“…nothing in life is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”

You’ve gotta love Julia Child.  What a character she was – not only in the kitchen, but also in life.  I can very much relate to this quote of hers in My Life in France.  This week, everything took a turn for the best.  I was a crazy-woman this week.  We drove from PA to VT on Monday, moved stuff from the condo into the car and then to B+S’s that evening.  Then came Tuesday when I unpacked and reorganized the kitchen.  Tuesday night we celebrated Brittney’s 23rd birthday with Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells served with Garlic Bread and a Tossed Salad with a Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert.



Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells (adapted from myrecipes.com)

  • 24 Jumbo Shells
  • 15-oz. container ricotta
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach (chopped)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 26-oz. pasta sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F
  2. Cook the shells according to the package.  Then drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. While the shells are cooking, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, egg and all spices.
  4. Spread sauce to just cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  5. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture.  One heaping T per shell.   
  6. Set the stuffed shells in the pan.  Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with remaining cheese. 
  7. Cover the pan with foil and cook for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for 1o more minutes. 
  8. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes and serve. 

TIPS:

– This recipe can easily be made gluten free by purchasing gluten free shells.  I couldn’t find GF large shells, so I used GF lasagna noodles, spread the cheese mixture over the noodles, topped with additional Parmesan, a second layer of noodles, more sauce, then mozzarella on top.  Fantastic!


Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Add the water to a sauce pan on medium heat. 
  3. Add the sugar and salt to the simmering water.
  4. Whisk constantly until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely in the water.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Using a double boiler (I use a glass bowl set atop a sauce pan), melt the chocolate. 
  7. Once melted, remove from heat.
  8. Add the butter in pieces to the chocolate, using a hand mixer to blend the chocolate and butter together. 
  9. Beat the eggs together, then add to the chocolate mixture.
  10. Add the sugar water to the chocolate and mix.
  11. Pour the batter into a greased 9 X 9 pan.  
  12. Place the pan into a bath of boiling water (one pan set in a second pan that is filled with about 1″ of boiling water).
  13. Bake in the water bath for 45 minutes.  The top will still look wet.
  14. Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes and then refrigerate overnight. 

I only helped to create this birthday meal.  The real credit goes to Spenser and the Birthday Girl.  Spenser found these delicious recipes and worked with Brittney to create them.  The pasta was great and the cake to-die-for.  We even ate the cake warm (we couldn’t wait until the morning) and it was delicious served with vanilla bean ice-cream.   So simply, yet so complex.

The next night was my turn for meals.  The sunshine inspired a grilling session, so Honey Maple Chicken and Roasted Potatoes found their way to our plates.


Honey Maple Marinated Chicken

  • 2 T Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 t ground pepper
  • 3 splashes apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken thighs or breast
  1. Mix together the mustard, maple syrup, pepper, vinegar, and oil. 
  2. Pour  over chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours
  4. Grill chicken, turning only once until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.


Maple Garlic Roasted Potatoes

  • 4 medium red potatoes, quartered, then cut crosswise into 1″ cubes
  • 3 gloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 1 T Oil (vegetable, canola, or olive)
  • 1/2 t McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning
  • 1/2 t Seasoning salt
  • 1 t coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 t sea salt
  • Two 14″ long sections of tin foil
  1. Cut the potatoes, garlic, and onions.  Toss together.
  2. Add the oil.  Toss to coat completely.
  3. Sprinkle on each of the 4 seasonings. 
  4. Toss once more.
  5. Divide into 2 and place each half on the tinfoil sections. 
  6. Wrap the foil to enclose the potatoes.
  7. Place foil on grill and cook until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes on medium-high grill heat).  

I served the grilled chicken with the potatoes and steamed green beans.  The maple flavor was present, but not overpowering.  The potatoes were so soft and tender; they melted away in your mouth.  This is one of my first meal creations that wasn’t adapted from  other recipes or that followed a cookbook.   Try it out and let me know what you think!

With two great meals in a row, it’s hard to imagine a third dinner turning out equally spectacular, but low and behold, it happened. Brittney suggested a recipe she learned of through Eating Well Magazine.  Sesame- Ginger Pork Patty.  She chose to modify it to her own liking and used turkey burger and a spinach salad with edamame instead.



Sesame-Ginger Bunless Burger

  • 3 T GF soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 4 pineapple rings (if grilling) or a can of chunks (if using a George Foreman-like grill indoors)
  • 1 lb turkey burger
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bag of edamame (enough to serve 4)
  1. Mix together the soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and 1 t sesame oil.
  2. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the ground turkey. Mix until the meat is moisten (don’t over-mix).
  3. Form the meat into 4 patties.
  4. Grill the patties.
  5. While the patties cook, add the rice vinegar and remaining 1 t sesame oil to the leftover soy sauce mixture. 
  6. Add the pineapple rings to the grill -brown on each side. 
  7. Place a handful of spinach on each place.  Place one pineapple ring or several chunks on top of the spinach.  Place the grilled burger on top.  Spoon 1/4 of the sauce over each burger. 
  8. Serve with a side of edamame. 

I was happily surprised by how tasty these burgers were. The sauce seemed so scant I expected the burgers to be nearly flavorless and bland.  I was proven wrong.  They were oozing with flavor.  The pineapple nicely complements the dish.  I generally can’t stand pineapple, but I gobbled them up with this burger.  We are definitely adding this to our dinner repertoire.

So there you are, 5 recipes that will successfully feed a family of four for three consecutive evenings and for many lunches in between.  They are each succulent, flavorful, and nutritious (ok, maybe not the cake… at least it’s got some antioxidants, right?).  Each meal is fairly simple – easy enough for the working parent to whip up.  The results, however, are far more complex and will have your kids, significant others, friends, and coworkers raving about your kitchen skills and asking for more.

I promise you they’ll turn out like they should, and when they do, you’ll realize it really wasn’t much trouble at all.

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