Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

Stuffed Shells

March 23, 2010

For whatever reason, I’ve been really taping into my inner Italian.  After all, who can resist the infamous FWPP (fashion, wine, pasta and pizza)? And yes… I did just make that up.

This week, my Sunday night dinner project had stuffed pasta shells on the menu.  I decided to fill them with a Bolognese/lasagna style meat sauce, complete with copious amounts of mozzarella cheese. Is your mouth watering yet?

I was extremely pleased with the result and really enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today. The assembly did take a little bit of time, but the end result was well worth it!

Stuffing

  • 1 package extra lean ground beef (or chicken, sausage, turkey…whatever you prefer)
  • 1 bottle tomato sauce (to avoid sodium induced jar sauces try this recipe by Jamie Oliver)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • ½ an onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by placing all of the veggies that are coarsely chopped into a food processor (if you don’t have one, you can use a grater, but this method will take much longer). Mix until all the veggies are finely chopped.

In a deep pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the veggie mixture for about 5-10 minutes on medium high to build flavour.

Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Add the can of tomato paste and sauté for another 5 minutes to keep building on this flavour.

Add the ground beef and stir until browned. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring from time to time. Let the mixture cool a little bit before handling and then stir in 2 cups of the grated cheese.

Cook the large pasta shells according to package directions.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a large baking dish or casserole.

Spoon in about a tbsp of the mixture in each shell and then place in the baking dish, in a single layer. Once all the shells are stuffed, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top (add more if you wish). Bake for about 20 minutes until all the cheese is melted and golden brown.

I served them with asparagus that I roasted on a cookie tray for ten minutes while the shells were in the oven. I drizzled them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a tsp of dijon mustard, a minced garlic clove and salt and pepper.

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Chou-fleur

February 8, 2010

Wow. Mid-February already? Really?

It’s been a rough few weeks and I haven’t felt like blogging. It’s just like when you take a “break” from the gym, doing yoga or exercising…the longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back into the game. Today I made a deal with myself. I would finish a blog post tonight and go to yoga tomorrow (now that it’s in writing, there’s no breaking the promise).

I bought some cauliflower the other day for a veggie and dip platter and as it turns out, cauliflower isn’t the favourite veggie of the bunch. I personally go through fazes with cauliflower, sometimes I love it and sometimes I just don’t want to eat it. I blame part of this on my dad who used to boil it up and sprinkle on shredded cheese, about twice a week. There’s definitely nothing wrong with this, I just got a little sick of it as a kid. To this day when I eat cauliflower I think of my dad.

To use up all the leftover cauliflower I made a Cauliflower Gratin, or as the French would call it “Gratin de chou-fleu”. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish and was pretty darn tasty. Too bad I couldn’t really enjoy very much of it…stupid stomach virus that doesn’t seem to want to go away.

Cauliflower Gratin  

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups grated cheese (I used white cheddar)
  • 1 cup panko break crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, boil the cauliflower florets in salted boiling water for about 4 minutes. Drain.

In another saucepan, bring the milk, bay leaves, garlic and onion to a very gentle simmer. Let this infuse on low heat for about 10 minutes.

In a frying pan melt half the butter and add the flour. Stir and cook this mixture for about a minute. Take the bay leaves and garlic clove out of the milk mixture and slowly add the mixture to the butter and flower. Whisk constantly until all the milk mixture is incorporated and smooth. It will thicken instantly, but you really need to whisk hard.

Stir in ¾ of the grated cheese and toss the cauliflower in the sauce. Pour the mixture into a baking dish or casserole. Melt the remaining butter and mix with the panko breadcrumbs to make a topping. Sprinkle this topping on the cauliflower, along with the remaining cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Say Cheese!

January 11, 2010

Hello Monday…we meet again! I must say that I’m very much looking forward to saying goodbye (well…at least until next week). 

I guess that I was feeling a little cheesy yesterday. I went to visit with some family that I haven’t seen in a few years and my mom asked me to bring an appetizer. I had a late night the night before and woke up craving something delicious. At this point I had no idea what that would be, but knew it wasn’t going to be a “low cal” type of treat.

I wanted cheese!

As you can probably tell by now, I consider cheese  a very special food group. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out one of my favourite posts so far: mac and cheese.

Anyways, I decided to make my first ever cheese ball by combining ingredients that I thought would go well together (and did they ever!). This is something that I’ll definitely be making again (and sooner than later).

In moderation, I really don’t think that this recipe is that bad for you. I did try to use low-fat (or light) substitutions, which should count for something…right?

Cheese Ball

  • 2 Containers light cream cheese
  • 2 Cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 Cups swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Light mayo
  • 2 tbsp Light sour cream
  • 3/4 Cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp (or less) Garlic powder
  • 1 Cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*About 10 drops of Worcestershire sauce adds great flavour as well. I omitted it this time, so that the vegetarians can still enjoy the cheese

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature for easy mixing. In a frying pan or in the oven, gently toast the pecans or walnuts to bring out the nutty favours. Once you can smell them, they are ready!

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, mayo, sour cream, onion, parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Mix until everything looks smooth and combined.

Transfer mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the cheese and green onion (I like to do it this way, as opposed to in the food processor so that these ingredients stay whole…I think it looks nicer).

Once mixed, line a small bowl (that will fit all the mixture) with plastic wrap. Transfer the mixture to this lined bowl and refrigerate overnight. I didn’t have time for this, but did find that 1-2 hours in the freezer worked just as well and allowed enough time for the cheese ball to set.

Flip on a serving plate and garnish with the toasted walnuts or pecans (or both!). I think that candied nuts and added chopped herbs would be great too!

Say cheese!

Mac and Cheese

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year y`all!

What better way to start 2010 than some southern home cooking. Mac and Cheese pretty much combines many of my great loves all in one single dish. Cheese, pasta, butter and some more cheese. How can you go wrong with that?

I will also argue that Mac and Cheese does not have to be a high calorie, fat drenched dish. I used Skim Milk in place of cream and limited the amount of butter. The end result is still heaven on a plate.

I am also the proud new owner of some fancy new dishes and a 12 megapixel camera. Plating is just going to keep getting better. Thanks Santa(s)!

Mac and Cheese (to feed a crowd…6-8 people)

  • 1 litre skim milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ of an onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed but kept whole
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Half a bag of elbow macaroni (about 500 grams)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Breadcrumb Topping:

  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, melted

Start by lightly sautéing the roughly chopped onion and garlic in a little bit of butter or oil. Once soft (about 2 minutes), add in the milk, bay leaves, cream cheese, sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper. Simmer the milk mixture on medium low for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Try not to let the milk boil, a gentle simmer to infuse all the ingredients is what works best.

Cook elbow macaroni until al dente in salted water, drain and set aside. Grease a baking dish and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Pour milk mixture through a strainer to get the onion, bay leaves, etc. out and then pour back into the pot. Combine the butter and flour with a fork (butter needs to be room temperature) and then add into the milk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Gently cook until the sauce thickens, add the shredded cheddar cheese. Toss in the macaroni and then pour into the baking dish.

Melt the butter for the topping and mix together with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the macaroni and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes).

I served the Mac and Cheese with some homemade creamy coleslaw. Delish!

Miss Claus

December 19, 2009

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Every year for Christmas, my girlfriends and I organize a Secret Santa gift exchange. The punch flows, the holiday music plays and the stories are shared. I am truly blessed with the best friends in the world! This year, everyone had to buy something that fit within the theme of “patterns” and each gift was so unique and really amazing. 

It was a busy week so I asked everyone to bring a little something for the buffet. Michelle and Lara brought shrimp, a cheese platter and delicious phyllo treats, Carly and Lisa brought Edamame (which we actually didn’t end up cooking because the table was too full), Tricia brought her delicious pita chips and hummus, Wesleigh  brought Prociutto wrapped asparagus (yum!), Liz and Elyse brought chips and pretzels and Ariana brought the most AMAZING homemade mini strawberry shortcakes.

I decided to “kick it oldschool” and stick with some of the easy classics. Chip dip and bruschetta…mmm.

Chip dip has been a tradition of ours since the beginning. I mean who can resist a good layer dip with nachos? Here’s how I make mine:

  • 2 containers light cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp light sour cream
  • 4 tbsp light mayo (adds a nice tang)
  • Salsa
  • Chopped bell peppers
  • Chopped green onions
  • Grated cheese

Mix the cream cheese, sour cream and mayo (I use a food processor, but a hand mixer also works well). Spread evenly on a platter. Add a layer of salsa, followed by the chopped veg. Top with grated cheese. Easy as 1…2…3.

(Someone snuck a bite before I could get the beauty shot!)

I love bruschetta. Especially when it’s made fresh, with good ingredients.

  • 6-8 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp chopped basil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and it’s ready! Serve with a fresh baguette, curstini, crackers or tortilla chips.

The spread was truly fantastic. I think we all agreed that we should have a Secret Santa every month. After all, who doesn’t like presents!

Presents!