Monday, August 27, 2012

Something From Nothing #1: Easy Black Bean Soup

When I started this blog almost 4 years ago, my daughter had just left for college.  I didn’t  think about it then, but there was a hole her absence left behind and I guess this creative outlet helped me to fill it.   It is hard for me to believe, but after all this time and over 150 posts I am still here typing away, and best of all you are still here listening.

Well, time does fly and our daughter didn’t waste one moment of her time or one of our hard earned dollars and graduated on time this last May.  She is now looking for a place of her own and will soon be the queen of her domain calling all the shots around her place. 

If she wants to eat Halloween candy for dinner like she wanted to when she was nine, she can.  If she wants her room to look like a pig sty without my interference, she can do that too.    If she is lucky enough to have a 14 year old daughter someday, she can be a cool mom and let her date and wear thongs, but something tells me she won’t.  I do have to be honest and say she will never be able to get a tattoo or dye her hair blue as long as I am alive; there are just some things I will always have an opinion about. 

As mothers have a tendency to do, I have drilled my mantra into her head.  I have always told her, “money buys freedom and freedom is priceless”.  Since she listens to me when it counts, she has become a very good saver.  She knows that in order to treat herself to things she wants and still save money she has to cut corners sometimes, and this is where my blog comes in.

In an effort to help her economize when she is cooking for herself (on those days when she is out of Halloween candy), I am going to start posting simple and delicious recipes made from inexpensive staples that everyone usually has or can easily stock in their own pantries and refrigerators.  I’m going to call my new feature, Something from Nothing.

My first Something from Nothing recipe is for a great little black bean soup made from canned beans, bacon, frozen vegetables and a few dried spices.   You can always enhance this by topping it with whatever you might have on hand (suggestions follow), but just plain is great too.

Easy Black Bean Soup

I always have a couple of cans of beans in my cupboard.  Beans are really very versatile, from being the main ingredient in soups, dips and salads, to sides and burgers. Not only are they tasty and affordable, but they are pretty good for you too.

3 slices bacon, chopped (No bacon, no problem.  Substitute bacon with 2 tablespoons oil)

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onions or frozen mirapoix blend (Chopped onions, celery and carrots.  It is always good to have some of this on hand in your freezer)

1 small garlic clove, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic)

2 - 15 ounce can black beans with juice

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon mild chili powder

1/4 teaspoon coriander or 1 lightly packed tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro

1 medium size bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Place bacon in a medium size saucepan set over medium high heat.  Cook until it is browned and almost crispy.  Add mirapoix blend or onions to the bacon and drippings in the pan and cook until it is slightly soft and transparent (approximately 5 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer.

Add canned black beans and juice and mash with a potato masher or the back of a fork until most of the beans are mashed.  Add water, cumin, chili powder, coriander and salt and pepper.  

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or until vegetables are tender crisp), stirring occasionally.

Remove cover and simmer until desired consistency is reached if needed. 

Garnish with whatever you have on hand.  Some suggestions are pico de gallo, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, avocados, fresh cilantro, fresh or pickled jalapenos, grated cheese or salsa.

This recipe can be easily halved or doubled.

Serves 2 - 4


Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer's Bounty: Palisade Peach Fool

I am more than happy to announce that Palisade peaches have arrived at my local supermarket.  Next to cherries peaches are my favorite summer fruit.  Well, that is if you don't count strawberries, blueberries or those magical, plump and wild Texas dewberries.  As you can see I have many favorites, but for this post it is peaches that are in the spotlight.

Growers in and around the town of Palisade, which is located on the Colorado River at the base of the Grand Mesa in far western Colorado,  produce some of the best peaches I've ever eaten.  And it is no wonder they are so good considering where they come from.  This super fertile area not only produces world class peaches, but it is also home to no less than 75% of the premium wine grape vineyards in the state.

I bought a couple of pounds of these big juicy peaches the other day with a recipe in mind that I have been planning on making since just before the London Olympics began.  I wanted to post it to coincide with the games, but you know how it goes, so many recipes, so little time.

Since my peaches weren't quite ripe when I bought them, I have patiently been watching them for a couple of days now, giving them an affectionate little squeeze every now and then as they lounged around on my countertop, generously perfuming my kitchen.  Well, I am finally happy to say that they are now beautifully ripe and ready for their close up.

The recipe I have had in mind for all these weeks now is for a peach fool.  A fool is more than some idiot that pulls out in front of you in traffic.  A fool is also a combination of whipped cream, yogurt or sour cream, fruit and crushed cookies.   I first fell in love with fools in England where they are most often made with strawberries which can easily be substituted for the peaches in this recipe.

Even if you aren't lucky enough to get your hands on some juicy Palisade peaches, every area that is enjoying hot weather has some sort of delicious late summer fruit right now.  So feel free to mash it up and make a fool out of it.  I promise it won't mind.    

Palisade Peach Fool

4 large ripe peaches

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

8 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

Pinch of salt

2- 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (since whipping cream is sold by the cup, if you don't want to buy that little bit of extra cream you can stretch 2 cups enough to make this recipe work)

6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (I used fat free to make my recipe healthy ;)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 - 6 of your favorite crumbly cookies (I prefer Pecan Sandies), crushed or 1/2 cup granola

Peel and slice 2 of the peaches and place in a food processor or blender.  Add 4 tablespoons of the sugar, orange zest, orange juice and salt.  Puree; set aside.

These peaches are "freestone" meaning the flesh easily pulls away from the pit as you cut them.   This is the opposite of "cling" peaches which means that the flesh sticks to the pit.  Both are very tasty but for obvious reasons the freestones are much easier to cook with.

Place whipping cream in a large bowl.  Whip the cream with an electric mixer set on high until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining sugar a little at a time and continue to beat until peaks become stiff.  Remove about 6 big heaping tablespoons of the whipped cream and set aside covered and refrigerated. 

Add the yogurt and vanilla to the remaining whipped cream in the large bowl and beat just until combined.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Peel and dice one of the remaining peaches.  Place in a medium size bowl.  Add 1/3 of the peach puree and mix well; set aside.

Gently fold the remaining peach puree into the whipped cream mixture.  Don't worry about combining it completely as leaving "veins" of puree in it will enhance the flavor and appearance.

Divide 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture equally among 4 - 6 glasses (depending how big you want your servings to be).  Top with equal amounts of the chopped peaches in puree, then the remaining 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to several hours before serving.  If you are using strawberries or darker fruits, you can make this up to a day ahead but no more as it sometimes becomes watery on the bottom.  Peaches also have a tendency to darken with time which my affect the appearance of the fool if left to sit too long. 

Just before serving, spoon equal amounts of the crushed cookie over the tops and finally dollops of the reserved whipped cream and yogurt mixture.

Slice the remaining peach into slices for garnish.

Garnish with peach slices and/or mint sprigs.

Makes 4 - 6 generous servings

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Julia: Celebrating with Coq Au Vin

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.”
Julia Child

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past few months, August 15th marks the 100th anniversary of Julia Child’s birth.  You won’t find many food bloggers who won’t be doing a tribute to Julia to commemorate her big birthday, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to throw my whisk in the mix. 

Although tomorrow is her birthday, I thought it poignant that this post go out today, the day before.  Julia died on the 13th and was born on the 15th, and I feel very strongly that it is not these two dates that define a person, it is what they do with the time in between them that counts, and she made the most of her time.
For almost four decades beginning in the 1960s, Julia sparked America’s interest in gourmet cuisine through her books and television shows.  Her ability of breaking down once mysterious French and continental recipes and making them accessible to the home cook, brought a love and curiosity of cooking and dining to this country that lives on to this day.

You may remember some time ago that I wrote a post about how I had the pleasure of serving Julia and her husband cocktails back in the 1980s in Houston.  They were both gracious, sweet and a little bit drunk and I still kick myself to this day for not asking her for her autograph.  Even in my very undomestic early 20s, Julia occupied a special place in my heart by encouraging me to cook her recipe for braised turkey breast through her TV show, The French Chef several years before.

For this celebratory post I searched the web once again for this phantom recipe without any true luck, but thank goodness there is no lack of great recipes by Julia for me to choose from.  Like that braised turkey breast recipe, I wanted something that sounded gourmet but was relatively easy and affordable so that even my own 20 something daughter would feel inspired by one of her dishes.

My chosen recipe Coq Au Vin (pronounced "coc-o-van" and translated “cock in red wine sauce”) is a moderately simple yet stunning dish of braised chicken, vegetables and herbs bathed in a rich and glossy red wine sauce.   The extra bonus here is that this dish can be made with chicken legs and thighs which make it super affordable for cooks on a budget.  This French peasant dish is the whole package.

So, happy birthday Julia!  Thank you for inspiring me as a 14 year old to beg my mom to drive me to the grocery store and take on cooking that recipe of yours.  From that moment on cooking has been a never ending source of entertainment and relaxation for me.  You have given me a gift that I have enjoyed my entire life.  Bon Appetit!

Coq Au Vin

This is my own take on Julia's recipe.  I made just a few adjustments to the recipe to compliment my style of cooking and my kitchen equipment, but all the ingredients and all the flavor is still in there.

2 - 1/2 - 3 pounds chicken parts (I prefer leg quarters)
4 ounces bacon (approximately 5 pieces), cut into 1/4" pieces across
16 small onions (such as boiler or pearl)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup brandy or cognac (optional)
1 fire extinguisher
3 cups red wine (1 full bottle)
1 cup chicken stock
1 large tomato, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter, softened and divided
1 tablespoon light olive oil
10 ounces (give or take)  fresh button mushrooms cut into halves or quarters depending on their size
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Wash and dry chicken.  Remove and extra fat from chicken; set aside until ready to use.

Brown bacon pieces in a large frying pan (or ovenproof casserole) set over medium high heat.  Transfer browned bacon to a small bowl reserving bacon drippings; set bacon aside.

Place chicken pieces in the pan with the reserved bacon drippings.  Brown chicken on both sides.  Transfer chicken pieces to a plate reserving drippings in the pan.

Cook the onions in the drippings until they are brown.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Remove the onions and transfer to a plate before adding the chicken back to the pan.  Pour the brandy over the chicken.  Now, while standing back, VERY CAREFULLY (and I really can't emphasize that enough) flame the brandy and chicken (being careful not to singe anything and keeping that fire extinguisher handy just in case) by just touching it with a flame.  This is a spectacular step in the recipe to put it mildly, so get ready.

The flames will die down in just a few seconds as soon as the alcohol burns off.  This is not a necessary step although I must admit I felt very French and very accomplished after I realized I had lived to tell the tale.  I'm sorry if I've scared you, but if you want to skip the brandy and the fire altogether that's ok, your dish will still be great.

Assuming there are no calamities so far,  add the red wine, chicken stock, tomato, bay leaf, thyme, bacon and onions; cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Just before the chicken comes out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter along with the olive oil in a medium size saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they are browned around the edges and softened a bit; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the flour; set aside.

Remove the chicken from the red wine and place on a plate; set aside.  Place the red wine and onions over a  low heat.  When the mixture starts to simmer whisk in the butter and flour mixture and cook until it starts to thicken.  Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the desired consistency is reached.  Add additional salt and pepper to your taste.

Return the chicken to the wine sauce and top with the cooked mushrooms.  Serve immediately or it can be refrigerated and served the next day.  It does improve with time and the advantage to this is that any fat that solidifies on the top can be removed before reheating.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

I love this served with roasted or steamed new potatoes, green beans or just a piece of crusty French bread.

Makes 4 very hearty servings

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Something a Little Weird and Wonderful for Your Next BBQ: Pea and Pickle Salad

Some people complain about the summer heat, but I really don't get it.  I think it is such a small price to pay for such a wonderful time of year.  No one really expects too much from you during the summer.  It is like everything goes on hold so we can garden, travel, play and grill.

Our family grills year round.  My husband even keeps a snow shovel by the door so he can clear me a path to the grill in the dead of winter.   The grill count on our side deck now numbers 3.  We have a charcoal grill for steaks and chicken, a gas grill for browning and our newest acquisition, an electric smoker to smoke the meat we brown on the gas grill.  I know what you are thinking, but don't turn your nose up, it is really unbelievable what a great job our electric smoker does.

Believe it or not, this post is not about grilling or meat it is about the sides.  I've made it clear that I am not crazy about traditional sides that go with barbeque.  I do have a recipe for some dolled up baked beans that I really like, but they call for a dozen ingredients and is just a bit fussy.  I also have a recipe for potato salad that I have perfected over the years and I love it too, but it is really best when made the day before.  Most of the time I really prefer not to even turn the stove on our grilling nights.  I'm mean that kind of defeats the purpose of an easy weeknight meal don't you think?

In an effort to come up with some super easy barbeque sides, I have gone back into my family archives and revisited some of my mother and grandmother's favorites.  One I really like is a combination of thinly sliced cucumbers with some red onion and sour cream.  I also LOVE the spicy corn salad I featured last year and that's pretty darned easy too.

My newest addiction though is a pickle and pea salad (yes, you heard right) that I can't stay out of when there is a bowl of it in the fridge.  I've updated the ingredients a bit to kick up the flavors but the original old fashioned recipe is in there somewhere.  I promise you that you will be addicted to this unusual concoction and if you aren't, pack it in ice and ship it to me because I love the stuff.

Spicy Pea and Pickle Salad

Feel free to use fresh or frozen peas for this recipe but I prefer mine Texas church lady style with the gray/green ones out of the can, so shoot me.

1 – 15 ounce can peas, drained
1 tablespoon finely diced yellow or red onion
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 slices bacon, fried to crispy and chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp depending on your preference)
2 medium dill pickles, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup) plus 2 tablespoons pickle juice
1 small fresh or pickled (for a milder flavor) jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts (I love the spicy flavored ones)

Place drained peas in a medium size bowl.  Add the onion, eggs, bacon, cheese, pickles, pickle juice, jalapeno, garlic, salt pepper and mayonnaise.  Gently stir to combine being careful not to break up the peas and eggs too much.  Cover and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes or until chilled through.
This can be made a day in advance and a couple of tablespoons of milk or pickle or jalapeno juice can be added if the mixture seems a bit stiff.
Sprinkle with peanuts just before serving.
Serve cold.
Serves 4 - 6 normal people.  Serves 1 at my house.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Great Garlic Cook-Off at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: Creamy Bacon Mushroom and Spinach Accordion Ravioli

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Long before I began writing this blog I became involved in cooking contests.  After writing contest recipes for a couple of years I amassed such a collection that I felt the need to share them, and to make a very long story short, this blog was born. 

Even though contests always involve other competitors I really don’t look upon myself as competing against them.  I always feel like I am competing against myself in a contest to do my very best.  Sometimes my recipes come out on top, and sometimes they don’t.  In the past 8 years since I’ve been contesting I have won and lost both big and small contests, but through this process I have learned that win or lose, there is always a new challenge around the corner.

This last weekend I was invited to participate in the Gilroy Garlic Festival Cook-Off in gorgeous Gilroy, California.  This was my second time at this contest, the first one being in 2009.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Gilroy it is located in one of the most fertile areas in America, the Santa Clara Valley which is smack dab in the middle of this beautiful state.
Blooming artichokes in a field outside of Castroville, California

Since we had plans in LA after the competition, we decided to rent a car there and make the long yet scenic round trip.  Once we left the city the landscape started to change drastically.  For miles and miles of our trip both sides of the road were lined with mostly unidentified crops.  Every now and again some were marked with signs letting the curious passersby know what is being grown. 

These signs mostly identified almonds and strawberries, but there were also miles upon miles of vines heavily laden with beautiful white grapes which needed no introduction. It is no wonder that California is renowned for its wonderful food and drink; they have a never ending supply of the most beautiful ingredients that I have seen anywhere.

About four hours out of LA the highway we drove suddenly became littered with tomatoes that somehow made an early escape from the heavily loaded trucks that carried them.  It broke my heart to see so many beautiful ripe red tomatoes rotting in the sun.  Oh the potential salsa, tomato sauce and bruschetta that these juicy little beauties will never see.  We even joked about pulling over and scooping them up, but quickly decided that consuming road kill of any kind, even vegan, just wasn’t our style.

At about the six hour mark we began to smell the familiar scent of garlic which lingers heavily in the air during this time of year in Gilroy.  The first time we visited here, I was amazed that the scent of the freshly cut garlic was so strong in the area and how it reminded me of baking garlic bread.    It was good to be back. 

On Saturday morning we got up early after a lovely contestant dinner the night before.  We arrived at the festival’s cooking pavilion and unloaded our pots and pans that we had all painstakingly schlepped from home.  I had done my grocery shopping the night before and stored it in the hotel refrigerator only to have the more delicate of ingredients freeze and turn black in spots.  It was at this point that I realized that it isn’t a proper cook off experience without a crisis or two and just made do with what I had.

The cooking itself was a real pleasure.  At Gilroy each contestant is given their own assistant known as a chaperone who is at your disposal before and during the cook-off.   This year my chaperone was Frank who took great care of me from making sure there was pleasant conversation during the dinner to politely fending off camera crews during crucial cooking times. 

After two hours we turned in our dishes one at a time to the table of five who were waiting to judge each recipe.  My dish was for Creamy Bacon Mushroom and Spinach Accordion Ravioli which is a fancy way of saying individual folded lasagnas. 

Another version of my Accordion Ravioli with Italian Sausage
I love this little dish and have made it several times in preparation of entering it into this contest, but the judges seemed to think it was a little heavy on this hot summer day.  Fair enough.  Thinking that a beautiful trip was the only prize I was taking from this competition, I cleaned my area and packed my stuff so I could join my daughter waiting in the audience and enjoy the antics of the MC, Dan Green who is an area news anchor and all around really funny guy.

An hour or so later after the other seven finalists had turned in their dishes for judging, we were all assembled on stage along with the garlic queen and her court for the awarding of prizes.  Dan announced that third place belonged to Renee Pokorny and her Garlic Lamb Meatballs in Indian Spiced Sauce over Coconut Garlic Infused Rice.  I didn’t get to try one of these but they looked amazing.
Renee Pokorny

Second place went to of all people . . . me!  I was totally confused after the judge’s comments thinking that I didn’t stand a chance in hell of taking home a prize.  The garlic queen shoved a plaque in my hand and someone (a garlic princess I’m almost sure) plopped a garlic crown on my head and the “paparazzi” took over snapping my photo and calling my name.

Just about that time, Dan looked over and announced to everyone that he had made a mistake.  Knowing what a jokester he was I stood there, garlic crown on head and plaque in hand waiting for the punch line.  Well, the only punch line was that I was not in fact the 2nd place winner.  The prize actually went to Veronica Callahan for her Golden Garlic Chicken-Broccoli Rabe Lasagna Cups. 
Veronica Callaghan

Still not sure what was going on, I wondered if it could it be that someone had put ecstasy in the judges’ water and they had awarded me 1st prize?  I suddenly knew how Carrie White must have felt standing on the stage covered in pig’s blood.  Awkward!  Ok, it wasn’t nearly that bad but it sounds good doesn't it?
Laureen Pittman

As 1st place was announced and Laureen Pittman (Crispy Pork Belly with Caramelized Onion and Fig Agrodolce and Creamy Polenta) didn’t sound anything like Karen Harris, I realized that the only person that felt more confused than I was the poor MC who had read off the wrong name.  He couldn’t have apologized more and been nicer to me about the mistake he had made. 

Don’t worry Dan; I later discovered that somehow the super cute set of cutlery that I had brought for my presentation dish and subsequent blog posts had been removed from my tray never to be seen again.  Now that’s something that really bummed me out.

My daughter and I were then swept off the stage by one of the chairpersons for a lunch in the VIP dining area as a consolation prize which would have really been nice if we had been hungry.   It was also a shame that I was too shell-shocked to talk to Don Christopher with Christopher Ranch whose family started this festival and was sitting at the end of my table. 

I would have loved to have told him about how awesome I think his company’s garlic products are and how I have a gorgeous single niece just in case he has an extra son lying around that he wants to marry off.   Sorry Kheili!  Next time, I promise

Sunday morning with all of the excitement behind us, we packed up and headed back to LA and to family and friends who waited for us there.  At the encouragement of several fun, fabulous and slightly “fortified” contesting friends the night before, we decided to take the PCH 1 and enjoy the beauty of the coast, and boy were they ever right. 

Somewhere along the drive it occurred to me that whoever said “The journey is the destination" must have traveled this gorgeous road; so to heck with not winning a prize and to bigger heck with that $8.00 worth of cute cutlery that you my blog readers will never see here on this site.


Pacific Coast Highway 1

It is grand sites like Big Sur and the beautiful crashing sapphire waves of the Pacific that make me realize how small we all are and how insignificant that all is.  One thing I know for sure is that we win some, we lose some and we all make mistakes.  Now, on to the next contest!
My plated dish at the festival

Creamy Bacon Mushroom and Spinach Accordion Ravioli

For the Sauce:

8 slices smoked bacon
1 small onion, cut in half and then thinly sliced across
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 – 8 ounce Portobello mushroom, sliced into thirds then thinly sliced across
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup medium dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
2 – 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

For the Ravioli:

8 No boil lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces shredded Italian blend cheese, divided
1 egg, beaten
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1 pinch white pepper
16 large leaves of spinach, stems removed

For the Sauce:

Place the bacon in a large skillet set over medium high heat.  Cook bacon until it is crispy.  Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.  After it has cooled chop into small pieces and set aside.

In the same skillet with the bacon drippings, sauté the onions over medium heat until they are slightly transparent, approximately 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the butter and mushrooms and sauté for approximately 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the wine, rosemary, thyme and basil. Cook for 1 minute longer before adding the chopped bacon, cream, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

For the Ravioli:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

White sauce is simmering, but a large stock pot filled with water and 1 teaspoon of salt on to boil.  When the water boils, carefully drop in the noodles water to boil for 5 minutes.

While the noodles are boiling, place the ricotta, shredded cheese, egg, nutmeg and pepper in a medium size bowl, mix well.

Remove the noodles from the water and lay out flat in a single layer on a plastic cutting board or platter.  Working from one of the short ends of the pasta, lay a spinach leaf on the very end, folding it so that it doesn’t hang over the edge of the pasta.  Top the spinach with a tablespoon of the cheese mixture.  Fold the noodle over the top of the cheese; repeat with another layer of spinach and cheese.  Finally fold the end of the pasta over the top of the cheese until you have 2 layers of spinach and cheese and the pasta is folded into thirds.  Repeat with the remaining pasta and cheese.
Spray a 9 x 13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Ladle about 1/2 of a cup of sauce into the bottom of the dish.  Lay the ravioli side by side in the dish, ladle the remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. 

Place in the oven and bake uncovered for approximately 15 - 20 minutes or until the pasta is heated through and the top is brown and bubbly. 

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serves 4 for a main dish or 8 for an appetizer