The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for January 2009

NFL Divisional Menu: Lasagna

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I’m a little bit off these days. Was in Miami for several days. Got back on Saturday and you’d think that would be a great trip in January but for some reason it ended up being totally grueling. Today the Giants play the Eagles and this being a matchup of NFC East rivals – NY vs Philly – it just seems fitting to fire up some old-school Italian food. Even though the Giants completely tanked and gave the game away. I mean, could the offense have played any worse? I had a bad feeling about it and watching the game was like sitting through a root canal and just waiting for it to be over.

I don’t have a regular lasagna recipe so I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out. It’s based on a Paula Deen recipe that seems pretty straightforward. It was a bit overwhelming looking for a lasagna recipe. There are just too many to sift through. Figured it was best to use one that sticks to the basics. (Yes, I love goat cheese. No, I don’t need it in my lasagna.)

Most of the sauce ingredients

Most of the sauce ingredients

Add the following into a pot: a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, 16 oz of tomato sauce, 1 cup of water, 1 small/medium diced onion, half a diced green or red pepper, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, 1 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper and 2 bay leaves.


Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for one hour. Take 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef or turkey and brown it, breaking up the pieces and draining off any fat when finished. Add that to the tomato mixture after it simmers for an hour. Then simmer it all for another 20 minutes.


Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine 8 oz. of cottage cheese with 1 beaten egg and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Take a 9 x 13 x 2 baking pan and spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom.


Layer your noodles.

I did use the oven-ready lasagna noodles. Not sure how I feel about them.

Note: I did use the oven-ready lasagna noodles. Not sure how I feel about them.

Then spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, your other cheeses and pinch off pieces from a 8 oz package of cream cheese and spread those around. Cover with some sauce.


Repeat three times. Place in oven for 20 minutes.


Cover with a cup of shredded mozzarella. This time I actually used some sliced mozzarella I already had in the ‘fridge and think the shredded would have come out better.


Bake for another 15 minutes-ish. Check it and take it out when the cheese looks nice and bubbly.


Let it sit for a few minutes, then slice up the piece you want and talk like a Soprano. This came out really well and I’d say this recipe will take a permanent place in my recipe file.

Can anyone else believe the NFC Championship is the Eagles vs Cardinals? That is one weak conference championship if you ask me. The AFC Championship is going to be a major slugfest. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the Ravens this year.


Written by the bee dub

January 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

Posted in Hermit Grub

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NFL Wildcard Menu: Spaghetti

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We have a big development here at Hermit HQ. We are now enjoying the NFL in hi-def. Courtesy of my older, wiser and more successful brother, we now take it all in on a 40-inch LCD 1080p Samsung. I resisted the move to hi-def for a long time and the picture is monumentally better. You can really see…everything.

Of course, this calls for some grub. My wife has had the hankering for spaghetti for a while now and I have no problem with that. It’s not complicated to make, like many things we like in our house it just takes some time.


For our recipe, I chop 2 onions and mince 3 to 5 cloves of garlic. Heat some good olive oil in a large-ish saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring regularly. Continue cooking them until the onions are translucent. Then add 1/2 a pound of ground sirloin and 2 sweet Italian pork sausages with casings removed (usually around 1/2 a pound as well). Stir those into the onions and make sure to break up the pieces. I think that’s critical.


Once the meat has cooked out the pink color, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and mix it though the meat-onion mixture. Cook that for a minute or so. Season with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste. Then add a 28-ounce can of San Marzano plum tomatoes with liquid. I also like to add a 14- or 16-ounce can of stewed tomatoes too. Give that a stir and break up the tomatoes a bit to help them disintegrate. Then bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.


Let it simmer for…well, how long have you got? You can’t cook this too long. If you do, just add some more liquid. We simmered for about 4 1/2 hours.

About half an hour before it’s time to eat, check for seasoning. I’ve learned to underseason until this point as I’ve often made the mistake of oversalting and there’s no going back after that.


Today we’re making linguine instead of spaghetti, but you get the idea. I boil the pasta until it’s just barely al dente and then drain. Here’s something I think makes a key difference, I then return the pasta to the boiling pot (without the liquid, obviously) and then turn up the heat underneath. I then throw in a generous, heaping scoop of sauce into the noodles and then stir constantly. This finishes the cooking and infuses the flavor of the sauce into each noodle.

Then bowl it up, add some more sauce and you’re good to go.

Written by the bee dub

January 5, 2009 at 7:44 am

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Hermit Cinema: Burn After Reading

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I’m a huge fan of the Coen brothers. Of course, ever since No Country For Old Men every cinephile wannabe claims to be the same so that’s not saying much. Everyone has their own favorite Coen brothers movie, so if it’s at all illuminating I’ll list what would make up my Coen brothers Hall of Fame in order of preference:

The Big Lebowski

No Country For Old Men

Miller’s Crossing


Blood Simple

I don’t think they’ve ever made what I consider a bad movie, though I can’t comment on The Ladykillers as I’ve still never seen it. They have incredible range and can make movies that bear no resemblance to anything else they’ve ever done.

The exception to this is what I’ll call their ‘Screwball/Black Comedy’ genre. What these movies have in common is an excellent use of the absurd. Oftentimes these movies have George Clooney in the lead and they really get the most out of him as a doofus. Burn After Reading is the latest of this ilk and is a nice addition to their efforts.

Rolling out the cast is Brad Pitt (who really steals the show), Frances McDormand (always, consistently outstanding), John Malkovich (see comment about Frances McDormand) and Tilda Swinton (always excellent as an ice queen – see Michael Clayton).

Much like The Big Lebowski, if I were to explain the plot you’d see that their really isn’t much of one at all. There’s just a whole lot of misunderstanding and incorrect assumptions. Brad Pitt plays over overenthusiastic and totally dim personal trainer. Frances McDormand is his co-worker/friend facing a midlife crisis. John Malkovich is an ex-CIA analyst married to the pediatrician, Tilda Swinton. George Clooney is a Treasury agent and sex-obsessed ladies’ man.

How do all these peoples’ lives intersect? Just watch it and find out. I wouldn’t call this a great movie by any means, but I laughed out loud several times and sure didn’t regret the time I spent watching it.

Written by the bee dub

January 2, 2009 at 10:00 am

Nothing Says 2009 Like Teriyaki Chicken Wings

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teriyaki-wingsNew Year’s Day used to be one of the best hermit holidays ever conceived. It’s still ranks right up there, don’t get me wrong. But ever since the inception of the BCS things have gone downhill. There’s still football on all day long, which is never a bad thing. But now the BCS bowls are spread around on several different days to maximize the number of games they have in primetime. Pretty freakin’ lame if you ask me.

Investigators have finally discoverd the folks behind the BCS.

The folks behind the BCS, DMV and other annoying acronyms.

You used to get to enjoy it all in one day. Now they drag the whole thing out over an entire week. Never mind the fact that the BCS really just gives them more control over an already flawed system to determine a national champion. I know, I know, I sound like some cranky old timer.

The first big news of 2009 is that my brother gave us the extremely generous gift of a 40-inch, hi-def TV for Christmas. Only we don’t have a hi-def cable receiver yet so we’re still in hi-def purgatory. It’s still pretty sweet getting a nice, big picture but you can really see the difference between standard and high definition. Hopefully we’ll be up and running before the first NFL kickoff of the weekend.

Anyway, I’m going to make a huge batch of Teriyaki Chicken Wings to gnaw on all day. I prefer the drummettes myself, so I got three packages from the store which is about 30 – 33 pieces. I start with one bottle of teriyaki sauce, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of sliced green onions, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Mix it all together in a bowl.


Then I put the drummettes and the sauce into a freezer bag and marinate it overnight. Turn the bag every few hours or whenever you think of it.


I haven’t done wings this way before, but I’m going to try my ‘slow and low’ method on the grill. My plan is to put the wings on the grill using indirect heat, covered at 250 degrees for a little over an hour. I’ll finish them over high heat to get ’em nice and crispy. We’ll see how that turns out.


If it all works out, I plan on stuffing myself full of wings and beer and dozing off on the couch several times today. Wish me luck.

Written by the bee dub

January 1, 2009 at 5:52 pm

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