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Easy Homemade Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli

This year, I’ve promised myself to cut back on meat and make more vegetable-based meals. Not that we are turning vegetarian, but I do think we need to put more emphasis on fruits, grains and vegetables and less on meat.

The challenge is to come up with tasty ideas that will go over well.

Here is an easy homemade ravioli recipe to try:

Easy Homemade Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli

Easy Homemade Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli

Easy Homemade Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli

Using Wonton wrappers makes this a breeze. You can find them in most grocery stores in the specialty section of the produce section or in the international food aisles:

24 wonton wrappers
1 cup low fat or fat free ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh grated or Parmesan cheese shreds (Please don’t use that nasty stuff in the green cylindrical container!)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves–buy the already washed leaves, pat dry if you do rinse them again.
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

Egg Wash:

1 beaten egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water

1. Mix the ricotta, egg, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan together.

2. Chop the leaf portion of the spinach. Discard stems and add the chopped leaves to the ricotta mixture.

3. Saute the chopped mushrooms in a little heated olive oil until softened. Remove with slotted spoon, draining well.

4. Mix into the ricotta mixture

5. Separate the wonton wrappers. Cut each one in half. Brush each half with the egg wash. Set one half of the divided wrapper aside.

6. On the first half, lightly mark across (not through) to mark the half wrapper into 2 squares.

7. Place the prepared filling–a small teaspoon in the center of each marked square.

8. Now, place the other half of the wrapper, egg wash side down, over the top of the first wrapper. Before pinching together, make sure all air pockets are pressed out.

9. Pinch to seal. Cut between the two ravioli and if you have a pastry wheel, cut all edges.  Or after cutting with a knife, use a fork and on all sides, press down to mark the edges.

10. Set aside on a non-stick baking sheet. When all are finished, you should have about 48 average sized ravioli. Refrigerate about the time it takes to set a large pot of salted water to a brisk boil.

11. Remove the ravioli and cook. They are done when they float to the top of the water. Be sure not to crowd them!

13. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.

Serve with your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce, and be sure to sprinkle some extra FRESH parmesan shreds on top!

–Note: If you don’t need to cook all 48 of these ravioli for dinner, use what you need and freeze the rest on the non-stick baking sheet and then pop them into freezer bags. You can add them directly from the freezer to a pot of boiling water for a quick dinner.

If you aren’t “in” to spinach or mushrooms, you can make these with fried and drained, seasoned ground beef or Italian sausage. You can also make plain cheese ravioli. Simply omit the spinach and mushrooms from the ricotta blend.

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Mom’s Press (Spritz) Cookies

Mom’s Press (Spritz) Cookies

Spritz Cookies

A Christmas Tradition: Press (Spritz) Cookies

Mom made these every Christmas and they were always a hit:

Mom’s Press (Spritz) Cookies

1 lb butter (can use 1/2 butter, 1/2 stick margarine for these–don’t use vegetable oil spread!) at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 TBSP warm water

6 cups of flour

Cream the butter and extracts. Add the eggs and beat until smooth

Add the dissolved baking soda and blend.

Gradually add the flour until a stiff, moldable dough forms. Do not add too much flour; it should hold its shape and stick together without crumbling

The dough can be put through a cookie press as-is, or you can divide the dough into three portions. Leave one untinted, tint one portion green, the other portion red and form 3 ropes together to put through the cookie press

Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until just set and bottoms are starting to JUST brown.

Yield: About 5 to 6 dozen press cookies, depending upon shapes used.

You can add maraschino cherry bits, colored sugars and other decos to these just before baking.

A minty kind of day

So, I thought it would be fun to post some minty recipes  for this holiday season. Or, for any time for that matter. Chocolate and mint are an unbeatable combination. So, here are a few recipes to share:

Copycat Andes Mints

Copycat Mints

Andes Mints: Make Your Own!!

1 pound dark chocolate coating
1/2 pound white chocolate coating
*10-15 drops peppermint oil (not extract. Most drug stores do sell the oil and it is also available through candy and cake baking suppliers)
2-3 drops green gel coloring

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

Pour half of dark chocolate coating into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each until nearly melted. Stir until smooth and creamy.

Pour onto waxed paper and smooth. Place in refrigerator to firm up.

Add white chocolate coating to a second bowl and melt in the same manner as the dark. When smooth and creamy, add peppermint oil and gel coloring. Stir until flavor and color are well mixed.

Layer on top of the dark chocolate and return to refrigerator. Melt remaining dark chocolate and layer over top of the green mint layer. Allow candy to harden completely before breaking into bite size pieces.

*Start with 10 drops of peppermint oil and more if you feel the candy needs more flavor.

If you have candy molds, you can make these in two layers instead of three.

You can make these as thick or thin as you like.

While we are talking about Andes, here’s a recipe using them in cookies. Fantastic!

Andes Mints Cookies

Andes Mints Cookies

Andes Mints Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
Andes mints (about 2 boxes)

Servings: 48

Cook Time: 10 minutes

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt together the butter, brown sugar, and water, stirring occasionally.

Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Let stand 10 minutes to cool. Add the remaining ingredients and combine to form a dough.

Chill the dough at least 1 hour.

Roll the dough into balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving ample space between the dough balls.

Bake at 350°F for 8 to 9 minutes.

Move to wire racks and work quickly (it helps to have the mints already unwrapped so they can be put on top of the cookies while they are still hot for quicker melting):

On top of each cookie, place half to one whole Andes mint, depending on the size of the cookie. Allow the mint to melt and then swirl the mint over the cookie with the back of a spoon or a knife.

Copycat York Peppermint Patties

Copycat York Peppermint Patties

Copycat York Peppermint Patties

1 Egg white
3-1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon Peppermint oil or extract (start with less if using oil, and remember these will get stronger as they ripen)
Cornstarch for dusting
1 16-oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium metal or glass (not plastic) bowl, beat the egg white until it is stiff and forms peaks.

Add the powdered sugar while blending with an electric mixer set on medium speed.

Add the corn syrup and peppermint oil or extract and knead the mixture with your hands until it has the smooth consistency of dough.

Using a flat surface and a rolling pin lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out the peppermint dough 1/4-inch thick.

Punch out circles of peppermint dough with a biscuit or cookie cutter with a diameter of about 2 1/2- inches. Make approximately 20, place them on plates or cookie sheets, and let them firm up in the refrigerator, about 45 minutes. Alternatively, place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave set on high for 2 minutes. Stir halfway through the heating time. Melt thoroughly, but do not overheat. Melting the chocolate chips can also be done using a double-boiler over low heat.

Drop each patty into the chocolate and coat completely. Using 2 forks, one in each hand, lift the coated patty from the chocolate. Gently tap the forks against the bowl to knock of the excess chocolate and place each patty on waxed paper.

Chill the peppermint patties until firm. Makes 20 peppermint patties.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with the foods & plants of the Americas

Celebrating Thanksgiving with the foods & plants of the Americas

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

New World Foods: Thanksgiving Dinner

Many plants we take for granted that originated in the New World have become such important food staples and have affected nearly every culture’s cuisine. So much so that we often forget that foods we associate with different countries had their origins in the Americas.

The same can be said for many ornamental plants now grown in gardens around the world.

So, I think it would be fun this Thanksgiving to look at some of the foods we eat for this holiday and the plants we use to decorate our homes, all of which makes this a truly American holiday and tradition.

The feature of the Thanksgiving Day Menu is, of course, the turkey. The largest game bird in North America, the turkey did not originate in Turkey, as some believe. So, how did it get its name? The Spaniards came back to the Old World with numerous plants and animals, including the turkey. At that time, many goods came to the rest of Europe via Constantinople, a major distribution center that was strategic in its location on the trade routes between Asia and Europe. The North American bird we now know as “turkey” eventually worked its way East and was distributed to the rest of Europe through Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul. Because almost anything coming out of Constantinople in Turkey would have a tag of “Turkey” attached to it, like Turkish rugs, etc., the name attached to the turkey by the English was Turkey coq, later shortened to turkey.

If we proceed down through the menu, probably the most universally featured side dish on the Thanksgiving Dinner menu would be mashed potatoes.

Although we often associate potatoes with the Irish and Ireland, potatoes actually originated in South America. They are an important food staple around the world, so much so that the country of Ireland adopted the potato as its own, both to its benefit and its downfall. The potato was such an important crop that it allowed the Irish to thrive and helped to contribute to a population explosion in Ireland. The Potato Famine of the mid-19th century, which was brought on by Potato Blight,  so obliterated the crop that many in Ireland moved to North America in a vast migration that left more Irish in the US and Canada than in Ireland itself.  So, if you have Irish ancestors, when you sit down to grub on those mashed potatoes, consider how you and your family have come to celebrate an American holiday this Thanksgiving.

Another featured item on the menu is the cranberry. Whether in relish, whole sauce or jellied, cranberries are  purely North American in origin. Previously, cranberries were pretty much used only around the holidays. With the many health benefits as an antioxidant and a urinary tract cleanser,  the cranberry is a staple as juice or a food source year-around.

Candied, mashed or baked or in a pie, sweet potatoes are another staple on the Thanksgiving menu.

A distant relative of the regular potato, sweet potatoes also originated in South America, but in the more tropical, frost-free regions. Columbus found the local Native Americans growing them in the Caribbean islands he discovered, so they were already spreading from their countries of origins even then.

Other items commonly found on the Thanksgiving Day menu include green beans or corn prepared in different ways. Often the corn is prepared in a casserole also featuring another New World food: diced sweet  peppers.

Of course, Thanksgiving would not be complete without the traditional pumpkin pie. Pumpkins, a member of the squash family, are also a very American food.

Now, the decorations at the Thanksgiving table might include pumpkins and various leaves in arrangements including the leaves of the sugar or red maple, various gourds, cattails.  And if you are lucky,  the arrangement might also include American Bittersweet, which is a plant so rare that it is on the endangered species list.

Another plant that you might find around this time of the year is the Thanksgiving Cactus, a relative of the Christmas Cactus that originated in Brazil.

So, there you have it!  Celebrate the food and plant contributions of the Americas this Thanksgiving, and a Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

1-1/2 cups  warm water
1 packet of quick rise yeast (that’s one of the strip of the three packets of yeast you buy in the store)
1-3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/2  cups bread flour
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Put warm water in a bowl. Add the sugar. Add the yeast. Mix and let start to proof (bubble).

Add the salt and bread flour. (You can substitute all-purpose flour, but the bread flour gives a better dough and taste). Mix. Might be a little sticky at this point.

Turn out onto a surface covered with the 3/4 cup all-purpose flour. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Turn into a greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise an hour. Punch down.

Lightly sprinkle a clean surface with flour, flour a rolling pin and roll out to fit a pizza pan or pizza stone. Add a little cornmeal to the pizza pan or stone. Add the rolled out crust, tuck in the edges. Bake about 5 to 8 minutes at 475 degrees just enough to set it up and keep it crispy, not enought to brown it. Remove from the oven, add the tomato sauce, toppings of choice, and cheese. Return to the oven and bake at 475 until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

This dough also makes excellent bread sticks. You can also add herbs to the dough when adding the flour. Rosemary and Basil make good additions to the crust.