Tag-Archive for ◊ creamy ◊

20 Mar 2012 Cheesy Spinach Manicotti

I must admit, I make a pretty mean Manicotti.  I’d forgotten how good it is until I made some on the spur-of-the-moment this week.  My Manicotti is  probably not very authentic, seeing as I have no genuine Italian reference point at all.  I don’t think it helps much that the recipe here got it’s start from the back of a box of Manicotti noodles either!  Maybe I should just call this dish Cheesey Spinach Pasta Rolls and ditch the whole faux Italian thing!

The instructions below will guide you in putting together a whole pan of Manicotti, but the recipe part is just for the creamy cheesey gooey yummy manicotti filling.  You’ll need about 3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce to finish the dish (I make a hearty meat, mushroom, onion, red wine spaghetti sauce to serve with this dish, the recipe is posted on this site)  along with one box of  manicotti noodles (those really big. long pasta tubes).  I’ve used the filling below to stuff  large shell pasta, too, so you can use those if you can’t find the manicotti noodles.

BTW, leftovers  microwave wonderfully well. My my son has already zapped a few several times today. I hope he has left me some, leftover Manicotti is such a treat.

Cheesey Spinach Manicotti 

Approx 3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, warmed

1 8 0z. box manicotti noodles, cooked according to package direction, rinsed and drained

For the filling:

  • 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. carton ricotta
  • 8 oz marscapone
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6  1 oz. packages of string cheese, cubed OR 6 oz mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • additional grated cheese, Parmesan and/or mozzarella, for sprinkling on top of baked casserole.
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze the spinach really, really dry and place in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the cheeses: ricotta (I didn’t used to like ricotta, so I have substituted cottage cheese for the ricotta before),  marscapone, grated Parmesan, and cubed string cheese or part-skim mozzarella. Stir well.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the spinach-cheese mixture.
  5. Stir in the nutmeg.
  6. Fill cooked manicotti with the filling.  The best way to do this is to put all the filling in a large Ziploc bag.  Push the filling to one corner of the bag, then cut the corner off the bag–to make a sort of pastry bag-and squirt the filling into the manicotti. If this method doesn’t work for you, just use several long handled spoons (ice tea spoons work well) to fill the tubes.  Some of the manicotti will have split.  Try not to use the split ones, but if you have to just roll them tight and lay them seam side down in the pan.  I think there are two more noodles than will comfortably fit into a 9×13 pan in each manicotti package, so you are OK discarding two tubes.
  7. Place 1 cup of the warm spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the 9×13 pan.
  8. Arrange the stuffed manicotti on top of the spaghetti sauce.
  9. Cover the arranged manicotti in the pan with the remaining 2 cups sauce–you might need a little more or a little less sauce. If you have leftover sauce, you can always serve it, warmed, on the side.  Some people appreciate more sauce.
  10. Cover the baking dish with foil and place  in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30-35  minutes.
  11. Remove foil, sprinkle any remaining cheese over top of the casserole, increase heat to 425 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese has melted and nicely browned.
  12. Remove casserole from oven and let sit for approx. 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy!  Invite the family over for dinner. Maybe serve an antipasto platter to kick off the evening?  I love antipasto, it’s a very social appetizer.  Dessert?  What is easier than a scoop of spumoni or gelato? Go ahead and gild the lily and  serve some biscotti and coffee on the side, too!  Can I come over?
Have fun, and thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.

 

 

 

04 Oct 2011 Chicken Pot Pie

It rained here yesterday!  Happy, happy October, my very favorite month of the whole year.  I was so excited with the cooler weather and the rain that  I put on slippers and a sweatshirt to celebrate.   Then I decided to teach my son how to make Chicken Pot Pie.  He has his own apartment now, and needs to know how to make things like this.  I went shopping for ingredients, started to prep them…and no man-child.  He ended up staying late at work, and I had to make the pie by myself.  He was home when it came out of the oven though (how does he doe that?!).  He walked in, kissed me and said, “I love it when you make stuff like this.” he then proceeded to eat half the pie.  Then he called his friend to say there was Chicken Pot Pie at his house, and to come over and have some!  I’d say the pie was a hit.

This is my son.  He’s a good sport about learning how to cook and wearing an apron his mom made for him!

This is a pretty simple Chicken Pot Pie.  Absolute comfort food!  No spices other than salt and pepper, so the true taste  of sauteed chicken and fresh veggies shine through…and are then snuggled up in a smooth gravy and encased in pastry.  Yummmm!

The hardest part of this pie comes after removing it from the oven.  You have to wait!  You have to wait for the gravy to set up a bit, or it will run all over your pastry.  If you can’t wait, it’s  not really a bad thing!  The loose first slice will still taste delicious and by the time you are ready for your second slice, the filling will have set a bit.

Believe me, after making your own Chicken Pot Pie, you will never buy one from the frozen foods  section again.  You might never order one from a restaurant either…

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs, or a combination)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 can condensed chicken broth (or 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup petite frozen peas
  • 2 9″ Pillsbury pie crusts (1 box) OR 1 homemade double crust pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter along with the olive oil (you can use all oil, if you want) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. When the butter has melted and the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and saute over medium heat for a few minutes.
  4. Stir in the diced carrot and celery and saute for approx. 5 more minutes, still over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the veggies are sauteing, dice the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir the diced and seasoned chicken into the veggie mixture and saute for three more minutes, still stirring occasionally.
  7. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and veggie mixture, stir constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes (the flour might try to stick to the bottom of the pan, try to release it by stirring vigorously. If necessary add another tablespoon or so of butter or oil. Do not burn the flour!).
  8. While the chicken/veggie/flour mixture  is sauteing, combine the chicken broth and half-and-half or milk and microwave for three minutes.  When the microwave beeps, remove the pan from the heat and remove the liquid from the microwave.
  9. Now you are going to make the gravy.  Turn the heat off the pan.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot broth-milk mixture.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Add another 1/2 cup of broth-milk mixture. Stir until smooth.  Repeat two more times using 1/2 cup broth-milk mixture each time.
  10. Return chicken-veggie-gravy mixture to heat.  Stir in frozen (of fresh) corn and peas. Simmer for gently over medium heat to defrost the frozen veggies.
  11. Turn off heat and let filling sit while you unroll the pasty and place one sheet in the bottom of a pie pan.
  12. Pour the filling over the pastry in the bottom of the pie pan, and cover with the second roll of pasty.  Cut 3-5 vent holes in top of top pastry (with scissors or a knife).  Crimp the edges of the pastry so the filling is fully encased.
  13. If you want a nice, shiny crust, brush pastry lightly with egg wash (egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water).  This is optional (but nice if you want to show off!) You won’t need all of the egg wash. (Scramble the leftover egg for the baby, or the dog!)
  14. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
  15. Remove pie from oven and let sit…for as long as you can.  The longer the pie sits, the thicker the gravy will get.  Letting the pie sit for 30 minutes to an hour, is about right. (Don’t worry, the filling will remain hot.)
  16. Serve, and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Hope you enjoyed the visit.  See you again, soon, I hope!

 

13 Feb 2011 French Hot Chocolate

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: French Hot Chocolate!

This is soooo good, made with real cream and real chocolate–bearing no resemblance at all to that powdery mix in a paper packet. The serving ritual makes this really special. Pass a bowl of the chocolate cream mixture, then pass a pot of steaming hot milk (I like to put the milk in a teapot).  Let each person scoop a desired amount of the chocolate cream into their cup.  Pass the hot milk so the person can fill the cup up the rest of the way.  Make sure everyone has a spoon.  Stirring the hot chocolate is the fun part.  So is the sipping to taste.  Then maybe adding a bit more chocolate cream.  Then stirring some more and sipping some more.  Ahhhh.   So civilized.  So social.  So calming.  So special.

I was going with ¼ chocolate cream to ¾ hot milk, when one of my taste testers announced that half chocolate cream and half milk was just about right!  Serve this in small cups. This is rich. To cut the fat, I put non-fat milk in the teapot 🙂

I found this recipe at MakeAndTakes.

The chocolate cream mixture can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator, but you need to put the cream in a sieve, and then cover with plastic. This is, truly, the best hot chocolate you’ll ever make.

French Hot Chocolate

To make the chocolate cream:

1 cup chopped chocolate (your choice–milk, semisweet, bittersweet, or combination. You can also use chocolate chips!)
1 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 cups cold whipping cream

To serve:

2 quarts (8 cups) hot milk (go ahead and use non-fat or low-fat, it will make you feel better!)

To make chocolate cream: Heat chopped chocolate, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan, stirring until chocolate has melted.  Set mixture aside to cool. Beat the cream in a large mixing bowl until peaks form.  Slowly add the chocolate sauce to the whipped cream in a steady stream while beating.  After all the sauce has been added to the cream, beat for a few more seconds until the cream is thick.  Place in chocolate cream refrigerator until ready to use.  To keep chocolate cream for longer than an hour or two, place the chocolate cream in a sieve over a slightly larger bowl and cover with plastic warp.

To serve: Heat the desired quantity of milk (2 qts if using the whole batch of chocolate cream, and serving 10-12 people) until steaming (I heat the milk in the MW).  Pour hot milk into serving pitcher (I use a teapot).  Pass the chocolate cream, and spoon a bit of the into the bottom of cup or mug.  Add enough hot milk to fill cup.  Stir to combine.

One batch makes enough to serve 10-12 people (depending on size of cups or mugs).

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! Take the time to make an occasion of serving this hot chocolate.  You’ll be glad you did!

29 Jan 2011 Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been in a funk all week.  I made two more cakes from that book I was all aglow about last weekend.  I’m no longer glowing.

First off, I wanted to make the Red Velvet cake; the picture looked so great, and it was front and center on the cover, so I had high hopes.  The recipe was a bit odd though.  Red Velvet cake is supposed to have three things: 1) a very, very light chocolate taste 2) a very bright red color and 3) a pronounced tang from the addition of buttermilk and vinegar.  This cake was good on point one.  The recipe called for ¼ cup of cocoa powder, which is good.  I have seen some recipes for as little as 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder.  I wanted some chocolate taste in the cake!  The recipe also hit a high note on the red color.  The color in the picture looked good, and recipe only called for one tablespoon of red food coloring.  I have seen some recipes call for as much as three tablespoonsful!  My first hint of trouble was with point three, no buttermilk and no vinegar!  The recipe called for sour cream, but I was still going to go with it, thinking the sour cream would have enough tang.

Once I started making the cake, the trouble began.  First, the directions called for “a food processor”.  Um no.  The directions then said, ” Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed”.  Not a food processor, a mixer.  Bad mistake. THEN, the directions called for two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, but the pictures of the cake-both on the cover, and next to the recipe-were of a three layer cake.  Uh-oh.  Having only two matching 8-inch cake pans, and two matching 9-inch cake pans, not three matching of either size, I decided to bake the cake in the  9-inch layer pans thinking the recipe probably meant to three 8-inch pans or two 9-inch pans.  I thought wrong.  I had too much batter for two 9-inch pans.  The pans were this close to overflowing.  The cakes baked up huge, and domed.  I am pretty sure the cake needed to be baked in three 9-inch pans.  Not sure how many 8-inch pans.  How could there be two such glaring mistakes on one recipe, especially in a book based on recipes that had been tested and that explicitly stated (and the specific reason I bought this book) that recipes with problems had been “rebaked” until they were right?

BUT, after baking, the cake looked good, but a bit crisp on the outside (probably due to over-baking because each pan held too much batter) and seriously domed.  Never mind, I thought.  I can fix it.  I trimmed off the over-browned sides of the cakes, and cut off the domed tops.  The cakes stacked nicely together.  Firm enough for a stable two layer cake, I thought.  I wasn’t overwhelmed when I tasted the discarded domed top, but I thought that was because the cake was still a bit warm from the oven, and didn’t have frosting on yet.

I mixed up the frosting for the cake.  It went on lovely and I spread it on thickly, but I definitely had enough left over for a third layer! Nevertheless, I though the cake was beautiful.  Look at the picture! I was all excited to kick off my Valentine’s Day marathon chocolate posts with this cake…, until I tasted it.  The frosting was to die for, but the cake was No Big Whoop, in fact, it was a Bad Whoop.   The light chocolate taste was good, and there was a bit of a tang, but it wasn’t a good tang.  The cake just wasn’t good. The color was red, but with a bad tasting cake, it made things worse.  I tested the cake on twelve of my favorite testers, my Dining For Women group. Most said the cake was OK, but nobody wanted me to make it again.  Everyone would prefer a chocolate cake, or a yellow cake, or a lemon cake or a carrot cake or a coconut cake.  No one wanted any more Red Velvet cake. The next morning I tasted the cake again, and I knew it was all over.  It just was not a good tasting cake.  Remember the red velvet armadillo groom’s cake in “Steel  Magnolias”?  Did you want a piece? This cake tasted as bad as that cake looked!  It was a tragedy.

I did get three requests for the Cream Cheese Frosting though. The frosting I will make again.  So the frosting recipe I will share.  I hope you have a good cake recipe to use it on!

Cream Cheese Frosting

From “All Cakes Considered” by Melissa Gray

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 lbs. powdered sugar (about 7 ½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  Add in the vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Makes enough frosting to decorate a three layer cake.

I served the Red Velvet cake, with another one made from the same book .  More problems with the recipe but well worth a rebake.  Version Two of the Drunken Monkey cake is sitting on my counter right now.  A definite improvement over Version One in looks. Taste testing tomorrow.  I sure hope it is good enough to post. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

05 Jan 2011 Blue Cheese Dip

My first post of 2011!  How exciting!

I think I’ll start with an appetizer.  I haven’t posted many appetizers in the past.  I’ve always been a bit appetizer challenged.  My Hot Bean Dip is good, but new Year’s Eve, champagne, and Hot Bean Dip?  I don’t think so.

This holiday season I  tried three of Ina Garten’s appetizer recipes from her most recent cookbook,  How Easy is That?:  Savory Coeur a la Creme, Stilton and Walnut Crackers, and Chunky Blue Cheese & Yogurt Dip.  One was OK, one was good, and one was very, very good.  The Savory Coeur a la Creme was a bit of a bust.  I took it to my Cookbook Club, and everyone liked the topping, which was purchased Major Grey Chutney, but they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the recipe-made Savory Coeur a la Creme under the chutney.  The Stilton and Walnut Crackers were good, and perhaps post-worthy, but I will have to give them another try first.  I think they might be better if I cut them a bit thinner, I’ll let you know. I fell  hard for the Blue Cheese Dip though.  Delicious!! It is made with Greek yogurt so it is lighter than many blue cheese dips (most of which are made with a few cups of sour cream).  I don’t know why I photographed the dip next to a sliced baguette.  I didn’t put the dip on bread. That would have been weird. I dipped celery sticks into it.  When they were gone, I dipped cucumber slices.  I finished up with the carrot sticks.  I think I had a month’s worth of veggies in the three hours leading up to New Year’s Eve 2011 🙂

I could see thinning out leftover dip and using it as a salad dressing, IF I had any leftovers…

Blue Cheese Dip

  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 7 ounces Greek-style yogurt (I used non-fat because I couldn’t find a whole milk version)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces sharp blue cheese, crumbled
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce (more or less to taste, but I found 5 to be just perfect)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of minced chives
  1. Start at two hours in advance (making the night before is also acceptable).
  2. Place the shallot, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, mayonnaise, blue cheese, Tabasco, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the processor twelve times, until the mixture is almost smooth but still a bit chunky.
  3. Add the chives and pulse two or three more times.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours to allow the flavors to develop.
  5. Serve with raw veggies for dipping.

Thank you, Ina!  And thank YOU for stopping by my kitchen today!  Come by again tomorrow,  I have another appetizer recipe to share!

26 Nov 2010 Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip

Remember the first time you went to Costco?  Did you come home with the gallon of mustard for $3.75?  A year later you were irritated by that l-a-r-g-e jar of mustard  taking up valuable space in your refrigerator, right? AND you were tired of the mini tizzy fits you kept having because you kept having to move that dang-blasted jar of mustard around to make room for other stuff, right?  AND, and you were laying awake at night wondering how in the world you were going to use up that much mustard before the expiration date, right?  A rookie Costco mistake; and one I made, yet again, last year. I bought a 65 oz. jar of Marinated Artichoke hearts.  I don’t even especially like Marinated Artichoke Hearts.  Fortunately the expiration date was not until December 2012, BUT, I’d had enough of storing it, moving it around, and wondering what to do with it.  The jar HAD TO GO.

Thank goodness for a Dining For Women dinner, a Thanksgiving food fest and a Christmas Party, all of which required an appetizer! I decided to hit the net and look for appetizers using marinated artichoke hearts. I remembered my friend Candace had swooned over a Warm Spinach and Artichoke dip she had ordered at Applebee’s recently and I stumbled upon a recipe that I thought might be similar, and it was on one of my favorite recipe websites, Brown Eyed Baker! BINGO!

I made and baked one-half batch for the Dining For Women dinner. I made and refrigerated another half-batch for three days and then baked for it for Thanksgiving appetizers. So there is no problem making this up and refrigerating a few days before baking.  I made another batch and froze it to defrost and then bake for the Christmas party.  One effort, three parties covered with about 15 minutes of prep time and about the same in clean up time.  I love the efficiency of batch cooking. Unfortunately, I only used half a jar of the Marinated Artichoke Hearts and the jar has moved from my cupboard to the refrigerator, not entirely solving my Large-Jar-of-Marinated-Artichoke-Hearts problem.  I’ll just have to get myself invited to more parties and offer to bring a hot appetizer!

I just wish I had a picture that turned out as well as the dip did 🙂

Artichoke Spinach Dip

from the Brown Eyed Baker

14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (s-q-u-e-e-e-z-e the liquid from the spinach)
1½ cups (6 ounces) finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Paprika, to taste (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2.  S-q-u-e-e-e-z-e the liquid from the spinach.  Combine chopped artichokes, dry spinach, all but 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, all but ¼ cup of Monterey Jack cheese, room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.

3. Spoon the artichoke mixture into a 1½-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved  Parmesan and Monterey Jack cheeses on top, and then sprinkle with paprika.

4. Bake in preheated 350º oven for 30 minutes. Edges should be brown. Dip should be cooked through.

5. Serve warm with desired dippers.  I served with a sliced sourdough baguette, but tortilla or pita chips, crackers or vegetables would all work.  Make it yours!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  If you have any more dynamite recipes using Marinated Artichoke hearts, PLEASE let me know!  Now I have an open jar in the refrigerator, and I am going to have to use them up pretty quickly. They won’t last until December 2012 now. OR…, you could just invited me to your next party!  Have dip will travel!!!