Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stuffed Shells

Lasagna has always been on of my favorite recipes.  Here is something very similar but with a slight variation because its shells.  Also a quick tomato sauce is included, but feel free to use any store bought sauce if you are short on time!

12 oz box jumbo shells
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1/4 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups mozzarella cheese, split into 1 1/2 and 1/2 cup
1 egg
1 cup parmesan cheese
8 oz container frozen spinach
20 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 cup store bought alfredo sauce or heavy cream (optional)
4 basil leaves
dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil a large pot of water.  Once water has boiled, add 2 tablespoons of salt and toss in the jumbo shells.  Allow to cook about 14 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool in colander.

In a small sauce pan heat the oil and saute the crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and onions on medium heat until they become translucent.  They will also smell fantastic!  This should take 5-10 minutes.

Then add the tomato paste and stir together with the garlic and onions.  Fill the empty can with water and dump into the pot.  Stir together until completely combined.  Stir in the 2 cans of tomato sauce and fill only one with water and empty into the pot.  Stir until combined. I know this water in a can thing sounds crazy, but it gives it the perfect consistency and flavor!  Leave on a medium low flame and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Put the frozen spinach in the microwave and cook according to the package.  Drain as much excess water as you possibly can.   

Mix the spinach with the alfredo sauce or heavy cream as well as one egg.

Stir in the ricotta,  1 1/2 cups mozzarella, and parmesan cheese until combined.

Line two baking dishes with about 1/3 of the tomato sauce.  Then stuff each shell with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling and line in the baking dish.

Cover the top with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes in the oven.  Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts.  Serve and enjoy!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Roasted Parmesan Sweet Potatoes

I know the combination sounds super weird, but these were absolutely heavenly!  Sometimes sweet potatoes are just too sweet to eat with dinner, but these were perfect.  The salty cheese and the sweet potato are a
match made in heaven!

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 basil leaves
4 rosemary sprigs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, put the olive oil and the cubed sweet potatoes.  Stick to about a 1/2 inch cube and try to make them all the same size.  Chop up the basil leaves and rosemary sprigs very finely and put into the bowl.  Stir around until each potato is evenly coated.

Pour the mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until potatoes become tender.

Take out of the oven, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (I freshly grated mine), and place back in for another 10 minutes or until cheese begins to melt.  Serve and enjoy!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Walnut Blondie with Maple Butter Sauce

Have you ever had that awesome dessert at Applebees! Well here is an exact replica of it! The blondie is nice and chewy with the sticky, creamy, warm sauce over top.  Don't forget the ice cream to complete this treat!

Here are the ingredients needed!  I decided to make a double batch after I took the picture, but the recipe below will be for the double batch!

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips

Maple Butter Sauce:
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and walnuts

In another bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.

Stir in the brown sugar and mix until almost dissolved.

Beat the egg and add the vanilla extract.  Then pour into the butter and brown sugar mixture and mix until smooth.

Slowly pour in the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until everything is combined.  Then stir in the white chocolate chips.

Prepare a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray and spread the dough into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the blondies are baking, make the sauce.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and maple syrup together on medium heat while slowly whisking.

Once it begins to bubble, slowly stir in the brown sugar until sauce thickens slightly.

Once blondies are finished baking, allow to cool slightly and cut.  Pour the sauce over and serve plain or with ice cream.  Enjoy!

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Panera Bread's Macaroni and Cheese

It is pretty much a known fact that macaroni and cheese is my absolute favorite food.  When Panera came out with one, I could not wait to taste it!  The creaminess of their mac and cheese is unmatched and I tried hard to figure out how to do it at home.  After many trials and errors this is what I came up with.  And it is not only as good as Panera's, but it may be even a little bit better!

1 pound shell shaped pasta
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk
6 slices white american cheese
8 oz shredded Vermont white cheddar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Begin by boiling a large pot of water for the pasta.  This takes a while, so I always do it first.

In a small sauce pan heat the oil for about 2 minutes.  Then slowly stir in the flour and cook on medium high until it begins to bubble while whisking.

Cook this for another 2 minutes.  Then slowly pour in the half and half while whisking vigorously.  With the burner on low, allow the sauce to thicken while stirring occasionally.  
Once the water begins to boil, season the water with salt and cook the pasta based on the package directions.  Mine took about 14 minutes.  Make sure to stir the pasta so it does not stick together.  

While the milk is thickening, prepare your cheeses.  I like to grate my own cheese because it doesn't have any of the stabilizers of pre-shredded cheese.  Also cut your American cheese into small pieces.

Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the mustard and whisk until smooth.  Then toss in the American and Vermont White Cheddar cheeses and stir until the sauce is completely smooth with no unmelted cheese left.  

Once the pasta finishes cooking, drain the pasta and put back into the hot pot.  Put it on the stove over a medium flame and pour the cheese sauce over it.  Stir for about one minute over the medium heat.  Serve and enjoy!

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

White Zinfandel and Peach Sangria

1 bottle white zinfandel
20 oz lemon lime soda
3 whole peaches or a small bag of frozen peaches
1/3 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)

Simple Syrup:
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
mint, orange peel, vanilla bean, basil, etc. (optional)

In a small sauce pan heat the water and the sugar together on medium heat stirring occasionally.  At this point you can flavor your simple syrup with anything you would like such as crushed mint or basil leaves, orange, lemon, or lime peels, or vanilla beans.  I didn't add anything to mine today, but mint and vanilla go very well with peaches.  Let it simmer until sugar has completely dissolved.  Allow it to cool before using.

In a large pitcher pour the white zinfandel and the lemon lime soda and stir.  I used frozen peaches because they are like ice cubes in the beverage.  Once the simple syrup has cooled, pour it into the mixture and stir until combined.  Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies are one of the easiest and most versatile of all of the cookies and they also are absolutely delicious!  They are perfect with tea or really anything at all!

2 sticks of butter, softened (I know only one is shown here, that's because the other was in the microwave)
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon water
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat using an electric mixer together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Make sure your butter is slightly soft.  Or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds.  

Once the butter and sugar is very creamy, add the vanilla and beat again for a few seconds.  Then slowly add in the flour.  Do this slowly because it might get everywhere (if you are wearing black everybody will know you have been baking cookies!).  

Once all of the flour is mixed in, put the electric mixer aside and use a rubber spatula.  Stir in the chocolate chips until they are well incorporated.  

Here is the best trick I have ever come up with.  Take a 1 gallon zip top bag and put all of the dough inside of it.  Using a rolling pin, a large glass, or even your hands, spread out the dough to fit in the entire bag.  It is the perfect amount and is the best way to roll this out!  

It will be very light in color and probably a little warm.  Chill it like this on a flat surface in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or longer.  This is great because you can make the dough the night before and bake it off the next day!

Once the dough is done chilling it should be darker in color and very firm.

Cut the bag on the sides to release the dough and place the dough on a cutting board.  Cut it into square using a very sharp serated knife.  I got 36 cookies out of this dough, but you can make them as big or as small as you like.

Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven for 18-20 minutes.  Cookies should not be too dark and will not grow very much, if at all.  Allow to cool for little bit before removing.  Enjoy!

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