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where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


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Springtime Baked Shells

I don’t know what was in the water 9 months ago, but several of my people are popping out babies. My friends Bridget & Zac had a beautiful baby girl, Ruby, on the first day of spring. A few weeks later came Beatrice to another set of friends. Ruby & Beatrice’s arrivals were two great reasons to make one of my very favorite pasta recipes. These new parents needed to eat, and springtime is the right time for this dish full of green veggies. It’s comfort food that you can justify.

golden bubbly

ingredients close up

Springtime Baked Shells
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

16 ounces medium pasta shells
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½ pound broccoli, cut into small florets
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup frozen peas
30 ounces ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1½ cups Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13x2-inch baking dish. You can use a lasagna pan or something similar. When I need to deliver this dish, I like to use an Eco-Foil disposable 9x11x2 roaster/baker pan. It’s sturdy and comes with a domed lid for easy transport.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook pasta until extremely al dente.
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle in a little salt. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the red pepper flakes, if using.
  • Next toss in the broccoli and cook for one minute; add the zucchini and cook for two more minutes; sprinkle in more salt and some pepper. Add the green onion and cook another minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the frozen peas. Set aside.

green veg 1

  • In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and a glug (about a tablespoon) of olive oil until well combined.

ricotta filling

  • Try not to step on the little dog under your feet who is patiently hoping you will drop something.

waiting

  • Assemble: Add half the pasta, then spread ½ cup* of the ricotta mixture over the surface (*NOT half of the entire mixture, just a ½ of a cup).

shells

spread

  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan over the ricotta, then ½ of the vegetables. (The little dog is still lurking. Ignore him.)

layer veg action

  • Repeat with the rest of the pasta, the rest of the ricotta, and another 1/3 of the Parmesan. End with the remaining vegetables and top with the end of the Parm.

ricotta layer spread

ready to bake

  • Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly-hot.
  • Serve with extra Parmesan and crusty bread.

golden bubbly angle

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Easy-Peasy

peacloseup

I know what you’re thinking. That blog post title could have been more creative. But I would argue that it is true and accurate. I considered calling it “Peas Be With You” or “Peas de Résistance,” but when you make this recipe you will agree that “Easy-Peasy” was the way to go.

Anyway, happy spring! It’s that wonderful time of year when one minute you are prancing around outside in a tank top and the next you’re under a quilt hiding from the chilly rain. These unpredictable meteorological conditions make for odd food cravings. Like the other night when I wanted a fresh, springy dish that was also warm and comforting. If your taste buds also feel partly cloudy, make this pea soup. It’s the perfect gastronomical bridge between springtime and whatever is actually going on with the weather.

Pea Soup
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups chopped onion mixture (Any combination of leeks, shallots, and yellow onion will
do—whatever you have on hand. You could probably even use scallions. Go wild.)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 box chicken stock
2 bags frozen peas
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Options: Mint, basil, red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, more olive oil

  • In a Dutch oven, melt the oil and butter over medium heat and add the onion mixture. Cook 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook another few minutes.
    onion
  • Once the onion mixture is tender, add the chicken stock, frozen peas, salt, and pepper. If you are using mint or basil, add that too. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 5 minutes.
    No need to get fancy with the peas. Kroger brand will do you just fine.

    No need to get fancy with the peas. Kroger brand will do you just fine.

    peascook

  • Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and/or drizzle with olive oil to serve.


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First Day of Spring Cake

Spring has sprung, y’all! In honor of that, let’s have some lavender cake.

What? You’re not sure if you want lavender in your cake? Trust me. You do. Maybe the lavender cookies didn’t win you over, but this cake will. And the a tangy, creamy goat cheese icing balances it perfectly. This cake is also extremely simple to make, so you have no excuses.

Lavender Shortbread Cake
Adapted from Always With Butter
Serves 8-10

¾ cup butter, room temp
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon culinary lavender, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons almond milk (or regular milk)
5 oz. chèvre goat cheese, room temp
4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 cup powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan.
  • Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in flour, lavender, vanilla, and milk. The batter will be thick but creamy. Like this:

  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until cake is golden. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on wire rack. Like this:

  • Beat together goat cheese, cream cheese, and powdered sugar until smooth. Lather on cooled cake and enjoy!