Italian Shells and Cheese

When I was little, my mom made Italian shells and cheese quite often, and I loved them! But then, one night, my little sister got sick and threw up Italian shells and cheese on the carpet in the den. Gross. After that, I was scarred for life. Probably the wrong way to start a food on post (sorry!), but I recently decided to try to overcome this memory by making shells and cheese.

Back in the summer when we visited Amanda and went through some of West’s mom’s things, we found a copy of her recipe for Italian shells and cheese.

West says this is one of his favorite dishes his mom made, so I was so excited to try it out despite my bad memories (one thing that works in its favor is that it is meat-free!!)

Italian Shells and Cheese

8 oz jumbo pasta shells (we used ab 20?)
8 oz cream cheese
1 C cottage cheese
1 C mozzarella, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C Parmesan and Romano cheese
2 T parsley, chopped
2 t dried basil
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t thyme
14 oz stewed tomatoes
8 oz tomato paste
1/2 C white wine
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 clove garlic, minced

I started by boiling the water and throwing in my jumbo shells.

While the shells cooked, I mixed the next 9 ingredients together to create the filling. I was ready to eat it then – so much cheese!

Then we stuffed those jumbo shells until they were happy little babies, covered them with foil, and stuck them in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes.

While the shells were in the oven, I simmered the remaining ingredients on the stove for 25 minutes to make the sauce.

What was the outcome of this easy little meal?

The most delicious dish of Italian shells ever. I’m completely over my phobia.

We totally ate more of this than we should have. I think I ate 5 and West at 7 or 8 (news flash! this should feed 6 people, it [barely] fed us twice!).

I just told West I was finally writing this post, and he asked me to make it again right now, ha-ha.

This one is a keeper.

Best Vegan Dish Ever

A few weeks ago, my sweet little Laura G came to town for her fall break. She recently returned to her vegan ways, and I wanted to wow her with a really good vegan dish. Sadly, she had to return to D.C. and her school work sooner than planned, so I ended up just making the dish for West and me. This one’s for you LG!

As I’ve noted before, I don’t really like tofu, but I decided to give it another chance using this method called dry frying. Basically, you cook all the moisture OUT of the tofu first and then marinade to add flavor.

I started the process by pressing the water out of my tofu with towels.

And then I patiently waited while the water cooked out of my uncrowded tofu slices.

You know they are done when they turn golden! Once they were all dried up, I soaked them in a mixture of the following (recipe also found in the dry frying link…):

I let the tofu soak for one hour in the fridge while I made some brown fried rice (and, yes, I added an egg since we didn’t really have a vegan eating with us) and stir-fried some veggies.

I also whipped up a delicious batch of Momma Pea’s Mmmm Sauce to top our rice bowls with.

At the very last minute, I threw the tofu and marinade in a hot pan, where the juices thickened up, creating a glaze over the tofu.

This meal was SO YUM. Honestly, I’m always skeptical of vegan dishes (I have a hard time with believing something without dairy could be delicious ;)), but this was by far the best (-egg) vegan meal I have ever had. West really liked it too and has already requested it be put into our rotation.

Laura, I wish you had been with us to enjoy our first almost vegan meal as a married couple; we need to recreate it soon!

Veggie Enchiladas with Roasted Salsa Verde

After Shannon and Daniel were so nice to have us over, we decided to return the favor and have them over for dinner + game night. Daniel is a vegetarian, so I knew I wouldn’t be cooking any meat (thank the Lord). Still, I couldn’t decide what to make. West, however, begged me to make veggie enchiladas, which has recently become a favorite in our small household, and I caved.

This recipe is incredibly basic / easy, but chopping the veggies and sauteing them separately to ensure equal cooking could drive some insane.

Veggie Enchiladas with Roasted Salsa Verde

Servings: 14 Enchiladas (our group of four ate approximately 10)

Taco seasoning
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 baby mushrooms, sliced
2 yellow squash, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 cob of corn, kernels removed and blanched
1 potato, chopped and boiled until just soft
1 C shredded cheese
1 C World Table’s Roasted Salsa Verde
14 corn tortillas

The first thing to do is gather your ingredients.

Those not pictured were already in the pan! As you cook each batch, make sure to sprinkle it with taco seasoning and DO NOT overcook to mush. Keep ’em a little crisp.

The ideal way to cook the veggies would be on a flattop grill. Since we don’t have one of those, I cook them in batches, starting with the onions, garlic and mushrooms in a little oil. After that, I do the peppers, throwing the potatoes in toward the end so they get crispy. And finally, I throw in the squash with the corn. Every time I switch the veggies out, I put in a nearby bowl and mix.

I warm / brown my tortillas in a pan, misted with olive oil. The very first time I made these, I fried them. Way too much work! Also, the end product fell apart.

Fill each tortilla in a way that still allows you to fold the two sides into a neat roll.

Then, coat in World Table’s Roasted Salsa Verde. The last time I bought this, it was gone in two.days. It is seriously the best salsa ever. Go buy it now.

Sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil, and stick in the oven for 20 minutes on 350.

When you serve them, offer your guests the leftover salsa with a side of sour cream – the creaminess of the sour cream + the acidity of the salsa is pure heaven. I promise.

For dessert, Shannon brought cupcakes with lavender scented frosting (Is that right, Shannon?!). They were so delicious.

Daniel and Shannon also taught us how to play Munchkin!

There are many rules to remember your first time playing, but it was still fun.

Shannon beat us all.

She looks like she is scheming, doesn’t she? She was. She had like an obscene amount of levels. We were doomed.

I just realized that this is the recipe post I’ve done in FOREVER. Oh well. Maybe more to come soon? 🙂

Odes to the Pioneer Woman and Thomas Keller

No, I’m not about to write a lengthy song of praise to these two culinary geniuses, but I am about to show you two dishes that I created from their wonderful recipes. This post is probably weeks overdue. However, I recently started two jobs within like a week. Remember that time I was unemployed? Yep. Not anymore. I just need to figure how to go from working 0 hours per week to working over 50. yikes.

On to the yummy stuff. After the steak bites success, I went back to the lovely Pioneer Woman to get this recipe: Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork. As usual, I had to make some substitutions because I didn’t have half a pig on hand.

So, I used some defrosted chicken breasts I had purchased a few weeks back. We also were fresh out of Dr. Pepper. In fact, we don’t usually buy soda at all, but the last time West & I went home, my mom loaded us up with all HIS favorites, which included an eight pack of Coca-Colas.

(Side note: When we were at the store, my mom told us to go get stuff for him. I made him get the regular size bag of ruffles because I didn’t think it was appropriate for TWO people to get a family size bag. My mom figured out what I did and made me go back and get the family size bag for him. He was happy I was outvoted.)

Onward! I gathered the other necessary ingredients.

I love how the Pioneer Woman keeps it simple. I deviated from her stove-top cooking method to a crockpot because my apt gets way too hot if I turn that stove on for more than 15 minutes.

I salt and peppered the meat as instructed and then layered the onions, chicken, brown sugar, adobe chipotle peppers, and coke. I turned it on high to let it cook for about three hours…?

An older lady owned this crockpot before it found its way to me through my mother. And I suppose she could not read the small labels for Low and High, so she drew huge arrows & letters. I hope I do awesome stuff like this when I get older.

Towards the end of the cooking time, I got started on our side: corn on the cob with lime salt. I took a picture of the recipe, but then I realized that it is probably against copyright laws to post it. Instead, know that it came from this book (which was a very sweet graduation gift from my husband) and that it is awesome, so you should go buy it.

I premade my lime salt, which is basically lime rind + coarse salt.

By the time the lime salt was ready, my chicken was done. So I removed it, shredded it, and placed it back in the juices to stay moist till everything was ready.

I boiled my corn and made a herb butter with chives + the lime salt.

Then, it was time for plating. So delicious and colorful.

I used a corn tortilla and spinach as a bed for the chicken. We topped it with pepper jack (since that’s what we had), but we added sour cream because while it was SO GOOD, it was also SO HOT. 🙂

And I’m still dreaming about that corn. Speaking of dreams, I dreamt about Thomas Keller last night…kinda weird right? Buy the cookbook or eat at one of his restaurants. You’ll understand.

Till next time…

Manly Salad

Before I got married, I could eat salads every night if I wanted and be perfectly satisfied. However, for some reason, West isn’t exactly thrilled with salad making an appearance on our weekly menu more than once. Those leafy greens just don’t fill him up like they do me.

But I have discovered that if I add some more hearty toppings, he’ll let me keep it on the rotation.

Enter roasted carrots and potatoes alongside some peas and corn.

For more flava, add:

chives, pecans, and homemade garlic croutons.

The result is a huge mound of delicious veggies.

You’re seeing romaine, roasted potatoes & carrots, peas & corn, tomatoes, feta, chives, pecans, croutons dressed with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Mmmmm.

Steak & Potatoes

West recently started his new job in Greenville, and I knew I wanted to make him something special his first night home from the job (very housewife-y of me, right?).

Obviously, every man who enjoys eating flesh, enjoys a good steak and potatoes meal. However, you may not have picked up on this yet, but I don’t fix a lot of meat, which means I don’t buy a lot of meat. I eat animals two or three times a week because I feel better when my veggie + bean intake is higher than my meat intake and because its CHEAPER to buy a stalk of broccoli than a breast of chicken.

Anywho, we only had one type of meat in the house: frozen beef tips that were left over from a stew the week before. I decided these would have to do.

The Pioneer Woman saved me with this recipe. Basically, you cook your beef tips in a very hot pan with butter.

Of course, I burnt the butter, then turned the temperature down too low, and didn’t get a good batch until the very end. Oh well.

Also, please finish every steak with butter+fresh herbs. They make it infinitely better. I promise.

In addition to the steak, I did these beer soaked roasted potatoes (adapted from the edible perspective).

After about twenty minutes in the beer, I threw them on a pan with some olive oil, garlic & herb seasoning, and salt.

I rounded out the meal with a few stalks of broccoli because you still need your veggies even if you eat meat.

We were both quite pleased with this celebratory, first-day-on-the-job meal. And I was glad to get one of our “meat meals” out of the way 🙂

Homemade Granola

Whew. It’s been a busy week. I’ve been running around trying to find a second job, and then training for said second job so I can start teaching NEXT WEEK! No, don’t get too excited. I’m not teaching high school. Just taking on two classes at the local tech school, but I am actually pretty pumped and hoping that I love it. All that to say, this post has been ready for days; however, I’ve had no time to post it.

I love homemade granola, and if you buy your ingredients in bulk, I’m pretty sure it is more cost efficient to make it at home. So, last week, when West requested granola for breakfast, I pulled out my favorite recipe from Ellie Krieger.

I follow the recipe for the most part and use:

3 C old-fashioned oats
1/4 C sliced almonds
1/2 C chopped unsalted pecans
1/2 C “natural” maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 C craisins (West doesn’t like these, but I really recommend adding them.)

Gather your ingredients, spray your pan with some cooking spray, and preheat the oven to 300. While your oven gets hot, throw your measured oats into a bowl.

Chop your nuts that you chose not to buy pre-chopped because they were significantly more expensive.

Then, throw your nuts, cinnamon, salt, and dried cranberries in with the oats. I usually give it a stir to try to make sure things are evenly distributed.

Pour in that thick, sugary syrup.

Stir until well combined.

Spread evenly on your pan, place in the oven, and set a timer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove pan, stir, place back in the oven, set timer for another 10 minutes, and repeat process once more for a total cooking time of 30 minutes.

Stirring the granola throughout the process is super important. If you omit or forget this step, it will burn (been there, done that, ate burnt granola for a week because I’m THAT cheap).

Anyway, supppper easy recipe for granola beginners. I’d love to hear what you guys add if you make granola at home. Any suggestions?

P.S. This is not super clumpy granola. Thus, it’s more meant for cereal purposes than snacking.