We were feeling silly and ran to grab some chips and dip for Girl’s Movie Night. T.J. works swing shifts and we take full advantage our free reign over the remote! A box of jumbo shells caught Annabeth’s eye and I was buzzing from some cookies we shared earlier, so I bought them. I looked up a couple recipes on Pinterest but decided to create my own version loaded with the vegetables I had on hand.
Boil a box of jumbo shells to al dente or a couple minutes less than directed.
1 onion, diced
Healthy drizzle of olive oil
Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent.
My new trick to keep mushrooms on hand for sneaking into nearly all dishes. I think at this point, I’m not really tricking anyone plus Annabeth loves mushrooms.
I mince bella mushrooms finely then smooth them in a gallon zip top bag and fold into quarters. I put the folded bag of mushrooms into the freezer. When I pull it out, I flatten the bag out so it breaks into 4 squares of mushroom.
1 1/2 c frozen spinach
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 c mushrooms, minced
Add spinach, garlic, bell pepper, and mushroom to the skillet. Stir well and cook until moisture is evaporated. Take off burner to cool.
16 oz ricotta
2 large eggs
2c mozzarella, shredded
1T parsley, minced
Mix ricotta, eggs, mozzarella, and parsley well.
Add spinach mixture to the bowl of ricotta and cheese. Stir well.
8oz can tomato sauce
Spread tomato sauce on bottom of 9″ x 13″ pan. I mixed in some garlic powder and Italian seasoning to the can of tomato sauce first. Drizzle with olive oil.
Preheat oven to 350°
Stuff each shell, then place in the prepared pan like you’re playing a game of Tetris trying to keep the opening facing up. Make sure not to over stuff them like I did. Otherwise, you have to go back and steal stuffing from the extra plump ones for the remaining empty ones.
24 oz marinara sauce
Pour marinara sauce over shells evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until sauce bubbles.
Sprinkle with some fresh basil and grated Pecorino Romano.
You will notice that I do not add salt, except to the boiling water for the noodles. I find that there is enough salt in the ricotta and marinara. I figure that you can add salt to taste after you take your first bite. There is so much salt in foods already, it’s better to not make a habit of adding extra unless you know you truly need it. Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes or fresh ground black pepper instead.
Serve with some steamed broccoli or cauliflower and a nice salad. Annabeth made one for us all by herself! She has a special set of knives that are safe for kiddos. She cut up cucumber, red bell pepper, tomatoes, lettuce, and squeezed on some Ranch dressing. I forgot to take a picture of her creation though. Oops. Her salad was the perfect compliment to a heavier main dish. Never miss a chance to let your little ones help in the kitchen. They will surprise you!
T.J.’s Dad has been in a tough spot recovering from back surgery in November. Then he suffered a heart attack and had a stent placed last month. Needless to say, the doctor ordered a complete diet overhaul. We decided to hop on board and start following the Mediterranean style of eating that my doctor recommended for me. I sifted through some cookbooks on Amazon and settled on The Mediterranean Prescription by Angelo Acquista, M.D. It’s more book than cook but there are several recipes in the last section. In the 2 weeks we’ve been shifting to the plan, we are surprised by the effects. I have spoken to my inner old lady and she craves oatmeal in the morning. If I skip breakfast, specifically oatmeal, I will not be able to resist munching after Annabeth goes to sleep. One night I ate chips and guacamole plus 9 pizza rolls!
I threw together this recipe and it reminds me of the Campbell’s Soup chicken and rice my Mom used to make. I loved that stuff. She would reassure us that she didn’t use mushrooms and pick out the large chunks to hide her lie. Now I’m over here mincing mushrooms and stashing them in the freezer to add to everything! Same goes for Power Greens, I buy a Costco bag and throw it in the freezer just before it starts to turn bad. Once frozen, you can use your fist to smash them into tiny bits and sneak into nearly any dish. I use fresh versions for this meal but the leftovers will find their way to the freezer in a few days.
5 oz Power Greens or Spinach or Kale
Heat skillet to medium. When hot, drizzle lightly with oil and add greens. Stir for a few minutes until wilted. Remove and set aside in a strainer. Prep:
1 large shallot or small onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 chicken thighs, bone in skin optional
Marinate or season chicken thighs as desired. Heat skillet to medium. When hot, drizzle with oil and brown on both sides. This takes about 7 minutes per side. Do not flip until chicken lifts easily from pan. Remove and set aside.
I prefer avocado oil for this step. It has a high smoke point, usually between 460° and 500°. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a low smoke point, so do not use it here.
While your chicken browns, go pick some fresh herbs and get them ready to be added to the vegetables. I have thyme flourishing right now, so that’s what I added but I would have liked some rosemary too. He’s just too small right now.
Add a couple teaspoons of oil to the pan the chicken was in and saute the onion or shallot for a few minutes until translucent. Add a tiny bit of water if needed to keep from browning. Add garlic and herbs, scraping the bottom of the pan to lift chicken bits.
8 baby bella or white button mushrooms, sliced or demolished
8 oz jarred roasted red bell pepper, rinsed and drained
1c quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2c chicken broth or Better Than Bouillon
Add mushrooms, bell pepper, quinoa, and broth to the skillet. Stir until mixed well. You could also add some black pepper, smoked paprika, or even tumeric here.
Pour quinoa mixture into an oven safe pan and arrange chicken thighs on top, smashing them down until they’re submerged.
Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until the quinoa has unraveled.
I tried to bake this in my air fryer and I will use my oven next time. The quinoa was not done in the middle of the dish, so I removed the chicken, added a little half & half and put it back in to finish cooking.
Here’s where I messed up. I didn’t take a picture of it plated. Oops. I was frazzled because we were eating later than intended and already tearing into the chicken while the quinoa finished cooking. I did sprinkle some Pecorino Romano and red pepper flakes on the quinoa just before serving. I also do not add salt to most of my foods until served. We are not big on salt and most of the time we end up adding a tiny bit, if any salt.
I cut some small tomatoes in half, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I served these as our side.
Dessert has been pears, apples, strawberries, or mango lately. I sneak a piece of dark chocolate every once in a while.
I do not cook special things for Annabeth. She eats what we eat. She does pick at some stuff but that’s mostly because she does not like mushy foods. We’ve just barely been able to convince her to eat mashed potatoes. I can’t complain. Salad is one of her favorite foods and she prefers her produce raw. I used to cook according to T.J.’s preferences but I saw how unhealthy that was, so I stopped. I made small switches, like whole grain pasta and chicken sausage a long time ago. Now he snacks on nuts and dried or fresh fruit. His breakfast is plain Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and topped with granola. He was less than thrilled when I started enforcing these habits but he has since complimented the changes. I think replacing some of the worst offenders one at a time primed him for the complete change. Now he grumbles after we go out to eat and offers to lend a hand when I’m struggling to get dinner prepared. Grabbing fast food is actually a threat these days. We don’t eat sugar much but we still enjoy a scoop of ice cream a couple times a month.
I love our C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture). I know some of you are sick of hearing me talk about it, so I thought I’d start sharing some of the dishes inspired by our weekly boxes. Here are a few reasons why I am addicted to our local C.S.A.:
In-season produce picked fresh the day before pick up. This means each bite is vine ripened and coated in nothing other than a little dirt.
Supporting local farmers, the land they cultivate, the bees they nourish, and lessening dependence on foreign food
Flavor. Fruit and vegetables are not fresh when they ripen in a shipping container. Eating produce that soaks up every drop of sun and soil possible quickly turns into a taste you crave.
Experimenting with new recipes and foods we would otherwise pass up for our same old choices. I make it my goal in life to use up every bite of food in the box, which has led us to discover new favorites. And learning to plan for the occasional back-up replacement side when that grilled eggplant tastes like a sour bar of soap.
Colcannon Bake was a result of a random search for a recipe to use up potatoes and cabbage. Basically, it’s a smashed potato and fried cabbage casserole. I had my doubts but the combination of textures and savory flavor made my mouth happy. It does take one and a half hours to cook but that’s mostly while the potatoes boil and the bake time. If this is taken into account, it works well with a planned meal. You can use the open time to mix a salad and prepare your main dish.
Colcannon Bake Recipe
5 medium red potatoes
6T butter, sliced
1/2c plain Greek yogurt, whole or low fat
1 large egg, beaten
1/4c milk, not that skim garbage but whole/cream/nut is good
1T avocado oil
3c cabbage, shredded
1 small onion, chopped
1t Better than Bouillon, chicken
1/2c sharp white cheddar, shredded
salt & pepper
garlic powder + smoked paprika or dill + rosemary or Cajun seasoning
Put the potatoes in a pot and fill with water until covered at least an inch. Boil until they slide easily off a fork.
Meanwhile, prep ingredients:
Shred cabbage and cheese
Dice the onion
Measure milk and yogurt in same measuring cup. Add in egg and sliced butter. Set aside.
With pan on low heat, mash drained potatoes partially.
Move to a large bowl. Add the milk, yogurt, egg, and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until desired smoothness. Lumpy is our preferred texture.
Preheat oven to 350 F
I’m all about less dirty dishes, so I reused the pot I boiled the potatoes in.
Add oil and onion to pan over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add cabbage, bouillon, seasonings and fry until tender.
Combine cabbage and potatoes until evenly distributed but not mushy. Butter or spray a 9″x13″ pan with oil (preferably propellant free).
Bake for 40 minutes and the top is golden brown.
Top with cheese and return to oven until melted.
Serve with extra plain Greek yogurt, chives, or Parmesan cheese.
It turned out a little too dry for us, so I smothered extra plain Greek yogurt on top. I cut back on the milk and yogurt in the mashed potatoes to try and account for extra moisture from the cabbage. Turns out, the cabbage released it’s excess water while it was frying or evaporated in the oven. Make the mashed potatoes the way you like them. My cabbage was not soupy before I added it to the mashed potatoes- it was cooked through with a slight crunch and maintained this texture after baking.
We enjoyed this with smothered pork chops from my Instant Pot but I see it working well with meatloaf, oven-fried chicken, or grilled fish. I will also doctor this next time with diced red bell pepper, finely minced mushrooms, and/or shredded carrot. I love to sneak all sorts of vegetables into every single dish possible. Seriously. I have kale, spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini in the freezer just waiting to be hidden in my next meal.