Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gotta Try This ... Cookie Cake

I've been reading the King Arthur Flour cooking blog and this entry was too interesting to resist trying!  The tester used King Arthur mixes, but I've used a 'from scratch' chocolate chip cookie dough and local brand name cake mix (Butter Pecan flavor - although I think almost any flavor would work).  This would make a great birthday cake.

Family Rating: ***** ... and that's without ice cream!

Cookie Cake
Yield:  20 svgs.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (ingredients below)
Butter Pecan flavored Cake mix batter (3 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 1/3 cups water)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough* Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1 cup mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet)**

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mix flour, salt & soda together.  Set aside.  Cream butter, sugar, water, egg and vanilla in another bowl for 3 minutes.  Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Mix chocolate chips into the dough.
3. Lightly spray a 13x9 inch pan (it's important that the pan be as least 2 inches deep) with cooking spray.  Spread the Chocolate Chip Cookie dough in the pan. 

4.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges start to brown lightly.  The middle should NOT be completely baked.  Remove from oven and set aside (if there's time!).
5.  While the cookie bottom is baking, mix the cake batter according to directions on the box.
6.  Pour the cake batter over the partially baked cookie dough.  Spread evenly.

7.  Bake for an additional 30-38 minutes.  Keep an eye on the browning ... if it browns too quickly, place a foil tent over the pan.
8. The cake is done when a tester comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
9. Eat and thoroughly enjoy!  It won't last long ...

Note:  The KA blog recommends serving with a scoop of ice cream and chocolate syrup.  I was out of ice cream and didn't need the chocolate syrup.  STILL tasted yummy and the kids didn't talk a bit while eating their treat.

*I actually had to search through my cookbooks for an appropriate recipe.  I usually don't make 'plain' chocolate chip cookies; I prefer an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Recipe or a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Recipe.  Additionally, the two recipes I mentioned are huge!  I didn't feel like baking cookies on top of making the cookie cake, so I looked for a smaller recipe, too.

**You could substitute regular sized semi-sweet chocolate chips, but the minis are really nice and distribute the chocolate throughout the batter in a more pleasing way.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Manicotti Alla Romana

This is a new recipe to me.  I've had the manicotti pasta on hand for a while and decided during menu planning that it was time to 'use it'.  So, while this recipe doesn't recommend or even talk about doubling and freezing, that's my experiment.  I'm quite certain it will work because I frozen similar dishes with great results.  I am planning to change the recipe from the original I found online, so I can give you my ingredients and extended directions.  Please note that the ingredients are for a double batch and I do plan to freeze half.  This recipe is a bit time-consuming, so the double batch makes it more worthwhile for me.


This recipe is soooo good.  For our family, one manicotti was enough for the three youngest.  Graham would have had enough with 1/2 or 3/4 of a manicotti, but I dished him without thinking.  He ate it anyway (I'm sure he's stuffed!) because the Cookie Cake Dessert was enticing.  I served the main dish with vegetables, so there should be enough left for dinner/lunch tomorrow, as long as I supplement with veggies or garlic toast. 

Manicotti Alla Romana (Doubled)
Yield: 14 servings (7 large adult servings per dish)

2 Tbls. Olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 cloves minced garlic
2 lbs. ground beef
Sea Salt to taste
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained*
2 – 15oz. containers Ricotta Cheese
2 eggs, beaten
6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
4 Tbls. Butter
4 Tbls. All purpose flour
4 Tbls. Beef bouillon
4 cups half & half
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbls. Chopped fresh basil
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent. Add minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Stir in ground beef. Cook until well browned. Season with sea salt and set aside.

2. Cook spinach according to package directions.

3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add manicotti tubes and parboil for half the recommended time on the package. Drain and cover with cool water to stop the cooking process and prevent cracking.

4. To the ground beef, add the cooked spinach and ricotta cheese. When the mixture is cooled, add beaten eggs. Spread 1/4 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of each 9x13 inch pan. Gently drain the manicotti tubes and carefully stuff each one with meat and cheese mixture. I put the mixture in a Ziploc storage bag, cut the corner and squeezed the mixture into the tubes. Place half the pasta in each pan. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent cracking.

Meat and ricotta cheese mixture (above).

13x9 pans prepared with 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce.

Meat and ricotta cheese mixture in a ziploc bag and ready for squeezing into the manicotti tubes.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6. Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and beef bouillon. Increase heat to med-high and cook while stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Stir in ½ & ½ and bring to a boil, stirring constantly (a whisk works best). Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Ladle half the sauce over manicotti in each pan.

7. Stir the basil into the remaining spaghetti sauce. Ladle half the sauce over the white sauce in each pan. Try to layer the sauces without mixing.

Manicotti tubes are filled and placed in 13x9 pans (above).  Ready for baking or for freezing (below).

8. Cover aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered another 10 minutes.

Freezing Directions: 
After layering the sauces on the second pan, cover with plastic wrap and with a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. If you prefer, you can even measure the parmesan cheese into a baggie and freeze between the plastic wrap and foil. Label with the following instructions: Thaw completely in frig (this may be more than overnight). Remove plastic wrap and recover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees, or until done. Remove from the oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered another 10 minutes.

*If you decide not to double, it’s okay to use a full 10 oz. package of frozen spinach per ‘batch’.

An Additional Note:  I used a gallon size freezer bag, but it may be more manageable to use a quart sized bag.

And, a confession ... I forgot to add the eggs to the meat and cheese mixture!  However, the dish was still delicious and no one but me knew about the omission.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Last week, Angelina and I mixed up a quick batch of Peanut Butter Blossoms.  I use my smallest cookie scoop (it's about 1 Tbls. in size) to scoop the batter onto a plate. 

Angelina rolled the scoops into balls and then rolled them in sugar and placed them on cookie sheets.  Using my large Doughmakers cookie sheets, it only takes two trips to the oven to get about 3.5 dozen cookies (if I'd have used convection, it would have been one step baking for a single batch!).  I prefer Hershey's kisses for the chocolate top; the kisses are placed right after taking the cookies out of the oven.

After cooling completely, the Peanut Butter Blossom cookies are stored between layers of waxed paper in the freezer.  I have a small collection of Christmas tins, but they are still in storage ... so, these cookies will be frozen in Tupperware containers.  They can be stored at room temp. for 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Holiday Goodies still on the list:
  • Divinity
  • Cashew Brittle
  • Pizzelles
  • Turtle Cookies
  • Suzie's Favorite Sugar Cookies
  • Creme de Menthe Brownies
  • Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies
  • Jam Thumbprints
  • New This Year (my experimental recipe): Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints
 Note:  I keep a master list of what I've frozen.  However, I try NOT to remember all the goodies going into the freezer until it's really time for them to be used!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 25-31 Menu

Menus are flexible in my house.  That means if leftovers last longer, I get a free pass for a meal or two!  Here's what I have planned for this coming week: October 25-31.  As always, a bread (biscuits, beer batter bread, croissants, etc.), salad, fruit or veggies are generally added to the main dish.  Although, additions have been a little forgotten during these last weeks of pregnancy - at least I'm getting a meal on the table.

Dinner: French toast w/ deer sausage
Supper: Taco Bar at our 4-H meeting

Dinner: Healing Cabbage Soup (I need to use up a half a cabbage)
Supper: Leftovers or sandwiches (traveling for Angelina and I = sandwiches)

Dinner: Hamburger Hotdish (double and freeze one entree)
Supper: Leftovers (Hamburger Hotdish)

Dinner: Hot Ham & Cheese sandwiches
Supper: Manicotti Alla Romana (double and freeze one entree)

Dinner: Leftovers or sandwiches
Supper: Pizza

Dinner: Tuna sandwiches
Supper: Shrimp Alfredo

Dinner: Leftovers (whatever needs to be eaten)
Supper: Crock Pot: Whole Chicken with Veggies

I don't plan breakfasts.  We have a variety of choices available: cold & hot cereal, bagels, English muffins, bread, eggs (for those old enough, but many weeks I'll have cold boiled eggs in the frig), yogurt (homemade) and in-season fruit.  Cold cereal ends up the common breakfast, but I'm working on it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fresh Bread

I've been craving fresh bread.  I should just set my breadmaker on the counter, but the counters already have enough clutter and the sight of the bread machine would probably just make me feel guilty!  So, upon finding this recipe for Easy Batter Bread and seeing it's simplicity, I thought I'd give it a whirl.  It has a texture similar to beer batter bread and probably wouldn't hold up for sandwiches. 

While it rose fine before baking, for some unknown reason it fell a little in the middle during baking; but it tasted yummy with apricot jam and plum jelly.  I think I'll have to get out my bread machine for the 'real' bread texture I'm craving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 18-24 Menu

This is the menu I have planned for October 18–24 (we usually add biscuits, salad or veggies to the main dish):

Dinner: Traveling – fast food
Supper: Traveling – fast food

Dinner: Tater Tot Hotdish with Romaine lettuce salad
Supper: Ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches

Dinner: Fiesta Chicken Pasta Soup (doubled)
Supper: Leftover Fiesta Chicken Pasta Soup

Dinner: Leftovers (Tater Tot Hotdish or Fiesta Chicken Pasta Soup)
Supper: Crock Pot Beef Roast

Dinner: Hot Beef and cheese sandwiches
Supper: Beef Stroganoff with Rice (or mashed potatoes)

Dinner: Oven-baked Tuna Melts
Supper: Clam Chowder

Dinner: Leftovers (Beef Stroganoff)
Supper: Italian Sausage Soup (doubled & I plan to freeze half)