Friday, July 25, 2008

Shells Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach and Artichokes

Sometimes I surprise myself with how tasty some of my kitchen creations are. I don't just "make up" recipes very often; I usually use cookbooks or the internet and then add or change ingredients as I see fit.

That being said -- I don't know where I dreamed this recipe up, and I was surprised by how well it turned out. I think the idea for it started with the spinach artichoke dip I made a couple of weeks ago. I started thinking how good spinach and artichokes would be with pasta in a creamy cheesy sauce, but instead of just making a plain pasta dish, I decided to stuff some pasta shells. Hence, this creation.

I used a whole box of jumbo pasta shells and a large container of ricotta cheese, so I had a lot of both left over -- much more than just Joe and I could eat. I went ahead and made about half for us, then froze the other half for a future meal. I'll be interested to see how well they froze. (Incidentally, we loved this with sausage -- but ground chicken or turkey would probably be good in here too, and much more figure-friendly!)

Shells Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach and Artichokes
Source: Cassie

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 pound Italian sausage
1 large container ricotta cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups Italian-blend shredded cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions, just to al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

2. Brown sausage in a medium skillet; remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach and artichokes. Add cooled sausage to mixture.

4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in flour. Continue to stir and cook for one minute until flour is thoroughly combined. Add milk and cook until sauce begins to thicken. Add cheeses to sauce, along with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture and place in a greased baking dish. Pour sauce over stuffed shells. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in a 350° oven until sauce begins to bubble, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Mom's Cajun Meatloaf

You know how Taste of Home Magazine has a "Mom's Best Meal" section in every issue? Subscribers send in recipes from their moms, along with an essay of sorts talking about why they chose those recipes and the memories the recipes envoke. If I were submitting a "Mom's Best Meal" to the magazine it would be this: Mom's cajun meatloaf, along with her carrot casserole, green vegetable medley, and peanut butter pie.

This is hands down THE best meatloaf you will ever put in your mouth. Even if you don't like meatloaf you will like this meatloaf. It has the perfect amount of heat that just hits the back of your tongue without being too spicy. The flavors are great, and it's one of those dishes in which you can taste each ingredient individually. I served it this time with mashed potatoes the way I always make them: with salt, pepper, butter, milk, cream cheese and sour cream. The list of ingredients may seem a little intimidating, but it's so worth it -- what a hearty, delicious meal!

Mom's Cajun Meatloaf
Source: my mom

2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped peeled onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/4 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
1/4 cup chopped green onion (I omitted)
2 teaspoons crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 pound groung pork
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs

1. In a small bowl, combine bay leaves, salt, cayenne, black and white pepper, cumin and nutmeg; set aside.

2. In a skillet, melt butter and saute onions, celery, green bell pepper, green onions, garlic, hot pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in spice mixture and cook for about 6 minutes.

3. Stir in evaporated milk and ketchup. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Preheat oven to 350°. Place ground beef and ground pork in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, the vegetable mixture and dry bread crumbs. Remove bay leaves and mix until combined. Transfer meat mixture to an ungreased loaf pan. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chicken with Black Pepper, Bourbon and Peach Sauce

Finally, after two and a half months of caring for my son, I'm back in the kitchen full time, and I couldn't be happier about it! When I planned my menu last week, I made sure I had a mixture of old favorites, new recipes, and a couple of my own creations on it. The first of those "creations": chicken with black pepper-bourbon-peach sauce. It just sounded good, and in the end it tasted just as good as it sounded. The black pepper balanced the sweetness of the bourbon and the peach preserves perfectly, and it was such a refreshing dish to eat on a hot summer evening. The chicken could just as easily have been cooked on the grill and the sauce turned into a glaze for basting, but my husband was too lazy to fire the grill up the night we had this. I served the chicken with garden-fresh asparagus the way I always make it: steamed, then tossed with butter and tons of pepper. This was a delicious meal!

Chicken with Black Pepper, Bourbon and Peach Sauce
Source: Cassie

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 small shallots, chopped
1 cup bourbon
3 tablespoons peach preserves
2 teaspoons black pepper

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in olive oil in a medium skillet until chicken is brown and the juices run clear. Set chicken aside to rest.

2. In the same skillet, saute the shallots in the butter until they just begin to caramelize. Remove skillet from heat, add bourbon, and let cook over medium heat until alcohol cooks out and bourbon is reduced by about half. Add peach preserves and black pepper and cook until heated through.

3. Slice chicken and top with sauce.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chicken Noodle Casserole

When we went to my best friend's wedding two Saturdays ago, my dad and stepmom came over to watch Andrew while we were gone. To thank them, I made a chicken noodle casserole for them to have for dinner. Fortunately for Joe and me, they opted to order pizza instead, so we were able to have a lovely, hearty dinner the next evening.

This casserole is one of our favorites. While it's probably more suited for a winter meal, it was still nice to have something so warm and comforting for dinner. I found this recipe on a cooking website a few years ago, and since then I've made some changes to the original. They're in purple.

Chicken Noodle Casserole


6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 16-ounce package noodles (I use egg noodles, and I never use the entire package since they plump up so much. Half to three-quarters of a bag is usually enough.)
8 ounces process cheese (Velveeta, what else?)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
2 cups crushed Corn Flakes (I use Ritz crackers instead)

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken and shred or chop. In large pan cook noodles (not quite done) and drain. I always cook the noodles in half water, half chicken broth.

2. In large pan, saute onion and peppers until onions are translucent and peppers are semi-soft. Mix in cheese and soups. When cheese is melted, add chicken and noodles. Pour into casserole dish. Top with corn flakes or Ritz crackers and dot with butter.

3. Bake in a 350° oven for 1 hour.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Dip

It really is like crack!...I mean, not that I really know how addictive crack is -- but I've heard that the famous buffalo chicken dip is so addictive, it's been nicknamed "crack dip." This is another dish I made for the bachelorette party; it was my first time making it and tasting it, and I really couldn't get enough. This dip is absolutely legendary on the internet now, and rightfully so -- it's just delicious and tastes exactly like buffalo chicken wings! I've made it twice since the bachelorette party for my husband and me, and we just love it; it's so spicy and tangy and creamy. In fact, that's why the picture is so crappy -- I'm too busy eating it all up to stop and take a decent picture! I prefer this with tortilla chips instead of crackers.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Source: All Recipes

2 10-ounce cans chunk chicken, drained
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup Ranch dressing
3/4 cup pepper sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce over medium heat until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and Ranch dressing. Cook, stirring, until well-blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheddar cheese and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on low until hot and bubbly. (I cooked mine in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes instead of using the slow cooker, and it was just fine. This reheats very well!)

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I've been meaning to post the recipes from the bachelorette party I hosted for about a week now, but who knew a seven-week-old would need so much attention? Sheesh! Andrew has been wearing me out lately, but he's fast asleep now so I finally found myself with a few minutes to spare. Both of my blogs have been sorely neglected lately, but hopefully that'll change soon.

Anyway, the party went really well. I think the bride-to-be had a really great time, and I know she appreciated all the hard work I put in to make sure that happened! Turns out, I made way too much food, but that's okay -- she didn't mind the leftovers! Here's the spread:

One of my co-workers made a fantastic spinach artichoke dip for the baby shower they had for me at work, so I asked her to share the recipe with me so I could make it for the party. I have no idea if this is her recipe or if she got it from somewhere, but wherever it came from, one thing is for sure: It's wonderful. I love spinach artichoke dip, anyway, but this one is especially good. My changes to her recipe are in purple.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Source: Kristy

1/2 teaspoon garlic
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 mozzarella cheese
1 14-ounce can artichoke harts, drained and finely sliced
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients until well mixed.

2. Spoon into a 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish. Top with additional mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.