killing time between meals

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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Beef Stew & Shepherd’s Pie

bowl o stew

St. Paddy’s Day may be a few days behind us, but there’s still a windy chill in the air. While today is the first day of spring, you can still say an official farewell to winter with some hearty beef stew and/or shepherd’s pie. If you know any men wearing flannel shirts and sporting thick beards, I advise you to invite them over. They will love you and eat up all the hearty food on your table.

Beef Stew
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can or bottle of beer
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 new potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, unpeeled & sliced into chunks
¼ cup minced parsley
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in Dutch oven over meduim-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove meat from the pot and set aside.
  • Place chopped onion in pot and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in beer, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, paprika, sugar, salt, and pepper. Return beef to pot, cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
  • Add potatoes and carrots. Cover and cook another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Serve in deep bowls. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
pot o stew
Now, that was good. But shepherd’s pie is even better.
Shepherd’s Pie
Leftover beef stew
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons butter (or more or less to taste)
½ cup milk or half-and-half (to taste and consistency preference)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Peel and cut the potatoes into same-sized pieces, and add them to the water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes in a large colander; return them to the pot they cooked in, and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape.
  • Turn off the stove and add butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Mash to desired consistency and taste for seasoning.
  • Place leftover stew in a pan.
  • Lather a thick layer of mashed potatoes on top. Smooth with a spatula. Like so:

spread 2

  • Cover potatoes with grated cheese.
with cheese

  • Bake until the cheese is warm and brown.

hot cheese

shep close


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Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorites. There seems to be extra time to go to the movies and return stuff that didn’t fit and read the new cookbook you bought yourself for Christmas.

PioneerWomanHolidayCover

Ree begins her book of holiday meals with New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John. This is a tradition I’ve never participated in before. But after my first encounter, I see many a black-eyed pea in my future January 1sts (as well as other chilly days ahead). Hoppin’ John over rice is a filling, simple, flavorful meal. Add another dimension by serving it alongside kale, with cornbread, or over grits instead of rice like my friend Caroline does.

pot of beans

Hoppin’ John
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 thick slice country ham, diced (about 1 cup)
White rice, for serving

  1. Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for 6 hours or more. Rinse and drain.
  2. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño, garlic, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in rinsed beans, then add the chicken stock, salt & pepper, and cayenne pepper. It’s a lot of beans to season, but go easy on the salt since the country ham you’re about to add is very salty. Start with a teaspoon and see how you feel.
  3. Toss in the diced country ham (bone and all) and bring to a boil.
    country ham
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir periodically, and check the liquid level after about 45 minutes. I like a thick stew consistency so some liquid remains to spoon over the rice. If the mixture is too soupy, remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or so. If it’s too thick, add more stock.
  5. Taste for seasonings. Remove bone. Serve over rice.

Happy New Year, friends!

 


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Cookbook Confessions

Amazon is such a lovely thing. You click buttons and they send you stuff like this:

The Pioneer Woman’s second cookbook contains tasty treats and guilty pleasures. Farm Anatomy is filled with whimsical, yet precise, illustrations identifying everything from barn styles to sheep breeds (along with recipes, of course). See:

I might be a bit of a food book hoarder. It seems the cookbook shelf runneth over.

Not that that stops me.
Another reason I love Amazon is because they let you preorder things. Like this:

That’s right, people. My favorite girl Ina has a new cookbook coming out! There is one downside: I won’t get it until October 30th. Sheesh! That’s more than six months away. I’m sure it will be well worth the wait. If you’re a crazy fan like me, preorder your copy here.

Do you have any food books you can’t live without?


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New Year, New Books & Boards, New Traditions

To be known is to be loved. And I am certainly feeling the love after this Christmas. Four of my nearest and dearest gave me these lovely gifts.

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Two cutting boards and and three cookbooks later, I’m a happy girl with a year full of new ideas to look forward to. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen and Super Natural Every Day both have exceptionally beautiful photography, not to mention unusual (but accessible) recipes.  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook officially completes my Ina Garten collection. And y’all know I have been dreaming of that AR cutting board for nearly a year.

Gift giving is such an enjoyable tradition, don’t you think? I’m a big fan of traditions in general. They give you a framework for how to spend your holidays. Something to plan for and look forward to. In a lot of ways, they make you, you. In my little family, we have a nice meal and open our gifts on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we go to the movies. This year, I was happy to be in charge of the Christmas Eve dinner. We had The Pioneer Woman’s lasagna and Ina’s tiramisu. Both were divine and eaten for days. Here’s a peek at the lasagna:

  

I have some simple traditions for myself, too. Each Christmas I watch Love Actually and The Family Stone while I put up my “travel tree” and reminisce about the places, friends, and memories each ornament represents. But I realized that I don’t have any New Year’s traditions (and NYE is usually a let down), so I thought I might attach one. While I love the idea of Hoppin’ Johns, my grocery store run ended with lentil soup ingredients, which I’d never made before. So, I’m thinking New Year’s Day should be Try a New Soup Recipe Day. Why not? Packed with veggies, protein, and rich flavor, this lentil soup is filling and warm on a chilly New Year’s Day.

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

½ pound green lentils
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 leeks, chopped (white part only)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt & ground black pepper
½ tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 stalks celery, diced
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1½ quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.
  • In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 more minutes, until the lentils are cooked through.
  • Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


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Home, Home on the Cooking Range

In case you haven’t already heard, The Pioneer Woman has gotten her own show on Food Network. Yee-haw! I have been a big fan of Ree Drummond’s blog and cookbook for awhile. Apparently I’m not the only one—the woman has 13 million people following her blog. And if her on screen personality is anything like her writing style, the whole rest of the world is gonna fall right in love with her too.

If you don’t have this cookbook, check it out. I tend to use it more in the winter because Ree serves up some very hearty meals to her cowboys & cowgirls. So far my favorite recipe is the lasagna—it is always a huge hit and bound to be a future post.

Anyway, I’ll be tuning in August 27 at 10:30. Will you?