Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jumbo Stuffed Shells with Spinach

The Mission:
Use up some leftover ricotta cheese from lasagna the other day, and use the box of jumbo shells that has been sitting in the cabinet for the past two months or so. I didn't really use a recipe for this, instead I kinda just tossed the ingredients together. I thought it turned out okay, but next time I'll use less spinach.

The Ingredients:
  • 1 box of jumbo shells
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups mozzarella - shredded
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 6 oz chopped spinach (I used frozen since I had it on hand)
  • 4 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 big jar of the sauce of your choice

The Instructions:

Prepare the jumbo shells as directed on the package. Drain them and set them aside to cool off a bit (they're easier to stuff when they don't burn you). Brown the ground beef in a medium saucepan with the garlic and the Italian seasoning. You can also add other spices to taste. I think I threw in a tsp or two of crushed red pepper to pep it up a little. Thaw and drain the frozen spinach. Add half of it to the ground beef mixture. Pour 1/2 cup of the sauce into the ground beef mixture and stir. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs then stir in the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 2 Tbsp of the parmesan, and the remaining spinach. Set aside. Now you're ready to stuff the shells. Spoon a bit of the meat mixture and a bit of the cheese mixture into each shell - I think I put about 1 Tbsp of each into each shell. Set the stuffed shells into a 9x13" baking dish. When all the shells are stuffed and placed in the dish, pour the remaining pasta sauce over them, top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Cover and bake in a 350*F oven for 40 minutes, uncover and bake 15-20 minutes more - until cheese is melty.

The Result:

My husband HATED the spinach. He said that it really took away the flavor of the cheese. So, if I ever make this again, I will only use half of the spinach and add it only to the meat mixture, leaving the cheese mixture green-free. I thought that I'd made these for him before, but apparently not. Oh well - he at it anyway and it kinda grew on him. This recipe can be made without any of the spinach of course, in case you have a picky eater. Other than that issue, everything else was fine.

The Reviews:

I thought it tasted pretty good, and we had one friend who shared leftovers with us who liked it as well. I wish it had gone over better with my husband, but it's no big deal. I can leave out the majority of the spinach and still sneak a little bit into the meat mixture. I will dice it very small so maybe he won't even notice it :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Roasted Potatoes

The Mission:
Make something different for a side dish using the white potatoes I found on sale at the grocery store. Since I was already roasting some top round steak, I figured that I'd use the oven to roast some potatoes, too. So I got out my trusty "red-checkered" Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and started flipping through until I found what I needed. No home should EVER be without that cookbook - it doesn't matter what year or what version... it's a necessity!

The Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. medium red or white potatoes
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

The Instructions:

After you scrub the potatoes all nice and clean, dice them into bite sized pieces and layer them in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the pototoes with all of the seasonings and then drizzle on the olive oil. Using a spoon, stir the potatoes around until they are covered evenly with the spice mixture and oil. (Be careful not to launch a piece of potato out of the pan and onto the floor.) Place the pan in a preheated 325*F oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. Potatoes are done when they are slightly crispy on the edges and soft in the middles. (To speed cooking time you can roast the potatoes in a 450*F oven for 25 minutes.) Serve with your favorite meat & veggies.

The Reviews:
A+ !!! yay! This was well received by all of the guests. I knew we were having ONE extra person for dinner.... so when THREE extra people showed up, I had to tell my husband to inform the extras that we just didn't have enough for dinner. They seemed cool with it - but I did have extra potatoes, so the 2 freeloaders ended up with a small plate of my new side dish. Everything was gobbled up and I received nice compliments. I love compliments!

Mom's Chocolate Sauce

The Mission:
Make fabulous chocolate sauce to serve over vanilla ice cream in order to indulge in a wonderful comfort food. That and my husband made me. hahaha. He calls this stuff "Chocolate Gravy" because it's so thick and good. This recipe has been in my family for generations and I really have no idea where they found the original. It was passed down from my Grammy to my Mom to me. I'll be sure to pass it down to any children I might have.

The Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

The Instructions:
Whisk the first five ingredients until no longer lumpy, then stir constantly at a boil for five minutes. Turn off burner and add the butter and the vanilla. Stir until the butter is completely melted. This sauce can be served hot, warm, or cold. Though it is a pain to stand at the stove doing nothing but stirring sauce for a full five minutes, I promise you it is well worth it. I also don't recommend trying any short cuts. The sauce doesn't turn out as well if you try to cut corners on cooking time.

The Reviews:
I've never, ever had a bad review of this sauce. I also very rarely have left-overs. I've given this recipe out to quite a few of my friends, since it's just so darned good. I hope that you enjoy it if you try it! I like to serve it over plain old vanilla ice cream, but feel free to use your imagination, it's good over many, many things!

White Bean Chicken Chili

The Mission:
Make the recipe that my friend Heather gave to me after I begged her for it. She served me this Chili at her place on Superbowl weekend and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Her recipe actually said "Superbowl Chili" on the top. (Bonus - I'm a huge Steeler's Fan, and they won the Superbowl this year!) I tried this out on a Friday so my husband wouldn't have to deal with eating leftovers at work the next day - just in case he didn't like it.

The Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken, cubed
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cans (10.5 oz each) chicken broth, divided
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (small) diced green chilis
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 packet of white gravy (country gravy)
The Instructions:
In a large sauce pan, sautee the chicken and onions in oil until chicken is done and onions are transparent. Add 1 can of the chicken broth, both cans of northern beans, the can of chilis, and the cumin. Stir well. Mix the packet of gravy with the reserved can of chicken broth until blended. Pour the gravy mixture into the sauce pan and stir untl thickened. Cover and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

The Result:
I thought it turned out fantastic. I served it with shredded sharp white cheddar cheese and tortilla chips. I found out later that eating it with the tortilla scoops is fabulous - this chili is thick enough to use as a dip!

The Reviews:
My very good friend Jess came to visit me the night I made this and she was impressed - I'm glad I finally remembered to email the recipe to her. My Husband and our Friend Mark enjoyed the chili and it has since been requested a few times. A couple of our other friends (we have quite a few people who regularly join us for dinner) have been pleased as well. I'm glad to have yet another hearty meal to add to my repetoire!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yummy Marinade

The Mission: Make my delicious marinade to pour over boneless tenderloin chops for dinner. I'm not sure where I first came across this recipe. It appears to be something printed out and cut into a 4x6 recipe card, and it's covered in splattered spots... most likely soy sauce. Anyway - it's very good. Even my picky eater of a husband likes it, and he knows what's in it!

The Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsely
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Whatever meat you want - pork, chicken, etc.

The Instructions:

Combine all of the ingredients together and mix well, recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of marinade. Place in a shallow container or a heavy duty zip-lock plastic bag. Add whatever meat you desire, turning to coat. Cover or seal and chill at least 4 hours,turning meat occasionally. Grill, bake, broil, or sautee meat as desired until meat reaches proper temperature. Serve with your favorite sides.

The Result:

Delicious as always. I've tested it out on many people using both chicken and pork. Chicken is a big favorite. I've never tried it with beef... maybe I'll do that some day. I typically marinade overnight because I find it easier to make it the night before.

The Reviews:

I've named this "Yummy Marinade" because that is what my sister called it in the past. I've never gotten a bad review on this one - even though my picky husband loathes many of the ingredients. If you have a picky eater - just don't tell them what's in it. You can rub it in later ;)