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Where's Marilyn?

Story and photos by Angie Sutton

www.mothersapronstrings.com

I don’t want to jinx us by saying, “Spring is in the air,” but my 7-year-old did remind me that technically spring is here. It has been without a doubt a throw-open-the-shutters and welcome the sunshine couple of weeks. The grass has greened up, and Jeff Smith, Windom, Kanas, notes his pear trees are showing growth already.

The first few warmer weeks of spring energize our batteries and a few miles on the porch swing on a crisp evening after the sun goes down soothes our souls. Cleaning is synonymous with spring. A co-worker told me last Friday he and his wife used to have a cleaning lady named Marilyn. One day she quit coming and their home has been a mess since then. It took me awhile to realize Marilyn was a fictitious character (okay, so I’m slow at getting jokes).

Warmer weather also gives us a chance to get outside and be active. Lori Haresnape in Smith County, Kansas, is probably thinking “Gosh, I’ve been outside all winter chasing cattle.” There’s something about being outside in the sunshine and warmer temperatures that invigorates the mind and body. In our home, it means trying a few new recipes! We’ve been enjoying fish, and this is the best time of year in Kansas for access to fresh seafood during the Lent season. This week we tried several new-to-us recipes we’re sharing with you.


Beef Rouladen

Hubby Jeff ate this wonderful dish during a fellowship to Germany a few years ago. He recreated the recipe for us, and it was divine.

4 (6 oz.) very thin beef steaks or flank steak
1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
2 large dill pickles, cut in half lengthwise
1 onion, sliced very thinly into rings
4 slices bacon
1/2 c. red wine
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water

Lay the steaks on a flat surface and brush with mustard. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay a slice of bacon on each steak. Layer the onions evenly on each steak and top with a pickle slice. Fold two sides of the steak in towards the center, about 1 inch, forming a roughly rectangle shape. Roll into a tight tube and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining steaks. Brown the rouladen in 1/8-inch of canola oil in a sauce pot just big enough to hold all four in a single layer. Brown evenly on all sides. Use additional oil if needed. After browning, remove and discard remaining oil. Add wine, beef broth and bay leaf to pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and braise with a tight-fitting lid for one and a half hours or until tender. When done, a thin knife blade should meet no resistance when poked into the meat. Remove the rouladen from the broth. Stir together cornstarch and water then whisk into broth until it thickens. Serve with Swiss Cheese Spaetzle.


Swiss Cheese Spaetzle

There are a few ways to form your spatzle if you don’t like the dumpling version. You can also press the dough through a colander or use a machine specifically for making spatzle. We really liked the nutmeg in this recipe!

Tap water
1 medium onion, chopped
3 slices bacon, sliced
2 eggs
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. Swiss cheese, grated
Fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon. Cook until the onion is slightly golden. For the pasta, mix together eggs, flour, milk and nutmeg. The dough will be quite runny. Put the pasta dough onto a wooden board, now scrape with a knife to form little dumplings about the size of a nickle and let each dumpling fall into the boiling water. Once the dumplings float on the water, take them out as they are done. Add the Spätzle dumplings and the cheese to the frying pan and fry for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle some parsley on top.


Chicken and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

This dish was a nice alternative to our favorite red sauce lasagna. The kids actually liked it (maybe they missed the spinach?). I added a few ounces of fresh, sliced mushrooms to half of the dish.

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
24 oz. frozen chopped spinach
3 c. cooked chicken breast, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 c. ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 c. prepared pesto sauce, plus 2 Tbsp.
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Partially cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and evenly spread 2 tablespoons of pesto on the bottom. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cool onions and garlic until transparent. Toss in spinach and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add chicken and continuing stirring another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, egg, pesto and Parmesan cheese. Add spinach and chicken mixture to bowl and stir until well combined. Place 4 lasagna noodles on bottom of casserole (slightly overlapping) and top with 1/3 of the mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat layers twice. Bake 40 minutes or until bubbly.


Asparagus and Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breasts

We’ve also tried this with cheddar cheese as well as mixing a bit of Parmesan cheese with the Italian seasoned bread crumbs. For the kids we leave the asparagus out and serve them raw carrot sticks.

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and black pepper, to taste
8 asparagus spears, trimmed, divided
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese,divided
1/4 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an 8- by 8-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place each chicken breast into a resealable plastic storage bag on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Place 4 spears of asparagus down the center of each chicken breast, and spread 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese over the asparagus on each breast. Roll the chicken around the asparagus and cheese to make a compact roll. Place the rolls seam sides down in the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle each with about 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Bake about 25 minutes or until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees.

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