Friday, November 27, 2020

Shell not for sale down by the seashore

This summer looked very little like past summers. This summer I had my best girl home while I worked from home a few days a week. Something she's been wanting to do has been to learn how to cook, she's done LOTS of cooking. She enjoys prepping dinners (wonder where she got that from?). We decided to try out Stuffed Shells. This recipe is HUGE. It makes 2 - 9 x 13 pans - so we did a half a recipe. I cooked the shell noodles, but she did the rest. We used a cookie scoop to fill the shells because that seemed like an easy way to do it for smaller hands. At one point I heard a crash and crying, so I went running into the kitchen. My girlie was on the floor, chair on the floor, her hand full of red something and splatters of red everywhere. I thought the absolute worst. Thankfully, what actually happened wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. The red, was the marinara, the chair she was on was tipping, she tried to get her balance and stuck her hand in the pan of sauce, then it splattered all over. She ended up with a nasty bruise on her foot, but thankfully that was it.
The stuffed shells were delicious, but we agreed it was a lot of soft squishy filling. We might add some spinach to the filling and maybe even some meat to the sauce. We have another half a box of shells so we'll have to try that again.

Classic Stuffed Shells
12 oz pasta shells 1 box, about 40 shells
4 cups low fat cottage cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese divided
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
48 oz marinara sauce 2 jars of Rao's recommended
15 oz alfredo sauce 1 jar
chopped fresh parsley optional, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain. Pour both jars of marinara sauce into the bottom of two 9x13 baking dishes, one jar per pan.
In a large bowl, stir cottage cheese together with 1 cup mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Fill a disposable piping bag (or large freezer bag) with filling. Snip the end of the bag to create a 1-inch hole and fill each shell. (Spooning it into the shells also works, it just takes a little more time.) Place the filled shells into the prepared pans, 20 shells per pan.
Spoon prepared alfredo sauce overtop the filled shells. Sprinkle the tops with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella (1/2 cup cheese per pan), cover with foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for the remaining 15 minutes to brown the tops.
Alternately, you can keep the pans covered for the full 45 minute bake time and broil the tops at the end of the cooking time.
Remove from oven and set 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

When you plant a seed and it actually grows....

This year's garden included cucumbers, as it normally does. This year, for the first time, they grew. Oh, wow did they grow... all over the fence, over to our neighbor's tree, over the tomatoes, everywhere. We went for a walk and happened to look back and noticed oodles of cucumbers on the fence. On our way back we collected an armful and wondered what to do with them. Andy said, "I like cucumber salad." Well, that's nice, I don't know how to make that. "Vinegar or Creamy based?" "I like both." Great... problem is, he often says of anything that's creamy, "that was too creamy" so I hesitated. We looked through some recipes and he kept saying "nope" until I came across a recipe for Creamy Greek Cucumber Salad. It includes Greek Yogurt and also vinegar so it does seem like the best of worlds. I cut up a bunch of cucumbers, marinated the onions, and someone enjoyed a bowlful as soon as it was done. I have a feeling that we now have a way to eat lots of cucumbers, which is good because I see a bunch more growing on the fence.

Greek Cucumber Salad
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2–3 English cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, olive oil, vinegar, and oregano. Let the onions marinate at room temperature while preparing the rest of the salad.
Place the sliced cucumbers into a large salad bowl.
Combine the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill, salt, black pepper, and then add to the cucumbers, along with the marinated onions. Toss everything together really well. Taste for salt and pepper.
Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 20, 2020

All the cumin and all the Ranch

By now you likely know my escapades with enchiladas, it's not good. Let's be honest - it's the sauce! It's just not my thing. My coworker promised I'd like the enchiladas that his wife makes, he even sent me the recipe. Now, these aren't enchiladas... by definition, I think enchiladas need actual enchilada sauce on them, which is my major dislike in this whole idea. I'm going rogue and calling this a tortilla bake instead.
Since I have a girl home these days (heading back to daycare didn't go so well fingers crossed for school in August), I use her as my own personal cleaning lady and chef. Yes, she has chores to do. That's life in this house... if you aren't working or going to school, you best be doing something productive. The great thing is that she loves to cook. I helped her here and there, I prebaked the chicken a few days ago (I did not crockpot it, but that would have been easy enough). Bronwyn mixed up all the ingredients declaring that this recipe had way too much Ranch it in. She's not a fan of Ranch dressing. We used an ice cream scoop to make the filling in the tortillas even and away she went! Since it was violin lesson night, it was perfect to toss in the oven before the lesson and pull out right after so we could eat right away.
Even though this recipe had so much Ranch - B declared them delicious. Andy couldn't stop eating them, Nicholas liked them too but he had so much to tell us about school it just takes him longer to eat these days. (His re-entry into daycare has gone as picture perfect as it could have.) Me? I didn't have an issue with the Ranch or much else other than the dang cumin in the taco seasoning. More and more I'm having an allergic reaction to it and well, I have to stop eating because I can't really feel my lower face or my mouth. I thought these were tasty, just probably something I should eat in small amounts. We’ll give them another go – maybe go a little lighter on the taco seasoning… and maybe a touch less Ranch.

Ranch Chicken Tortilla Bake
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dry salad dressing
1/2 cup bottle ranch
1/2 cup salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 package white flour tortillas
1 can black beans, drained (optional)
1 can mexicorn (or regular corn), drained (optional)

Directions: Cook chicken in crockpot covered with water. Shred chicken and mix with taco seasoning, dry ranch salad dressing, bottled ranch, salsa, corn, and beans.
Grease 9x13 pan. Assemble tortillas with chicken mixture. Drizzle enchiladas with bottled ranch. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with ranch and salsa.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

6.86 cupcakes per person? No problem.

When I offered to bring cupcakes to a dinner meeting of 7 people I figured I should bring two kinds, fruity and chocolatey... but that also meant I was making 48 cupcakes for 7 people. I mean sure, that's 6.86 cupcakes per person and if you count the pizza we also ate, well it meant a lot of leftovers. But I intentionally picked these lemon cupcakes because they are my absolute favorite cupcake, ever. Let's be clear they also hate me, you know... allergic and all, but these are soft, tangy, and delicious. I try to make these for a crowd so I bring fewer home and eat less of them. That makes Andy happy when there aren't any lemon cupcakes around for me to get sick from. I did pack the rest of the leftovers for him to take with him to work so I'd be less likely to plow through the rest of them. The frosting is soft and not very pipeable, but is creamy and lemony and so very good.

Lemon-Cream Cheese Cupcakes
1 pkg. white cake mix
1 pkg. Lemon Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup water
4 egg whites
2 Tbsp. oil
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 pkg. (4 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Heat oven to 350ºF. Beat cake mix, pudding mix, water, egg whites and oil in large bowl with mixer on low speed until moistened. (Batter will be thick.) Beat on medium speed 2 min. Spoon batter evenly into 24 paper-lined 2-1/2-inch muffin cups.
Bake 21 to 24 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min.; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, beat sugar, cream cheese, butter and juice with mixer on low speed until well blended. Frost cupcakes.

Friday, November 13, 2020

When a kitchen gadget jumps in your grocery cart...

One of the "fun" parts of COVID has been going to the grocery store. You never know what they might actually have. I've had to run across the parking lot from my beloved Aldi to Wal-Mart a few times to get things. While I generally do not wander the aisles, I'm more of a buyer, less of a shopper, but I did find myself wandering the kitchen gadgets. I saw this Pioneer Women flour sifter. Look how pretty it is!! I probably went and visited this sifter three times before one day I decided it was coming home with me. Sometimes you just need a pretty flour sifter in your life! This cupcake recipe was perfect for this sifter. I've sifted cake mixes before but by far this type of sifter works great and the flowers just make you happy while you are doing it!
I made these cupcakes for a meeting for church, which I promised was socially distanced and cupcakes were properly enjoyed. This frosting is amazing. I can tell you for sure you can eat the leftovers right out of the piping bag. The Oreo crust is also a fun and delicious addition.

Cookies and Cream Cake with Oreo Crust
Oreo Crust
12 Oreos
4 Tbsp. melted butter
pinch of salt

Cookies and Cream Cake
2/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
1 box white cake mix

Cookies and Cream Buttercream
12 regular Oreos (not Double Stuf, Mini, or Thin)
2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly Softened
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream
5-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Cookies and Cream Cake with Oreo Crust
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prep cake rounds with a wipe of shortening and dust of flour (or cupcake tins with cupcake liners).
In a small food processor, blend together the Oreos, melted butter, and salt. Press into the bottom of your greased cake rounds or cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, oil, eggs whites, vanilla, and chocolate chips until thoroughly combined. Sift in the white cake mix. Stir until just combined. Split cake batter evenly between prepared cake rounds. Carefully spread the batter on the crust.
Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until center is fully baked. Do not overbake. Remove rounds from the oven, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip onto wire rack to cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap twice, then freeze at least 20 minutes up to a couple days before frosting.
Cookies and Cream Buttercream
In a food processor process Oreos until they are a fine powder there are no large pieces. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and cream cheese on high until light and fluffy. Add in salt, vanilla, Oreo crumble, and heavy cream. Slowly add in the powdered sugar with the mixer on low speed about a half cup at a time.
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