Ricotta & Spinach Pizza

 

Recently I made a Casta cake for a celebration of a family friend.  Having a little ricotta cheese leftover I started to ponder what to do with it.

I also had an abundance of fresh spinach growing in my window garden.  Pulling my inner food channel guru I recalled pizzas with salad on top of them seem to be fairly trendy.  Spaghetti and meatballs also happens to be my husbands’ current meal of choice, which is great because I still have quite a bit canned from last summer!  Perfect, dinner planning done!

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I made a half batch of my favorite pizza dough since it was more to accompany to the spaghetti than the feature presentation.

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My husband, I think found the idea of a salad pizza a little strange, enjoyed several slices dunked in the sauce.  Personally, I ate almost half the pizza!

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Pizza Dough (Originally found at King Arthur Flour)

1 tsp active dry yeast                 1/2 cup lukewarm water

1/2 tsp sugar                                 1 Tbsp olive oil

3/4 tsp salt                                      1 to 1 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.  Allow to proof for about 10 minutes.  Add the remainder of the ingredients starting with 1 cup of flour.  Mix completely adding enough additional flour to create a semi-firm dough.  Knead on a lightly floured board until smooth and elastic.  Cover and allow the dough to rise for about 60 minutes or until at least doubled and puffy.  Roll dough out into desired sized rounds, I made about a 12 inch round.  Poke dough many times with a fork to prevent dough from bubbling in the oven.  Allow rising another 10-15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450’F

Ricotta and Spinach Pizza Topping

1 Garlic clove minced                           2 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup Ricotta                                       1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp Olive oil, divided                    1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 c. mozzarella                                  1/4 c. parmesan cheese

1 1/2 c. fresh spinach                           1 tsp Sicilian or Italian seasoning

1/2-1 tsp vinegar                                     additional salt/pepper

In a small bowl mix the butter and garlic, melt and brush all over prepared pizza crust.  Bake for 5-10 minutes or until dough is set, but not yet golden.

In another small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp olive oil, seasoning, and vinegar.  Mix very well.  Add salt and pepper as desired.  Set aside.

In another bowl combine ricotta, mozzarella, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp olive oil.   When the crust is ready, spread mixture over the partially baked crust.  Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until crust is lightly golden browned.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes and top with spinach and parmesan cheese.  Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar mixture.  Serve immediately.

 

Belated Tuesday

How time flies!  I missed telling you about last week’s dinner by a mile!  It was certainly a fun time, all the babies were there, the toddlers, the tween girls, and some assorted adults.

We had one of our families favorite comfort foods “Mrs. Millers Marvelous Meatballs,”  The names is a mouthful, but they are a wonderful barbecue style meatball that goes perfectly over egg noodles or as originally intended when my parents first acquired the recipe years ago, as appetizers!  We also had Lemon Meringue Pie, which even though mom claimed she goofed up getting a little yolk in the whites, it still was delicious!

Here are the pictures from the meal:

 

P.s.  We did not have dinner this Tuesday in anticipation of our friend and formerly regular dinner attendee to arrive later in the week!!!!  My oldest daughter is super excited to be reunited with her ‘twin’ 🙂

Wildlife Preserve

One of the things I love about our property is that wildlife seems drawn to it.  It is not terribly uncommon for an unusual species to saunter onto our property for a brief visit.  Last year we had quite a few surprising visitors.  We have had a history of Bald Eagles visiting ever since I was little.  We are about two miles from a place where they like to next.   This big fella was in our field for a couple days!

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Immature Bald Eagle about 200 yards away from our house

We also had an unusual number of Great Egrets that graced our pond last year.  I was surprised to see one pair that seems to be hanging around, you can imagine my shock when I woke up one morning to find EIGHT of these huge birds in the back yard!  We often have one or two Great Blue Herons, but the egrets are newer.

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Great Egrets just chill’n in the pond

We also have a couple deer that frequently watch me do chores, especially in the fall because they know our field is a relatively safe haven.  My family never hunted growing up and with the livestock around I don’t allow people to hunt our property and my husband gets long lectures from me whenever he thinks he’s going to.  During a drought this poor little creature risked everything to walk across our back yard in the middle of the day just to drink from the sadly low pond.

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A fawn seeking relief from the crazy hot dry weather we had last year.

And this year, we so far have had two of the cutest little ducks I have ever seen!  I believe them to be female Bufflehead ducks.  One was hanging around for about a week before I could finally capture a close enough picture to see what on Earth was swimming in our pond.  Such a tiny little thing!  A second joined her the day after I took the picture.  We also have a regular attendance of Canada geese, which are not uncommon but our Khaki duck seems to be right at home with them! I am also pretty sure they have a nest somewhere nearby.

While most of these wild visitors delight me with their company, we also get our fair share of critters that are well, a nuisance.    The coyotes chill me to the bone when I hear them yapping in the middle of the night.  The woodchucks and muskrats tunnel and burrow and cause all sorts of cave-ins.  Raccoons and opossums torment the birds, stealing their eggs and sometimes attacking the birds too!  And we neighboring skunk that likes to dig for grubs in the yard… he’s never sprayed but we usually know when he is around and he sure leaves a mess!

Sometimes critter control is required to protect our farm, but on the whole, I am glad that we seem trust worthy to animals that are by nature wary of where they eat and rest.

Oh!and let’s not forget!  The elusive blonde 2-year-old farm girl!  She is the rarest and wildest beast I have ever laid eyes on!  Also one of the most beautiful, but I may be biased.

Chicken & Spinach-Artichoke Pasta

We LOVE  Spinach and Artichoke dip!  My oldest has eaten it with vigor ever since she was old enough to eat a chip.  I was rather uninspired to make dinner today, we had a bunch of things needing to be done around the farm, soaps to make and so on.  Finally, I decided to throw some frozen chicken breasts into the oven and see what happened.

The result was this fabulous light, but very filling and economical pasta!  Everyone loved it, even my two-year-old who declared it “GROSS” until she ate a noodle, and kept eating them.

My new go to is cooking frozen chicken.  It saves me the mess of having chicken juices run all over while I pull the chicken out of the package and it’s always so tender and flavorful.  Simply thaw the chicken enough to be able to remove all the packaging

Simply thaw the chicken enough to be able to remove all the packaging, and place it into a baking dish coated with olive oil.  Salt, pepper and add another seasoning you like (I used McCormicks Sicilian blend for this recipe), cover with foil and bake at 350′ for about 2 hours.  Presto! Fork tender, flavorful chicken just waiting for you.

 

Here is my recipe, you could certainly use a rotisserie chicken if you wanted to!

 

Chicken and Spinach-Artichoke Pasta

2 cooked and shredded chicken breasts (about 3 cups)

3 Tbsp minced onion

1 clove minced garlic (about 1- 11/2 tsp)

4oz cream cheese

1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese

1/2 cup parmesan  grated/shredded cheese

1/2 can artichoke hearts, finely chopped

1 small bag of fresh spinach

Chicken broth OR the liquid from your roasted chicken

Salt & Pepper

Red Pepper flakes (optional)

 

In a large saucepan saute the onions and garlic in a small amount of olive oil or butter until tender.  Add the spinach, artichokes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add the cream cheese and shredded cheeses.  Stir until the cheeses are melted and the spinach is wilted.  Add a dash of red pepper flakes if desired.  Use enough chicken broth to thin the mixture out, so it is more of a sauce than a dip.  Add the shredded chicken, combine and tasted for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Mix into cooked pasta of your choice.  I suggest using a hearty pasta such as Penne or bow-tie.

 

Italian Easter Bread

It is very traditional for many countries to have a sweet bread on Easter.  It represents the end of the long Lenten fast and celebrates the resurrection!

While this style of bread is very traditional for Italy and Greece, I have to say it is not a treat that we grew up with, and I did not have an authentic recipe to work with.  I have made this a few times before but wasn’t very impressed with how the bread turned out.  So I did some research and improvised my own recipe!

I am not a huge fan of orange flavored things, and can’t stand anise… so those traditional flavors for me were out.  But lemons are very common and Italy and I did find some recipes that favored lemons.

This bread is sweet and light, and bright with lemon flavor.  The dough is soft and needs to rise twice so be prepared.  I also show my method for baking the eggs in so you can remove them.  In the past, my colored eggs bled and stuck into the bread after baking… not very appetizing and it left me with the dilemma of leaving eggs on the counter overnight.  So if you are an egg refrigerator, this will work perfectly for you as you can add the eggs right before serving!

 

Italian Easter Bread Dough

1 cup warm milk

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 c. honey

1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp melted butter

4 eggs

3 1/2- 4 1/2 c. all purpose flour

zest of one lemon

4 + raw eggs in shells, room temp.

1 egg beaten for egg wash (optional)

 

Combine the milk, yeast, and honey and allow the yeast to bloom for 5-8 minutes.  Beat the eggs slightly and add to the milk along with the butter, salt and lemon zest.  Mix together briefly and add 1 cup of flour.  Mix at a medium speed for about 2 minutes or until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl.  Add another cup of flour and mix until just blended.  Add enough flour mixing at a low speed to form a soft, but workable dough.  Place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth.  Place into a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled.

While the dough is rising prepare your raw eggs.  The number of eggs you use will depend on how big your ring is or how many baskets you make.  4-6 eggs is a pretty good estimate for a standard large ring.  Take a small piece of aluminum foil and form it to the bottom of one egg.  Smooth out as many wrinkles and creases as you can so the dough is not able to rise into the foil.  Coat the outside of the foil with oil and flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

To make a large ring, divide the dough into 2 sections and roll into long ropes, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  For small “baskets” divide dough into fist size pieces and roll into ropes that are about 1/2- 3/4 inches in diameter.  Carefully overlap the ropes in a braid like twist, then bring the ends together to form a circle.  Tuck the ends in neatly to keep the ring neat and together.  Place your prepared raw eggs into the dough, keeping them close to the inside of the ring.  As the dough expands during rising and baking they will move outward.  After placing the eggs, I lift them out just to make sure they are not sticking and then place them back in their indentation.

Allow the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes or until puffy.  To achieve a nice rich brown brush the dough with egg wash just before baking. Bake in a preheated 350’F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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Allow the bread to cool for a couple minutes and remove the foiled eggs.   These are now perfectly hard cooked and can be dyed if desired once they are cooled.  Finish cooling the bread completely and then coat with Lemon Glaze, sprinkles (if desired) and replace the eggs. All that is left is to present your masterpiece and enjoy!

Lemon Glaze

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

juice from 1 lemon (use the zested lemon!)

1-3 Tbsp water

small dash salt

 

Whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and salt.  VERY SLOWLY whisk in small amounts of water until you reach a paint-like consistency.  You want this glaze to be a little thick or it will disappear.  I found it easiest to paint it on with a pastry brush vs. pouring it on.  Add sprinkles while the glaze is wet if desired.

Moments

 

IMG_5807I just wanted to share this candid moment that made my heart happy. It ended in tears when it was time to come in. But that instant was beautiful. Please share a picture of a beautiful moment you had!

Happy Birthday, Tillie!!

My oldest daughter, the dinner prayer reciter, left the realm of single digit birthdays this year.  She was very busy over spring break and we didn’t get around to choosing her dinner until Sunday night (usually she has it well laid out in advance).  I think the conversation that decided her dinner is noteworthy, so here it is:

(Texted) Mom:  We need to know what Tillie wants for her birthday dinner.

Me: Tillie, you need to tell me what you want for dinner or Grandma is going to choose.

Tillie: I want, Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes and my bread.

Me: Challah bread?

Tillie: Yes!

Me: What do you want for dessert?

Tillie: I’m still thinking

To Mom: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and challah bread.

Tillie: And green beans!  Drumsticks too!

To Mom: And green beans

*drumsticks*

Mom: No dessert?

Me: Still going through her options

10 minutes pass…

Me to Tillie:  You have to decide on dessert right now or we’ll forget.

Tillie: Apple pie.

Me: Really? Apple Pie?

Tillie: Yeah

Me: The kind with crumbles on the top or crust?

Tillie: The crumble kind.

Me: I didn’t think you liked apple pie?

Tillie: I love apple pie!

Me: Well that’s a very All-American Dinner, cool.

Me to Mom: Dutch Apple Pie ala mode

Mom: Really? I didn’t think she liked apple pie?

Me: That’s what I said.  But, she said it sounded good

Mom: She must be older now… like 10 🙂

So now that you are up to speed on the menu and its decision-making process, joining us for the celebration we had a good crowd of 10 adults, three tweens, two 2-year-olds, two one-year-olds and two babies.  A good friend of mine and surrogate aunt to Tillie also popped into deliver a birthday gift.

The usual Hello! How are you’s? and How’s it going this week?

Hey, we haven’t seen you in forever! Wow has he gotten big and look at that hair!

My 2-year-old decided to join the big kids at their table and actually ate more than she ever eats, so that seating arrangement will defiantly be tried again!

Bless this house, Lord we pray, keep us safe by night and day. Amen!

The little babies, who are getting rapidly bigger and starting to eyeball the food on the table, especially one who was sitting on her Daddy’s lap this week!

And conversations circle around as they do,

Stop throwing mashed potatoes to the dog!

Uh oh! We had a spill over here!

Where’s the dog?

Don’t worry, he’s busy chewing some bread over here, he’ll get over there.  It’s not meat, right? (The dog doesn’t handle meat very well in his old age)

Dog! Eat! Nom Nom!

Hey, get off the table! (my two year old now crawling across the table to me snake style)

Mama Help!

You know you might have gotten away with sitting on the table when you were that age, but not for much longer.  Five maybe.

Oh yeah, by six I’m sure I was being swatted by something.

You got swatted?

Yep, elbows on the table, being rude, you name it.  By high school, my friends were getting swatted.

Really?

She’s right, her friends used to come over and slouch at the table, or put their knees up on the table.  Once one of her friends let a curse word slip.

No cursing at the table either?

No Way!  Not anywhere in the house!

(Mom giving her best “Mom” look and shaking her head)

I don’t think Mom really heard me swear until I was in my twenties…. maybe not until I was in labor with her!  No, I take that back, there was that time I slammed my finger in the door and about took it off when I was 12 or 13.

That didn’t count, I let those ones slide.

Oh man… oops!

Ready for your birthday pie?

Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Tillie! Happy Birthday to YOU!!!

Can I like the candles?

Sure.  Can you share with the girls? (the two-year-olds hovering anxiously for pie coated birthday candles)

Don’t bite it!

And more conversations circle around.

Be soft to the doggy!

He’s quite the mover! They’re almost playing together!

Animals use tools, crows are actually very intelligent….

I remember talking about that a while ago…

That’s right!

You know, I love when you are here because my vocabulary gets better, I either learn new words or remember words I used to use.

I’m a regular dictionary.  I used to just sit and read the dictionary.

I used to love to read… I am not sure I remember how (me chasing my crazy babies)

And as it does, things wind down and people start heading home, toys and dishes are picked up.  And so ends another Tuesday Dinner.

New Happenings

It has been a very busy time here on the farm!  The fact that we are eight inches deep in mud, due to the constant rain-snow-rain routine we have been having during our spring thaw.  Living on clay has a lot of perks during droughts… when there is ample water however it is a major pain!

In spite of Michigan’s wild weather this April, we have lots of new things going on.  I have a few stores locally that have taken an interest in my soaps (YAY!!), we have some new arrivals on the farm and I have been busy trying to convince my thumbs to be green.

 

This week we had 10 new little turkeys arrive on the farm!  The two-year-old was so excited, she has been waiting for weeks, asking when the birds were coming.

She was even more excited when one of them got a little wet and was brought into the house to dry out for a couple hours.  Unfortunately, it was only like 40 degrees the day they arrived, and sadly most of them did not survive past 24 hours of their arrival.  Turkey chicks are very sensitive and I have a feeling they got too cold during shipping.  Very sad to see them fade. Happily, the ones that are still alive with us are doing very well and have visibly grown, one of them I have a feeling is going to be a trouble maker, likes to peck already!  A new shipment of replacements will be arriving this next week, and since the weather is supposed to be beautiful will hopefully do better.

Additionally, in preparation for spring, myself and the littles started more seeds for our garden today.  Including potatoes in a 5-gallon-pail!  I have been doing a little research about growing plants indoors.  There are two reasons for this, number one, I would like to have year-round fresh produce and doing that is not an option outside and number two in the case of potatoes I don’t want potato bugs invading the rest of my garden.  The method I am trying here is only using a few inches of dirt for the sprouting potato eyes (I simply cut up a potato that had begun to grow in my pantry) and then filling the pail with straw at the plant grows.  Exciting stuff!

And following suit of regrowing produce that has gotten away from me, I have also started several onions from ones that had started to sprout before I used them.  I planted a few outside before our weird April winter storm, and they seem to be unaffected by the cold weather and slushy precipitation.  My second set I started in a large pot inside.

The procedure for these was simple enough, take sprouted onions, peel away the flesh and separate the new bulbs.  Insert in soil and water occasionally.

 

In non-gardening news, Sugar Dot and Merida should be coming back to the farm soon.  Just as soon as we can get the trailer into their pasture without getting stuck in the mud.  Fred and Zack will be leaving the farm soon.  And the new lambs are growing like crazy!

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

Nostalgia struck me the other night and made me think of the cinnamon swirl bread my mom used to make when we were younger and a friend of mine that absolutely loved it.  I also came across a very fun blog Fiesta Friday, who encourages a Friday recipe share.   Thus, inspired I set out to make this tasty bread, delicious on its own but knowing Friday, a meatless day for us would be arriving just in time for any leftovers to be slightly stale and perfect for French Toast!

First the bread:

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Dough:

8 oz warm water

8 oz warm milk

2 tsp yeast

2-3 Tbsp sugar (the recipe works perfectly with 2, 3 makes it a little sweeter)

2 tsp salt.

3 1/2- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl add the warm liquids, sugar, and yeast.  Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of flour and mix at a medium-high speed for about 2 minutes.  Reduce speed and gradually add more flour until a soft dough ball forms.  On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until it forms a smooth, but soft to slightly sticky ball.  Place into a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rise 45-60 minutes or until doubled.  Prepare two bread pans by buttering liberally.

In the mean time, prepare the filling

Cinnamon filling

1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed

2 tsp cinnamon

3 Tbps butter, very soft

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  Retain butter for spreading.

 

Divide the risen dough into 2 equal sections.  On a well-floured surface, roll the first section out into roughly a 12-inch square, making sure it doesn’t stick to your surface.  Spread about half of the butter over the surface of the dough.  Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar recipe.  Roll the dough, snug but not tight.  You should get about 3-4 rolls.  tuck in the ends to seal them and place into your prepared bread pan.  Repeat with the second section.  Brush the top of the loaves with melted butter and allow to rise until doubled again (about an hour).  During the last 15 minutes of rising preheat oven to 425’F.  Bake bread for about 20 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding.  Allow to cool 15-20 minutes before turning out of pans.

 

Slice and serve!

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Should you have leftovers, and I recommend you do, you can make the most wonderful French Toast!

French Toast

8-12 slices of bread (the number of slices will vary depending on how large, thick and stale the slices are)

4 eggs

3 tablespoons milk (the richer the milk the richer the French Toast, I do not recommend using all cream)

1 rounded tablespoon brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg (optional)

pinch salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat together the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla in a pie plate.  Preheat a griddle to 400’F and butter.  Dunk each piece of bread into the egg mixture until coated and flip to coat both sides.  Place onto the griddle.  Repeat until the griddle is full.  After a couple minutes check the toast if it comes up easily and is lightly browned flip.  The second side will cook slightly faster.  Remove from the griddle to a warm plate.  Keep warm until serving.  Repeat until bread and egg mixture is gone*.

Serve warm with powdered sugar, maple syrup or any topping of your choice!

*Leftover egg mixture?  Not to worry!  Simply pour them onto your griddle and make sweet scrambled eggs, believe me, your children will adore them!

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