Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest Post: Dinner tonight -- brought to us by Pinterest

Today's guest post comes from a childhood friend of mine. Lots of dress up, playing grocery store with the food from our mom's kitchens (the Taboo beeper makes an excellent scanner), filming our own commercials, acting out our own Adventures in Odyssey, fake gymnastic competitions in the basement (complete with a balance beam made from a 2 by 4) - these are just a few of the activities you might find my friend Meghan and I participating in many years ago.  We were quite imaginative back then! Today, she and her husband are living North Carolina with their beautiful little girl, Violet. You can see her Pinterest boards here.

So, if your like me this time of are growing sick of the ham and turkey, and all the trimmings! I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE them, but when we decided to have our own special Christmas dinner here at home since we will be with relatives on Christmas itself, I decided to do something totally different! I was inspired by Pintrest and decided to make something I had pinned. Its called Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce!! And it was delicious! My little girl, who has become quite picky in recent days even tried some! See the original post here.

Here is what you need:

  • 12 oz bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini (find them in the dry pasta aisle)
  • 4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)*
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 C milk
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry basil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or more if you like spicy)
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • ¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided
My Variations to the Recipe:
I actually could not find the dry Tortellini so I bought the Barilla brand in the refrigerated section of Kroger. (Its with the cold stuff usually near the deli counter). I bought the big container and picked the stuffed cheese ones!  (Who doesn't love cheese?!)

I also buy pre-minced garlic and used that. I actually used less garlic than this called for, but that was just my preference.

I used an Italian blend cheese instead of mozzarella.

I also used less lemon. The author said that she really likes lemon. So if you don't, put less! Since I have a toddler, I decided it was best to use less!

We started in the morning to have bacon and eggs. I cooked all the bacon I had ahead of time and saved it for our dinner. Be sure to save the grease as well!! 

*Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

*Next boil the water for the tortellini (which won't take more than like 6 to 8 minutes to make)

*While that's getting ready either make your bacon and save some of the grease in the pan (like 2 teaspoons or so) or heat up your saved grease! (its best to use a medium sized pan or skillet for this)

*Add your garlic to the pan and cook for about 1 min or until tender. (this happens FAST!)

*Next, add the flour and whisk for about 1 minute. Then slowly add the milk and continue whisking! Add the salt, pepper,  basil and red pepper flakes and bring this to a simmer. While that is heating up, you need to zest your lemon, I just guessed and did my lemon zest right over the pan (the original recipe says 2 tablespoons of zest but I am sure I did not use this much) Then add your lemon juice.  Again, I  just winged this part - but the recipe called for 1 tablespoon.  Continue cooking this for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove from the don't want the bottom to burn.

*Remove your pasta from the heat and drain, place back into the pan, but off of the heat.

*Add all the crumbled bacon EXCEPT 1 tablespoon. Set this aside for the topping. Next I added the spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the Italian blend cheese (save the rest for the topping as well) Poor the sauce on top and combine! (stir gently!)

*Place pasta mixture in a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. I used a 2 1/2 quart dish and it worked perfectly!

*Top with remaining 1 tablespoon of bacon, 1/4 cup of Parm cheese and 1/4 cup of Italian cheese or Mozzarella cheese!

*Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional  5 to 10 min. I also turned on the broiler JUST at the end for a few minutes to get the top looking nice :)  Just be sure to WATCH it. Broilers cook super fast!

Serve and ENJOY!!!! :)  We had ours with a salad and it was very filling and very good! It also makes great left-overs!! :)

And here is a great cookie you can try for dessert!! :)  Its a twist on the chocolate covered pretzel.....

Recipe: Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies (from here)
Makes 24 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup broken up pretzel pieces
  • Pretzel Salt or Sea Salt
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the flour mixture and beat just until there are no more streaks of flour. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pretzels. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Leave about 2 inches between each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. If you prefer crispier cookies increase the baking time by 1-2 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing.

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