Do you ever experience a period of time when you just can’t get caught up? As I mentioned before, I’ve been very overblessed lately with a lot going on. And I do want to apologize to all my “friends” out there for my not visiting you all as often as I like to. I’m certain my life will resume to its normal busy routine very soon… I do hope.
Yet, I’m one of those people who constantly take on more and more. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ll say or feel that enough is enough; I’m the one that when offered an opportunity, jumps right in. Someone recently mentioned to me that how at the day when they relax in front of the TV, I’m still going either baking or cooking, going for a walk or bike ride, doing chores, working on a project…etc, etc! Ouch..I suppose that it is true about me!
Which leads me to the Food Bloggers Unplugged Award I received from Granny at Grannys Parlour. She mentioned that I write about food like every dish is an exotic dance! I just love that Granny! This is indeed a thought-provoking award as the recipient is challenged to answer several questions about themselves. I thank you Granny and hope anyone new to Grannys Parlour will stop to visit her; she’s a gardener, creative chef, product tester and all around unlimited source of knowledge. (I stole her words as that is exactly what I find in reading her posts!)
(If you’re hungry for a great recipe, simply pass by all the Q&As and you’ll find my Spinach Stuffed Shells recipe below!)
So, who is Spicegirlfla anyway??…. Food Bloggers Unplugged
1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
It was my daughter, as many of you already know, that inspired me to start this blog. When she left for college, specifically moving off campus into an apartment, she began asking for some of my recipes and I began thinking about how I could best give these to her. Since I knew she follows hundreds of fashion blogs, the idea to create my own blog would fit in easily to her lifestyle and she’d smile seeing her mom online!
2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
I cannot think of one person as I’m am inspired every where I go; restaurants, coffee shop or bakery, cookbooks galore and watching all the Food TV chefs. I am particularly drawn to Michael Chiarello with his relaxing, casual way of cooking Italian food and his Napa Valley twist is definitely one of my favorites.
3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?
Greasiest?? Batter splattered book??? Oh no…never!! Honestly, I must have about 300 cookbooks. And I cherish each and every one of them. I’ll make notes on the pages, changes I’ve made, who I’ve made it for, comments on likes and dislikes, etc. BUT, I never let them get dirty nor are they out while I cook. They are more for inspiration, for curling up in my favorite chair and reading. (Of course, baking requires specific amounts; I mostly bake biscotti and cheesecakes so those I have pretty much down pat!)
4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
Oh my….I’ve never left the country…how sad is that! Believe me, it’s my dream one day to do so and Italy would be my dream come true trip!
5. Another food blogger’s table you’d like to eat at is?
Just one?? That’s too hard, I’d much rather plan a progressive dinner party! Starting with a cocktail with Jed and Liz at Sportglutton while getting updated on sporting events, followed by appetizers and a stroll through the farmy with Cecilia at The Kitchens Garden, an Italian family dinner with John at From The Bartolini Kitchens and a to- die-for dessert with Geni at Sweet & Crumbly. (Don’t worry Geni, I won’t spend the night as I know you don’t like overnight guests, but I’m sure we will stay up very late chatting!!)
6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for (money no object of course)?
A gas stove! (that’s a big gadget!) But first, I’ll need relocate to a city that has gas…
7. Who taught you how to cook?
I’d say, of course, my mother, though she passed away when I was 16. Through my memories and her handwritten recipe book, I’ve tried to recreate many of her dishes. From there, I took classes at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking and personal chef training through the USPCA. My very favorite training was with a chef that would take a small group of students from morning to night, shopping, dining and cooking together!
8. I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?
I’m not sure I have a signature dish, but more a style of cooking. You’d most likely have an Italian /Mediterranean dinner. We’d start out with Prosecco or wine and anti pasta with grilled and marinated veggies, olives and Margherita flatbread. A gorgonzola salad with mixed greens and balsamic dressing is a favorite that brings back many memories for me. My new love of mushrooms would have you enjoying Veal Marsala, sauteed spinach and a side of angel hair aglio olio pasta. An espresso with a shot of liquor, biscotti and an Amaretto liqueur tiramisu.
9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
Gelato….any flavor…any time!
10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I am a successful survivor of thyroid cancer and a firm believer that every day is special. Each day presents itself as a new beginning and I am always thankful and grateful for all the blessings I receive every day. I also feel that being with those you love, those that mean the most to you, is one of the most important things in life.
Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on…..
Stuffed shells have always been one of my daughter’s most wanted requests when she was growing up. They also were one of my favorite dishes for family gatherings as they could easily be prepped ahead, even frozen for that matter, and baked just prior to the dinner or party. For entertaining and family gatherings, I normally did not include the spinach, but when serving for dinner for my kids, I’d add it in as a way to sneak in veggies!
There’s definitely a lot of green going on inside these shells with 20 oz of spinach so it’s important the spinach is chopped small. If you like a bit of spicy heat, I love to add in crushed red pepper but this time making it for my niece and daughter, I left it out. We actually ate out almost every night that they were in town, so having these on hand in the fridge provided quick little bites whenever hunger hit.
Spinach Stuffed Shells
Approximately 25-30 jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente
3- 4 cups homemade Italian sauce or jarred
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 10 oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or prepare fresh spinach by quickly dropping in boiling water to wilt)
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (plus additional for topping and serving)
1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, well drained spinach, egg, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread a generous amount of sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan, or as I did, two or three smaller pans. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of filling and place in pan. Pour sauce over the shells, just enough to cover them, save remaining sauce to serve. Sprinkle on additional parmesan cheese, cover loosely with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Let stand for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Can be prepped up to the baking time and refrigerated overnight until ready to bake. Serves about 8-10 depending on appetites.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.