Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Dip

roasted red pepper dip

Our infamous event planner neighbor, Ms. Jackie, went above and beyond for her latest party. She hosted an 80s prom night last night in her backyard oasis, Possum Grove. She even rented a dance floor and had a balloon arch photo area. In honor of this big event, I cooked up a new party dip to share with guests rather than making one of my old reliables. This hot and cheesy roasted red pepper dip was better than I expected. I think throwing the bacon bits on the top before baking really elevated the flavor satisfaction levels.

The cream cheese base in this dish reminds me of the Hot Artichoke Dip and the Charleston Cheese Dip, which have always been favorites of mine. If you need appetizer ideas for football watching this fall or are cooking for a cocktail party with friends, I recommend this roasted red pepper dip recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-5 sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped (~4 oz)
  • 1/3 c. chopped roasted sweet red peppers
  • 1 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 c. shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
  • Ritz and/or Club crackers for serving

Directions

  • In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, and garlic until blended.

roasted red pepper dip base

  • Stir in tomatoes, red peppers, mozzarella cheese, Italian cheese blend, and 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese.

roasted red pepper ingredients

  • Spread mixture in a greased baking dish. I used an oval baking dish, but a 9-inch pie pan would work too. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bacon bits.

roasted red pepper pre baked

  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until edges are bubbly and lightly browned.
  • Serve warm with crackers.

Notes

  • Can be doubled.

roasted red pepper dip bite

Make One; Freeze One

spaghetti pie bite

It is embarrassing how little food preparation I have done for my family in recent weeks. TheRoomDad has completely taken over weekend meals and school lunches. The best I have been able to do for weeknight meals is scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. He practically fell off his chair when I told him I was headed to the grocery store and had decided to make Spaghetti Pie for Sunday dinner.

My original Spaghetti Pie recipe came from the Beyond Parsley cookbook, but there are many Spaghetti Pie options if you run a Google search. Over time, I have adjusted my recipe slightly because I always make a double batch, so we can eat one pie and freeze one for later. The only reason I considered making Spaghetti Pie this Sunday was because it had the benefit of an extra freezable pie, so I could avoid preparing dinner on another night in the future.

spaghetti pie baked

Crust Ingredients (for 2 pies)

  • 2 boxes (16 oz.) thin spaghetti cooked and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 t. dried basil

Meat Sauce Ingredients (for 2 pies)

  • ~1 lb. ground beef (find a package that is close to 1 lb.)
  • ~1 lb. Italian sausage (1 package)
  • 1 28-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 2 t. dried basil
  • 2 t. dried oregano
  • 1/2 c. white wine

Other Ingredients and Equipment (for 2 pies)

  • 1 15-oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 10-inch pie plates (can be disposable)

Directions

  • Make the crust first. Combine the cooked spaghetti with the other “crust” ingredients while the pasta is warm. Chop mixture with two knives until ingredients are well combined and spaghetti is in small sections. Put the two knives in the center of the ingredients and pull in opposite directions to chop the pasta. Repeat the knife movement moving the pan around, so all noodles are cut into small pieces.

spaghetti pie mixing noodles

  • Press half of the pasta mixture into each pie plate making sure the pasta covers the bottom and sides of the pie plates and set aside.

spaghetti pie crust

  • To make the filling, brown ground beef, sausage, and onion together. Drain the fat. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients and heat thoroughly.

spaghetti pie sauce

  • Put the ricotta in a small bowl and add 1 to 2 T. warm water and mix together, so the ricotta will be easy to spread.
  • To assemble the pies, spread about half of the ricotta cheese on each pie “crust.” You may have some leftover ricotta.

spaghetti pie ricotta filling

  • Top the ricotta with meat sauce on each pie.

spaghetti pie assembly

  • Sprinkle 1 cup shredded mozzarella on each pie.

spaghetti pie cheese topping

  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Freezing and Reheating Directions

  • Before baking, cover pie completely with foil wrapping around the bottom as well. I like to use the disposable pie pans that come with lids. I attach the plastic lid, then wrap completely in foil.

spaghetti pie freezing

  • Put covered Spaghetti Pie in the freezer.
  • When ready to eat, thaw the pie in the refrigerator overnight keeping the covering on it.
  • Remove all coverings before baking. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown on top.
  • The pie can be reheated straight from the freezer. Remove any plastic covering and cover the top with foil only. Bake at 350 or 375 degrees until thawed in the center (test with a knife). Remove the foil covering and continue baking until golden brown on top and bubbly on the edges.

Notes

  • I think you could assemble the layers in a casserole dish rather than a pie pan and make a spaghetti casserole type thing.
  • Leftovers taste very good reheated.
  • These pies make great gifts for a new neighbor or a friend with a sick family member, new baby, etc. I have also given these pies to my children’s teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week with freezing and reheating instructions!

spaghetti pie slice

Do you have a recipe that you always double, so you can set a serving aside for later?

Small Towns and Quirky Characters

moon over manifest

I read Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool this weekend. It won the Newbery a few years ago, and the title keeps appearing on book suggestion lists I receive, so I had it in my pile of to-reads. There are multiple characters and flashbacks, so you have to stay on your reading toes (and probably be at least a 6th or 7th grader). It has a style and setting that remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters also came to mind while I read.

The main character, Abilene Tucker, is sent to live with a family friend in a small town during the Depression. The town is chock full of quirky characters who are more interesting to me than Abilene. The minor characters are the reason I like the book. It took several chapters before the story grabbed me, but I loved the twist at the end during the courthouse scene– it was worth the wait.

snicker of magic

Moon Over Manifest kick-started a new list of books that are set in small towns with memorable side characters. Do you ever read books and get caught up with the stories of the extra characters more than the protagonist? What other books have great quirky characters?

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
  • Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
  • Pie by Sarah Weeks
  • Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

three times lucky

 

 

Brownie Cups

brownie cup mint chip sundae single

I hate it when my ideas don’t work. Mr. Star Wars had his 10th birthday yesterday, and he wanted brownies with ice cream on top for his birthday dessert. This was just going to be a family dinner and celebration since we celebrated his birthday with a few friends before school started, but I still did not think that a plain old pan brownie was birthday-y enough, so I hunted down an alternative.

I had seen an idea on Pinterest for brownie cups. They seemed easy enough and upon closer inspection, they even used a boxed brownie mix, which I thought would translate into minimal time and effort.

Here is what Dreyer’s Ice Cream told me I could make:

dryers ice cream brownie bowl

 Here is what I actually made:

brownie cup separating the pans

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • 2 cupcake tins
  • Pam spray or Crisco
  • a little luck

brownie cup materials

Directions

  • Make the brownie mix according to the box directions. I think a fudgier brownie mix would work better than the one I used.
  • Spray with Pam or grease with Crisco the insides of a cupcake tin and across the top of the pan where the brownies will rise over the edge of the cup VERY WELL.
  • Fill the cupcake tins about 2/3 full with brownie mix.

brownie cup pans

  • Spray or grease the bottom of the second cupcake tin VERY WELL and gently rest the second cupcake tin on top of the filled cupcake tin.

IMG_5540

  • Bake brownies according to the box directions. I baked my brownies about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Remove from the oven and remove the top cupcake tin. I thought it was best to remove while the brownies were still warm, but my brownies stuck to the pans, so I am not sure what to advise on this. I let them cool before lifting the cup out of the bottom cupcake tin after seeing the disaster with the top pan, but the base of the brownies completely stuck to the pan, so I ended up with brownie crumbles and broken brownie cups.

brownie cups sticking in pans

  • Take whatever brownie pieces you can salvage and put them in the bottom of a bowl.

brownie cup coffee sundae

  • Top with ice cream. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss wanted mint chip. TheRoomDad and I had coffee ice cream. Drizzle chocolate syrup over the ice cream.

Thankfully, broken brownie cups taste just as good as perfect brownie cups. Anyone else want to give this one a try and report back? Is it my cupcake tins that are the problem?

brownie cup mint chip sundae

My Favorite Back to School Equipment

Today is the big day– our first day of school. On the homefront, getting ready has been easier than anticipated. Our school provides supplies, so I did not have to shop for notebooks, pencils, glue, tissue, or wipes. My kids wear uniforms, so I ordered online in bulk last month. And, we did not need new bookbags, water bottles, or lunchboxes because I splurged a few years ago for some higher end items that are built to last. If only setting up my classroom had been this easy…

planetbox lunchbox

The PlanetBox Lunch System

  • I eat lunch alongside my students, and a couple of years ago, I noticed a few of my students had a lunch carry case with a metal tray inside that looked like an army (prison?) lunch tray with divided sections. The tray had an attached lid that clipped closed and fit inside a thermal carrier. There were pockets on the outside that had room for a juice pouch or small water bottle. I loved this lunch bag. I had to have it for my own children.

planetbox lunchbox exterior

  • The lid for the metal food tray stays attached, so I do not have to scramble to find lids in the morning, which I think is the benefit to this product over other bento style lunch boxes. We (and by “we” I really mean TheRoomDad) fill each compartment in the tray and clip the lid closed. We have not had to buy lunch baggies or mess with smaller lunch tupperware containers since we started using the PlanetBox.
  • The metal tray is dishwasher safe. The kids empty any leftover lunch bits and drop the tray in the dishwasher when we get home. I just have to remember to run the dishwasher at night. It dries completely unlike the tupperware that is perpetually wet after a dishwasher cycle.

planetbox lunchbox open

  • Place a flat icy pack on the bottom of the carry case under the tray to keep the food cool. You can purchase special icy packs from PlanetBox, but my Blue Ice packs work just as well.
  • There are a variety of sizes available; my children have The Rover. I do need to cut crusts off the bread to fit a whole sandwich in the large compartment. We also avoid anything juicy (like cut strawberries) that will drip and  leak.

LL Bean backpack

L.L. Bean Original Plus Book Pack

  • Three years ago when Mr. Star Wars started 1st grade, we bought the bigger L.L. Bean backpack with the water bottle pocket on the side and added his name for ID purposes.
  • The bag has a variety of pouch sizes for pencils, pens, and books. It also has little secret places, which are great for hiding cash or checks when I have to send field trip money to school.
  • The bag is easy to clean, and I have not had any zipper problems. The nice thing about L.L. Bean is that they will replace the bag if we ever do have problems with it.

camelbak water bottles

Camelbak Insulated Water Bottle

  • It is double insulated like a Tervis tumbler, so it does not sweat while sitting on a desk (very important to teachers).
  • The drinking spout can be pushed down to close the water bottle.
  • The lid has not started leaking yet.
  • I can detach the straw.
  • It is dishwasher safe.

What are essential school supplies in your house and is the brand important?

P.S. Teacher friends, there is a one day sale at TeacherPayTeachers Wednesday, August 20, 2014. Use code BOOST to save up to 28% off your purchases. Start your shopping by visiting This InLinkz Link-up to see some favorite upper elementary teaching resources.