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.

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Pasta Dinner (with Presidents Choice Pasta)

I don’t normally eat much pasta but Presidents Choice (brand name in Loblaws grocery stores in Ontario) black label pasta has put out a commercial using their mushroom stuffed pasta that is mouthwatering.  I happened to be in Loblaws and saw some of this black label pasta and as I was reaching for a package of it to read the label a woman stepped up and loaded every one of the mushroom stuffed pasta into her cart!.  She left the pumpkin stuffed pasta and a cheese version on the shelf along with the style I bought which was stuffed with asparagus.

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I felt rather creative that night so here is what I did with the pasta…

Using a roasted garlic flavoured olive oil (which I mixed with a bit of lemon flavoured olive oil), I sautéed some finely slivered peppers with some pine nuts till golden brown. I then added a tablespoon of butter to make some brown butter. While the peppers and nuts were sautéing I boiled the water and cooked the pasta (only needs about 4 minutes). Once the nuts and peppers were done and the butter melted I tossed the pasta into the pan and mixed it all together.

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I then divided the pasta into two dishes (one for me and one for my friend Richard – because you can’t just eat this good a meal by yourself ;-). I had crisped some prosciutto in the microwave which I then crumbled over top of the pasta and peppers and then grated some fresh parmesan cheese over top.

Felt like we also needed some greens with dinner so using a Kale Salad mix I buy at Costco which is made up of kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and radicchio I added some crumbled feta cheese, chopped mango and tomatoes.

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All I can say is… Whoa! that was a yummy meal. All ready in less than half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Noodle Soup as Easy Comfort food

It rained all day and was cold and miserable out yesterday (Tuesday April 29th).  I know it is spring and rain is what mother nature brings during this time of year but it really was quite a dreary day.  It was however the kind of day where you just want to hunker down with something comforting.  Soup answered the bill.  It was all I could think about as I sat in rush hour traffic on the way home from a meeting. I planned it all in my head so when I got home I just put all the ingredients into a pot and let it come to a boil.  As I write this I am sipping hot tasty chicken noodle soup (Cindy Style).  Here is what I did.  Yesterday I bought a roast chicken as I was just not in the mood to cook. I cut up the chicken and made stock with the carcass which was sitting in my fridge.  I put some stock in the pot, cut up some of the chicken (which tends to dry out a bit anyway the next day) and then came the “Cindy” ingredients…I put a bunch of frozen chopped kale and a package of thick udon noodles into the broth, a bit of lemon pepper and let it come to a boil.  Into a bowl and suddenly I had comfort food sitting right in front of me.  Delicious!

 

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Birthday Dinner and Dim Sum Lunch

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday and had a couple of outstanding meals which I thought I would share with you. The first was on my birthday at dinner with my friends Ted and Judy (you remember them, the fabulous chefs….)

Ted bought 4 live lobsters and between them made the most fabulous lobster pasta I have ever had. I promise I am not just saying that because they will read this blog. It truly was a meal fit for  a queen (that would be me that night I think as that’s what I was made to feel like).

Here are some pix of the meal and the process involved.  Keep reading though as the second birthday meal was equally wonderful and quite a surprise!

Lobster Pasta

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lobster pasta 1

Here is a list of ingredients and a basic idea of how it was made:

Spelt pasta

4 lobster boiled then sautéed in a bit of butter and garlic – I know I know butter…but it was my birthday 😉

Snap peas, blanched baby spinach and roasted grape tomatoes with garlic and olive oil

Put all together and finish with a bit of chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper

AWESOME!!!!

Next on the list of birthday celebrations…

I had planned a lunch with my oldest friend Fern (friends since we were 8 years old). We were going to try a new Dim Sum place around the neighbourhood where we grew up. We arrived and I thought I heard her say table for 6 but didn’t think anything of it until I saw Deena who was also one of my BFF’s growing up (again since we were 8 years old). I look around and realize there are other settings at the table and lo and behold in comes Marla, Nadine and Penny – 3 more of my childhood BFF girlfriends!

Well that was a lunch to remember – we recounted our childhoods in detail reminding each other of how bad we all were and the fun we had.  We sat and stuffed ourselves with amazing Dim Sum for over 3 hours!!!! Kudos to Fern for organizing and I have to say it was so much fun seeing everyone and finding out what each one is doing.  What a wonderful afternoon. Now, while the excuse was to surprise me for my birthday – we all pretty much had birthdays within 6 months of the event so it was decided it was an all around birthday celebration! Fern even supplied the “minutes of the meeting”  Too funny!!!!  See below:

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Now that’s a Birthday Celebration!!!  Thank you everyone!

Chicken and Pasta Prima Vera

This recipe started out as pasta prima vera but I thought “why not add some protein to it”? Turned out to be quite yummy and when a group of friends wound up back at my house all hungry I happened to have a big bowl left over from a food order I had just filled so was able to get everyone fed and happy in a very short period of time.

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Ingredients – serves 6-8:

Olive oil – enough to sauté vegetables

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small bite size pieces

4 cloves minced garlic

1 red and 1 yellow  pepper cut into thin strips

2 large handfuls of chopped raw kale

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half

1.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup fat free evaporated milk

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour, dissolved in 6 tablespoons water

Pepper to taste

1 large carrot peeled and sliced into strips with a peeler

Fettucini or linguini – enough for 6-8 people

3/4 – 1 cup grated Parmesan

A large handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste if you want to (I don’t usually cook with salt)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and kale and cook until softened about another 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and stir into other vegetables. Stir in flour/water combination and mix throughly with vegetables. Add stock, evaporated milk and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. If liquid does not thicken enough add another tsp of flour and water mixture and stir through.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta until it is al dente. Drain pasta and combine and toss  with vegetables and sauce. Serve garnished with Parmesan, parsley and basil.

Note: sauce thickens even more by the next day.

Shrimp and Kale on Pasta (Gluten Free)

Many of you that read this blog know that I like to use up whatever is in the fridge when I can. I had recently bought a big batch of kale as it looked so fresh. It had been a while since I had shrimp and pasta so I thought I would mix it up with the kale – how could it be bad? I also had some mediterranean black olives which I thought would give a nice saltiness to the dish.

Below is the recipe – it lasted me for three meals which in my book is a good use of leftovers. By the way – it tasted good too!

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Ingredients:

1 package of GOGO Quinoa pasta (I like this type of gluten free pasta) – penne style noodle

10 shrimp (frozen tail on)

1 bunch of kale with the stem and core trimmed off and the leaves chopped

10-15 black olives broken in half to take out the pit (easier to buy pitted)

2 tsp chopped garlic

Olive oil to sauté kale and shrimp

Directions:

Add contents of the pasta to a pot of boiling water.  Boil until softened (takes a bit longer than regular pasta).  When it is finished the water is quite starchy so I tend to rinse the pasta under water for a minute.

Add oil to a pan and put chopped kale till you have filled the pan.  Start to sauté the kale in a covered pan so the steam will help to soften it.  I also added about 1/2 cup of water in small amounts to aid in the steaming and sautéing process.  When the kale is wilted slightly add the chopped garlic and the black olives and mix – continue to steam/sauté until the kale is fairly soft.

When the kale is almost ready – throw in the raw shrimp, mix with the kale and garlic and cook until the shrimp curls and turns pink on both sides.

Add in the pasta and mix everything together.  Heat through and serve with crusty bread and grated parmesan cheese.

Asparagus Risotto at Suzanne’s

The other night I was looking through the fridge and realized there was nothing to make for dinner. Coming to the realization that I may be eating a peanut butter sandwich that night, I was contemplating what to do when the phone rang. It was my friend Suzanne asking me if I want to come to an impromptu dinner at her place.  She too said she didn’t have anything to make which leads to her fall back meal of risotto.

I haven’t made risotto in ages but Suzannes is out of this world.  She went out and got some scallops and seared them to serve with the asparagus risotto.  It was a meal fit for a queen, so good with freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a fabulous baby spinach salad made by another friend Ginny.

There are many variations on risotto but the main thing is to use a starchy rice like arborio and slowly add liquid until absorbed – including a cup of white wine 😉

You can add all kinds of ingredients – salmon, vegetables, mushrooms etc.  Good way to use up ingredients in the fridge…..

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I always forget about making risotto but after this meal trust me when I say it is now at the forefront of my mind.  Thank you my friend for a fabulous evening!

Lemon-Dill Orzo Salad with cucumbers, Olivers and Feta

Great salad for stretching out summer just a wee bit longer.  This is from a blog I follow called FOOD 52.  They have some great recipes from a bunch of different bloggers.  Check out the site. It’s very creative. This recipe and photo is by Sarah Fioritto

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Minestrone Soup

This is another recipe I got after twisting my aunts arm (Kidding – but she didn’t always give up recipes easily until she thought you really wanted them). I had this for lunch one day at her house and thought it was a perfect lunch or light dinner on a cold day (since it hasn’t yet completely warmed up here in Ontario I am posting this now). (Image courtesy of photobucket)

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Ingredients (slightly altered for my tastes)

2  onions sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery and leaves

1 carrot, sliced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 handfuls of kale chopped (her recipe called for escarole but I use kale instead (healthier)

1 cup shredded cabbage

6  cups broth – I use chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups cooked beans-or use canned white beans

1 can (10 ounces) tomatoes

1/2 cup canned chick peas

1/2 tsp. dried basil

Pinch of salt (optional – I have cut most salt from my cooking)

1/2  cup macaroni

Pinch of cayenne

 

Directions

Brown onion in large pot.  Add remaining raw vegetables; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add broth, beans tomatoes, chick peas, herbs, add 2 tsps. salt.  Bring to boil; cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Add macaroni, and cook ten minutes or until tender.  Add salt and cayenne to taste.  I like to serve the soup with grated parmesan on top (but then I like to put parmesan on pretty much anything!)

Easy Chicken Stir Fry

Once again this is a dish created because of a craving.  I was out grocery shopping and came across these fat udon noodles (shanghai style – my favourite).  I was making some chicken that night and thought “stirfry”. I picked up some nice snow peas and had some peppers and mushrooms in the fridge.  Here is this very easy recipe for a quick and delicious meal.

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Ingredients – serves 3-4

• 2 chicken breasts cut into small cubes

• 1 small package of udon noodles

• 2 handfuls of snow peas

• 1 pepper thinly sliced

• 1 cup of sliced mushrooms

• 1 tbsp corn starch mixed with less than 1/4 cup of warm water

• 2 tbsp Hoisin sauce

• 1 tbsp light tamari sauce (or use low sodium soy sauce)

• 3 cloves diced garlic

Directions

Marinate chicken in 1 tbsp of the hoisin sauce for half an hour or less. Saute the chicken until almost fully cooked. Add mushrooms and peppers and continue cooking till mushrooms are almost done. Add snow peas and noodles and the last tbsp of hoisin sauce along with the tamari or soy sauce and sauté until everything is coated and cooked (you may need to add a bit more of the sauces depending on how much of the flavour you want).  Add the corn starch liquid and stir through. Cover the pan and let steam for a few minutes.

When you serve it, a nice touch is adding some toasted sesame seeds or toasted almonds