Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

I tried this recipe out because I love spinach dip.  Also to add to the meatless (budget friendly) arsenal of recipes I can use.  Verdict:  pretty good.  Better as a side dish or maybe add a small amount of cooked chicken to round it out.  But I enjoyed it even more reheated the next day.  For the rest of the family it was a "meh", but there were no complaints.  So I will pass it along for those spinach artichoke dip lovers.  We tried a similar skillet style recipe a couple weeks ago with asparagus that was really good.  The next time I see some particularly nice asparagus spears, I'll make it again and share it.  For now, enjoy some hot spinach dip flavor without having to wait for a potluck.  It's convenient time-wise because it is simply broiled to finish, not baked through like some pasta dishes.

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta
serves 6

8 oz small pasta (I used a mini rotini)
1½ tbsp olive oil or butter
1 large onion, diced
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup sour cream
½ cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups, packed baby spinach
1 jar (12 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to directions on package.  Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water before draining.  Heat oil or butter in a very large skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and season with ½ tsp each salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and cook and stir one more minute.  Preheat broiler on oven.  Add the baby spinach and toss with the onion mixture.  Cook until wilted down, about three minutes.  Now add artichokes, sour cream, mascarpone, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest to onion mixture and stir to combine.  Toss with the pasta and add ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce.  Use more if needed.  Fold in ½ cup of the mozzarella.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Pour the mixture into an oven proof 2 Qt casserole dish and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella.  Broil until golden brown, 3-5 minutes.  Watch it carefully so you don't burn it!  Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with garlic bread and a big salad if desired.  Or use as a side dish.

Adapted from Woman'sDay

Monday, April 16, 2012

Orange Creamsicles

I've had this recipe in the box for years.  It is super simple and admirably suited to the Zoku Quick Pop Maker which gives a perfectly creamy store bought result.  (Creamsicles were a childhood favorite of mine.)  Now you can of course use a regular ice pop mold or even Dixie cups, but they will have a slightly icy texture.  I've done both and the girls had no complaints about the Dixie cup version.  The trick is to get them frozen as quickly as possible, which is what the Zoku excels at and why store bought ice pops have that smooth quality.  Years ago when I did a fill in QA job at an ice cream and novelty plant, I got to see the process.  Those things are frozen solid in less than 45 seconds.  Now unless you care to buy some liquid nitrogen (which would be dangerous) or play around with dry ice, the closest you can get to that speed at home is 7-10 minutes in the Zoku.  It might be possible to get a creamier result in a dixie cup if you ran the mixture through an ice cream freezer until it was soft serve consistency before freezing the pops.  That's what I would try if I didn't have the quick pop maker.  But as I've said before, it's one of the best inventions ever and I would buy it again in a heartbeat.  The only downside is that this recipe makes way more than it can handle.  (It can easily do two-three batches back to back; more than that and they start getting soft and taking too long.)  Fortunately the mix keeps in the fridge for a couple days as you make the pops and I had no problem using it up while it was still good.  I am seriously considering getting some extras sticks (Zoku Set of 6 Sticks and Drip Guards) for the pop maker though...  ☺

Orange Creamsicles
from Eagle Brand

 3 cups orange juice
1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
¼ cup lemon juice

An ice pop mold or dixie cups and wooden sticks.

Stir, pour, freeze.  Pretty easy.  Stir together the ingredients in a 4 cup measure with a pour spout.  Pour into the ice pop mold or Dixie cup.  If using the cups, cover with foil and poke the stick or a plastic spoon through the foil and place in the coldest part of your freezer to set up.  Freeze for 10 minutes in the Zoku or overnight in a standard mold or Dixie cups.  Unmold or tear off paper and enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

BBB - Swedish Rye

It's a sad fact that I stand alone in my love of rye bread in our house.  So I was super happy to try out this Buddy recipe and also apprehensive at how the kiddos would receive it.  Well, it was a win!  Hooray!  I did scant the caraway seed by about 25% for the sake of the girls.  I also used white rye to mute the flavor a bit more.  A sacrifice for me but the girls gobbled their sandwiches and 4 year old S even asked for a second one.  My loaf turned out with a tight and springy crumb.  It made great sammies and I had a toad in the hole with it as well.  Yummers!  I know one of the BBB bakers made a gorgeous Reuben with it...  To see the original recipe post go to Paulchen's Foodblog?! to see the Swedish Rye Bread and great step by step pictures.  Here follows the recipe as seen on that post.  (I didn't make my slashes quite deep enough for the vigor of the dough, as you can see, it split lengthwise all along the bottom edge!)  And though the picture doesn't show it well, I love the little bits of orange peel and seeds sprinkled throughout the loaf.

Swedish Rye Bread 
adapted from Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown

Step 1.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons dry yeast
1/3 cups honey
1 cup dry milk
grated peel of 2 oranges
2 teaspoons anise seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 cups unbleached white flour

Step 2.
4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup oil
4 cups rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (for kneading)


  •  Dissolve the yeast in water. Add the honey and dry milk plus the oranges and seeds 
  •  Add the flour to get a thick batter.  Add one cup of flour at a time, stirring well after each addition. The more flour you add the more you need to use a beating motion with your spoon. Best way is to stir up and down in a circular mode from the bottom of the bowl to the surface of the dough. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time. After the 4 cups of flour you should have a thick mud-like dough. 
  •  Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).  Continue to beat until you have a smooth dough. Again pull your spoon under the dough and bring it up to the surface again in a circular mode. The batter will be more elastic while you are doing this as more and more air gets incorporated.
  •  Let rise for 45 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place.  
  • Fold in the remaining ingredients.  Do not stir! Do not cut through the dough, this will improve the elasticity and strength of the dough.
  • Sprinkle on the salt and pour on the oil.  Stir around the side of the bowl working carefully towards the center. Rotate your bowl a little with every stroke. Repeat until all of the salt and oil is incorporated.
  • Sprinkle the flour ½ cup at a time onto the dough. Again fold it in while rotating your bowl.
  • Continue until the dough comes away from the sides of your bowl.
    Now the dough is ready to give it a good knead!
  • Plop your dough on your kneading board and scrape all remains from the bowl onto the dough.  Keep in mind that your surface should be floured enough to prevent the dough from sticking too much on the board.

  • Flour your hands and the top of the dough. From the middle of your dough stretch it down and away from you and then fold it back onto the remaining part of the dough. Continue to push down and forward.
  • Turn the dough a quarter turn. Again continue with the pushing and folding.
  • Turn, fold, push. Rock forward. Twist and fold as you rock back. Be careful not to stretch the dough too much and tear it. Add flour to the boards as needed.
  • While you continue with the kneading the dough will become more and more elastic, smooth and shiny.
  • When you are finished, place the dough in your lightly oiled bowl smooth side down, then turn it over so the dough ball is covered lightly with oil. This will prevent the dough from forming a crust on the top while rising.
  • Cover the bowl with a damp towel again and set aside to rise in a warm place. (50-60 minutes until doubled in size)
  • Punch down your dough with your fists steadily and firmly about 15-20 times.
  • Let rise again 40-50 minutes until doubled in size again.
  • Preheat your oven at 350°F.
  • Turn your dough onto the board again.
  • Form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough into two even pieces and form smaller balls again. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Knead the dough and fold it about 5 times, this gives the dough added spring. After the final push turn the dough a quarter turn.
  • Roll up the dough into a log shape. Seam at the bottom, flatten the top of the dough. Square the sides and ends. Turn the dough over and pinch the seams all the way.
  • Put the dough seam side down into your pan. Press it down into the pan with your fingers.
  • Cover and let rise again. This will take 20-25 minutes.
  • Cut the top with ½ inch deep slits to allow the steam to escape.
  • Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame if you want!
  • Bake for about 50-60 minutes.
  • Remove from pan to cool down completely.