Monday, March 19, 2012

Mexican-Inspired Stuffed Shells

The children are quietly eating now as I type. Quietly. Eating. (*pausing for dramatic effect*)

I know.

At the market this Sunday, Audrey asked that we buy large pasta shells. Considering she abhors Italian red sauce as well as stuffed pasta of any kind, I was momentarily flummoxed ... until I remembered Pinterest. For the uninitiated, Pinterest is basically a virtual cork board. When you find a recipe/web picture/article you want to save, you create a Board and "pin" it on there. The difference between this and a browser bookmark list is that Pinterest shows you your "pins" as thumbnails, playing on the consumer's visual memory.

Over a month ago I had pinned a recipe for Taco Stuffed Shells. I asked Audrey if she thought she would eat those and tossed the shells in the cart when she nodded. Oooooooook. I didn't expect Maddie to eat the results - she hates chicken, salsa, mixed ingredients ... somebody stop me.

I took to pinterest and, oddly enough, quickly discarded the recipe I'd pinned. After researching a few more recipes, I realized I would need to create my own. Most of the recipes I found used cream cheese to mimic the texture of a traditional Italian stuffed shell. That would never fly with my sensory kiddo, so took the yummiest recipe I could find, halved it (it made A LOT) , tweaked the ingredients and some of the proportions and went from there. If you like a more creamy, traditionally textured stuffed shell, check out the original recipe here on Busy-at-Home.

And the small people are inhaling them.

I know.

Mexican-Inspired Stuffed Shells
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken (I used diced rotisserie)
1 can rinsed black beans
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2tsp Chili con carne seasoning (or chili powder, your own substitute)
1 cup diced bell pepper (your favorite color)
2-3 cups cheddar or similar shredded cheese

1-2 cups salsa/picante sauce/taco sauce (spiciness will increase with cooking ... choose your level of spice wisely)

1 box large pasta shells
2 tbl oil

Mix first six ingredients together in a large bowl. Add one cup of the shredded cheese and blend. This mixture as it is now can also be used to top nachos, fill burritos or just eat on it's own as a cold chicken salad.

Prepare a large baking dish for the shells by spreading the bottom with your salsa/etc.

Boil a large pot of water and add your oil - this will help your cooled shells not stick together before filling. Cook shells al dente (still firm) or they will be difficult to stand up for filling. Drain and rinse with cool water.

One at a time, hold a cool shell in your hand and scoop in some of the chicken mixture. I found an ice cream scoop like this one made quick work of the task. Each shell held just shy of one scoop. Set the filled shell open-side up on the salsa in the pan. My pan fit twenty Barilla shells, which is perfect for one meal at my house. Big eaters may want to double the recipe above and make two pans. Or more. Repeat this process until you have filled all the shells. . Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cover it with as much as you need to make you weep with cheese goodness. I have no cheese left now, but that's not your problem. Unless you live nearby and deliver cheese...

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes. If you have made this ahead and refrigerated it prior to, place pan in cold oven before turning it on. This will allow the pan to warm up gradually and reduce the risk of exploding glass pans. Because then you will be out a pan AND all that cheesy goodness. Whimper.

Since everything is cooked in this dish, you are just heating through so you can play fast and loose with the heating times as you wish. I had kids in the shower and kept it cooking longer than I planned but it still turned out fantastic.This recipe also made about two cups more filling than I needed to fill twenty shells ... which will be gone by tomorrow night since the kids keep asking for bowls of it.

This dish doesn't need any additional grains/starches and is well accompanied by cold raw veggies or a crisp salad.

**I am in no way connected or receive reimbursement/product/kickbacks/magic powers from any of the companies mentioned here. All products mentioned were purchased by me, generally using standard shipping which I immediately regretted as it takes too flipping long.**

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Goodnight, Pit Crew

Goodnight Pit Crew
Goodnight farts.
Goodnight sweet friends, wherever you are
Goodnight Ella and Lulu too
Good night Julie, we all love you
Goodnight Bruce, the man in the moon
Good night sweet fighter, we'll meet again soon.
Goodnight writers
Goodnight grievers
Goodnight rainbow-pooping, unicorn-riding beavers.

Goodnight to the pray-ers,
The dancers, the weak
Goodnight to the peaceful,
The angry, the meek
Goodnight ninjas and He-Man vids
Hold close your lovers, kiss hard your sweet kids.

Live every minute, laugh hard and grin
Don't wait every day for good times to begin.
Find joy in your world not dwell in the pain
Eat ice cream for breakfast, let Bruce live again.

to learn more about the Rosenburgs (or just to understand about the farts and rainbows)...

Rock Hill man’s death from cancer – surrounded by love
Ice Cream for Breakfast
What a Babywearer is (Find your Tribe) 
CaringBridge - Bruce and Julie Rosenburg

How to help...
Cancerpalooza Fundraiser at Zazzle
Girasol Exclusive Avalon Rainbow Wrap-style Babycarrier Fundraiser (US)
Girasol Exclusive Avalon Rainbow Wrap-style Babycarrier Fundraiser (UK) 
Blankets, Podegi and Ringslings made from Avalon Rainbow
Ed Spargo CD Fundraiser for the Rosenburgs (jazz CDs - 100% of proceeds direct to them)
(The Spargos' link also contains paypal info for sending a donation directly to the family)

Read more here:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Peace, my friend...

Today (and many other days) I'm proud to be a Babywearer. Take a second, hop over here and see what that really means. It's not just about using a sling ...  Finding Your Tribe

Divorce~Bankruptcy~Death~Birth~Infertility~Bedrest~Floods~Abuse~Surgery~Forclosure~Disability~Job Loss~Adoption~Drug Abuse

My friends, my Babywearers have had each other's backs for all of these. No, not in a "type in a forum" sense. In a fundraising, sending clothes, providing legal resources, middle of the night phone call sense.

Today we lift up one of our own, Bruce C Rosenberg, Lord of the Slings as he takes his Victory Lap. Bruce, you will always be A Babywearer.

Om. Om. Om.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

may all the beings in all the worlds be happy, healthy and free from pain

Om nama shivaya

I love you Rosenburgs

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring on Four Wheels

Today my children played outside in the glorious 63F weather, enjoying the late snow before it all vanishes. Birds were singing, daffodils were sprouting and in one little corner of New England bunnies were coming out of their winter burrows...

Small children were pointing, neighbors were grinning ... all is well with the world.

Forget your troubles, come on get happy, People. Spring is on its way :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Nonnie Blanket

This past fall was a tough one for me. Serious fibromyalgia flares are always hard but this one came on the heels of my strongest 18 months in over a decade. I'd enjoyed exercising again and my body had forgotten what true fibro pain and fatigue felt like. As my brain turned to mush and my fingers went fumbly I groped for a knitting project to help me pass the time. Heaven knows I didn't dare attempt to finish my lace or sock projects so I decided to begin a small afghan as a surprise for each of my little girls.

Never having knit something as large as an afghan, I soon became a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the projects ahead of me. There was one clear driving force that kept me moving forward however ... The Nonnie Blanket.

My grandmother, Irene, spent decades crocheting afghans and throw blankets for the people she loves. One of my favorite childhood memories is nap time on our scratchy green couch. When my sister and I were little our nap schedules were completely opposite (despite my mother's desperate attempts to synchronise them). During my sister's nap time, my mom would turn on a quiet show for me to watch while she and my sister slept. We three curled up together on on the old green sofa in the den, under a very 70's afghan made by my Gramma. Years later when I had children of my own it somehow wandered into my apartment and I will Never. Let. It. Go.

At some point my Gramma managed to make three of beautiful cream blankets - one for myself, my brother and my sister. I can't imagine making knitting three of the same blanket -let alone one as complex as this. She'll tell it's a simple pattern and no big deal but now that I have a clue about what goes into these, I'm just floored. I love the classic beauty of this one.

I'd really love to have this blanket out in use but I just can't bear the idea of little fingers poking through the holes or leave an uncapped marker on it (shudder!) so it's hanging out at my mother's house until I can welcome it home. I can just picture it draped over the back of the rocker glider that I nursed my babies in.

My Gramma just kept on crocheting. I was thrilled to receive this one at my bridal shower and it moved with my husband and I from our first apartment to our condo. Whenever I was sick or just feeling blah I began to reach for its familiar comfort. I snuggled under it through pregnancies and newborn days and eventually it gained permanent residence on my side of the bed. When my oldest daughter began to talk, my Gramma became Nonnie and this blanket became The Nonnie Blanket. When the children were sick or frightened at night they would ask to borrow it, fighting over it until I brought out the green and brown one ... now dubbed The Other Nonnie Blanket.

And then we were all sick at once ... leaving no Nonnie Blanket for me. So I began to knit...

I wanted these to be surprises so every time the girls asked me what I was knitting I told them they were shawls - for me. Maddie actually helped me choose the colors of yarn without realizing what it would be for. The acrylic yarn was hard on my hands but it feels soft and squishy to the touch. I usually knit with some variety of wool but I wanted these to be working blankets, to be dragged around, loved up and most of all, machine washable. 

Maddie sleeps under hers every night and Audrey keeps hers by her pillow so she can reach out and hold a corner if she needs it. 

Maddie asked me to write that she likes snuggling under it because she loves it so much. When I gave these to each girl, I told them that each blanket was over 17,000 stitches and that each stitch was full of love. I always appreciated Nonnie's afghans but never knew how much time and love went into each one until I made my own.

Myself, Nonnie holding newborn Maddie, Gramma Baker and The Nonnie Blanket

Grandpa Jack and Nonnie

I love you Nonnie!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Something that got me out of bed the other night...

I Walked

I walked. I walked.
Boundless countless steps.
Ancient roads, dripping jungles, slushy sidewalks.
Wearing  laughing babies, picking berries.
Temple stairs cut into rock,  slippery tile in city subways.
Moving in three hundred sixty degrees.

Pain and change and time.
Steps crumble, freedom leaves my grasp.
Slowly slowly I coax their return.
Widening my circles, never as grand but so  precious.

Carefully tended steps evolve
Revealing now their  shape, texture.
Wander. Struggle. Galivant.
Stray. Trudge. Cruise.
Lean hard on a cane, count the steps home.
Stride fiercely across glowing coals.

Each step chants a prayer of beauty, peace
Thankfulness, freedom

Intend every step, own every  movement.
Nevermore just walk.

Melissa Gentile 2012

Please do not re-post without crediting me