Friday, October 18, 2013

Skillet Baked Pasta - Vegetarian

Everywhere in the blog world, all I see is pumpkin and apple, pumpkin and apple, with a little more pumpkin added in for good measure.

Not trying to complain or anything - I adore pumpkin in so many things and appreciate new ideas in the fall.
It just kind of strikes me as funny, since most of these recipes use canned pumpkin, which is available year-round, so you really don't have to make pumpkin stuff only in the fall. Really. I like pumpkin in May.  Don't you?

That's why I either buy a few pumpkins when they're cheap and cook them, puree, and freeze in 2 cup portions or buy a bunch of cans on clearance after Thanksgiving.  I do the same with sweet potatoes.  I had such a great stash last year.....but ended up eating it in a huge rush and giving away quite a bit when we moved.  My freezer has been bare of sweet potatoes and pumpkin this entire year.  Gonna have to remedy that soon.

All that to say, I have YET to make anything with pumpkin or sweet potato this fall.
It's heresy for a food blogger, I know.  But it is what it is.
(I have made apple butter and apple sauce, for the record).

Maybe you'll enjoy seeing something else anyways. :)

How about a vegetarian pasta meal???

Most of the vegetarian meals I make revolve around beans or lentils. For the protein, ya know.

But when I saw this dish from the Girl Who Ate Everything, I couldn't resist giving it a try.
Now, I think it would be totally awesome with some crumbled cooked sausage, or sliced smoked sausage, or even diced, cooked chicken breast.  I may try one of those sometime.
But I have to say - it was totally awesome as is. 

The pasta cooks right in the tomato sauce and water, along with some spices and sauteed garlic - then you add some heavy cream  and Parmesan cheese - oh, and can't forget the basil!  I wish I had had some fresh on hand....but even the dried worked well.  Then you top the whole thing with dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle mozzarella over all that.  And into the oven it goes, to get all nice and golden and toasty.

Come on, now....tell me your mouth isn't watering.

A little indulgent?

Okay, maybe a little.

But completely worth it.

And I didn't miss the meat at all.

Skillet Baked Pasta 

6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. olive oil, divided use
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 oz. ziti pasta (3 3/4 cups)
4 oz (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

  • Preheat oven to 475°.
  • Combine 1 Tbsp. oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a 12 inch oven safe skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  • Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15-18 minutes. Make sure you don't overcook - it will continue to cook in the oven.
  • Meanwhile, combine ricotta, remaining 1 tsp. oil, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.
  • Stir cream, Parmesan, and basil into the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • At this point, if your skillet isn't oven safe, transfer pasta into a shallow 2 quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the ricotta and cheese and baking. 
  • Add dollops of the ricotta mixture with a spoon and sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. 
  • Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Let cook slightly and sprinkle with additional basil. Serve. 

Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything, , originally from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Monday, October 14, 2013

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies - SRC

We are in the throes of birthday season at my house.
Meaning, three of my five children have October birthdays.
Which translates into a LOT of butter, powdered sugar, and heavy cream, with all the cake and homemade ice cream flying out of my kitchen.

You'd almost think I'd veer away from sweets for my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month. And I honestly tried.  I was assigned to Group B's fearless leader Suzanne's blog, Thru the Bugs on My Windshield.  Suzanne has a great sense of humor and some really great recipes that I wanted to try, like Salsa Verde , Chicken Asparagus Penne Pasta Salad, and Blueberry Delight Coffee Cake (which is in the breakfast category, so it doesn't count as sweets.)

In the end, I was fascinated by the idea of Apricot Empanadas and despite my tumultuous relationship with pie crust, selected them as my new recipe to try.

Unfortunately, I forgot to add apricots to my shopping list and when it came time to make them, I realized my distressing mistake.  I didn't have time this week to return to the I picked something I already had ingredients for in the pantry.  Peanut Butter Cookies.

I know, I know, everyone knows how to make peanut butter cookies.  But seriously, sometimes I get so distracted by the oreo-stuffed, salted caramel drenched, swiss meringue buttercream covered delicacies that I forget the tried and true, simple recipes.

These were awesome.
My husband loved them.
My kids gobbled them up with gusto.
And I relished the soft, slightly chewy cookies with just one prominent flavor, peanut butter.  And the little crunch of sugar on the outside sealed the deal.

Peanut butter cookies should never be forgotten.

P.S. Yes, I've tried the popular 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies - 1 cup pb, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg.  
They're good.  Great if you're in a pinch and out of flour or need to bake gluten free. But these are better.  And don't take much longer.  Really. 

P.P.S. Her recipe said to roll the dough in 1 inch balls and that you'd get 4 dozen cookies.  Apparently I'm incapable of rolling balls that size.....I ended up with just 31 cookies.  And they weren't huge, either.   

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, but crunchy would work also)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (I used part whole wheat, part all-purpose)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Granulated sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°.

Thoroughly cream butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla.  Sift together dry ingredients; blend into creamed mixture.  Shape into small balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Press tops gently with a fork or meat mallet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set.  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet.

Makes 30-40 cookies.

Source: Thru the Bugs on my Windshield, originally from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cinnamon Chip Breakfast Cake - and a Happy Birthday to my Baby

My baby turned 2 today!

Guess she's not so much a baby anymore.
Not in her mind, anyways.
'Course, that's been the case for several months now.  She thinks she can do whatever the big kids do.
And mostly....she does.
She's even partially potty-trained - we just need to work on the peeing business.
And to be quite honest, while I know she's totally ready and would probably have it down in a day or two of wearing big girl panties, I haven't tried because we're going on a road trip in a few weeks.
Frequent gas station bathroom breaks with a 2 year old?
No thanks.  
She can wear diapers for a couple more weeks.

So what on earth does that have to do with this cake?
Birthday breakfast, that's what!

It's tradition in our family for the birthday boy/girl to pick their favorite breakfast and dinner on their special day.....and since Miranda is a bit too young to really tell me what her favorite is, I picked this.

I made it a couple of months ago and we absolutely loved I figured it would be a good choice for her. It's a lovely tender cake with lots of cinnamon flavor, dotted with cinnamon chips (I know, unhealthy...but really really yummy) and a luscious crumb topping.
To say that this is well-received is a huge understatement.
I seriously think that my 5 kids (10 and under) could eat nearly this entire cake in one sitting if I allowed it.

Miranda got candles and a song with hers.....definitely a great start for a happy birthday.  :)

Cinnamon Chip Breakfast Cake

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice)
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, softened 
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. cinnamon chips (optional, I didn't use)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly spray a 13 x 9" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugars and butter.  Add in eggs and beat until creamy. Beat in sour cream or yogurt until combined.  Slowly mix in milk until combined.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Stir in cinnamon chips.
  5. Spread batter into prepared baking dish.
  6. Combine topping ingredients (except for cinnamon chips) in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Sprinkle over cake batter.  Top with cinnamon chips if desired. 
  7. Bake for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Source: Adapted from A Kitchen Addiction

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