Butternut Squash & Cashew Cream Stuffed Shells

All my plant-based friends and family – this ones for you! Even though you most definitely don’t need to be a vegan to enjoy this dish. I whipped this up for a family dinner I was hosting (I made sausage baked ziti and my cousin is a vegan), and everyone loved it. I topped my shells with this Vegan Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce, but you can surely enjoy them without it as well.

When creating vegan/vegetarian dishes, adding plenty of flavor and nutrients is key! I have really enjoyed studying plant-based diets, as it really makes you think about cooking in a whole new way. Exploring plant-based replacements for things that you so carelessly grab on a day-to-day basis, thinking of ways to incorporate nutrients that can easily be overlooked; It’s a new world of cooking.

Don’t worry, I still love my meat! I am just definitely going to make a better attempt at exploring different options and thinking of ways to make my ‘normal’ meals more vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Ingredients:

  • 16 pasta shells, jumbo
  • Cashew Cream (recipe here)
  • 1 portobello mushroom, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 lb. baby spinach, sautéed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Toss your squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes or until soft.
  2. Boil your pasta shells until al dente and carefully remove from the water. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a pan, drizzle olive oil. Add your chopped portobellos and minced red onion, sauté for 5 minutes. Add baby spinach and cook for an additional minute.
  4. In a mixing bowl, add your cashew cream. To the cream, add roasted squash, mushrooms, onions, and spinach. Carefully stir, ensuring your not mushing the vegetables. butternut squash stuffed shells 1
  5. Fill each of your pasta shells with about 2 tablespoons of mixture and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with this Vegan Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (remember, everything’s already cooked so we just want to heat it up!)

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Enjoy!

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Oven Roasted Prime Rib

Sorry all vegans and vegetarians, but this is the meal I wait all year long for. Almost as far back as I can remember, my mom has been hosting Christmas dinner. Along with the perfect charcuterie board and some bacon wrapped shrimp to start the evening, she followed with the big boy; A prime rib the size of a linebackers thigh. To this day, I sneak in the kitchen while the rib is resting and pick at the perfectly seasoned & crisp outer  crust.

As I learned from my mom, roasting a prime rib is fairly easy. The key is to have a good meat thermometer and to take it out a little early, since it will continue to cook while it’s resting under an aluminum foil tent. Remove your rib from the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 120°, let it rest under a tent for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130°. If this is “under-cooked” for some of your guests, serve some piping hot aus jus on the side – pouring this over your meat will cook it a little more!

Helpful hints:

  1. Put your order in to your butcher a week in advance (at least!) A lot of people are cooking prime ribs this time of year, so you want to make sure you have one ready for you. Order it cut & tied (cut off the bone, but tied back on) with the fat left on. The bone and the fat – that’s where you get all that juicy flavor. Rule of thumb is one rib per 2 people, so if you’re feeding 6 people order a “three rib Prime Rib, cut & tied, with the fat on.”
  2. Take your rib out of the refrigerator an hour (at least, depending on the size of meat) before cooking so it reaches room temperature.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Prime Rib (mine was 3 rib, about 12 lbs.)
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • kosher salt
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • fresh rosemary

Homemade Horseradish Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated horseradish (I use Gold’s)
  • salt & pepper

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Preheat your oven to 450° and place your prime rib, fat side up, in a deep roasting pan or baking dish. Coat the entire outside of your rib in softened butter and roasted garlic. Generously season with kosher salt, black pepper, and 3 fresh sprigs rosemary.

With your oven rack on the lower third of your oven, put your prime rib in and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce your temperature to 350° and continue to cook for about an hour and 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 120°.

 

Remove the prime rib from the oven and immediately cover under a tent of aluminum foil. Let rest for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 130° (perfectly medium-rare on the ends and rare directly in the middle.)

Cut the ties, remove from the bone, and slice into generous slabs of beautiful meat for your oh so happy dinner guests. Serve with homemade horseradish sauce and piping hot aus jus.

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Holiday Dinner Party

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This past Sunday was spent scurrying around a kitchen with one of my sweet friends, Allie (take a look.) With cocktails in hand, together we executed a pretty-damn-flawless dinner party for our significant others and a few friends. I handled the cooking and Allie managed the bar, charcuterie and somehow accomplished to set a tablescape that I swear I’ve seen in a magazine. The girl has an eye for design and let me tell you, I’m a little (a LOT) envious. You’re going to wonder where she’s been for every event you ever hosted (I’m considering renewing my vows so she can plan my second wedding), but not to worry! She has a blog where you can access all of  her wonderful thoughts that are brought to life. Better yet, let her come paint your dream party for you.

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I’ve hosted my share of dinner parties over the past few years and there’s a few things I’ve managed to pick up along the way. My first tip: Don’t overthink it! Nobody at your party/gathering will be able to relax if you’re not relaxed. My second tip? Take help when it is offered! I am MOST guilty of this. Not only do I sometimes feel awful accepting help when I’m the one who invited people over, but it’s also a controversial topic whether or not I have a serious case of OCD. However, I’ve learned that typically people are offering to help because they want to. Give them an easy task to do! It’s not asking much, but it’s one less thing you have to worry about. My last prequal tip before I get into my real tips is to save the damn dirty dishes for the morning. Yes, five of your friends will offer to do them. Your husband will probably offer, too. The mountain of dishes will irritate the crap out of you. The cure? Pour yourself a glass of wine. Kick off your heels and go enjoy the company you just hosted. Relax, laugh, make memories; The dishes will still be there in the morning, but your friends and family will be leaving soon.

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When it comes to the bar, I like to offer at least one pre-mixed cocktail. Something that’s all ready to pour and people don’t have to think about it (we think all day – it’s time to relax!) Whether it’s sangria, punch, or a big batch of Mimosas, it’s sure to be a hit. There’s no shame in making a party BYOB, either. In the age of IPAs and a plethora of different wines, people actually like to drink the things they prefer. Just make it known, so people aren’t left high and dry.

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Appetizers, antipasta, hors d’oeuvres, the first course. I love charcuterie. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s really true. There’s something on it for everyone (put some nuts on it for the vegans!) and it’s not too much. If you’re planning to follow your first course with a main course, you don’t want to spoil everyones appetite. However, if you’re having a party that starts later in the evening, possibly after people would have eaten dinner or too late to serve dinner, I would go a little heavier on the appetizers or snacks. Especially if there’s alcohol involved.

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The Dinner Plate: Protein, starch, and a veggie. Every party is not Thanksgiving and it can be quite the buzzkill if everyone’s ready to head to bed after dinner. For Christmas my mom always makes Prime Rib and my mouth is seriously watering just thinking about it. With that being said, when planning with Allie what to make for our dinner party, I decided to stick with what works (do not try to fix something that’s not broken.) To go with the Prime Rib (recipe to follow), I decided to stray away from the “been there, done that” mashed potatoes (who AM I!?) Instead I made Creamy Garlic Parmesan Polenta. WOW. I would never mean to cheat on potatoes, but sometimes a girl gets weak. With the Prime Rib and Polenta being so rich, for my vegetable I decided to go with a salad. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just an ordinary salad! This Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad is sure to be your new favorite.

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Lastly, it’s time for dessert. I’m truly not much of a baker. My pies consist of store-bought crust. I don’t play well with yeast or anything that has to rise. I love everything that starts with Phils and ends with Bury. Cheesecake is just about the only thing I can handle, which is fine with me because it’s so versatile. If you can find your perfect cheesecake recipe, it’s pretty easy to make it fit any occasion. For example, for this holiday party I made a “Kris Kringle Cheesecake” (recipe to follow) that consisted of a peppermint bark Oreo crust, my traditional cheesecake recipe, a white chocolate ganache, and crushed candy canes on top. It was heavenly and fit the theme seamlessly.

Throwing a dinner party doesn’t have to be hard, but it should always be fun. If you’re not much of a cook or funds are tight, opt to have a potluck. This way, everyone brings a favorite dish and a whole lot of pressure is taken off of you. You can make it fun by requesting everyone bring recipe cards for their dish too, so it becomes somewhat of a recipe exchange. People are always looking for new recipes and it’s a great conversation starter!

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At the end of the night, what matters is exactly why you had the party in the first place: To pause our crazy, hectic lives for a few hours to spend time with the people who make life so enjoyable. I hope this holiday season you’re all able to have a party or attend one, meet a new friend, try a new dish, and remember everything that makes each of us so blessed. Happy Holidays to you and all those who make your life so special.

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Allie’s Blog: Love Forever

Photography: Daphne Sipes

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