Spring: Day 44 (A Cold Month)

A couple of days over 55 Degrees (F) does not define a month.

Especially April in New England. Especially when its the coldest April on record for the region. Average temperature for the month: 48 Degrees (F)

There was snow in my backyard well into April.

So I am just saying – just because New Englanders think its time to break out the grill as soon as it hits 50 – there is still time for warm, comfort food.

Like the Italian stuffed shells I made the other day. (Freezing rain beating the windows while I cooked… Brrrrr)

There is nothing comparable to the comfort of cheese and pasta swimming in red sauce!

There is nothing comparable to the comfort of cheese and pasta swimming in red sauce!

A few little embellishments but really nothing too crazy. Pretty Traditional.

I did break up and saute a couple of Sweet Italian Sausages in a pan, added some frozen peas and a pinch of red pepper flakes before mixing it into (cool it first) the standard “ricotta-egg-parsley-parm cheese” mix. Boil your jumbo shells just to ‘al dente’ and once they have cooled a bit, stuff them with your mixture. Place them in a bath of red sauce (good quality jarred sauce is A-ok here) and bake covered at 375 degrees for about 30 mins. I like to pull mine out and remove the foil top, drizzle with a little EVOO and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan or Asigo and bake about 10 mins longer uncovered to get those crispy edges and the rich gooey cheese goodness.

Makes great leftovers and freezes beautifully.

 

(Leave out the sausage if you must – yes Holly I am talking to you 🙂 )

 

 

 

 

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His and Hers

Some couples get “his and hers” bathrobes, some couples get “his and hers” bicycles and some even get “his and hers” pets! In my house we get “his and hers” dinners!

Okay not really…

I really just made a little one for the freezer since I have trouble cooking for less than 20 people. I often wrap and freeze for future dinners when I am cooking. It saves lots of time later on those nights when you just don’t feel like doing anything more than turning on the oven. And of course this is an easy dinner for “Mr. Cabinet Stew” to make on his own.

Conchiglie (shell shaped pasta)

An oldie but a goodie; this came as a rainy Sunday dinner request from my husband recently. As far as I could read, stuffed shells are a post World War II invention and are one of the few (if only) pastas that are machine made – no hand-made option. The filling is commonly creamy cheeses (ricotta, etc) and greens (spinach, etc) and it is usually baked in a simple fresh-style marinara sauce.

My filling was very simple and consisted of only 5 ingredients. I used a 12 oz package of shells and made the two dishes above plus another dish with 10 shells. I also had some “broken shells” that didn’t make it through par-boil and cooling for the cook to enjoy just hot, plain, buttered and delicious.

The filling

32 ounces of part-skim Ricotta

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (use Parmesan if you want)

1 large/jumbo egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp black pepper, fine grind

1/2 cup (+/-) fresh torn or chiffonade basil leaves

Mix all together and stuff into freshly boiled shells when shells are cool enough to handle. (Follow package directions for boiling) Each shell will take 2 generous tablespoons (+/-) of filling. Don’t skimp. Place in baking dish filled a 1/4 of the way with fresh, simple marinara sauce. Add optional sausage. Add sauce until it comes just below the level of the shells. Bake 375 degrees 30 minutes, uncovered. At 20 minutes add some shredded mozzarella on top if you want a cheesey, gooey dish. Add additional grated cheese if you want to keep it simple. Add none if you want to keep the calories lower.

Note: I didn’t use any salt because the Romano is pretty salty on its own, but a tsp of salt would not be bad if you wanted a more “seasoned” filling.

Six Steps to Dinner

Step 1: Frozen low-fat, whole wheat ravioli ( We’re trying the “healthy” thing.)

Step 2: Fresh asparagus –  they were on sale and we love them.

Step 3: Fresh lemon juice – still using the shipment from the relatives.

Step 4: Leftover rotisserie chicken – great for sandwiches and cabinet stew.

Step 4: Parmesan cheese – ’cause I can’t eat anything without cheese.

Step 5: Frozen pesto (Hard to remember the garden under all that snow.)

Step 6: Eat and enjoy (I do need to work on my “plating” skills.)

Full Disclosure:

Olive oil, salt and pepper were used in the making of this dinner.

Next Stop: Polishtown

After this week’s craving for Germantown inspired food, naturally I had to go to Polishtown next. I always have Pierogi frozen in the freezer. I pick them up at the fall festival of the local polish church. The basement of the church fills with the smell of delicious foods and the ladies sell their homemade crafts. Sometimes I see the retired lady who used to work at the corner store, Charlotte.

and of course I had random partial ingredients in the fridge to use up.

The small amount of unused ground beef and mushrooms just called out to be made into meatballs with mushroom gravy.  I decided to make really tiny little balls that could roll around the Pierogi.

I mixed up basic meatballs with ground beef, breadcrumbs moistened with milk, S/P, crushed fresh garlic, a dash of mustard powder and my secret weapon: Penzey’s English Prime Rib Rub. These meatballs had a bit of a plain, Swedish meatball feeling about them.

I started by frying them up in some browned butter. After their head start I added the sliced mushrooms and some shallots. Ask my husband and he will tell you that I have a shallot addiction.

To make the creamy sauce I considered a few options….

Flour/fat roux and whisk in some milk? Too much work.

Sour cream or creme fraiche to give a nice tang? Who has that on-hand!

The final decision: old reliable…canned cream of mushroom soup! Works every time, doesn’t disappoint and everybody loves it.

After gently mixing the soup plus 1/2 can of water in, I added in the boiled and drained Pierogi and of course everybody’s favorite green veggie: frozen peas!

Serve with some lingonberry – I mean cranberry sauce and…

you have arrived at Polishtown!    (with a short stop in Sweden?)