Ravioli Lasagna

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Autumn nights call for meals that warm us as well as nourish our bodies.  However, the kids are back in school, sports are on t.v., and there’s a dip in the temperatures. Time is precious and we need go-to meals that can get us out of the kitchen quick.  Casseroles by nature free up the cook to work on other projects like homework, laundry, Halloween costumes, Christmas gifts, etc.

This quick version of Lasagna is perfect for busy weekdays.  There is nothing homemade in this casserole, hence the speediness of the preparation.  I purchased these ravioli at the grocery store and they are average-sized, but Sam’s Club sells some very large 3-cheese ravioli that work even better with this casserole.   Typically I make two of these at a time; one for dinner, and one for the freezer.

If you decide to make a pan of lasagna to freeze, buy the aluminum disposable pans that fit in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag.  To freeze; Wrap the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Slide the pan into the 2 gallon Ziploc bag and seal it.  Using a straw, suck as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it for good.  That is a trick that I learned from my friend, Bev.  It really does help keep the ice out of the bag when you are freezing for long periods of time.

If you are really in a hurry, just open a bagged salad to serve with this.  I always tape a paper with the name of the dish, the date it was made, and heating directions right to the foil, before I place the casserole in the plastic bag.  This encourages others to help make dinner.  Not really, but it does refresh my memory when I’m buried deep in fabric, need a quick dinner, and am concentrating on making a quilt or getting the flannel  PJ pants done in time for Christmas Eve.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

3-25 oz. bags Cheese Ravioli (you only need 2 1/2 bags, saving the leftovers for another meal).

3-8 oz. bags shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1-67 oz. bottle Prego pasta sauce

Parmesan cheese, for topping

2-8×11 inch aluminum disposable pans (I reuse mine)

1-2 gallon Ziploc bag

Pam

 

Directions

1. Spray the pans with Pam.

2. Pour enough pasta sauce in each pan to lightly cover the bottom.

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3. Place an entire row of frozen ravioli over the sauce.

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4. Sprinkle the casserole with Mozzarella cheese.

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5. Pour some pasta sauce over each casserole, and spread to cover.

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6. Continue this sequence of ravioli, Mozzarella, and sauce 2 more times (3 rows total) to finish the casserole.

7. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of each casserole.

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8. Wrap, label, and freeze one casserole for later use.  Cover the other casserole with foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Uncover pan and cook about 10 minutes more, or until casserole is bubbling and browned a little.

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Baking: Part 1-Equipment, Pans, and Helpful Hints

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It is that time of year again for many of us; time to break out the cookie cutters, pie pans, rolling pins, and bread bowls.  Before we get started this baking season, I wanted to offer a quick refresher course for those of us who have not baked in a while, and for those of us who are just learning how to bake.  The following is some of the things that I have learned over the years and I hope these tips are helpful to you. This is part 1 of the Baking post, part 2 will cover ingredients, and will also have baking tips.  Enjoy!

1. Read through the entire recipe

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Before you bake anything, take the time to read through the entire recipe.  Doing this will bring to your attention any key ingredient or piece of equipment you may need to buy or borrow before you start.  It also helps you to become familiar with the steps involved and the time necessary to complete the recipe.  Nothing is more frustrating than being in the middle of preparing a recipe and figuring out that you can’t finish because you ran out of an ingredient or do not understand how to perform a particular task.

2. Use the Proper Measuring Equipment 

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When cooking, some of the best meals can be derived by tossing a little of this and a little of that in the pot.  Baking, however, is a more precise art and requires accurate measurements.  If you are measuring by weight instead of volume, you will need a scale.  If you are measuring by volume (like most of the U.S.), you will need a set of dry measuring cups, a liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons.

Dry measuring cups should only be used for dry ingredients and solids (like peanut butter or shortening), liquid measuring cups should only be used for liquids; the two are not interchangeable.  Measuring spoons, and not the tea spoon from your flatware set, should be used for accurate measurements.

3. Set a Mis en Place

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Mis en Place is a French term meaning to have everything in place.  When cooking, and especially baking, the concept of Mis en place helps you to avoid mistakes.  By having all your ingredients measured out ahead of time and in front of you, it’s not likely that you will forget an ingredient, accidently use too much of something, or have to stop midway through, to measure something at perhaps a crucial point in the preparation of a recipe.

Items like butter and cream cheese benefit from being measured ahead of time because they typically need to soften, plus eggs need to warm up so that they can create more volume.  Embracing this philosophy helps to keep things organized in a confined space, which takes some of the anxiety out of baking and makes it more fun.

4. Use Fresh Ingredients

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If it has been a while since you last baked, check the dates on your baking powder, baking soda, eggs, yeast, etc.  If your flour has been sitting in the cupboard since the last time you baked Christmas cookies, or if your brown sugar is beyond saving with a sugar bear, it’s time to pitch it and start fresh.

5. Use an Oven Thermometer

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After going to all the trouble of studying a recipe, buying fresh ingredients, setting a mis en place, and then preparing your dough, the last thing you want is burned cookies.  Check the actual temperature of your oven with a thermometer, against whatever temperature you have set.  Make adjustments accordingly.  For instance, if you set the dial for 350°F., but your thermometer reads 400°F., then you know that you must make a mental note to decrease the temperature for the recipe by 50°F., and then re-check the thermometer for accuracy.

The Basic Equipment

These are the items that I use the most often;

Mixing Bowls

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The workhorse in your kitchen is the mixing bowl, and the most practical mixing bowls are made of stainless steel; they will not chip like stoneware or glass, nor will they hold a scent like plastic bowls will.  They will not break if you drop them on the floor, they are light-weight, heat-proof, and can be placed in the freezer, refrigerator, and dishwasher.  If they happen to come with lids, even better.  A set containing 3-5 bowls will be the most useful.

Rubber Scrapers

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These are a must for removing batter from a bowl, getting that last little bit of something out of a jar, or spreading and smoothing batter in a pan.  I have them in several sizes.

Wooden Spoons

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Buy a couple of good quality bamboo or olive wood spoons, treat them right, and they will last you forever.  Do not soak wooden spoons in water, and do not wash them in the dishwasher because doing so will cause the wood to split, and split wood can harbor bacteria.  Immediately after use, rinse a wooden spoon to remove food product.  Hand wash and dry the spoon, it just takes a minute.  I’ve had mine for over 15 years and they get daily use.  They are a little darker than they used to be, but other than that they look great.

Whisks

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One mid-sized whisk can handle most light mixing chores.  However, a big, heavy whisk is great for beating egg whites and mixing stiff batters.  A small whisk is useful for blending dry ingredients and whisking eggs in a bowl.

Mixer

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stand mixer is a dream machine for many people, but a good hand mixer will have dough hooks (for bread baking), a whisk (for whipping cream) and the standard beaters (for everything else) for a fraction of the cost of a stand mixer.

Rolling Pin

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You may have to try different styles until you find what you are most comfortable using.  I started out with a basic pin and used it for many years.  It worked perfectly for rolling out bread dough, pie crusts, and cookie dough.  Rolling pins are also great for crushing crumbs, crackers, Corn Flakes, cookies, candy, or chips that have been placed in a plastic zip bag.  After I tried a straight pin, there was no going back for me.  I prefer the control and feel for the dough that I have with the straight pin.  Some people like to use a marble rolling pin, and then there’s also a French pin; it truly is a personal preference.

Cooling Racks

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Nearly everything you bake needs a place to cool down and the stackable versions are nice because they take up less counter space.

Cookie Cutters

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In my humble opinion, the funnest part of baking is using cookie cutters.  I have lots of them in various sizes.  I like to use small ones to cut out bite-sized cookies, pastry for the edges of a pie, to make decorative croutons out of day-old bread, and to cut decorative shapes out of cheese (I have a moose that I use for my husband’s salads).

Food Processor

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These machines do more than just chop nuts and grate cheese; they take most of the work out of prepping veggies (carrots for carrot cake, zucchini for cake and bread), can make your pie crust in about 4 pulses, can blend together smooth, lump-free frostings and glazes, and will juice citrus fruits.

Silpat

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A Silpat is a French baking mat made of silicone.  I bought my first one when our kids were in elementary school.  It seems that I was constantly baking cookies or bread for school functions, Scout functions, or church functions.  They are supposed to last for 2,000 bakes, mine lasted a little longer though.  I have since replaced them and am getting ready to replace them again, not bad for a twenty year run of baking.   The beauty of a Silpat is that nothing sticks to them, you do not have to spray your pan or chisel caramelized brown sugar off of your pan.  Cookies, pastry, and bread lift off effortlessly, and sticky stuff just peels right off the silicone.  They are not terribly expensive considering that they last such a long time.  You will need one for each cookie sheet pan.

Cookie Scoops

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Metal cookie scoops come in various sizes and make quick work of dropping a batch of uniformly shaped cookies onto a baking sheet , or evenly filling muffin cups.  I have them in three sizes and use them all the time.

Pastry Bag and Tips

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To make the pretty details on a cake, decorative cream on a pie, or even kinda fancy sugar cookies, you will need to learn how to use a pastry bag and icing tips.  I use a plastic Ziploc bag for a pastry bag.  You just have to snip the corner off of the bag, place the coupler inside the bag, and the tip on top of the coupler.  Clean up is a breeze.

Pastry Blender

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This is a nice little toy for combining flour and fats and making a crumb mixture.  You can also use 2 knives, or two forks to make a crumb mixture.

Zester

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I love my Microplane zester.  It is very sharp and efficiently removes the zest from citrus fruit, but if I’m not careful, it will also remove the skin from my knuckles.

Cake Tester– A nice little tool for checking the doneness of cakes, cookies, and breads.  You can also use a toothpick to check for doneness.

Off-set Spatula-This is the perfect tool for frosting a cake, spreading and smoothing batter in a pan, and frosting cookies with Poured Cookie Icing.

Pastry Brushes-For quickly brushing melted butter on a loaf of hot bread, honey glaze on Phyllo dough, or syrup on fruit in a tart, a pastry brush is handy to have around.  Go to the hardware store and buy some natural bristle paint brushes in a few different sizes.  They are a lot less expensive than a pastry brush, and I find that they work better because they are flatter and wider than pastry brushes.  Take care to wash brushes thoroughly with warm soapy water after each use, smooth and reshape bristles, then allow brushes to dry while laying horizontal before you put them away.

Parchment Paper-You can use this on your baking pans instead of a Silpat.

Fine Mesh Sieve-A small sieve is perfect for dusting cocoa or powdered sugar over baked goods.  I also use mine to drain raisins after I have rehydrated them.  A slightly larger fine mesh sieve can be used in place of a sifter.

Thin Metal SpatulaThis is the best thing for lifting cookies off of a baking sheet and dough off of the counter.  I like them better than the silicone coated spatulas, which always seem so thick.  If I’m concerned about a baked good sticking to the spatula, I just spray the spatula with Pam.

Box Grater-This type of grater has four sides and is useful for grating cheese, citrus peels, vegetables, and chocolate.  The tiniest side of the grater can also be used for grating fresh nutmeg.

Citrus Juicer-This is the exact juicer I have used for the last 14 years.  It very efficiently gets every bit of juice from limes, lemons, and oranges (with some elbow grease).  It also has a strainer that prevents the seeds and pulp from getting in the juice which is collected in the container on the bottom.  The bottom container has clear markings (in case you are measuring the juice), it is dishwasher safe, and has a silicone ring on the bottom so that it doesn’t slip when you are using it.

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Basic Baking Pans and their Uses

To bake the best cookies, I have read over and over that a shiny silver pan is what you should use, not a dark metal pan.  I wish that I could advise on this subject, but I do not honestly know if that is true.  For the last 20 years I have used dark metal baking pans from Chicago Metallic with a Silpat baking mat.  Everything has always come out the way it was supposed to, with exception of the times when I’ve made a mistake, and I have chalked that up to operator error, not baking pan error.

My round cake pans are at least 25 years old and look very similar to these, albeit mine are much scruffier now.  This is the one basic pan that I would suggest that you make sure has a non-stick coating.  You will still need to use Pam, Baker’s Joy, or butter and parchment paper to keep the cake from sticking to the pan, but at least with a non-stick coating, you will have a fighting chance of turning out a perfect cake layer.

There are many beautiful specialty Bundt pans on the market (and I want all of them).  As with the layer cake pans, I would suggest that you buy a Bundt pan with non-stick coating.  You will still need to spray the pan with Baker’s Joy or Pam.

11×17 inch baking sheets (you need 2)- drop cookies, shaped cookies, artisan bread loaves, calzones, bread sticks, biscotti, crostatas,

8 or 9 inch round cake pans (you need 2)- layer cakes, cornbread, biscuits, scones

muffin tin– muffins, cupcakes, individual cheesecakes

9×5 inch bread pans (you need 2)– bread loaves, pound cake

8×8 inch or 9×9 inch square baking pan– bar cookies, cornbread, Focaccia

Deep-dish glass pie pans (you need 2)- pies, fruit crisps, fruit crumbles, frittatas

9×13 inch baking pan– sheet cakes, cinnamon rolls, pizza, buns

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Specialty Pans and their Uses

Bundt Pan– Bundt cake, Monkey bread

Springform Pan- cheesecake, Chocolate Guinness Cake

Tube Pan– angel food and chiffon cakes

Mini Muffin Pan– mini muffins, pecan tassies, mini cheesecakes

Biscotti

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Butter-Pecan Biscotti by King Arthur Flour

About 15 years ago I ordered a biscotti pan from King Arthur Flour and it came, as a set, with a very nice biscotti baking book.  The pan also had it’s very own recipe included with the set.  I figured since I had never made biscotti before, I would start with the recipe that came with the pan and branch out to the fancier recipes in the book after I knew what I was doing.

That initial recipe was so versatile that I’ve yet to use the book that came with the pan. I’ve made this biscotti recipe at least 6 different ways and I’m still experimenting with other combinations.  Biscotti make lovely teacher gifts, office treats, and nice “thinking of you” gifts for friends and neighbors.  Because it is a hard cookie, they also travel well in the mail.

I can never bake these cookies without thinking of Mrs. Sweeney, Bobby’s junior high school Spanish teacher (her husband , Mr. Sweeney, was Danielle’s 6th grade teacher, too).  Of all the teachers that ever received them, she always appreciated them the most.  So I bake these in honor of Mrs. Sweeney and all the other great teachers that have made an impact on our children’s lives.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

*This recipe calls for butterscotch baking chips.  Let your imagination go and try various combinations of nuts and chips.  For instance; chocolate chips and walnuts, mint and white chocolate chips (no nuts), dark chocolate chips and pistachios, peanut butter chips and peanuts, butter brickle and almonds,etc.  Just go the baking aisle of the grocery store and get inspired.

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (this is the flour I use)

2/3 cups pecan pieces, toasted*(I used slivered almonds for this batch and baked them for about 6 minutes)

2/3 cup butterscotch chips (I used Heath Bar brickle bits for this batch)

*Toast pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 7-9 minutes, or until they smell “toasty” and are beginning to brown.  Allow to cool before using.

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Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugar.

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2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl.

3. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder and salt.  Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, until you have a cohesive, well-blended dough.

4. Add the nuts and chips, mixing until they are well distributed.

5. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined, or lightly greased biscotti pan (If you don’t have a biscotti pan, a baking pan with sides will work just the same as long as it is at least 13 inches long).

6. Wet your fingers and pat the dough into a 12x 4 1/2 inch log (it will spread some during baking).  Shape the dough so that it is slightly mounded in the middle and lower on the sides.

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7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 30 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

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8. Transfer the log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, slice the log diagonally into 1/2 inch slices (mine end up a little closer to 1 inch wide slices).  Because of the nuts and chips, the biscotti are apt to crumble a little, so saw slowly.

9. Place the slices on their sides on an ungreased baking sheet (parchment lining makes clean-up easier), or use a Silpat.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, flip them and bake for another 20 minutes.  The biscotti should be dry and beginning to turn brown.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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Baci di dama

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Recipe adapted from Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies by The Best Of Gourmet-A Year of Celebrations, published by Conde Nast Publications Inc.

The recipe for these cute cookies comes from a cookbook that I purchased in Rhode Island while I was shopping with Mark’s Mom; she knows all the places to get good deals.  I only paid $3 for the 20th anniversary edition of Gourmet- A year of Celebrations. 

This recipe is from the chapter entitled Father’s Day Tuscan Dinner.  Baci di dama (Italian for Lady’s Kisses) are pretty easy to make, however I did veer a little from the original recipe; I used almonds instead of hazelnuts, I infused the dough with Fiori di Sicilia,  I added 2 extra Tablespoons butter to the dough because it was so crumbly it would not hold together well, and I made my cookies twice the size of the original recipe.  They were dangerously delicious so I sent most of them in to work with Mark and they were well received.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

3/4 cup almonds, toasted and cooled

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened, but not melted

1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup cake flour

3 ounces fine quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), preferably 70% cacao, chopped (I used Scharffenberger)

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Directions

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat.

3. Grind cooled almonds with confectioners sugar, in a food processor until powdery, being careful not to process into a paste.

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4. Mix together butter, zest, Fiori di Sicilia, salt, and nut mixture in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until creamy.

5. Add flour and stir just enough to mix, do not overwork the dough.

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6. Roll dough into small balls (the original recipe suggests the balls be the size of marbles, mine were about twice that size).  Arrange balls of dough about 1-2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Bake until very pale golden, about 12-14 minutes.  Remove baked cookies from baking sheets and place on a rack to cool.

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7. Melt chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, melt for 30 seconds, stir.  Continue this pattern until chocolate is completely melted.  Scrape chocolate into a plastic zip-type bag and snip the bottom corner of the bag off.

8. Squeeze melted chocolate onto the flat sides of half the cookies, top with the other half of the cookies.  Press down to adhere the cookies to the chocolate.

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Pumpkin Bread

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Recipe adapted from Pumpkin Bread by Betty Crocker

published by Golden Press, New York, N.Y.

There’s nothing like pumpkin bread for brunch or snack time to remind you of how wonderful autumn is.  This recipe comes from the Betty Crocker cook book that I bought when Mark and I first got married, 30 years ago.  Usually I make a double batch and bake half into muffins and the other half into loaves for the freezer.  Be forewarned if you intend on making a double batch; this is a lot of batter.  The bowl of my Viking stand mixer holds 7 quarts and a double batch of this recipe fills the mixer bowl 3/4 of the way full.

Five years ago Mark’s Mom and Dad came to visit and the guys built our deck.  I knew Pepere meant business when he brought his very own jack hammer.  Talk about messy, our house was a construction zone for about 5 days.  However, the deck is a solid thing of beauty, and I’m so grateful to Pep for putting all his effort into its design and construction.  He added a lot of custom features into the design and I appreciate that very much.  He was in his glory leading a crew of men on a project, even though the crew only consisted of Mark and Bobby.  Plus, it was a great guy-bonding thing for all of them.  Mem and I were told to stay out of the way, and so we went shopping.  Hard to believe that it’s been five years.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

2/3 cup shortening

2  2/3 cup sugar

4 eggs

1-16 oz. can pumpkin

2/3 cup water

3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon (I always use more)

1 teaspoon ground cloves (I always use more of this, too)

2/3 cup coarsely chopped nuts, optional

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, or if using muffin pans, grease bottom of each cup or use paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix the shortening and sugar.  Add the eggs, pumpkin and water.

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3. Blend in the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves.  Stir in the nuts, if using.

4. Pour batter into pans.  If making muffins, fill the cups a little more than half full ( I use a large scoop that holds 3 Tablespoons).

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5. Bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes.  If baking the bread in a loaf pan, bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly and remove from pans.  Store in refrigerator.

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Building our deck

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The guys are hard at work!

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The crew at the end of a long day

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It’s all done but the staining… great job guys!

Roasted Fall Vegetables and Lentil Salad

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Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

We were planning on having this dish for dinner so I decided to modify the recipe and add a few starchy root vegetables so that it would be more filling.  The grocery store only carried regular brown lentils and although I had to make a special trip to a health food store to find them, the French green lentils were not expensive, and they tasted so good that they justified the trip.  They were peppery and nutty, and they cooked up tender, yet firm.

There were so many wonderful flavors and textures in this dish and the picture does not do them justice because so many of the veggies are hidden.  I highly recommend that you include parsnips and rutabaga in the mix when you make this.  Parsnips provide a little zing to the mix, and rutabagas have a sweet flavor.  After plating the veggies and lentils, I sprinkled on some shaved parmesan to put the whole thing over the top.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients

4 carrots; sliced lengthwise into 3 pieces each

1 yam; peeled and cut into 1/2  inch slices

1 small acorn squash; halved, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 rutabaga; peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 turnips; peeled, cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 parsnips; peeled, sliced into thirds lengthwise

1 onion; cut into 1/2 inch slices (reserve 1 whole slice to cook with the lentils)

3 stalks celery; cut in half lengthwise, and then into thirds, reserve leaves for garnish

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup dry French green lentils

reserved slice of onion

juice of two lemons (about 5 Tablespoons)

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

olive oil (equal to the amount of lemon juice)

salt

pepper

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

shaved parmesan for garnish

 

Directions

1. The vegetables need room to roast, mine were very crowded and did a lot of steaming at first instead of roasting.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Place chopped vegetables on cookie sheet(s).  Drizzle  3-4 Tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables, then sprinkle coarse salt over all.

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2. Bring pot of water to a boil.  Rinse lentils and pick over them looking for debris, sticks, etc.; drain.

3. Place vegetables in oven and roast for 30 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between the two racks halfway through the roasting time (because of the overcrowding, I had to add 15 minutes to the roasting time).

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4. While veggies are roasting, add lentils and slice of onion to the boiling water.  Do not salt the water.  Bring pot back to a boil, and then lower the temperature and simmer the lentils for 20 minutes.

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5. While lentils are cooking, make the vinaigrette;  Mix lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) and Dijon mustard with a whisk.  Add olive oil, fresh garlic and salt and pepper.

6. Drain lentils.  Pour vinaigrette over the lentils.  Cover and set aside to keep warm.

7. Remove veggies from oven.  Pile roasted veggies on plate, spoon lentils over the top, and garnish with shaved parmesan.Roasted-Fall-Vegetable-and-Lentil-Salad-salad

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-sliced-pumpkin

October is finally here.  Crisp, bright days accompanied by cool nights make this the best time of year.  All kinds of fun stuff happens in October… pumpkin carving, baking, leaf peeping, football games.  I love the crinkly leaves and the sound they make when the wind catches them.  Hoodies and jackets come out of the closet, apple cider is kept warm on the stove, and everyone is digging out their crock-pots again.  If you are lucky, there is even a corn maze or pumpkin patch nearby that you can visit.

Every year when our kids were younger, we took them in early October to pick out their pumpkins.  I remember Bobby and Danielle being so excited as they chose their perfect pumpkin.  Then a few days before Halloween we would clean the guts out of the pumpkin and they would get to carve it.  On Halloween night we would place lit candles inside the jack-o-lanterns so that their creations could come to life.

Before they got to the really fun part (using a knife), they had to do the messy stuff.  Cleaning out a pumpkin can be kinda gross.  It is wet, stringy and smells weird.  I find it is easier to do if you use a big metal spoon to scrape all the fibers and seeds out into a big bowl.  Then, by hand, sift through the mess and extract the seeds.  If you are doing this with kids ( which I highly recommend), try to do it outside.

Toasting the seeds from your very own pumpkin is pretty cool.  Plus, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that the seeds taste like popcorn.  As our kids got older, we turned the pumpkin carving into an event.  Other families joined in with us; all the Moms made soup in their crock pots to share, and it was a messy, but fun day.  Just thinking about that makes me want to grab a mug of warm apple cider and visit a pumpkin patch.  Enjoy!

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-pumpkins

Ingredients

1 pumpkin

oil

salt

Directions

1. After slicing the top off the pumpkin, use a big metal spoon to scrape the fibers and seeds into a bowl.  The outer skin on my little pumpkin was 1/8 inch thick and hard as a rock.  I had to have Mark slice the top off of the pumpkin for me.

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-pumpkin-with-knife

2. Separate the seeds from the fibers (the gross part), and place in a bowl.  Pick out as much of the fibers and mush as possible.  Add water to cover the seeds.  Let soak a few minutes and then drain in a colander.  Using a paper towel, wipe the seeds.  This will remove any remaining strings as well as dry the seeds.Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-Mark-and-the-slime

Harvesting the seeds

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-seeds-in-water

Soaking the seeds

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-seeds-before-toasting

Seeds waiting to be baked

3. Sprinkle enough oil to lightly coat the seeds, salt them to your liking.  Mix well and pour seeds on a baking sheet.  Spread the seeds into a single layer.  Bake at 300°F. for about 30-40 minutes, or until slightly browned.

Toasted-Pumpkin-Seeds-toasted-seeds

Toasted seeds