veal stuffed shells

Okay … you’re gonna have to bear with me on this one. I don’t actually measure very much when I’m cooking italian. I mean, I literally just have the ingredients written down and I wing it for the most part. That goes for sauces, pastas, lasagnes … the whole she-bang. I’ll try to put something in there for you, but let’s be real; you’re just going to adjust it to your taste anyhoo. Amiright?

(You can nod. I don’t need verbal affirmation.)

joker nod

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Chopped onion … pretty sure I just chop up a small one. Yellow, white, sweet … whichevs
  • Minced basil (I use fresh, but you can use dried if you wanna)
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Oregano (I try to use fresh, but sometimes have to settle for dried)
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes 
  • A large dollop of tomato paste
  • Around a cup of water

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil. (I use my Dutch oven. Less splatter.) Add the onions, garlic and all the seasonings and cook over a medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, then turn off the heat.

For the shells:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 box jumbo pasta shells
  • Salt
  • 1 large finely chopped onion
  • Minced garlic (I like lots)
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 bag spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • A handful of grated parmesan (grate it yourself, please and thank you. don’t use the shaker can stuff. bleh.)
  • A handful of grated romano (same as above)
  • A sprinkle or pinch or some such precise measurement of each of the following:
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Oregano
  • Thyme (use fresh if you can)
  • Basil (use fresh if you can)
  • Some grated mozzarella (totally grate it yourself .. don’t get the bag. I tend to like less than most, so use as much as you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a nice sized lasagne pan.

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until just al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft. Add the ground veal and cook until it is browned. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and cook until it is wilted. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and eggs, salt and pepper, and the rest of the spices. Stir in the veal/spinach mixture and combine thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the shells and arrange in the lasagna pan. (It often makes so much that I have enough left over for another small baking dish for freezing or sharing.) Pour the sauce over the top and sprinkle with more mozzarella.

Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Let it sit a few minutes before serving.

snickerdoodles

Only the best cookies ever. With the funniest name ever. Which got me to thinking … why the eff are they called snickerdoodles?

Because I am of the internets, I consulted the trusty Google. The Google consulted the Wiki, which had apparently consulted The Joy of Cooking, and spit back this:

snail noodles

Y’all. Snail noodles. Srsly.

All that aside, the cookies are awesome. And here’s how you make them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar (which is neither creamy nor tartar sauce-y)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3/4 cup flour
  • Cinnamon-sugar mixture for coating

Preheat the oven to 400°. Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Form into balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 2″ apart for 8-10 minutes.

(Here’s Mama’s handwritten version. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.)

snickerdoodles (1)

ranch dressing

I haven’t bought a bottled salad dressing in years. Not only do they contain all the most awful preservatives in all the world, but you can taste the bottle when you pour it over your nice fresh ingredients.

Homemade ranch eluded me for a while. I tried lots of different recipes, but none of them really came close to the taste of the one that comes in those packets that I used to dump into sour cream to make dip for any school event. The note would come home from the teacher, and I would dutifuly check off “ranch dip” and send it back.

That was the extent of my party cooking life back in the day.

As with most things of a dip nature, these measurements are sort of just suggestions. I pretty much just get out the stuff and toss it in a bowl until it looks/feels/tastes right and then I dump it into a mason jar and stick it in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (get the good stuff, fergawdsake)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced and then mushed into a paste with the back of a spoon
  • 1 teaspoon salt (start with a little less, actually, if you’re doing the measuring thing. You’ll add more when you start tasting it.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
  • A dash of vinegar
  • A dash of worchestershire
  • A dash of Tabasco
  • A dash of cayenne

Do the mixing. Do the tasting. Adjust. Do the mixing and the tasting again. When it’s perfect, dump it into an appropriately sized mason jar and refrigerate until needed.

pastel cream wafers

These little darlings are tiny and lightly sweet and adorable and just about perfect for wedding and baby showers. The wafers have no sugar … indeed, they have only three ingredients … and they have the delicate airiness of a wonderfully homemade pie crust. The sweetness comes from the delicious colored icing inside, and a scant sprinkling of coarse sugar to give each wafer a little touch of glamor.

Use gel food colorings to dye the frosting to match a bride’s colors or spread a thin layer of pastel colors for baby. I’ve even made these in purple and gold to take to work the last time LSU was in the National Championship.

They’re a little time-consuming, but worth it.

Ingredients:

Wafers:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons half and half

Frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Half & half
  • Food coloring

Wafers:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the flour in a bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon half and half over the mixture and toss with a fork. Repeat until all is moistened, then form into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/8″ thickness. Using very small cookie cutters, cut out the dough. Pierce each several times with a fork. Sprinkle the shapes with coarse sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, sugared side up. Bake 8-10 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.

Cool on wire racks. Spread a small amount of frosting between two cookies to make sandwiches.

Frosting:

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and frosting. Add just enough half and half to make spreading consistency. Color with food coloring as desired.

aunt cora’s jumbo raisin cookies

If I cooked three times a day every single day for the rest of my life (which I’m assuming will be long for the purposes of this ridiculous supposition) I wouldn’t get to all the recipes I have saved on my computer that I absolutely have to try. Fortunately, there are some which already have tried and true status, thus saving me the cooking.

Of course, though, they’re tried and true for a reason, which makes me want them when I read them, putting me further and further behind and/or making me have to live longer.

This is one of those recipes.

My mother has, written at the top of her recipe (which I’ll paste at the bottom,) “From back of Maxwell House coffee cans – 1970’s.” I’m pretty sure Aunt Cora didn’t wander through grocery stores slapping the recipe on the backs of the cans, but the fact remains that these cookies are known simply as “Aunt Cora’s” in our family. They’re an enormous cakey cookie with a fabulously rich spice flavor and they’re studded with nuts and raisins, which I hated as a child (and still don’t love with two very specific exceptions: Raisinettes and raisin toast.) But the cookies were so good that I would carefully pick out the offensive parts and eat the cookie part.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1-3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil the raisins in the water for three minutes. Do not drain. Cool completely.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Cream shortening, adding the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating well. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the cooled raisins with the liquid. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients gradually, blending well between each addition. Add the nuts.

Drop heaping tablespoons 2″ apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes.

Mama’s handwritten copy : )

aunt cora's jumbo raisin cookies 1

aunt cora's jumbo raisin cookies 2