Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Happy Cyber Monday! I’m pretty much done with my holiday shopping already, so today is more like Treat YoSelf Monday in my book — I’ve got my eye on a Beauty Blender and a new work bag that is way not in the budget this year (especially since we just had to buy a new car last month). Hard to resist when the sales are this good. I hope you all had a restful, relaxing Thanksgiving. We sure did! Eating out, while not something I’d want to do every year, was extremely stress-free, and I loved not having to wash a million dishes at the end of the night. The place we went was excellent, and it was so nice getting to talk, sip a cocktail, then enjoy a movie back at home while lounging on the couch together. I did a little Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my bed before I even got up the next morning, and then spent the weekend getting our Christmas decorations out! I’ll be sharing a 2016 gift guide later this week, but for now please enjoy this easy-peasy version of vegetarian stuffed shells that is comforting, savory, and just the right thing to throw together in those frazzled weeks between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas when your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to cook anything complicated. Adding a salad to this — even a pre-made, store-bought salad — or some simple roasted veggies would complete the meal nutritionally and make your taste buds happy.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package pasta shells (the jumbo kind with 24 shells per container)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh sage
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the garlic cream sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream (or half n’ half)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 35o and spray (or butter) a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, not mushy or overdone. Drain well and transfer to a paper towel laid out on the counter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, egg, sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the cream sauce, melt butter in a skillet over medium and add the garlic, then cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Whisk in the flour gradually until lightly browned, about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring continuously, until well mixed. Stir in the light cream and cheese until thickened, another couple of minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the cream sauce into the bottom of the buttered baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Stuff the cooled shells with the pumpkin-ricotta mixture and nestle into the baking dish, then drizzle the remaining cream sauce over the top. Garnish with some sage if desired.

Bake 25 or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm.

Adapted from Damn Delicious.

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Ready to start shopping and don’t want to miss the best sales today?

Check out my previous guides: Gifts for Toddlers (especially awesome for two and three year olds), Gifts for Babies (great for infants through 18 months), Gifts for the Guys, and eco-friendly gift ideas for that brand new baby in your life (like my special little niece!) Last but not least, in honor of #MakersMonday (which is today), here’s a post featuring Locally-Made Gifts.  

If you’re in Boston, don’t forget to swing by the grand opening of Eataly tomorrow. I’ll be there, ready to stock up on Lavazza, Fig Burrata, imported Olive Oil and Brunello. I might actually explode from excitement while shopping! Ping me if you want to meet up or plan to be there yourself. Doors open at 4 p.m. in the Prudential, off Boylston.

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another sneak peak from our holiday photos. Have a great week 🙂

Holidays · Recipes

Chicken Chili

chicken chili.png

One of the only redeeming things about winter settling in — and darkness falling before I even leave work — is the option to cook chili again. (Well, that and the idea of taking a nice, hot bath every night with my New Yorker, kitty, and a glass of wine…but back to the chili.)

This has been a rough couple weeks, right? After Election Night, I had a hard time putting two words together or getting dressed for work on time, never mind meal-plan, set up the slow cooker in the morning, or pack myself a healthy lunch, if I’m being honest. Luckily, I had some leftovers of this at the ready, thanks to the big batch I made at my freezer meal workshop last March…which I know I keep mentioning, but has honestly helped me entertain more times than I can really count this past year. If I hadn’t inherited a freezer full of food in August from a friend moving to Seattle, I’d be planning to do another workshop as we speak.

This can be frozen ahead, but it can also be made all at once. If you do freeze ahead, be sure to double bag and give it at LEAST 36 hours to defrost in the fridge before cooking. Mine was frozen solid and took two full days to thaw safely in the refrigerator.

Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs lean ground chicken
  • 3 TBSP dry buffalo seasoning*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz. can white or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 TBSP olive oil**
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth (veggie works fine too)

To serve as toppings, or on the side: a bag of corn or tortilla chips, blue cheese or ranch dressing, hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, corn bread.

* I used Wildtree Blazin’ Buffalo seasoning. Other options include Frank’s Red Hot, McCormick, or something from a specialty store like Williams-Sonoma.

** I used Wildtree Garlic Grapeseed Oil. Any other oil that tolerates heat well is fine; you can pick one with flavor infusions you like.

DIRECTIONS

(If you are freezing ahead, then you’ll need three bags: one smaller bag for the chicken, buffalo seasoning, salt and pepper; and another for the rest of the ingredients. Then double bag in a larger bag for storage, and thaw before cooking).

In a large pot on the stove top over medium-high heat, pour in the chicken, buffalo seasoning and salt and pepper. Use a large spoon to break up the chicken while it’s cooking.

Once the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes, add  everything else except the chicken stock and cook for five minutes.

Add the two cups of chicken stock and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

To serve, place in bowls with condiments of your choosing. We had corn muffins, sour cream, cheddar cheese, hot sauce and tortilla chips. Blue cheese, ranch, corn chips and green onions would also be great toppings!

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Have a great weekend everyone! We are going to eat out for Thanksgiving this year after losing such a beloved member of our family in August, and then try again next year for building a new tradition. Here’s where we are eating. If you’re looking for good T-Day recipes, check here for cranberry sauce, buttery mashed potatoes, two ways of doing Brussels sprouts, and these balsamic roasted green beans, which I adore despite the horrendous photos. I’ll leave you with this sneak peak from our holiday card photo shoot last weekend, thanks to our friend Thais at TDM Photography.

Looking for a great deal on your own holiday cards? Check out TinyPrints, which is offering up to 40% off foil and glitter cards this weekend only — until 11/20! — and 30% off anything else. Click here and use code GIVESHINE!

Tiny Prints - Birth Announcements and More

kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Apple Crisp

It’s apple season, and lucky for me, Georgia takes after her mom: she LOVES all things autumn! From apple picking to hayrides, cider, fruit crisp, Halloween, pumpkin patches and cinnamon donuts, she can’t get enough and is the best companion for fall fun. We go to the apple orchard every year for u-pick, and stretch our peck of Macoun and McIntosh for weeks with cozy recipes and snacks. Last month, I shared an easy apple topping for pork chops with a promise to follow soon with an apple crisp recipe. Here it is!


Classic Apple Crisp

INGREDIENTS

  • Half a dozen apples (enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish) peeled, cored & sliced
  • lemon juice and cinnamon to taste
  • optional: nutmeg if you like the flavor

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (quick cooking or old fashioned are both fine)
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter or grease the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. I like to use that size pan, but you can absolutely make it in an 8×8 instead.

Spread the sliced apples in the pan and then top with the lemon juice and cinnamon (I just eyeball it) and nutmeg if using; stir.

Mix together the softened butter and the dry ingredients until well combined, then spread on top of the apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the topping is brown and the apples are tender.

Serve warm with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream!

Tips:

If it’s not apple picking season and you’re grabbing some at the grocery store instead, I always go for Granny Smith. You want something nice and tart that can withstand being baked without turning totally mushy, and they’re also a great size.

When it comes to softening the butter, I prefer to heat a sauce pan on low and put the butter in, then add the dry ingredients once it gets almost melted. Turn off the heat, stir together, and set aside.

If you’re taking this to a potluck, it also cooks up well in a disposable foil pan instead of a glass baking dish.


My philosophy when it comes to apple crisp is to keep it simple.

We have some top-notch apple crisp makers in my family, and the recipes are all kept in mental filing folders. I’ve picked up most of the makeup along the way as I’ve made my own, only adding some oats to the topping because that’s what I like best. Otherwise, it’s a formula taken from the Betty Crocker cookbook many years ago — as with the cookie recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip package, sometimes the most basic, time-tested ones are the best ones and stay classic for a reason!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Halloween. Rapunzel’s wig survived the festivities, and now I have SO MUCH CANDY in my house, bound for my office candy dish ASAP!

Thanks to the freezer meal workshop I did earlier this year, we all ate a huge pot of chicken chili with beans, and I can’t wait to share that recipe with you. It was so easy and fed the entire eight-person crowd last night, with some delicious sides of guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, extra sharp cheddar cheese and corn muffins made by my mother in law. I’ll post about that soon! Meanwhile, have a great start to the month of November. Boy is this year flying by. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, and I’ll have to turn on the heat in my house. 😉

Meanwhile, enjoy a few images from our recent apple picking adventure to Smolak Farms in North Andover, Mass. (our family- and budget-friendly favorite!) They are offering half-priced apple picking now because it’s the end of the season, so now’s the perfect time to go and grab a bushel for your Thanksgiving pies!