Monday, February 28, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Conchiglie -- Stuffed Shells

So good to be back! We had a huge ice storm last week and were out of power for about 4 days, thank goodness we have a small generator so we were able to heat our house, power the fridge and basement freezer, and have a light or two on, but no TV or computer so that was an adjustment. We opened up the curtains, enjoyed the beautiful sun shining on all of the ice and the kids and I played a ton of board games. No oven = no baking :( To make dinners we turned off the furnace for an hour or so (so we had enough power from the generator to use small kitchen appliances) and plugged in the griddle and had 'breakfast for dinner' one night, the other night we used the presto pizza pizzazz to cook a pizza, and the last night fired up the electric wok for some teriyaki noodles -- all cooked by candlelight since the generator could only power one kitchen appliance and the fridge at once. What a week, it almost was kind of fun, I know the kids had a blast, but I'm glad things are back to normal!

On to this dish, Spinach and Ricotta Conchiglie is my pick for My Kitchen My World -- Destination Italy. This recipe is from the cookbook, Pasta - irresistible recipes for perfect pasta, that I've had for years and only made one recipe from. The one recipe I tried was Macaroni and Blue Cheese -- I had completely forgotten I made that recipe -- but I had written down the date that I made it in the cookbook (what I used to do before starting a food blog), October 2006, and when I read that date, I remembered how my daughter -- who was 18 months old at the time -- loved the Macaroni and Blue Cheese just as much as mommy did, even though daddy was not a fan. It made me smile back then, thinking I may have a lil' foodie on my hands, and now that memory makes me smile even more. I love stuffed pasta shells and was happy to give this version a try. The photo in the book is so enticing, I love the addition of pine nuts sprinkled on top.

Spinach and Ricotta Conchiglie
slightly adapted from Pasta - irresistible recipes for perfect pasta

12 ounces large conchiglie (pasta shells)
1 and 3/4 cups strained tomatoes
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 thick slices white bread, crumbled
1/2 cup milk -- I used skim
3 tablespoons olive oil
9 ounces ricotta cheese -- about 1 and 1/4 cup
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to the directions on the package. Rinse under cold water, drain, and reserve until needed.

2. Place the bread, milk, and three tablespoons of olive oil into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process to combine. Add the spinach and ricotta cheese and season with salt (about 1/2 tsp kosher), pepper, and nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon).

3. Combine the strained tomatoes with the garlic and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the sauce evenly over the bottom of a casserole -- I used a 9 by 13 pyrex glass baking dish.

4. Spoon the spinach mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip and fill the pasta shapes (I used a ziplock bag with the corner cut off, worked great).

5. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and grate some parmesan over the top, then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the nuts and cheese have turned a light golden brown.

Buen Appetito! -- Enjoy your meal! Sorry for the lack of good photos on this one, I'm going to have to blame bad evening lighting :) This dish was great, it was pretty heavy on the spinach though, so make sure who ever you are serving this to is a spinach fan. To serve, I spooned some of the strained tomato sauce over the shells. I have a favorite non-traditional stuffed shells dish I make that has lots of cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta stuffed into the shells) and then is blanketed with sauteed mushrooms, homemade tomato sauce, and mozzarella before baking in the oven and I think that one is still my favorite. It was fun to try a more traditional Italian version of one of my favorite Italian-American dishes, and conchiglie is much more fun to say than plain 'ol stuffed shells. I did love the pine nuts on top and will have to incorporate those into my usual recipe :)

I had a lot of fun picking an Italian recipe to try (originally wanted to do a whole meal, but with the outage didn't have time to get it to it) and I have three *must make* Italian recipes from some of my cookbooks that are completely new to me, two breads, one dessert, so hopefully you'll be seeing those up here soon at Nummy Kitchen. Having the power outage meant lots of time for browsing through my cookbook collection, among other things, so I have a whole bunch of recipes mentally bookmarked that I have had on my shelf for years and never noticed before, kind of reminds me of time before the internet and before a quick jump on google or foodnetwork made it so easy to find a recipe that you actually had to page through a cookbook, miss those days.

I'm sending this dish along to Ruth at Once Upon A Feast, who is the creator of Presto Pasta Nights and hosting a 4th Birthday Bash for PPN #203, how fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rum Truffles -- Sweet Melissa Sundays

Time for Sweet Melissa Sundays! Our pick this week is a recipe for Rum Truffles, picked for us to try by Nina at Nina’s Cupcakes, thanks Nina! This is my second time making truffles, my first one, Peanut Butter Truffles, was also made with the Sweet Melissa Sundays gang. I think I liked the flavor of those a touch more than these, because I liked the peanut butter and chocolate flavor better than the rum chocolate flavor, but these were still really good.

The above photo is the truffle mixture before it goes in the fridge to firm up, it was very glossy and smooth, just like a mirror. It is reflecting the dining room lighting fixture and looks kind of neat to me. It's always fun to see stuff at a different angle, just wish I had better natural light in the room and that would have been a pretty cool photo.

I had a bag of Wilton Color Melts to try, featuring the new Colorburst Brights option, so I used these to coat a few of the truffles. When I saw these for sale I could not pass them up. They are not quite as bright as I imagined they'd be :( but they were still kind of neat. You can seem the truffles in the first photo have been coated with the Color Burst candy melts but I didn't think the colors popped as much as they should have, kind of just made the truffles look messy to me. Next time I'll stick with white candy melts and plenty of nonpareils to give it that fun sprinkled look.

For the last few of these (I made a half batch) I used chocolate sprinkles and I think those turned out cuter. It's always fun to try a candy recipe, and I need as much practice as possible with truffles if I ever want to make them for treats during the holidays, so bring on the truffle recipes :) These were so rich that one is more than enough chocolate for the day, picky husband said he required a glass of milk to finish one truffle, but then again, isn't that the point of a truffle, to give an extra intense dose of chocolate?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Green Beans for French Fridays with Dorie

Time for French Fridays with Dorie! Our recipe of the week is Pancetta Green Beans, since I don't eat pancetta, I tried to figure out a substitute, and still follow the cooking directions in the recipe. I decided to go with two different versions, one half batch with cashews (my first choice) and then, just for fun, I made a half batch with Bac-Os.

According to my google search, Bac-Os or some other kind of frozen fake bacon are popular subs when people try to swap the bacon out of recipes. I have never been a fake bacon eater, but I do like Bac-Os on my salad every now and then and had some in the pantry, so I figured I'd give them a shot.

Here are the beans in their water bath. I really appreciated the cooking times in this recipe because my beans turned out perfectly, and sometimes I struggle with how long to cook beans to get them to just the right tender crisp texture, soggy green beans really bug me. My husband usually likes his softer than I like mine, but the texture of these seemed to please us both.

I used butter in place of the tbsp of pancetta fat you are supposed to leave in the pan. Then followed the directions with the cashews and Bac-Os in two different batches.

They both turned out nicely and my boys liked them as a lunch side dish. I prefer the cashew version, they were delicious, but the Bac-Os version was fine too, and my boys really liked them. I will be using the bean cooking method (5 minutes in boiling salted water, ice bath, sauteed 2 extra minutes) in the future since we are all green bean fans in our house and I am always looking for new ways to cook them!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies

Our pick for Tuesdays with Dorie this week is a chocolate cookie with some oatmeal mixed in called Chocolate Oatmeal Drops. These cookies were picked for us to try by Caroline and Claire of Bake With Us, thanks girls! I made a half recipe of these since we have so many sweets around from Valentine's Day. I'm running a little late posting these, I thought I'd make them for an after school snack today, and guess what, today is a special day because my baby girl (who is now 5 and 1/2, oh how the years fly by) lost her first tooth at school!

I had to snap this photo as soon as we got home, it is her bottom left middle that is missing, and I seem to remember that as her very first tooth, first to come in and first to leave, I guess. She was so very excited about losing this tooth. I guess it was an orange at lunch time that gave her tooth the little nudge it needed to finally come out. When this tooth was first loose a few days ago, daddy asked her how much she thought the tooth fairy would bring and she said "twenty bucks" we'll have to see if that tooth fairy delivers tonight :)

One more shot of these yummy cookies, the kids liked them and even though chocolate cookies aren't usually my favorite, I thought these were very good and I loved the slightly crispy edges and chewy, softer middle texture of these. I also loved how easy these were, perfect for when you want a quick chocolatey snack. Yum!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Orange Almond Heart Tart

Time for French Fridays with Dorie, our recipe this week is an Orange Almond Tart. I was excited about this recipe since I love oranges and almonds and making tarts. This recipe is quite similar to the recipe for French Pear Tarts that we made with Tuesdays with Dorie back in January of 2009.

Dorie's Sweet Tart dough is made in the food processor, I have found that for some reason (not sure why) I always need to add a little extra liquid when making my tart doughs in the food processor so instead of the egg yolk only, I used the whole egg and a couple of tablespoons of water to help the tart dough come together.

Next, pick a tart pan. I figured I'd go with my large heart tart pan since it is almost Valentine's Day and who can resist a heart tart? I did not pre-bake my tart dough, after baking quite a few tarts over the past few years, I've just come to the conclusion that I like my tart dough a little less browned and crunchy that many of the recipes call for. I like it crispy and flaky kind of like a cross between a soft sugar cookie and pie crust.

I used the pat in pan method for the tart dough, which always seems easier to me. Then the tart dough is sent to holiday in the refrigerator for a while the almond cream filling is prepared. I do not keep almond flour on hand but almost always have almonds, and find that you can make a rustic almond meal in the food processor with sliced almonds that works just as well as almond flour and gives it a little more texture. For the filling, instead of two teaspoons rum or one teaspoon vanilla, I switched it up to two teaspoons triple sec (which, according to wikipedia, was invented in France) -- to up the orange flavor and one teaspoon vanilla, since I love vanilla and orange together.

The first photo in this post is my "before baking" shot that I always take. Above is the tart just out of the oven after testing done at only 30 minutes. I had the timer set for 50 minutes per the recipe, but went to check at 30 just because it smelled done to me, and there it was, perfectly golden brown.

And below generously dusted with powdered sugar. Haven't tried this one yet but pretty sure we will love it. Will report back after dinner with the results of the family taste test :) ETA: This tart is so delicious! I think it's my favorite recipe I've made with FFwD so far. My five year old daughter said it was awesome and my three year old son said it was really yummy and wanted a second piece. Everyone else was too full from dinner to try it (tonight was homemade pizza night) but I'm sure that they'll love it as soon as they have some.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Almond Bourbon Bread Pudding

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie! I'm a little late on this one today since I waited until Tuesday to actually make this treat, but it was worth the wait. Our treat of the week is Bourbon Bread Pudding, picked for us to try by Sharon from Simply Southern, thanks Sharon!

I used homemade French bread for this recipe, and instead of baking in a loaf pan went with a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. I used some extra bread, 15 ounces instead of the 8 called for, since I like a higher bread to custard ratio.

I also upped the flavorings a little and added 1 cup of sliced almonds. I also only used the 4 eggs and skipped the extra two yolks, don't worry, it was still plenty rich.

Served with some whipped cream (and some grade B maple syrup -- not pictured) I thought this was a warm and comforting wintertime dessert. I'm glad I upped the bourbon, vanilla, and almond extract. Picky husband isn't a bread pudding person, although I'm still trying to convince him -- I used to not like it but have turned into a fan over the last few years. The kids are hit or miss, we had one who ate their whole serving, one who ate only the whipped cream, and one who had a couple of bites but was not interested in finishing, oh-well, you win some, you lose some :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mini Sacher Torte

Just a quick post for Sweet Melissa Sundays, our treat this week is a Sacher Torte, picked for us to try by Jessica of My Baking Heart, thank you Jessica! This cake recipe is actually the exact cake recipe for the Speakeasy Cake I made two weeks ago, with a couple of tiny tweaks -- a layer of jam and a dried apricot on top.

Since I already made the full version for the Speakeasy, I decided to do half a recipe and bake the cake into minis with my Texas sized Muffin Pan.

After baking the cakes are split and jam is added to the middle, before being sandwiched back together...

Then comes the yummy ganache glaze and a chocolate dipped dried apricot just for fun :)

I ended up baking the six mini cakes for 30 minutes which was just right, they turned out moist and decadent. This recipe has piqued my interests regarding Sacher Torte recipes and I may try a more authentic Sacher Torte soon! Love the culinary history behind this recipe, thanks for the fun SMS pick, Jessica!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mini Basque Potato Tortilla

Our French Fridays with Dorie recipe of the week is for a Basque Potato Tortilla. I have to be honest and admit that I was not too excited about this one since I am not an egg fan, but I made a mini version hoping the kids would enjoy it. I am trying my best not to miss FFwD and like to expose my kids to many different foods, even if they aren't my favorite, to expand their culinary palates. Also, I keep thinking one day I will try an egg dish and like it, taste buds change over time, so I had to give this a go.

This recipe starts out with potatoes and onion that are browned in a cast iron skillet. Yummy! I pulled out my mini cast iron skillet, happy to have an excuse to finally use the thing :) I decreased the ingredient amounts to 1/3 of the original recipe.

After cooking the tortilla on the stove for 8 minutes, it is then broiled for a minute or so under the broiler. My tortilla puffed up a ton, but fell soon after it exited the oven.

No problems with releasing this little guy from the pan. Whew! I was a little nervous about that.

I cut it into eight tiny triangles and the kids were eager to give it a try. I hyped up this recipe and how yummy it would be. Notice the little fingers going for a slice on the above photo. At first bite the kids all said it was good, my oldest called it a potato pie. Then a second bite, and the opinions changed, "it's a little good, but a little lame," said my three year old son. Uh-oh, nothing worse than a lame tortilla! Then my four year old son told me it was good, but he didn't want to eat it right now, he did later come back and finish his piece, yay! My daughter ate about three bites of her tortilla triangle, but didn't finish it. Sigh, I guess they get their egg taste buds from their mommy.

Will have to report back later once picky husband gives this a try, we will save the rest for him. He likes eggs and potatoes so this one might be a winner with him. Even though this isn't a new favorite (pending picky husband's taste test, who knows, he might love it) it was still a fun recipe to try, it was nice to see the components come together and the finished tortilla.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

King Sized Great Grains Muffins

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie! Our treat this week is less like the sweet treats we are used to making and more of a breakfast baked good, introducing Great Grains Muffins. The photo of these in Baking From My Home To Yours looks absolutely delicious to me and I couldn't wait to give them a try. Thank you to Christine at Happy Tummy, who picked these for us to try this week!

I was planning to bake these up in my Nordic Ware train cakelet pan, with a snappy title of Great Grains Muffin Train, cute, huh? But, much to the disappointment of my Thomas the Train loving {read obsessed} three year old, I can not find that pan -- it's not where I thought it was and after digging around a bit I decided to just use my Wilton King Size Muffin pan (that I've had for a while but never used) instead.

This pan really is king sized, I could only fill five muffin cups, even though I made the full recipe of muffin batter!

Before and after baking shot, my muffins ended up all different heights since I didn't distribute the batter evenly...

Oh-well, they were still delicious! My two boys who are home today loved them and I'm sure my daughter will enjoy hers for an after school snack -- or half of one anyway. I baked them for exactly 20 minutes at 400 and they were perfectly done, for add-ins I used dried cherries, no nuts today. I think these would be wonderful with some shredded cheddar baked in as well, maybe next time :) On a side note, we are currently under a blizzard warning and I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about the expected snow!

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