Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving crowd pleaser

With the holidays here, we're all cooking up our favorite crowd pleasing recipes. I find that when I'm headed to an event with particularly picky eaters (like die-hard carnivores and kids on the "all white food diet"), I need to supply a veggie dish that's not too exotic. Thankfully, I came up with this recipe for white bean stuffed shells a few years ago and it hasn't let me down since. The beauty with this recipe is how it allows you to transform numerous dairy laden Italian treats into a plant-lover's dream.

I tripled the recipe Wednesday night, which allowed me to whip up some shells for Thanksgiving at our cousins in Kennebunk, stuff manicotti for a party at my parent's house yesterday and end up with enough filling to do a small casserole dish just so Adam and I would be assured some leftovers. Boy, were we thankful for that extra dish!

White Bean Stuffed Shells

2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
dash of Tabasco sauce
8 oz. jumbo pasta shells
40 oz. pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta shells until al dente, drain and rinse. Add olive oil and onion to skillet over medium heat and cook until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

In a food processor, add beans, garlic clove, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, basil, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Puree until smooth. Mix in grated carrots and sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Add a layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon a heaping tablespoon full of bean mixture into each shell. Place in casserole dish. When the dish is full, spoon remaining pasta sauce over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Serves 4.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Red hot autumn

Apples and cranberries show up for the short days and cool nights of autumn. Their vivid red skins add instant color to the Portland Farmers' Market and make a lively addition to many meals. While the apple's sweet juice is worlds away from the bitter cranberry's bite, the two share the season's tart, sassy taste. And when combined, they're heavenly.

I use the fruits together in salads, salsas, pancakes and even vegetable roasts. But one of the easiest ways to combine their complementary flavors is in a simple cran-applesauce. I leave the apple skins on and add a touch of maple syrup to create this quick and easy dessert that boasts the season's best tastes.

Chunky cran-applesauce

4 Macintosh apples, chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups water
3 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup

Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, until most of the water is evaporated. Serve warm or cold.