Spinach Dip – Quick, Easy, and Delicious

Deliciousness

Deliciousness

I’m a fan of a good, hot spinach dip.  Sometimes I’ll order one if we’re out for dinner or drinks, and it’s such an awesome treat.  I had never made one myself, but we were having some friends over and I had a craving, so I thought I would try my hand at it.  Because I just sort of threw this one together based on my own tastes and what I know of spinach dip, the measurements are approximate, but for the most part I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these ingredients.  Enjoy.

Ingredients

1 pkg cream cheese – softened

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 pkg Knorr (or similar) dried vegetable soup mix

1 cup (and then some!) grated marble cheese

Directions

In a medium sized bowl, add all ingredients except for cheese and stir to combine.

Photo 4Add the one cup of grated cheese….

Photo 1Mix thoroughly, and add to a prepared baking dish. I used a Pampered Chef 9 inch stoneware pie plate.  If you use a glass baking dish, I would treat it lightly first with olive oil or cooking spray.

Photo 3

 

Top with the desired amount (lots) of grated cheese, and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, keeping an eye on it and removing from the oven when the top is melted and golden.

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This is great served simply with tortilla chips, corn chips or even Doritos in a pinch.  I personally think it’s best with baked or fried pita chips.  I make my own by cutting the pocketless pitas into 8th’s, coating with olive oil and seasoning salt, and baking for about 20 minutes, turning half way through.  They get crunchy on the outside, but maintain their chewiness inside.  So good!

You could change this dip up any way you like, adding different ingredients like a shake or two of hot sauce to jazz it up a bit.  You could also finely dice some sweet red pepper and throw it in.  Some crumbled bacon on top would add to the decadence as well.  Adjust it to your preferences, that’s what cooking is all about!

Enjoy!

Baklava

This is a delicious, flaky, sweet pastry, full of honey, nuts and sweet goodness.  There are many claims about the origin, and many countries make various versions of it today, including Greece, Turkey, and variations in the Middle East as well.

This is a version of a recipe I found in a cookbook years ago, tweaked a bit here and there.  I’m sure that some purists will have opinions on whether this take is “correct” or not.  All I know is that when I make this recipe, there is rarely any left over.  This is really not hard to make.  The biggest thing is the time it takes.  From start to finish, including the time in the oven, plan on a couple of hours.  It’s a bit tedious, but delicious, and worth it.

 

Ingredients

Nut Mixture

2 cups walnuts

2 cups raw pistachios, shelled

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 large pinch cloves

Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup honey + more

dash lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

Pastry

1 cup unsalted butter

1 pkg Phyllo Pastry

Directions

Put walnuts and pistachios in the food processor separately, pulsing until coarsely ground.  Put into a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix to combine.  Set aside.

 Next, make the syrup.  In a medium sized saucepan and heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Pour the honey in and stir to mix.  Boil without stirring until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage, 239 degrees on a candy thermometer, or about 25 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.  At this point I usually add another healthy dose of honey and the vanilla and lemon juice.

Next, melt the butter in the microwave and get your workspace ready for assembly.  Lay down a clean dishtowel, and spray it liberally with water.  Lay the sheets of Phyllo down on top and then add another damp dishtowel on top.  Keep the Phyllo covered when you’re not working with it, in between layers so that it doesn’t dry out and rip or crack.

Butter the bottom of a large Pyrex or French White dish. Place a sheet of Phyllo on top of the butter lining it up so that two sides are flush with the sides of the pan.  Butter this layer with a brush.  Fold over any extra neatly and brush the top of that.  Add another layer of dough, continuing to brush with butter in between, alternating sides on which you are folding so that it’s not lopsided.

When you have used about 1/3 of the stack of Phyllo, add half of the nut mixture evenly over the buttered dough.

Continue to layer sheets of Phyllo, buttering as you go, until you’ve used up another 1/3 of the dough.  Spread the remaining half of the nuts.  Finish with the last third of the dough, continuing to brush with butter each layer.  When I get to the last piece of Phyllo, I like to trim the extra off, to make it nice and neat looking.

When you’re done layering and buttering, cut lenghwise in even strips about 1/3 of the way down through the pastry.  Try not to press down as you cut.  Next, meeting up with the ends of the vertical cuts, cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern.  Pour any remaining butter on the top.

Bake on a low rack in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  It will start to really puff up, especially in the centre.  Keep a close eye on it through oven door and remove when it is golden brown and flaky all over.  The centre will have puffed up, just pierce it through one of the cuts with a sharp knife.

Immediately after removing from oven, pour the syrup evenly over the pastries.  It will bubble as it starts to soak in.  Take a knife and cut almost right to the bottom and let pastries cool before eating. Cut all the way to the bottom and lift out of the pan.  You could do this in a large metal pan as well, but you would have to keep an extra close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and perhaps drop the oven temp slightly.

 

If you like, you can reserve some of the nuts after chopping them up and sprinkle a few on the plate for garnish.  This is a very sweet dessert, and is wonderful served with a strong coffee or tea.

It keeps well out of the fridge overnight or for a day or so, though after that, I like to store in the fridge.  If it lasts that long that is. 😉  Best served at room temperature.

This is truly a wonderful dessert.  Don’t let the ingredients (if you’ve never worked with Phyllo) discourage you from trying to make it.  It takes a little while, but as with most things in life, a little extra effort reaps great rewards.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Banana Bread You’ll Ever Eat

This recipe is my favourite for Banana Bread.  I usually make a couple of loaves at a time and they never last long.  It is so incredibly moist and delicious.

I take any bananas that are starting to get too ripe and throw them in the freezer for Banana Bread.  If you take them out ahead of time, you can just cut the end off and squeeze out the banana like a sausage out of its casing.  The riper the bananas, the sweeter, more moist bread you will have.

Ingredients:

2 cups All Purpose Flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 ripe bananas

1 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing

3/4 cup granulated sugar

Brown sugar – for topping.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease loaf pan.  In a large bowl, combine the first three ingredients.  No need to sift.  In a smaller bowl, combine bananas, Miracle Whip and granulated sugar.  Mix well.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients to them.  Mix until incorporated, but don’t overdo it.  It’s okay if there are a few spots of flour that hasn’t been mixed in yet.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle brown sugar on the top to cover.  Bake for 50 minutes to an hour.  The top will be lightly browned and a skewer should come out clean.

Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan.  Allow to cool slightly and remove from pan.  Will keep well wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container.

Enjoy, it’s a good one.

Tea Loaf

I adore this recipe.  I believe it’s called Tea Loaf because of the tea in the recipe, but it is also wonderful to enjoy with a cup of tea.  I often like to have a loaf of some kind handy for breakfast, lunches, or a snack at any time.  This one is definitely one of my favourites.  I got the recipe from Anna Olsen, on Food Network Canada.  She has amazing desserts and all kinds of recipes.  This does not disappoint.  It’s a great choice for anyone with allergies to eggs, as there are none in this loaf.   It’s incredibly moist and delicious served alone or with a spread.

Ingredients:

2 cups + 2 tbsp hot brewed earl grey tea

1 cup rasins

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup butter

6 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 2 cups hot Earl Grey tea over raisins and set aside to soak.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.  Cut in butter until blended thoroughly.  Add tea with raisins and stir till smooth.  Pour into loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from loaf pan.  Stir together remaining tea with icing sugar and brush over loaf.

This loaf will keep for probably up to a week if kept wrapped tightly or in an airtight container.

Enjoy!