Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

I saw this recipe on page 124 of the October 2011 issue of Country Living magazine and have had it sitting on my kitchen counter ever since.  One of my favorite things to do every fall is try new pumpkin recipes (as well as make old favorites) so this was a great opportunity.  I also love finding ways to use pumpkin in savory ways as well as sweet.

And so, last week I served this pasta to my family for dinner.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure what they would think, especially my husband, but they all raved about it and were relieved I had made two pans full.  I guess that means it’s a keeper!

So here is the recipe, in case you don’t have the magazine.  My family recommends that you try it!

Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells


24 jumbo pasta shells 1 Tb. olive oil 22 ounces fat-free ricotta cheese (2 1/2 cups) 1  (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree  *make sure you don’t get pumpkin flavored for pumpkin pie!
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) grated Romano cheese 1 large egg white (I just used a whole egg) 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 cup fresh basil, chopped  (you can certainly cut back on this if you don’t love basil) 1 Tb. fresh sage, finely chopped (I used dried) 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. ground pepper 1 (26 ounce) jar store-bought tomato sauce (I used spaghetti sauce) Preparation:

Cook pasta shells according to package directions.  Drain and transfer to a baking sheet (or piece of aluminum foil) and drizzle with oil.  Let cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup Romano, egg, garlic, basil, sage, salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Spread spaghetti sauce in bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Fill each pasta shell with about three tablespoons pumpkin-ricotta mixture.  Arrange shells in pan.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes more.  Serve and enjoy!

Note:  I prepared this dish the day before, stuffed the shells and stored them between layers of plastic in an airtight container overnight.  On the day I served them, my only prep was to pour the spaghetti sauce in the pan, arrange the pasta and bake!  They tasted delicious, and the few we had left were delicious the next day as well.

This was a delicious recipe.  It’s meatless and relatively low in fat, considering that it’s mostly “cheesy”.  According to the nutrition information provided by Country Living, one serving contains 321 calories, 22 grams protein, only 9 grams fat, 39 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 977 milligrams sodium and 19 milligrams cholesterol.

I hope you’ll try it!

Hopeful Homemaker

Curried Cashew Salad

This might be the most amazing salad I’ve ever tasted.  The layering of flavors is incredible.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients!  It’s really easy to make, especially if you cook the bacon and prepare the cashews in advance.  If you do that, then it’s no more chopping than your average salad.

There is something for everyone in this salad.  The salty crunch of bacon, the sweetness of pears and grapes, a bit of onion, and the curried cashews have a nice bite to them, yet the curry is toned down by the brown sugar and other spices.  I was surprised by how much my family loved this salad.  Everyone wanted third or fourth helpings.

Curried Cashew Salad Ingredients:
5 slices bacon, cooked until crisp 3/4 cup cashews or cashew halves 1 Tb.  butter 1 Tb. brown sugar 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary 1 tsp. curry powder 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper 1 large pear 1 cup red grapes, sliced in half 1 large bunch green or red leaf lettuce 1/4 cup chopped green onions 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper dressing ingredients:
3 Tb. white wine vinegar 3 Tb. Dijon mustard 2 Tb. honey 1/2 cup olive oil salt and pepper to taste Preparation:

Cook bacon until crisp.  Remove from pan, cool on paper towels.  Crumble and set aside For the curried cashews:  In a small microwaveable bowl, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, rosemary, curry powder, cayenne pepper and salt.  Mix together well.  If mixture seems to get thick quickly, re-heat in microwave for 5-7 seconds.  Add cashews and stir to coat nuts.  Set aside to cool.

For the dressing:  Combine all dressing ingredients and mix vigorously with a small wire whisk until oil is fully combined with the other ingredients.  Note:  you might want to double the dressing ingredients if your family likes a lot of dressing, or if everyone will be serving their own dressing.

For the salad:  This salad is prettiest served in a wide, shallow bowl or platter.  Cut or tear lettuce and arrange in serving dish.  Sprinkle green onion and green peppers over lettuce.  Sprinkle with grapes and crumbled bacon.  Carefully slice pear into 1/2 inch (or slightly bigger) cubes.  You can peel the pear or leave skin on, depending on your preference.  Garnish salad with pear cubes and finally, sprinkle with curried cashews.  Depending on your tastes, drizzle salad dressing over salad, or reserve in small dish for individual servings.  Serve immediately.

Additional notes:  This salad would also be the perfect start to a formal dinner.  In that case, prepare individual salads on salad plates.  On the other end of the spectrum, I have small children, so when I served this salad to my family I reserved the cashews and offered them in a separate bowl.  That way only those children that were interested in adding a bit of spice to the salad had the nuts (thus leaving more for my husband, and sparing us a crying two year old!)  Interestingly, as family members commented on how the nuts really rounded out the whole salad, almost everyone tried the curried cashews and no one complained that they were too spicy.

I hope you love this recipe like we do!

Pina Colada Fruit Salad

This salad is a family favorite year-round.  It has only a few ingredients in it, most of which I always have on hand.  My family has loved it for years.

Pina Colada Fruit Salad Ingredients:
1 can (20 oz) chunk pineapple 1 can (any size) mandarin oranges 1 small container (the individual serving size) pina colada flavored yogurt 1-2 bananas, sliced 1/4 cup shredded coconut Drain pineapple and mandarin oranges, placing fruit in a medium serving bowl.  Slice banana and add to fruit.  Add yogurt, stirring to coat all fruit.  Add coconut last.  You can stir it up, or leave it on top.  Serve and enjoy!

I store pineapple, mandarin oranges and coconut in my food storage.  This means that I only need to buy a banana and a container of yogurt to make this salad, making it an easy salad to add to any menu.   It can also be a nice fruit salad to add to a breakfast menu.  It doesn’t make a great leftover, as the bananas eventually brown, but we usually don’t have leftovers anyway.

Enjoy, Jennifer

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