Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cheesy Penne Bake

I am finally mostly recovered from the bug that hit me last week.  I haven't been cooking, taking pictures, or blogging.  Today is the first day since probably Monday that I didn't have a nap.

I found a new addiction - My Kitchen Addiction. Tonight, we had her Cheesy Penne Bake.  It was really quite good - even Kathryn said she liked it! When a My Kitchen Addiction recipe calls for a large baking dish, she means it.  I ended up using another 8 ounces of colby jack.  Next time, I will double the mozzerella if not triple it since I also won't be using the ricotta.  We aren't really fans of ricotta cheese around here.

Cheesy Penne Bake (Printer Friendly Version)
+ 14.5 ounce box of multi-grain penne
+ 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
+ 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
+ 1 yellow onion, diced
+ 2 cloves garlic, minced
+ 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
+ 14 ounce can tomato sauce
+ 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
+ 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
+ Kosher salt
+ 8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
+ 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
+ 2 ounces parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

    Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.
    Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage and brown in the oil.  Once the sausage is cooked, add the onion and garlic.  Saute with the browned sausage until the onion is soft (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan.  Season with the basil, thyme, and some salt (to taste).  Stir to combine all of the ingredients, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

    Prepare a large baking dish with cooking spray. Coat the bottom of the dish with one cup of the meat sauce.  Add one third of the pasta and top with one third of the remaining sauce.  Spoon half of the ricotta cheese over the pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle with one third of the mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Repeat the layers of pasta, sauce, and cheeses. Top the cheese layer with the remaining pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano cheese on the top of the pasta and sauce.

    Bake the casserole for 30 minutes until all of the cheese is bubbly and has melted. The top should be golden.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    The Worst Biscuits

    The Worst Biscuits Ever

    Chili & Biscuits

    So this is an old post I started last week. Last week, as you remember we had Kim's Chili last Tuesday.  It was quite delicious.  I made some biscuits.  While I was making the biscuits, I was distracted by a very tired and cranky Kster.  So I was not paying as much attention as I should have.  I accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder.  And I didn't add the salt. I don't think this picture conveys how very flat these biscuits were.  Oh and awful, they were awful.  The chili, however, was delicious and lasted until Saturday.  Saturday for lunch I warmed up the last of the chili and stirred in some shaved asiago cheese.  Very delicious, we will be making this at least monthly!  Next month, I will add some jalepeno pepper to the recipe. The chili is a make again and the biscuits are a try again.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    That Foster Cat (& brownies)

    We have been fostering a cat since some time in July.  It is a big cat, about 16 pounds.  Not declawed. It loves my couch and my bed.  As in loves to scratch them up.  We are front declawing our 2nd cat so that I can keep her in the house.  I am fully aware of both sides of the declawing arguments and have really thought a lot about this.  This cat (mine) also HATES having her feet touched.  So our monthly claw trimming is an event.  She generally doesn't even like people, she sleeps with me, and insists I pet her at night.  But the rest of time, she is out of sight.  But, back to the foster cat, I was rummaging around in the bottom of our storage drawers in the kitchen.  I found what the lid I needed to cover the brownies (details to follow) and walked away.  I forgot to close the drawer.  I covered the brownies and sat down to finish my pumpkin posts (here and here).  I heard the cats playing with plastic and making digging sounds.  I turned and saw my cats in the open drawer.  I shoo them away and come back to blogging/surfing.  Five minutes later, I hear the same noises and see my cats sitting on the kitchen floor staring at the second drawer.  Then I find this:

    He was trying to rock the drawer open.

    I opened the drawer for him.

    I feel like I should wash all of those kitchen linens.  But I must admit, I don't want to.

    Prior to the foster cat adventure, I made some fudgy brownies.  They were heavier than I like but not bad.  The frosting was very good. The recipe is from my Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook 75th Anniversary Edition. I'll be using the frosting recipe again, though, I'm not sure if I'll make these brownies again.  Notes: I didn't sift the powdered sugar.  I mixed the cream cheese right into the chocolate in the saucepan and then stirred in the powdered sugar.  And as you can see below, I didn't chop the unsweetened chocolate.  None of these changes were on purpose.

    Fudgy Brownies with Chocolate Cream Frosting (printable version)

    1/2 cup butter
    3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
    1 recipe Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

    1. In a medium saucepan melt butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat.  Stir constantly.  Remove from heat to cool.

    2.  Grease a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

    3. Stir sugar into chocolate mixture in saucepan.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each just until combined.  Stir in the vanilla.

    4. Mix the flour and baking soda together in a small bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture until just combined.  (If adding nuts, do so now).

    5.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes if using an 8 inch pan, 25 if using a 9 inch pan at 350 degrees. 

    6.  After they have cooled, frost with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

    Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.
    In a saucepan, melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chip pieces over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, allow to cool some.  In a small bowl, stir together 2 3 ounce packages of softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar.  Stir in melted chocolate until smooth.

    Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

    It is pumpkin night! 

    Next we have the Pumpking Whoopie Pies, I found this recipe at what megan's making. These also went  to the church potluck.

    These were a pretty gooey yummy treat!

    Here is the recipe as found at what megan's making:

    Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (Printable Version)
    adapted, slightly, from Rachael Ray

    1 stick unsalted butter, melted
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
    1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
    1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
    1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1-2/3 cups flour

    1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
    4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
    1 cup confectioners' sugar
    2 pinches of salt
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    a few shakes of cinnamon

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

    Using a spoon, drop small mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

    For the icing: using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

    Spread the flat side of half of the cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake. 
    Happy Baking!

    Pumpkin Bars

    This is what 5 hours of pumpkin looks like.  Yesterday, I spent 5 hours, washing, seeding, scraping, baking, and peeling 2 pumpkins.  It wasn't hard, just time consuming.  Each pumpkin took up 2 cookie sheets and each cookie sheet needed to bake for about 50 minutes. 

    Turns out the pumpkins I bought were much larger than we needed and possibly the wrong kind of pumpkin.  I'm not sure what kind of pumpkin I bought, but I don't think it is a pie pumpkin as those are much smaller than these were.

    The average pumpkin pie seems to take about 2 cups of pumpkin.  I don't know how much we have, but I think it is way more than 2 cups.  So I decided to make pumpkin bars for the Harvest Dinner today at Mom's church.  I found the recipe at My Kitchen Cafe.  I think I've mentioned how much I love My Kitchen Cafe.  It was originally a Paula Deen recipe.  I am also a big fan of Paula Deen. 

    The bars turned out wonderfully.  I don't have a picture of the final product. After 7 hours in the kitchen yesterday, I went to bed without frosting them.  Mom frosted them this morning while I slept in as long as I could and still make it to church on time.  There were none left after the potluck.  Mom and I both had a piece.  We both really enjoyed it.  I think I might make some later this week for the students.  This was definitely a make again!

    Pumpkin Bars (Printable Version)
    from Paula Deen

    4 eggs
    1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
    1 cup vegetable oil (can substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup oil)
    15-ounce can pumpkin
    2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda

    8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
    2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

    To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Mom, remember how you wanted me to play the violin?

    I don't know where to start! There were fireworks, flames, lights, and a pink electric violin. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra really knows how to put on a show! It was a 3 hour show.  We didn't get home until 11:30 p.m.

    The storyline in the first half of the show was Christmasy and cheesy (as expected).  The performers were excellent.  Kathryn really loved Anna Phoebe, the violinist. Anna was so wonderfully enthusiastic.  Kathryn has announced that now she wants to play the violin.  She has an album on iTunes and I might buy it for Kathryn.  Kathryn promised she would practice every day - even at her Dad's house (sorry Cory).

    If you can get to a TSO concert, go, it is well worth the money!


    Tonight for dinner, we are having Kim's Chili. Mom is getting it started for me when she gets home from subbing at a high school about 20 minutes away.  We are adding some chili powder.  I am starting with this recipe and then overtime making it more exciting.  I know that I like this particular recipe because Kim has brought it into work a few times.  But I would like a more interesting chili.  I am also making homemade cheesy biscuits from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. This doesn't really count as cooking a meal for friends and family, but it does count for trying new recipes.

    Kim's Chili

    2 lb. Ground beef
    2 cans chili beans (do not drain)
    2 15 oz cans tom sauce
    2 15 oz cans diced tom
    Garlic powder
    Chopped onion

    Cook all together and enjoy!
    Printable Version of Recipe

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Daring Baker Challenge!

    I am so excite this is my first month as an Official Daring Baker! Yesterday, I was nervous that I wouldn't like/wouldn't be bake to make whatever was announced today. But it looks delicious and I think I can pull it off! I'll have to take a look at the calendar and plan a Saturday after with Kate! We will definitely be posting some pictures!