Ultimate Stuffed Shells to Ring in the Holidays

Ultimate Stuffed Shells

Here we go….let the Holiday celebrations begin!

Thanksgiving….Friendsgiving….Hannukah….Christmas…Kwanzaa…Winter Solstice…Festivus!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore them all. I’m a holiday-lovin’ gal. Heck, I’ve had my Christmas tree up for over two weeks now but with all of these festivities, there’s a lot of cooking that’s required.

And as much as I’m down for long hours of cooking and baking, I also strongly believe in dishes that I can make ahead that can still carry the spirit and yumminess (is that a word?) of the special occasion.

Ultimate Stuffed Shells

These Ultimate Stuffed Shells really fit that bill. Not only are they bright and colorful but they are just down right comfort food—something like grandma would make. Well, not my grandmas…they were old school Vietnamese and would have stuffed tofu than pasta. But someone’s grandma would have made them and it’s like getting a big ol’ hug when you take a bite.

Why do I call these “ultimate” stuffed shells? Because they’ve got all of my favs in them–spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, spinach, and tons of different cheeses. They’re pretty easy to make and are always a fan favorite when they show up on a spread.

And with that….Bring on the stretchy pants–I’m ready for some Holiday Eats!

ps. And since this is the time for giving, check out these adorable personalized cutting boards from our friends at Red Envelope. Perfect for any loved ones who enjoy a delicious Foodventure.

Cutting Board

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Ultimate Stuffed Shells
Serves approximately 6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
½ cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup minced baby portabello mushrooms
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese + 2 tablespoons, divided
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade (more for garnish)
kosher salt
black pepper
20 ounces marina sauce
20-24 jumbo pasta shells, boiled to just shy of al dente
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat while it’s browning. Once browned, remove the sausage to a plate that has been lined with paper towels to drain.

In the same skillet, cook the shallots over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until tender but not browned. Add in the garlic, pepper flakes, thyme, oregano and mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the mushrooms become tender. Add the spinach, parsley, nutmeg and continue to cook for an additional minute until combined. Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Once the mixture has cooled, fold in the ¼ parmesan cheese, ricotta, beaten egg and basil until just combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pour approximately 2/3 of the marina sauce into a baking dish. Spread the sauce evenly to coat the bottom. Fill each of the shells with heaping spoonfuls of the cooled mixture and place them in the dish on top of the layer of marina. Continue until all of the shells have been filled and are placed snugly amongst each other in the baking dish.

Spoon the remaining marina sauce over the shells and then the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet (in case anything bubbles over during baking time). Bake the shells for 25 minutes and then remove the foil and continue baking for 10 minutes until the cheese bubbles and slightly browns.

Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Prior to serving, garnish with additional basil chiffonade and enjoy!

Easy and Cheesy Breakfast Enchiladas

Breakfast Enchiladas

Y’all may recall how much I sing the praises of breakfast dishes. But when you’re someone who hits the snooze button several times a morning–every morning, spending a lot of time in the kitchen in the AM is the last thing I ever want to do.

So what’s a breakfast lovin’ gal to do?

Easy….

Breakfast Enchiladas

Create recipes that you can make the night before!

Yup. Dishes that can be prepped hours before cooking that are no fuss- no muss but don’t sacrifice on the flavor.

These super easy, super cheesy Breakfast Enchiladas fit the bill. They’re filled with tons of spices, eggs, sausage & cheeses and then rolled up in corn tortillas before being smothered with more enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. At this point, you can either bake the enchiladas or throw them in the fridge overnight.

Breakfast Enchiladas

I often choose the latter option so that when my first alarm goes off in the morning, I can roll out of bed to preheat the oven….and then roll back in until it reaches temp. After a quick snooze, I throw the dish of enchiladas in and bake for about 20 minutes.

Which just so happens to be enough time for another quick snooze session.

Yea–I’ve got issues. But by the time the timer goes off, the enchiladas are ooey-gooey perfect! I dress them with some diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, avocado, salsa and sour cream–Delicioso!

Now if I could only teach my puggle how to make coffee….
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Easy and Cheesy Breakfast Enchiladas
Serves 6- 8

Ingredients:

4 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
½ tablespoon taco seasonings
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound breakfast sausage
½ cup diced yellow onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt and pepper
15-ounce can enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack or Cheddar cheese
1 scallion, diced
½ cup finely diced tomatoes
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 small avocado, diced or thinly sliced
sour cream and salsa, optional

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, taco seasonings, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons cilantro.

In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil to medium and add the breakfast sausage. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the sausage and break into small pieces. Cook the sausage until browned and transfer to a plate.

Add the onions, jalapeno and garlic to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the eggs. Continue cooking, gently stirring the eggs with a rubber spatula until the eggs have almost set. Fold in the cooked sausage and cook for an additional minute. Season with additional salt and pepper and remove the skillet from the stove to allow the mixture to slightly cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish with a few spoonfuls of the enchilada sauce. Pour the remaining sauce into a shallow dish. Wrap the tortillas in a kitchen towel and microwave for 30 seconds so that they become more pliable. Dip each tortilla into the dish of enchilada sauce to coat both sides. Place a few spoonfuls of the egg/sausage mixture in the center of each tortilla. Top with shredded cheese and roll the tortilla, securing all the fillings inside. Place the filled tortilla, seam side down into the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, placing each enchilada snuggly against each other.

Pour the leftover sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has fully melted. Remove from the oven and top the enchiladas with scallions, tomatoes, bell pepper, avocado and the remaining cilantro. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream.

Double Jalapeno-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Roasted Poblano Aioli

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

Summer has been beating down my door lately with gorgeous sunny days and warm weather. And of course, what’s better to do in the summer than grilling up some delicious eats?

So when this glorious box of Farmer John Jalapeno Bacon showed up at the doorstep, it was a no brainer what had to be done.

Jalapeno Bacon

Burgers.

Ultimate, jalapeno bacon loaded burgers.

With a bit of heat.

Awwww yea….

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

These decadent burgers are not only topped with a pile of crispy jalapeno bacon but there’s also chopped up bacon INSIDE the patty!!

Yea, I totally went there.

Poblano

And because burgers are the perfect canvas to go BIG, I dressed these bad boys up with spicy pepper cheese, crispy cornmeal onion strings, peppery arugula and a creamy roasted poblano aioli.

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

These burgers not only have a ton of great textures, a balanced level of heat, but were ultimately bacon-licious! The jalapeno component to the bacon was not at all overpowering but rather mild. Perfect for folks who just want a tad of heat.

And if you think these burgers are bacon-riffic, just wait for my upcoming post on Jalapeño-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries!

Have a fantastic weekend folks!!
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Double Jalapeño-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Roasted Poblano Aioli
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large poblano pepper
½ tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup mayonnaise
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
kosher salt
black pepper
1 pound ground beef (80/20 blend)
½ tablespoon garlic salt
½ tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 pound cooked jalapeno bacon
vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
½ cup flour
½ cup yellow corn meal
4 slices pepper jack cheese
1½ cups fresh arugula
4 burger buns, split and toasted

Prepare the aioli. On your stovetop range, char the poblano pepper on all sides. This can also be done under your oven broiler. Once charred, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. This will help the skin loosen from the pepper. Once cooled, peel the skin from the pepper and discard along with the stem and seeds. Finely chop up the pepper and transfer to a clean bowl. Whisk in the garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and cilantro. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and Worcestershire. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Take ½ of the bacon and roughly chop into small pieces. Add the bacon to the beef and mix until just combined. Form the meat into 4 patties and create a small indentation in the center of each patty. This is to help the patties from puffing up. Transfer them to a plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the onion strings. Fill a heavy bottomed pot with 2 inches of oil. Heat to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. In batches, place the onions into the dry ingredients, tossing well to coat. Gently shake out the excess and carefully lower into the oil. Fry the onions for about 5-6 minutes, stirring every so often until golden brown. Drain the onions on a plate lined with paper towels and season immediately with additional salt. Repeat until all the onions have been fried. Transfer the onion strings to a large baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you grill the patties.

Remove the patties from the refrigerator and lightly brush them with vegetable oil. Light your grill (or preheat grill pan). Place the patties over medium heat and grill on each side for about 4-5 minutes. About 1-2 minutes before the second side is done, lay one slice of cheese over each patty. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese has melted. Remove the patties and tent with aluminum foil while you’re assembling the burgers.

On a toasted bun, place a small mound of the arugula and then lay a patty on top. Spread a few spoonfuls of the aioli on top of the patty before adding a few strips of the remaining bacon. Next, add a small pile of the crispy onion strings and then top off with the other side of the bun. Serve immediately.

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes + Cuisinart GIVEAWAY!

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

I love experimenting with new recipes. It’s challenging, fun and when the dish is successfully completed, it’s totally gratifying.

But after a long day, week, or heck–even an afternoon, all I want to eat is something quick and comforting. Fried SPAM with rice, instant spicy ramen or a trusted ol’ sandwich. And for me, the latter usually means a BLT or a grilled cheese of some type.

Grilled Cheese with Avocado & Tomatoes

One of my fav grilled cheeses is so simple but deliciously satisfying. It’s made with Kings Hawaiian sliced bread that has been lightly buttered and then grilled with pepper jack cheese, thin slices of Roma tomatoes, sliced avocados, and a thin spread of grainy mustard. So.Freaking.Good.

In honor of the humble sandwich, one of our rad readers will have the chance to win a Cuisinart Griddler® Grill & Panini Press!

Cuisinart-GR-11-1

Isn’t she a beauty?! Not only will you be able to whip up the most delectable sammies but you can also remove the plates to grill burgers, steaks, and anything else that your heart may desire. Now that is multi-functional!

How to enter: This GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for entering!

Leave a comment and tell us what is your favorite sandwich.

For extra chances to win, leave a separate comment for each indicating which of the below you did:

  1. Subscribe to The Culinary Chronicles & get automatic emails when new posts are published (If you already Subscribe, leave a comment indicating so);
  2. Like our Facebook Fan Page (If you already “Like” us, leave a comment indicating so); or
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  4. Follow our boards on Pinterest (If you already Follow us, leave a comment indicating so).

The deadline to enter is Friday, March 8th at 5pm (PST) and the winner will be notified the next day.

Best of luck, Friends!!!!

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese because it’s my Blogiversary!

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

My how time flies……

In the past three years, I left a comfortable job and moved to a brand new city. My family has welcomed a few new additions and have had our share of ups and downs. I’ve celebrated milestones with friends and loved ones and have stumbled upon great adventures.

And of course, three years ago I started this blog.

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

I can hardly believe how a quick decision one “wine-induced” night has catapulted me into a wonderful world of food and self-exploration.

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

This experience has introduced me to the food blogging community—a group of folks who are so supportive and generous. And I have been extended wonderful projects to participate in–which I still find so mind boggling! Not too shabby for this home cook :)

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

After three years, I am still so grateful. Thanks to my loved ones who serve as my steady food testers and inspiration.

And Thanks to you All for your continued support of The Culinary Chronicles. I promise, there’s a lot more to come.

ps. To celebrate, try out my Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. Comforting and a bit decadent…just how I like my food.

Happy Foodventures!

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Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

Ingredients:

¾ Pound Elbow Pasta
2½ Cups Whole Milk
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 Cup Fontina Cheese, cubed
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/8 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Kosher Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
10 Ounces Cooked Lobster Meat, tail and claw
½ Cup Toasted Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoon Fresh Chives, diced

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Heavily salt the water and cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes until it is just shy of al dente. Drain well and set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the milk and bring to a slow simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter and vegetable oil together over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk for about 2-3 minutes to allow the flour to cook. Whisk in the hot milk and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove the pot from heat and add in the Gruyere, Cheddar Cheese and Fontina. Stir until the cheeses have melted and then add in the red pepper flakes, nutmeg, kosher salt and black pepper. Add in the pasta and lobster and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a greased 9×9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the top with Panko and Parmesan Cheese. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and bake in a 400 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chives over the baked dish.

Mushroom Calzones–Portable Goodness.

Mushroom Calzone

Know what one of the perks of having extra pizza dough in your freezer is?

Calzones.

Also known as “homemade hot pockets” in my book…..not just delicious but portable, too!

Just like pizza toppings, anything goes when it comes to filling calzones. Veggies, meat, cheeses—they can even be made into desserts. This time I opted for a mushroom medley which was perfect when dunked into marinara sauce.

Enjoy!

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Mushroom Calzone
Serves 2

Ingredients:

8 ounces Pizza Dough
1½ cups sliced assorted mushrooms
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 pinches red chili flakes
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
cornmeal, optional
1 cup marinara sauce
kosher salt
black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil with the butter. Add in garlic and sauté for one minute. Toss in mushrooms, chili flakes and thyme leaves and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Allow the mixture to cool.

On a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to a circular shape and until it reaches ½ inch thickness. Fill one-half side of the dough with the mushrooms mixture and cheeses, leaving an inch or so border around the edge. Carefully fold the dough over itself. Roll the edges up and press to seal. Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and slide the calzone on top. Brush the calzone with olive oil and lightly sprinkle kosher salt on top. Bake the calzone for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with marinara sauce to dip.

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

For a good chunk of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes.

I thought they were mealy and rather “bleh” in flavor. I’d pick them out of salads, burgers, well….pretty much out of everything.

And you know what the problem was? For the first 20+ years of my life, I was eating BAD tomatoes!

Because when you take a bite out of a gorgeous tomato at its peak in the season, it’s absolutely delicious! They’re sweet and juicy with the right balance of acidity. And last summer, I even found myself growing the most beautiful Early Girl Tomatoes via our Topsy Turvy. (For the record, the Topsy Turvy is awesome!)

Needless to say, I was missing out for so many years!

 

 

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are in Bruschetta. The simplicity of ingredients paired with the herbaceous basil  really highlights the true flavor of the tomato. On its own, it’s quite fabulous but I decided to add a spin by throwing in some smoked mozzarella cheese I stumbled on at my local specialty market. It was perfect!

And on warm summer nights like we’ve been having, I could eat Bruschetta every day! Mom would be proud that I’m eating my veggies :)

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Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Serves 4 as an Appetizer or 2 for a Light Meal

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Tomatoes, diced
½ Cup Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, leaves torn
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cheese, basil, garlic, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with your choice of flat bread or toasted baguettes.

Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits…REDEMPTION!

Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits

Man, oh man… You’re going to really want to make these. For real.

Some of you may recall a few months ago when I tried to make a knockoff of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits. They were good—but not great. And lucky for everyone, this gal was determined to find a better version. I was on a mission. And Hallelujah! I’ve found it!

Thanks to a little tweaking and edits to Cooks Illustrated Drop Biscuits, I am happy to share these little goodies with you all. Cheesy, flavorful and super easy to make. And since they’re “drop biscuits”, you don’t have to mess around with rolling out the dough.

I’m a happy camper! In fact, I’ve got to show you them again. Just indulge me, okay?

Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits

And of course, these would be fabulous for any upcoming holiday festivities. :)

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Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes approximately 12 biscuits

Ingredients:

2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Sugar
¾ Teaspoon Table Salt
½ Tablespoon Garlic Powder, plus 1 teaspoon to be added to the 2 tbsp melted butter for brushing biscuits
1 Cup Cold Buttermilk
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Chopped Chives (or scallions)
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, garlic powder and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.

Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Fold in cheese and chives. Using greased ¼ cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2¼  inches in diameter and 1¼ inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1½  inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.

Brush biscuit tops with a mixture of the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter & 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.