Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Recipe Update: To help reduce the moisture that comes from the zucchini, slice it thin, then grill it for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Let it cool for 10 minutes, then use it to build your layers.

July 29th is National Lasagna Day!  If you love home-made lasagna but find it to be a lot of work, try this wonderful shortcut.  It is called Ravioli Lasagna.  Not only is it easier, but it tastes better than traditional lasagna.  And my added twist….zucchini!

Ravioli Lasagna Ingredients:

  • 2lbs Ground Sweet Italian Pork SausageRavioli-lasagna-herb-board
  • 3lbs Frozen, Pre-cooked, Cheese Ravioli (Ricotta filled).  About  40 large Raviolis
  • 32 oz Swiss Cheese Slices
  • 2- 16oz containers of NonFat Cottage Cheese
  • 5 T chopped fresh Oregano. (Another reason to use my wonderful butcher block herb cutting board and mezzaluna knife!)
  • 5 Zucchini
  • 2 – 32oz Jars Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup of any Red Table Wine

Sauce:

  • Cook the ground pork sausage in large pot, breaking meat up into small pieces
  • Add marinara sauce.  Rinse out the jar with 1/2 cup Red Table Wine and pour into sauce.
  • Simmer.

Cheese:

  • Fold the chopped oregano into the cottage cheese until uniform.
  • Have sliced swiss cheese handy

Zucchini:

  • Wash and peel zucchini
  • Chop on your favorite chopping block into 1/8 ” round slices
  • Split into two piles

Building your 9 layer Ravioli Lasagna is easy and takes about 15 minutes

Choose a very large baking pan, preferably 15″L x 11″ W x 3.5″ deep:

  • Layer 1 – Sauce, just to cover bottom of pan
  • Layer 2 – Ravioli Noodles.  In my pan, it was 5 rows of 4 ravioli or 20 raviolis
  • Layer 3 – Spread all the cottage cheese/oregano onto the ravioli
  • Layer 4 – Place one layer of zucchini to cover entire layer (half of the total zucchini)
  • Layer 5 – Cover with single layer of sliced swiss cheese
  • Layer 6 – Add remaining sauce on this layer
  • Layer 7 – Add another ravioli layer, 20 raviolis
  • Layer 8 – Place a layer of zucchini to cover
  • Layer 9 – Cover with a single layer of sliced swiss cheese

National-Lasagna-Day-Layers

Cover with non-stick aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.  Uncover.  Then broil for 2 minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving to allow it to cool and set.  Serves 12 to 16.

Enjoy your easy Ravioli Lasagna!

Printer Friendly Recipe: Ravioli Lasagna

Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Perhaps this summer you’re considering a kitchen remodel and upgrading your kitchen countertops or island top.  There are a number of different countertop materials to choose from, each with its own unique benefit. Butcher block countertops are timeless, having been around for generations and remaining extremely popular today.  Many people migrate to the natural wood grain of butcher block because it fits any kitchen décor style, be it traditional, contemporary, or eclectic.  Butcher block is often chosen for kitchen island tops because of its durability and versatility, doubling as both a chopping surface and serving table. Choosing  butcher block countertops can be daunting and involves a significant investment.  But here are some considerations to help make the process easy! 

Perfect butcher block countertops fit your kitchen décor, your space, and your budget. 

butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-wood-species

Think about how light/dark and cool/warm you want your kitchen to look.

  • Hard Rock Maple is very light in color and uniform in appearance.  It can help brighten a kitchen and make it feel light, airy and cool.
  • Red Oak is of medium tone, with a golden, red tint.  It falls in the middle of the wood species selection with regard to light/dark or warm/cool.
  • American Cherry has a warm, red tint and can add both color and warmth to a kitchen.
  • Black Walnut is naturally a chocolate brown color, and can help darken a kitchen or visually warm a kitchen with its rich tone.
You can match, or you can complement other wood grain in your kitchen.
  • Matching the color of an existing wood can be difficult since many woods darken with age.  But matching a species and a grain pattern is much easier.  If you have Maple cabinets now, you can consider Maple countertops as a nice match.
  • Often it is more interesting to mix and match woods.   Differences in textures and colors, in moderation, can work nicely together.  It is easy to complement woods, especially when they are separated, like a wood floor and wood countertop. Or kitchen cabinets and counter tops separated by a tile backsplash.  Just be mindful;  make it look well thought-out, not like an add-on.
butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-grain-style

Three grain-style choices for butcher block countertops: Blended Grain, Edge Grain and End Grain.

  • Blended Grain will give a wide variety of color and grain pattern.  Rails of varying lengths are finger-jointed together showing much visual texture.  Blended grain  can look “busy” so it is  awesome when paired with a simple kitchen design, regardless of your decorating style.  It is the most affordable grain style.
  • Edge Grain is the end result when full-length rails are bonded side by side giving the appearance of a solid tabletop.  There is some  color and grain variation, therefore it is well suited for matching with other woods or natural stone surfaces in your kitchen.  Edge grain is moderately priced.
  • End Grain countertops provide lots of color and texture variation within the checkerboard pattern.  It has a very upscale appearance and is pricier, but it is the traditional butcher block look that shouts professional gourmet chef!
Your final considerations are a bit easier and they include your DIMENSIONS and FINISHING TOUCHES.  Choose your butcher block countertops now!
Create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

Create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

As we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day this week, I thought it appropriate to share ways to create an Eco-Friendly Kitchen.  How you design your kitchen and go about your daily kitchen tasks, can make a difference in your home and community.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Designs – Every so often we upgrade or remodel our kitchens.  Next time, consider eco-friendly options which can be stylish and affordable.

  • Recycled Materials – A variety of recycled materials are available to design and decorate with, like recycled glass used in kitchen décor and lighting fixtures.
  • Earth Friendly Products – New appliances approved by EPA Energy star program can use up to 50% less energy or water than older models.
  • Renewable Materials – Hardwood butcher block countertops from sustainably grown and harvested wood add warmth and charm to your kitchen. (Keep your butcher block healthy by following these tips from our previous blog).   Stainless steel countertops are non-porous, naturally antibacterial, and add a contemporary feel to your work space. Cork and bamboo flooring are renewable options with a “wow” appeal.
  • Eco-Inspired Decorating – Incorporate the natural beauty of fruit for added color in your kitchen. (Like lemons in my favorite teak-root bowl featured above).  Bamboo stalks in vases say environmentally friendly.  Small potted plants add style and color to empty spaces and help to purify the air.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Habits – Simple steps, when done consistently over time, can create great habits!

  • Try “green” kitchen cleaners – Look for non-toxic, biodegradable and natural cleaning products.  Or DIY and make a home-mixed cleaner.  Baking soda, vinegar, and lemons are my favorite ingredients and can clean almost anything. Baking soda cleans, deodorizes and scours. White vinegar helps to cut grease, remove odors and some stains. Lemons are acidic with antibacterial effectiveness on surfaces.
  • Use your dishes – It’s just as easy to pull a plate out of the cupboard as it is to grab a paper plate. Cutting down on paper waste will lessen landfill waste.
  • Swap out your sponge – Use a cellulose sponge or eco–cleaning cloth.  Cellulose sponges are biodegradable while many household sponges are made of synthetic materials and are slow to breakdown in landfills.
  • Commit to a reusable sports bottle – Keep one handy and feel good about your decision not to grab a bottled water.
  • Remember your reusable bags – I love that so many people have adopted this habit, but the difficult part is remembering them.  Keep them in your car, handy for  carry-out food, grocery and mall shopping.
  • Buy locally grown food – Locally grown food has not traveled across the country for weeks to get to you.  This means fresher, tastier food and less global–warming pollution.
  • Fix the drippy kitchen faucet – Easy to ignore, dripping water can waste gallons of water a day.
  • Recycle, please – It only takes a few extra seconds.  I am so passionate about recycling. Have a garbage can devoted to recyclables.  I have mine in the laundry room closet, 10 steps from my kitchen.

Make one change now and strive to add another eco-friendly habit once a month.  Keep this in mind when you make daily decisions or when remodeling your kitchen.

Please share with us the steps you have taken to make a more eco-friendly kitchen.

And check out this complete resource for Safe Food Handling.

 

Butcher Block Care – Spring Cleaning Tips

Butcher Block Care – Spring Cleaning Tips

The weather is getting nicer, tulips are peeking up through the ground and I am reminded that it really is springtime – even though we still hear of snow storms across the country!  This means it is time for “spring cleaning”!  I may be an odd duck, but I actually find cleaning to be a bit cathartic.  When I am stressed I end up cleaning my kitchen to feel better. Maybe it is a control-thing.  Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way?

So I thought it an appropriate time to share some butcher block care and cleaning tips for your kitchen.  My close friend, who spends a lot of time cooking and baking, was really surprised to hear that plastic cutting boards are less sanitary than wood cutting boards.  This learning has been blogged about and shared online for many years.  But if you have never heard of it, or need to be reminded of it again, here is the scoop.

For a long time it was believed that wood butcher blocks and cutting boards were more likely to harbor dangerous levels of bacteria; given that wood is porous, it would soak up juices from raw meats, allowing bacteria to seep down into the board. And this bacteria could pose a risk of contaminating the next food item placed on the cutting board. Plastic, because it is non-porous, was believed to be resistant to this bacterial invasion.

While it may not be entirely clear, research has shown that wood boards were actually more sanitary than the plastic boards.  It is believed that bacteria can get lodged in the nicks and gouges that form on a plastic cutting board.  High quality wood butcher blocks – made from Hard Rock Maple and other premium hardwoods – are more resistant to this type of knife damage.  Additionally, the wood used to construct these butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts, and cutting boards appears to have natural germ-killing properties which are not present in plastic!

Enough of the technical stuff, now for a few Quick Tips for Butcher Block Care:

  • Separate your FoodThe Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends using one cutting board for fresh produce and a different cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood to prevent cross-contamination.  We agree!
  • Wash Immediately – After use, always wash your cutting boards or chopping block with hot soapy water and dry with a clean towel.
  • Sanitize – Especially after exposure to raw meat. It is pretty easy to use 1 Tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. If you prefer, use straight white vinegar instead of diluted bleach solution.
  • Dry – Set cutting boards on edge to air dry completely.
  • Oil  – Once a month use a food-grade mineral oil like John Boos Mystery Oil or Beeswax Board Cream

At ButcherBlockCo we like to tout the many benefits of hardwood cutting boards and butcher blocks, and being more sanitary than plastic is one of our favorites.

Have fun cleaning!

 
Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Having grown up in a gourmet kitchen store, I have a fabulous collection of kitchen essentials. Unfortunately, I have a mass of non-essentials, too! I need to focus on my kitchen fitness!! Honestly, who really needs six whisks of the same style?

The new year brought a new home with a smaller kitchen and, let me tell you, this kitchenware collector did not adjust well! For a solid month we lived with pans literally stacked on the floor, utensils pouring out of boxes, and a butcher block table so overloaded with stuff I couldn’t even use it! After stubbing my toe on a cast iron skillet for the 27th time, I’d had enough. I painstakingly went through every piece of cookware, bakeware, gadgetry, and appliance and whittled my way down to a manageably fit kitchen.

A few of the more ridiculous things I ousted:

  • Five whisks (kept four!)
  • Three 8” fry pans. THREE!!
  • Two nasty 12” skillets
  • Two garlic presses
  • A brand new ravioli rolling pin (why??)
  • Two identical carrot ribboning tools (why I even had one is beyond me)

A few things I can’t live without:

  • Counter-space-hogging espresso machine
  • Super quality cookware and knives
  • Silicone spatulas (colorful AND functional!)
  • My KitchenAid mixer
  • Quality cutting boards
  • Cake pans (endless uses!)
  • Cheese graters (yes, plural – don’t judge.)

And a few things I WON’T live without:

  • Vita-Mix blender – Don’t use this enough to justify the hefty price tag, but it’s magic!
  • All 22 of my wonderful German knives (seven are steak knives – it’s not that excessive!) –I use about four of them regularly, but they’re all in one block, so getting rid of some won’t save me any space!
  • My 23-year-old gigantic Scanpan “witch’s cauldron.” I have used it exactly two times, but it’s the bee’s knees and holds 9.5 quarts of stew AND 23 years worth of family memories.
  • Absurd (someone said that!) amounts of cookware. After getting rid of about a dozen pans, I still have a full pot rack (excellent addition to a small kitchen, by the way) and then some.

Clearly I have a hard time letting go of things I might possibly-some-day-in-the-distant-future use (looking at you, pasta machine). Getting rid of some of my unnecessities, however, made me appreciate the value behind the pieces I kept. I can do just as much with a simple set of tongs, spatulas, and bamboo spoons as I could with the multiple boxes of utensils I chucked (donated, don’t worry).

before & after

Moral of this story is that investing in quality multi-tasking pieces not only makes sense financially, but will improve your kitchen fitness. Plus you end up with space to keep the occasional frivolous purchase (*cough* individual instant popsicle makers).

You know that feeling when you clean out your closet and it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe with room for new boots? It’s like that. So next time you throw a spatula in frustration because its fat rubber handle won’t fit into your utensil crock, do yourself a favor and get your kitchen fit!

What are your must-haves for the kitchen?