Friday, June 29, 2012


Summer and hot cooked pasta dishes go together about as well as some of Elizabeth’s self-selected outfits.  I am no fashion maven but even I know that those two floral patterns don’t belong together.  Then again, she is 6 and with that smile, she can get away with a lot. 

Finding this recipe was based on the necessity to use the 15 oz tub of ricotta with a tablespoon gone for making the tartines.  I found this Giada Laurentis recipe and let me tell you, there is a reason why there are 508 positive reviews.

Crank down your AC and make a dish of manicotti!

1.      4 teaspoons olive oil 
2.      1 medium onion, coarsely chopped, or onion powder
3.      1 pound ground beef
4.      Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5.      8 oz. package manicotti (about 14 in the box)
6.      15 oz. container whole-milk ricotta
7.      3 cups shredded mozzarella
8.      1 cup grated Parmesan
9.      2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
10.  2 garlic cloves, minced, or garlic powder
11.  3 cups marinara sauce (I like Classico Four Cheese)
12.  2 T butter, cut into pieces

In a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain excess fat, and cool.

Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm, about 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to a wax paper covered cookie sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture (I rolled it into oval shapes so that it would fit into the manicotti and then stuffed from each end). Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot entire dish with the butter pieces. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Palmiers Two Ways

Travis returned from camp with a hoarse voice and a cough.  Dr. Mom watched him with a wary eye and a raised eyebrow.  Finally my hypothesis was justified with a fever on Thursday.  Why do I seem so happy that my child has a fever?  Because now I can take him to see the doctor with evidence and not be one of those overvigilant, hypochondriac moms (which I am, I get it).  Trust me, I would rather have been wrong on this one and I don’t say that often.  I like being right.  I’m right even when I’m wrong – just ask David.

It has been a long week.  Has it been for you too?  Only good things come from frozen pastry sheets so how about some palmier recipes – savory and sweet – so all of your taste buds are satisfied.  There are 2 puff pastry sheets in the box – I used one to make savory and one for sweet.  The recipes below are for 2 sheets so if you split it, obviously halve the ingredients for each recipe.

Savory (thank you Barefoot Contessa)
Savory Palmiers (left)
Sweet Palmiers (right)
1.      1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted, Pepperidge Farm preferred
2.      1/4 cup prepared pesto (I use Classico)
3.      1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
4.      1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
5.      1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
6.      Kosher salt

Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it's 9 1/2 by 11 1/2-inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sundried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry in 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

1.      2 cups granulated sugar
2.      1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3.      2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted, Pepperidge Farm preferred

Preheat the oven to 450.  Combine the sugar and kosher salt. Pour 1 cup of the sugar/salt mixture on a flat surface such as wooden board or marble. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar and pour 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture on top, spreading (not sprinkling) it evenly on the puff pastry. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's 13 by 13-inches square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold 1 half over the other half as though closing a book. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place the second sheet of pastry on the sugared board, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar mixture, and continue as above. There will be sugar left over on the board.  Slice and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment.

Bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

White Sangria

The joys of summer!  My childhood friend Wendy emailed this recipe the other day.  How did she know that my mouth was numb from taste testing salsa (that was one potent jalapeno – I’m also a lightweight when it comes to spicy) and this beverage sounded even more appealing than usual!  White sangria must be the thing because Linda served a white sangria at a party recently – her recipe was passed along from Jamie.  I hereby declare white sangria the official drink of summer.  Try the variations below, invite some friends over, kick back and relax, and enjoy summer!

White Sangria
Wendy’s White Sangria
1.      1 bottle of dry Riesling or any other inexpensive, drinkable white wine
2.      6 oz (3/4 cup) peach vodka, preferably Ciroc
3.      6 oz (3/4 cup) pineapple juice
4.      ½ cup of agave nectar (or orange juice)
5.      1 navel orange, quartered and sliced
6.      1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into bite size pieces
7.      Club soda

Mix everything together in a pitcher at least 2 and up to 24 hours ahead of time.  Serve over ice with a splash of club soda (don’t pre-mix or it will go flat).

Jamie’s White Sangria
1.      1 bottle of vino verde
2.      1 bottle of Reisling
3.      1/2 cup brandy
4.      1/4 cup orange liqueur
5.      1 cup sugar
6.      1 can of sliced peaches in syrup - either the fruit only or fruit and syrup and/or if you want it really fruity, add 2 cans
7.      1 container of blackberries
8.      1 orange sliced
9.      1 lemon sliced
10.  1 bottle of prosecco
11.  1 can of ginger ale
12.  Juice of hibiscus flowers, optional

Pour and mix ingredients #1-9.  Chill for a couple of hours (usually make the morning of and chill all day).  Right before serving, add chilled prosecco and ginger ale.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Hot!  Hot!  Hot!  On one hand, I am referring to the temperatures in Dallas.  Earlier in the week, we were watching a baseball game played by 6 year olds in a heat index of 102.  A) it is only June B) my boys are not giving up baseball anytime soon C) not enough Gatorade in the world could quench my thirst.  The temperature of this salsa all depends on how many jalapenos you add.  I must have found a large one because this batch has a kick!
Last week, my friend Deb sent out an SOS because her tomato plants overfloweth.  Annie, my friend from McAllen, answered the call with her homemade salsa recipe.  I made this dish earlier in the week but we ate it before I could take a picture.  Darn – I had to make it again!

1.      4-5 large tomatoes 
2.      ½ to 1 onion
3.      Cilantro
4.      Jalapeno pepper
5.      1-2 cloves of garlic
6.      ½ T lime juice
7.      1 t salt

Place ingredients #1-5 in a food processor and blend together.  In case you were wondering, I used 5 tomatoes, 1/2 sweet yellow onion, 1/4 bunch of cilantro, 1 jalapeno pepper and 2 cloves of garlic.  Pour salsa in a strainer to remove the excess liquid.  Pout into a bowl then add the lime juice and salt.  Stir to combine. Serve with chips.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Orzo with Arugula, Dried Cherries and Ricotta

This box of arugula is never ending!  It’s like a salad from eatZi’s – it looks so small and compact in the container and then you take the lid off and it expands into mass quantities.  Either that or the arugula is regenerating in my ‘frig at night while I sleep.  Maybe David is just playing a trick on me and refills it when I’m not looking…

I’m a big fan of orzo dishes – remember the orzo with roasted vegetables?  This is a great summer alternative – it’s light and cool with the sweet of the dried cherries, the nuttiness and crunch of the pine nuts and the creaminess of the cheese.  I adapted this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  Double it if serving as more than a side dish, taking to a summer picnic and serving a crowd, and add in fresh basil, if desired. 

Orzo with Arugula, Dried Cherries and Ricotta
1.      ½ pound orzo pasta 
2.      1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3.      1 cup fresh arugula, cut into bite size pieces
4.      ½ cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese (or feta cheese)
5.      ¼ cup dried cherries
6.      ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
7.      1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
8.      1 teaspoon salt
9.      ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, place in a bowl and stir in 1 ½ T of olive oil then and put the pasta on a large cookie sheet to cool.

Once the orzo is cool, transfer to a large serving bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients (#3-9) and stir to combine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Arugula Salad with Parmesan

My head is spinning.  Where to go after the phenomenal success of the tartines?  Play along with me at home:
1.      Should I post more tartine recipes?
2.      Should I find a way to use up the leftover arugula? Block of parmesan?  Tub of ricotta?
3.      Should I help my friend Deb use the tomatoes that are dripping off of the plants in her garden?
4.      Should I try some of the recipes that I saw on the Today show this morning?

Choices!  The frugal side of me prevailed – sorry Deb, I’ll get back to you – and I went searching for arugula recipes.  I found a few good ones so buy yourself a box of arugula if you used it all up on the tartines.  This Barefoot Contessa recipe landed on the top of our list because I also needed to use up some butterflied chicken breasts that I bought at Whole Foods earlier in the week.  Also, try out this lemon fusilli pasta recipe with tomatoes and arugula.

Arugula Salad with Parmesan
1.      1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons) 
2.      1/2 cup good olive oil
3.      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4.      1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5.      Arugula
6.      Parmesan, freshly shaved

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients #1-4.  Pour over arugula and toss.  Shave fresh parmesan on top and serve.

Serve with this pan-cooked parmesan chicken.  Delish!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vegetable Tartines

People magazine = brain candy for me. I used to treat myself when I traveled for work. Now I enjoy it while at the dentist's office - probably the only thing I enjoy there (no offense, Dr. Jones). I like to think that People is classier and more accurate than Us or the National Enquirer. I am good at justifying lots of guilty pleasures. People has added recipes. Note to self: discuss with accountant to determine if annual subscription can be deducted as a business expense: research.

This week there is recipe by Alain Ducasse for spring tartines. A tartine is an open faced sandwich that is popular in France.  I have taken some liberties and removed a few items that didn't sound so delectable to me: peas, radishes and fennel. Add them back in if you have more sophisticated tastes.  This recipe was adapted from his cookbook "Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good".

The Baker's Mann will be assuming summer hours with two (vs 3) posts each week.

Vegetable Tartines
1.      4 slices of multigrain or whole-wheat bread, toasted on one side
2.      16 asparagus, blanched and cut off tips at a length of 2 ½ inches
3.      3-4 oz ricotta or cream cheese
4.      15-20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
5.      1 ½ oz shaved Parmesan or Parmesan-Reggiano
6.      1 ½ C baby arugula
7.      Ground Black Pepper

Blanch the asparagus.  Boil water and drop asparagus in the boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove and place immediately in a bowl of ice cubes and water at hand. Let cool for 2 minutes, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. 

Toast one side of the bread.  Spread the ricotta or cream cheese on the toasted side of the bread.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place on top of the cheese.  Arrange the asparagus tips (you can slice the tips lengthwise first if you choose), top with arugula and then the shaved Parmesan cheese on top.  Finally, some fresh ground black pepper to taste.