Spinach Crescents

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2 packages crescent rolls
6 slices of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese
1 package frozen cream spinach
1 egg

1. Oven 350 degrees
2. Cook cream spinach and set aside to cool.
3. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4. Unfold crescent rolls on a flat surface. Spread the spinach with a
teaspoon onto the inside of the crescent roll. On top of the
spinach, place cut slices of the alpine lace swiss cheese.
Roll up the crescent wide end to a point. Place on parchment
paper. Repeat until all crescent rolls are done.
5. Brush top of crescents with beaten egg. Optional – sprinkle
sesame seeds on top.
6. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. ENJOY – Spinachy, Cheesy Appetizers you can’t get enough of!

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t appreciate a quick and easy recipe? I believe that I’m a creative cook who will tackle just about anything…but who has that kinda time these days! Even if you think you can’t cook you can make these crescent appetizers. I love to entertain, but I don’t always have the time or energy to prepare different appetizers, desserts and main courses on a Friday or Saturday evening after working all week.

I admit to serving pizza sometimes as a main course, but I will always make my own dessert and toss in a few homemade appetizers. Now here is where my little recipe comes in handy…. there are food products in the supermarket to make our lives easier, and I wouldn’t shy away from using these little time savers on occasion. Take a stroll over to the dairy section and you’ll find an area just for biscuits and crescent rolls in cans. Surprisingly, those little biscuits can be used to make a coffee cake or to wrap around a mini hotdog to make the very popular pigs in a blanket appetizer.

Now that I’m a Gramma, planning my Sunday dinner menu gets tricky. I want to spoil my grandchildren with their favorite foods, yet still satisfy the adults’ tastebuds. Purposely, I made some of these spinach swiss crescent appetizers without the cream spinach for my little princes and princess. Surprisingly, only one grandson wouldn’t eat the spinach crescent. My other grandson had to be stopped from eating more than the four crescents he had devoured in under 4 minutes! My granddaughter, bless her, loved them also. You never know what kids will or will not eat, so give them more options.

Crescent rolls have proven to be the most versatile. I have used them to top a pie in a pinch. The possibilities are endless, as I well know! I have filled them with cooked broccoli and cheddar cheese, cooked bacon and cheese, and even with chocolate and nuts. Try loading them with some pepperoni and mozzarella or feta cheese and olives, or anything leftover in the refrigerator. Cheese and dough is one of those unbeatable combos. Top off your dough creation with some beaten egg yolk brushed on top and a sprinkle of sesame or poppy seeds to finish it off. Or, go Italian with a good dose of Parmesan cheese or a little garlic powder.

You can be the artist and let the crescent roll be your canvas. Create your next masterpiece for your next party, and then sit back and accept the accolades!

BROCCOLI CHEDDAR BAKE

2 – 10 ounce packages of frozen broccoli
1 / 2 can cream of chicken soup
8 ounces of Velveeta cheese
3 tablespoons of margarine, melted
1/ 2 cup Kellogg Corn Flake Crumbs

1. Oven to 350degrees.
2. Cook broccoli till cooked through and then drain well.
3. Mix Velveeta and soup together in a medium pot and on a
low flame cook until cheese is melted. Stir constantly and
be careful it could burn easily. So watch it.
4. Grease a casserole oven dish with margarine. When the
cheese and soup mixture is done add the drained broccoli
and mix together well. Pour everything into greased
casserole dish.
5. Before putting into the oven, put about 1 / 2 cup of crumbs
into a small bowl and pour in the melted margarine. Mix
together with a fork and then sprinkle over the top of the
casserole.
6. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until a little bubbly around the
sides.
7. ENJOY- Broccoli and cheddar cheese are the perfect mates
in the oven!

Honestly, what goes better together than Broccoli and Cheddar? In my opinion, it’s a winning combination! This recipe is from my friend and neighbor, Rachel. I’ve hosted many, many parties, and the request for this dish is overwhelming. OK, I hear you…. it’s an “it tastes so good that it’s probably bad for you” kind of dish. But, hey, I am a witness to the fact that even the most health conscious of us just can’t pass it up. Rachel uses crushed Ritz crackers for the topping, but I choose to use corn flake crumbs instead as a somewhat lighter alternative. Either way is delicious. This is not a health food column after all!

A few years ago, our neighbors had a block party and Rachel debuted her broccoli/cheddar gem. Yep, it was a hit. Block parties are not as popular in the suburbs as in the city. Growing up in Queens guaranteed me, family, and friends wonderful summers where someone was always having a block party. Basically, two ends of a city block are blocked from traffic by means of a barricade or simply roping off. Nearly everyone puts chairs and tables in front of their homes. Food is placed out on the tables to be shared by all. Somehow Rachel and I were on the block party committee. The head of our block party decided that we should buy the food as a unit and split the cost. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, and it rained the whole weekend. Undaunted by anything less than a monsoon, people will do almost anything for a great meal and our neighbors were no exception. Folks who live on the block and never see each other for years have an entirely different attitude when food is the main attraction. It’s also a great way for older neighbors who live alone to get out and socialize a little bit and younger neighbors to meet the folks who live right next door. Some of the neighbors wanted to go into the houses and scope out their neighbors’ decorating style. It always proves to be an interesting if not enlightening experience for me. Neighbors who I drive by and never talk to come alive as they share personal stories and history about the neighborhood (ok, a little gossip too)!

If you are ever a part of a neighborhood or block that is having a block party, please make an effort to attend. You never know; a new best friend may live right down the street from you.

Like a good neighbor, I’ll be there and I hope you will too.

HOMEMADE PIZZA

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon saltdsc07179
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dry yeast
¾ cup tomato sauce, (homemade or store bought 8 ounce can)
oregano
garlic powder
basil
8 ounce grated mozzarella cheese

1. In a bowl place flour, then salt. Mix with your hands. In a cup
dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let it sit for a minute. Add
the olive oil. Make a well with the flour mixture then pour in the
water mixture. Mix together to form a dough. Knead until dough
becomes shiny and smooth. (If you are using a bread machine,
make sure you use only the dough setting.)

2. In a clean bowl, rub a little olive oil to cover the inside of the
bowl. Place the dough in and let it rise at least for 1 hour. Take
the dough out punch it down and let it rise again for another hour.
The longer it rises the better the dough.

3. When you are ready to cook your pizza preheat the over at 425
degrees for 10 minutes first. On a pizza pan or a cookie sheet rub
a little oil on the bottom first so your pizza will not stick to the
pan. Stretch your dough to pizza size you desire.

4. Once your pizza is ready to prepare, put your ingredients in this
order: tomato sauce, Spices, toppings and then cheese. Just
before you are ready to place in the oven drizzle a little of olive oil
over everything for a final touch.

5. Bake in the over on middle rack for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust
is golden brown.

6. ENJOY- Mama Mia whata pizza .……

Friday night is pizza night. It’s the end of the week, as well as the official start of the weekend, and no one wants to cook. It is a time to relax, and that goes for mom, too. Just order a pizza, pass out the paper plates, and no mess in the kitchen. This is a normal Friday night routine for many of us, although I also love to make homemade pizza.

The preparation of the dough is simple. The problem is the time it takes for the dough to rise. I usually have to make three pizzas when I make them homemade. My family loves it, with some left over for lunch the next day. I confess to using a bread/dough machine now, but I didn’t before I owned one. You don’t need one to make a good dough.

If I am off from work on a Friday, I start preparations in the morning. I make the dough in the machine and then transfer it to a bowl. I continue this process until I have three separate pieces of dough. Cover the bowls and let rise for at least three hours or more. The longer the dough rises the better your pizza crust will be.

When you are ready to make your pizza, have everyone chip in and put the pizza pies together. One can spread the sauce, one can add the toppings, and one can sprinkle the cheese. My kids always love to make pizza, and why not, it’s fun to do. These pies are made with peppers and tomatoes and thinly sliced fried eggplant, mainly because I had these ingredients left over in the refrigerator from a previous meal.

You can be very creative with your pizzas. We like to add broccoli and sometimes we add just onions. Your pizza, your taste! I usually always make one plain pie, especially for friends who are joining us. One hint to remember; don’t load down the pizza with too many toppings because it will be too heavy to lift and may break apart from the weight.

Just remember to enjoy that slice of pizza…..I know I will…..

POTATO MOZZARELLA PIE

potato mozzarella pie

potato mozzarella pie

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced small

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, (about 10 potatoes)

7 tablespoons butter

1 / 2 cup homemade bread crumbs from Italian bread

1/ 4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 /4 cup grated Romano cheese

1 /4 lb sliced prosciutto, diced small

2 large eggs

1 / 4 cup chopped fresh parsley

 

  1. Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Marinate the mozzarella cubes in a bowl with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Set aside to sit.
  3. Put potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, sprinkle in a dash of salt and bring to a boil.  Cover partly, lower heat to medium and cook until tender (stab with fork to check if done).  ( About 15 to 25 minutes)
  4. Grease an 8-inch spring form pan (cheesecake pan) with 1 tablespoon of butter.  Coat the bottom and sides of pan with your homemade bread crumbs from the Italian bread.  Leave some bread crumbs for topping later.
  5. When potatoes are done, drain.  Rice potatoes into a bowl and beat in 4 tablespoons of butter.  Add the parmesan and Romano cheese, eggs, prosciutto, parsley and a little pepper to taste.  Mix well.
  6. Put half of the potato mixture into bottom of pan working some of the potatoes up the sides to form a well.  Fill the well with your marinating mozzarella cubes.  Top with the remaining potatoes.  Pat down gently, sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs and dot with the last 2 tablespoons of butter.
  7. Bake until golden brown 40 to 55 minutes.  Let cool for about 15 minutes before removing sides of the spring form pan.  Serve warm sliced into pie wedges.
  8. ENJOY – Mozzarella is not just for pizza anymore, it’s for potatoes too!

 

Potato mozzarella pie came about because there are never enough ways to feed my son mashed potatoes.  My son, Tommy, loves mashed potatoes.  I kid you not; I cook the whole five pound bag of potatoes into mashed potatoes just for one dinner.  If I don’t serve the entire five pounds at one sitting, my son will eat everyone else’s portion.

I had seen an Italian foreign film in which the mother in a scene in the story was making a potato pie.  The whole time I was watching the movie, I was trying to figure out how she was making this pie.  After seeing that film, I started asking all my Italian friends if anyone had a potato pie recipe but no one heard of it.  This was driving me crazy.  I checked all my Italian cookbooks and came up with nothing.  I also have a huge selection of cut-out newspaper and magazine recipes on my cookbook shelf that I have been collecting all my life.  One day about six months after seeing the movie, I was organizing my cut-out recipes (again) when I came across a potato pie recipe from what newspaper and what year, I have no idea.  I was so excited!  (When you love to cook like I do, this is the same as an archaeologist finding a rare undiscovered bone in a digging excavation.)  I immediately removed this recipe from the pile of other recipes and moved it to the top of the pile that is on my kitchen windowsill above my sink.  This is where I keep the recipes I want to try until I actually make them.  Every time I wash my dishes or go to the sink, these   recipes are eye level and stare at me until I make one of them.  This is called incentive!  The next time I go food shopping, I check the pile for the recipe I want to try.  Then I make sure I have all the ingredients in the house, and if not, I add them to the shopping list; so now I have to try the recipe.  This was not the case with this potato pie recipe.  This recipe sat on the kitchen window sill for only a half a day.  I had been searching for a potato pie recipe to try for a while, so I was eager to cook.  Immediately, I checked for all the ingredients and then went food shopping for what was missing.  After making my personal alterations to the recipe, I was ready to begin to prepare it. 

I tasted it first, and I loved it!  My husband was next, and he is tough.  No holding back or worrying about my feelings, so I knew I passed the test because he loved it, too.  Tommy wasn’t home until later.  “What’s for dinner, Ma?” “Potato pie.”  What!” The expression on his face was as if I killed someone.  Why did I have to touch his beloved mashed potatoes?  He hates when I try new recipes.  He just wants plain meat and potatoes, no pie.  His love of potatoes overcame him.  He knew he had to try the pie if he wanted to eat his beloved mashed potatoes.  Guess what?  He liked it.  Tommy liked it.  Not as much as plain, old mashed potatoes, but he had two helpings of potato pie and that’s all a mother can ask for! 

My son asking for a second piece of pie is a little slice of heaven on earth.    

 

 

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drainedmac and cheese

1 8 ounce bar extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

 

1.  Oven 375 degrees

2.  Grease a large oven baking dish.  Place macaroni in dish.

3.  Prepare white sauce – Melt butter in deep pot.  With a wooden spoon, add flour, and stir into butter

     making a thick paste.  Add milk a 1/2 cup at a time and continually keep stirring until all milk is well

     blended.  Continue to stir,  until it comes to a boil, then toss in 3/4 of your grated cheese.  Set aside 1/4 of

     cheese for topping.  Continue to stir until cheese is melted.

4.  Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and top with remaining 1/4 of grated cheeese.  Bake for 30 to 45 

     minutes, depending on how creamy you prefer your mac and cheese.  I bake for 45 minutes for a crispy 

     top.

5.  Enjoy – MAC and CHEESE, aims to please!

 

 

Do you know the saying, “American as mom and apple pie”?  Well, for me, it is mom and macaroni & cheese.  Macaroni & cheese is a comfort food, and it is a meal that every mom can make.

 

My dad died when I was 12 years old.  My mom slowed down on cooking big dinners after that.  I think the traditional family of a mother, a father and children usually goes hand and hand with strict dinner rules.  When my father was alive, dinner was at 6:00 p.m. sharp every night, no fooling around, and you better not be a minute late.  My brother and I grew up on those strict dinner rules.  After dad passed away, mom’s spirit was broken a bit, including her love of cooking, and dinner time became more relaxed.  My brother had just started college and, therefore, was never around for dinner.  Mom started working after 30 years of being at home.  The traditional sit down dinners I had grown up with didn’t exist anymore.  Without my dad, the atmosphere was a little more lenient as far as having friends over for dinner, and my house became the place for my friends to go. My mom was always feeding my friends.  She enjoyed the company and having a full house.  Her pastina (egg and noodle dish), macroni & cheese, along with cinnamon buns were there for everyone to enjoy.  I mention these three foods because the recipes are still requested by my friends to this day.  It is amazing that my best friend, Maura, who enjoyed Sunday dinners at my house when we were growing up, has these great memories of eating at my home.  Just like I remember eating Leg of Lamb at her house, she remembers Ravioli on Sundays at my house, and my mom’s macaroni & cheese, and she also loves her pastina and cinnamon buns.  It is great to have and to share these memories.    

 

During the first year after my dad passed away, no holidays were celebrated.  Mom did not want to have the holidays at home without dad.  For the years afterwards, she left the holiday dinners to me, always saying the same thing, “It’s not the same without your father here”.  Well, after ten years had passed, I said, “Hey mom, I think that it’s been long enough for that excuse. Dad has been gone ten years, and you could cook a dinner for the rest of us!”  I was kidding of course.  If you’re not laughing, you’re crying, so laugh.

 

Maybe right now I am actually making a memory with my children and their friends when I serve Mom’s macaroni & cheese, because they will remember it as mine.  Comfort food is very comforting.

 

SPINACH STRATA


1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
6 eggs
1 package fresh spinach, washed, chopped, squeezed dry or
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 2/3 cups half and half
½ small onion, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup white wine
8 slices of stale hard Italian or French bread
salt and pepper

1. In a greased 8 or 9 inch square baking pan, arrange 4 slice of the hard stale Italian/French bread in a single layer. Spread the 1 tablespoon of the softened butter on 4 slices of the bread in baking dish and then spread the other 1 tablespoon of the softened butter on 4 slices outside the dish. Set aside.
2. In a 10-inch frying pan add olive oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place on top of the stove under a low flame. Sauté onions, garlic and tomatoes until tender. Add spinach. Cook everything until hot, stirring well. Set aside in a bowl.
3. Meanwhile add wine to pan. Increase heat to medium-high; simmer until reduced to ¼ cup, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
4. In a bowl whisk eggs then add the wine, while continually whisking, add the half and half and dash in some salt and pepper
5. Top the 4 slices of buttered bread with spinach mixture and then top with half of the grated cheese. Arrange remaining 4 bread slices in a single layer over the cheese and repeat the layer of spinach and cheese.
6. Pour the egg mixture evenly over everything and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.
7. Oven 350 degrees. Remove dish from refrigerator and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Uncover and bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish. Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.
8. ENJOY – Good enough to gain weight for!

I have a problem with throwing food out. This of course is my parents’ fault. They were the generation of The Great Depression in America during the 1930’s. Believe me when I say I heard all the stories. To this day, my mom still drinks black coffee because of the shortage of sugar back then. I bought a book for my mom a long time ago called “Grandma Remembers” with empty spaces for her to fill in information. I wanted to have some written history of our family. She never wrote any information down in the blank areas where the questions were listed in the book. During my visits to mom, I would ask a few questions from the book and write in her answers myself to make it easier. Sample questions were: “What was your favorite toy when you were small?” “What was your favorite meal for dinner?” “What did you get for Christmas?” My mom gave me the same answer to every question I asked. “I didn’t have a toy, we were poor”. “We were poor, and I ate whatever my mother gave me”. “We didn’t get Christmas presents; we were poor”. Because she was poor, it sounded like she had no life. Here was this book of memories for me to pass on to my children and generations to come, and every question was answered with “We were poor.” Mom and I laughed so hard together at her answers when we read them back. The reason I am telling you this story is that my mom was poor (I know you got that by now), and it was a sin to waste food since there was a time when there wasn’t any food to waste. She brought me up with those values; don’t throw out food.

This recipe was created because I had some leftover Italian bread, cooked spinach and cheese that I needed to use soon. Since I didn’t want to throw out these leftovers, I started pouring through my cookbooks and recipes for ideas. My collection is big and diversified. Thank goodness I have a great memory, and I remembered that one of my Italian cookbooks had a dish called strata which reminded me of a quiche-like dish. The combination I used for this recipe was the yellow eggs, green spinach and red tomatoes, and this made a delicious colorful dish. I prepared the dish and let it sit overnight for dinner the next evening. The reaction from my family was, at first, very unhappy to have eggs for dinner, especially since there was no meat in this recipe. This was a double whammy as far as the guys were concerned. But believe it or not, my husband loved it and my daughter, too. I am a huge vegetable fan, so I loved it also.

This is a great dish and a great way to use your leftovers and then no food is wasted. There are people who never waste food and never forget when their mother was poor.