Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Stuffed Shells

Yesterday, for the first time, I made stuffed shells.

I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal. I’m sure there are those of you who could say, “Honey, I’ve made 300 shells with one hand tied behind my back.” or “I’ve been making those since I was 10.” or “Whoop-de-do for you, ya weirdo.” And that’s fine. I’m not writing this to impress people. Feeding people brings me joy. (And food and joy are life preservers.)

Yes, friends, I was intimidated by pasta. I always thought stuffed shells were rather fancy and complicated. It seemed like one of those things that required you to have lots of practice, Italian heritage, and fewer than 3 points left on your record for prior kitchen disasters.

Which reminds me that I did actually try to make stuffed shells once before. That recipe called for homemade pesto rather than store-bought marinara. Here’s what I can tell you:

  • You generally shouldn’t attempt to use a blender when a recipe says food processor.
  • If garlic jams in blender blades, always turn the blender off before removing the lid for a closer look.
  • Even in a small kitchen, it takes years to find every splat of pesto.

I wish I could share a photograph of my pesto-covered face—blank only where my glasses had been, bangs “moussed” straight up—but this occurred in the days before cell phones.

So, I guess it’s fair to say that it wasn’t just my lack of an Italian grandmother that made me hesitate to try my hand at stuffed shells. But, yesterday, I needed to make dinner for two different households—one with a person who was part Italian/part Vegetarian—and I thought of shells. They would be easily dividable and, if all went well, would be nice enough to be given as a “gift meal.”

If all went well.

Googling brought me to Dinner at the Zoo and an easy-to-follow recipe. (Thank you, Sara.)

As many of you probably already know, I should not have been afraid. It was laughably simple. Stuffed shells are a bit fiddly and somewhat time-consuming (for a person who has been known to open a bag of chips and jar of salsa for dinner), but they are not difficult. There were no crazy ingredients, no complicated techniques, and mama mia! they were delicious. Roar! ROAR! I am woman! I made stuffed shells! Whoop-de-do for me! (Yes, I am a weirdo. But, I’m okay with that.)

To this small story of culinary success, I will add just a dash of philosophy: If you want to be able to do a thing, but it seems too difficult, give it a try. If we never attempt anything new, we will never see the extent of our abilities, and we miss out on some of life’s simple joys.

Watch out for pesto, though.

February 15, 2021 at 5:33 pm 2 comments

How To Make a Pie

Today, I was having over some impromptu company. Pulled pork in the crock pot and figured I’d make a quick pie using ready-made crust and canned filling. So, after I got home from a run to the grocery store, I realized . . . I forgot the crust.

Now, I am not a bad cook. But pie crust from scratch is my kitchen nemesis. I have just never been able to get it right. Yes, I considered a second trip to the grocery store, but laziness won out and I pulled out the recipe card box. I have six different recipes for pie crust. Not different pies. Just different ways to make pie crust. (You see, I have tried this before.)

This time, things appear to have turned out okay. So, I thought I’d share a how-to on pie making.

Step 1. Clear and clean some counter space in tiny kitchen and set out ingredients in neat rows (milk, flour, oil, salt, pie pan, bowl, measuring cups and spoons).

Step 2. Dig rolling pin and fancy (bought it cause I thought maybe that would help) pie-crust rolling mat out of kitchen drawer.

Step 3. Call mom to ask, “Does this recipe I got from you make 1 crust or 2?

Step 4. Mix 1-1/3 C flour and tsp. of salt in mixing bowl.

Step 5. Put 1/3 C oil and 3 Tbs. milk in measuring cup. Do not stir.

Step 6. Realize you will not have enough oil to make the second crust. Pick up measuring cup and run to neighbor’s house.

Step 7. As you leave the house, pull door shut tight behind you. As it clicks, realize that you have just locked yourself out of your house.

Step 8. Climb in through kitchen window, unlock front door, and leave house again to get oil from very kind neighbor.  

Step 9. Put all the ingredients together and stir using the big fancy whisk that has the neat little whisk ball inside of it.

Step 10. Dig dough bits out of whisk. Bend outer whisk to remove stupid ball thingie and dig dough bits out of that with a fork.

Step 11. Throw fancy whisk into sink and finish mixing with hands.

Step 12. Layout fancy Tupperware rolling mat, sprinkle mat, rolling pin, self, floor, and counter top liberally with flour.

Step 13. Make more counter space in tiny kitchen so you have room to actually use a rolling pin properly.

Step 14. Roll dough out, aiming for the perfect 9” circle that is imprinted on fancy rolling mat.

Step 15. Steal chunks of amoeba-shaped dough and add to spots where there is no dough.

Step 16. Look at dough. Look at pie pan. After some thought, place pie pan upside-down on dough. Flip over entire mat. When cloud of flour clears, see that this worked just fine.

Step 17. Steal more bits of dough to Frankestein a somewhat circular, somewhat full-coverage bottom layer.

Step 18. Remove everything that you cleared from counter from out of the cupboard where you store the can opener. Open pie filling can. Dump into bottom crust. 

Step 19. Make second crust, repeating most of the steps above. And crimp edges.

Step 20. Poke in some pie holes with a fork.

Step 21. Cover pie in wax paper and foil. Place on a dinner plate. And slide into refrigerator.

Step 22. Call Mom to ask, “Hey, what temp and how long do you bake a pie?” and “Oh, so I should bake it now instead of waiting til dinner time?

Step 23. Preheat over to 425 degrees and remove pie from refrigerator. Remove foil. Remove wax paper. Place pie in oven.

Step 24. Remove pie from oven and take it off of the dinner plate. Put pie back in oven.

Step 25. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Use that piece of foil to cover crust edges to keep them from burning. Then, bake at 350 degrees for half an hour.

Step 26. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool for at least 2 hours to “let filling settle” (according to recipes.com).

Step 27. Enjoy! (I hope.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have any tips for making pie crust? Please do share them with me in the comments box.

March 28, 2010 at 7:11 am 10 comments


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