Stuffed Pasta Shells

I know I know – I’m supposed to be on a hiatus. But I got into a crazy cooking frenzy on Sunday and cooked meals for a week! I tried a new dish for me (got the idea from my friend and neighbour Zannat) called stuffed pasta shells. Very simple dish and total comfort food.

pasta shells

Ingredients

1 lb Ground turkey (can use beef or chicken or tofu)

1 can lentils (because I always add lentils to any ground meat I make)

1 onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic chopped

8-10 mushrooms sliced or chopped

1 cup of Ricotta cheese

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 cups of tomato sauce (I used a marinara)

Grated parmesan cheese to top with

Directions

Sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic first. Then add ground meat and cook till browned. Add in oregano and ½ cup of tomato sauce and the can of lentils.  Sauté all until cooked and then add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly.

In a large pot, boil the water for the shells and drop in pasta. Stir occasionally until el dente. Drain pasta when ready.

Using your hands and a fork (I found this the easiest way), stuff each pasta shell with the meat mixture and put in a baking dish. Cover with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top and bake at 350 degrees F for ½ hour (check to be sure it doesn’t burn – or if it needs more time leave it in for a bit longer – technically everything is already cooked so it is just to crispen the edges of the pasta and heat everything through).

Thats it! pretty simple.  I tend to double the meat portion of the recipe and keep it aside before putting the ricotta in. It is perfect for stuffed squash and or several other dishes or just eating as is with a nice salad.

Shepherds Pie

As I was recovering from being quite ill for a few weeks I started craving shepherds pie – don’t ask me why but it was all I wanted to eat.  Strange but true. Even now as I am pretty much back to normal, I still feel a craving to eat it. Must be a comfort food thing.  Anyway I decided to make a few containers of it so that I could freeze it for when I just had to have it again.

I do put a slight twist on the traditional pie. The secret which makes it very healthy is adding a can of lentils to the ground meat. It adds to the volume and fibre but also the taste. I also added a spice paste called harissa, a middle eastern spice combination that gives a slightly spicy (heat) note to your food. Another addition was about a tablespoon of hoisin for a slight sweet note. Then there is the topping…I added shredded parmesan to the top of the potato before putting in the over to bake.

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Shepherds pie

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 tbsp Harissa paste

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low fat yogurt

1 can cooked lentils

Potato – white not yukon – 1 per person

Shredded parmasean cheese

 

Directions

Sauté onion in a large pan till browned (tip – I add a pinch of brown sugar to help it caramelize). Add garlic and sauté till cooked but not burnt.

Add ground beef (or turkey), mix and cook till lightly browned. Add frozen mix veg and cooked lentils, harissa and hoisin. Mix well. Cook on stovetop till well browned and veg is no longer frozen.

Peel potatoes and chop into even pieces. Boil or microwave until soft. Transfer to a large bowl or mixer, add yogurt and mix with a mix master or hand held mixer till light and fluffy and mashed.

Add a punch of salt to taste if you like (I don’t add salt as the cheese on top adds enough salt for my liking).

Put meat mixture into a pan, or glass container (I divided it into four double serving glass containers so I could freeze it). Spread the mash potato on top of each container and sprinkle parmasean over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes till slightly browned. Serve warm or let cool, cover and freeze.

Lobster Dinner

Okay I was at my favourite restaurant the other night – I will let you guess where…Yup Ted and Judy’s! Have I mentioned (7 or 8 times I’m sure) in previous blogs, that the meals I eat there are totally outstanding? Well they are!

Last Friday I had dinner there to do a “family” hang-out as their little dog Duffy passed away after 18 years of being the best family pet. We toasted the “Duffster” with some lovely wine and Ted and Judy made a spectacular meal of a Cantonese style lobster served over rapini and mashed potatoes.

To start, Ted sprinkled a little cornstarch over the lobster which he had broken into pieces. He then sautéed the pieces in a frying pan till they turned red. He then took the pieces out of the pan and added 1 lb of ground turkey (you can use pork too). The ground turkey was stir fried till browned with some chopped garlic, then he added a cup of vegetable stock.  Once cooked Ted added back the lobster and mixed in a finishing sauce of the following:

1 tbsp of corn starch

2 tbsp of soy sauce

1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

1 tbsp of brown sugar

Mix these ingredients and pour over the lobster/turkey mixture.  Mix and heat in pan. Finish with chopped green onions sprinkled over top.

Judy then made her famous mashed potatoes with only 1 tbsp of butter and some vegetable stock. Soft fluffy and delicious!

The rapini was sautéed with 2 tbsp chopped garlic and 1 tbsp of chopped ginger and some vegetable stock. Judy did the plating of potato, rapini and then the lobster over top.

Outstanding!!!!!

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Meatloaf – who would have thought it….

I have never made a meatloaf. I know it’s hard to believe but there it is. I am not even sure why I haven’t made meatloaf before.  It is really pure comfort food and after spending a weekend visiting my friend Victoria in the country and making it there I am doubly amazed that I have never made it.

Meatloaf has to be the fastest, easiest, low cost meal going. Here is how Victoria made it and I have to say it was delicious both for dinner and for sandwiches the next day served cold.  What a staple meal to have in the fridge! Have I mentioned heathly too?

Turkey Meatloaf

1lb. ground turkey

1 chopped onion

A few chopped sundried tomatoes (only because she had them on hand – experiment with whatever is in your fridge)

1 egg beaten

½ cup relish of your choosing including salsa, bbq sauce, apricot jam (we used a sweet and spicy relish from Harry and Davids)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and put mixture into a loaf pan.

Cook at 350 for 1 hour

That’s it!  How simple and it tasted great but the real treat was having it cold the next day in a sandwich (olive chibata buns).

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Another Taco Night with my Neighbours

Spur of the moment decision….. Lets do a taco night tonight!  That was the conversation my neighbour/friend Zannat and I had while picking up some groceries.

I always love the look of the table when we do this because it is full of colour.

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This time Zannat made a yummy main for the taco using ground turkey with vegetables and hoisin.  The flavour was great (so much so that I made a batch of it the next night to have for lunches and dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking).

We had tomatoes, cucumbers, sautéed mushrooms, grated old cheddar and pineapple pieces.  We moved between the hard taco shells, soft tortilla shells and lettuce wraps.  Simple meal, not hard to prepare and fun for all of us. I will admit though that it is not the tidiest meal we have ever had but that was part of the fun :-).

FYI – the ground turkey was browned in a pan with chopped and frozen vegetables, onion, a bit of garlic and just under a ¼ cup of hoisin sauce to 1 lb. of ground turkey. Add a can of lentils, stir and then add the hoisin in small amounts until it is fully mixed and you get the flavour you want.

Lunch the next day with leftovers was ground turkey and lentils with hoisin wraps 😉

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Enjoy!