Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

lasagna ingredients

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Being half Sicilian, I grew up eating a lot of pasta. A LOT of pasta. Spaghetti, penne with Italian sausage, lasagna, all with red sauce, at least once a week. As an adult, I rebelled against red sauce, until I started making my own (but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

I became a much bigger fan of garlic and olive oil (preferably over penne with broccoli), Alfredo, primavera, vodka sauce–anything except marinara. So when I found a recipe that loosely resembled this one, I jumped on it. Of course, I have to tweak, and change, and do things my way, so after some trial and error, I came up with this creamy lasagna that my family LOVES.

Now, I know the package says no-boil lasagna noodles. I know this. I also know that if I parboil them, they still maintain their integrity, so they’re easier to set in layers, but it also cuts the baking time in half. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to boil them, parboil them, or just lay them in the pan straight out of the box. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.

lasagna step 1

Start by pouring enough Alfredo sauce into the bottom of a 13×9 to just cover it, then lay down your first layer of noodles and cover with another thin layer of sauce.

onions and mushrooms

Saute a small onion and a package of sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, then spread over the noodles and sauce. Lay down another layer of noodles and sauce.

Squeeze as much water as you can out of a 20 oz bag of spinach and combine it with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the noodles and sauce, then top with two cups of shredded mozzarella, pepperjack, or a combination of whatever cheeses that you like. Build the final layer with another layer of noodles and sauce, and the last two cups of shredded cheese.

final before oven

It should look something like this when you’re finished building it, and before it goes in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the noodles are tender.

lasagna slice 2

Serve with a simple green salad and garlic bread for a hearty comfort-food dinner.

What You’ll Need:

One package of lasagna noodles–you’ll use about 12 noodles

Two jars of Alfredo sauce

20 oz package of frozen spinach

small package of mushrooms, sliced

one small onion

salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste

4 cups of shredded mozzarella, or other cheese

Olive oil to saute vegetables

 

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce combination? Let us know in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

February Convention Report: Farpoint, Virginia Beach Comic & Toy Show, and MystiCon

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Since my store Retro Daddio is half music store and half geek store, I vend at A LOT of conventions. Comicons, Sci-Fi conventions, Horror Conventions, Library & Literary Conventions–I love all of them, so I decided to start sharing the ones that I vend at with you, so that you can decide if you want to try them out for yourself!

First up in February was Farpoint. Held at the Delta Hotels by Marriott, Hunt Valley Baltimore, Farpoint is a multi-fandom science fiction convention that also celebrates real science! This was the 26th year of the convention, and guests included Wallace Shawn from The Princess Bride and Young Sheldon (among dozens of other films and shows), Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain!), and dozens of authors, artists, scientists, cosplayers, performers, and experts in multiple fields.

wallace shawn

Activities included writing and costume contests, panels, readings, discussions, celebrity talks, gaming, an escape room, a charity auction, an art show, films, and even a performance of Potter Live in 45–all the Harry Potter books acted out in 45 minutes!

There were plenty of cosplayers willing to have their pictures taken and chat with other fans too! Next year’s dates are February 21-23, so check them out at www.farpointcon.com/

va beach show

Next up was the Virginia Beach Comic and Toy Show, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Virginia Beach. This was the first year of the show, but it’s where Tidewater Comicon got its start!

Vendors were divided between two rooms, with artists in the hallway between them. There was a costume contest, but the focus of this show was the vendors. It was a one-day, old-fashioned comic show, with low admission fees and was well-attended in spite of the driving rain.

Usually, when it’s raining, we don’t see many cosplayers–which makes sense. These people put a lot of time, money, and effort into their costumes and they don’t don’t want them to be ruined by the weather. Despite the rain, we still had some awesome folks that came in costume! Not sure when the next date will be, but check out https://www.facebook.com/tidewatercomicon/ to see the other shows they have coming up, including shows in Chesapeake and Williamsburg this fall!

Our last convention in February was MystiCon. Held at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke, VA, MystiCon was in its ninth year and was excellent, as always.

Guests included Robert Picardo from Star Trek (and a million other things), Author Jody Lynn Nye, and Gaming God Steve Jackson, as well as musicians, filmmakers, artists, authors, scientists, and lots more.

MystiCon had gaming, a dealer room, films, panels, readings, discussions, a charity auction, art room, workshops, trivia contests, a scholarship  and even the Rocky Hogwarts Picture Show! I missed that one, and I’m super sad about it!

A couple of the entrants in the costume contest–that first one was AMAZING up close!

MystiCon is a mid-size hotel convention with a loyal fan base. The con chair is a dynamo, and cosplays multiple characters throughout the weekend, in addition to being pulled in a million different directions. She seriously blows my mind!

The dates for MystiCon 2020 are February 28-March 1, so check them out at https://mysticon-va.com/

All of these shows are family friendly, and there is plenty of programming for all ages and interests. I highly recommend all three of these shows.

Photo Credits: Thank you to Farpoint, Shore Leave, MystiCon, Angie Underwood, Tami Melton, Jim Maurer, Justine Marcoux, and Mark Davis at The Cursing Dog

https://www.facebook.com/Thecursingdog/

If you’re a fan of conventions and fandoms, visit our website at https://stores.shopretrodaddio.com or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/retrodaddio

 

Israeli Couscous Salad

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Since Stephan and I just moved into a new house and I had to pack, move, unpack, and re-shelve all of our pantry items, I decided to use up some things before making a trip to the grocery store. This simple salad is filling and delicious, and is perfect for hot summer weather, but can be enjoyed year round. You can serve it with hot crusty bread, but it’s also a fine stand-alone meal. The leftovers are even better the next day, because the flavors have time to meld.

couscous salad ingredients

Start by cooking a 12 oz package of Israeli/pearled couscous according to the package directions. For those who haven’t used pearled couscous, it’s firmer and more versatile than the fluffy couscous that you may be more familiar with.

plain couscous

As you can see, it looks a bit like tapioca when cooked. Let it cool for about ten minutes–though I like to throw in a little oil so that it doesn’t clump together while it cools.

mixing 2

Stir in four sliced mini cucumbers, three medium tomatoes, chopped, a six ounce can of ripe olives (any size you want), and approximately half of a bottle of Italian salad dressing. You can use any brand you want, or you can make your own. Stir together and chill for several hours.

couscous salad

When you’re ready to eat, crumble a package of feta cheese over the top and dig in. If you do have leftovers for the next day, you might want to add a little more dressing since the couscous will soak it up, but it should be perfectly fine without adding more. It just depends on how much dressing you prefer.

Israeli Couscous Salad:

12 oz package of Israeli/Pearled Couscous, prepared according to package directions and slightly cooled

6 oz can ripe olives, drained

4 mini cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bottle Italian Salad Dressing

1 package feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the cooled couscous with the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and dressing. Chill for several hours and top with feta.

Enjoy with crusty bread, crackers, or use it as a side dish with a cup of soup or sandwich.

 

 

Basque Garlic Salad Dressing

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Several years ago when I lived in Las Vegas, I had to make a few trips north for work, to a small mining town called Elko, Nevada. You have to fly into Salt Lake City and then drive several hours, or take a small plane from SLC. I was working as the buyer for the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association at the time, and one of our locations was the California Trail Interpretive Center. It was a nice little museum, and I had to go up a few times a year with the executive director and the director of retail.

The highlight of these trips was dinner at the Star Hotel. Built in 1910 as a hotel and restaurant, it now serves as a Basque bar and restaurant. The people are nice, the food is good and plentiful, and everything is served family style except the entrees.

Each diner orders their entree, then the food starts coming to the table. First, they bring out cabbage soup, bread, and salad with garlic dressing. Then with the entrees, they bring out beans, spaghetti, french fries, and a vegetable (the three times I ate there, it was green beans, but it may vary). Seriously–tons of food. If you leave the Star hungry, it’s your own fault.

To be honest though, my favorite was always the salad. It was just iceberg lettuce in a creamy garlic dressing. Believe me–I know. It looks like nothing special, but oh boy. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked.

I made this for Stephan last week and he couldn’t believe how good it was.

basque dressing

It’s also incredibly simple to make. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 4 garlic cloves, chopped, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Stick it in the fridge overnight to chill and let the flavors meld.

When you’re ready to serve, cut a head of iceberg lettuce into squares and dump it into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the lettuce and toss it together. It will look like there’s not enough dressing to coat the lettuce, but unless your head of lettuce is particularly large, it will be fine. Once all of the lettuce is coated, you’re finished! Serve with bread and soup or pasta. Could you add vegetables and other salad fixings? Absolutely! But do yourself a favor and try it this way first.

finished salad 2

Basque Garlic Dressing:

1 T olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t garlic powder

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 medium head iceberg lettuce

Whisk the first six ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Cut lettuce into squares and toss with dressing. Boom–dead simple.

 

Foodie Traveler: Oceans & Ale, Williamsburg, VA

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Stephan and I recently moved into a new rental house in order to get a little more space, some storage space, and two parking spaces! The house we had been renting had a very short driveway that only one of us could park in, so I usually parked on the street in front of the house. The only problem was that our neighbors across the street frequently chose to park in my spot instead. Grrrrrrrr.

So, the first weekend in March, we moved into our new place, which is awesome! It is also in a neighborhood right across Olde Towne Road from the Premium Outlets. Since we can see Oceans & Ale from our kitchen window, we decided to head over for dinner to celebrate the move and some work accomplishments.

Oceans and ale beer

We only had to wait a few minutes for a table since it was a Tuesday night, but you should be prepared for a longer wait on the weekends. We started by looking over their beverage menu, and decided on 8 ounce pours of two of the selections from their Rotating Taps menu–Double Vibes Blackberry Sour for me and Clockwork Stout for Stephan. The Double Vibes was from Crooked Run Brewery in Sterling, VA and was incredible! It is a Berliner Weisse with double blackberry, vanilla, and milk sugar. It was thick and sweet, and I REALLY wish I had gone for the larger size! The Clockwork Imperial Stout was from Commonwealth Brewing in Virginia Beach, and Stephan loved it. I smelled it, but didn’t try it because stouts make me want to shave my tongue (I don’t do coffee).

We then moved on to the task of trying to narrow down what we wanted to eat! We stuck to a seafood theme and ordered Seafood Nachos, Seafood Mac, and Seafood Spring Rolls.  Because we were sharing everything, we asked that all of it come out at the same time. We started with the nachos because the other two were insanely hot and we wanted to give them some time to cool down.

The nachos are made up of corn tortilla chips, lump crab, shrimp, lettuce, tomato, green onions, sour cream, hot sauce, and their awesome she-crab soup. We ate Every. Single. Bite. The soup didn’t make the nachos too soft–it added just enough flavor and moisture to each chip. We ordered the full size order, but would probably try the half order next time.

When we could safely try the spring rolls and the seafood mac, we found that they were just as good. The spring rolls were stuffed with shrimp, crab, vegetables, and mozzarella and were lightly fried and served with a tangy sauce. The flavor and texture were perfect–we will definitely get these again.

The mac n cheese was baked and served in a cast iron pan and was made up of macaroni, she-crab soup, lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops, and a three cheese sauce. It was delicious, but a little bit dry. A little more soup or a little more cheese sauce would have fixed it right up, but since we cleaned the pan, it obviously wasn’t too much of a problem!

 

About halfway through the food, we decided to get another round of drinks. We shared the Victory Brewing Sour Monkey and the Classic Mule. The Sour Monkey was awesome, but my taste buds and my heart had been stolen by the Double Vibes already! The mule was made with Absolut Citron, ginger beer, and lime and was a lovely take on a classic. One or two of those on a hot day, sitting on the patio would be lovely!

creme brulee cheesecake

For dessert, we split the Creme Brulee Cheesecake. It was light and creamy, with the classic burnt sugar topping that you’d find on Creme Brulee. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal, though I was surprised that we had room for it!

Since we live so close, we’ve already made plans to go back–next time we want to split the spring rolls again and get bowls of the she-crab soup. And beer. Definitely beer.

Oceans & Ale is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 am to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 2 am. They’re located in the Premium Outlets at 5601-I Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188 and you can check out their menus at https://www.oceansandale.com/

Whether you’re a Williamsburg local or a visitor to our fair city, please check them out–they’re worth the trip!

What Makes Someone A Foodie?

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food·ie

/ˈfo͞odē/