Spinach & Feta Tartlets

By the time Friday evening rolls around, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking another meal. Usually I’m tired, lately it’s been hot, and half of the time the little Bundlet is at her dad’s. Mr. Bundt rolls in around 8pm (if he’s early) and around 10pm (if he’s late). So I often end up eating alone and heating up his dinner when he gets home. Usually I have a frozen casserole or one-dish-dinner of some sort I can pop in the oven while I catch up on the news or take a quick nap. But I’ve had these tartlets on my radar for some time now and thought it would be a great, easy Friday night dinner. Of course, you could have them for lunch, they’d be great with a little salad. I would even eat them for a savory breakfast.

We have a little pastry shop in town that has stuffed croissants, one of my favorites is spinach and feta (my other favorite is chocolate stuffed, sooo good) and these are similar to those, also simpler than making your own croissants which could literally take days.

Spinach & Feta Tartlets

adapted from a recipe from Sweet Paul

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a pan.

Fry the shallots until soft. I used the mandolin to get thin slices. If you have one, great, use it and watch your fingers. If not, a sharp knife will work just fine.

Add the spinach a little at a time, letting it wilt, stirring the wilted spinach to the top and moving the firm leaves toward the heat.

This is what the wilted spinach and shallots will look like when they’re done.

Mix the feta, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Then add the wilted spinach mixture. Mix well.

I have little tart pans (Wilton brand, from Walmart). I’m sure you could make one large tart if you have a regular tart pan. You could probably also make these pouches sans pans too. Just make sure to wrap them up well so the tops don’t pop open and leak.

Brush four small tart pans with butter and layer them with phyllo. Brush phyllo with butter between each layer, use 4-5 layers. Make sure you keep the phyllo covered with a wet towel while you’re working. It will be a hot mess if you don’t. Also, if it tears, don’t sweat it. By the time you finish piling the extra dough on top no one will ever know. I swear. And if you’re thinking about making your own phyllo, may the force be with you, you’ve obviously got a sadistic streak. Even I wouldn’t touch that job with a ten-foot-spatula.

Here’s something I learned after my first tart. I was working with giganto sized phyllo sheets. For the first tart I ended up with a lot more phyllo than I thought would taste good. For the three ensuing tarts, I folded each phyllo sheet in half, brushed with butter and it worked wonderfully.

Spoon 1/4 of the spinach and egg mixture in to each of the tarts.

Fold the edges of the phyllo over the filling.

See? Cute! Repeat with the remaining tarts. Make sure to brush the tops with butter.

See the giganto tart? I told Mr. Bundt I made that one for him, special. Men will believe anything. Really.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the phyllo is crispy and golden brown.

Sorry for the lowlight [food] porn looking photos. It was late, I was tired. See paragraph one.

These are so quick and easy! I think they’d be perfect with a nice piece of salmon and a small salad. They would also be beautiful for a shower or luncheon!

The filling is no nice! The salty feta with the earthy spinach is a wonderful combination. I hope you’ll give it a try!

What do you like to cook on a lazy night? Do you have any go-to simple dinners?

Sopapillas

Earlier this week I talked about breakfast. Well, I’m going to talk about it again. It’s important. But not the weekday, rushed, grab-a-bowl-of-cereal-and GET IN THE CAR! kind of breakfast. I’m going to tell you a story about weekend breakfast. Generally a WAY better experience.

I don’t really want to spring out of the bed at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. But, the dog and cats are up by 6:30 at the latest, so I have to get up to preserve the peace. These sopapillas are perfect for breakfast on that kind of morning. I get up at 6:30 with the dog, feed everyone and let them out, whip up this dough, and go right back to bed. When I get up for real, the dough has risen and all I have to do is fry it up! So much easier than standing over the griddle or waffle iron.

Sopapillas 

  • 1 box Hot Roll Mix
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1c very hot water
  • 2t softened butter
  • oil or shortening for frying
  • a little flour for the board
  • honey for dipping
  • cinnamon sugar for dipping

So what are sopapillas? Little fried pockets of dough. Happiness in your mouth. Wonderfulness. My mom made these for us growing up and Mr. Bundt and the little Bundtlet ask for them all the time. Sometimes I even make them for dessert. Cover them with honey and sugar and cinnamon and enjoy!!

Gather the ingredients

Can you tell it was early when I was taking these pictures? I’ve already left out the egg. Good grief.

Oh, wait! There it is. Don’t be like me. Be awake.

Egg, slightly beaten

Gather up your ingredients. Whisk together the contents of the box (bag of floury stuff and yeast) in a large bowl. You don’t even need to get out the mixer. Awesome.

Whisk together dry ingredients

Stir in the hot water, butter, and egg until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Add wet ingredients

Once the dough comes together, flour a small surface. Plop the dough onto the floured surface and knead for about five minutes until dough is smooth.

Shaggy dough

Before.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes

After. See what a difference five minutes can make? And, seriously, you’re only about 10 minutes in at this point. Still groggy enough to go back to bed, I assure you.

Kneaded dough

Put your smooth little dough ball in a greased bowl, cover with a greased piece of plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel. I sit mine in a cooling oven because the house is so cold, but you can let yours rise on the counter if you have a good dog and your house is not freezing. Give it an hour or so to rise. Go back to bed, have coffee, check your email, catch up on your blog reading, whatever. When it’s doubled in size, you’re ready to proceed. If you do go back to bed and the dough gets HUGE, don’t worry. Not a big deal.

Behold, the risen dough.

Risen dough

Now, give it a punch or two and deflate it.

Deflated dough

I have a nice Tupperware pastry mat I like to use to roll out my dough. But you can use the counter or whatever you have. Just dust it with a little flour.

My set up

Put your dough on the board and roll it out to about 1/4 in thickness. Shape does not matter, just roll it. Don’t overdo it.

Rolled out dough

Now, with a sharp knife, pastry cutter, or pizza wheel, cut the dough into squares or rectangles, about 4×4 or so. You can see from mine I have all different shapes and sizes. Neither of these things really matters. You can’t screw it up.

Dough squares

Heat a couple of inches of oil in a deep pan or pot to 360 degrees. Use your thermometer to check the temperature. You don’t want the dough to go into the oil before it gets to 360 degrees because it will absorb the oil rather than float and fry in it. I like vegetable or canola oil. You can also use Crisco.

Heat the oil

Once the oil comes to temperature, drop in a couple of pieces of dough. I shouldn’t need to tell you to be careful when frying, but, let’s be honest, you might be doing this in your bathrobe, so be careful.

Drop in the dough

See how they puff up! It’s so exciting! Let them get a nice golden brown on the first side, then flip them over.

Fry the second side

Sometimes they blow up so big that they create a third side. If so, just roll them onto that side for a minute. When all sides are brown, pull them out and drain them on paper towels. Repeat with remaining dough until the whole batch is cooked. You can usually get 20-25 sopapillas out of a batch.

Drain on paper towels

I serve them with honey and cinnamon sugar. To make cinnamon sugar just mix about a cup of sugar with a few dashes of cinnamon. I like to pop open the bubbles on the sopapillas and pour in honey and the cinnamon sugar mixture and kind of roll it around so the inside of the   sopapilla gets coated with it. I’ve photographed them below with powdered sugar, you could use that too!

Beautiful!

There you go! Weekend breakfast done! So easy and quick, but your family will think you made them something really special!

What kinds of things do you like to make for weekend breakfast? Or do you eat the same things and do a bigger lunch or dinner? I’d love to hear about your weekend rituals!

Bake the Blog: Easy English Muffin Bread

I’ve been feeling some breakfast frustration lately. Does that ever happen to you? I have a pretty standard set of three or four things that I eat regularly. Lately I’ve been trying to drop a few pounds, so I like to have some protein in the morning. It helps get me through til lunch. However, eating a solitary egg doesn’t seem like much of a breakfast. I like my eggs runny and it’s nice to have something to dip in them or put them on. So, I turned to English muffins. Or, well, I tried to turn to English muffins. Have you tried English muffins lately? They’re not how I remember them. They were a colossal disappointment. In my head they were crispy and chewy with little pools of butter in those nooks and crannies. That’s not how they were in real life.

So, I set out on the interwebs to find a recipe to make my own. And, frankly, English muffins seemed like a lot of work. More than I had time for anyway. What about English muffin bread? I’ve always loved it. Let’s be honest, it’s bread, of course I love it. But I’m kind of picky about my internet recipes. I have to trust that this isn’t someone impersonating a bread lover and passing me a crummy recipe. I found this one I’d like to make, but, I can’t be trusted with that many loaves of bread. So when this one popped up in my blogroll from My Baking Addiction, a blog I’ve cooked from before and know to be a good source, it was ON.

This bread is quick and easy. Definitely worth a shot. But a note here, English muffin bread is good toasted. I wouldn’t eat it any other way. But that’s just me. You do it your way. Then remind me that I’m right.

English Muffin Bread

recipe courtesy of My Baking Addiction

3 cups All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Gather the ingredients

With the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, blend the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast.

Mix the dry ingredients

In a bowl, combine the milk, water, and oil. Microwave until the temperature of the mixture reaches 120-130 degrees. This took about 1:15 in my microwave, but check at intervals. Make sure to stir the mixture before you check the temperature. The mixture should be pretty warm to the touch. As you can see, I let mine get too hot. If this happens, just let it cool on the counter or in the fridge for a few minutes.

Take the temperature of the wet ingredients

Pour the hot liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients already in the mixer. Beat at high speed for one minute. Use a timer, just to be safe. The dough will be soft and sticky.

Mix the ingredients

Grease a loaf pan with some cooking spray and dust it with cornmeal. A handful will do.

Grease and dust

Scrape the dough into the loaf pan. I smoothed out the top.

Dump the dough into the pan

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with more cooking spray and let rise in a warm, draft free place about and hour. I like to heat my oven to the lowest temperature (175 degrees for me) when I begin a bread recipe. When it reaches 175 degrees I turn it off and leave the door closed. By the time I get the bread ready to rise it’s still warm enough to do the job, but cool enough not to cook it. If it seems too warm you can always crack the oven door. Since I keep my house as cold as a morgue, this is an important step.

Cover and rise

After an hour the bread should have barely crested the top of the pan.

After rising

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic and bake for 22-27 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown. The interior temperature should be 190 degrees.

Bake until golden brown

Let the bread cool in the pan for five minutes. Then turn it out on a rack to finish cooling.

Cool the bread on a rack

Slice it up! Like I said, I think it needs to be toasted. It was good warm from the oven, but WAY butter crispy out of the toaster!

Warm from the oven

And here’s what it looks like on my breakfast plate. Soooo good.

Yummy!

I think a nice, dark toasting really brings out the nooks and crannies. So what have you been craving lately?

SoupaPalooza: Tortellini Soup with Beans and Swiss Chard

Soup is the salad of winter. I would never eat a cold salad for lunch in February, but I will definitely eat bowl after steaming bowl of soup. We have at least one kind of soup each week. It’s an easy lunch for me or a great quick dinner with a piece of crusty bread or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Normally, I have some kind of leftover meat in the soup. A piece of ham, some bacon, maybe a few odd bits of chicken. That’s what’s great about soup, you can scrabble it together from any type of leftovers. The soup I’ve made for you today can be vegetarian, just use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. Of course you can also amp up the soup with the addition of meat, if you please.

Tortellini Soup with Beans and Swiss Chard

closely adapted from a recipe from Annie’s Eats

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T tomato paste
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 1/2 quarts all-natural, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
15 oz diced tomatoes
15 oz cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 t Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. dried tortellini
1 bunch Swiss chard, with stems removed and sliced (or other leafy green)
Freshly grated Parmesan, to finish

It’s so much easier if you use the idea of mise en place (having everything prepped before you begin cooking). I used to be a grab-as-you-go kind of girl. But, once I adopted the idea of doing all the gathering and chopping before beginning the cooking process, I ended up with much better results. And, you’re WAY less likely to get halfway in to a recipe and realize you’re missing ingredients.  It’s super frustrating when that happens. It also eliminates a lot of the stress around prepping the ingredients.So take a few minutes and gather everything together. Do the chopping and measuring and off you go.

Gather the ingredients

Even though I gathered everything, everything did NOT make it into the photo. Obviously I was having a moment. 5 points to Gryffindor if you can figure out what I left out. 10 more if you have any idea what that joke means. :)

Forgotten chard

Ah, yes, the chard. You are correct. There were two types of chard when I was shopping, red and white (obvi!). The red is so beautiful! I bought both so you could see them. I used half of each in my soup. You don’t have to do that.  Chard has a super earthy taste. If you’re not customarily an eater of greens, you might want to turn back the dial and go for kale or collards, spinach would also be fine. It doesn’t really matter which green you choose, but definitely put some greens in. It’s good and it’s good for you.

Saute the onions

In your favorite soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Let it get nice and hot before dropping in the chopped onion. Saute the onion until it’s tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Saute another minute until you can smell the garlic.

Add the tomato paste

Believe me when I say, tomato paste in a tube was not available in any store when I was growing up. I only stumbled upon this wonder in my grown-up life. I LOOOOOVE it. I mean love, love, love it. It lives in the fridge and you use only as much as you need. In my grocery store it’s not with the regular tomato paste in a can, but off by itself in the Italian food section. If you don’t have access to this, you can also buy a regular can of tomato paste, portion out teaspoons or tablespoonfuls onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and freeze them. Once they are frozen, plop them in a container or freezer bag and store them in the freezer. Then you can just pull out what you need. You could also do it in an ice cube tray. Not sure you’d want to make ice in it after that, but whatever. That’s up to you.

Rinse and drain the beans

Rinsing and draining your beans is an important step in any recipe. Aside from removing the (grody) bean juice, it also gets rid of a ton of sodium. Much healthier.

Parmesan rinds

This is what Parmesan rinds look like. I get a few in a tub then store them in the fridge. They won’t totally dissolve in the soup so you’ll have to fish them out later. They lend a nice richness to the soup so if you can find them, do put them in. You may have to ask at your cheese counter to get one (if your store even has such a thing!)

Drop in the Parmesan rind

Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind.

Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the sliced chard and tortellini.

Add the tortellini

Return the soup to a simmer and cook the tortellini to package directions. If your tortellini is fresh instead of dry, it will take less time. It shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes.

With the chard

Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaf. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with croutons or freshly grated Parmesan on top.

Soup!

So there you go! A perfect quick dinner you can serve tonight! A nice piece of crusty bread on the side and I’m in heaven!

Do you have a favorite soup? Do you eat soup in the cooler months or year round?

I’m linking up to SoupaPalooza, you should check it out!

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset!

Babka or Bust!

When I saw this Babka recipe in my Cook’s Country magazine I was sitting at piano lessons. But that didn’t stop me from lusting after it. I LUUUUUV bread. All bread. Any bread. Rolls, muffins, loaves, whatever. I have rarely met a bread that I wouldn’t gladly give up vegetables for. And this sweet, cinnamony bread is no different. So the next day, I whipped up my first babka. And it’s GOOOOOD. It was good warm out of the oven, it’s good cold, and it’s good made into toast. I haven’t tried it (yet) but I bet it’ll be good as french toast, if it lasts that long.

One word of caution, and this is for bread in general, not just this babka. Successful yeast dough relies upon blooming the yeast properly. That means that you need the right temperature liquid. Don’t guess, take the temperature of the liquid. This recipe calls for you to do that, many do not. Checking the temperature will ensure much more reliable results.

Babke

Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country 

Filling

  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg white (reserve the yolk for the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 large egg yolks plus 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

I love to bake. The smell of bread or cookies baking in the oven is my favorite. It warms up the house on a cold day and it puts a smile on the face of anyone who comes in your door!

Ingredients for Babka

For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve one tablespoon of filling.

Mix filling

For the dough, heat the oven to 200 degrees, when it reaches temperature, turn it off. Whisk together the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. I separate the eggs using the shell and two small bowls. You can use a fancy egg separator if you have one, but here’s s tip. Shell bits are attracted to the shell from which they came. So, if you should drop a piece of shell in by accident, you can fish it out using the larger piece of shell it came from. Who knew, right? See? Science is good for something.

Separate your eggs

Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed. You’ll notice that I weigh my flour instead of measuring it in a cup. I find that this yields much better results with my baking. It’s also convenient to have a scale to weigh other foods. If you don’t have a scale, don’t fret. Fluff your flour before spooning it lightly into the measuring cup for best results.

Measure the flour

Once dry ingredients are combined, add the milk mixture slowly and mix until the dough comes together. This should take about three minutes. Set a timer if you need to.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. This should take about a minute.

Continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth, about 10-12 minutes.

Dough in the greased bowl

Grease a large bowl, transfer dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in your turned-off oven. After about an hour, dough will have risen slightly. Remove from the oven and place in the fridge about an hour, or until dough is about doubled in size and is firm.

Reheat your oven to 200 degrees (again). When it reaches temperature, turn it off (again).

Punch down the risen dough on a lightly floured board or counter. I like to square mine up after punching it down.

Punched down dough on lightly floured counter

Roll out the dough to a 20×14 inch rectangle. I use a ruler to make sure I’m close to the measurements.

Roll out the dough

Spread the filling onto the dough leaving a 1/2 inch margin all the way around.

Spread the filling onto the dough

Start with the short side and roll up the dough into a cylinder. Pinch along the seam to seal. Put the cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until the length of the dough roll reaches 18 inches.

Dough cylinder

Spread the reserved tablespoon of filling over the top of the cylinder. Fold the dough in half on top of itself and pinch the ends to seal.

Spread the reserved filling onto the dough

Then, gently twist the cylinder twice as if you’re forming a double figure eight.

Twice twisted babka

All this rolling, folding, and twisting is what gives the babka those yummy nooks and crannies for the cinnamon and sugar filing to get into!

Place your babka, seam side down, in a loaf pan lined with parchment. Let the extra hang over the edges, these will be handles later and it will help you remove the dough from the pan. The parchment also keeps the babka from sticking to the pan should any sugary stuff leak out. Cover with plastic wrap.

Put your babka in the pan lined with parchment

Put the bread, covered in plastic, in the turned-off oven until doubled in size, about one hour. Once the dough has risen, take the babka out of the oven and remove the plastic wrap. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat one whole egg lightly. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg.

Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is a deep golden brown (about 190 degrees). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, them remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely (if you can stand to wait!) about two hours.

Babka!

This babka is so beautiful inside and out! It’s wonderful with a cup of tea for breakfast or an afternoon snack!

What do you like to bake? Do you have a favorite baked good? Or a favorite memory of baking?