Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monuments and Solar Homes

We spent last weekend in DC. My first trip to our nation's capital. Despite the torrential rains we had a fabulous time and not only got to visit the memorials and some of the Smithsonian museums around the Mall but we were also lucky enough to be there during the last weekend of the 2009 Solar Decathlon. It was so inspiring to see the solar homes designed and built by students around the world, all of which were beautiful, and to see the amount of people braving the rain and cold to check them out. Although they were all very good I did have a few favorites including Penn State and Minnesota. I thought these two teams achieved some of the most livable solutions. I think after the 10 event contest there should be a year long study of the homes in the climates they were designed for with two residents in each one. I think this would be very telling.

It did clear up on the last day we were there and we enjoyed a walk around the mall and the monuments. I was most looking forward to seeing Lincoln but was surprised by the beauty and serenity of FDR. This is one of my favorite images from the trip. If only we could live up to the words of this man.


Last week was spent moving things back into the house and packing for our trip. I did manage a couple of meals and although they weren't incredibly inspired they were pretty darn tasty.

This lasagna kept us fed for several days and did a good job of it. Mmmm.

modified from The Big Book of Casseroles by Maryana Vollstedt
makes 12 servings

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2 0z can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
3/4 t dried basil (or 1 T chopped fresh basil)
3/4 t dried oregano (or 1 T chopped fresh oregano)
1/4 t sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
black pepper to taste
16 oz cottage cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles, uncooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat cook the beef, onion and garlic, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink and the onion is tender. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, sour cream, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the parsley.

In a 9"x13" baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray or oil, spread 1 cup of the meat sauce. In layers add 4 noodles, then 1/3 of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat layers two more times ending with the sauce. I like to rotate the direction of the noodles in each layer so the spaces between do not end up stacked.) Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses on top.

Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake until bubbly and browned, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


This is such an easy meal to throw together and is really satisfying on a cool night. I haven't yet attempted making my own pierogies but someday I will. I had a friend in high school who is Polish and every year at either Christmas or New Years (I can't remember which) she and her grandmother would spend all day making pierogies from scratch.

Pierogies and Kielbasa

This was the first time I have made Chicken Parmesan and the chicken itself turned out really well. It was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, but the sauce I used for the pasta was totally gross and it tainted the whole dish for me. The tomato relish helped add some flavor to the flavorless sauce, but next time I'll stick with a sauce I know or make my own.

Chicken Parmesan
modified from Cuisine Tonight
makes 4 servings

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thick and cut in half (or 4 thinly sliced chicken breasts)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 t capers, minced
1 1/2 t red wine vinegar
1/2 t tomato paste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Place cheese mixture, flour and egg into separate, shallow dishes. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour egg and cheese mixture, in that order.

Heat 1 T oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute chicken, turning once, until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a baking sheet and top each with 1 T of mozzarella. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese melt and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, basil, capers, vinegar, tomato paste and the remaining 1 T oil in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken over pasta topped with relish.

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Anonymous said...

Oh! Any good restaurant recommendations for DC?

Andrea said...

We ate at the Native American Museum which was good. They have stations featuring food from the different regions of the country. Other than that we didn't really eat out.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how long lasagna lasts - we ate on some for most of last week too. And always tasty. Hurray for your award!