Thursday, August 27, 2009

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

I'm a huge fan of Giada's baked pasta recipes. Three of Giada's recipes, Penne with Roasted Vegetables, Beef and Cheese Manicotti, and Lasagna Rolls are in my dinner and entertaining rotations quite regularly. Last night, I tried this stuffed shell recipe. Overall, I liked this dish but think a few changes are necessary. I would double the sauce recipe. Once the recipe baked there just wasn't much sauce left in the pan. The sauce has a delicious smokiness from the pancetta which was one of the highlights of the dish. I would also add a bit more crushed red pepper as it didn't have as much bite as I hoped. I wasn't a fan of the ground turkey in the filling. I thought it was a bit bland. Next time, I will use ground beef or Italian sausage. I liked the addition of all the fresh herbs in the filling and the artichokes were a great combination with the smokey tomato sauce. With the changes described above this recipe will easily be another baked pasta favorite. Also, of note there is a discrepancy in cooking times between the cookbook and the food network recipe. The cookbook time is 350 which is what I used. The food network site states 400 degrees.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows

  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

Source: Giada de Laurentis, Everyday Pasta, Clarkson Potter, 2007.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I love making the best use of local in season ingredients. Strawberries are at the peak of their season right now and perfect for a summer dessert. I wanted something quick so I used a boxed organic cake mix and made this homemade strawberry frosting to top it. This frosting took very little effort to make. I love how the strawberries turned the frosting a beautiful pink color. Bonus, you can have pink frosting with no artificial colors! Also, if you use organic ingredients as I did, you have pure organic frosting! So much better than the canned stuff! This frosting was light and creamy and had a nice hint of strawberry flavor without being overpowering. This paired with your favorite yellow cake or cupcake recipe is a winning combination. I will definitely be making this frosting again.

Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, chopped (I used organic)

Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with strawberries, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition.

Source: Honey and Jam.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saucy Barbecue Ribs

As my toddler would say, these ribs were scrumptious! This was another slow cooker recipe I was initially a little hesitant about. Most of the sauce ingredients are far different from my homemade barbecue sauce recipe. However, there was no need to worry, the flavor in these was great and after cooking all day, the meat was falling off the bones. This recipe was very easy to put together, less than 10 minutes. I served this with a side of coleslaw, steamed corn on the cob and dutch oven peach cobbler. This was a wonderful meal to come home to and very little work involved at all. I love my other oven baked rib recipes but this recipe easily holds its own with the oven baked ones. I didn't get a picture of this one the other night. I intended to get one yesterday at lunch, but my husband took all the leftovers for lunch!! I promise more recipes and pictures soon, today though, I'm still recovering from the Paul McCartney concert last night. We were 15 rows back on the floor. Great show and great seats! Now, if only I had this meal in my slow cooker for tonight!

Saucy Barbecue Ribs

4 pounds country-style pork ribs, trimmed
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple butter
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoons steak sauce
1 teaspoon course ground pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cut ribs apart; sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt evenly over ribs and set aside.

Stir together remaining 1 teaspoon salt, chopped onion, and remaining 9 ingredients until blended. Pour half of mixture into 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Place ribs in slow cooker; pour remaining mixture over ribs.

Cover and cook on Hight 6 to 7 hours. Makes 6-8 servings.

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler

As I was planning our menu for this week, I decided to try ribs in my slow cooker. To go along with our barbecue dinner, I wanted an easy dessert. I remembered a Paula Deen recipe for Lady and Son's peach cobbler that I have made several times. When I looked up the recipe in my saved folder, I had apparently saved another dutch oven peach cobbler from Paula Deen. I had all the ingredients for this recipe and it was similar to the other recipe so I went ahead and made this one. My husband and I both really liked this recipe. It equally ties with the other recipe though in both flavor and ease of preparation. It just depends which you are in the mood for! We liked the light fluffy texture of the topping. The cinnamon sugar also adds a nice flavor compliment to the peaches, berries and topping. Both of these cobblers are great easy weeknight desserts. I only wish I had had time to make the homemade vanilla ice cream I had planned to have alongside this recipe!

Favorite Cobblers and Crisps:
Lady and Son's Peach Cobbler
Apple Pear Crisp
Blueberry Raspberry Pecan Crisp
Peach Blueberry Crumble
Slow Cooker Apple Crisp

Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler

  • 2 (16-ounce) cans sliced peaches in heavy or light syrup, or in fruit juice, your choice
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, optional
  • 1/2 cup baking mix (recommended: Bisquick)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Ground cinnamon


  • 2 1/4 cups baking mix (recommended: Bisquick)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar combined with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon; store in an empty spice shaker jar; shake well before each use)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a Dutch oven with vegetable oil cooking spray

Drain 1 can of the peaches. Combine both cans of peaches, including the juice from the undrained can, the blueberries, if using, the baking mix, sugar, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Place this mixture into the Dutch oven.

To make the topping: Combine the biscuit mix, sugar, butter, and milk in a resealable plastic bag. Drop bits of dough, using your fingers, on top of the peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crusty.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Casserole

These last few weeks I have been making good use of my slow cooker. We have had afternoon swim lessons which prevent me from making dinner. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try some new recipes in the slow cooker and build my recipe file. I was suspect at this recipe and worried that I would end up with a pot of dried spaghetti with sauce. Luckily, this was not the case. When I opened the slow cooker, I had a wonderful and delicious perfectly baked spaghetti casserole. My only complaint about this recipe is that it takes a little stove prep time ahead, about 20 minutes. I always think the beauty of the slow cooker is just tossing in the ingredients and setting it to work. A note about the cheese sauce, don't worry if its really thick and not spreadable it is supposed to be that way. I was concerned because sauce to me connotes something you can pour. This "sauce" ends up making a lasagna type filling for this dish rather than a cheese sauce. Overall, a great recipe and my first pasta dish in the crock pot.

Slow Cooker Favorites:
Pork Chops with Apples and Sauerkraut
Tortilla Soup
Tex Mex Chicken and Beans

Spaghetti Casserole

1 1/2 pounds ground round
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (26 oz) jar tomato and basil pasta sauce (I used Newman's Own)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken into pieces
3 cups (12 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook ground round and onion in large skillet, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain meat, and return to skillet. Stir pasta sauce into beef mixture.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly 8 minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and pepper.

Spoon one-third of meat mixture into lightly greased 5 quart slow cooker. Spread half of broken spaghetti over meat, pour half of white sauce over noodles, and sprinkle with 1 cup Cheddar cheese. Repeat layers once. Spread remaining meat mixture over cheese. Top with remaining 1 cup Cheddar cheese.

Cover and cook on Low 4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6-8 servings.

Source: Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook, Oxmoor House, 2006.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Make Ahead Dinner Party

What do they say about the best made plans? Well, as luck would have it, I planned to have my in-laws over for dinner on Friday. When the original plan was made I planned to be home all day and had a menu all planned. Then, my little one had a make up swim class which of course got scheduled for Friday afternoon at exactly the time I would need to be home preparing dinner. So, I scrapped the original dinner plan and came up with this one that I could make ahead. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures but I really was in a hurry to get this on the table once I got home! Everything in this menu can be made ahead. The pasta takes 25 minutes to bake once prepared. The cakes are perfect because they are meant to be served warm. You can make them ahead and then plan accordingly and back them 15 minutes before serving. This menu worked great for me and allowed me to serve a delicious dinner on a tight schedule.

Mixed Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Gooey Chocolate Cakes with Fig Ice Cream

Insalata Misto (Mixed Salad)

This salad took me only a few minutes to prepare while my pasta was baking. The dressing can easily be made ahead. The dressing turns a brillant green color and is a nice colorful addition to a spring or summer table. The flavor on the dressing really shined through but was not overpowering. This recipe is a great way to enjoy all of the health benefits fresh basil offers and have a tasty dressing. I also liked shaving the vegetables for this salad. It makes an ordinary salad look a little fancier.

Insalata Misto (Mixed Salad)
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups arugula
  • 4 cups bite-size pieces radicchio, from 1 (10-ounce) head
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled

Blend the basil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.

Place the arugula and radicchio in a wide shallow bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the carrot over the salad. Shave the cucumber into a medium bowl. Pat the cucumber shavings with paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Add the cucumbers to the salad.

Do-Ahead Tip: The vinaigrette and salad can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate. Whisk the dressing to blend before using.

Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve.

Source: Giada de Laurentis, Everyday Pasta, Clarkson Potter, 2007.

Fig Ice Cream

I love fresh figs and it seems there appearance is always so fleeting. I found some Texas figs at our local market and decided this ice cream would be a fun recipe to try with them. My figs were not the beautiful purple of the mission figs so my ice cream was a tan color rather than purple as shown in the picture of the Perfect Scoop. I also thought my ice cream yield on this recipe was much less than other recipes I have made. I thought the fig flavor in this recipe was really nice. I probably wouldn't want to sit for a bowl of this alone, it needs a compliment. It paired really well with the gooey chocolate cakes.

Fresh Fig Ice Cream

2 lbs fresh figs (about 20)
1/2 cup of water 1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
3/4 cup of sugar

1 cup of heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon of freshly squeezed, lemon juice, or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, non reactive sauce pan with the water, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10

minutes until the figs are tender.

Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend together with cream and lemon juice, chill in the fridge and then put in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.

Source: Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas and Sweet Accompaniments, Ten Speed Press, May 1, 2007.

Gooey Chocolate Cakes

Another sure fire hit from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours. This is the perfect make ahead dessert for a dinner party. I prepped the cakes in the afternoon and then refrigerated. After dinner, I tossed these in the oven for 13 minutes and we had a delicious warm dessert. I followed Dorie's hint of using disposable muffin pans and these popped right out of the pan and there was no mess to clean up! It really amazed me how this dessert came out exactly like the restaurant version with perfect molten centers. This is a great dessert for impressing your dinner party guests. They will think you made something really complicated when in fact these were very easy to make.

Gooey Chocolate Cakes

1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used green and black organic)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, (I used Ghiradelli)
4 ounces, coarsely chopped
1 ounce, very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter (or spray-its easier) 6 cups of a regular size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted-you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks until homogeneous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don't beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly amount he muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3 minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.

Source: Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples and Sauerkraut

My husband and I have decided if we are going to be eating out we only want to eat at local independent restaurants. We are sick of the glutton of chain restaurants in our area and the mediocre food they serve. This past weekend as part of our exploration, we tried a local German restaurant. We were blown away by how terrific the food was and can't wait to go back and try another meal and a beer sampler! I love happening upon great finds like this. Since our local quest began we have already found three new favorites this restaurant included! Its amazing what great places there are if you take the time to look. I 'll be the first to admit I have never been a fan of red cabbage or sauerkraut but the red cabbage served at the restaurant was so delicious I couldn't stop eating it! Inspired by that wonderful meal and a busy schedule that required the use of our slow cooker, I chose this recipe. Admittedly, this is not really an August recipe but better for winter/fall, nonetheless it hit the spot! I will definitely be making this one again. The recipe recommends a variation using pork spareribs and I think I will go that route next time. The only other change I would make to the recipe, is to make sure the meat is on the bottom of the slow cooker. My pork chops got a bit dried out when placed on top of all the vegetables as directed by the recipe. Otherwise, the flavors were great, the sauerkraut was very tender and best of all this slow cooker recipe didn't use any processed ingredients.

Past Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes:

Chili Chicken Tacos
Sausage and Black Bean Soup
Barbecued Beef or Pork
Braised Chicken and Stuffing

Pork Chops with Apples and Sauerkraut

4 pork sirloin chops, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 16 oz can sauerkraut, drained (I used a refrigerated sauerkraut I picked up at our natural grocer)
2 small cooking apples, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice (I used natural apple juice)
1/4 cup catsup
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed (I substituted thyme)

1. In a large skillet brown pork chops on both sides in hot oil.

2. In 3 1/2 or 4 quart crockery cooker place potatoes, carrots, onion, browned pork chops, sauerkraut and apples. In a bowl combine apple cider or apple juice, catsup, and caraway seed; pour over apples.

3. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours. Garnish with snipped fresh parsley if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens, Crockery Cookbook, Meridith Corporation, 1994.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Honey Peach Ice Cream

Finally, some homemade food at our house! Since I have an official ice cream taste tester, my 2 1/2 year old, I'm getting lots of opportunities to try new ice cream recipes this summer. By the time this recipe is posted, my tester will likely have finished this batch! Based on the quantities of ice cream being consumed at our house summer will not likely be the end of our ice cream making extravaganza. I already have some fall ice cream recipes flagged to try. Since Dorie's blueberry sour cream ice cream was such a big hit, I decided to try the honey peach ice cream also from Baking from My Home to Yours. This recipe did not disappoint. This one was a little more involved than the last, since it involved making a custard first. The peach flavor was very pronounced in this recipe and enhanced nicely by the sweetness from the honey. I opted not to dice the remaining peaches and add them at the end, instead keeping this one smooth and creamy! I also substituted vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract. So, if you have any great ice cream recipes, feel free to pass them on to our house! Our ice cream maker is churning quite a bit!

Honey Peach Ice Cream

4 large ripe peaches (about 2 pounds), peeled and pitted
1/4 cup honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)

Coarsely chop half the peaches into 1/2 inch chunks and toss them into a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the peaches are soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and whir to puree. (Alternatively; use a hand blender.) Set the peach puree aside while you make the custard.

Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they don't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. The custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180 degrees F, on an instant read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into a 2 quart glass measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla and the peach puree.

Refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it into ice cream. Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, finely dice the remaining 2 peaches, then, just before the ice cream is thickened and ready, add the peaches and churn to blend. Pack the ice cream into a container and freezer for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

Source: Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kitchen Reopening!

There was no cooking in this kitchen last week. We were enjoying a fabulous Florida vacation! Happy to be back in my kitchen but missing my ocean view of the beach!