Sunday, August 5, 2007

Finally time to cook!

I've been super busy at work and work related functions/parties the last few weeks so I haven't been in the kitchen much! I had that urge to try something new today so I made dinner AND dessert.

Now, I always get on Eric's case about trying new foods....I'm pretty adventerous and I love to try new things but I have one downfall: White and Creamy. I cannot deal with it. So tonight's dinner was a real stretch for me. I figured if I made it myself and I knew what was in it, it would be less scary. I admit to having a momentary moment of panic when I took this out of the oven in all its white and creamy glory but it was actually very good. And I got my husband to eat something green so that's always a plus. I made some serious modifications to this to suit my tastes, they are in italics.

(Recipe source: Giada -
1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound thick-cut pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (Deli counters in Iowa do not offer pancetta (imagine that!) so I used prepackaged thinly sliced pancetta and crumbled it into my filling)

2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained (I used two 9 oz. boxes per some suggestions in the reviews, not quite two pounds.)
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta (I used part-skim)
1 cup grated asiago cheese (again, difficulty locating this in my grocery store so I used grated parm instead)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter (I used 2 tbs because I added flour as a thickener)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cream (I do not cook with heavy cream, it makes my tummy hurt, I used 1 1/4 cup of 2% milk plus 2 tbs. of flour)
2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup (Since I couldn't find the asiago, I ended up using fontina instead since it would melt nicely and thicken up my sauce. I'd like to try it with the asiago though, if I can find it!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the shells:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved. Pour the sauce over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

And now for dessert! I haven't tried this yet...we will be cutting into it in about a half hour but it looks way yummy! My changes are in italics!
(Recipe Source: Cooking Light)

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray to press the slightly sticky crust into the pie plate. The filling may be thin after mixing but will harden in the freezer. (I'm such a cheater and I didn't make the crust...I bought a chocolate graham crust. So I guess I made it less "light" oops! I didn't use the first couple ingredients or do the first step.)


object2=">1 2/3 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 8 1/2 cookie sheets)
object2=">7 tablespoons sugar, divided
object2=">2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
object2="> Cooking spray
object2=">1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
object2=">2/3 cup reduced-fat crunchy peanut butter (I couldn't find reduced-fat crunchy so I just used regular chunky)
object2=">1/2 teaspoon vanilla
object2=">1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
object2=">1 (8-ounce) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
object2=">3 tablespoons finely chopped salted, dry-roasted peanuts (I left these off because I forgot to pick some up...I just used extra chocolate instead!)
object2=">1/4 cup shaved milk chocolate (about 1 ounce)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and egg whites; toss with a fork until moist. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Prick crust with a fork before baking. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

Combine milk and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly; transfer mixture to a bowl. Add peanut butter and vanilla, stirring with a whisk until combined. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk mixture, beating on low speed until combined. Fold in whipped topping; pour mixture into prepared piecrust. Freeze, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight or until hard. Sprinkle with peanuts and shaved chocolate. Transfer pie to refrigerator 30 minutes before slicing.

(One tip, if you do use a pre-made crust - there is way too much filling for the crust. I made a huge mess when I poured the filling in to quickly and it spilled over! Yikes! It's okay though, still looks yummy!)