Workin’ Food: Vegetable Stuffed Shells with Meaty Artichoke Sauce

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been posting about food lately.  Which is odd, since I usually talk about food most of the time.  

Have no fear.  We’re eating as heartily as ever.  It’s just that our kitchen looks like it exploded, and we may or may not have accidentally ruined a library cookbook.  Sad.

But today is clean up the house day, and that means there’s room in my brain to think about food again.  I’ve been saving this recipe for blog consumption because I tweak it just about every time we try it.  This has been my most faithful recipe for the last 8 years, minor adjustments and all.  It was super fancy back in the day, and I would still serve it to guests.  The awesome thing about it is that it’s much healthier than your average stuffed shells, and it’s still rich and delicious.  Plus, we added some meat.  It’s good. 

photo-3

So, what would you need to make these Vegetable Stuffed Shells with Meaty Artichoke Sauce?

Ingredients:

• 24 jumbo pasta shells (less than 1 box)

• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

• 1 lb. ground beef (or turkey, if you prefer)

• 8 oz. sliced mushrooms 

• 1 can (14.5 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes

• 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

• 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or 1/2 a bag of fresh spinach, but that’s harder to smush into the shells)

• 1 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese

• 2 medium carrots, shredded

• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

• 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

• 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

• 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (2 oz)

And how do you make these magical shells?  Glad you asked.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare pasta per package directions (reduce cooking time by 2 to 3 minutes).

2.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown for 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), artichokes, and crushed red pepper. Simmer 4 minutes.

3.  Combine remaining ingredients except mozzarella in large bowl. Spray 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray. Fill shells with mixture and place into large baking dish. Spoon desired amount of sauce over each (all for us, but you might like your food less saucy). Cover loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered 10 minutes or until bubbly.

4.  Enjoy! The leftovers are delicious, too.

Construction Duck

One of our favorite (and least favorite) discoveries in our current construction projects is that Peanut likes to be a part of the action.  And he hates loud noises.  Well, we did already know the second part.  He’s okay with having paint dripped on him as a result of his likes and dislikes, but he draws the line at the air compressor/nail gun.  What’s a dog to do when the action involves lots of loud noises?

Peanut has resolved the issue by placing his stuffed duck (cleverly named “Duck”) right in the thick of the project.  Exhibit A:

duckPeanut is wisely a couple of feet from the nail gun and the loud noises.  He usually retreats downstairs instead of a few feet away, but he was feeling bold at this particular moment.  Duck, however, is exactly in line for the next row of wood floor installation.  And somehow, Duck appears in the next row over and over and over again.  It’s ridiculous and wonderful.  I like our dog.

Weekend Update: Living Room

Progress is being made, people!  And this time, my contribution isn’t entirely imaginary.  Scott continued to work on the wood floor installation this weekend, and I pitched in with a paintbrush and a roller.  No, not for the floors.  That would be a travesty.  I pitched in on the walls.

I tackled the living room, and Scott and I took on the two-story entryway together.  I couldn’t figure out how to reach the top of the space while balancing a ladder on stairs, and Scott is braver, taller, and less clumsy than I am.  Therefore, his services were required despite his dislike of painting.

The color difference isn’t that big of a deal–light pink-ish beige to off-white.  They’re both neutrals, one’s just lighter and slightly less pink than the other.  But the overall difference is pretty darn exciting.

We’re getting closer to a revamped open floorplan living area, and it’s lookin’ good!

before

movingLike our piles?  I believe that “before” and “during” pictures should represent the actual chaos of doing construction in your own home.  Truth in advertising and all that jazz.

You can tell where Scott’s progress ended this weekend (end of the hallway right in front of our bedroom) by the creeper in our bedroom.  Sure, creepers can be used to work under a car.  They also make great hardwood floor installation buddies, and they add a special touch to any sophisticated bedroom.  And they let you make lots of ridiculous jokes about having a creeper in the bedroom.  (Get it?  Creepy person/creeper?)  Who knew these were such magical and entertaining objects?!

creeperAll that’s left paint-wise on this project is the hallway.  Whew.  And then the trim.  And then the stairs.

Yeah, it’s never going to end.  It is getting more rewarding as we get farther into the project, however.

Clearing Off the Shelves: Library Edition

Sometimes, even the library goes through its shelves and gets rid of things that haven’t been used in forever.  Today I get to do some of that.  It isn’t quite as fun as getting rid of things I don’t need at home, but it’s pretty awesome for different reasons.

My favorite part of the job is seeing some of the ridiculous VHS covers from the past.  The most troublesome part is finding things I really want to keep for myself.  I mean, I could buy them at the library book sale when they’ve been properly withdrawn from the library.  But then I would be just be shuffling old, unneeded stuff from one place to another.  Not the goal of the project.

These are some of the funnies from today’s search:

    • Buns of Steel… haven’t seen this one in a while.
      photo from yesteryearsgoodies.ecrater.com

      photo from yesteryearsgoodies.ecrater.com

    • Quick Dog Training with Barbara Woodhouse, who looks like an ideal dog trainer to me.

photo from amazon.co.uk

photo from amazon.co.uk

And these are some of the favorites I’m struggling not to take home:

    • The Way to Cook with Julia Child–we’re talking the entire collection.  “Oh my!”  (Must be read in Julia Child voice.)
      photo from ebay.com

      photo from recipeboy.com

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      photo from ebay.com

    • Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn, which I didn’t even know was a thing until today.
      photo from youbeauty.com

      photo from youbeauty.com

      photo from imdb.com

      photo from imdb.com

Projects and More Projects

Do you know what projects in progress mean?  Well, they mean an opportunity for another layer of projects in the near future.  Because Scott is making excellent progress with the floors right now, it leaves some painting opportunities open to me.  First on that list will be finishing the living room and hallway painting I’m kind of halfway through.  That’s top priority.

But after that, I’m thinking through a few more fun projects:

1) The fireplace.  Right now, it’s a nice, simple white.  Nothing terrible at all.  The only glitch is that the bricks inside the mantle are a slightly different shade of white than the wood mantle.  Not really a problem, but if I get around to it, I’m considering something like these:

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photo from merciblahblah.com

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photo from roomenvy.co.uk

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photo from marsilverdesign.com

The last option is the most likely because it’s the same color (more or less) as the olive green tile in our kitchen, which is now in the same room as the fireplace.  The blue matches our dining room chairs.  The yellow would be an odd-ball choice, but I still like it.

2) If I get really really motivated, I might just rip up the carpet on the stairs and do something like one of these on the stairs:

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photo from HGTV.com

photo from Elle Decor

photo from Elle Decor

Although I will admit that the minty green in that last one might not be manly enough for the other half of the household.  We could go with some other dark-ish color with white treads. 

This is definitely a case of my eyes being bigger than my project time available.  I do have good intentions.  And those floors are looking mighty nice.

Actual Progress and Imagined

Scott was hard at work today.  In addition to lots of computer schtuff, he got a start on the fun part of the floor project.  Fun might be a relative term when you’re talking about floor installation, but I personally think the addition of good flooring is way more exciting than ripping out layers of linoleum.  Check out that fireplace edge that’s all fancy-like and professional:

unnamed

Oooh, aaah.

And me?  Well, I made imaginary progress.  I decided that if we stay in this house through August, I’m going to put up some outdoor lights.  Like these people except for nothing like these people (sans brick wall, stone pavers, etc.):

photo from centsationalgirl.com

photo from centsationalgirl.com

Still, it’ll look bright and cheerful like that. Same theory.  And you know what?  Imaginary progress is still a little bit satisfying.

Good Light

Honestly, Monday and Tuesday haven’t been the best Monday and Tuesday in the world.  Thank goodness, when I came home today, it was sunny and quiet, and we’ll call that good enough.

sunshine

And in case you don’t know what dill flowers look like, this is what dill flowers look like:

dill

You could see it as bad that our dill has flowered (since that means it thinks it’s time to die off for the season), but I’m going to choose to enjoy the flowers.