A tasty, home-style, Mothers’ Day “gift experience”

Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne served with fresh, oven-roasted broccoli.

Social activist Anna Jarvis is credited with creating Mother’s Day back in 1908 as a way of honoring the passing of her mother and the sacrifices that all mothers make for their children. History records that Jarvis later denounced the holiday because it became so commercialized. She subsequently spent the later years of her life trying to undo her efforts which led to it being recognized as a national holiday.

Mother’s Day spending

Her efforts failed and the commercialization of Mother’s’ Day grew exponentially year after year. Fast forward to 2018, Mother’s Day spending is expected to total “a near-record $23.1 billion this year,” according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), with Americans spending an average of $180 on mom to celebrate her.

The NRF survey also revealed another interesting fact: 29% or 3 out of 10 moms would love to receive a “gift of experience” such as a gym membership, spa day, paint and sip outing, gourmet cooking class – you get the ideal.

A heartfelt gift of experience

About 70% of us will book a reservation at a restaurant and take mom out to eat.  That is a lovely experience. While I absolutely appreciate the ritual of dining out on Mother’s Day, I have to admit I equally appreciate the effort of having a lovely home cooked meal thoughtfully prepared, beautifully plated and cheerfully served to me.  And sometimes, avoiding the crowds, long wait times and skipping the hustle and bustle at restaurants is just what I need.

What is more loving and nurturing than having someone you love make dinner as way of honoring you? That is a not only a wonderful experience, it is a most memorable one.

A Mother’s Day recipe

A Mother’s Day recipe she will not forget.

If you are thinking about dining home this Mother’s Day and you are searching for a recipe to wow and honor your mom or the woman who has played a significant role in nurturing you, look no further.

My Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne recipe is  hearty, satisfying, scrumptious and beautiful. It uses fresh spinach and a homemade sauce made with fire roasted tomatoes. One word of caution: this recipe takes time to prepare, so carve out some time and take your time. It is not to be rushed. And after you taste that first bite, it will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe and that you have a beautiful Mother’s Day.

Oh, and the gifts of experience the NRF mentioned that moms would love to have for Mother’s Day,  add at least one of them too – in addition to making her dinner. After all,  she deserves it.

Cooks note: I did sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over each layer of mozzarella cheese to boost the flavor. This is completely optional.  

Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

This will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

Ingredients


1 immersion blender (or blender if you must)
2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
1 box no boil lasagne noodles (Barilla featured here)
4 cans simple truth fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium bell pepper
½  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1~ 5 ounce package fresh spinach
16 ounces ricotta cheese
Salt, pepper

Directions

  1. To a large mixing bowl, add 4 cans of fire roasted tomatoes.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet set on medium heat. Add chopped bell pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped onion and stirring another two 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped garlic and stir another 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add sauté vegetables to bowl of tomatoes.  With an immersion blender, blend until semi smooth, about 40 to 50 pulses.( If you don’t have an immersion blender, and you should, place contents into a stand up blender, and pulse until semi smooth.)
  4. Add blended tomatoes and sautéed vegetables to a large sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon Italian season, 3 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend well. Set heat at medium, once sauce is heated, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat once done and set aside.
  5. While sauce is simmering, to that same skillet set on medium heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once heated, add 5 ounce package of fresh spinach. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove spinach from the skillet and scoop into heat resistant dish. Once cooled, you will chop it.
  6. To that same skillet, add Italian sausage (casing removed). Break up the meat with a wooden spoon once in pan. Cook on medium to medium high heat until lightly browned. Drain off excess fat.
  7. To a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives, chopped spinach. Blend well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to taste it to ensure it has enough flavor.

To assemble

  1. Spray the bottom of a large 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Using 4 sheet of pasta, form two rows across the length of the dish. The noodles will overlap in the center. Leave a little space between the rolls as the pasta will cook and expand.
  3. Take half of the ricotta cheese mixture and spread over both rolls of pasta.
  4. Take half of the cooked Italian sausage and spread it evenly over the casserole dish.
  5. Scoop out 2 generous cups of sauce and spread over the meat in the casserole dish.
  6. Cover sauce with 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Repeat, using 4 more pasta sheets to form second layer.
  8. For the final layer, top with 4 more pasta sheets. Add remaining sauce and spread evenly over sheet pasta. Spread 1 cup of cheese over the top.
  9. Tightly cover with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  10. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  11. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Cabbage please, indeed

Roasted cabbage and oven fried chicken wings.

In my moments of repose, I often ponder random questions, such as:

“How much cabbage have I eaten in my lifetime?”

In all seriousness, cabbage was pretty much a staple vegetable in my mom’s repertoire. When feeding a family of six, it was the perfect choice. It was inexpensive, filing, nutritious and a good source of roughage – now we call that fiber.

Stock pot of  cut cabbage ready for traditional Southern preparation.

For the most part, mom would cook a head of cabbage Southern style, cutting it into strips and slow cooking it in a pot with onions and bacon fat. That smoky, tasty pot of cabbage accompanied many Sunday dinners of roasted pork pot roast and mashed potatoes with pan gravy.

Ahhh .  .  .  what memories.

I still enjoy cabbage. Now that I know there are literally hundreds of varieties of the cruciferous vegetable grown all over the world, I’ve made it a point in my culinary journey to experience as many of them as I can.

Cannonball cabbage is widely available year round.

But the beloved cannonball cabbage of my youth, commonly known as green cabbage, remains my favorite.

Today, I have a new favorite way of preparing cabbage. I roast it.

Roasting draws out the natural sweetness in vegetables, and brings out an aromatic smokiness. Cooked at high heat, this process gently seams the leafy layers of the cabbage wedges and makes them tender, but not mushy. And more importantly, roasting maintains more of the nutrients which leach out when vegetables are cooked in liquid.

If you like cabbage as much as I do and you are looking for another recipe and cooking method to add to your cabbage repertoire, you will enjoy this roasted cabbage recipe.

The smokiness of the charred leaves combined with a delicate homemade, Asian inspired vinaigrette and garnish of cilantro and grated carrots will become a great alternative to your Sunday pot of Southern cabbage.

Oven Roasted Cabbage with Asian Inspired Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Print

Smoky charred leaves drizzled with a delicate homemade, Asian inspired vinaigrette.

Ingredients


1 medium head cabbage, cut into 4 to 6 wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling, optional
salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 420°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Rinse cabbage and remove the outer layers.
  3. Cut cabbage into 4 wedges, 6 wedges if the cabbage is very large.
  4. Arrange cabbage wedges on baking sheet. Drizzle  1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on each side of the wedge,
    then season with salt, cracked pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. (Optional, drizzle with balsamic vinegar.)
  5. Turn wedges on side and place baking sheet in oven and roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  6. Flip wedges and continue roasting until tender and deeply browned, another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, plate and drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with chopped cilantro and grated carrots.

 


Asian Inspired Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Print

A delicate homemade, Asian inspired vinaigrette.


Ingredients


2 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon honey
Cracked pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Whisk until thickened.
  3. Drizzle over roasted cabbage.

 

Winning never tasted so good

Veronica Hendrix is a Los Angeles-based food blogger, author and home cook and has been featured on TV for her culinary talent.She was the winner of the BBVA Compass Student Chef Experience Sweepstakes. It offered a one-of-a-kind training with a renowned chef Jamie Bissonnette, assisting with preparations for the BBVA Compass Spanish Masters Dinner on March 1, 2018.

Here’s a behind the scene moment video of their meet up at Grand Central Market in downtown LA.

And ICYMI…here the media release below. Or click here or on the article to view online.

 

Smart mouth, smart cookie

Happy Women’s History Month.

As the great orator T.D. Jakes often wails in the throes of his sermons, “Get ready, get ready, get ready!”

Stories of amazing, everyday women abound the entire month of March. I frankly bask in their awesomeness, drawn from their strength and courage, and get inspired by their indomitable spirits.

National Women’s History Project

The National Women’s History Project has published this year’s National Women’s History theme. It is: “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

It pays homage to women whose lives “demonstrate the power of voice, of persistent action, and of believing that meaningful and lasting change is possible in our democratic society.” (Click here to learn more about how the actions of Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA inspired this year’s theme. Chick here for this year’s Women’s History Month Presidential Proclamation.)

Katherine Spiers, food writer and food anthropologist.

Local writer, local props

As a food writer and native Angeleno, I had to look no further than my own  backyard to find a woman in my industry that, despite the changes and shifts in the print and digital media, nevertheless she persisted.

That woman is Katherine Spiers.

Remember her name.

She was the former Food Editor at LA Weekly, one of the largest alternative weekly newspapers in the United States.  She’s been writing about the vibrant and often transcendent food culture in Los Angeles for over 13 years.

The “cuisine and culture” maven has some noteworthy chops which include her boots on the ground approach to covering the LA food scene at seriouseats.com, followed by time she spent as Managing Editor of  the “Food & Living” digital section at Los Angeles  based KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station.

LA Weekly gave her the opportunity to explore and unearth the obscure and unsung eateries in LA, and cover these stories from a myriad of social, economic and human perspectives.

“A lot of immigrants start restaurants and people were starting to realize that covering the scene food is more than just about the food. We eat the food of immigrants. So when you talk about immigration issues, food is part of that discussion. As Food Editor, I wanted to make sure we were getting the full breath of the City covered,” said Katherine.

She did exactly that during her two year stint at LA Weekly. Late last year, the paper was sold. To the shock and disappointment of many Angelenos, Katherine, along with other beloved editorial staff members were laid off.   This was a huge loss because there are very few writers, particularly women, who focus on covering LA’s diverse and vibrant food scene.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

Smart Mouth Podcast logo. Fun fact: this is an actual photo of Katherine’s mouth.

Smart Mouth, smart moves

Thank heaven for Smart Mouth Podcast. Katherine and her producer partner Michelle Lanz started the smart and engaging endeavor just over a year ago. They have persisted and elevated their coverage of the food culture which not only includes the voices of the usual culinary suspects, but voices of those outside of the food industry like actors, comedians, and other interesting personalities. As stated on their website which is chalk full of fascinating interviews which you must check out:

“We talk to the most interesting people we know, working in all kinds of industries, about their favorite dishes. It’s a way of finding out what makes them tick.”

The chemistry of Katherine and Michelle is warm, conversational and cozy. The interviews are lively, insightful, revealing and so fresh.

Katherine Spiers and producer partner Michelle Lanz.

Food anthropologist

But I am burying the lead here. To borrow a term from the hip-hop vernacular, Katherine “spits” some serious food history knowledge throughout her podcasts. She is a seasoned journalist to be sure. But you can’t help but be struck by how the inner anthropologist comes out as she blends in examples about why the history of food matters and why it’s important to talk about where food comes from.

“People will tell stories of early American food, and President Thomas Jefferson comes up a lot because of his amazing farm. He’s often credited with being the first to introduce certain foods to the states,” said Katherine. But the food historian emphasized that it was his slaves who also brought many plants, vegetables and legumes to the United States from Africa through the Atlantic slave trade; and they tended his farm and prepared his meals often using methods native to their homeland.

“I think it’s really important not give all the credit to white males in history because that just wouldn’t be the truth,” said Katherine. “What happens in the world is much more interesting and involves a lot more people than we think it does. I really try to bring light to the stories that are easily glossed over.”

Katherine recently enjoyed Halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert, at a  local restaurant.

What’s trending on the LA food scene

Vietnamese and Filipino food are certainly trendy cuisines in Los Angeles, as well as cities across the states.  But Katherine says the concept of “pop-ups” or eateries that don’t’ confine themselves to the traditional brick and mortar model, are the most interesting.  She believes changes in the economy and an often unfriendly business environment have lead many culinary entrepreneurs to find creative venues and novel ways to reach people who are looking for good food and unique dining experiences.

“Some of my favorite Vietnamese food was being served at a pop-up that was in a break room of the chef’s uncle’s mechanic garage,” said Katherine with a whimsical tone. “The food was really incredible. I love that Angelenos seem to really be down for adventure. It’s part of the City’s culture.”

What’s up with that?

The popularity of food television shows has yielded a bumper crop of celebrity chefs and food personalities. When Katherine surveys the current landscape of food shows, she notes that there has been a noticeable shift, leaving women noticeably absent.

“When food shows started becoming popular in the early 2000’s, there were a lot female hosts because they were primarily cooking shows. But I think in the last couple of years a lot of the food content has turned into shows that feature hosts who travel around the world and eat various types of foods from that region,” observed Katherine.

“Most of those shows have men as hosts.  I’m guessing it’s because no one wants to see women eating. It’s cool that more people are learning about the world through these shows, but women are missing when it comes to these opportunities.”

Katherine served as a judge for a cocktail competition.

What’s next?

Katherine is focusing on expanding the reach of her podcast, moderating discussions at food events, and who knows – you  may see her pop up as a host of a food travel show.  But in the meantime, you can keep up with Ms. Spiers by listening to Smart Mouth Podcast and following her on her various social media platforms. She’s the one to watch in this ever evolving food space.

Twitter  @katherinespiers
Instagram @smartmouthpodcast
Smart Mouth Podcast
iTunes
Soundcloud
Facebook

A recipe postscript

Yup, Katherine Spiers is a smart cookie.  But this post wouldn’t be complete without sharing one of her favorite smart cookie recipes. It’s a take on the basic Toll House cookie recipe with a Smart Mouth twist. Katherine explains her approach here:

“I’m generous with the vanilla and salt, and I swap out the walnuts for one cup honey roasted peanuts, slightly smashed, and I use an 8 ounce bag of toffee bits (that’s 1 1/3 cups) and 2/3 cups chocolate chips.”

There you have it. Here’s the recipe.

Smart Mouth Toffee Bits Cookies

  • Servings: 4-5 dozen
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A really tasty cookie

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (Kathrine says be generously here so try 2 teaspoons)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Katherine would use more so try 2-3 teaspoons)
2 large eggs
1~8 ounce package (1  1/3 cups) Hershey Heath English Toffee Bits
2/3 cup Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  6. Stir in morsels and chopped peanuts.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.