Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells are great to mix up and freeze! Brittany's PantrySeconds, please!!  That is what your family will be saying after they eat this pasta.  Its hot, easy, and perfect for company.  Baked pasta filled with cheese.  Is there anything better?  The great thing too is that you can change it to however you happen to like your italian food.  I vary this recipe quite often so experiment!  And any of you who think that this recipe sounds like alot of work, don’t fret.  It comes together really easy.  I am not a huge lover of ricotta cheese, so I like the fact that this gives you that salty, creamy, satisfying bite (just like lasagna) that is so comforting, but without the graininess.  This recipe is a regular at my house.  Originally, the idea came from a recipe my friend had, but I have changed it so much, its all my own!  That is the best way to create in your kitchen.  A nudge in the right direction and a little necessity, and you end up with a hit.  Add a Caesar salad and some garlic bread and you have a classic italian dinner.  If you want to change it up, roasted zucchini is fantastic with this.  Toss cubed zucchini and/or summer squash in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and some italian seasoning and roast at 450 till a bit brown and soft.  Don’t let it get mushy.  If you don’t have room in the oven because of the pasta, use the same ingredients and saute the veggies on the stove just before dinner time.

One of the things I like the best about this recipe is that it makes a huge amount, but freezes well.  If I am not serving this for company, I either halve the recipe (which is very easy to do with this one) or make two smaller pans instead of one big one, and put the second one, assembled but unbaked, in the freezer.  Wrap it well in plastic wrap and then foil and the pan should keep just fine for a few months.  If I am really thinking ahead, I make the second pan in a 9X9 aluminum disposable and then I don’t have to sacrifice one of my glass baking dishes.  This meal would be great to bring to a neighbor or new mommy.  Leftovers are awesome!
Stuffed Shells are great to mix up and freeze! Brittany's PantryStuffed Shells

1 box Jumbo Shells

Filling:
2- 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, room temp
3 c shredded mozzarella
3/4 c grated Parmesan
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 T chopped fresh chives
Topping:
2 jars marinara sauce
1/2 lb italian sausage, browned, crumbled and drained
Parmesan and mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta shells until they are still just a bit chewy.  You want to do this because they will cook more as they bake in the oven and your don’t want mushy pasta!  Drain and rinse shells.  Set aside.  While pasta is cooking, mix together all filling ingredients.  Spray a large, 9X13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour 1/2 jar of marinara into dish.  If you like your pasta really saucy, use a whole jar.  Fill each shell with about 1 T of filling and place upright in the pan.  When all the shells are filled, layer the italian sausage over the top and pour remaining jar of marinara evenly over the shells.  *Pasta can be frozen at this point.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly in the center.  Sprinkle the top with more Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, letting it melt and brown slightly during the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let the pasta cool 15 minutes before serving.

Hint:  Feel free to omit the sausage for a vegetarian version.  Or you could add the sausage to the pasta sauce instead of the filling!

Spiced Peach Jam

Homemade Spiced Peach Jam | Brittany's PantryWow this jam is good.  It cooks down so much it concentrates the flavor so you don’t just end up with peaches floating in sugar syrup, but thick, all peach syrup with fruit in it.  The cardamom is what takes this over the top.  And if you use it in this recipe and pour it over pork, it may just make your year.  I would definitely step up your game and make two batches, saving some to give as gifts at Christmas.  But only if you are prepared to make it again next year.  Your neighbors may riot of you don’t.

Spiced Peach Jam (Recipe updated July 2013)
Inspired by CCA
No pectin needed!  This cooks down considerably and yields about 6 full pints.

12 c diced fresh peaches, already peeled and pitted (about 6 lbs)
6 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan.  I like to use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this.  Stir to combine and bring to a rolling boil over med heat.  Stirring constantly, boil about 15 minutes till mixture starts to thicken.  If desired, mash fruit with a potato masher till fruit is as chunky or smooth as you like.  Continue boiling for another 10-15 minutes stirring almost constantly.  Don’t let it burn!  When jam is ready, you should almost be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir.  It should be thick, reduced, and not quite hold its shape on a spoon.  Pour hot jam into sterilized pint jars (leaving 1 inch of head space), wipe rims clean, top with sterilized lids and bands and process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes.  Alternatively, pour into jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 month, or pour into plastic freezer jars and freeze for 6 months.

Dippin’ Biscuits

Quick Dipping Drop Biscuits | Brittany's Pantry - The perfect bread to whip up when you need something to go with dinner!Yummy comfort food.  That is what has been on my mind everyday for the past week.  Its calling to me when I sleep.  Mashed potatoes, savory, slow roasted meats, hot carmel rolls fresh from the oven…its all good.  So the other night I threw together chicken and gravy over biscuits with some fresh green beans.  I made the biscuits with a pinch of herbs to give the whole dish an extra special flavor.  My Mom used to make drop biscuits all the time when I was a kid; as a matter of fact, I don’t ever remember her making them the old fashioned way, rolled and cut.  With a large family, it was faster and less messy to just mix them up and throw on a sheet pan.  Drop biscuits are just what they sound like.  The dough is usually a bit more sticky, and instead of turning it out onto a floured counter, rolling them out and cutting with a biscuit cutter, they are spooned right from the bowl and ‘dropped’ on a cookie sheet and baked.  To be true, they aren’t the smooth, puffy, flaky buns you may think of when biscuits come to mind, but they are a rustic, easy and quick alternative.  And perfect to smother in gravy.   This is what I threw together before dinner and with the addition of sage and pepper, the flavor is perfect for dipping into the gravy at Thanksgiving.  Easy to throw in the oven while the turkey rests and you get the rest of the food on the table.  Wow!  I am thinking about the holidays already?!  Sheesh.  Without the spices, they are just a plain, everyday, all purpose bread.  Add a spoonful of sugar, and you could top them with strawberries and cream.

Dippin Biscuits (note: recipe has been updated since original post)

2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried sage
pinch of salt
6 T cold butter
1 c milk

In a medium sized bowl, mix dry ing. with a fork.  Add butter, cut into small chunks.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender, fork, or two knives till butter is the size of small peas. (Alternatively, pulse all ing in a food processor till butter is the size of small peas.  Dump into a med sized bowl.)
Add milk and mix with a fork just until it comes together.  Dough will be sticky.  Drop dough into 6 portions on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until puffed and golden on top.  Biscuits can be baked and cooled and frozen for up to 1 month.