Smokey Chicken Stuffed Shells

It seems like I’ve been out of commission for a little while, although it’s only been a week.  I have no excuse except the cool crisp air has made me want to go to bed earlier.  It’s darker in the morning when I wake up and darker in the evening so my evenings feel shorted.

What is great about this however, is I love the Fall!  I want to have a fire in the fireplace, wear sweaters and cook comfort food.  I’m seriously ready to wear jeans and boots but living in the south I feel ridiculous doing that now….especially when everyone else is still wearing shorts and flip-flops.

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The one thing I can do when it’s colder in the evening is make a satisfying dinner that makes the soul warm.  That usually involves some form of pasta because I am apparently a carb freak, but in trying to make it semi healthy, I have adapted this recipe so I don’t feel so guilty.

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Leaves are changing color, nights are cool and despite the fact that your neighbors are still wearing flip-flops, you can still enjoy the Fall with comfort.  That will include a satisfying dinner.

So turn up the air, put on a sweater and enjoy!

Smokey Chicken Stuffed Shells

Course Entree
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 4 links chicken sausage ( I use the garlic and roasted red pepper from Whole Foods)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 12 ounce package jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces chopped roasted red pepper, drained
  • 4 ounces chopped fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

  1. Remove the chicken sausage from casings and cook over medium heat, breaking into small bite size pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add onion, garlic and paprika and cook for 2 more minutes. Add tomatoes and basil, mixing in well and set aside.

  2. Mix together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, beaten egg, Add chicken mixture and combine well.

  3. Stuff cooked shells with chicken and cheese mixture and place in a baking dish.

  4. Bring the oil to medium heat in a saucepot. Sweat the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat until fragrant, about one more minute. Stir in the peppers and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Working in batches, process the sauce on high in a food processor until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cream. Remove the heat an stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

  5. Pour sauce over pasta shells and top with grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

  6. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Skirt Steak

If my husband was a math equation it would go like this: Peter equals carnivore plus red meat plus steak.   It would also be every day of the week. I am not such a person.  Maybe that’s why I never did well in math?

I’ve talked about this before.  My husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and i’m more chicken and rice so for us to find a middle ground is not only difficult but a sublime lesson in compromise.  I think we have hit the nail on the head with this recipe.  We both wanted to clean the plate..

I had told him I would have steak for dinner.  I didn’t want to but it had been quite awhile and the cave man was coming out in him.  Peter typically wants a steak he can chew….I want a steak without big chunks of fat.  Our compromise is skirt steak.  I can appreciate the rich buttery taste of the fat without being slapped in the face with it and my husband still has the texture he loves..

I actually got the idea for this recipe from a food show program.  It wasn’t a skirt steak and it wasn’t this stuffing, but it gave me the idea to incorporate what I love into this dish.  I believe that is what cooking is all about….inspiration and taking what you love and making it your own.

This had the crust on the outside and the inside gave the steak an incredible richness.  I wasn’t kidding when I said we wanted to clean the entire plate!

Go and enjoy this recipe! I have learned that every once in a while, there is room for compromise and there is nothing wrong with a good steak.

Stuffed Skirt Steak

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 2 pound skirt steak, butterflied and pounded thin
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces proscuitto diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 ounces button mushrooms, diced
  • 6 ounces sundried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 ounces goat cheese

Instructions

  1.  pound butterflied skirt steak to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Salt and pepper and set aside.

  2. cook proscuitto in olive oil until slightly crisp.

  3. Add shallots and cook until tender, approximately 2 minutes.

  4. Add mushrooms and cook until brown.

  5. Add sundried tomatoes and cook an additional minute.

  6. Turn off heat and add spinach. Stir to incorporate.

  7. Spread mixture over butterflied steak. Sprinkle goat cheese over mixture and salt and pepper. Fold ends in and tie with kitchen string.

  8. Grill on 400 degrees. Rub olive oil on the outside of the steak. Grill 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until a crust forms. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.

  9. Slice and serve.

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Valentine’s Day.  Most people are going out to dinner, sending flowers or eating pounds of chocolate.  In my earlier life, I may have wanted all that but I have to say as I’ve gotten older it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sorry Hallmark….but I think you should show the people in your life that you love them every day of the year and not just one.  With that said, I still wanted to do something nice for my husband so I decided to make a dinner that I thought he would enjoy.  Throw in a little candlelight, a nice bottle of wine and voilà!

I decided on seasoned beef tenderloin, roasted pepper salsa and stuffed gorgonzola tomatoes.  I am not a beef lover, but my husband certainly is and we both felt the tenderloin turned out quite nice.  The salsa, with it’s tangy bite  was a nice compliment to the savory tenderness of the meat.  What surprised me however, was that the tomato turned out to be the star of the evening.  It was so easy to do and yet such an elegant addition to the meal.

I was telling my friends what I had done a day or two later and I was amazed that everyone seemed interested in my sharing of this recipe.   It was one I found in a magazine,  inspired by Giada. I think this is really great if you’re having a dinner party, if it’s just a couple of people or even if you’re eating alone.  It’s very easy and very good.  I highly recommend this.

So, make this for someone you love, including yourself…. and it can be any day of the year.

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium firm ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons plain dried panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds from tomatoes, place cut side down on paper towels to drain, about 5 minutes.

  3. Mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

  4. Add the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Marinate 10 minutes.

  5. Combine breadcrumbs and gorgonzola. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Fill tomatoes with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle with remaining oil.

  6. Roast tomatoes in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until crumb topping is golden brown and tomatoes are slightly softened. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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