Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stuffed Shells for Two, Times Four

I love stuffed shells when my daughter makes them; we cook similarly, but somehow hers taste better to me; and, anyway, they're almost as fiddly to make as lasagne. However, this afternoon, I got an early start --one of the perks of retirement -- and got my shells oven-ready before 2 p.m. Using yet another great dollar store product -- a packet of three foil baking pans with lids -- I made three dinners for two to freeze in addition to tonight's supper. I love that.

Here's how I make my version, based on a combination of Rachel Ray's recipe and the one on a shell box:

Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
One28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped, or a 15-oz. can of chopped tomatoes
Shredded basil

Two 15-ounce containers ricotta
Two 8-oz. packages shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Romano
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

1 box shells, cooked about 15 minutes, al dente, drained and spread on cookie sheet

Simmer sauce for about 10 minutes. Mix stuffing thoroughly with granny fork. Spread small amount of sauce over the bottom of each of four 9-inch baking dishes. Place about 10 stuffed shells in each dish. Spoon remaining sauce over the shells. Freeze or bake. To bake, top with additional Romano cheese and cover with foil. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes

Yesterday's dessert and today's bargain

One of my favorite desserts on our last Holland-America cruise was mango mousse -- light, barely sweet, fluffy, refreshing. So after doggedly pursuing a recipe made with fresh mangos that looked okay, I found one. It uses pureed mangos, sugar, lemon juice, and unflavored gelatin (something I'm not very experienced with). Okay, so I got it a little undersweetened for my husband's taste, but that's the way I like desserts -- as they are at the local French bakery. I had planned to make a "napoleon" by baking some homemade lime-flavored pizzelle, but laziness won and I used some Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and added powdered sugar for the family sweet tooths. I forgot to get out the camera before it was half demolished, so it's not so pretty, but herewith anyway. I love the lovely pale yellow-orange color and the brightness of chopped mango.

Having branched out from Publix to Kroger, depending on who has the best deals on fresh produce on shopping day, I've discovered Kroger often feature's "manager's specials" on fresh flowers. This time I got one of my faves: a dozen white roses. They are already looking a bit past their prime, but then who isn't.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A White Sport Coat and

A Pink Carnation -- crocheted, that is.

While trying to decide what to do for the last couple of 6-inch flower squares (of 56 planned), I had a hankering for a pink carnation and -- unable to find a pattern that I liked -- devised this one myself. Once you've made fifty-some different flower squares, it's pretty easy to "ad lib" your own non-botanically-correct fantasy flowers derived from several basic types of crocheted flowers.

My carnation turned out so poufy,though, that I think I'll save it for a little girl's hat. It could be "squared" by adding a ch 1 between each petal on Row 3, then add a round where you sl st and ch about between and behind each petal. Then on the next rowmake a corner in every other ch sp and a row of dc in the alternating 4 ch sp. I have seen a pattern for an afghan made up of all carnation squares, where the flowers are really high, but I'm not sure I'd like that for an afghan that would actually be used as a coverlet.

H crochet hook
Small amount of pink worsted weight yarn

Finished size: about 4-1/2 inches in diameter and about 2-1/2 inches high

Round 1. Ch 6 and connect with sl st to form a ring.
Round 2. Sc, ch 3 eight in ring 8 times. At the end of the eighth ch 3, connect with first sc.
Round 3. In each ch 3 sp, sl st, ch 4, 8 dtr, ch 4, sl st.
Round 4. In each ch and in each dtr around, sl st and make a ch3 picot, ending with sl stitch in first sl st. Fasten off.

For a fuller carnation, in Round 3 do 10 instead of 8 dtr.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rattatooty, or TMZ (too much zucchini)

Back in the '70s when we had a great vegetable garden in the New Jersey suburb's wonderful rich black soil, it was a challenge to use up all the zucchini and tomatoes, and by feeding half the neighborhood, in exchange I got some really good ways to use up this bounty. One Italian-American neighbor taught me this one -- so quick and deceptively simple to make. It's not quite ratatouille (no eggplant or celery), but similar. I've named it for the way my mom pronounced ratatouille. Since it's faux ratatouille, I've given it a faux name. And it's still a family favorite after all these years and using store-bought produce. I like it as a side dish, but it's also good on pasta.

Mary Ann's "Rattatooty"

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, sliced

4 or 5 zucchini, summer squash, or both

5 or 6 cloves of garlic finelly chopped -- the more, the better

3 or 4 juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped

about 10 basil leaves, shredded

pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Salt and pepper

In a medium pot with some olive oil, start sauteing onion and squash Add red pepper, salt, black pepper, and garlic. Cook for 5 or 10 minutes, turning and stirring. Add tomatoes and basil. Cook uncovered on medium heat until veggies are tender and flavors are melded, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.