Italian Cooking Storm Strikes Again

It was a simple start. I had some left over ricotta and the idea of it going to waste was simply unthinkable. So with a quick trip for more spinach, some mushrooms and more mozzarella I was ready to strike again.

The recipe

This weekend’s feast was inspired by a ricotta and spinach stuffed shell recipe, once again hunted down on Pinterest (my food board of course). But I can never let a recipe be created without some tweaks, sometimes purely because I misread it. First of all, I read 24 oz of shells (that’s two large boxes worth.) Once I realized I had cooked a box too many of shells I knew something had gone terribly wrong. Yeah, I only needed 24 SHELLS. HAHA, so fun.

Modifications

Things I adjusted intentionally, I used fresh bagged spinach vs. frozen (simply because that’s what was available to me,) secondly, I wanted to infuse the dish which chopped mushrooms, so I only used half a bag of spinach and made it a go with 8 medium mushrooms. This time I had enough mozzarella, yay! I didn’t have Italian seasoning, but I found a delightful garlic & wild porcini seasoning blend from Spice Merchants at our wonderful Downtown Market.

So what did I do with a bowl full of unused shells? Well I cut up some crabmeat with a “k” (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this term it’s fake crabmeat) chopped up more mushrooms and stuffed as many of those as possibly could fit in my second baking pan. Both pans ended up with a thin layer of sauce, shells, more sauce and a generous drizzle of mozzarella.

I can follow directions

My two pans baked covered in foil at 375 degrees for 35 minutes (at the 20-minute mark I rotated the left pan to the right and the right to the left – keeping things interesting.) As instructed in the recipe, I uncovered both pans at the 10-minute mark.

The results were bubbling, sizzling and perfumed the whole house with Italian comfort food smell. I’d consider 4 shells a serving. We have many more dinners of stuffed shells ahead of us.

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Tuck in!

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Culinary Creations for Cupid’s Holiday

What happens when your spouse has to work during the entire Valentine’s day weekend? You figure out other ways to be romantic. This time around I did the planning and it included a tasty late-night meal, a roaring fire in the old fireplace and a romantic comedy.

One of my favorite love languages is definitely food. If I feed you a good meal I am extending my love and care for you. From my heart to your belly. Especially now, while I am preggers, the need to find good, hearty meals has only escalated. No more queasiness, bring on the appetite and bring on the food ideas.

That’s why I’ve long since been a fan of Pinterest, it’s my favorite time-suck and free-time-absorber. Great for when I need a mental break from the usual, or as a fall-asleep aid late at night. But like so many people, I pin and pin but do I actually do?  This year I am striving to find more time for creativity and more time to focus on doing and not just pinning. Therefore, this weekend I did it, I made myself a promise that I needed to start diving into my food board and pulling up some tasty recipes.

I found three distinct winners, all heavy on pasta and cheese. Because you see the baby needs pasta and cheese, or so my cravings tell me. And my spouse, bless his heart, is willing to try what I make.

Valentine’s day winner: Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom pasta. Had I not been so hungry I would have taken some proper photos. But we will rely on those originally posted to Julia’s food blog.

Courtesy of Julia's food blog.

Courtesy of Julia’s food blog.

Why was this little carb marvel a crowd-pleaser? Because it combined a hearty pasta and a creamy flavorful sauce with seafood. I did learn that no matter how tempting the monetary savings of buying peel and cook shrimp, just do yourself a favor and buy ones that have already been prepped. Please, save yourself the frozen fingers and pile of exoskeletons in your kitchen. I would definitely make it again, though I need to find a better way to reheat it, let’s just say it turns a bit thick and clumpy, but ever delicious.

Gratuitous Valentine's Day fireplace photo.

Gratuitous Valentine’s Day fireplace photo.

Since Adam also worked on Sunday my cooking inspiration continued another day. The next recipe I tried was :

Creamy Parmesan Tomato Spinach Tortellini Soup

Yay, I remembered to take a photo before eating!

Yay, I remembered to take a photo before eating!

Not only was it easy to make, it’s quite delicious. Even Henry ate some, though he made sure to pluck off any seen bits of spinach. It definitely thickened upon standing (plus I couldn’t help but add more tortellini to the soup.) Hearty soup that just gets better the next day with simple ingredients: tomatoes (check), spinach (check), parmesan (check), tortellini (CHECK!)

And because I was on a roll I made one more meal during Henry’s mega nap (4.5 hours is unheard of, but it does allow me some creative cooking time. Thanks little buddy!)

The last recipe I tried is called:

Caprese Lasagna Roll Ups

Courtesy of the Tastes Better from Scratch Blog.

Courtesy of the Tastes Better from Scratch Blog.

This recipe was definitely a test in improvision. I reviewed all my ingredients. I thought through the cooking process. I just didn’t focus on the sheer volume of shredded cheese and parmesan this recipe required. Who needs 3.5 cups of shredded mozzarella?! (This recipe.) Who used up all of her parmesan? (This girl.) Luckily I also had some shredded cheddar to toss in for good measure, so my overall cheese quantities worked, even if my math was off for starters. I topped this lovely dish off with some spinach florentine pasta sauce and we devoured it like the other two recipes.

I can tell my food cravings are leading the charge in the kitchen, for it wasn’t until I was mostly done with the last recipe that I realized I was making all pasta, and two of my dishes used tomato, cheese, pasta and spinach. But no one is complaining.