Italian Stuffed Shells

Italian Stuffed Shells – Candy Coated Culinista

A striking Italian meal that is great for a dinner party or a Sunday dinner.

Yield/Serving: 8-10
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 min.
Difficulty level is: Medium, time consuming

Ingredients
• 36 Jumbo shells
• 1 lbs ground beef
• 1 tsp canola oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp season salt
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 cup pasta sauce
• 2 cups spinach, stems removed and chopped
• ¾ cups ricotta
• 1 egg
• ½ cup grana padano
• ¼ cup parmesan cheese
• 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Assembly
1. Over high heat boil shells in batches and cook until al dente draining and setting aside. Ensure not to break or cook a few more just to be safe.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat add canola oil and onion and garlic and cook until softened.
3. Add in ground beef and spices and brown.
4. Add in ¾ cups pasta sauce in ground beef mixture and set aside.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Set out two casserole dishes and pour a thin layer of pasta sauce into each casserole dish.
7. In a medium sized bowl add spinach, ricotta, egg, grana Padano, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese and combine.
8. Start assembling the shells by adding ground beef first followed by ricotta mixture and place in casserole dishes.
9. Shred a little more grana padano and mozzarella cheese overtop and drizzle more pasta sauce overtop.
10. Bake for 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil and then serve.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
This recipe was very time consuming more so than a lasagna; but if you make a few batches like I did it is well worth the while. I made two meat filled shells casserole dishes and one vegetarian casserole option and these tasted great all be it a touch messy to eat. The shells were the perfect amount of meat, cheese and veg and very eye catching. I would definitely make this again; just not in the next few months. Also this is not a weekday meal, unless you start as soon as you get home from work as this took me almost 2 hours from beginning to end.

Italian Stuffed Shells (Pre-Oven) – Candy Coated Culinista

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Gluten-Free Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup – Candy Coated Culinista

You have guests coming over the weekend and you want to make something warm and comforting; but keeping yourself on a budget try this heart-warming soup.

Yield/Serving: 6-8
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 45 min. to 1 hour
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• ½ lbs, ground beef
• ½ lbs, ground pork
• ½ tsp sea salt
• ½ tsp black pepper
• ½ tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp fried basil
• ½ tsp red chilli flakes
• 12 oz can of Crushed tomatoes
• 900 ml or vegetable broth
• 2 sprigs of basil leaves, chiffonade
• Handful of Italian parsley, torn
• 8 – 10 gluten-free lasagna noodles, broken
• ½ a link if pepperoni, sliced
• 1 cup fresh spinach
• 1 cup baby kale
• Mozzarella shredded, optional
• Parmesan cheese, optional
• Basil, to garnish

Assembly
1. Using a medium sized Dutch oven pour olive oil into pot and allow to heat up over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until golden.
3. Place ground beef and pork in and cook until brown adding in sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, red chilli flakes.
4. Pour in the crushed tomatoes followed by the vegetable broth and bring to a boil and then reducing to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add in the pepperoni slices and lasagna noodles and let the mixture simmer for 25 minutes until cooked.
6. Add spinach and baby kale in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
7. Serve garnished with fresh basil and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Tips
• Use canned whole tomatoes and blend quickly in a food processor if you are unable to find crushed tomatoes.
• When reheating add more vegetable broth.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
I never thought of making a lasagna soup but I was craving lasagna and didn’t want to do all that work and well we are in the midst of an extreme cold weather warning. So this really hit the spot and everything came together very easily. My taste testers enjoyed and even left with some soup for home. This was surprisingly flavourful and such a great treat on a cold day. I actually made three recipes at once with the same ingredients more or less. I made my Italian Meatballs (a request for me to make), my skillet chicken pepperoni pizza and then the soup. I managed to make 3 recipes for under thirty-five dollars and had about thirteen servings; which was amazing. This was my first bigger meal prep as I don’t really like doing mass meals for the week and I had meals to carry me though some lunches and dinners; which freed up time for me to do things I enjoy like ice skating at night.

Gluten-free Minestrone

Gluten-free Minestrone - Candy Coated Culinista

Gluten-free Minestrone – Candy Coated Culinista

A cold weekend is ahead and I have been craving soup in a bad way.

Yield/Serving: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 min.
Cook Time: (beginning to end) 1 ½ hour
Difficulty level is: Medium

Ingredients
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Red onion, half diced
• 3 carrots, peeled & chopped
• 2 zucchini, cut into half circles
• 1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
• 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 small red bell pepper, diced
• 1 small green bell pepper, diced
• 3 tbsp tomato paste
• 2 tsp dried oregano
• 2 litres vegetable stock, reduced sodium
• 1 can red kidney beans
• 2 tomatoes, cut into pieces
• 2 cups gluten-free farfalle pasta
• ½ cup parmesan cheese
• 2 handfuls of parsley, chopped

Assembly
1. In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, pour extra virgin olive oil and brown onions, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, red pepper and green pepper and let brown slightly, 5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, oregano, vegetable stock, kidney beans and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
3. Add in the gluten-free pasta and let simmer until pasta is aldente.
4. Continue to let simmer and add in parmesan cheese and parsley.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
Such a great fall soup. Zucchini is a summer vegetable but in Ontario it can be readily found up until October and I fully took advantage of that. I have always wanted to make a minestone and this was so delicious I didn’t even miss the protein. The carrots and zucchini were still crunchy and this recipe is perfect for freezing.

Kale Caesar Salad

Kale Caesar Salad - Candy Coated Culinista

Kale Caesar Salad – Candy Coated Culinista

This twist on a Caesar salad is my new favourite way to enjoy Caesar salad. Robust and hearty kale being incorporated into this classic is delicious.

Yield/Serving: 2-4
Prep Time: 10 min.
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
• 6 kale leaves, de-stemmed & chopped
• Spinach, big handful chopped
• 4 slices of bacon, cooked crispy & crumbled
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
• Caesar salad dressing
• 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
• ¼ cup parmesan cheese
• 1 cup croutons

Assembly
1. Chop romaine, kale and spinach leaves and put into a bowl.
2. Using a frying pan, fry bacon until crispy and then crumble.
3. Using the same oil from the bacon, quickly fry the minced garlic and add to another bowl.
4. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the small bowl along with salad dressing and mix.
5. Shred mozzarella cheese and add to the bowl of lettuce along with parmesan cheese and croutons.
6. Mix well and serve.

Tips
• Make the dressing by hand if you like; but I decided not to as I had time restraints.
• Make into a chicken Caesar salad by adding grilled chicken breast into the salad.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
This salad was enjoyed by my taste testers. I managed to turn people who claim to hate anchovy’s and kale into a lover. Granted the moment I mentioned there were whole anchovy fillets in the salad some stopped. My point was still proven and I arrested my case. I have made this salad three times already in 2 weeks; even once as a chicken Caesar salad.

Chef’s Plate Review

Chicken Carbonara - Chef's Plate - Candy Coated Culinista

Chicken Carbonara – Chef’s Plate – Candy Coated Culinista

Chef’s Plate promises a better way to cook with farm fresh, premium cuts and healthy & nutritious meals for you and your family. Each week a new set of recipes are available for your choosing and then the fresh pre-portioned ingredients are delivered to your door for you to prepare.

For my first venture in Chef’s Plate is chose steak and roasted tarragon potatoes with a pink peppercorn sauce and mixed green salad and chicken carbonara with fresh linguine pasta in a creamy parmesan sauce. The box even came with some Valentine’s Day treats and a card which was the perfect added touch for those celebrating.

Plans run for a two person plan starting at 49.80/week for 2 meals to $68.70/week for 3 meals; and a four person plan is $87.60/week for 2 meals. There is flexibility with your subscription that you can suspend your deliveries at anytime if you want to take a break; which I like or there isn’t anything on the menu you like that week.

The steak dish was a medium difficulty with 30 min prep time and 470 calories per serving. I would make this recipe again on my own as I never had tarragon before and this was such a simple but appealing dish. The flat iron steak was a great cut and with the addition of the pink peppercorn sauce was simple yet flavourful. I would however season it more than directed and add my usual steak spice medley. The portions on this meal were rather small though and I’m not a big girl or over-eat and I found the portion for two to be ideal for just one person.

The chicken carbonara had a 15 min of prep time with 750 calories per serving and a hard difficulty level; which it lived up to. The recipe couldn’t have been easier until it came to the carbonana sauce portion. My sauce came out too thick and was eggy, which I had to wonder why as I followed the directions and I know the basis of making cream sauces. I checked on social media and I looked at some others photos of the chicken carb and there sauce was also thick and eggy looking; so it’s something in that recipe I gather. The portion size for this meal was huge. This could easily serve 3 people or two very hungry people. This recipe directed to season 3 different parts which I found to be too much.

The directions were almost fail proof which would make this a great idea for those people who aren’t good cooks or just never know where to start. The instructions come on a coloured cardstock paper; with step by step directions and photos for each step. This is one if the few times I followed these recipes exactly without adding anything. I had to use restraint in this aspect which was new as I always go off recipe.

Overall this is a great meal delivery box with delicious simple healthy options and with vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free selections each week. I would try this again when two items on the menu peak my interest. This is also a great way to try a new dish you’ve always wanted to; but didn’t want to source the ingredients or knew you would have to buy much and have leftovers on a dish you may not end up enjoying. The food is delivered in a refrigerated box with ice pack to help food stay fresh until you arrive home. This box has quality ingredients the, price is reasonable; but I can personally source these ingredients for cheaper. That being said this is a great box for super busy people, or people who don’t enjoy sourcing ingredients … I’m a hesitant fan for the moment.

Flank Steak & Tarragon Potatoes - Candy Coated Culinista

Flank Steak & Tarragon Potatoes – Candy Coated Culinista

Chef's Plate Produce - Candy Coated Culinista

Chef’s Plate Produce – Candy Coated Culinista

Skillet Penne Pasta Dinner

Skillet Penne Pasta Dinner - Candy Coated Culinista

Skillet Penne Pasta Dinner – Candy Coated Culinista

When I was a child pasta night was always Friday and my mom would make her tried and true pasta dish. I have been reminiscing and thinking about my mom more than usual lately and I decided to pay homage and make my version of her dish.

Yield/Serving: 8
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 4 cups Penne Rigate
• 2 lbs lean ground beef
• 1 tsp Sea salt
• ½ tsp Black pepper
• 1 tsp Paprika
• ½ tsp Season salt
• 1 tsp Onion powder
• ½ tsp Garlic powder
• 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
• ½ cup white mushrooms, chopped
• half of one small white onion
• ½ cup of grape tomatoes, halved
• 2 cups marinara sauce
• Generous handful of Italian parsley
• ½ cup of mozzarella cheese
• ½ cup of cheddar cheese
• ¼ cup of parmesan cheese

Assembly
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water cook penne until al dente.
2. Drain in a colander once cooked.
3. Using a 12” cast iron skillet brown the ground beef and add the salt, pepper, paprika, season salt, onion powder and garlic powder.
4. After 5 minutes stir in the diced garlic along with the mushrooms, onion and grape tomatoes and let cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
6. Stir in the marinara sauce to the meat mixture and add parsley and cook at a simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
7. Pour pasta into the skillet and incorporate into the meat mixture.
8. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes to allow cheese to melt.
9. Serve.

Tips
• Freeze some to bake at a later time.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
I was so happy with how this tasted and turned out and it was true to my mom’s dish. My mom used a stovetop skillet; but since I have a nice cast iron skillet I decided to take it to the oven and bake it in the dish. I just wish the thing was a little lighter is all.

Homemade Lasagna

Homemade Lasgna - Candy Coated Culinista

Homemade Lasgna – Candy Coated Culinista

Italian or Greek food is the food I could have every day for the remainder of my life and I’d be quite content. Lasagna is my absolute favourite food and I have tasted it many places. I finally decided to make lasagna from scratch even though I know this is a time-consuming burden. This may be my first and last time making this dish as I may just not want to have to go through this process again.

Yield/Serving: 1 – 9” x 9” dish & 12” x 9” dish
Prep Time: 1hr & 30 min.
Cook Time: 45 min.
Difficulty level is: Medium, time consuming

Ingredients
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
• 1/3 pound ground beef
• 1/3 pound ground pork
• 1/3 pound ground veal
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp season salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tbsp dried basil
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 1 tbsp dried rosemary
• 1 tbsp dried thyme
• 1 tbsp dried sage
• 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
• 5.5 oz (156 ml) tomato paste
• 1 {28 oz} can Whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
• 3 cups ricotta
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
• 4 cups {16 oz} mozzarella cheese, grated
• 3 cups spinach, blanched
• 3 cups swiss chard, blanched
• 16 Flat “No Boil” Lasagna Noodles

Assembly
Sauce
1. In a large saucepan sauté onion in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened.
2. Add in the garlic along with the ground, beef, pork, veal along with all the spices and stir until meat is browned.
3. Add in the tomato paste and crushed San Marzano tomatoes including the tomato sauce from the can. Stir and combine.
4. Reduce to low and let simmer for 45 minutes.
5. In a medium bowl combine ricotta, eggs, parsley and a half cup of parmesan and mozzarella cheese and place in fridge until needed.
6. In another saucepan sauté the spinach and swiss chard for a few minutes and then squeeze out excess water.
Lasagna Assembly
7. Spray a 9”x13” and a 9” x 9” baking or casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375°F.
8. Spread one cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.
9. Lay four noodles, then add some spinach and Swiss chard and spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.
10. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce and sprinkle with a half cup of mozzarella cheese.
11. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have reached the top.
12. Bake for 30-45 minutes and then let rest for 10 minutes.
13. Serve

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
If I had an Italian nonna she would be so proud. My first attempt was a huge success. I used my homemade pasta sauce and everything. I just think I needed more pasta sauce even though I had added a lot, I think it needed more. Also a deeper casserole dish would be great my lasagna. I made one dish of lasagna to freeze as I wasn’t going to make just one and gave it to my dad to enjoy. I really had a sense of accomplishment making my most favourite dish ever.

Mediterranean Inspired Dinner

Mediterranean Inspired Dinner - Candy Coated Culinista

Mediterranean Inspired Dinner – Candy Coated Culinista

Secondo : Parmesan Crusted Salmon
Contorno : Rapini with Caramelized Onions & Grape Tomatoes
Insalata : Bulgur Wheat & Organic Black Beluga Lentils Salad

It’s 2014, and the New Year is upon us and after all the heavy foods in excess we consumed during the holidays, those light dishes in January are really needed. I was surfing through Food Network Canada and came across their Cooking Club Challenge and for the month of January its salmon. Everyone seems to be on the same wavelength with starting off the year right by eating healthy. So Monday night I went home and made a Mediterranean inspired salmon dinner, with some of the grains I promised myself I would start integrating into my meals.

Secondo : Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Yield/Serving: 4
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10-15 min
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 4 salmon fillets
• ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
• ¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
• Sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
• Lemon juice, from half a lemon
• Extra virgin olive oil

Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix together the Parmesan and breadcrumbs until well combined.
3. Season salmon with salt and pepper and then squeeze lemon juice on.
4. Coat the un-skinned side of the salmon with the parmesan mixture.
5. Preheat an oven proof non-stick pan to medium-high heat and pour in olive oil.
6. Once pan and oil is hot place salmon in crust side down and don’t touch.
7. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Flip over salmon and place in oven to cook for 6 to 8 more minutes.

Tips
• An ovenproof pan will make this process so much easier. I had to transfer my salmon from a frying pan to a baking pan.

Contorno : Rapini with Caramelized Onions & Grape Tomatoes

Yield/Serving: 4
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 15-20 min
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large yellow onion, sliced
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
• 1 bunch rapini, washed and trimmed
• Sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
• 1 tbsp red chilli flakes

Assembly
1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until sweated.
2. Add in the grape tomatoes and the rapini and cook until rapini has wilted.
3. Season with salt, black pepper and pepper flakes.

Insalata : Bulgur Wheat & Organic Black Beluga Lentils Salad

Yield/Serving: 4
Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 20 min
Difficulty level is: Easy, labour intensive

Ingredients
• ¼ cup organic back beluga lentils
• ½ cup bulgur wheat
• 3 springs, green onion, diced
• 1 baby zucchini, diced
• ½ red pepper, diced
• ½ green pepper, diced
• 4 garlic cloves
• 1 handful or fresh dill, chopped
• 1 handful or fresh parsley, chopped
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
• Lemon juice, from half a lemon
• 1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar

Assembly
Organic Black Beluga Lentils
1. In a small sauce pan soak lentils in 1 cup of water lightly salted for 1 hour.
2. Simmer lentils on low-medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes, and drain.
Bulgur Wheat
3. Boil 1 cup water in a saucepan.
4. Rehydrate bulgur wheat in the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Turn off heat and cover until all the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
6. Fluff up wheat with a fork and pour into a large bowl.
Salad
7. Prep the green onion, zucchini, red pepper, green pepper, garlic, dill & parsley and place in bowl.
8. Once lentils and wheat are tender pour into same bowl and add olive oil, salt, black pepper, lemon and red wine vinegar.
9. Stir until well incorporated.
10. Serve.

Please Enjoy

Reviews
“The dinner was excellent. I really liked the crust on the salmon it added a nice crunch to the flaky salmon which was cooked perfectly. The bulgur wheat and dill salad was very tasty. I especially liked adding it to a bite of salmon for that burst of flavour from the dill and the texture of the bulgur wheat and lentils. The fried veggies were especially tasty and there was a very sweet veggie in there that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.”

My thoughts
This was an amazing dinner: healthy, vibrant and flavourful. I thought I wasn’t going to like the bulgur wheat or the lentils, as I really really really hate lentils but this tasted delish. The mix of all the veggies and herbs complemented the lentils and even Mr. C. enjoyed it. Usually I like to introduce new recipes one at a time. Something familiar mixed with something new; however with this recipe I went in feet first with 3 new recipes off the top of my head with just the idea of salmon. The bulgur wheat salad tasted better the next day when the flavours married. I had the leftover bulgur wheat salad and rapini for lunch the next day, and this was one of the few lunch dishes that I had with no meat. It was so flavourful that I didn’t even miss the meat and to me that means I did real good.

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