Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lasagna Cupcakes

Today I debut my new featured weekly posts in which I will share a recipe that I discovered in the glorious land of Pinterest! Seriously I will admit I am addicted to Pinterest, we have a love/hate relationship. I have so many new "projects" that I never knew I needed/wanted to do until I discovered this site. Today's recipe I had this weekend at a cocktail party. My sister-in-law, who threw the party had these adorable little things as one of her appetizers. I was so intrigued and when I asked her where she got the recipe it was none other than, you guessed it, Pinterest! This was where the inspiration came for making my featured Pinterest posts. Thank you Stace :)

With that being said these little lasagna's are perfect! They are great for kids or even to make in bulk then wrap and freeze for an easy reheat-able snack. As a bite size party appetizer, I suggest using the mini cupcake pans as they are easier to pick up and pop in your mouth, but for dinner I would use the regular size (pictured above) and serve with a salad or veggie on the side. The best part, is that they are easy, easy, easy! Without further ado, I give you Lasagna Cupcakes....

Lasagna Cupcakes

1 lb Ground Beef, turkey or Italian sausage
36 Wonton wrappers
8oz Ricotta Cheese (I use fat free)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup marinara or favorite pasta sauce
Italian seasonings: dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic salt, pepper etc
Fresh Basil leaves

Preheat oven to 375. Brown ground beef  (or meat) and season with Italian seasonings. Drain fat and set aside. Spray 12- cupcake tin with cooking spray. Using a glass or biscuit cutter, cut wontons into circles. Leave the first 12 wontons uncut.

Press into the cupcake tins one of the uncut square wontons. Sprinkle in a little of the mozzarella and parmesan into each cut, spoon in a little scoop of ricotta, meat and then sauce (The amount varies on how many layers you want to do but I would say about a teaspoon or so of each.). Cover layer with a wonton circle then repeat the layering process with cheeses, meat, sauce and another wonton. You can do as many layers as you like. I prefer to do 3-4 layers but its up to you and how much filling you put in each layer. Leave the top layer uncovered (no wonton on top) and sprinkle the remaining tops with the shredded cheeses.

Bake in oven uncovered for about 20 minutes. The outside of the wontons should be crispy and the part in the cupcake pan should still be soft. Let cool for 3 minutes. The lasagna cupcakes should pop right out of cupcake pan. If they feel like the layers are coming apart, they need to cook a little longer.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Makes 12 lasagna cupcakes

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

 Tonight I wanted to make my husband something for dinner after after a not so awesome dinner the night before. Lately Ive been doing this thing where I go to the grocery store undecided on what I want to make for dinner and then I wander up and down the aisles, putting things into my basket, and taking them out. This battle in my head continues until I have settled upon an idea, which can take awhile as I am horrible at making up my mind (reason #1 why my husband will NOT go grocery shopping with me). Anyways tonight I knew immediately I wanted to do a pasta dish but it took a good 25 minutes for me to finally decide on manicotti. I love manicotti because it is such a versatile dish. Truly you can put any ingredients into it and it is hard for it not to be delicious. My favorite however is a yummy combo of spinach and sausage. My manicotti is made with a blend of cheeses, each with its own texture, yummy hot Italian sausage, onion, and spinach. On weeknights when I want to get dinner on the table in a hurry, I grab a jar of marinara sauce from the store and add a can of diced tomatoes, but believe me when I say everything is better when you make your own sauce. That however is not always an option, and so jar marinara, you win.

Assembled Manicotti- ready for the oven

Hot out of the oven. Don't forget to let cool!

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground sausage (I use hot italian)
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup part skim ricotta
1 cup (1 pkg) cream cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup Panko Bread crumbs
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 egg
1 tsp fresh parley, chopped or ½ tsp dried
Freshly ground salt & pepper
1 pkg manicotti noodles, uncooked
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with herbs, drained
2 cups Marinara sauce (or 1 jar)

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x12 baking dish pour half of the jar (or 1 cup) marinara sauce. Make sure it covers the entire bottom of dish. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened about 3-4 minutes. Add sausage to pan and cook until browned. Add in garlic and cook for another minute. Remove sausage from pan and let cool. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, spinach, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine completely. Add in sausage mixture and stir combine.

Stuff uncooked manicotti with sausage/spinach/cheese mixture (I like to put the mixture into a plastic bag and cut a hole at the corner to use as a “pastry” bag to fill manicotti, but you can also do my hand). Place manicotti in baking dish on top of marinara sauce. After all manicotti are in pan, drizzle the other cup of marinara on top. Top with the diced tomatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Continue baking uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool then serve.

Makes 13-14 Manicotti

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need

Don't you love that feeling? That moment when you finally realize you found the one.  Your heart stops, you get butterflies in your stomach and you cant stop smiling. You know what I am talking about- The PERFECT chocolate chip cookie. It's love at first bite.  I'm happy to say that your life long search for that perfect companion to that cold glass of milk is over. This cookie is everything you were ever looking for: crispy outside with a soft chewy inside filled with soft gooey chocolate and (my addition) crunchy pecans. What really makes this special is that little hint of sea salt that you get with each delectable cookie. 

 I wish I could say that I created this masterpiece but another fellow blogger at Savory Sweet Life deserves all the credit. Needless to say you will never need another recipe ever again. My dear husband gave me the stamp of approval through small moans of joy in between bites. I think this is a fantastic cookie and can be dressed up (with a variety of nuts, toffee, etc.) or enjoyed plain and simple. What is more amazing than a warm cookie on cold winter night? Stay in, treat yourself (or someone special) to these and you won't be disappointed.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from SavorySweetLife

2 sticks of salted butter (1 cup), softened
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
12 oz pack of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar in mixer on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light & fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla and continue mixing for another two minutes. Add in baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and flour until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon 2-tablespoon sized mounds of cookie dough onto cookie sheet, sprinkle top with a pinch of sea salt. Bake in oven on medium rack for 12-14 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven. Let cool for two minutes on baking sheet. Move cookies (keeping on the parchment paper) to cooling rack and let cool for an additional five minutes.

Makes about 30 cookies

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Frango Triple Treat Chocolate Layer Cake

If you are from Washington it is more than likely you know what a Frango is. As I am relatively a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, it was only recently that I became educated in the world of Frangos. Frango mints are a smooth and delicious brand of chocolate truffles that were created here in Seattle in the early 1900's. A little history lesson, Frangos were created by the Frederick & Nelson Department stores in 1918, and later recipes and trademarks were acquired by Marshall Fields of Chicago. After some legal drama a lot of years later Macys became the only place that now carries the northwest version of this long standing truffle. 

I learned from my husband that his sister grew up loving Frango's and remembered having this Frango Mint Cake that his mom would bring home on special occasions from Frederick & Nelsons. With her birthday on the way, I thought what a better gift than to surprise her with a cake from her childhood (also a great way to save myself from eating the rest of the box of Frangos Santa brought me this year). So I began my search to find the recipe. I went days  finding recipes and showing them to my husband, who would look at them and say "no that's not it", until finally I came across an old Frederick & Nelson book, which no doubt had the recipe I was looking for! 

 Needless to say she was very surprised and loved it! Mission accomplished! If you are looking for something new to try, give this cake a whirl! You will not be disappointed!

Frangos can be ordered on Macys online ( Click here to order )

Frango Mint Cake

Cake Ingredients:
6 Frango Mint Dark Chocolates, chopped Fine
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened non alkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1.Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350f.
Generously butter three 9-inch round layer cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a circle of waxed paper. Lightly butter the paper.
2. Put the Frango Mints and unsweetened chocolate in a small bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Sift together the cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set Aside.
4. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until smooth. gradually add the sugar and increase to high speed. Continue beating about 2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Alternately add the buttermilk and dry ingredients, adding about one-third at a time, beginning with buttermilk.
5. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes. Rearrange the pans in the oven from front to back so they bake evenly.
6. Continue baking 15 to 20 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen from the pans and invert onto a wire rack. Peel off the waxed paper and cool completely.

Frosting Ingredients:
30 Frango Mint Dark Chocolates. chopped fine
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar sifted
1. For the frosting, melt the Frango Mints and Chocolate in the top of a double
boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the cooled
chocolate. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.
3. Invert one layer onto a cake plate. Smooth about 1 cup frosting over it. Top
with another layer and frost. Add top layer, upside down. Evenly frost the top and sides of the cake with the remained frosting. Sprinkle the cake with additional chopped Frango Mints.


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