Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tortellini al Forno

It probably seems as though I'm not cooking as much lately, because I haven't been posting as much. In truth, I've been cooking a lot. But I'm having a recipe drought. I've made a few on-the-fly recipes that have turned out really well, but I wasn't expecting them to, so I didn't take photos. Meanwhile, I've had a slew of recipes with high expectations, lovely photographs, and ... well, meh flavor.

Perhaps I should blog these as what NOT to cook. You know, to save you some time, in case you've got the same cookbooks.

The other night, the hubby and I had an evening out with a few of our siblings, thanks to Jay at Pocket Jacks, his lovely fiancee Donna, and his adorably patient daughter, Macy. They hung out with the little man while we had a quick dinner out, followed by a movie. We ate at an Italian restaurant, and I ordered tortellini al forno, which is one of my favorite dishes. And the little man loved, loved, loved my leftovers the next day, so I decided to whip up a version at home.

Although it looks and tastes impressive, this dish is actually quite easy to make, especially if you use a jarred sauce. And because I broiled it instead of baking it, it just needs a quick zap in the oven.

Tortellini al Forno
Makes 6 servings

1 lb. ground beef
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, to taste
2 24- to 26-oz. jars cheese-flavored red pasta sauce (such as Ragu six-cheese or Classico four-cheese)
1/3 c. cream
1 22-oz. pkg. of refrigerated cheese tortellini (frozen will also work)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella or thinly sliced fresh mozzarella

1. Preheat broiler on low. Meanwhile, spray a large shallow pan or individual baking dishes with cooking spray.

I used these guys, whom I love.

2. Brown ground beef in a pot over medium-high heat, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt. Drain, if necessary, and then add pasta sauce. Cover and cook until bubbly, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in cream, and reheat sauce until bubbly.

3. Cook tortellini in salted water according to package directions.

4. Spread some sauce on the bottom of the baking dishes. This will help prevent the tortellini from sticking to the bottom. Nobody likes a sticky tortellini.

5. Drain tortellini and add to remaining sauce in pot, stirring gently so as not to upset your fragile tortellini. Add tortellini to baking dish.

6. Top with cheese, and a bit of dried herbs, if you like the color. And I do.

7. Broil until cheese is melted and just starting to brown, about 7 or so minutes. (Watch it closely, because it can go from barely melted to brown pretty quickly.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Working on deadlines until all hours? Garbage disposal on the fritz? Baby cutting his first molars? Hubby has strep throat? You have a cold? Everybody's got the flu?

(Welcome to my past few weeks.)

Have a brownie.

If anyone is looking for me, I'm buried underneath a mountain of laundry.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Makes 18 brownies

Peanut butter swirl mixture
1/2 c. peanut butter chips
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg

1 pkg. supreme chocolate chunk brownie mix (for 9x13 pan)
3 Tbsp water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 9x13 pan with shortening. (I'm lazy. I use cooking spray.)

2. Melt peanut butter chips on the stovetop or in the microwave until melted. Stir in cream cheese, sugar, and 1 egg, until smooth. Set aside.

Note that this stiffens up very quickly when set aside. Be quick with that brownie batter, you.

3. Combine brownie mix, water, oil, and 2 eggs and stir until well blended.

4. Spread two-thirds of the batter in the pan. Spread peanut butter mixture over the batter.

5. Drop remaining batter by tablespoonfuls onto peanut butter mixture, and swirl lightly with a knife to create that lovely marbled look.

6. Bake 30-34 minutes. Cool completely before serving, and store tightly covered.