Would you believe me if I told you I took over 100 photos of these vegetables before and after cooking? First, so I could believe myself it actually fit in the dish and second, because well I’m still learning about my camera… Practice takes perfect right!
It took me a long time to find these shells. They weren’t at my usual Save On Foods, or at Costco. Didn’t see them at Coopers, Safeway or Bulk Barn. I even searched a little Italian Market downtown and still nothing. Then one day while shopping the Joe Baby clothes at Superstore I thought I’d take a gander over to the pasta aisle and what do you know, they were there. Finally!!
Well worth the hunt though, the shells are so good. I’ve only actually made them one way, but there are so many varieties, and so many I’d like to try. Next time I might do Chicken, Mozzarella and Pesto. Or a Chipolte Butternut Squash or maybe something with Chorizo Sausage. Yum!
This particular recipe is a simple one. Very similar to a classic lasagna, but without all the noodles, so it’s much lighter, and still delicious!.
Cook the pasta till al dente, but make sure they don’t get too soft. Otherwise they’ll be a little too flimsy when working with them and you don’t want them to break apart. Drain and rinse, let cool, but try to work with them while they are still a little wet otherwise the noodles will start to stick together. Then they may end up ripping anyways. Place the first few rows of noodles on their backs, then gradually turn onto an angle as you fill the dish up.
Top the noodles with a simple tomato sauce. I used part tomato sauce, and part crushed tomatoes, then added some extra veggies. Not too thick, just enough to cover the noodles.
One of the best parts of any pasta dish is the cheese. All melted, ooey gooey with crispy brown edges. So good. I used cheddar and Parmesan, but if you don’t have those on hand, mozzarella works great, or even a spicy jalapeno havarti for a little extra kick.
Stuffed Jumbo Shells with Spinach and Cottage Cheese
1 Box Jumbo Shells
1 pkg Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained
1 500g Container Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 cup Marble Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Small Red Pepper
About 10 white mushrooms, sliced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Small Yellow Onion, diced
1 Jar Tomato Sauce, or Can of Crushed Tomatoes
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Chili Flakes
Salt & Pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta shells. Cook until al dente, not too soft or they’ll fall apart when trying to stuff them. Remove pot from element, drain and rinse pasta. Allow to cool to touch so you can work with them.
Mix together drained spinach, cottage cheese and eggs. Add in 1/2 parmesan cheese and stir together.
Heat a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Add olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook a few minutes until translucent. Mix in mushrooms, cover and reduce heat to medium and cook 5-10 minutes, or until soft and flavorful. Stir in red pepper and spices. Mix in tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, cover and cook until sauce is heated through.
Heat oven to 350F. In a 9×13 inch dish, spoon sauce in until it just covers the bottom. One by one, fill the pasta shells with cottage cheese mixture, about 2 tbsp. Line shells in dish side by side. Continue until all shells are used up or there is no more space to fill in dish. Pour remaining sauce over pasta shells, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake 30-40 minutes. Remove foil, return to oven and cook until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted and browning, 10-15 minutes
Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Empanadas are a latin caribbean pastry shell turnover. The filling can be sweet or savory and the shell is buttery, but still flaky.
These pockets of goodness are so intriguing. At first glance I imagined them somewhere in the middle of a samosa and a calzone. Upon tasting them, it triggered a memory of a flaky meat pie. In the end, the taste and texture is completely its own.
With the buttery flaky pastry like shell, a sweet filling would be absolutely divine.
For our first batch of empanadas we went with spinach, feta, cottage cheese and chicken.
I’m totally hooked. The list of combinations is already building in my head, and the hardest decision at the moment is deciding to go with sweet or savory.
Making any dough always leaves me a little perplexed since I haven’t worked with it too much. The buttery flaky texture had me worried, it didn’t seem like it would come together. Once chilled and rolled out in some flour, that texture stayed, right through till the end when you bite into a warm, flaky, buttery pastry shell.
The Dough (adapted from Epicurious)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup Cold Water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt. Rub butter pieces together with flour and salt (using your fingertips) until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea size butter lumps.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, water and vinegar with a fork. Add to flour mixture stirring until just incorporated.
Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface and gather together. Knead gently, just enough to bring dough together with the heel of your hand. Form into a flat rectangle, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
The Filling (Inspired by Honest Fare)
1 bag Spinach
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp red chile flakes
1/2 cup cottage cheese, drained
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes until onions are translucent and garlic is browned. Add chicken and chili flakes. Cover and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes or until cooked. Add spinach with a touch of water. Cover and let steam until the spinach turns bright green and wilts down. Drain as much liquid as you can. Add cottage cheese, feta cheese and 1 Egg. Mix together.
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, cut into 8 medium size pieces (or 12 small or 6 large). Flouring the counter and rolling pin so the dough does not stick, roll out pieces one at a time until about 5 inches in diameter and 1/8inch in thickness.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp water with 1 Egg to create an egg wash.
Place about 2 tbsp of filling into middle of each empanada. Fold into a semi-circle. Along the edge, fold bottom dough over top dough and press down with a fork. Repeat with each empanada and place on prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush each empanada with egg wash, flip over gently (so you don’t break the seal) and brush again with egg wash.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until empanadas have puffed up, are lightly golden and crispy.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm.
Wow, 1 Cabbage produces copious amounts of shredded cabbage!! Having bought 1 green and 1 purple cabbage, I had no idea what I was in and needed to get a little innovative so we wouldn’t be eating the same salad for days and days.
With two salads in mind, I started out with a Creamy Avocado dressing.
No oil or mayo needed, this green salad dressing was made entirely of veggies, some herbs, lemon and buttermilk. Cream-y!!
You could use this dressings for many salads, or even add a few more avocados and use it as a dip for veggies.
Biggest mistake I made with this salad, was not shredding the cabbage thin enough, I made sure to do that for the second salad though, which should be coming up tomorrow, so please stay tuned
(Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)
Creamy Avocado Veggie Salad
Small Handful of Parsley
Handful of Spinach
1/2 a zucchini, chopped
A few fresh basil leaves
1 clove Garlic
1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 Ripe Avocados
Small Handful of cilantro
1/2 Small Purple Cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 Small Green Cabbage, finely shredded
1 Carrot, peeled in strips
1 Cucumber, sliced
In a blender or food processor, add all dressing ingredients and pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning, then pulse once again.
Finely shred both cabbages and arrange in a bowl. Add sliced cucumber and peel carrot pieces. Pour dressing over salad and mix together.
“It’s the watermelon salsa”…. “actually, I think it’s the buns that make it”…….”nope, definitely the cajun”….. (says Scotty) All-in-all, these were the best fish burgers I’ve had to date.
I love Wednesday nights in our house. It may take us a good 2 hours (or more) to eat and the kitchen is almost always a total disaster, but it’s such a great way to spend the night.
The rules are; it has to be something we’ve never made, and everything has to be made from scratch. Which explains why the buns size and the patty size didn’t exactly match up here… I mean… that’s how I meant them to be, sort of tilapia sliders….
If you’ve never had watermelon salsa before, I highly highly recommend it. The burst of fruity watermelon with crisp red onion, spicy jalapeno, and zesty lime is absolutely incredible. Make sure to try it soon, it’s delicious!!
In the last minute or two the burgers were cooking, we decided to make a quick Tzatziki to go along. I’m very happy we did.
Tilapia Burgers, Watermelon Salsa & Tzatziki
(Adapted from How Sweet Eats)
For the Burgers
5-6 Tilipia Fillets
2/3 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Egg + 1 Egg White, lightly beaten
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 Garlic cloves, minced
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp cajun seasoning
For the Salsa
1 Cup diced Watermelon
1/2 Green Jalapeno, diced
1/8 cup Red Onion, Diced
1/4 lime, juiced
Small handful Cilantro, diced
For the Tzatziki
1 Long Cucumber, peeled, sliced in half
1 Cup Plain Yogurt
1 Clove Garlic, chopped
1 tsp Dried Dill
1/4 Lemon, juiced
1 tbsp Olive oil & 1 tbsp Butter for skillet
Avocado Slices & Spinach for topping
Whole Wheat Buns
Using a small spoon, scrape the seeds out of the cucumber. Slice, sprinkle with salt and let sit in colainder for about 30 minutes to drain. Using a food processor, pulse drained cucumber, garlic, lemon and dill until blended. Mix in yogurt and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together salsa ingredients and set aside.
In a blender or food processor, pulse tilapia until chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Using your hands, form tilapia into 6 tight patties. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Once melted, place patties in skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
Whole Wheat Buns
Peeking at the dough occasionally, getting nervous it wasn’t rising enough, I was convinced the buns would not turn out. Thinking they would rise more, I made them small, turns out a little too small for these burgers.
Although small in size, they still taste great!
(Adapted from Food Network)
Whole Wheat Buns
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 Envelope Active Dry Yeast
1 1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Flax Seeds
2 tbsp Cornmeal
Flour for Counter
1 tbsp Milk
Butter for Baking Dish
In a small saucepan, warm honey, butter and milk until just warm to the touch. In a small bowl, combine sugar and water. Add yeast, stir and set aside until mixture foams (about 10 minutes).
In a medium size bowl, mix together flours, salt, seeds and cornmeal until combined. Add yeast and milk mixtures, and mix together with a wooden spoon. Mix until dough just comes together.
Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead together until dough is smooth and elastic. About 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Place into large, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set bowl in a warm spot and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
Punch down dough and turn onto work surface. Cut into 3 equal pieces, then into 4 smaller pieces. (Or 3 smaller pieces if you would like bigger buns). In the palm of your hands, form dough into a smooth ball. Place buns on a buttered cookie sheet and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 375F. Whisk together milk and egg. Using a pastry brush, generously brush tops and sides of buns until covered. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until buns are golden brown. Makes 9-12 buns, depending on size