Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stuffed Shells

I wanted to make some more "healthy" recipes that we would both eat, but chef be warned: this one took me the entire length of the Canucks game last night, including the 13 seconds of overtime! If that makes no sense to you, I'll translate: Leave lots of time for cooking.

What I didn't realize when I picked this recipe is how many different "sections" there are to it. Cook this, set aside. Cook this, set aside. I tripped myself up a bit by not doing too much cooking at the same time; on the other hand, I didn't want too much craziness in the kitchen after having been out canoeing all day.

For once, I didn't have many substitutions/ommissions for my ingredients. The grocery store didn't have scallions so those were the only things I left out. While the ricotta was the suggested reduced-fat version, the mozzarella was the full-fat (regular) version. There's something about low-fat blocks of cheese that I just don't really enjoy. Since I used all of the ricotta, it didn't matter as much. I didn't measure the onion but I chopped up half of one. My basil plant died during the week (since replaced - keep your fingers crossed!), so I used an unmeasured amount of "squeeze tube" basil. I don't think my tomatoes were peeled - does it really matter? I ended up squishing them to heck with my hands (per recipe directions) so if I make this again, I'll buy the cans of chopped tomatoes. Oh, and I actually had fresh parsley! I chopped up a bunch of it and assumed it was about two tablespoons. For the spinach, I ended up buying two different size containers to get enough. I used all of the 10 oz. bin, and threw in about 2/3 of the 9 oz. bag, attempting to come up with 16 oz. (1 lb.) total.

I learned a few new things with this recipe, besides the time management issue outlined at the beginning. One, the spinach does not catch fire or dry out like I thought it would when cooking it by itself in the pot. Two, squeezing a handful of not-quite-cool-enough spinach really hurts. Seriously, let it cool. Three, the zucchini does not shrivel up or catch fire when cooked on its own either. And when you mix it into a recipe, it's bearable to eat. I picked this recipe in part to try some new vegetables, and to add more vegetables to our diet.

Aside from initially not being able to easily get the sauce to simmer, and it didn't seem to thicken very much by the end, this recipe wasn't technically difficult. And in addition to requiring a lot of time, it also needs a lot of counter space so keep that in mind too. In the end, when the game was over and the oven timer went off, the meal was hot and flavourful, if a little overdue. Not really an "in a jiffy" kind of dinner, but in terms of healthier options, it's on the list to try again.

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