Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravioli Bake (a dish that tastes a lot like lasagna, that you can make in a fraction of the time)

Ravoili Bake on plate

Sometime last year I scanned through one of the last issues that I got the Kraft magazine. I remembered seeing a recipe that used layers of ravioli in some sort of casserole type thing. I thought "Hmmmm interesting". Now stick with me on this. I know it seems a little Semi-Ho-ish*, I do know this. Translation: Semi-Ho: Anything that Sandra Lee would make, match her drapery and tablecloth to and accompany a big ole pitcher of booze to go along with. If you've ever watched Sandra you know what I'm talking about. Nuff said.

I forgot about that recipe until I was roaming the aisles at my local Sam's Club looking for some dinner inspiration. Lemme tell ya, Sam's is usually not the place that inspires me.

We've been eating a lot less meat lately since we decided to buy only organic or locally raised meat and poultry, so new meatless dishes are always welcome.

I passed by the frozen food section, and while I was repeatably telling Evan "no were not buying those frozen taquitos" I spotted some jumbo cheese ravioli. "I can work with those" I thought.

So I boiled the ravioli just until they floated, then I strained them and ran cold water over them to stop the cooking process. They were very, very al dente.

I put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, added in a layer of ravioli, a little mozzarella cheese, a little sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Repeated the layers, ending up with sauce on the the top. Popped it into a 350 oven and BINGO! A quick and easy dish that really did taste like lasagna.

This is how one of the layers looked in the baking dish.

Ravoili Bake uncooked

I served it with a nice big salad and some fresh Italian bread. The kids and the adults loved it! This huge dish (I used all 4 pounds of the ravioli in my package) served 4 adults and 3 hungry teenagers with just a tiny bit left over. It was a huge hit.

Ravoili Bake on plate CU

I would recommend using the jumbo ravioli and not the regular squares ones. I think the smaller ones have a tendency break more easily and leak all the cheesy goodness.

Even though it's pretty simple, here's the recipe.

Ravioli Bake
1 package cheese ravioli (I used a 4 pound pkg of jumbo's from Sam's, if you're cooking for a smaller crowd, adjust accordingly)
Spaghetti sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese

Boil the ravioli just until they begin to float to the top of the water. As soon as you see them float, get them out of the water, into a strainer and run some cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Place some sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and start layering. Ravioli, then some mozzarella, a little more sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Like I said, I made a huge dish, I was cooking for a crowd so I was up to four layers at the end.

End with a top layer of sauce. Sprinkle a little more mozzarella and Parmesan on top, cover with foil, and bake approximately 30 minutes in a 350 oven, or until hot and bubbly. I take the foil off the last 10 minutes or so. Let it sit 10 minutes then dig in.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Swedish Visiting Cake

Swedish Visiting Cake pan1

Our wireless router hasn't been working over the past week. John pulled the computer desk away from the wall and along with it came a few of my cookbooks that were on a bookshelf near the desk. The biggest and heaviest of the them being Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my Home to Yours. One of my absolute favorite cookbooks.

I picked it up and put it on the kitchen table while John wrestled with the jumble of wires behind the desk. I started to flip through all the pretty pastel post-it notes that were placed there when I first got the book. I don't know if you're like me, but when I get a new cookbook I devour it for a bit. I take it to bed with me. I lug it back and forth to work and home, and I always have a little pack of post-its to bookmark everything I want to make first. I have every intention at the time of strategically cooking or baking everything in a timely manner, and then I get another cookbook and it all starts over again.

Swedish Visiting Cake slice

I had bookmarked this cake mostly I remember because of the name. It just sounded like a nice cake to make. Homey and comforting. Then I read that Dories friend Ingela Helgesson first brought her this cake and that just sent me over the top. Ingela Helgesson. What a name. I'd happily partake of any dessert she's making.

Swedish Visiting Cake
From Baking, From My Home to Yours)
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch cake pan or even a pie pan.

Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest and blend the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Finally, fold in the melted butter.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar (I used Demerara sugar for a little more rustic look). If you're using a cake or pie pan, place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside; the inside will remain moist. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and bottom of the cake to loosen it. You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto a serving plate.

Swedish Visiting Cake pan

I made my cake in my cast iron skillet. I think everything tastes just a little bit better in cast iron. This cake was moist on the inside with a golden crunch on the outside. So delicious and so easy to make. You don't need a hand mixer, just a whisk and a spatula. When I was finished all I had to wash one bowl filled with a few utensils. That's my kinda cake.

This is one of those recipes that I'll be making again and again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake

Cheesy ham bake

I'm happy to report that after quite a few days of doing just what I wanted to do, I'm feeling like my mojo is slowly coming back. Can anyone tell me why is it that if I totally ignore my blog for a few days, and don't post anything, I come back and check my stats to find I had tons of hits? Then there are days that I think to myself, oh this recipe is gonna draw them in, and it just fizzles??? I can't figure it out, so I just won't.

I'm experimenting with some recipes. This was one of them. Yes it's another casserole recipe. When will it end? When?

This one was spawned when I went in search of ideas to use up the leftover Easter ham. Don't worry, I'm not eating old moldy ham. I cut up all the leftover ham and froze it.

I stumbled across Recipe Girls Cheesy Baked Penne and thought..hmmm..looks good...sounds good....I think the birth of another casserole is about to take place. I combined her idea with my "go-to" casserole sauce from Kayotic Kitchen. I mereged the two together and ta-da, birth of a new casserole.

The original recipe called for peas. (Evan would just pick them out then I'd have peas rolling all over the table). I substituted in broccoli which is much easier to pick out and I changed up the cheeses. I used shallots and onions for this dish, but if I had leeks I would have used them. I love leeks, but I was leekless. Sad really. Along with the casserole obsession I think I have become a little leek obsessed too.

I decided this would be good to pull together on a Sunday night for a quick and easy Monday night dinner, since Monday dinners seem to be simple and sometimes blah in my house. I just don't always have the enthusiasm on a Monday that I have on the weekend.

Cheesy ham bake in bowl

Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake
1 pound of penne (or other pasta of your choice), cooked al dente
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly chopped
2 ½ cups broccoli florets
2 cups diced ham
1 – 8oz pkg provolone cheese, sliced
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus a little more for topping)

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons heaping flour
3 cups milk
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
cayenne pepper

Oven to 350. Grease a shallow baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. While the pasta is cooking heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the shallots and onion until they become tender. Add in the broccoli florets, cover and let them steam until slightly tender, but still crunchy.

In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour. Cook for a minute and then pour in 2 cups of milk whisking out any lumps. Bring to a boil and add the remaining cup of milk. Whisk in the mustard and salt and simmer for a few more minutes. Finish the sauce with cayenne pepper (if you want too) and the grated cheese. Stir to combine.

In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with the sauce. Stir in the shallots and onion, broccoli, ham, and cheeses. Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle with a little more cheddar (if you want). Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce is bubbling around the edges and the center is hot (about 10 minutes more). Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake

Ham, cheese and pasta all baked until its brown and ...

See Cheesy Ham & Pasta Bake on Key Ingredient.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Mojo has stalled.

Macombers Blueberry Stand birdhouse

Sometimes this little thing we call life gets in the way of the blog and I find myself with less time to post. New recipes are cast aside for a bit. All those "must trys" are set by the wayside. So I haven't been making much of anything new in the kitchen. I'm still cooking for my family and the never ending trail of teenagers that pass though. I've been making some of the old stand-bys, stuff I've already posted, and stuff that really doesn't merit posting.
I'm sure my pasta and salad dinners wouldn't thrill anyone.

I'm not apologizing for the slack off. I will not be one of those bloggers who feels the need to post X amount a times a week, or month. I just kinda go with the flow.

As I posted on Facebook...."I think my Mojos stuck"

I had a few people say to me that when I tell them I'm slacking off, or taking it easy, I'm still constantly on the go, and I am. That's just my nature, so I guess when I'm not running full speed ahead, I feel like my mojo is petering out. It's so hard for me to just be. John says it all the time. Just sit and relax and just be. You don't have to be doing something all the time.
But I do.

We are busy with the yard, and garden planning, and the kids and well, just life in general. I've got 3 new birdhouses. I've been busy painting them and getting them ready for some feathery occupants.
See I can't stop, lol.

I do have what I hope will be a great cake to "bring out the kid in you" coming up. Lemme just say that one of the ingredients is chocolate cheerios and you can let your imagination run wild.

I'm experimenting and will share soon enough.
There I go again!

So bear with me during this crazy time.

I hope all is happy and well in your worlds.

I'm taking nice deep breaths and trying to remember sometimes I have to just "be".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Brownies on Steroids

Brownies on Steroids 2

I'm sure most of you have heard of the now famous Magic Cookie Bars? You may know it by another name, if so let me refresh your memory. Graham Cracker crust, layer of sweetened condensed milk, topped with chocolate chips, nuts and coconut? Now you know what I'm talking about?

Well forget those. Just forget 'em.

This recipe surpasses the Magic Cookie Bars and reaches cookie bar/brownie nirvana.

Brownies on Steroids 1

The bottom layer is a cross between a cookie and a brownie, then we move on to the second layer, oh lordy, it's like a fudgy melted chocolate, unreal. Then the topping. I personally think you could top this with whatever floats your boat. The original recipe used pecans, coconut, chips and toffee bits. I used what I had....chips, coconut, almond slices and walnuts.

I was cutting these up after they cooled in preparation for taking these photos and I said to John "these look really good, I hope they don't suck".

I then gave him the "ugly pieces" as I always do.

A few minutes later, with a mouthful he yells, "hey honey? they so don't suck".

My oh my, he was right.

Brownies on Steroids

I made these for Tati's birthday. She gave up chocolate for lent, so I'm helping her catch up!

Thanks to Sandie at Inn Cuisine where I found this recipe and Andon Reid Inn, where Sandie found this recipe.

Brownies on Steroids
1 & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa
3/4 cup cold butter (1 & 1/2 sticks), cut into 1-inch squares
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/3 cup English toffee bits

Oven to 350. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and cocoa. Add the butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of a well-greased 13×9″ baking dish. Bake on center rack at 350 for 10 minutes (this took 15 minutes in my oven, so check, mine was a little wet in the middle at the 10 minutes mark).

While crust is baking, combine condensed milk, vanilla extract and 1 cup of chocolate chips in heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. When crust has cooked for 10 minutes, remove from oven and pour chocolate mixture directly over crust, spreading gently with a spatula if necessary.

Sprinkle top with coconut, nuts, toffee bits and remaining chocolate chips. Press down to set, and return brownies to oven to continue baking at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and cut into squares of desired size.

Brownies on Steroids

This are brownies made spectacular!

Recipe from Lisa @ The Cutting ...

See Brownies on Steroids on Key Ingredient.

Friday, April 9, 2010

DVR addicted.

About a year ago we added a DVR to our cable.

Can I just confess something? I love my DVR. I can't barely remember when I watched TV live. I am so DVR addicted it's not even funny.

Don't ever ask me what day or time a show comes on cause I could never tell ya for sure. I just wait till it appears on the screen.

I tape a bunch of shows and then like a week later I finally get an hour or two to watch them and blissfully fast forward through all the crap I don't want to watch. It's liberating I tell ya.

A whole half hour to watch a show? NONSENSE! Press that little arrow and BAM, you are done in 22 minutes.

You can't get back those lost 8 minutes people.

I have a list of shows I tape, lots food and garden related but then I have my fluff shows. Shows that offer no intellectual stimulation what so ever. It's my brain candy and one of those shows is Ugly Betty. Normally a soap-opraish show is not my style, in fact, most of my friends were totally surprised when I told them I watched it, but I fell in love with pudgy Betty the first time her poncho wearing horned rimmed brace face appeared on the screen. I'm a sucker for the underdog. Betty reeled me in and I was hooked. Sadly, next week is the last episode so there will be a Betty void in my life.

Fear not, I do have a few other shows to fill the Betty void. I'm totally addicted to Dexter and Nurse Jackie, oh and then there's the British show Shameless. John and I can't get enough of that show.

We abandon our DVR for the summer. There's not too much TV watchin' that goes on here from May - Sept. We spend most summer nights outside by the fire. That little box is no substitute for hanging outside by a cracklin' embers.

I do have to tell you that Betty has left me with one little gift. I discovered a young (only 24 yrs old) and very talented singer named Schuyler Fisk. One of her songs was on the next to last episode and I frantically tried memorizing the lyrics while it was on so I could do a search and find out just who it was. Have you ever done that? I do it all the time.

So anyway, I LOVE this girl voice and her songs and I have been listening to her over and over again on YouTube. I still can't believe she's only 24 and then I find out her mom is Sissy Spacek. Wild huh? Next thing you know, I'm on Amazon using up that gift card I got.

Here are just a few of my favorites.

From Where I'm Standing


What a haunting beautiful song. Be My Only with Tim Myers. This is the song I heard on the show that made me go "ok I need to find out who that is" and I did.

I have no idea what's up with the chipmunk, lol.

Thanks Miss Suarez. I'll miss ya.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

17 Bean and Vegetable Soup with Baby Bok Choy

17 Bean Soup - beans

I'm a soup lovin' kinda gal.

I could (and would) eat soup every single week if I could.

I'm a great soup creator. I actually love seeing what I have available and how I can make a soup out of it.

The last time I was at my local Trader Joe's I picked up a package of their 17 Bean & Barley soup mix. The beans just looked so good.

17 Bean Soup CU

I soaked the beans overnight and the next morning I got to choppin'. I julienned a few carrots, chopped up a yellow onion, cooked them in some olive oil, added in some chicken stock, in went the beans and about half a package of Trader Joe's mixed organic frozen veggies. I covered the pot and simmered for a good hour and a half. When the soup was just about ready I added in some baby bok choy. My absolute favorite thing at the Asian market.

17 Bean Soup bowl

I didn't write down a recipe for this soup. I love that there is no recipe. Sometimes soups should just be a mixutre of what you have on hand, what you need to use up, or what you're craving.

Not only was this healthy, it was delicious and it made a lot. We ate soup for 2 days with the Hot Bread that I baked up.

Maybe this will inspire a few of you to dig through your pantry's and freezers and see what soup you can come up with.

17 Bean Soup1

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hot Bread

Hot Bread

I found this recipe in our local paper the Providence Journal.

I have to admit, the only time I read the paper is on Wednesdays, because Wednesday's edition has the food section. Terrible huh?

So my Mom will usually leave the food section at my house each Wednesday and I check it out and once in a blue moon I'll find a recipe in it that I want to try.

Last week was a blue moon week. I saw this recipe for Hot Bread made by Carla Kimmons.

Simple, easy and quick hot bread. Maybe that's where she got the name?

Kimmons, who grew up in West Virginia, learned to make bread by watching her grandmother and neighbor.

"Making homemade bread is more about experience than technique", Kimmons said.

“The people who taught me how to bake bread didn’t check the temperature of the water with a thermometer,” she said. If the water is warm on the wrist, it’s the right temperature for proofing the yeast, and that’s something you don’t learn from a book.

“They just knew what bread felt like,” Kimmons said.

“I just love to bake bread. It relaxes me. It reminds me of growing up, and the smell of hot bread smells like home, a cozy home,” she said.

Kimmons’ recipe is simply called “hot bread” and it has only six ingredients and a few lines of instructions.

Hot Bread in pan

Hot Bread
Recipe from the Providence Journal – Carla Kimmons.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted margarine
1 teaspoon salt

Oven to 375. Grease a loaf pan. I always put a piece of parchment in mine too, but that is optional.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface. It will be sticky. Knead extra flour into the dough until it is no longer sticky. Form into a ball and let rest 10 minutes. Place the dough in the pan. Let sit in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it rises to the top of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

Hot Bread sliced

This is a terrific bread to go with soup, or a hearty stew. It's not a sandwich bread. I double the recipe cause hot bread is gobbled up here bread, lol. It was good.

Hot Bread

Hot Bread – quick and delicious bread in a snap!

Recipe ...

See Hot Bread on Key Ingredient.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

eggs in carton 2

Last night we colored these beautiful eggs which I am making into deviled eggs for Easter.

Multi-colored deviled eggs taste so much better than the plain ole' boring ones you know.

Here's a few of our "parsley eggs" that we make each year.

Blue egg

I just love them.

Peach egg

We also use cheesecloth and old panty hose to give the eggs interesting patterns.

eggs in carton

eggs in carton 3

I am going to be cooking for a crowd (what's new?) and then kicking back and relaxing. We had a really rough week in Rhode Island. There are so many people who don't have a home to celebrate in. I can't tell you how fortunate we feel to have escaped major damage.

Oh I almost forgot, for those of you that know of my mad love for the Cadbury mini eggs can I just say....not one of them has touched my lips! Nada. Not a single one! How ya like dat?? See I do have willpower. (That being said I wouldn't turn one away if they happened to show up in my Easter basket, hint, hint)

Happy Easter!

Wishing you a joyful day~

Orange Brownies

You know those chocolate oranges that you whack and they separate into fake chocolate orange slices complete with pulp and pit marks? You know what talking about. I LOVE those. Milky chocolate with just a hint of orange. So good.

But did you know that in 1926 the chocolate apple was launched? 20 segments of chocolate covered apple. Sound good to me? Why didn't that take off? It made it to 1949 and then the chocolate orange became more popular and the apple was no more. Sorry apple.

In 1971 they even made a chocolate lemon. That didn't make it either.

Did you also know that if you google Terrys Chocolate Orange you find all these facts and more. Ya didn't think I just knew all that stuff did ya?

Well even though the apple and lemon perished, the orange has survived, and even though I am not a great lover of orange (I don't even like orange juice), these brownies spoke to me, so when I came across this recipe I thought, why not? Orange Brownies, it's worth a shot.

Orange Brownies CU

These are not overly orange tasting. Let me just state that fact in case your worried about the orange flavor being overpowering. Let me also tell you that these are cake-like brownies. Not usually my favorite. I'm more of a fudgy brownie chick.

I liked these. I didn't LOVE these. There was really nothing wrong with them. I guess I'm just more of a fudgy brownie type. None the less, they were happily devoured by the folks at work.

Orange Brownies TS

Chocolate Orange Brownies
½ cup boiling water
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 large eggs
10 table spoons (1 ¼ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
½ teaspoon vanilla

Oven to 350. Spray a 9x9x2 inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray.

Whisk ½ cup boiling water and cocoa powder in a small bowl to blend. Whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in the pecans.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the butter, orange peel and vanilla, whisk to blend. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the egg mixture. Add the flour mixture and stir to blend. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

Adapted from Homepage Café via Bon Appetit

Orange Brownies

Cake like brownies with a hint of orange.

Recipe from ...

See Orange Brownies on Key Ingredient.