Friday, September 13, 2013

Meet Holly!

Hey, my name is Holly. What a fantastic opportunity for me to hone in on my cooking skills and meet others like myself!

Here's a little bit about me. I'm a 44 year old work-from-home, freelance graphic designer. I have a 4 year old son, Caden, who you can find by my side in the kitchen, on the computer, watching movies or playing in the living room (next to the kitchen). Currently, my house is filled with a lot of castles, G.I. Joe setups and Ninjas. We have a ton of fun around here.

I was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan at 18 to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts at the University of Michigan majoring in Graphic Design. After graduation, not having much luck landing a full-time design job, I started working in restaurants. I first worked at a steakhouse, but found chain restaurants not my style. Then, a new Italian restaurant opened up by the name of Palio. And my love of all things food began.

The waitstaff, bartenders, cooks and I would get together on our off days and have cook-offs. I learned proper knife techniques from our sous chef Dave, and what a roux was from fellow waiter Hakim (from Morocco). And I've been cooking ever since!

I left Palio after 2 years to become a full-time designer. I have worked my way up at several companies. My favorite was the Ann Arbor Observer, where I started as a freelancer and worked all the way up to Creative Director. Then, after 16 years, it was time to say goodbye to Ann Arbor. I met my Knight in Shining Armor, J, (ok, it was more like green camouflage). I then picked up and moved on to Raleigh, North Carolina while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. After J graduated from his Special Forces course 13 months later, we headed off to Colorado Springs where we have been living for the last 9 years.

I have a very eclectic cooking style. I love French, Greek, Italian, but can also make a mean Chicken Paprikash (must be from my mother's Hungarian side). I like to take classic dishes, twist them around a bit and make them healthier. I throw kale into a lot of my dishes. And bacon. Did I mention I LOVE bacon? Not very 'healthy' but it really does make everything better.

I've learned how to cook many things in the past 22 years, but one of my first and favorites is lasagna. It has my famous spaghetti sauce in it and lots of cheese (my son's favorite)!

Looking forward to the challenges and cooking more with you!

by Holly

This is really a 2-n-1 recipe as it has my spaghetti sauce in it. I have spent 22 years perfecting my sauce. I was inspired to add zucchini by my friend Craig. This is a pretty time intensive meal, BUT so worth it because you won't have to cook for several days afterwards. ;) It freezes well and is great to take to someone's house. ENJOY! I usually serve this with a hearty Italian bread and salad.

For the Sauce:
1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
1 pound ground pork
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium sweet onion (such as Vidalia), diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 medium zucchini squash, diced
sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
28 ounces tomato puree
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves

For Cheese Filling:
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese

Other Layer Ingredients:
cooking spray
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Asiago/Romano cheese blend
1 box of lasagna noodles
parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat large pot on medium heat. Add olive oil and the meats and cook until browned. Remove the sausages with slotted spoon. 

Add all the vegetables, season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Return sausage to pan. Add all other sauce ingredients. Stir well. Cover and reduce to simmer. Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours stirring often. Keep sauce on warm. You will use half of it for the lasagna and the other half will be for when you serve it.

Mix all ingredients for cheese filling in medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to box directions. Rinse well with cold water to stop cooking.

Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9 x 13" glass casserole dish with cooking spray. Cover bottom of dish with about 1 cup of the sauce. Place 4 noodles on top, cover with 1/4 of the ricotta mixture and 1- 1 1/2 cups sauce. Repeat 4 noodles, ricotta, sauce. Repeat 4 noodles, ricotta, sauce. Last layer will be 4 noodles, last of the ricotta, the mozzarella and then sauce. (yes, you will probably have a few extra noodles, but some always break in the box or while cooking). Place the casserole on a baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45 minutes or until bubbling. Add the cup of Asiago/Romano blend and bake an additional 7-10 minutes until melted. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve with extra sauce on the bottom of a plate along with extra cheese.

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