Snowmageddon II - Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

As Snowmageddon blew itself out late this afternoon, moving on after leaving us with something in the neighborhood of two feet of snow here in Arlington, I stayed warm and toasty indoors by baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie. The strawberries were the last of a batch I picked last summer, the rhubarb I found during a 7 am trip to the grocery store yesterday morning before the storm came in (no eggs left, but frozen rhubarb and pre-made pie crust were in stock and on sale!).

The recipe I used was quite similar to the one found in this post from May, with a few changes:
- I also added 1/2 tsp. of orange zest to the sugar / flour mixture.
- I used more strawberries (3 1/2 cups) than rhubarb (2 1/2 cups) this time around.
- Because I was using frozen fruit, I let the fruit / sugar / flour mixture stand for 45 minutes before pouring it into the pie plate - then increased the baking time to 1 hour 25 minutes (keep foil on the edges of the pie for the first hour).

The pie came out quite delicious - although very juicy. To avoid the hassle of having to clean out leaked juices from your oven, place the pie on a shallow baking sheet, or place the baking sheet on the rack below the pie.

Snowmageddon I - Pesto-Spinach Lasagna

DC is in the midst of its second major snowstorm of the winter (we had Snowpocalypse in December, which brought 18-20") and its third snowstorm of this past week (last weekend we got about 6 inches and on Tuesday we got another 3 inches). With the Capital Weather Gang calling for a total of 16-26" (or even 30"+) and the local network affiliates on overdrive with wall-to-wall weather coverage, it is time for cooking and baking.

First up during the storm (after braving the crowds at the grocery stores, of course): Pesto-Spinach Lasagna. This is my favorite lasagna, and I have my best friend to thank for it. She made me this lasagna to keep me fortified during my doctoral candidacy exams, and I have been craving it ever since. Making this particular pan was bittersweet, though - I used up the last of the pesto I'd make using homegrown basil from this past summer. Well, that's a bit of summer sun to cheer me up amidst all of this snow, at least!

Lasagna freezes quite well in individual servings if you have too much - allow the pan to cool completely, wrap each slice in a piece of plastic wrap, then put the individually-wrapped servings into a freezer bag and freeze - you'll be able to pull out a piece at a time as you need it.

Pesto-Spinach Lasagna (12 servings)
1 T. dried currants, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
1 1/2 recipes pesto (for recipe, go here)
1 1/4 lbs. spinach or 1 1/2 lbs. swiss chard (or 2 14 oz. cans spinach, well drained)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. minced onions
3 T. pine nuts
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. ricotta or cottage cheese (low fat, if you prefer)
1 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 lg. egg
nutmeg (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 12 oz. box no-cook lasagna noodles (or 1 lb. regular lasagna noodles, cooked)

1. Cook spinach "dry" (just with the water clinging to its leaves) over medium heat until just wilted, remove from pan and chop.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, brown onions, pine nuts, and garlic. Add chopped spinach and currants, cook about 2 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, stir together spinach mixture, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 350F. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, assemble the lasagna as follows (listed in order from bottom to top - thus start with the noodles and end with the pesto):
4 lasagna noodles (overlap slightly)
1/4 spinach - cheese mixture
1/4 pesto sauce
Repeat - Repeat - Repeat (you'll have four layers when you finish)

5. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350F for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Snowbaking - Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

Last weekend the DC metro area was socked with about 6 inches of snow - perhaps not much compared with the 20-30" we are expected to get during our current storm (more on that in posts to come) or the 18-20" we got during the Snowpocalypse of December 2009, but still more than enough to justify a bit of snowbaking. For this endeavor, I decided to try brownies made with the mint & chocolate chips I found at the grocery store during the holiday season. If you don't happen to have mint & chocolate chips on hand, try these with white, milk, or dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or whatever your favorite mix-ins happen to be. These brownies come out moist and on the cakey side.

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies (~ 24-32 brownies)
3/4 c. butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (or mint extract)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. milk
1 c. mint & chocolate chips + additional chips for sprinkling on top

1. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with nonstick spray and preheat oven to 350F.

2. Melt butter in microwave (1 1/2 - 2 minutes). In a large bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, and cocoa powder and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until just combined.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the butter mixture, stirring after each addition. Fold in mint & chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly. If desired, sprinkle additional mint & chocolate chips on top of the batter about 10 minutes into baking.

5. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 2 hours, then cut into squares. If you cut a little earlier, use a plastic knife to reduce the amount of brownie that sticks to your knife.