at least talk about it, to think ahead of what we want to eat throughout the week. My wife had suggested that she make a pan of lasagna and freeze it to be had later in the week, and well, I had nothing as again, I’m more on the fly as to what my mood is. With that said, while she was out running errands, I decided to make the lasagna for her, you know, because I’m that type of guy. I had everything in stock with the exception of one ingredient, and I was not about to head to the store. This is when the cream cheese came into play.

Cream Cheese Lasagna

We are typically a ricotta cheese mixture type of family when it comes to making the cheese sauce mixture for lasagna, however I have taken spins on different lasagnas such as this Italian Beef Lasagna with Giardiniera, as well as a Lasagna Carbonara, both of which were awesome, so I was anxious to see how the cream cheese would turn out.

I grabbed my helper, who loves lasagna, and showed him how to make this recipe as well. Trust me, I am not looking back to ricotta ever again.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.

Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.

How to make cream cheese lasagna

OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.

Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.

Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.

The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.

Cream Cheese Lasagna
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • ½ lb ground chuck
  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.
  2. Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and ¾ cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.
  3. OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.
  4. Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.
  5. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.
  7. Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.
  8. The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.

 

Beef Cheek Tacos

I have been thinking about making tongue tacos lately. I know, many might think of this being gross, however if you have never ordered ‘lengua’ from your local tacqueria, well you are missing out. The great thing about using other cuts of beef are that they are not only tender, but the beef flavor escalates into something extraordinary, and to me that is pretty awesome. So this past weekend when I was shopping for both Asian and Mexican ingredients, and devouring some great tacos from El Rey in Milwaukee, I decided to browse around and try to find tongue. They had pork tongue, but not beef, but with that said, I saw this great package of beef cheeks. I was all in.

How to make Beef Cheek Tacos

I was not going to let my family know what I was making, and as far as they knew, it was just beef. If I mentioned beef cheeks, I knew that they would probably hesitate, and back out from trying it. So the night before, I decided to brine it, as I would have if making beef tongue. Trust me on this one, find and make beef cheeks.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients for the Brine:

  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 lime, cut in half, squeezed
  • 1 orange, cut in half, squeezed
  • 1 whole guajillo chili, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 whole dried chipotle chili
  • 1 whole puya chili
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 lbs of beef cheeks, fat trimmed

Ingredients for the tacos:

  • 2 cups of water or beef stock
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 whole lime, cut into quarters
  • warmed flour tortillas

Make your brine by adding everything but the beef cheeks to a stock pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring along the way, ensuring you dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, remove from the heat, and let it cool.

Beef Cheek Tacos

Add the beef cheeks to a large sealable bag and pour in the cooled brine. Seal and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The following day, pour out the brine, and add the beef cheeks to a large saute pan or dutch oven. Add about 2 cups of water or beef stock, bring to medium heat, cover, and cook for about 3 hours. Reduce the heat to a medium-low once it comes to a boil.

Beef Cheek Tacos

After 3 hours, remove the beef cheeks onto a plate, and let them cool. Once cooled, slice and then chop the beef cheeks.

When you are about ready to serve, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add in the oil. Add as much beef cheeks as you want, and cook until those beef cheeks get a nice sear on them. You want to get that great crispiness on it.

How to make beef cheek tacos

When you are ready to serve, add the beef cheeks to a warm and toasted tortilla, top with fresh cilantro, minced shallot, a bit of avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. Repeat.

My son, who is now getting into onions, and one that was lingering around when I was making these tacos, tried one (I was surprised as he was not a fan of avocado, but was convinced by my sell) and devoured it.  These beef cheek tacos are probably now my favorite, and I do not kid you when I say that. The texture was spot on, and the beefiness escalated from that of skirt or flank steak, plus a heck of a lot cheaper.  Give these a shot if you are looking from some really great beef tacos. Hope you enjoy!

Beef Cheek Tacos
Author: 
Recipe type: Tacos
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for the Brine:
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 lime, cut in half, squeezed
  • 1 orange, cut in half, squeezed
  • 1 whole guajillo chili, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 whole dried chipotle chili
  • 1 whole puya chili
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1½ tbsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 lbs of beef cheeks, fat trimmed
  • Ingredients for the tacos:
  • cups of water or beef stock
  • Brined Beef Cheeks
  • tbsp canola oil
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • shallot, minced
  • /2 avocado, diced
  • whole lime, cut into quarters
  • warmed flour tortillas
Instructions
  1. Make your brine by adding everything but the beef cheeks to a stock pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring along the ways, ensuring you dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, remove from the heat, and let it cool.
  2. Add the beef cheeks to a large sealable bag and pour in the cooled brine. Seal and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. The following day, pour out the brine, and add the beef cheeks to a large saute pan or dutch oven. Add about 2 cups of water or beef stock, bring to medium heat, cover, and cook for about 3 hours. Reduce the heat to a medium-low once it comes to a boil.
  4. After 3 hours, remove the beef cheeks onto a plate, and let them cool. Once cooled, slice and then chop the cheeks.
  5. When you are about ready to serve, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add in the oil. Add as much beef cheeks as you want, and cook until those beef cheeks get a nice sear on them. You want to get that great crispiness on it.
  6. When you are ready to serve, add the beef cheeks to a warm and toasted tortilla, top with fresh cilantro, minced shallot, a bit of avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. Repeat.

Homemade Spicy Ranch Doritos

This past weekend was a busy one around the house. Running errands, and as I cooked up a bunch of meals, my wife and kids got busy cleaning the house. This seems to be the typical weekend schedule for us, but this one seemed a bit busier. Thankfully my kids did not put up too much of a fuss when they were instructed by my wife to pick up everything under their beds, dust, and vacuum. I hid away in the kitchen, and came up with several different recipes, and one of them was my take on homemade spicy Doritos.

I often joke that when you open our pantry, I often feel like we are aisle 9 at the supermarket. You open it and you get your potato chips, and a variety, pretzels, Doritos, etc. It’s a joke, but my kids pack their lunches every day and they must have some chips. With that said, I noticed that I had a big bag of corn tortillas that I needed to use up, and heck, believe it or not but we were out of Doritos. This is when it came to me…. Make some homemade spicy ranch Doritos!

Homemade Spicy Ranch Doritos

If you have corn tortillas laying around, and you or your kids love Doritos, this is a must make.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 10 whole corn tortillas, cut into segments
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 package of Spicy ranch seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • Pam cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 360 degrees.

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

To a large, gallon sized sealable bag, add the cut corn tortillas, and drizzle in the oil. Seal, and gently toss the corn tortillas around so they get some of that oil onto them.

How to make spicy ranch Doritos

I use my latex cooking gloves on the next step to prevent getting a bit oily, but remove all of the tortillas, and line them onto the baking sheets.

Place the sheets into the preheated oven, and cook for about 15 minutes, making sure you pay attention to them as all ovens are different. They can go from soft to burnt in a matter of seconds.

When they get nice and golden, and crisp, remove them from the oven and spray them with the Pam cooking spray to get a light coating on them. This also helps with the seasoning to adhere to them.

Pour the cooked and sprayed tortillas into a brown paper bag. Pour the spicy ranch seasoning and the garlic salt into the bag, seal, and give them a good shake in the bag to get all of the seasoning mixed through.

Pour onto a serving dish, and dig in.

My wife, who normally does not eat Doritos loved these, as did my kids. Simple, easy, and a great way to add Doritos to the cupboard when you are out! Hope you enjoy!

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Beans

There are many times throughout the week that I want something hearty, but without meat. I want a main course, or heck even a side dish that would go well with things like roasted chicken, and this is one of those dishes. You have to love a dish that is really simple to put together, yet one that is complex in flavor, and texture. I knew that my wife, and one of my kids (maybe two), would really love this pasta dish. What ended up happening is that I really, really was the one who loved this pasta with pest, potatoes, and green beans.

Pasta Salad with Pesto, Potatoes, and Beans

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of fresh basil, packed
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 3 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 pound gemini pasta, cooked al dente
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Start by adding the cubed potatoes to a pot of cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. During this time, make a simple pesto.

To a food processor, add the basil, and lightly toasted almonds. You can go traditional by adding garlic, and pine nuts, but I wanted to go simple here and the basil and almonds were really, really good. Pulse the basil and almonds, then slowly add in the olive oil, and salt, until you have a nice pesto consistency.

Move the pesto into a small bowl, and set to the side.

Boil your pasta until al dente, drain, and place into a mixing bowl.

A couple of more steps and you are about ready to serve.

To a sauté pan, add about 1 cup of water, and the green beans. Bring to simmer, and cook the beans for about 3-4 minutes. I love the snap of the green bean for this pasta.

Next, add the canola oil to a large skillet, and bring it to a medium-high heat.

How to make pasta with pesto, potatoes, and green beans

Add the cooked potatoes, and cook until they are golden brown. Season with a pinch of salt.

Drain the beans and add them to the pasta.

Add the pesto, then top with the hot, and slightly crisp potatoes. Give everything a good stir, taste, and season with any additional salt.

The great thing about this pasta salad is that you can serve it cold, at room temperature, or warm. Who doesn’t love that?

When my daughter got home for school, she always asks two questions; what’s for dinner and can I have a snack? Then she saw the pasta salad as the centerpiece of the dinner table. She asked if she could try it (I never turn down that interest), and she totally fell in love. My boys on the other hand were not as excited. I mean pasta with green pesto flecks on it, seriously? What they did not know is they totally missed out on an awesome pasta salad that was not only simple, but super packed with awesome flavor and texture.

Give this one a try if you are going meatless during the week, and are looking for a dish that is not only hearty, but perfect to eat as leftovers. Hope you enjoy!