Food & Drink

Stuffed Shells

DSC_3693This is my all-time favorite potluck dish.  You can do the majority of the prep ahead of time if you wish.  It is such a crowd pleaser.  I’ve yet to bring this to an event and come home with leftovers.  This recipe will yield two 13×9 dishes.  Make this for your next potluck, and I guarantee you will receive so many compliments and recipe requests.

You can use your favorite pasta sauce, or reach for the jar pasta sauce in your pantry.  Just make sure it is a sauce that you absolutely love, since the ricotta-stuffed shells have a mild flavor and will take on the majority of the flavor from your pasta sauce.

A 12oz package of jumbo shells will have anywhere between 40-45 jumbo shells.  I’ve accounted 3-5 for casualties during the stuffing or boiling process.  I usually will eat 3 shells with a side salad, and I’m happy as a clam.

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Servings: 10-12

Ingredients
– 12oz package jumbo shells
– 6 cups marinara sauce
– 2 (15oz) container of ricotta (or homemade)
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 3 tbsp parsley flakes

Method
– Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Cook jumbo shells at half the time as stated on the directions.  Drain and let cool.
– In a large bowl, whisk eggs with a fork.  Mix in ricotta until well-combined.  Add salt, mozzarella cheese, and 2 tbsp of the parsley flakes.  Mix until well combined.
– In the two 13×9 casserole dish, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of each casserole dish.  Take each cooled jumbo shell, spoon the ricotta mixture into the shell.  Place the shells filling-side up in the casserole dish.  Repeat until you used up all your shells and your casserole dishes are filled.
– Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of parsley flakes over the sauce.  Cover the casserole dish with foil.
– Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.

Food & Drink

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

This year, I gave up flour for Lent.  That means goodbye cookies, cakes, bread, and pasta.  Hello rice and potatoes!  I’m surprised by how many delicious dishes I am able to eat without breaking Lent.  One of my favorites –  Vietnamese spring rolls.  I always order these when I go out to a Vietnamese restaurant.  Spring rolls, unliked their fried cousins, are light yet filling, filled with veggies, and is incredibly flavorful.

Spring rolls typically have mint leaves in the rolls.  However, I’m not huge fan of eating mint leaves, so I opt to leave that out.  What I love about this recipe is that you can be super creative with this.  You can put whatever veggies you want in them.  Just make sure they are chopped up in similar size.  This recipe will yield about 12 spring rolls, enough to serve 6 people (or 4 very hungry people).

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Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
Spring Rolls
– 4 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
– 8 lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
– 1 bunch fresh cilantro
– 4oz rice noodles
– 8-10 spring roll wrappers

Crispy Tofu
– 1 package extra firm tofu (~12-14 oz), drained and pat dry
– 3 tbs cornstarch
– 3 tbs vegetable oil
– 2 tbs peanut butter sauce (recipe below)
– 1 tb soy sauce (use GF if desired)
– 1 tb brown sugar
Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
– 1/3 cup peanut butter
– 1 tb soy sauce (use GF if desired)
– 2 tbs honey (use agave for vegan)
– 1 tb lemon juice
– 1 tsp chili bean paste (optional)
– 1/4 cup hot water
Method
1. Cook rice noodles according to package instuctions.  Drain and set aside.
2. Combine all the ingredients of the peanut butter dipping sauce.  Slowly add the hot water to thin this out.  You might not need all 1/4 cup.  The consistency should be easy-to-pour but still a little viscous.
3. Cut the tofu into thin slices.  Coat with cornstarch.  In a skillet over medium heat, pan fry the tofu in vegetable oil.  Cook each side until golden brown.  Take 2 tbs of the pre-mixed peanut butter dipping sauce and mix with an additional 1 tb soy sauce and 1 tb brown sugar.  Pour this over the tofu and cook until all the sauce is absorbed.
4. Prepare a shallow plate with hot water.  Soften the spring roll wrapper in the hot water (5-10 seconds).
5. On a dry plate, place one sheet of spring roll wrapper.  Place cucumbers, cilantro, lettuce, rice noodles, and tofu on the bottom of the wrapper.  Wrapping like a burrito, fold in the sides, then roll up.  Serve with dipping sauce.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Food & Drink

Slow Cooker BBQ Turkey Meatballs

I don’t really like handling meat, so on the rare occasion that I do make a meat dish, I try to make it as easy as possible.  When I was perusing on Pinterest, I saw a slew of meatball recipes for beef or pork.  But I typically only cook poultry at home, so I thought of developing a recipe for turkey meatballs that can be made in a slow cooker.

I love BBQ sauce in general, so I thought of cooking the meatballs in a BBQ sauce instead of the traditional marinara.  This pairs beautifully with vegetables and potatoes.  Using garlic and ginger is so important in this recipe.  I have found that turkey and chicken usually need garlic and ginger to counter the “smell”.

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
Meatballs
– 1 lb ground turkey
– 1 egg
– 1 small onion, finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 small piece of ginger, minced
– 1/3 cup bread crumbs
– Salt & pepper, to taste

BBQ Sauce
– 1 cup BBQ sauce
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp salt

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Method
1. Mix all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Shape into meatballs.  Heat 1 tsp of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the meatballs on all sides.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce ingredients.  Place BBQ sauce and meatballs into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until meatballs are cooked through.  Stir halfway through.  You can use additional BBQ sauce as a glaze when serving.  Garnish with your favorite herbs, if desired.

*Note:  I use a homemade BBQ sauce, so I added paprika and salt for extra flavor.  If you are using a store-bought sauce, you do not need to add paprika/salt unless you want a bolder flavor.  When you are browning the meatballs, they don’t have to be fully-cooked.  They will cook the rest of the way in the slow cooker.  Just make sure you get a nice color on them so they don’t stick together in the slow cooker.

Food & Drink

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs is one of those pantry items that seems cheap, but really isn’t.  A can of breadcrumbs typically costs from $1-3, which doesn’t seem that bad.  But what if I can tell you that you can make the same amount for only pennies?  Man, Progresso is really rolling in the dough (haha).

The breadcrumbs will keep about 1 month in a sealed container.  This recipe is most representative of the Panko (Japanese) style breadcrumbs.  You can add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning to make it taste like an Italian-style breadcrumbs.  I typically will make this in a big batch and use throughout the month.

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Yield: 1 cups

Ingredients
– 2 slices of white bread
– 1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional: for Italian-style breadcrumbs)

Method
1. Rip the white bread into small pieces and place in a food processor.  Process until fine crumbs form.  If you are adding Italian seasoning, process the seasoning with the breadcrumbs as well.
2. Toast in a 300°F oven for 10-15 minutes, until light brown.
3. You can toss the breadcrumbs back in the food processor and pulse until your desired consistency.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Food & Drink

3-Ingredient Strawberry Jam

I was watching Friends the other day, and in the episode, Monica had just broken up with Richard.  With her apartment taken over by the hoard of fresh berries and fruit, she said, “I’m sick and tired of being depressed about Richard. I needed a plan. A plan to get over my man! And what’s the opposite of man? Jam!”

Not going to lie, but every time I watch that episode, I get a craving … for jam.

I’ve been making my own jam for a few years now.  I like to keep jam making super simple  – one pot, three ingredients.  A lot of jam recipes out there require pectin, which is a natural natural fiber found in a lot of fruits.  It acts as a preservative and thickener for your jams and jellies.  I typically will use pectin for fruits that have a harder time jelling on their own – like peaches and apricots.  But berries have loads of pectin and can create a fabulous jam on their own.  So I typically don’t use pectin in my berry jams.

You can use canning methods to make big batch of this jam.  For me and husband, we will go through this jam in about 2 months.  I usually split the jam into two 8-oz mason jars.  I will freeze one jar and use up the other jar first.  Since I am not using the hot water bath to can these jams, they will begin to go bad after a month or so.

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Yield: 1 pint

Ingredients
– 1 lb fresh strawberries
– 1 cup sugar
– 2 tbs lemon juice

Method
1. Remove stems from strawberries, dice into small pieces.
2. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring to a gentle boil over low heat.  Then bring the heat up to medium for a rolling boil.  Cook until the jam can pass the plate test or to 220F.
3. If you prefer jams with fruit pieces, you can use a large fork and press down on the larger strawberry pieces until your desired consistency.  If you prefer a smoother jam, you can use an immersion blender and blend the mixture.

Plate test:  Before you start making the jam, put a freezer-safe plate in the freezer.  When testing the jam, spoon out a small amount on the chilled plate and wait 30 seconds.  Tilt the plate.  If the jam is moving like slow lava, it is ready.  If it is runny and thin, continue cooking.

Food & Drink

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

When it comes to desserts, I’m not the biggest fan of the cookie category.  My husband begs to differ.  With just the 2 of us in the apartment, it’s just not worth it to bake a whole batch of cookies since my husband will eat the majority of it.  This cookie recipe will whip up a dozen cookies in less than 15 minutes, and only requires a bowl and a spoon.

Ingredients
– 3 tbs butter
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 cup chocolate chip
– Pinch of salt

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  In a small microwavable bowl, melt the butter.  Combine with brown sugar and egg yolk.
2. Stir in flour, baking soda, chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt.  Stir until well combined.
3. Using your hands, take about 1 tbs of dough and roll it into a ball.  Place it on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Bake for 8 minutes (soft cookies) or 10 minutes (crunchy cookies).

Food & Drink

Granola

 

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I am never buying granola again.

It’s nothing against store-bought granola.  It’s just that I go through so much granola in a week that it can get quite expensive.  Also, granola typically come in unrecyclable packaging, which doesn’t align with my zero waste values.  The granola options in the bulk bins are definitely some items that I avoid because bulk bins granola typically cost more than their packaged counterparts.

I started experimenting with making my own granola.  I wanted something that I can whip up on a busy morning, and something that I can customize to my own liking.  Sometimes I like to add nuts and dried fruits to my granola, but today I want to share with you the granola recipe that I use as a base.  This granola fills 2 pint-size mason jars for me, which equates to about 4 cups.

Granola

  • Servings: 4 cups
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300°F.   In a medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together honey, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Drizzle this over the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until well-combined.
  3. Spread the mixture on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Shake the pan or stir 1-2x during baking.
  4. After baking, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.  Gently stir the granola every 10 minutes so it doesn’t stick to the pan as it cools.  The granola should harden and form crumbles.