Tag Archives: pasta

Dishin’ Up Love Recipe Contest Winner!

OK, OK, OK. I know it’s WAYYYYY past Valentine’s Day. And I am weeks overdue in posting our winner of the recipe contest. Several freak illnesses, a few major storms that knocked out utilities, and one Valentine’s Day later, we have a winner!

Valentine's Day Meal

The "Wooing Meal"

There was a husband who loves cheese. There was a dorm room kitchen experience that ended in a proposal, there was a strawberry pizza. Again, you guys never cease to amaze me with your stories and your culinary talent. The winner was chosen for several reasons. I love the idea of the “wooing meal.” I think all us Gal’s have one or two of those up our sleeve. I get all warm and fuzzy thinking of new love. And, it’s hysterical that this recipe came off a bottle of Amaretto. I have a funny picture in my head of a bunch of marketing executives in 1978, sitting around a conference table trying to come up with recipes they can use to sell more Amaretto. (Of course! Amaretto Chicken! It’ll sell CASES!) So, Karen Christiansen, you won our hearts with your “wooing meal.”

This is a recipe I got from the tag hanging from a bottle of Amaretto di Saranno over 30 years ago.   I was in college at the time and it is one of the first meals I made for my boyfriend, who is now my husband.  He still calls it the “wooing meal”.  Every time I make it I think back to those days when our love was new.

Chicken Amaretto | Serves 4
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Curry powder, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Flour, for dredging
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup Amaretto liquor
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch


  1. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, curry powder and garlic powder. Dredge in flour.
  2. Saute in melted butter until brown on all sides. Add mushrooms, Amaretto and lemon juice. Simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Mix chicken broth with cornstarch. Pour over chicken.
  4. Simmer until sauce thickens. Serve over patty shells or cooked white rice.

Note: If you’re cutting down on fat, you can make this using just 2 tbsp. of butter and it’s almost just as good.

It was so hard to choose a favorite (oh my job is so hard!), so I wanted to share with you one more recipe that made it to the top of the list. It was submitted by Kimberly Woods, and we LOVE it!

This is one of my favorite recipes to make for romantic sleepovers.  It is also perfect for a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.  Children enjoy the strawberries and love when a cookie cutter is used to make the french toast into a fun shape (heart, star, etc).

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
¾ cup milk
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbs sugar
8 slices French bread, 1 ½ – 2 inches thick
10 ounces brie cheese, sliced
3 ¼ cups strawberries, sliced
¼ cup butter
powdered sugar
maple syrup


  1. In large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar.
  2. Cut slices of bread horizontally to form a pocket.
  3. Set aside 1 cup of sliced strawberries for garnish. Place remaining strawberry slices and brie in bread pockets.
  4. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, coating them completely. Place bread slices on a plate, cover and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  5. In large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bread slices, cooking on each side about 2 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt.
  6. Remove from pan, dust with powdered sugar and garnish with strawberries. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Either of these recipes is a great excuse to dish up some love in your kitchen!
~ Gal Foodie

And the Winner Is…

Wow you guys can cook!
I received recipe submission’s for last month’s “Comfort Food” recipe contest from all over the world! I really enjoyed the variety of dishes that inspired comfort in all of you, from Diet Coke cake, cheese balls, tuna casseroles (a myriad of combination’s) to chocolate frosting (eaten right out of the bowl!).

What I really enjoyed were the stories that accompanied the recipes. Food is such a memory-jerker. It was clear a lot of you hold very fond memories surrounding the recipes you submitted. Here’s an excerpt from one:

Grandma Gladys Christmas Ball
For about 45 years, my family and I spent Christmas Eve with a neighbor who became our family’s grandmother by proxy. She made this appetizer every year. We never found the exact ingredient amounts written down, she told us the ingredients a few times. Since she passed away in 2001, we have made this same ball and served it every Christmas. Grandma Gladys and Grandpa Harry had no children of their own, we were their only family. My memories began in the early 60’s, the cocktail era. Grandma always had a “toddy” in her hands on Christmas Eve, usually Southern Comfort and Cranberry Juice. The 80’s became my children’s memories, but Grandma and Grandpa were still stuck in the 60’s with their decorating tastes, cocktails and bouffant hair. Imagine sitting at their retro bar, paneling on the walls, red fur pillows on fake leopard print couch and a blazing white rock fireplace. Fabulous.

After reading through all the recipes, trying our favorites, and eating lots of leftovers, Ben and I have chosen the winner. We based our decision on a few key factors. One, we loved the recipe. It was easy, delicious, a pantry cleaner-outer,  and very comforting, especially with the current weather we are having in Maine. Second, we also agreed with the author – it can fix a bad day. Especially with extra cheese.

So congratulations, Lisa Speer! You are our Gal Foodie Favorite pick for February’s Comfort Food Recipe Contest! Hold the cheese!

The Winning Recipe…

Had a Bad Day Meaty Noodles by Lisa Speer
1/2 Pound Ground Beef (80/20 fat ratio)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
1/4 Teaspoon Oregano
2 1/4 Teaspoons Fine Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Back Pepper
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablesoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Can Whole Plum Tomatoes, Preferably San Marzano
1/4 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 Cup Light Cream
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
4 Large Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
Hot Prepared Egg Noodles
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

After really bad day, heat butter and olive oil in in large saute pan over medium heat until butter is melted.  Raise heat to medium high. Add meat, salt, pepper and oregano. Brown meat, add onion, garlic and celery and cook until onion is almost translucent. Add wine, tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add cream and Parmesan and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve over egg noodles topped with plenty of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley. If carb-a-phobic, omit noodles. AAaaaaahhhh!!!!

The Story
“This recipe is pure comfort food to me. I vary the ingredients with whatever types of canned tomatoes and pasta that I have around, usually whatever has been on sale in the previous weeks. When I’m feeling on the heavy side I omit the pasta and pretend the cream and cheese are my friends. It is guaranteed to make me feel better when I need comfort food, every time. If this recipe doesn’t win the Silver Palate Cookbook that I’ve wanted for twenty years (I don’t have the original either), I will have some. With pasta. And extra cheese.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and watch for the March Recipe Contest: Recipes for Celebrations

Lasagna Pink Door… Deconstructed

I thought it would be fun to celebrate my boyfriend Ben’s birthday with a special dinner inspired by a few of my favorite Seattle restaurants. I lived in Seattle for many years, and that is where I would safely say my passion for food blossomed. There are so many fabulous restaurants in Seattle, that when Ben and I visited there in September with only 24 hours to see all the sights, I only got to introduce him to a sampling of some of my favorites. I narrowed down the birthday dinner menu to the Panzanella Salad from Hale’s Ales Brewery and Pub in Fremont, and the Lasagna Pink Door, from none other than the famous Pink Door restaurant on Post Alley at Pike’s Market. Dessert was inspired by a cheesecake I had once savored at Ray’s Cafe, with a few twists of my own.

This dinner was a bit of an undertaking, as there is no recipe for the Lasagna Pink Door. In fact chef and owner Jacquelina Di Roberto La Padrona is so secretive about how her signature dish is made she says when asked, “Even Bill Gates has asked for it and I won’t give it to him!” I have had the dish enough times that I felt I could probably deconstruct it – or at least get the gist of it. I even dragged my friend and Chef Marcia Newlands of The Savory Gourmet to lunch one day in an attempt to put her taste buds to work to help me figure out how it was made. The Lasagna Pink Door is no ordinary lasagna. It features fresh, paper thin layers of spinach pasta with bechamel and pesto and topped with a marinara sauce.

making fresh spinach pasta

making fresh spinach pasta

I had never made fresh pasta before, but I had seen it done on Food TV, and it didn’t seem all that hard. The only gadget I was missing was a pasta rolling machine of some sort. What did the Italians do before Cuisinart? A rolling pin would have to do.

Making the dough was great. I was worried that adding runny eggs to a pile of flour on my counter top was going to result in an hour of disinfecting my kitchen, but I was pleasantly surprised when the flour formed a bowl for me to whisk the eggs in. I mixed the dough and added the cooked spinach that I had chopped fine after it had cooled. So far so good. I incorporated the spinach, flour and eggs together with my hands and formed a ball. Proceed to knead.

Rolling the pasta dough

Rolling the pasta dough

Adding lots of flour to the counter, I whipped out my rolling pin and set to work. It stuck. I mean REALLY stuck to the counter. Do over. I pulled it all up, added more flour and rolled. Not exactly the shape I was going for (these are lasagna noodles I’m shooting for here) but it was working. Rolling the dough too thin made it difficult to lift off the counter, so I rolled it about 1/8″ thick and cut the strips right on the counter. The spinach added moisture that caused the pasta to tear, and I was concerned it wasn’t thin enough. The beauty of the Pink Door version is that the layers (about 7 of them) are paper thin.

I then set out to make the pesto and ricotta infused bechamel sauce. I have been making bechamel since I was a kid. It’s the key ingredient in my mom’s mac and cheese recipe. I always

Pesto Ricotta Bechamel Sauce

Pesto Ricotta Bechamel Sauce

enjoy variations on a theme, so adding pesto was not difficult to conceive. But how much should I add? Always start with a little and add more. In the end, it was about 3 cups of bechamel sauce with about 1/4 cup of pesto and 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese added. Green, but not too green. And cheesy, but not too cheesy. Rich.

Let the layering begin! I started with a layer of bechamel, then a noodle, then fresh baby spinach, then bechamel, and topped that with another noodle. I made 3 layers, topping the whole thing off with a spicy marinara sauce and a little mozzarella cheese, although I don’t think the Pink Door does that. Now into the oven, covered at 375 for 35 minutes.

I was not entirely convinced that this dinner was going to hold up, taste good, or be worthy of img_2734my boyfriend’s birthday celebration. So I hedged my bets and made ANOTHER lasagna using the remaining bechamel sauce and spinach basil lasagna noodles from Rossi Pasta. Not only is this some of the best pasta I’ve ever had, these noodles do not need to be boiled before use! Just layer them in, add the water to your lasagna, and cover tightly. A just in case dish delish, and if nothing else, lunch for tomorrow.

Panzanella Salad

Next came the Panzanella salad from Hale’s Brewery. I LOVE this salad. It consists of field greens, grilled Columbia Bread, Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, kalamata olives, tossed in their house balsamic vinaigrette. It’s so simple, and so delicious. So where was the challenge? Well first of all, I live on an island off the coast of Maine, so finding fresh ingredients is ALWAYS a challenge. Fresh Buffalo mozzarella is a key

Panzanella Salad

ingredient, so 4 stores and 25 miles later, I had some. Hale’s ace in the hole… It’s their vinaigrette. If anyone knows the recipe to their house balsamic vinaigrette, oh-do-tell.

Desert was Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake. I remembered having something very similar at Ray’s Cafe at Shilshole and went searching for a recipe online. I stumbled upon the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe and gave it a shot. It wasn’t too difficult with my KitchenAid Artisan mixer at my side. The mistakes? Well, I didn’t know I needed to cook the cheesecake in a ban Marie (a water bath) and so the cake was very dense and cracked horribly. I made the ganache topping and used it to fill in the cracks. The other mistake? I substituted Sanka instant coffee for the instant espresso the recipe called for. It had the flavor, but I think next time I’ll just brew up some really strong espresso and use that instead. All in all, with a little raspberry sauce, the cake was a hit.

Lasagna Pink Door Deconstructed

Lasagna Pink Door Deconstructed

So how did dinner turn out? Salad was great. Lasagna was so-so. the noodles tasted amazing, however, as suspected, they were a little too thick. And a little more bechamel and marinara would have been nice, sans mozzarella. I asked my friend John Rossi, founder of Rossi Pasta for some tips. “Bread flour. And get yourself a pasta roller.” Practice makes perfect so this will not be my only stab at this dish, or making pasta from scratch. As my best friend Josie quipped after the first bite, “You’re on to somethin’ here.”

Ben felice compleanno!

— Gal Foodie

Lasagna Pink Door Deconstructed

Spinach Pasta Dough
1 1/2 Cups bread flour
2 large eggs
1/2lb fresh spinach or 1/2 (10oz) pkg of frozen spinach thawed and well drained.

Cook the spinach and drain it thoroughly. Squeeze out any excess liquid (VERY important.)
Chop it very fine. Pour the floour ont your work surface and shape it into a mound with a deep hollow in the center. Break eggs into the hollow, add spinach and whisk together.
Slowly incoporate the flour into the egg/spinach mixture until a nice dough is formed. Knead by hand or by machine (I used my hands but maybe my mixer next time) until smooth as baby skin. Cut pasta into desired shape.

Pesto & Ricotta Bechamel Sauce
3 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp flour
3 cups heavy cream, milk or 1/2 & 1/2 depending on your diary preference
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 pesto
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper

Over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until completely incorporated. Add nutmeg and cream, stirring over high heat until thickened. Add ricotta and pesto. If sauce becomes too thick, thin with milk.

Layer the lasgana as follows – I used 2-12 ounce casserole dishes to mimic the Pink Door presentation. I had just enough dough to make 3 layers in each. Start with bechamel, then add a noodle, then a layer of fresh baby spinach, and top that with more bechamel and another noodle. Completely cover the entire top layer with marinara and bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. It should be bubbling.