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vegetarian experiment

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My meat free lent was definitely a challenge. While some days I pushed myself to find a new dinner, there were many dinners that involved cheese, eggs, pasta with butter. Not everything was worthy of a post, or even a photo. Grilled cheese, egg salad, plain pasta, steamed veggies with rice aren’t very inventive.

One thing I did try was artichoke stuffed shells. I am a huge fan of artichoke hearts. I love them in salads, dips, risotto, with other veggies, even pureed by themselves and spread on crostini. When I saw this post about them, I knew this was something I wanted to try, although I knew I wanted to tweak the recipe.

Shells and filling:

  • 18 jumbo shells
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • half an onion, chopped
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 c. grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 c.  grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  •  ground black pepper to taste


  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1c. whole and 1c. 2% to lighten things a bit)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  •  ground black pepper to taste

Cook your shells according to package directions and drain. Toss in a tsp. of olive oil to prevent sticking.

While the pasta is cooking, make your filling. Melt butter in a skillet and cook it until brown, stirring occasionally. When the butter is evenly browned, add a tbsp. of olive oil and your onions. Continue cooking until the onions are softened and browning. Add the artichoke hearts and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the wine and finish cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Let this mixture cool.

Remove heart mixture from the pan and add it to a bowl with cheeses, egg yolks, and lemon juice. You can either mix this in a bowl or process with a food processor. I decided to leave it chunkier. After mixing these ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.

For your sauce, you’ll melt the butter in a saucepan. When the butter is melted, add the flour and proceed with your roux, stirring constantly. Add the milk a little add a time, while whisking. When all the milk is combined, add your garlic and bring the sauce to a boil. When thick, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 4 minutes, then add your ricotta cheese. Turn off the heat and finish with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350.

Take some of your sauce and put it in the bottom of the dish. Place stuffed shells in the sauce and cover them with the remaining sauce. Cover the pan with foil for 30 minutes, then remove foil and finish baking until the sauce is brown.

This is a very decadent dish, but when not eating meat, sometimes you need a little something heavy and fancy as a change of pace.

Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake

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When I saw this post I knew I needed to jump on it. I had some Meyer lemons from the Muir Fresh Harvest bundle and some leftover ricotta cheese from making pasta earlier in the week.  I didn’t have any berries, but I figured it was probably just as good plain as well. I considered making a glaze, but I like things a little tart, so I left it alone. I’ve been in a bit of a cooking funk lately, but this helped.

Whiny pork chops with green rice

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Whiny pork chops are marinated in wine. Yum.





Served with butternut squash and green herbed rice.

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 large cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 pound italian fontina cheese, cut into small cubes

Whisk together a 1/4 cup of your olive oil, wine, garlic and rosemary. Place chops in the marinade and add a bit of salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat your grill or grill pan. Grill your pork chops, 7 minutes on one side, turn and finish after 3-4 minutes on the other side.

In a saucepan, bring your stock, the rice and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 18 minutes.

Using a food processor or chopper, mix the garlic, lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Add your baby spinach and parsley after the first ingredients are combined. Stir this mixture into your finished rice. I added just a touch more lemon juice at the end and then mixed in the cheese.

Meat free Lent

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As a Catholic (even one who doesn’t practice) I give something up for 40 days each year. Sometimes it’s chocolate, or soda or coffee. I’ve tried to make sure it’s something I would really not want to go without. There’s no point in giving up something you won’t miss.

This year, I’m being ambitious. At first, I considered going Vegan for Lent. Then I realized there was no way I could follow through with that. So, I decided to go meat free, with the exception of fish / seafood on Fridays.

I was excited about the challenge. I thought it was a good test of self-discipline and a way to maybe lose a couple of pounds. I figured it would push me to try new things, make new meals.

Um, yeah.

We’re a little more than a week into it and I’m already whining. Cooking two meals some nights isn’t my idea of a good time, but I couldn’t ask him to take on my sacrifice. It’s also not fair to ask him to fend for himself either (though he would)

So, I’m experimenting a little at a time. Pastas, shrimp tacos, things so far haven’t reached too far out of my comfort zone. I’m not eating any meat replacements – but that’s mostly because I can’t eat soy products, and the majority of them are made from soy protein.

So, it’s a challenge, and this weekend I’m going to push myself to find some more meatless dishes that get me excited about cooking.

retro tuna casserole

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Recipe inspired by Ellie Krieger’s Tuna Casserole recipe, because I won’t use cream soups in my cooking.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1 percent milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 pound whole-wheat mini penne
  • 3 large carrots, finely diced
  • 4 (6-ounce) cans chunk light tuna in water, drained
  • handful bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until onions are soft and translucent. Add celery and cook, stirring, until just tender. Add flour all at once and stir immediately and vigorously with a wooden spoon until flour is completely incorporated into vegetable mixture until there are no flour lumps.

Add milk and broth, stir to combine and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to a vigorous simmer and cook, stirring, until liquid has thickened and reduced by about 1/2 cup. Add salt and pepper and stir to combine. Combine cooked pasta, vegetable-liquid mixture, and tuna and toss to incorporate. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch casserole. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes, or until crumbs are golden brown and toasted.

some recipes are too good for photos

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subtitled: Sometimes you’re so hungry that you cook fast forgetting to take the photos.

Last night for dinner, I made a dish I’ve been eyeing on Pioneer Woman’s cooking blog for a while.  Her MM sandwich always looked good, but this version, HER version sounded better to me. I used a little less butter, but that’s only because I balked at using that much on one sandwich.

I think it’s a perfect quick dinner, and I usually have onions, peppers and mushrooms around so it was a matter of thawing some hoagie rolls and picking up the cube steaks.

I just enjoyed this so much, and I wanted to share it with you, even if I forgot to prepare to blog it.


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I love making lasagna, even though it seems like too much work sometimes.

Last night, for the first time, we made lasagna with fresh pasta. Around here, we love fresh pasta, but fresh lasagna seemed like it might not work as well. We decided to experiment.



Pasta dough:

  • 3/4 c. semolina flour
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • water

Combine your dry items into a pile. Crack your egg into a well, add the water and eggs. Using a fork, or your hands, incorporate all those items. Work and knead your dough until it “feels” right. The feel is elastic and smooth. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes and then roll out with a rolling pin or a pasta machine.


  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. oregano

Saute the onions in a tbsp. olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the oregano and garlic. Cook until fragrant and add tomatoes. Simmer. Adjust seasoning as necessary. (I often add basil, a dash of sugar and salt, depending on what it needs)

I tried to make my sauce a little thicker, chunkier and used less than I normally would have.

cheese filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. oregano

Mix the filling ingredients.

Meat filling:

  • 1/2 lb. italian sausage
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef

I crumbled and browned the meats and let them sit until ready to assemble.

Start with saucing the bottom of the pan so nothing sticks. Layer in your pasta, cooked meats, cheese filling and sauce. Add another layer of pasta and repeat. Keep layering and finish it with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake covered with foil at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes.



Let it sit at least 10 minutes before you cut into it.