Archive for November, 2010

Spinach Manicotti

Friday, November 26th, 2010

All my turkey dreams have come true. For the first time we brined the bird, and the method delivered everything it promised – crispy skin, juicy meat, sublime seasoning… The rest of the menu I kept the same – mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread dressing, roasted carrots, turnips and beets, cranberry streusel and apple pie!

Today I am craving something easy, something comforting, something healthy and something that still feeds LOTS of people. So I’m feeding them manicotti! In this yummy dish no one ever misses the meat, and using uncooked shells makes assembly fast and uncomplicated. Thank heavens!

So we will have our Black Friday fun. Some of us left the house at 4:30 AM to go shopping. Some of us will sleep all day. Some of us will goad others of us to start the holiday lights. I personally will work on indoor decorations, nibble on leftovers, “guard” the remaining pie and greet them all with dinner when the time comes. And today it will not be fancy, but it will be delicious!

Gather Up:
2 cups shredded white cheese, mix of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, or your choice
1 ¼ cups fat-free cottage cheese
4 cups chopped spinach, or 1 10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
Small pinch nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 8-ounce package manicotti shells
1 26-ounce jar organic pasta sauce
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine 1 ½ cups of the cheese, the cottage cheese, the spinach, parmesan cheese, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Using a small spoon, fill each uncooked manicotti shell.

Pour half of the pasta sauce into the baking dish. Arrange the shells in a single layer.

Top with the remaining sauce.

Pour 1 cup water into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 50 minutes until shells are tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from Cooking Light magazine, a long time ago…
“Fall Leaves” from DGMiller777

Pumpkin Bars

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I’m going to go ahead and admit something: I’m still not used to this whole “work thing.” Remember how you felt at the end of the semester? Like you were barely hanging on? Like your world was crumbling around you? Like one more late night would literally be your breaking point? You were always able to push through because you knew that Christmas break was waiting for you on the other side: 2 magical months of rest, relaxation and holiday frolicking. And Thanksgiving was always the first glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel: just one more week of class after Thanksgiving, finals and DONE. You were SO close.

And then, BAM…you’re in the real world. No winter break. Thanksgiving isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel – it’s just a long weekend, and life is waiting for you on the other end. Are you depressed yet? I’m sorry…it’s not really that bad. (Seriously, I’m not usually this dramatic.) I just had a WEEK this week, if you know what I mean. By Friday, I’m pretty sure that most of the people close to me were more than a little concerned about my mental health. But this weekend, somewhere in between the Container Store’s Gift Wrap Wonderland and Michael Buble’s “Let it Snow,” I realized something.

This year especially, Thanksgiving IS the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s not only a much-needed long weekend but also a much-needed reminder of everything I have to be thankful for: a home, family, friends, a job to stress over…Sometimes, in the thick of it, it’s a little too easy to lose perspective.

And so, to get in the holiday spirit, I started to go through my favorite holiday recipes. These pumpkin bars have been one of my absolute favorites for as long as I can remember. They’re dense, perfectly spiced and iced in a thick layer of fluffy cream cheese frosting. They also happen to be a perfect mid-season fall pick-me-up. Trust me.

Gather Up:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups solid-pack pumpkin
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pecans, for garnish

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 cups (about) confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a 12×17-inch baking pan. (We use a jellyroll pan.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda and salt into a bowl and mix well.

Beat the sugar and oil in a mixer until blended.

Add the pumpkin and mix well.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients gradually and mix well.

Pour the batter into your buttered pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges pull from the sides of the pan.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until the frosting reaches spreading consistency and is light and fluffy. (Tip: to get fluffy frosting, stop the mixer and scrape the edges of your bowl down every 30-45 seconds!)

Spread the cooled pan of pumpkin bars with the cream cheese frosting and let stand until set. Cut into bars. Garnish with chopped pecans, or place a pecan half in the center of each bar. (We didn’t garnish this time, but the pecans look beautiful and add a nice crunch!)

We hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend. That this weekend is just what you/I need – a time of rest and relaxation and time spent with family and friends. We hope that you have as much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as we do. Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!! We’ll see you on the other side…for a full month of Christmas meals and sweets!!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Friday, November 19th, 2010

This is the second year in a row I have made these for my dad’s birthday! It is his favorite cookie and last year they were a huge hit! (So much so, I think I should have made them for Christmas too!) He is way past the point of needing or wanting anything, but who doesn’t love a homemade treat?

My dad was born November 25, 1924. This year his birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day, an occurrence that brings both birthday cake and holiday pie! Is this a great country or what?

My mom usually buys white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for him in the bakery of a supermarket that is near their house.  Those cookies are big and soft (and have a shelf-life…). These cookies are crispy and buttery and make me almost swear off my dislike of white chocolate! They are addictive when they are warm, and they freeze and ship beautifully.

The original recipe included dried cranberries (or dried cherries) because it was a holiday recipe; you can add them in if you want to evoke the feel of a Christmas cookie. But we think they are yummy just as they are. Happy Birthday Dad!

Gather Up:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend flour, soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter in an electric mixer until fluffy, scraping down the sides often.

Add both sugars and beat until blended.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended.

Using spatula, fold in chips, nuts and dried fruit, if using.

Drop dough by roughly level tablespoons onto baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake until just turning golden, about 13 minutes. Do not overbake.

Cool on wire rack. Can be made ahead and stored airtight at room temperature for 2 days or frozen up to 2 weeks.

Recipe from Bon Appetit, December 2006.

Ribollita, a Tuscan Stew

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I wanted to make this on Sunday afternoon… It’s the perfect time for the amount of chopping and primping and attention a big pot demands… I can take my time, nibble a few snacks… (Possibly find some helpers…)

But I was blindsided by hungry college-age meat-eaters who happened to spot several big steaks in my freezer! (These are the same offspring who have new perspective on the phrase, “there is never anything to eat around here”, because at their houses there really isn’t!) Did I capitulate? Of course I did!

So I soaked my beans and prepared for battle on a weekday! This dish is a thick and warming stew, made with lots of greens, lots of beans and lots of vegetables. It is thickened with chunks of crusty bread and is EVEN BETTER the next day, hence the name “ribollita,” meaning “reboiled.”

And hence my desire to make it on a Sunday afternoon and send quarts of it out the door with my children… It smells absolutely wonderful, and approaches pure heaven sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and given a swirl of olive oil!

Gather Up:
½ pound dried cannellini beans
Kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
¼ pound smoked bacon, chopped
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped savoy cabbage
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1 teaspoon dried basil
6 cups organic low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crust removed
½ cup grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1 inch and cover. Soak overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 more minutes until the beans are tender. Set them aside to cool in their liquid.

Over medium heat, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the bacon and onions and cook 7-10 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook 7-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and their puree, the cabbage, the kale and the basil. Cook, stirring occasionally another 7-10 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. In a food processor puree half of the beans with some of their liquid. Add to the pot, along with the remaining whole beans.

Pour the bean liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough broth to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the bread. Simmer 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve immediately in bowls sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and drizzled with olive oil.

Cool and refrigerate. Serve reheated, or “ribollita” the next day!

Sweet Potato Gingersnap Pie

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

I found myself dreaming about sweet potato pie the other day… It’s a natural progression for me – for most of the season a particular veggie is served for dinner, but toward the end of the season that particular veggie might make the heroic transition to dessert!

This is a privilege reserved for only the most prolific among them. And sweet potatoes are prolific in Texas! I get a nice little bag of them every week in my box from the farm.

I have also been toying with 2 big packages of new crop pecans. Also prolific in Texas, they sit ready to be toasted and chopped and sprinkled…

The topper is my current unfulfilled craving for gingerbread and ginger cookies! Alas, I have no crystallized ginger in the house until I make some, so I succumbed to a box of thin gingersnaps made by a bakery here in town.

You see where I’m headed… Gingersnap crust with those crispy cookies, dreamy sweet potato filling spiced up with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and finally, toasted pecans over it all! Oh, and a drizzle of real maple syrup!

Some people say that sweet potatoes make a better pie than pumpkin… I think each has each merits, but I will venture to say I find it a darn sight easier to handle sweet potatoes than pumpkins. Which might mean that I make pie a little more often…you will have to judge for urself!

Gather Up:
1 pound, 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 ¼ cups sour cream
¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks

For the Crust:
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (Use the thin crispy kind)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
Pinch salt

For the Topping:
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Put cubed sweet potatoes into a steamer basket and place in a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of the basket. Allow to steam for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Mash with a potato masher and set aside. (If you do this the day before the pie comes together rather quickly!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8 inch springform pan. Mix the crust ingredients together and press them into the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides. Bake until set, and color has turned a bit darker, 10-12 minutes.

Put sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until mostly smooth, about 1 minute.

Add sour cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and egg yolks. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared crust, filling to just barely below the edge of the crust. Place onto a sturdy sheet pan.

Sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 to 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer. (The thermometer test is helpful, because the filling will still seem a little wiggly even though the top is set.)

Cool completely on a wire rack, then release springform. Refrigerate.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown and Anne Burrell
Pecans from ITZ’S Pecans, Fredericksburg, TX
Gingersnaps from Sweetish Hill Bakery, Austin, TX

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Welcome to Like Mother Like Daughters...career gal, stay at home mom, college student. Just 3 girls who love to eat and are dedicated to doing it the old-fashioned way! Plan, shop, cook, bake, clean, sleep, repeat. Hope you enjoy - we are so glad you are here!
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