Thursday, August 16, 2018

Baked Ziti

Hello my friends.  It’s been a while.  Since we’ve last spoken, David “ran a marathon” and our oldest turned 15, got his learner’s permit, had his wisdom teeth pulled, and grew as tall as me.
Baked Ziti
Also since we’ve spoken, I have made a variation of this ziti by Ree Drummond 3 times.  Everyone likes it, even Elizabeth.  That is not a misprint.  I will admit – there is a timing element, aka, pain in the butt factor, of this dish so allocate enough time for the cooking, simmering, cooling, and baking (right, Mom?).  Nothing says “happy end of summer” like a hot pasta casserole.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½ large onion, diced 
  • 1 pound ground meat (i.e., ground beef, Italian sausage, ground turkey) 
  • 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce or marinara sauce 
  • 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomatoes with juice, like Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound ziti
  • 3 cups mozzarella, grated 
  • Half of a 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 egg

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat (beef, sausage, turkey or a combo of any 2) and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove 1 ½ - 2 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a 3-quart Pyrex dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and another cup of mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes; sprinkling with chopped parsley before serving, if desired. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin

Make the ordinary extraordinary.  It’s the details and the small touches that elevate the everyday to a higher status. Write a hand written note.  Tell someone that you think their blouse is a pretty color.  Give your kids fruit for dessert (on a toothpick with some mini-marshmallows or with some whipped cream).  Secretly buy a police officer lunch.  Bake a pork tenderloin and drizzle it with apricot glaze.  Come up with your own extraordinary and see how it elevates your happy.  

Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin
  • 2 pounds of pork tenderloin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced rosemary
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet and brown tenderloin on all sides. Roast in oven until 150 degrees – about 15 – 20 minutes.

Combine preserves, lemon juice and pressed garlic.  Remove meat from pan, brush with jam mixture.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Slice tenderloin and serve over polenta, mashed garlic potatoes, or rice and drizzle sauce on top of meat.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Last night David and I went to the Tate Lecture Series at SMU and heard Waco native and Dallas resident, Shawn Achor, speak about happiness and the benefits of positive psychology.  I kept wondering if this guy felt pressure to exhibit happiness all the time because there are some days when you just don’t feel like it.  He has given a TED Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work (which I’m sure we will make our kids watch) and written a few books and even more articles.  
Blueberry Coffee Cake

Do you know what I’m positive about?  You will like this coffee cake.  It is moist and delicious and you might feel a little guilty eating this for breakfast (note that I said “little” – I didn’t say that it should stop you from making it or eating it).  My friend, Tiffany, and her daughter brought us this treat when we moved into our house.  The door hadn’t closed behind them before we dug into the still warm cake. 

You might ask “what am going to do with a blueberry muffin mix and no can of blueberries?” – make these raspberry muffins.  Blueberry coffee cake for a few days, then raspberry muffins - that will help everyone’s happiness and create positive transformation in your house.

  • 1 (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 box Butter recipe Duncan Hines cake mix
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 1 can blueberries, rinsed and drained

Beat and mix all ingredients, except for blueberries, with a mixer.  Fold in blueberries and mix by hand.  Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool in the pan before turning it over onto a plate.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Caramelized Butternut Squash

Caramelized Butternut Squash
Apparently computers don't like to be dropped on the floor.  Twice.  Once by David.  A month later by me.  We sound like a pair of butter fingers. 

What a pair we make - 21 years on Thursday.  They say married couples start to look and dress and sound and do things alike.  Well, that doesn't hold true for cooking alike.  David and I had a bake off of butternut squash.  Mine, of course, was covered in butter and brown sugar.  His was savory with olive oil and a ton of other spices.  Guess which recipe won the family taste test 4:1?  Butter and brown sugar always win (it also doesn't hurt to have Barefoot Contessa on your side).  

  • 2 medium butternut squash (4-5 pounds total) - you can also purchase already cubed butternut squash
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut off and discard the ends of each butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize. While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot (it also tastes good the next day mixed with pasta and cubed, grilled chicken).

Happy Anniversary Big D!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Super Bowl of Dips

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Perfect.  Is there such a thing?  (Anyone who scored a 1600 on the SAT need not reply.) defines it as “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type” and “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.”  This actually makes me feel better and liberated because OMG, who is all of that?  I will admit, I strive for perfection and then I wonder why I am disappointed or feel like I am banging my head against a wall.  A house project that is not quite right; a class and students (and teacher) that haven’t found their rhythm; a work project and client (and consultant) that aren’t quite in sync.  Yet.  That’s the perfectionist in me – still trying, still fighting, still striving, still trying to get in control (still banging my head against a wall). 

Do you think the players in the Super Bowl strive for perfection?  Or is “their best” and “just good enough” acceptable?  Do you know what is perfect with a chip?  A dip.  Do you know what is best eaten while watching the Super Bowl?  A dip.  Do you know what is good enough to eat on days other than the Super Bowl?  A dip.

Here are some of my favorite dips.  They are perfect if you follow the recipes exactly.  Haha.
Shrimp Ceviche Cocktail

Happy birthday (early) Claire!  May it be your best one yet!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Brownie Cookies

Brownie Cookies
If you believe that chocolate makes the world go round then we can be friends.  There is not much that chocolate cannot solve or heal or fix.  Maybe I should send some to Washington.  

I found this recipe in my Uncle Willy’s files (do you see a trend here?).  The kids gravitated towards the name.  The batter is really thick like brownies and can be molded into little balls before baking if you like a perfect little round cookie.  And life is pretty close to perfect when you eat chocolate so, but do as you please.  They taste good either way.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine flour, soda and salt.  Melt butter in a large saucepan and remove from heat.  In a mixing bowl, place the cocoa powder and sugars, pour melted butter in, and mix.  Add yogurt and vanilla, continue mixing to combine.  Add flour mixture and combine until fully incorporated. 

Spoon mixture onto prepared cookie sheets (I made cookies using both a ½ tablespoon and a 1 tablespoon size spoon).  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for a ½ T size cookie – bake for longer if you make a larger cookie).  Cool on sheets for 2 minutes or until firm.  Remove and cool completely on wire racks.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Chicken Strudel

Chicken Strudel
Hold your horses.  Stop the presses.  Blow me over with a feather.  H*** has frozen over. Elizabeth tasted a new dish (with both chicken and spinach) that was placed in front of her and said “that is good!”  I think there was even an exclamation point in her voice.  

I tried to make this dish years ago.  Don’t think it was received with the same results.  But I found this recipe listed in Uncle Willy’s binder so I decided to try it again.  Warning: there is a pain in the rump factor of about a 7.  Working with phyllo (said: “fee-low”, not “f-eye-low” as the kids keep reminding me) can test your patience more than a 3-kid teen+tween combo.

If your kid eats it and praises you simultaneously, I say “suck it up and make the strudel!”

From Stop and Smell the Rosemary, The Junior League of Houston Cookbook

  • 1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and chopped into small pieces (about 2-3 cups of cooked chicken)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh spinach – or one box frozen
  • 12 oz Muenster cheese, shredded (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • 1 lb. frozen phyllo pastry – thawed
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • Paprika

Heat olive oil and saute onions.  Add spinach and cook for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Stir in cheese, wine, salt and pepper, and egg.  Add chicken.

Set oven at 375 degrees. 

Place one sheet of phyllo dough on waxed paper.  Brush with butter and sprinkle each layer with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs.  Repeat to make 4-5 layers.  Spoon half of the chicken mixture onto one end of the dough.  Roll and tuck in edges and end.  Brush top with additional butter and sprinkle with paprika.  Repeat steps above to make a second loaf.  Make diagonal cuts on top of each loaf – about 1” apart.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool before slicing.