Monday, June 18, 2007

Back and Better Than Ever! With Pastitsio!

We are NOT going to discuss all the terrible and delicious things I ate in Vegas, a veritable feast of fatness. My husband and I ate like it was our job. Buffets for breakfast, meals involving appetizers and cheese trays for dinner. I had one meal that consisted of literally nothing that was not deep fried and served with a sauce. Ye Gads. I can't believe we didn't have to be rolled home from the airport.

Like the Dainty Deb I am, though, I proudly hopped right back on the healthy-eating train as soon as we got home. Truth be told, I was feeling a bit sicky from all the grease and impending caloric reprecussions. So like the good girl I am, I waddled on down to the faithful old Teet and grocery shopped for the week, rather than giving in to the more sensible desire to order wings and lay imobile for several hours.

Because I was coming off a fat, fried and fabulous binge, though, I felt it would be in my best interest to make something fairly decadent. This recipe is for Pastitsio, and while it's creamy and gooey and delicious, it's also pretty tame: 300 calories per serving (6 WW points); 8 servings. As such, it's a nice bridge between the decadence of vacation and the good intentions to return to a sensible but tasty lifestyle of munching. Because it's lengthy, it will keep you occupied mentally and physically in the kitchen, rather than letting you (if you're anything like me) graze aimlessly and thoroughly through your kitchen cabinets. But it's not really hard, just requires a bit of concentration, which will be the best thing for a mind suddenly disgruntled by the rapid disappearance of dishes involving potato skins, fried meat and a cheese topping (an actual thing I ordered at The Peppermill).

Partway Home Pastitsio
Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 bake pan. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Take out 4 eggs and let them get room temp.

Meat Sauce
1 lb extra lean beef
1 medium chopped onion
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 C. red wine
1 1/2 t. cinnamon (def. measure this -- you don't want to over or underdo the cinnamon)

Cook beef in heated skillet and add onion, browning, making sure the onion gets tender (about 10 min). Stir in sauce, wine and connamon, bring to a boil. Then reduce to medium low, cover, and simmer 30 min. Stir occasionally.

While that's simmering, make your pasta:
8 oz. dry whole wheat pasta, like bowtie or penne, cooked and drained and still hot
3/4 C. Fat Free evaporated milk
1 large, beaten egg
1 oz. part-skim mozarella cheese, in chunks

Toss all these together and set aside, covering the bowl with a towel to keep heat in.

Now, make the cream sauce (your meat sauce should still be simmering away):
Cream Sauce
1 T. butter
2 T. Flour
Salt, pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C. Fat Free Evaporated milk
1 large beaten egg, 2 large beaten egg WHITES
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, in slices, divided

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add milk. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until thick and bubbly (about 6 -- 8 minutes). Remove from heat and then VERY GRADUALLY, add the eggs and egg whites into the hot mixture (Don't pour them in too fast, or they'll scramble).

Now you got all your pieces lines up, ready to go. Layer half the pasta into the bake pan, then spread with your meat sauce and 1/4 C. of the parmesan cheese slices. Top with the remaining pasta and then pour your cream sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake, covered in foil, 20 min. Uncover, bake 15 min. more. Do a clean-knife test to test doneness and let it settle for 15 min before slicing and serving.

This dish really is rich and tasty, and all the effort is worth it because it will help reset your inner Deb clock, reminding you to take your time with food and savor the results of a nice long spell in the kitchen. Whether coming back from vacation or just exhausted from day-to-day mayhem, our little clocks get maladjusted all the time. We owe it to ourselves to fix a nice meal that melts in your mouth.

Pastitsio Pastiche
Viva Las Vegas by The Dead Kennedys (this is the raucous, funnier version that plays at the end of Fear and Loathing)
The House Wins by Ok Go
Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price
Pretty Vegas by INXS

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