I cannot believe that I have never posted a baked stuffed shells recipe, ever?! It is one of those classic Italian dishes that so many families love! I was going through the grocery store aisles on Saturday, for our big weekly shop, and these big pasta shells caught my eye. Then I said, "self, why aren't you cooking more of this?". I picked it up and decided that was going to dinner that night! Now my hubby and I don't like to eat a lot of high calorie meals, but I don't like to avoid it altogether either. Hey, I grew up on this type of stuff I gotta have it sometimes! So in short, my family loved it! including my picky eater mom. My mom said that it reminded her of the family dinners we had at nice Italian restaurants from years ago. Although I know she was being kind (because I couldn't compare to the nice Italian restaurants) it was truly an amazing comforting meal, sure to please any palate. Make this tonight folks, it is sure to bring on tons of smiles!

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Baking time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients for sauce:
  • 1 lb medium or large pasta shells
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • a good pinch of: dried basil and oregano
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 chicken/turkey/pork sausages, without casings (meat optional)
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced.
  • half pint white or cremini mushrooms, minced
  • 1 can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp herbed tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (or so) of water/stock (or more as needed)
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely

Ingredients for filling and assembly:
  • 1 cup (or a small tub) of light ricotta
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pkg of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out.
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • small pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Melting cheese (i.e. Mozzarella, Italian cheese blend or cheddar - your choice)

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water, and add in the pasta shells. Cook as per package instructions. It should take about 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to avoid sticking.

2. Preheat a large shallow heavy bottom pan, on medium high heat. Add in the garlic, onion, dried herbs, salt, pepper, and sausages out of their casings (if using). Break up the sausages using a wooden cooking spoon. Cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add in the diced zucchini, carrot and mushrooms. Saute for a good 5 minutes to cook the vegetables down and to release the natural juices.

4. Pour in the can of diced tomatoes, and add in the tomato paste, sugar and water. Stir to combine the ingredients. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Place the lid on with a slight opening, and gently simmer for a good 10-15 minutes. You want the sauce to thicken. Note: if your sauce is too thick, add in a bit more water or stock to loosen the sauce. Turn the heat off once done and stir in the fresh chopped parsley.

5. Shell Assembly: Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a large casserole baking dish with parchment paper to avoid burning or sticking. Pour a good amount of the tomato sauce on the bottom to coat and set aside for now.

6. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, chopped spinach, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Parmesan cheese. Take the cooked pasta shells that were set aside, and start to fill them. I like to only put in one spoonful of the ricotta mixture for each pasta shell. As you fill them, place them each into the prepared baking dish. Do not overlap them, place each shell right beside each other.

7. After you fill each shell, ladle sauce all over the filled shells and sprinkle your choice of melting cheese all over (as much you want). Then place it into the hot oven to cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted and golden. Cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve it warm with a nice simple green salad and enjoy!

Note: You may or may not end up using all of the pasta shells. Don't fret, just do what I do and save them for another night! You can just take some leftover sauce and pour it over, heat through and eat!

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BERRY-JAM FILLED CINNAMON DOUGHNUT MUFFINS

Well we have now made it to September folks! And for some of my readers out there, your children are back in school! Here is a delectable and scrumptious after school treat for the kids (or grown-ups) when they are sort of in the midst of hunger before the dinner hour. These berry-jam filled cinnamon doughnut muffins are a healthier baked version of your favourite jam filled doughnuts from the bakery. What's great about these are also that they're so quick to make! They certainly satisfy that slight bit of hunger you may have. These are also great for brunches or dessert as well. You'll have your kids smiling after a hard day at school.

Adapted from the "cinnamon doughnut muffins" recipe, in the Taste of Home's: Prize winning recipes magazine (Spring 2005 issue).

Makes 10 muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Baking time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 granulated white sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • raspberry or strawberry jam (less sugar variety)

Topping: (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin baking pan with paper muffins cups and set aside for now.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, add in the sugar, egg and milk and mix until just combined. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, stir until just moistened.

3. Fill the lined muffin cups half full, then place 1 good tsp of jam on top. Cover the jam with enough batter to fill the muffins cups three-fourths full to the top. Place the muffins into the oven to bake for a good 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (minus the jam). Can serve warm or room temp or go to step four.

4. Optional step: In a bowl, add the melted butter. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Immediately, after removing the muffins from the oven, dip the tops in butter then in the cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.
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LEFTOVER TURKEY AND RICE TORTILLA SOUP

We are here almost at the end of summer (sucks I know!). But with the colder months, approaching quickly, we all need some new recipes to help warm and comfort us after a long hard day of work. Also, with Thanksgiving coming next month (for us Canadians) we could all use yet another leftover turkey recipe as well. This is a turkey and rice tortilla soup brought to you by the USA Rice Federation. They were kind enough to let me post this delectable warm wintery/fall recipe. So next time you have some leftover turkey and feel like Mexican? Give this a try and make extra for the cold nights ahead.

Recipe and photo from USA Rice Federation. Permission was granted prior to posting.
 
*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use U.S. Rice is strictly from the USA Rice Federation and from the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.*
 
 Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:

Tortilla Strips:
  • 4 small flour tortillas
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
Soup:
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 sweet yellow or red pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) each chili powder and ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
  • 4 cups (1 L) homemade turkey stock or sodium-reduced chicken broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tomato-vegetable cocktail or turkey stock
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cooked U.S. long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups (500 mL) diced cooked turkey
Suggested Garnishes:
Diced ripe avocado
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges


Tortilla Strips: Pre-heat oven to 325°F (160°C). Brush tortillas all over with oil; stack and cut in half. Stack again and slice crosswise into thin strips. Separate strips and arrange on rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 20 minutes or until crisp. Let cool.

Soup: In Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; fry onion, yellow pepper and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper; cook for 30 seconds.

Add stock, tomato-vegetable cocktail, diced tomatoes and beans; bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in rice and turkey; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
Ladle into bowls. Serve with tortilla strips and garnishes on the side.

TIP: Let diners customize their own soup with a variety of garnish options from which to choose. Other options include cooked hominy, tomatillo salsa and sour cream. Monterey Jack can be replaced with queso fresco – a crumbly, fresh Mexican cheese. This can be made with cooked white or brown rice.

PER SERVING (1 3/4 cup [425 mL]): 313 calories, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 1036 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrates, 6 g fibre, 18 g protein. % RDI: 6% calcium, 19% iron, 15% vitamin A, 98% vitamin C.
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This is the second recipe that I will be posting from the USA Rice Federation. This is a treat that is surely pleasing to the eyes :) Another thing that got my attention immediately is the word chocolate. Who doesn't love chocolate? Add in the "no bake" factor and you've got a treat that I am willing to make! Baking is fun but sometimes I just don't want to bake batches of well...anything! The USA Rice Federation say that these are "gluten-free" and can be "prepared and frozen up to six months in advance". I say make these ahead of time for your next party and save time on an already busy day of prepping. Serve these babies up on a dessert tray with fresh fruit. Delish!

Recipe and photo from USA Rice Federation. Permission was granted prior to posting.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use U.S. Rice is strictly from the USA Rice Federation and from the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.*


Makes 36 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 12 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) cooked U.S. medium- or long-grain brown rice
  • 3 oz (75 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tbsp (25 to 45 mL) coconut oil

In food processor, combine almonds, dates, half of the coconut, rice, chocolate and oil. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped and holds together, about 1 minute. Add up to 1 tbsp (15 mL) more coconut oil, if necessary to help bind mixture.

Drop 1 tbsp (15 mL) of mixture onto waxed or parchment paper-lined tray. Place remaining coconut in a small bowl; roll each ‘truffle’ into coconut to coat. Return to tray and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

TIP: Find coconut oil in some grocery stores and most health food stores. These can also be made with white rice. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.

PER SERVING (1 piece): 81 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g fibre, 1 g protein. % RDI: 2% calcium, 3% iron.
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MUTHIYA WITH MANGO CHUTNEY

Here is a popular Indian dish that I wanted to post for some time now. The USA Rice Federation had sent me some very interesting and yummy holiday entertainment dishes that I thought would be of interest to my readers as well. I know Thanksgiving is still a way off but I thought with it quickly approaching next month you might need a few new appetizer ideas for your family get-together. Now I have to say, if you don't already know, I love Indian food! This got my attention immediately. This spicy deep-fried appetizer, using rice and chick-pea flour, is a delicious little bite for any of your party guests. Paired with a sweet mango chutney for dipping and you've got a new surprise treat sure to satisfy any spicy food lover!

Recipe and photo from USA Rice Federation. Permission was granted prior to posting.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use U.S. Rice is strictly from the USA Rice Federation and from the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.*


Makes 30 Pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) plain Balkan-style yogurt
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) garam masala or Jeera-dhaniya powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) chili paste
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each turmeric and salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cooked U.S. long-grain white rice
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) besan or bengal gram (chickpea flour)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Mango chutney

In bowl, whisk egg, yogurt, 2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil, sugar, garam masala, baking powder, ginger, chili paste, turmeric and salt. Stir in rice and cilantro; stir in besan until a thick batter forms. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in deep heavy-bottomed skillet or wok, add enough oil to come at least 1-inch (2.5 cm) up side of pan. Heat oil to 350°F (180°C) (or use deep-fryer). Scoop mixture by tablespoonfuls (15 mL) and form each into ovals or balls.

Fry, a few at a time and turn once, until deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined tray to drain. Serve warm with mango chutney for dipping.
 
TIP: These gluten-free snacks are similar to pakoras. To make ahead, refrigerate for up to 3 days, then reheat on baking sheet in 350°F (180°C) oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.

If batter seems a bit thin when frying, add a couple more tablespoons (25 mL) of besan. If you can’t find besan, these can be made with all-purpose flour, though the flavour will be noticeably different. Or if you have a grinder, make your own besan with dried chickpeas.

PER SERVING (3 pieces): 200 calories, 16 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 227 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 1 g fibre, 3 g protein. % RDI: 2% calcium, 4% iron, 2% vitamin A.
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