Friday, April 27, 2012

Italian Stuffed Shells

We usually buy our meats through the WagJag Grocery Deals.  It's great quality meat straight from local butcher shops, and the prices can't be beat.  Recently I bought a box of ground turkey, and I've been on a mission to find recipes for it.  Ground turkey can usually be used in place of ground beef or chicken, but it definitely needs more seasoning and less cooking time.  It's a fairly bland meat, and it dries out quickly.

This was a great, although tedious, recipe to make.  My daughter helped me stuff the shells, which took the longest amount of time, so at least we had fun with it.

Stuffed Shells
1 package jumbo pasta shells
8oz mushrooms diced (I left these out since neither of my kids like mushrooms)
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 onion chopped
1 lb ground turkey
salt & pepper
1 package frozen chopped spinach thawed & drained (I used fresh since I had some to use up)
2 T chopped parsley (I used the parsley in a tube, I always have these on hand since they are super fresh)
2c cottage cheese (I used fat free)
1c parmesan cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 8oz package shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta in salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes (al-dente).  Set aside in warm water.  in a large skillet saute mushrooms, garlic and onions.  Add turkey and cook until evenly browned.  Season with salt & pepper.  Remove from heat and stir in spinach, parsley, cottage cheese and parmesan.  Stuff cooked shells with the mixture and place in a 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake 30-45 minutes (I did 40 minutes).

I served this with a simple Caesar salad.  It was a great meal!!

Until next time!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crunchy Vegetable & Coconut Curry Chicken Salad

Salad night! 

This salad was so easy and SO good!  A couple of ingredients and some left over chicken, and you're ready to go...

Crunchy Vegetable & Coconut Curry Chicken Salad
2c cubed cooked chicken
1c light coconut milk
2 T thai red curry paste
2 pkg coleslaw mix (I used half of one and a huge amount of left over spinach)
1c fresh bean sprouts
1/2 red pepper thinly sliced (I used a whole pepper)
3 T chopped fresh coriander
1/4c sesame ginger dressing (I had a ginger lemon dressing in the fridge - any kind of asian dressing can work)

In a saucepan bring chicken, milk, and curry to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Set aside.  In a large bowl combine everything else except the dressing.  Add chicken and dressing, and toss to combine.  All done!

A delicious recipe with a lot of different flavors going on.  The thai paste and coconut milk work fantastically together - enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Anniversary Dinner - A Romantic Meal!

The 11th was our anniversary.  It's been 4 years, and we couldn't be happier.  Seeing as we just moved into a house, we decided that instead of going out like we normally do, we would make a nice dinner at home to enjoy.  We also had agreed on no gifts, but of course neither of us followed the rules.

I decided last minute to grab something because I felt bad showing up empty-handed.  I got him a bbq "gift bag" of sorts.  A new set of bbq utensils, flavored smoking chips, a smoker box, various high-end bbq sauces, and of course a beer bottle holder so his hands don't get cold but his beer stays cold.

He surprised me with gorgeous diamond earrings.  They are beautiful and it was so sweet of him.  Thanks babe, love you always!!

For dinner I wanted to make something very special.  I made Emeril's Seared Petite Lamb Chops With Rosemary Balsamic Reduction, a Mint Pea and Feta side dish, and a Spinach, Tomato & Bocconcini Pasta Toss.

So good!!

Seared Petite Lamb Chops With Rosemary Balsamic Reduction
2T chopped parsley (I used a squirt of the tubed parsley, I like them because the herbs stay fresh for a long time)
1 T chopped rosemary (I used dried, no fresh on hand)
1 tsp minced garlic (I used about 3 cloves)
coarse salt
6 lamb chops, bone in
2 tsp pepper
2 T minced shallots (I used 1 shallot)
1 tsp minced garlic (I used 1 clove)
1c balsamic vinegar
2 small rosemary sprigs (again, just shook some dried seasoning in there)
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl combine EVOO, parsley, rosemary and garlic.  Set aside.  Put a 12" oven safe saute pan over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb with salt and pepper.  Add 1 1/2tsp of EVOO to the pan (I don't measure, I did a c couple of swirls around the pan).  Place lamb in.  Sear until the skin is brown, about 3 minutes.  Continue cooking 2 minutes per side.  Baste with the herb & oil mixture.  (I was basting each time I flipped, so once on each side.  I then poured the remainder of it on top before moving to the next step).  Transfer pan to oven and cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile to make the sauce, put a saucepan over medium heat.  Add remaining 1 1/2tsp EVOO.  once hot, add shallots and let cook 1 minute.  Add garlic and let cook 30 seconds.  Pour in vinegar and bring to a boil.  Add the rosemary and allow to gently boil until the sauce is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes (mine took about 20 minutes and still wasn't 1/4 c but it was perfect).  Season with salt & pepper.  Remove from heat and swirl butter into the sauce.  Remove the rosemary sprigs (if used) before serving.  By now you should have removed the lamb from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes.  Drizzle the lamb with the balsamic reduction and serve.  Fabulous!!

Unfortunately I don't remember where I got the below recipe, but it makes a great side dish -

Spinach, Tomato & Bocconcini Pasta Toss
5c pasta (any kind)
1 onion thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
2c cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper
hot pepper flakes
4c baby spinach
1c cubed bocconcini cheese (I bought the mini size and cut them in half)

Cook pasta in salted water.  Drain, reserving 1/2c cooking water (I forgot to do this, so I ended up using the brine in the bocconcini container instead.  I boiled it for a minute to make sure it was safe).  Return pasta to the pot.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic 6 minutes.  Add tomatoes and seasonings and cook 5 minutes.  Add pasta along with the spinach, cheese, and half of the reserved water.  Cook about 2 minutes, adding water as needed until spinach is wilted and cheese begins to melt.

My last side dish was a pea, mint and feta salad.  I don't have the measurements for this one, but I'll explain as best I can.

Mint, Pea & Feta Salad
2c fresh or frozen peas
feta (lots)
1/2c torn mint leaves
lemon juice
olive oil
salt & pepper

Cook the peas in boiling water & drain.  Add crumbled feta, torn mint, and dressing seasonings.  Let sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the mint to permeate through.

Such a fresh, easy side dish.  The mint goes so well with the feta and peas, and mint is also a wonderful addition to any lamb meal.

We had white wine with this, and of course candles everywhere.

Our first candlelit romantic dinner was a success - great food and even better company.

Try it out on your sweetheart!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quick and Easy Appetizers

So we are all moved in (thank God) but not quite unpacked.  It seems I was a little delusional when it came to a timeline.  I thought we would move in on Friday morning and finish unpacking that day.  Then we would paint every room and be finished by Sunday.  Not quite.

We did manage to unpack and paint the kids room before they got home on Sunday though.  Not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but this was a complete surprise for them.  They had no idea we were moving, so when they walked into a house on Sunday and were told it was theirs...well, not sure I need to explain how excited they were.  It was classic.  I video taped it on my blackberry, and it's a moment in time that I will keep forever.

My first guest came over yesterday.  She is one of my dearest friends, and I obviously couldn't have her over without feeding her.  The problem was I had no time, and barely any food on hand to get a quick lunch together.  So I opted for some quick and super easy appetizers.  A finger food lunch - you can't go wrong.  Below is what I served - enjoy!!

Figs & Goat Cheese Wrapped in Prosciutto
Very easy - get a nice goat cheese (I got a "fig spread" at Loblaws, it was super cheap, and was goat cheese and figs mixed together in a log - fabulous), get some dried (but not too hard) figs, and some prosciutto (I chose the smoked prosciutto, it has a nice bite to it).  One at a time, spread some goat cheese at one edge of the prosciutto place a fig on top, and roll it up.  All done.

Cherry Tomato & Bocconcini Skewers
Another incredibly easy recipe - get some mini bocconcini balls and some cherry tomatoes.  Basil leaves are optional, but a nice touch.  I personally cut my tomatoes in half, put a top on the toothpick, a bocconcini, and the bottom of the tomato.  I served it with a little bowl of extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar for dipping.  You can also do as the picture shows - whole cherry tomatoes, with a basil leaf in between.  Your choice, but either way it takes 5 minutes (or less) to prepare.

Tex-Mex Chicken Pinwheels
Let's see if I can remember exactly what I did here - it was also very easy and quick.  Mix up a tub of cream cheese with about half a pack of tex-mex shredded cheese.  Add some cooked chopped chicken, half of a chopped, seeded tomato, and 2 chopped scallions.  Throw in some coriander (I used the kind that comes in the tubes - convenient, and it stays fresh longer).  Mix this all up and spread on about 6 whole wheat tortillas.  Roll them up (individually) and wrap them in plastic.  Put them in the fridge for about 2 hours.  Preheat your oven to 375, take out the rolls and slice diagonally.  Put them on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes.  Yum.

Mini Pitas Stuffed With Hummus
Get a bag of whole wheat mini pitas, some hummus (I bought the curry flavored one to get some East-Indian flare), chop up some cucumber and tomato mixed with salt.  Cut the pitas in half, stuff with hummus and top with veggies.  You can't get any easier then that!!

I also served store-bought chips with my homemade salsa.

With the wine that my lovely friend brought, these apps turned into a well-rounded meal.

So there you have it folks - entertaining with 20 minutes to prepare - piece of cake!!