Pineapple Ricotta Pie

Izzy was very confused and frightened by the amount of loud noises that surrounded our apartment last night.  Between random fireworks and a few thunderstorms, poor bunny say unhappily in her cage staring at me, her bulging eyes begging for it to stop.

Poor thing.  I’d offer her some condolence pie, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  We had dinner with Luke’s parents last night, and I developed a headache as we left, so I wasn’t too happy with all the noise either.  Getting a migraine on the night of July 4th must suck.  Luckily mine was just a common headache.

Still, it was not fun.  I thought about burying my head in this pie, but then realized that might ruin the pie for others (including myself later on) so I re-thought my plan.  Instead Luke and I watched Independence Day.  Suiting, no?

Ok, so more about this pie.  Like I mentioned earlier, I was looking for ways to use up extra ricotta (which generally means searching ‘ricotta’ on foodgawker) when I came across this recipe.

I was intrigued.  A pineapple ricotta filling?  Could it be good?  Would it be good?  I love pineapple, and I like baked ricotta, so it stood to reason that this pie and I would get along just fine.

Let me tell you, this pie exceeded all my expectations.  The filling was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, the ricotta mellowing the pineapple flavor, but leaving enough to be light and fresh.

Extra filling gets baked too!

If I have leftover ricotta again someday, I am sooo making this pie again.

Pineapple Ricotta Pie

Adapted from Buff Chickpea

Makes one 9” pie, about 12 servings

For the crust:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

½ cup (one stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/8- ¼ cup ice water

For the filling:

1 pound (2 cups) ricotta cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 (20-ounce) can of crushed pineapple (drained)
1/4 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form a disc. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.

Place the pineapple in a mesh strainer set over a bowl for at least 1 ½ hours, or preferably overnight. Discard the liquids. This will create a thicker pie filling and keep the crust crispier.

Add the ricotta to a large mixing bowl, and beat it smooth with an electric mixer. Beat in the heavy cream, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure the texture is smooth. Finally, stir in the pineapple.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, with a rack set in the lower third of the oven.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle. Place the dough round in a greased pie plate, and freeze for 15 minutes.

After the fifteen minutes has passed, remove the pie plate from the freezer, and pour the filling right to the top, leaving just a bit of room for the filling to puff up. Sprinkle the top of the pie with ground cinnamon. If you have some extra filling left over, as I did, you can pour it into a ramekin for a crustless version, and follow the same baking instructions.

Bake the pie at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. The filling should be slightly puffed, golden, and set, not jiggly. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Roasted Banana Ricotta Scones

I enjoy scones very much.  Bananas too.  Especially when they’re roasted.

Since neither Luke nor myself drinks milk, I tend to buy it a quart at a time.  Sometimes I use it quickly, other times not so quickly, and when it’s all used up and I can’t make muffins or pancakes, scones are my go-to breakfast.

Though I might have planned to make scones anyway and intentionally used the milk in other things.  Yes…I plan out how I use milk.  Is that weird?

Sometimes I forget what month it is and accidentally buy milk that expires in 3 days.  An entire fridge shelf devoted to pudding usually ensues. Luckily, this was not one of those weeks (or unluckily).

These scones are more like sweet drop biscuits that traditional scones, since you spoon out the batter instead of forming a dough and cutting rounds or triangles from it.

They are softer than traditional scones too, somewhere between scone and muffin, and I liked it.  I didn’t like that the glaze was wayyy too thick.  It was like sweeter peanut butter, so I opted to eat it with a spoon rather than spread it on the scones, except for the one in the pictures.  If you make it, I would suggest adding milk a little at a time until it thins to your desired consistency.

Roasted Banana Ricotta Scones

Adapted from Mississippi Kitchen

Makes about 12 scones

For the scones:

3 bananas, sliced

2 Tbsp melted butter

2 Tbsp light brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg, beaten

For the glaze:

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

milk as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bananas in a medium baking dish. Drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and caramelized.  Let cool.

Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with silicone mats.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and light brown sugar.  Cut in butter, using fingertips or pastry cutter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, beat together 2 eggs, the ricotta cheese, and the roasted bananas with a handmixer until mixed.  The mixture will be lumpy.  Add banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir by hand until just combined

Drop dough into 12 equal mounds on baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Brush tops with the beaten egg.   Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

About 5 minutes before scones come out of the oven, make the glaze.  Place the peanut butter and butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add milk gradually and stir until the glaze thins out.

When scones come out of oven, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Drizzle with the glaze and serve.


Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Yesterday I got some very sad news.  I did not get my dream job.  It was quite disappointing, and upset me greatly, but as you can read, I’m being quite judicious in my reaction.

Though this throws a monkey wrench into the life plans Luke and I were tentatively forming, we’ll get through it.  With lots of mutual love and support and cookies.

I still have a couple small embers of opportunity out there in the teaching world, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  Instead, I’m going to focus on what I can do to be more hirable in the long term, and work on personal projects that give me purpose in the short term.

So I’ve got my positive face on.  Also, I just whipped up a batch of extremely tasty cookies, full of lemony goodness, so how can I be sad?

I just need to keep channeling some good vibes and not get down on myself.  And bake like crazy.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and the sugar. Beat the until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine.

Stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon the dough (about 1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

To glaze the cookies: combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let glaze harden for about five minutes and serve.


Lasagna

Where’s the first place I’m going today?  Oh yeah, CVS, my post-holiday candy Nirvana.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll score a Russell Stover box as big as my head.

Last night, Luke and I went out to a Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of town.  The food was really good, good enough for me to break my “no eating baby animals rule.” Yes, I had lamb.  It’s Mediterranean food…how was I not going to eat lamb?

But now the holiday is over and I am thrilled to stop seeing cutesy decorations on every blog I visit.  I am not, I repeat, not a girly girl, nor have I ever been one, nor will I ever be one, so when the onslaught of red and pink hearts and kisses is put away for another year, I rejoice.  And make layered pasta covered in meat sauce and cheese.

Lasagna seems like a ubiquitous food, everybody has their own recipe, and can dress up the dish with their personal touches.  There’s spinach lasagna, mushroom lasagna, white lasagna, veggie lasagna, quadruple meat lasagna…oh boy that last one sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen.

But mine, is just lasagna.   Noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan; there you go.  Easy, scrumptious, and makes enough to feed two people for an alarming number of days.

Lasagna

Adapted from A Foodie Affair

Makes about 8 servings

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 onion, chopped
2 – 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
oregano, basil, parsley, touch of sugar, salt & pepper
1 – 2 lb. container of ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp dried parsley
8 oz shredded 6 cheese Italian cheese blend (or more mozzarella)
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese

Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown onion in a little oil until slightly tender and add ground beef. Continue cooking ground beef until slightly browned. Add crushed tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a touch of sugar. Cook approx. 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, parmesan cheese, and eggs. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a 13″ X 9″ baking dish, put a little meat sauce in the bottom (just to make sure the noodles don’t stick). Layer one layer of cooked noodles. Put a generous layer of ricotta cheese mixture and sprinkle a little of the Italian shredded cheese mixture on top of the ricotta. Top with a little of the meat sauce.

Continue to repeat the above steps ending with noodles. Top the noodles with meat sauce and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Top the casserole with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for approximately 35-45 minutes.

Remove the foil from the top and top entire casserole with 8 oz. package of grated mozzarella cheese. Put back in to the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is just melted.  Make sure you don’t leave it in too long, you don’t want the cheese to brown.


Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells

My little bundle of bunny love was only gone for about 9 hours.  I kept myself busy so as not to notice her absence too much, but every time I walked into the living room, I still almost starting crooning at an empty pen.  I dropped her off around 8am, and got a call from the vet at 9:25am saying her surgery was successful.  Wow, that was quick.  When I had kidney surgery, it took 6 hours!  I guess spaying is a pretty basic operation.

I lay a sheet down in her pen last night so she’s more comfortable.  She’s just been lounging about looking half asleep, though this morning she’s being a little more lively.  She’s also waddling a little from the incision.  Definitely adding to her adorable factor.  All in all, I’m immensely thrilled that she’s back home safe, and hopefully some of her more annoying behaviors will have been removed along with her uterus.

Ok…food time.  One of my New Years resolutions for 2012 is to cook dinner more often.  What?  Me, the person that practically sleeps in the kitchen doesn’t cook dinner every night?  Hey, only robots cook dinner every night.  There’s always food to eat for dinner, but I don’t cook it from scratch every night.  So I’m going to work on that.

I’m also going to work on getting Luke to eat more veggies.  This dinner was a semi-success.  I was determined to use up the rest of my thawed spinach…and I might have gone overboard.  Fine for me, not so great for Luke.  He still ate it and smiled, and took some for lunch the next day.

This dish was all thumbs up from me.  Ricotta, parmesan, mushrooms, spinach and pasta shells?  Yes, please.  I’m pretty sure I ate this for 3 nights straight, and was perfectly content every time.  If I make it again, and I hope I do, I’ll use less spinach.

Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells

Adapted from Handle the Heat

Serves 4-6

20 jumbo pasta shells (about half a 12-ounce box)

1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce (or 3 cups homemade sauce)

1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta

2 cups baby spinach, chopped (I used half a bag of frozen spinach)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

8 oz chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup grated mozzarella (4 ounces)

Set an oven rack to the highest position and heat oven to 400° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

Spread the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, basil, mushrooms, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on top of the sauce. Alternatively, transfer mixture into a large ziploc bag, snip one corner, and pipe filling into shells.

Sprinkle the shells with the mozzarella and bake until heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Increase heat to broil. Broil the shells until cheese begins to brown, 2 to 5 minutes.


Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Today we’re heading down to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my family, since we spent Christmas with Luke’s family.  We don’t go down too often, so I’m always very excited when we go, and I always bring a bundle of baked goods for my family members.  This time I’m bringing the leftovers from my Christmas cookie-baking extravaganza.  I’ll be posting about those starting on the first day of 2012.

Moving on to gnudi.  That’s pronounced new-dee.  Gnudi is like gnocchi (similar pronunciation rules) except that where gnocchi’s primary ingredient is potato, gnudi is mostly constituted of ricotta cheese.  So they’re like little ricotta dumplings.

Little soft, pillowy clouds of deliciousness that are a snap to make, and cook really quickly.  They also freeze really well, just put them on a plate covered with wax paper to keep them from sticking together, then once frozen through, transfer them to a Ziploc bag.  Then you can just pull them out later and boil ‘em up.

They cook in just a few minutes, and are incredibly versatile.  Luke likes his with a spritzing of Italian dressing, and I like mine smothered in tomato sauce and extra cheese (my shots are pre-topping).  Pan frying gives them a crispy shell and a little extra flavor, but you can skip that step if you want.  They’re just as good boiled, like Asian dumplings.  Add some sautéed mushrooms, and it’s a meal!

Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Adapted from Petite Kitchenesse

2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 ½ cups of freshly-grated parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

12 oz. of white or crimini mushrooms, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a bowl. Add flour and stir until a wet dough forms.

At this point, I like to put the bowl of dough in the fridge for 15–20 minutes. I find that cold dough is less sticky, and therefore easier to work with. In the meantime, slice mushrooms and sauté in the butter in a large skillet, until mushrooms just begin to brown and soften. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.

Remove dough from fridge. Grab a fistful of dough and place on a well-floured surface. Roll out to form 1-inch thick ropes, then cut into pieces.

Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. While you wait for it to boil, roll out and cut up the rest of the gnudi. Once the water is boiling, add in half of the pasta.  When the gnudi are puffy and floating at the surface of the water(this will take around 4 minutes) transfer them to the pan with a slotted spoon.

Fry gnudi until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate or large bowl. Repeat process with the second half of the pasta. Once the second batch is browned, add the first batch and the mushrooms to the pan, and stir until evenly warmed. Remove from heat and serve with favorite sauce.