Spinach, cheese and ravioli bake

Michigan May temperatures are still chilly, though the sunshine has been warming me up for some outdoor gardening and exercise. I had some ingredients ready to go for another dinner dish, but decided to pair them up and make a classic comfort meal last week. I have made variations of this dish, already on this blog, but just made up this recipe and it was equally delicious.

I also wanted to test out my new box cheese grater, which is a huge improvement over other types of old-fashioned graters.  This easy pour grater by Venn Kitchen has four stainless steel grating sides which are very sharp.  The base is also non-slip with a design that can be used in two directions–vertical or horizontal, depending on personal preference.  Also included and what gives this grater a market advantage, is the unique compartment which collects the grated ingredients neatly and easily.

I loved the grater which I used for this recipe, and it made the whole dish come together so fast.

Here is how to make this comforting meatless pasta dish.  Gather these ingredients:  Pasta sauce, frozen mini cheese ravioli, shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese, frozen spinach

Start by shredding the cheeses.  I used one cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Layer the casserole dish with a thin coat of pasta sauce.  Add a layer of ravioli, top with cheese and then the spinach layer.

Layer 2-3 more times to complete the dish. Finish the top of the dish with grated Parmesan. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling hot.

Serve with a side salad.  This recipe freezes well for future leftovers.

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Mushroom spaghetti risotto

In recent weeks I have been trying some different cooking methods with great success.  This dish showcases a cooking method that is used to make risotto. Typically, in that technique, broth or cooking liquids are added slowly, allowing the starch to cook gradually.

With this dish, the spaghetti is cooked in the same fashion and yields an amazing taste profile, second to none that I have made in past years.  If you are willing to stand and cook at the stove for a short while, this is a dish for you.  It will impress anyone who is served.  I promise.

I used my Le Creuset cast iron pot which retains heat well and keeps the temperature constant while cooking.  I added 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 chopped white onion, and a small squeeze from my minced garlic tube.  Then, I sautéed the onion and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

In another skillet, I softened one package of sliced white mushrooms with 1 tablespoon margarine.  In addition, I made 4 cups of chicken stock. Combine the two and bring up to a boil and add 1/2 cup of Pinot Grigio wine.

In the cast iron pot, I then added about 1/2 package of broken spaghetti.  Saute the dry spaghetti for about 5 minutes to allow the flavor to come alive.  Slowly, one ladle full at a time, add the wine, broth, mushroom mixture to the spaghetti.  Allow the liquid to absorb into the spaghetti before adding more liquid.

To finish the dish, add shredded Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons margarine and incorporate.  Plate and top with parsley flakes. Serve with salad or crusty bread.

This dish was inspired from Rachel Ray’s Look and Cook cookbook, published 2010.

Zoodles with a spiral slicer

I finally purchased a Paderno spiralizer slicer and it has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen tool collection.  My three blade slicer is able to cut vegetables very quickly into angel hair noodles, shoestrings and even spiral cut strands.  My first attempt at using the tool was extremely successful, as I made zucchini noodles in place of pasta one evening for dinner.

I sautéed the zoodles with some sliced mushrooms, seasoned with black pepper and parsley flakes in one tablespoon olive oil. I cooked the zucchini noodles until soft and served with pasta sauce.  The noodles were extremely tasty, and confirm the recent enthusiasm from many chefs for using this spiral slicer.

I will be experimenting with apples, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers in the coming months. The slicer is an interesting way to prepare and cut these foods for appealing presentation and to increase food excitement.

For more information on this slicer, it can be purchased online at Williams Sonoma cookware.

Spinach and Tomato Tortellini

After doing an Internet search, I was not able to find a recipe which comes close to how I have prepared this dish several times.  It is quite tasty and has gone through some variations in the past years. I have finally settled on this method which produces a very delicious quick and easy dinner.

I use microwave bacon to start, which immediately speeds up the cooking process. In a large 10 inch deep saucepan, I heat 5 strips of bacon with just a teaspoon of olive oil.  Remove the bacon and set aside to cut into pieces.  In the pan, brown one white chopped onion.

   

Next, add 1/2 of one frozen box of spinach, which has been thawed and drained.  And, also 1/2 bag of frozen tortellini, which have been thawed, but not yet cooked. Stir to combine and heat slightly.  Then add, one canned of drained diced tomatoes.

Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Then add bacon pieces and cook and additional five minutes.

Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley flakes. Serve and enjoy.

Lasagna in a slow cooker

This was my first experience of preparing a lasagna in a multi-cooker.  It turned out perfectly. The recipe is super simple and easy to make, but allow at least 6 hours for cooking the meal.

Assemble these ingredients:  1 pound ground beef, 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning, 28 ounces pasta sauce, 1/3 cup water (optional) 8-10 uncooked lasagna noodles, 1 carton ricotta cheese, and 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more if desired), dried parsley for the top

Brown the beef in the slow cooker and add Italian seasoning.  Drain the beef.  Combine the spaghetti sauce and the water in a small bowl.  Drizzle a bit of sauce at the bottom of the cooker first, then place noodles as the first layer.  Add some beef, and sprinkle with both types of cheese, cover with sauce.  Repeat each layer until all of the ingredients have been added to the dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese.  Cover and cook on High for 1 hour, then reduce to low cook for at least 5 hours. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Serve with a side salad and garlic toast if desired.  Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.
This dish freezes very well and can be used for easy weeknight meals. Divide into freezer containers and allow to cool before sealing.

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RPM Italian-Chicago

As someone who loves to enjoy a quiet delicious meal at a lovely restaurant, I highly recommend RPM Italian.  We made reservations weeks in advance as nightly the dinner hours are jammed with guests. Located in River North, the upscale atmosphere is decorated in black, white and grey, with wood and leather accents. The menu is billed as contemporary Italian with fresh pastas and Italian classics.  Within the dining areas, the feeling is romantic and chic. We arrived at the start of the evening and within 15 minutes every table was seated.

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We dined for two hours with a comfortably slow pace to our six course meal. The servings were plated very attractively with our waiter explaining the menu and the various options.

We started with hot antipasti and then the bread course.  We shared a green salad and the pasta course, where we selected the carbonara. Giuliana’s salad was crisp and tasty.  The pasta was prepared tableside and was a petite portion perfect for tasting.

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I chose the slow cooked crispy roasted chicken with broccolini for my entrée, while my husband thoroughly enjoyed the Italian classic spaghetti and meatball with pomodoro basil sauce.

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For dessert, we were treated to a gelato and sorbetto assortment. We sampled coconut, pistachio, and salted caramel gelato along with raspberry sorbetto.

RPM Italian was a top choice on my restaurant review list of places to visit, and it certainly met my expectations of fine dining and pleasurable evenings on the town.

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Meatless stroganoff

Here is a recipe for your next meatless Monday dinner schedule.  If you like mushrooms, this tasty stroganoff is full of flavor and is also very easy to prepare. This recipe could also be a hit for your next buffet or casserole night with friends.  Simple to make and very creamy and a favorite of the men in the crowd.

Gather these ingredients:  8 ounces of egg noodles, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons margarine, 2 packages of white button mushrooms or other favorite mushrooms, minced garlic, dried thyme, sweet paprika, sea salt, ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup sour cream, and dried parsley flakes.

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Begin by cooking the noodles according to the directions on the bag.  Drain and reserve for the next steps.  Heat olive oil and only 1 tablespoon margarine in a large open skillet.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook for about 4-6 minutes. Stir in garlic and the next four ingredients. Next, add the flour and another tablespoon margarine and cook for about 1 more minute.  Add chicken broth and mix well, bringing the entire mixture to a boil. Cook for 5-7 minutes and remove from the heat.  Add sour cream and stir.  Mix in the noodles or serve over the noodles garnished with dried parsley flakes.  If taking to a casserole party or serving on a buffet, place into a warm casserole dish or a chafing dish to keep the stroganoff heated.

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