Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cheese Stuffed Shells and Garlic Cheese Toast

Tonight's dinner was a tried and true favorite... a comfort food if you will. I'm not a huge "Italian" food fan; I prefer white sauce to red, and not so much oregano, rosemary, and thyme... but this dish has my heart and soul... I LOVE cheese... and lots of it, and this dish gives me just that... 

To start off you need the following items: 
1 box jumbo shells - cooked according to package directions (more on that later)
4 8oz cans spaghetti sauce (any kind -- we're going to dress it up, so the milder the better)
3 lbs. ground beef
2 cloves garlic chopped
5 green onions chopped - separate the onion from the top green part (the green is saved for tomorrow night's stuffed mushrooms)
8 oz mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
2 lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs 

Brown and drain ground beef. Add 1 tbs butter to center of pan and melt, toss onion and chopped garlic in and stir to brown a little. Mix onion and garlic into ground beef and cook for about 4 minutes to meld the flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste and about 2 tbs Italian seasoning (your choice here). 

Add the sauce and stir well. 

Turn heat to simmer and allow to cook while you are preparing the shells. 

Drain and dry shells. 

Gently beat eggs and add ricotta and mozzarella to the mix.

For a little added zing, I toss a handful of the onion tops I reserved in with this mixture. You'll want this to hold together fairly well. 

Spoon a thin layer of sauce in bottom of baking dish - 13x9 is best and probably won't hold all the shells, but that's OK -- because you're going to run out of cheese first... 

Next grab up one of those shells, scoop a spoonful of the cheese mixture and stuff it in... put the shells in a single layer (usually about 4-5 in a row) in your baking dish.

Repeat until you run out of cheese or room... 
Look at them there, all snug together... just waiting to be my dinner! 
If needed use an additional pan.When all shells are stuffed, spoon the remaining sauce over the shells.  

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to lightly cover. 

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Goodbye my loves... I will see you soon!
Now, while the shells are cooking you can start on the garlic toast. 

You'll need the following: 
1 loaf French-bread, sliced
1 stick butter
Garlic powder
Chopped chives

Soften butter in microwave for 30 seconds, add garlic powder to taste and chopped chives. 

Mix well until mixture forms a nice pasty consistency.

Dip one side of each bread slice in butter mixture to coat and place butter side up on baking sheet. 

Sprinkle a little mozzarella on each slide of toast. 

Oh,look... my shells are ready... nice timing! 

Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes or until cheese starts to melt. Turn on the broiler and watch for the cheese to bubble and bread to brown, lightly. 

Remove and serve immediately. 

So... there you have it -- simple, good, and a real family pleaser! 

From the kitchen of a mom, with lots of love!

Of cakes and kitties....

I have a true and very deep love for ornately decorated cakes... you know the ones, you see them all the time on food network, even TLC has "Cake Boss" and Duff... who can forget Duff and his amazing work... Now, I took my fair share of Wilton classes back in the day, and I've made a few cakes from time to time... so I wasn't at at total loss when my daughter decided she wanted this: 

to be her birthday cake this year... My first thought was to run screaming from the house, never to be heard from again, but then I changed my mind, and got to work... planning how this would go... and wondering how in a house with two teenage boys, two men, three cats and four dogs this cake would make it from baked to beautiful... in three days. 
What we had my friends was a recipe for disaster... 
It all started out really well -- see, here's my stuff: 

Look! Even little shoe forms! I was prepared I'm telling you! :)

so, we get down to brass tacks and see what we come up with... 

A shoe, coming right along!!!
They really did turn out beautifully, really.

It's a purse! a little tiny purse...

two towers and the mid section down... and I went to bed...everything stored nicely in boxes on the counter... 
I didn't count on cats... no I sure didn't...

And when I got up the next morning... all my work was ruined... 
Shoes crushed to oblivion, cake smashed in on itself... it was horrible.... I cried -- really sat and cried. 
but it didn't turn out too bad -- 

You can even see a little of how it was smashed in if you look close enough - no accounting for the behavior of cats...
but my daughter was happy:

In the end... that's all that really matters :)

From the kitchen of a mom, with lots of love!

A sampler... things from my kitchen

I think that I have established that I love to cook... and that I take pictures of what I cook, so I thought I would add few fun photos of food I've cooked, baked, decorated, or otherwise prepared... have fun looking, and drooling -- I hope. Feel free to ask for recipes if you want... I will eventually get around to making it again! :)

Dinner is my favorite meal... that comes from growing up with a grandmother who cooked a full on dinner every single night... even when serving a one-dish meal like a casserole, she had to make side dishes to go with... and bread, always bread... good times for sure! 
Here are a few dinner pictures for ya! 

mmmmm......beef and mushroom stew, oh so good!

green bean casserole, you are my love! bacon, green beans, cheese... oh what's not to love! 

the bird... Thanksgiving dinner -- my homemade from scratch cornbread dressing inside all yummy... there's some in a bowl over on the right... oh what a night! 

delightfully yummy, creamy and good coffee punch... sipped all day on Thanksgiving and Christmas... and put to good use throughout the winter as a little 'pick-me-up'!

See, like I said, I practice on the kids... except sometimes they don't get any -- as in the case of the coffee punch... too much caffeine for my brood! but the big kids loved it ;)

I will share all of these recipes and more as I wander through my kitchen wondering 'what's for dinner'? I will share triumphs, and possibly failures... it all depends. Of course at some point I must share the "Story of the Sweet 16 Cake"... it's a true tear jerker involving 23 hours of work decimated in less than 2.2 seconds... and cats -- it involves lovely fur-babies....

this one...

my sons incredibly spoiled and food savvy cat....

And my daughter's intrepid "starey" cat as we like to call him... he's also elusive and has yet to allow his photo to be taken by anyone. in three years.

My son's cat, however, as you can see loves the camera almost as much as he loves food, and that's saying a lot...

From the kitchen of a mom, with lots of love!