Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stuffed Shells Two Ways


It's lent and I always try to find an alternative to "Fishy Fridays"!  This is an option on stuffed shells two ways.  One can be straight cheese (or add shrimp as a protein).  The other is an option to add the protein of your choice (I did grilled chicken but browned chuck would be great too)!
This couldn't be more simple or quicker.  While your shells are cooking you can bring everything else together super quick! Any time we have the grill hot, I try to cook ahead as much as I can.  Grilled chicken tenderloins can be a quick add to a salad, a taco or a casserole.  You can freeze them and use as needed.  If your chicken dries out too much, simply soak then in warm water for 20 minutes before you need them - they pop right back very quickly.
If you feel compelled to make your sauce from scratch, be my guest...but I don't have the time or inclination to do so.  I used my favorite jar of marinara sauce and played it up some.  It came out YUMMY and was so quick and easy!  
You'll need: 
1 large box of  jumbo pasta shells

1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups (475 g) ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh chives or parsley
2 packages frozen spinach (well drained)
1 cup grilled chicken tenderloin (optional)

1 jar marinara sauce
2 cans chopped petite tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Boil jumbo pasta shells 12 - 13 minutes. Add a teaspoon of salt and a dash of olive or canola oil to the water.  Bring water to a boil and add your shells.  You want them al-dente'.  It almost killed me to take pasta off the stove before it was completely done but if you overcook your pasta, you'll have a heck of a time stuffing soggy shells!  Rinse in cool water and drain well.

Prepare your filling.  Drain your spinach until ALL the liquid is gone.  This can be a challenge but you don't want to add any extra liquid to our dish. Combine all three cheeses with spinach and herbs,  If you add a protein mix this in as well.  I used grilled chopped chicken but petite shrimp or even ground chuck would also be good choices.

Prepare your sauce.  I used 1 jar of my favorite marinara sauce and added 2 cans chopped petite tomatoes (drained well).  Mix in red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup chopped herbs. 

Stuff your shells and arrange them in a baking dish (spray with cooking spray - pasta is sticky)!  Top them with sauce and sprinkle with a touch of mozzarella and parmesan.

 Bake at 350* for 15 - 20 minutes.  Garnish with herbs and serve with garlic toast points and a green salad.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Cupcake Corsages

Valentine's Day is almost upon us and I wanted to make some Sweets for my Sweetheart!  Sometimes all you need to do to make a special gift for a special occasion is to think outside the box.  This includes the recipe and the presentation.  Corsage Boxes and Long Stem Boxes are especially easy to work with and you get a sneak peak at your yummy goodies!

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

1 Box Yellow Butter Cake Mix
1 Small Box Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
12 oz.  Milk Chocolate Chips (Milk or Semi-Sweet)
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Cupcake Liners (foil lined only)
Baker's Secret Spray
4 eggs
1/3 cup Canola Oil
1 cup Water
1 1/2 cups Cold Milk (whole, reduced fat or skim)
1 Medium Pastry Bag with Small Round Tip

Prepare instant vanilla pudding mix as directed and place in the fridge for it to chill and thicken.

Prepare cake mix as directed on the package (I always add an extra egg to each box - it just makes it so much more moist). 

Line your muffin pan with any foil lined cupcake liner.  It's important not to use paper liners as they tend to stick to your cupcake and they cannot handle the chocolate ganache.  I like to lightly spray my foil liners with just a spot of Baker's Secret baking spray.  Your cupcakes will come out just beautifully!

Fill each liner 2/3 full of cake batter.  Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until the centers are set in a pre-heated 350* oven.  Remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Don't get ahead of yourself...these need to be completely cool before filling.

Place the tip into the pastry bag (I have to confess it has been so long since I've piped frosting, I'd forgotten how to secure mine - second try was MUCH more successful).  Use a pointed small round tip.  I place my pastry bag in a tea glass then flip the edges of the pouch over the top rim of the glass.  Fill the pastry bag with the pudding mix.  Twist the top tight and insert the tip into a cupcake.  Squeeze firmly to insert the filling into your cupcake.  You will notice a slight "puff" in the cupcake.  Do not overfill.

Place heavy whipping cream in a small sauce pan and heat it until small bubbles start to form on the edges.  Add chocolate chips and remove from heat.  Whisk constantly until all chips are melted.  Pour over the tops of the cupcakes or dip the tops into the Grenache if you prefer.  Word to the wise, this can get messy so be prepared.

Chill in the fridge for at least an hour or even overnight.  I keep mine chilled until just before serving.  They were FABULOUS! 

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

 1 Box White Cake Mix
1 Package of Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (generic is fine)
2 Cans of Prepared White Cake Frosting
Foil Lined Cupcake Liners
4 Eggs
1/3 cup Canola Oil
1 cup Water

You'll need to crush the cookies, I use a gallon zip lock bag and a small baseball bat.  It's cheaper than therapy and I hate cleaning up the food processor.  I'm pretty mighty with the bat so I double bag my cookies.  Squeeze all the air out, seal the bags - step out onto the patio, name those cookies after what frustrates you and whack away!  :)

Mix the white cake mix as directed.  I use whole eggs but you may choose to use the whites only if you prefer. When the batter is ready, add 1 cup of smashed cookies (I usually add twice that as I like a LOT of cookie in mine.)  Some add a whole cookie to the bottom then 1 cup of bits.  You do what suits you best.

Place the cupcake liners in the muffin tin.  I really prefer foil lined as they make your cupcakes come out so beautifully.  I spray each liner very lightly with a spritz of Baker's Secret Baking Spray. Fill cups 2/3 full of batter.  Bake at 350* for 15 - 17 minutes or until the centers are set.  Don't over bake, your cupcakes will be dry and crumbly.

Remove cupcakes form the baking tin and cool completely on a wire rack.  Whip the canned frosting to make it fluffier.  I whip mine right in the container, it makes one less thing to clean up.  Frost the cupcakes and garnish with remaining cookie bits.  These do not have to be refrigerated.  They are very pretty in presentation and are especially addictive!

Strawberry Surprise

1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix
1 cup  water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
2 lbs Fresh Strawberries (18 to be capped and kept whole)
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp  vanilla
1/3 cup  powdered sugar (or more to taste)
1/2 cup strawberries chopped into really small pieces (or it will stuck into the piping tip)

Prepare cake as directed on the package and bake the cupcakes.  You'll need to let them cool completely before inserting the strawberries. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, take a knife and hollow out a medium center of each cupcake.  Wash and drain strawberries and cap them.  Insert a full berry in the center of each cupcake.

Prepare the frosting.  Whip the cream, vanilla and powdered sugar together.  When it thickens, gently fold in the chopped strawberries.  If your frosting doesn't set well, add additional powdered sugar.

Frost each cupcake and keep refrigerated until serving.