I really love cannolis, but didn’t feel like buying or making the shells for them.  So, I decided to do a dip instead with the filling.  This is a great dessert dip.  Serve it with graham crackers (regular or chocolate) or strawberries. Or, you can just do what I did, and eat it with a spoon!  Enjoy!

1 (15 oz.) container ricotta
3 tablespoons marscapone cheese, softened (you could also use cream cheese)
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
½ bag mini chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients well with a mixer.  Keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Like so many of my ideas, this one came to me at the last minute.  At first, I was going to do wontons, but I kept thinking about how those would be hard to photograph, and then it hit me…I could do wonton cups!  So, I started throwing some things together, baked them, and they are amazing!  The only thing I wasn’t happy with was that the wontons didn’t crisp up enough on the bottom.  I think it would be best to prebake the cups for 10-15 minutes, and then add the filling and bake for the remaining time.  Make them this weekend.  You won’t be disappointed!!

½ red bell pepper, diced
½ small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Wonton wrappers
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Press the wonton wrappers into a mini muffin pan.  Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the bell pepper and onion, and sauté for about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.  Take off of the heat and let cool slightly.  In a medium bowl, add the ricotta, rosemary, basil, bell pepper mixture, cheese, salt and pepper, and mix well.  Put about a teaspoon of filling into each cup.  Bake for 20 minutes.  (For crispier cups, bake the wontons for 10-15 minutes, then fill them and bake for the remaining 5-10 minutes).  Sprinkle with fresh parsley after you remove them from the oven.

Yield: 18 appetizers

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Italian Calzone
     About six months ago, my husband and I took a trip back to where I lived before we got married. Every time I go back, I have to eat at my two favorite restaurants: the Greek one and the Indian one. Having fully messed up his stomach on the Indian one, we chose the Greek one this time. While I chowed down on my Gyro Salad and Hummus (the best I've ever had), he opted for the safe choice and ate one of their calzones, Italian-style. Full of meat and cheese. He loved it. He raved about it. And I'm still hearing about it.
     For some crazy reason, I thought about doing a ricotta gnocchi for my main dish, but when I remembered his incessant  "Babe, why don't you try to make calzones?" plea, I figured I had to give in. Calzones, it is! 
     So I planned on Italian, but then I saw those Kalamata olive in the fridge, and had to do a Greek version, too. Both are delicious! Remember that the dough makes 4-5 calzones and each of the fillings fills 4-5, so choose one filling, or do half of both. 
Happy eating!

Calzone Dough: (Makes 4-5 calzones)
3 ½ cups Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread Mix
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
½ cup cold water
¼ cup bread mix, for dusting
1 egg, scrambled, for egg wash
Directions Below...

Cheese Mixture: (Makes 4-5 calzones)
 ¾ cup ricotta cheese
 ¾ cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
 ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 2-4 tablespoons diced parsley
 Mix ingredients and set aside.

Italian Filling: (Makes 4-5 calzones)
 3/4 cup prepared tomato sauce, seasoned as you like it
 20 slices pepperoni
 ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
 ¼ cup sauteed mixture of onions and bell pepper (any color)
 Layer everything on top of cheese mixture onto one side of calzone dough. Fold dough over and wash with egg.

Greek Filling: (Makes 4-5 calzones)
1 cup diced prepared chicken breast
juice of ½ lemon
2-3 tablespoons Kalamata olives, pitted and diced
2-3 tablespoons capers
¼ cup Asiago cheese, grated (and added to cheese mixture)
Soak chicken in lemon juice for 30 mintues. Layer ingredients on top of cheese mixture onto one side of calzone dough. Fold over and wash with egg.

To prepare calzone dough:
     Cut up both sticks of butter into small squares and add to bread mix in a large bowl. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the bread mix until it looks like coarse pea-sized crumbles. Be sure not to over-blend so the butter does not melt too much. Add the ice water 1-2 tablespoons at a time using your hands or a fork to blend with the dough. When the dough just begins to come together use your hands to bring it together. Make sure the dough is not too sticky or so dry that it falls apart.
Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to use.
       Pre-heat oven to 375º. Dust wax paper with remaining bread mix. Separate dough into 4-5 pieces and press each section down with hands to form an even round, about 1/4-inch thick. Dust top with additional mix.
       Put about 3 tablespoons of cheese mixture on one side of the dough. Layer ingredients on top. Fold the dough over and match the ends together lightly pressing down to seal any open spaces. Brush a small amount of the beaten egg all along the edges of the dough. Grease a baking sheet and place calzones at least ½ inch apart. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Greek Calzone
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I know that lasagna is an obvious choice for ricotta week, but I was really craving lasagna.  It’s been cold and dreary, and it’s such a good comfort food.  I decided to make mine meatless, and thought I’d try spinach and artichoke, with a white sauce. I simply went to the store, bought some stuff, and winged it…this is entirely my own creation.  The only thing that I would do differently next time is that I would make more of the white sauce…I felt it could have used a bit more.  But overall, I was very happy with the result, and my seven-year-old, picky eater (who doesn’t love to eat most vegetables) loved this and ate an entire piece.  I consider that a success!  Make it tonight!

1 box no-bake lasagna noodles
1-1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-1 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

For the spinach and artichoke filling:
1 (12 oz) bag frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed well and shredded
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

For the ricotta filling:
1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

For the white sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the artichoke hearts, onion, and red bell pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.  Add the spinach and sauté until it is wilted, about 1-2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, set aside.  
In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the ricotta filling.  Mix well and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk to combine.  Stir and cook the roux for 2-3 minutes, then add the chicken stock and milk, making sure to whisk so that it’s well combined.  Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until thickened, about 5-6 minutes.  Take off the heat, and add the Mozzarella cheese and salt and pepper to taste, and stir until the cheese is melted.

In a large, rectangular baking dish (I used a 13x9), spread a ladle of sauce thinly over the bottom. Top with the lasagna noodles, then spread half of the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles.  Spread half of the spinach mixture over the ricotta, then pour a third of the sauce evenly over the spinach and top with a third of the Parmesan and Mozzarella.  Once more layer the noodles, ricotta, spinach, sauce, and cheese, and then top with noodles, the remaining sauce and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover the lasagna, and bake for 15 more minutes.  Let the lasagna rest for 20-30 minutes before cutting.

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     Well, I'll tell you what: I was somewhat disappointed with this dessert. Only in the respect that it didn't turn out like I wanted, but it still turned out delicious! My intention was to fill the cookie sandwiches with a cannoli cream much like what I made a couple weeks ago (http://www.kitchenpsycho.com/1/post/2011/10/croissant-with-cannoli-creme-orange-balsamic-soaked-strawberries.html), but for some reason, it didn't turn out! Of course, I wasn't following a recipe, per se. So I opted to use the mixture as a glaze over the top. Worked just fine! I think, though, when we're done with the Cook-Off, I'll come back to this one and re-do it as I saw it in my head. But for now... here you go!

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add lemon zest, and stir in half a cup of flour at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so work it together by hand until smooth. Pat or roll dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. You can use a cookie cutter or roll into a log and cut with a knife. Arrange cookies on ungreased baking sheet and bake 20 minutes until the bottom edges are just starting to brown. Cool on a wire rack.

6 oz (1 cup) raspberries
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey

Simmer until well warmed, then mash with fork or potato masher. Simmer until mixture has the consistency of a syrup. Take off heat and cool. Sandwich between two shortbread cookies.

1/2 cup ricotta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend ingredients well. You may choose to use a hand mixer. Refrigerate until use. Drizzle over filled cookies.

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     At first, I had no idea what I'd make for Ricotta Week. There are the obvious choices: lasagna, manicotti... But you guys should know by now that we Kitchen Psychos don't do the typical thing around here. We like to go with the underdog. Do something creative. (Just wait til you see my dessert!) But for today, I picked a less-than-typical ricotta dish. Less than typical, because, typically, you don't put Ricotta cheese in a Tomato Bisque. But I did, and it's delicious! Eat it with a grilled cheese sandwich.

2 cans tomato sauce
1 small clove garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning blend
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature, diced
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, for garnish

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir sauce, garlic, red pepper, black pepper, seasoning blend, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and ricotta until well blended, then stir in milk. Heat again until simmering. Serve with toasted bread or, better, a grilled cheese sandwich!

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