Friday, December 30, 2011

Stuffed Shells

1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained (I just run under warm water in a colander)
1 (16 oz.) container low-fat cottage cheese (2 cups)
1 cup part-skim mozzarella shredded cheese, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 egg white
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
20 jumbo macaroni shells (for stuffing), cooked, drained and cooled
1 (28 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix spinach, cottage cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella, peppers, egg white and oregano until well blended; spoon into shells, adding about 1 heaping Tbsp. to each shell. Spread half the sauce onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish. Arrange shells, filled-sides up, in baking dish; top with remaining sauce and mozzarella. Cover with foil. Bake 40 min. or until heated through, removing foil after 30 min. Serves 5-6.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Herb-and-Garlic-Crusted Pork Roast

I came across this recipe in the November, 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I admit, it was a little bit involved, but after serving this to my family, I think it is, without question, the very best pork roast I've ever tasted! Brining the meat before roasting makes it moist and juicy. It would make a perfect meal to serve for company or for a special occasion. Seriously delicious!!!

Makes: 6 servings, plus leftovers
Prep: 25 minutes
Marinate: overnight
Roast: 1 hour
Stand: 15 minutes
8 cups cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 center cut, boneless pork loin, approximately 3 to 3 1/12 pounds

3 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
4 slices Black Forest bacon or other thick-sliced bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces (uncooked)
1 Tbsp. apricot preserves
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs***
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1. For brine, in a very large bowl dissolve salt and sugar in 8 cups cold water. Transfer pork to brine, making sure to submerge it fully. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to 2 days.

2. Remove loin from brine and blot dry with paper towels. In a nonstick skillet heat oil, then brown roast on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set aside for 5 to 30 minutes to cool slightly.

3. In a food processor, puree uncooked bacon to a smooth paste. (This amount of bacon is necessary for blades to process. Use the remaining puree to make appetizers: spread on baguette slices then broil until golden.) Transfer half the bacon to a bowl. Stir in apricot preserves, chopped garlic, and 2 tsp. of the chopped rosemary.

4. Position oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place cooled pork loin on waxed paper. Spread with bacon mixture. In a separate bowl combine the bread crumbs, parsley, remaining rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the melted butter. Toss well to mix. Press an even layer of the crumb mixture on the roast (except the ends), applying enough pressure for the crumbs to adhere to the bacon layer.

5. Carefully transfer roast to a foil-lined baking pan or roasting pan and place pan on the lowest rack in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast for 45 minutes more or until an instant read thermometer registers 145°F. (If crust begins to brown too deeply, tent roast with foil.) Remove roast from oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place. Temperature of roast will rise approximately 10°F as it stands.

** If you don't let the crumbs stale overnight, spread them in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan and bake, uncovered, in a 300°F oven 10 minutes or until dry, stirring once or twice. Crumbs will continue to dry as they cool.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Okay, so I really, really love pumpkin. When I saw this recipe in the October, 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I just had to try it! My kids asked why it was orange and were a little hesitant to try it, but they all liked it and my husband declared it his "favorite mac and cheese ever." It's a unique savory side dish or main course that I'll definitely be making again soon!

2 cups dried elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup whipping cream*
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crushed
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (1 piece of bread, crumbled)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

Sage leaves (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta in a large pot following package directions. Drain cooked pasta, then return to pot.

2. For cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add whipping cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheese, pumpkin, and sage until cheese is melted. Stir cheese sauce into pasta to coat. Transfer macaroni and cheese to an ungreased 2-quart rectangular baking dish.

3.In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts, and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If desired, sprinkle with sage leaves.

* NOTES: I used whole milk instead of whipping cream and it seemed plenty rich and creamy and saved us a few calories as well! 

If you can't find Fontina cheese, try Havarti cheese instead.  They are very similar.

Homemade Kettle Corn

During the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to cuddle up and watch a movie, or football or play games with family and friends. One of my favorite comfort foods is hot popcorn and this recipe for Kettle Corn is a new favorite at our home! Recipe from allrecipes, but I've adapted the directions a little, based on my experiences.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
Salt, to taste

Add 3 popcorn kernels and vegetable oil to a large pot (about 10 inches across). Add the lid to the pot and heat over medium heat until the 3 kernels pop. Remove from the burner. Add the sugar and quickly stir with a wooden spoon. Immediately add the 1/2 cup popcorn kernels and replace the lid. Put back on the burner and heat until corn begins to pop. Put on oven mitts and hold the lid in place while you shake the pot for 3 seconds, place on the heat for 3 seconds, then shake for 3 seconds. Continue, alternately shaking the pot and heating until pops slow. Remove from the heat and let the last few kernels continue to pop before you remove the lid. Sprinkle with salt and carefully pour into a large serving bowl. Makes 5 servings (2 cups each).

NOTES: We also tried this with brown sugar and none of us liked it as well as with white sugar as directed:)
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