Corn Muffins with Currants

The following recipe was featured in my Muffin Swap event. You can read about it and view other muffin recipes HERE.

Jenny’s Corn Muffins with Currants

Recipe adapted from HERE

1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place currants and 1/2 cup hot water in a bowl. Cover and let stand 20 minutes or until soft. Drain currants.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl. Combine ricotta and eggs, stirring with a whisk; stir in currants. Add ricotta mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Spoon batter into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack. Serve warm.

WW: Eggplant Rollatini with Tomato Basil Sauce

For dinner tonight, I had a special guest over… my 6 year old nephew. To keep things healthy yet kid friendly, I made something similar to a lasagna (a favorite of my nephew’s) – Eggplant Rollatini. Little did he know that it was completely vegetarian! I served this with a baked bone-in chicken breast, seasoned with italian seasoning. Thankfully it was a hit and he enjoyed it… so did the rest of the family.

*Tip: You could make this in advance and is freezeable too, just like a traditional lasagna!

Eggplant Rollatini with Tomato Basil Sauce
courtesy of Weight Watchers Best Eats cookbook

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 8 (1/4 inch slices)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 small zucchini, diced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Arrange the eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Bake until browned, about 10 minutes on each side. Reduce the oven temperature to 400F degrees.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium hat. Add 2 cloves of the garlic and cook, stirring occassionall, until fragrant. about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the basil; bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, 10 minutes.

To make the filling, spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and place over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, onion, and remaining 1 garlic clove; cook until the vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; allow to cool slightly. Stire in the ricotta, parsley, egg, remaining tablespoons basil, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the salt and pepper.

To assemble the rollatini, spray a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 3 tablespoons of sauce in the dish. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling at one end of each eggplant slice. Beginning at the filled end, roll up the eggplant slices and place, seam side down, ina single layer in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the rollatinil sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake until heated through completely, about 25 minutes.

Serves 4
Serving size: 2 rollatini
WW Points value: 3 Points

When Spinach & Cheese Comes Together…

It’s time for pasta! My hubby doesn’t really like pasta too much but if anything, he prefers baked pasta dishes such as cannelloni. I had quite a bit of spinach to use so I thought a spinach & cheese cannelloni would be in order. I served this with sliced italian sausage. The recipe I used was inspired by Sara Moulton’s version. Here’s my recipe for Spinach & Cheese Cannelloni:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half & half
salt & pepper to taste
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 ounces baby spinach
1 12 oz container ricotta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
8 dry or “no-boil” Lasagna noodles , boiled & cooled

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux, whisking, 2 minutes. Add the half & half and whisk, bringing to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes.
Whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, then cover.

To make the cannelloni:
Heat oil in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and saute, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and cheese in a bowl, then stir in spinach mixture.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Spread 2/3 cup sauce in buttered baking dish.
Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish.
Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging snugly in 1 layer.
Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake, covered with foil, in middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Turn on broiler. Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side.

**I’m also submitting this to the Presto Pasta Nights blogging event! This week the event is hosted by Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen. Be on the lookout for great pasta recipes with their roundup coming up next week!**

It’s TART-tastic!

Today my What’s Cookin Chicago group and I spent the afternoon at Delightful Pastries bakery where my friend, Chef Dobra, is the head pastry chef/owner. We learned quite a bit about tarts, from making the perfect dough, sweet & savory fillings and making them ourselves. It was a great opportunity to play in a bakery kitchen! Each of us made our own sweet and savory tarts (2 of each) under the instruction of Chef Dobra. Here are pics of the event, along with the tart & filling recipes shared with us by Chef Dobra.

Ricotta & Creme Fraiche Savory Tart Base Mixture
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
choice of quiche fillings*

— Combine the above ingredients except for the fillings.
* Note: vegetable fillings should be cooked & cooled prior to adding to the quiche mixture.

Basic Quiche Base Mixture
1 quart heavy cream
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
choice of quiche fillings*

— Combine the above ingredients except for the fillings.

* Note: vegetable fillings should be cooked & cooled prior to adding to the quiche mixture.

Flaky Short-Crust Pastry
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled & cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water

— Combine flour, butter and salt in food processor or mixing bowll. Process for 10-12 seconds, or mash with your fingertips until the mixture has a dry & crumbly resembling coarse cornmeal.
— Add the water to the mixture and pulse 12-14 times or work together with your fingertips until the dough begins to hold together into a mass, but before it turns into a ball. (The dough can become tough if overprocessed.)

— If the dough is too dry or dense, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and pulse 2-3 times, or work with your fingertips.

Sugar Tart Crust

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup cake flour
all-purpose flour for dusting

— In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter & sugar for about 2 minutes.
— Add the egg yolk. Continue mixing on med-hi speed for 1-2 min, until pale yellow in color and smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.
— Add cake flour; mix on low speed just until blended – don’t over mix! Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and gently pat into a ball. Wrap well and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
— Lightly butter your tart pan or rings.
— Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Let dough sit on counter for 20 min until pliable yet cool to touch.
— On lightly floured surface gently knead dough a few times. Pat into ball and flatten into a 5 inch round disk. With a floured rolling pin, begin rolling from the center out, lifting & turning every 90 degrees until about 1/8 inch thick. Dust board and pin with flour as needed.
— Gently lift & roll the dough onto the rolling pin. Place dough in the buttered tart pan or cut rounds to fit into mini tarts.
— Work dough into the tart pan/ring and up sides. Allow prepared tart pan/rings to chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. When chilled, trim tops of tart pan/rings of excess dough.
— Dock bottom of dough with tines of a fork to prevent the dough from puffing in the oven.

Tip- remove tart pan bottoms and bake without them. This produces a wonderfully golden bottom crust and easy removal from the tart pan/ring.

Classic French Pastry Cream

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, halved
2 tablespoons cornstarch

— Combine 1/8 cup sugar, milk and vanilla. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.

— In a mixing bowl, combine remaining 1/8 cup sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch. Mix with the paddle attachment until smooth.
— When milk mixture has come to a boil, remove from heat and slowly add it to the mixing bowl with the egg yolk mixture.

— Mix on high until fully combined. Spread cream onto a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until cooled.Here are pics from the class:

Chicken Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Chicken Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Jumbo Shells
8oz. white mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large vidalia onion, diced
1/2 bag of fresh leaf spinach, sliced thin
olive oil for cooking
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
kosher salt
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tub of ricotta cheese
1 box jumbo pasta shells, cooked
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta shells as directed.
Boil chicken breasts until cooked through.
Cool chicken breasts and shred.
In a saute pan, saute mushrooms, onions, garlic and spinach in olive oil under cooked through.
Place veggie mixture in a large bowl.
Add shredded chicken to bowl.
Add spices/seasonings to bowl.
Add ricotta cheese to bowl.
Toss to combine.

In a 13 x 9 baking pan, lightly grease with cooking spray.
Fill cooked pasta shells with filling & place in greased pan.
Continue to fill all pasta shells.
Once baking pan is full, pour alfredo sauce over the top of the filled shells.

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350 for 45 – 60 minutes.