Remember when I thought that the fall SRC post was my last one? Well, I had completely forgotten that I still had one more regular Secret Recipe Club post. Oops! Luckily I did remember in time and was able to look through my assigned blog - Making Miracles.
Rebekah is a mother of two who traveled extensively as a child, including living in Africa - wow! Most of her meals are "quick, easy, and family friendly", but sometimes she has time for something more complicated. She has also been a surrogate for many years resulting in 4 baby girls, 2 of whom are twins! What an amazing gift! I can't imagine how challenging and rewarding that must be.
On Rebekah's blog I saw lots of casseroles, and you KNOW I love casseroles. I was particularly interested in this Crockpot Turkey and Rice Casserole, this Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole, this Creamy Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole, this Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole with Doritos, and this Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole.
I let my husband look through all of my top choices (so generous of me *wink*). He picked out these classic Stuffed Shells, and I was happy to oblige! But then I ran into a problem - the store didn't have any jumbo pasta shells! I thought I remembered having a box at home, so I bought the rest of the stuff and went back to check. It turns out that what I had was actually large shells, not jumbo. I was out of time and had already bought the other ingredients, so I decided to improvise.
As per usual, I went to have lunch with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies. We had actually planned on going out to eat that day, but Melissa said she was planning on making these spanikopita at some point that day and I thought that sounded waaaaaaaaaay better than eating out. And then it turned out that she was looking at the exact same recipe I had been eyeing for awhile. Great! So we whipped them up pretty quickly, and while they were in the oven there was a knock at the door. Her Greek neighbor came by to drop off some homemade baklava - serendipity! Sometimes being spontaneous or changing your plans leads to some pretty great stuff.
Anyway, you will not believe how easy it is to make these. First step - filling. Whiz a whole bunch of fresh spinach around in a food processor until chopped but not pureed (we don't want soup here) - I suggest doing it in 3 batches. Then add some well beaten eggs, feta (you know my favorite brand), and cottage cheese. The cottage cheese threw me for a bit of a loop, I wasn't expecting that. Some recipes use ricotta, but what I ended up liking was the creaminess of the cottage cheese. I think ricotta dries out quite a bit when it is baked.
The next part can seem daunting, but I promise it's not really that fussy. When working with pyllo dough, you need to move quickly or it will dry out. The box will usually have tips, like keeping the bulk of it covered with a cloth while you work, but I find that I don't really need that. In order for it to bake into crispy layers, you need to get fat in between the sheets of phyllo. Most people brush butter over the sheets, which is time consuming and actually doesn't work as well as other methods because it saturates the dough too much and weighs it down. I recommend drizzling the butter, or if you are really in a rush - spraying with cooking spray. You will need to use the brush on the top of the strudel, though, to make sure it is covered.
Now I didn't get any pictures of the rolling up process, so please check out Smells Like Brownies for a more detailed tutorial. What I love about these is that they are large and self contained (versus baking in a big sheet like a casserole and cutting into triangles). So one strudel is a serving and you have a good visual reminder of that (not that that will prevent you from eating two, or three...).
These are really very easy to make, and they come out so perfectly. The phyllo is buttery and crispy, while the filling is silky and creamy. I'm pretty sure this will be my go-to recipe for homemade spanikopita.