Thursday, July 20, 2017

Spinach Pasta Surprise #BundtBakers

This month's Bundt theme was chosen by Colleen of Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice.  Colleen chose Untraditional Bundts.  If you know Colleen, this does not surprise you at all.  Colleen is pretty untraditional herself.  Give yourself a treat and go read some of her blog posts.  I promise that she will make you laugh.

I originally wanted to do a red white and blue jello bundt that I could serve up for Independence Day but our fearless leader, Stacy of Food Lust People Love said that while she would allow untraditional Bundts they must still be baked.  Hmmmm....that made this challenge a little more....well .....
challenging.

I started considering all of the things that I bake, other than cakes, that would work in a Bundt pan.  I considered meatloaf and was planning on going with that when it occurred to me that I had a baked pasta on the menu for Meatless Monday and it could easily be converted to be baked in a Bundt pan instead of casserole.


I started out by making a simple marinara sauce.  You could always use store bought if you want but this is such an easy peasy recipe that it doesn't take much longer than opening a jar of premade.


This dish has all the flavors of lasagna, incorporating eggs, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan along with spinach in a creamy sauce.


Stir in a pound of cooked pasta.  Any kind will do.  I used penne pasta because it was what I had on hand.


Turn it into a Bundt pan that has been liberally treated with cooking spray and bake until set and golden brown.


Let it sit in the pan for about 15 minutes before trying to remove it onto a platter.  Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cheese sauce from the sides.  Flip it over onto a rimmed platter or shallow bowl and pray for the best.


Breathe a sigh of relief along with all of the wonderful aromas. The Bundt is now ready for the "frosting".


Heat up the sauce, pour it over the Bundt and listen to the family ooohhh and ahhhh as you bring it to the table.  This is a cheesy, ooey, gooey pasta bake in a fun presentation.  Cut into slices and serve, passing extra sauce for people to add as desired. Enjoy.


You will find links to all the other Untraditional Bundts following this recipe.  I can't wait to see what the others created for this fun challenge.

Spinach Pasta Surprise

3 T. olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can tomatoes 
2 t. Italian Herb Blend
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb pasta, cooked per package directions
4 eggs
1 (15 oz) carton ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. half and half
1 (8 oz) pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 T. dried basil, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over med high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with their juices, Italian herbs, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, breaking the tomatoes into pieces with a wooden spoon.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 45 minutes to an hour.  Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, cream, spinach, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper.  Fold in the pasta until well coated.  Pour into a Bundt Pan that has been liberally treated with cooking spray.

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for about an hour, until set and golden brown around the edges. Cool, in the pan, on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and turn out onto a rimmed platter or shallow bowl.

Reheat the sauce and pour some over the bundt to resemble a frosting glaze.  Cut into slices to serve passing the remaining sauce to be added as desired. Print Recipe

More Untraditional Bundts

BundtBakers

 #BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient.

You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

Avocado Dip #CrazyIngredientChallenge #BacktoSchoolRecipes

Hi everyone and welcome to the July version of Crazy Ingredient Challenge.  The fun little game we play where we vote on items from two lists and the top vote from each list are united to become our Crazy Ingredients.


This month's ingredients are Avocados and Cumin.  The largest challenge was to try to narrow it down to just one recipe that I wanted to share.  I thought about making a creamy chilled avocado soup.  Cumin would be the perfect spice with which to flavor it.  I thought about making a warm cheesy casserole incorporating cumin and topping it with guacamole.....YUM.  Avocados are always great in smoothies and it would be very simple to add flavor with some toasted cumin.  I even considered an Avocado Cumin Ice Cream.  After all, it is National Ice Cream month.



In the end, my choice was made due to another event in which I'm participating.  I have been posting Back to School Recipes all week long along with a group of like-minded friends under the direction of Cynthia of Feeding Big.

I went on a S'Mores tangent and shared all things S'Mores for the past 3 days.  I turned S'Mores into Clusters, Cookies and Ice Cream......there's that National Ice Cream Month again......

When I shared the very first post I mentioned that when my kids were young I found making lunches exciting every day very challenging.  I often fell back on the old stand-bys, sandwiches, a piece of fruit and cookies.  Once in a while I would change things up with cheese and crackers, hard boiled eggs, and some carrot and celery sticks.



It was with this in mind that I made up this creamy and healthy avocado dip that my kids would have loved to find in their lunchboxes along with those fresh veggies.  I found this recipe from Cooking Light and adapted it slightly to fit our tastes and what I had in the refrigerator.


Please make sure to scroll past my recipe to find links to all the other Avocado and Cumin creations and all the inspirational Back to School recipes.


Avocado Dip
adapted from Cooking Light

2 (5 oz) containers plain Greek yogurt
2 lg. avocados, peeled and pitted, cut into chunks
1 T. low fat milk
2 T. cilantro paste
1/2 of a jalapeno, seeded
1 lime, peeled (or juice of one lime)
1 T. cumin
pinch of salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

Place the yogurt, avocados,milk, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, cumin, salt and garlic in a heavy duty blender. Puree until smooth. Serve with fresh vegetables.  Also delicious with chips and as a topping for burgers or grilled meats.  Print Recipe

More Avocado and Cumin Creations





More Back to School Recipes

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

S'Mores Ice Cream #BacktoSchoolRecipes #FantasticalFoodFight

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream month?  Well, it certainly is and I can't think of a better way to beat the heat.  That is why I was so excited when Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and host of Fantastical Food Fight chose it as our theme this month.


We are also halfway through our #BacktoSchoolRecipes event where we are sharing ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks so that you are all prepared when you wake up to realize that, once again, you blinked and time flew by.  I know that Fall seems far away right now but trust me it will be here before you know it.

Fall makes my yearn for S'Mores so I have been sharing some great S'Mores recipes with you this week.  So far we've had Clusters that you can tuck into a lunchbox as a special treat and Cookies that are a great snack when you walk into the house famished.


Today, since we are celebrating all things Ice Cream, I decided to take S'Mores in that direction. I adapted a basic Chocolate Ice Cream recipe that came with my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.  The recipe calls for 1 part whole milk and 2 parts heavy cream.  I substituted half and half for the entire recipe and then added in the S'Mores goodies during the last few minutes of churning.


The ice cream is rich and decadent with a deep dark chocolate flavor that lingers in your mouth. Every once in a while you get the surprise of a crunch from the graham crackers interspersed with the smooth, soft chewiness of the marshmallows.


S'Mores Ice Cream

3/4 c. cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
3 cups half and half
8 squares (4 sheets) of graham crackers, roughly crushed
1 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows

Sift together the cocoa and sugars bowl.  Whisk in the half and half until the sugars are dissolved. Cover and refrigerate over night.  Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers directions, adding the graham crackers and marshmallows during the last 5 minutes of churning.  Serve immediately for soft serve or place into a container and freeze for at least 4 hours for a hand scooped serving.  Print Recipe



More Ice Cream Recipes

  




More Back to School Recipes




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

S'Mores Thumbprint Cookies #BacktoSchoolRecipes

Today is the second day that I am sharing Back to School Recipes at the invitation of my friend, Cynthia, who blogs over at Feeding Big.

I already went through all of the feelings I have about this event in my post yesterday where I shared a recipe for S'Mores Clusters.  I also told you that I was sharing another S'Mores recipe today because while thoughts of Fall may have parents thinking about school days it has me thinking about bonfires.  Bonfires equal S'Mores.  S'Mores equal great Back to School treats.


I found this recipe from Betty Crocker.  I loved the fact that they used graham cracker crumbs in the cookie batter.  I loved that the marshmallows and chocolate were not incorporated into the cookies but rather placed on top.  What I didn't love was that the marshmallows were simply melted and not toasted.  In my mind.....S'Mores need toasted marshmallows....so I adapted this recipe and placed the cookies under the broiler for a couple of minutes.


Immediately after pulling them from the broiler, I topped each cookie with a piece of chocolate. After a couple of minutes I could run a knife over them and spread the chocolate to cover the marshmallows.


These cookies are absolutely amazing.  You can enjoy S'Mores all year long, even if you live in the city and never have the opportunity to sit around a campfire toasting marshmallows.  


These are the perfect addition to a lunchbox and also make a wonderful after school snack to provide a boost of energy while doing homework.

S'Mores Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
16 graham cracker squares (8 full sheets), pureed into fine crumbs
dash of salt
72 miniature marshmallows
36 rectangles of milk chocolate from 3 full size bars

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Mix in the flour, graham cracker crumbs and salt at low speed until a stiff dough is formed.  Using a small cookie scoop, shape dough into 36 balls and place onto ungreased cookies sheets, spacing about 2" apart.  Using your thumb, make indentations in the center of each cookie.  Bake in a preheated 325* oven for 10 minutes.  

Remove from oven and place 2 marshmallows in the indentation of each cookie and place under the broiler for 2 minutes, until the marshmallows are toasted.  Remove from oven and top each cookie immediately with a rectangle of chocolate.  Let sit for a minute or two then lightly run a knife over the chocolate spreading it over the marshmallows. Print Recipe

More Back to School Recipes

Monday, July 17, 2017

S'mores Clusters for #BacktoSchoolRecipes

We are now in the middle of Summer and while the kids are enjoying their swimming pools, sprinklers, parks and beaches, the media begins reminding us that school will be starting soon and it is time to get prepared.

The stores are filled with back to school supplies; backpacks, pencils, folders, rulers, paper and lunchboxes.  Parent's see those lunchboxes and start thinking about how to create lunches that are nutritious but still appealing to their children.  You need to get just the right balance of protein and carbs.  You want to make sure that they eat their veggies and fruit and, of course, you want to give them a treat to finish off that lunch.

With this in mind, Cynthia of Feeding Big, invited us to post our favorite Back to School Recipes.  It has been a long time since I have made kid's lunches but I spent many years doing so and I don't think kids have changed much through the years.  My kids loved peanut butter and jelly, bologna and hard salami for their sandwiches.  Sometimes they would take hard boiled eggs.  Often they would have an apple or an orange.  Carrot and Celery sticks were another favorite, especially if those celery sticks were filled with peanut butter and sprinkled with raisins.  Of course there were always some cookies or a brownie or a purchased lunch box cake to finish the meal.

Fall doesn't make me think of school any longer but it does make me think of long hikes in the woods, the smell of autumn leaves and evenings around a bonfire.  These thoughts lead to memories of toasted marshmallows, topped with a square of chocolate and sandwiched between graham crackers.  Ahhhhhh.....S'mores....I can't think of a better treat to enjoy as the weather starts to cool.


While you can't pack a bonfire for your kids to take to school with them, you can send them all the flavors of S'mores with these delicious and easy to make clusters.


I got the idea for these wonderful treats while walking through a little store in our town called "The Sweet Tooth".  This little store has walls lined with all the candies that I enjoyed as a child. Jawbreakers, Swedish Fish, Jujubes, Bit o Honey's, Black Jacks, etc.  It also has an ice cream parlor and a glass display case filled with homemade chocolates for you to drool over.  One of the chocolates they offered were S'mores Clusters.  I was so excited because I knew that I had all the ingredients needed for these beauties sitting in my baking cupboard at home.


I pulled out some chocolate melts, stirred in some roughly crushed graham crackers, folded in some marshmallows and dropped them onto a silicone mat. Since it is not Fall, but is in fact, the middle of a sweltering Summer, I put them in the freezer for a few minutes to set and then transferred them to a plastic storage bag and kept them refrigerated until it was time to enjoy them.


Do you love S'Mores as much as I?  I am so crazy about them that I'm going to share two more S'Mores recipes tomorrow and Wednesday as we celebrate Back to School recipes.  Make sure you stop by and see what the others are sharing today.  You will find their links following this easy peasy recipe.

S'Mores Clusters

2 c. of chocolate melts
Peanut or Canola oil as needed.
1 sleeve graham crackers (8 full crackers), roughly crumbled
1 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows

Place the chocolate melts in a large, microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir and continue microwaving in 15 second increments, stirring after each, until melted. You may add oil, a teaspoonful at a time if needed to make a smooth, creamy consistency.  

When chocolate is melted, stir in the graham crackers until coated.  Fold in the marshmallows and drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper or silicone mats.  Place on a flat surface in the freezer for a few minutes until set, if desired. Print Recipe

More Back to School Recipes


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Southern France at a Midwest BBQ #Winophiles

I thought it only proper that I open this bottle of Rhone Rouge to go along with our 4th of July Celebration for Independence Day.  After all, France was a constant ally to us during the Revolutionary War from which we gained independence from England.

God Bless the USA and Viva La France.

Ad you may have guessed, we are celebrating the wines of Southwest France today over at The French Winophiles.  This month's party is being hosted by Jeff of foodwineclick and he invited us to head down south in France to explore the wine regions available to us.

Image result for map of southern rhone valley

I know next to nothing about French Wines but I am learning slowly but surely by taking part in these monthly adventures.  One of the problems I have is that the nearest wine store that has selections from around the world is an hour away on a good day.  The last time I made a visit I took my list of upcoming Winophiles events and just handed it to the owner, explaining that I needed wines from these areas and that I preferred dry wines, normally drinking Cabs for red and Chards for white.

This is the bottle he provided for this month's Southwest France event.  Now when I look at a map I think the Rhone Valley appears to be more Southeast but being geography illiterate, I wasn't going to argue with a professional.  I gladly paid for three bottles of wine and headed home to cook....I am much better at cooking than map reading.

Evidently, though, this time I am better at map reading than the owner of that wine store.  This wine is not from the region which we were assigned.  Jeff graciously invited me to go ahead and post anyway stating that many were finding that locating a bottle from southwest France was very difficult.


Thanks Jeff.....we had a great Independence get together where the star of the buffet were New York Strip Steaks accompanied by Grilled Mushrooms and Onions.  I opened this bottle of Cuvee des 3 Masses Besses from Cotes du Ventoux.


It poured a beautiful rich garnet with aromas of black pepper.  It was spicy on the tongue, which I absolutely love.  This is a wine that I would enjoy drinking all on it's own.  It didn't require food to make it enjoyable but it did pair very nicely with the grilled steak.

Make sure you stop by to see what the other's are sharing from Southwest France.  I'm sure that they did a better job than I.


French Winophiles Explore Southwest France Take a look at all the discoveries made by our Winophiles group!
Join our chat on Saturday at 10-11am CDT (11am EDT, 8am PDT, and 1700 hours in France)! See what we think of Southwest France, and tell us about your experiences with the wine, food, or travel in the region! Simply log into Twitter and search for the #winophiles tag, and you’re in!

Mango Gazpacho with Shrimp #SoupSaturdaySwappers


This month's Soup Saturday Swappers is being hosted by Paula of The Saucy Southerner.  Paula says that Summer can be soup season and challenged us to share Chilled Soups.

Interested in joining Soup Swappers?  Just leave me a comment with your blog url and email and I will be happy to add you to the group.  We post a soup/stew recipe on the third Saturday of each month, taking turns choosing themes and hosting.


I was excited when Paula chose this theme.  I had been sitting on a Mango Gazpacho recipe for the past few months but hadn't found the time or occasion to make it.  This challenge gave me the incentive I needed to make this creamy, delightful soup.


To make this bright citrusy soup even better, you top it with plump, perfectly cooked shrimp.  The addition of cilantro and mint combine to make it a perfect summery treat.  The recipe, which I found in Lee Bailey's Long Weekends, also included a cube of Grapefruit Jalapeno Ice.  I'm sure that this would have been an amazing addition, however I took this soup with us to our friend's, the Greens, lake house and had no way to transport the ice without it melting, so I omitted it.

The only other adaptations I made to this recipe was to double it as we were feeding a crowd and, since I was using my Vitamix, I just peeled the oranges and limes and pureed them with the mangoes, instead of juicing them.  I also added some mint to the the mixture which I think added a wonderful layer of flavor.

Mango Gazpacho with Shrimp
adapted from Lee Bailey's Long Weekends

3 seedless, navel oranges, peeled and cut into chunks
3 1/2 limes, peeled and halved
6 ripe mangoes, peeled and seeded
1 lg.handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 sm. handful mint leaves, finely chopped.
1/4 of an English cucumber, finely chopped
1/2 of a red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
4 t. sesame oil
2 T. rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined

Place the oranges, limes and mangoes in a heavy duty blender and puree until smooth.  Stir in the cilantro, mint, cucumber, red bell pepper, onion, oil and vinegar.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or until well chilled.  When ready to serve, pour into shallow bowls and top with 3 or 4 shrimp. Print Recipe

More Wonderful Chilled Soups