More, er, fun with phyllo dough

I was so excited for this week’s recipe. I freaking love spanakopita, but I’ve only ever enjoyed it store-bought because I was too afraid to mess with phyllo (or fillo) dough sheets, and I assumed they were really difficult.

So, I was relieved to find a Food Network recipe from Ina Garten that seemed like it would be fun and easy and had a pretty short prep time. Emphasis on seemed, because working with phyllo dough is a pain in the rear, to put it kindly.

Spanakopita ingredients

My first problem was that the spinach I had thawed in the fridge overnight was still not actually thawed. That meant I was already a bit rankled by the time I had to work with literally all 40 sheets of thin, fragile phyllo dough.

Here’s a brief synopsis of my thoughts while buttering and adding breadcrumbs atop each sheet. Well, almost each sheet, because I sometimes forgot the breadcrumbs, and OK, some sheets did stick together enough that I didn’t even try to separate them.

Thoughts:

  • Sheets 1-15: Oh god, oh god, oh god, and I’m less than one-quarter of the way through
  • Sheets 15-25: I got this, this isn’t so bad, oops I forgot breadcrumbs, oh well, I got this
  • Sheets 25-35: OK, this is getting old, getting the hang of it but starting to rush through, at least I’m over halfway
  • Sheets 35-40: F* it, whatever it takes to finish this up

Thankfully, the filling part, aside from the spinach snafu, was incredibly easy to piece together. And after what felt like hours but was probably actually less than one hour (I tried not to focus on the time), it was ready to go in the oven.

And, again, thankfully, the baking only took 12 minutes. After a brief cool down, and slicing, it was ready to eat, and I’ll be honest, it was heavenly. It was worth it, but also I’ll probably buy it more often than I take the effort make this delicious treat.

They really were so delicious, despite the pains of making them.

Here’s what I did, altering the recipe slightly:

Ingredients

  • ½ c. olive oil, plus more for coating the sheet pan
  • 1 bunch scallion, white and light green parts chopped
  • 2 (10 oz) boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 T. fresh dill (I used way more, but I love dill)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 40 sheets (1 box) of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge
  • 2 sticks butter, melted (I actually needed 2.5 so either brush lightly or, like me, admit you love butter more than is healthy)
  • ½ c. plain whole wheat breadcrumbs

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

(Here’s something I wish I’d done so adding it here for future use: Lay out the phyllo dough with a damp cloth underneath and on top on your work surface or a separate sheet pan. The ones that had been in the cloth longer worked more smoothly, and the original recipe just called for a damp cloth on top while you worked with the dough. I feel like the extra time while you prep the rest of the meal would help.)

Meanwhile, saute the scallions in the olive oil for about five minutes until soft. Set aside while you squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and then toss the drained spinach into a large bowl. Add the scallions, dill, eggs, feta, and salt and pepper, and stir until the eggs are beaten and the cheese is well mixed in.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, and place the breadcrumbs in a nearby small bowl.

Keeping the phyllo dough covered while you work, take one sheet of dough and brush it with butter. Top with a couple of pinches of bread crumbs. Repeat until you’ve used 10 sheets.

Then, place ¼ of the spinach mix along the long end of the dough sheets, like a fat and long sausage. Roll the spinach up in the dough to create a long baguette-like shape that’s about 1 to 2 inches thick.

Repeat until all the dough and all the spinach mix is used up so you have four baguette-like shapes. Place those filled dough pieces on a greased sheet pan that has edges.

Score the tops of the phyllo dough, and coat with butter one more time. (Yum!)

Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, cut along your scored edges, and enjoy little spanakopitas.

Be lazy *and* impress your friends with this easy snack

Some years ago at a dinner party, a friend broke out these incredibly delicious treats that looked so fancy. Then, she told me what was in them, and I have been hooked ever since.

You see, these delicious, gorgeous snacks had just three ingredients — fillo dough shells, cream cheese and jalapeno jam.

Ingredients for this unnamed treat

It was so easy. I couldn’t resist stealing the recipe and using it to impress other friends.

But there was just one problem. At the time, one of those ingredients was not so easy to come by, and in fact, her jalapeno jam was homemade.  But nowadays, you can find many different store-bought brands that are quite good. I’m partial to the Tabasco brand.

Since then, I’ve used the snacks to dazzle family and friends alike.

Whenever I need to bring something to a potluck or gathering and I have no time, this is my go-to. In fact, I made them this past week specifically to take to a game day with friends when I hadn’t planned in advance enough to bring something else.

Fortunately, too, it was back in Waterloo so I had occasion to let the cream cheese soften during the drive.

Treats were made under duress so not as pretty as they could be. They still taste good, though.

Now, not that you dear readers need it for this treat, but here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 packages fillo dough shells (about 30)
  • 1 (8oz.) cream cheese package, softened
  • Pepper jelly (I use about half of a 10 oz. jar)

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place fillo shells on a sheet pan — any size will do as long as all the shells fit. Put the cream cheese into the shells — I prefer to put the cream cheese into a gallon bag, cut of the tip of the bag and squeeze the cheese in like an icing bag but you do you. Carefully spoon the jelly on top of the cream cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cream cheese and jam are warm. Put on a fancy-looking plate, pretend you were hard at work, and let everyone enjoy!

Breakfast for dinner!!!

I was looking for something simple to make this week because I had been feeling under the weather and thus, behind on everything. But what made me select a breakfast recipe was an ulterior motive to test out how long to cook eggs in the oven.

I figured that if every other piece was easy this time — frozen hash browns and bacon — I could focus on the eggs. So, when I do my next egg recipe(s), I’ll be ready for it.

Ingredients for sheet pan hash brown breakfast.

While I managed to overcook the eggs slightly, they were still well within the realm of edible and acceptable. And now I know at 400 degrees, with an already warm dish, eggs cook in less than 10 minutes, probably closer to 8 minutes if you want them a little runny.

Otherwise, using a couple different recipes with very different ideas of how to use the same ingredients and also making my own twists, I made a delightful and pretty easy hash brown breakfast for dinner.

My last note is the recipes called for just laying the slices of bacon straight on the hash browns, and that worked. But next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I’ll take the time to use cooking shears and cut the bacon into bits, both so it ends up crunchier and so it’s easier to eat the final product. Oh and I tested both turkey and pork bacon and both worked well.

So much bacon! (And eggs, and hash browns.)

Without further ado, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. frozen hash browns
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 T. butter, melted (plus more or oil for coating the sheet pan)
  • 1 c. shredded cheese (I used more and opted for a Mexican mix, but you do you)
  • 12 slices bacon, cut into bite-size pieces if you like
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 T. Parmesan, shredded (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Use oil or butter to coat a rimmed sheet pan about 15 ½ x 12 inches in size.

Add hash browns in an even layer. Top with onions, pepper, cheese (except the Parmesan) and melted butter. Stir gently to mix. Add salt and pepper.

Place bacon on top. It will seem like a lot if you didn’t cut it, but it’ll shrink some in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the bacon is nearly done and hash browns are starting to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and make wells (I actually just used bacon as rims to hold the eggs, which is an option if you don’t cut the bacon). Carefully break eggs, keeping them whole. Top with Parmesan if using and add a little more salt and pepper. Return to oven and bake for about 7 to 9 more minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and enjoy!

Potatoes that are ready for some football

Even though I haven’t watched the Super Bowl in years, I can’t help but crave something fatty and fun whenever it comes around. There’s probably plenty of reasons for this, but I’m sure it’s mostly that I almost always crave something fatty and fun.

So, with that in mind, and the fact that there’s still time to get ready for Sunday, I went ahead and made something fitting for your Super Bowl parties, whether your get-together is to watch it for the ads or the game or just for the goodies.

Get ready for some football with twice baked potatoes. I probably should have made potato skins, but twice baked potatoes are so much better and worth it.

Twice baked potato ingredients.

The best part is there’s no need to follow any sort recipe. Believe me, I looked around the web and they were all more or less the same. I pulled more from The Pioneer Woman site because she used scallions instead of chives and Lawry’s seasoned salt instead of just salt or a mixture of other spices.

But once I had the ingredients in hand — exactly the things you’d expect — I just went with my gut. And it worked and was easy.

The only complaint is as the name implies, the potatoes are twice baked, and that takes some time. But it is lazy time (or put to other cooking uses) and helps warm the house during this chilly February.

Look at these delightful ovals of awesomeness.

Last note, I only made four potatoes, so 8 halves, but you may want to double if you’re having a bigger get-together.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 4 russet potatoes
  • Oil for coating
  • 4 T. butter, softened
  • ½ c. sour cream (estimated)
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 c. shredded chipotle cheddar (I probably used a little more)
  • 3-4 T. milk or buttermilk
  • Lawry’s seasoned salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Paprika, for topping, optional

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat potatoes in oil and bake on sheet pan for about 1 hour, turning once halfway through.

When the potatoes are done with their first baking, use a tea towel or oven mitt to hold the hot potatoes to cut them in half and to use a spoon to carefully scrape out the insides into a large bowl. Place the half shells back on the sheet pan.

Add the butter, sour cream, scallions, bacon, about ¾ of the cheese, and the salt and pepper, into the potato bowl and mix until the butter and cheese are melted. Add the milk or buttermilk to desired consistency. Spoon the potato mixture into each of the potato skin shells until it’s used up. Top the mixture with the remaining cheese and sprinkle on paprika, if using.

Bake for about another 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Let cool slightly, and Go Eagles!!