Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Feast Day: Presentation or Candlemas

Yesterday, February 2nd, was a feast day in commemoration of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus to the temple, all in accord with Hebrew law of the time. It's also called Candlemas as it traditionally ended the Christmas season for the Catholic Church and the faithful brought their candles to be blessed ... as Jesus is the true Light of the World!
Our celebration of this feast turned into a wonderfully fun dinner party. The French teacher at dh's high school offered to make and serve the traditional crepes; I made ham/spinach lasagne and homemade bread. Talk about a feast.

The ham/spinach lasagna was a big hit! The recipe is so easy because you don't have to make the noodles first; you put them in the pan dry and they come out perfectly cooked! The recipe as we made it is included below.

Just before dinner, our very own french chef made the crepe batter (as it has to sit chilling for one hour). Kotch was her sous chef (and now we have someone trained to make these anytime for us -- pretty smart, eh?). Ms.K. also gave us a great handout on this French tradition, explaining that this holiday is called La Chandeleur, Fete de la Lumiere, or Crepe Day. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crepe pan in the other and flip the crepe into the air. If you manage to catch the crepe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

Discretion being the better part of valor .... we didn't tempt fate by trying this! But here is how we made the crepes:

Crepe Recipe:

2 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs
Blend all ingredients together, making a smooth batter. Cover batter and chill for one hour. Once chilled, heat an 8-inch nonstick crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into pan; quickly tilt pan in all directions to make a large circle (that is fairly thin). Cook about 1 minute. Carefully life the edge of the crepe with a spatula to test for doneness. The crepe is ready to turn when it can be shaken loose from the pan and the underside is lightly browned. Turn crepe over, cooking for another 30 seconds or until center is set. Place crepe on paper towel to cool. Place on a plate in a 200-225 preheated oven to keep warm while finishing the remaining batter.

Once you are ready to serve ... put out different types of sweeteners (we used white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar and honey), melted bittersweet chocolate, jam or just plain butter and allow guests to make their own. Place a small amount of filling down the center of the crepe, roll-up and eat with your fingers -- DELICIOUS!

Here's the promised Ham/Spinach Lasagna recipe:

16 oz. cottage cheese
16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
16 oz. jar tomato sauce
1-2 cups chopped cooked ham
1 package lasagna noodles (1 used 15 noodles)
16 oz. frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
1 tbls minced garlic
2 tsp each dried basil, dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350. (I actually put this together in the morning; covered and refrigerated it; I removed the pan from the fridge when I started the oven preheating and then put it in the oven one hour before dinner).

In large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, half of the mozzarella, garlic and herbs. Set aside.
Spread a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan; put a layer of dry lasagna noodles then a layer of half the cheese mixture; half the ham and spinach scattered atop. Do another layer of sauce, noodles, cheese mixture, ham and spinach. Finish with a final (3rd) layer of noodles, layer of sauce, and the second half of the mozzarella cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour, removing the foil during the final 15minutes of cooking.

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