Stuffed Shell Weekend

When the temperature drops there are a lot of people who enjoy preparing and eating soups, stews and chilis. Me, I go straight for the Italian dishes! Pasta in a good meat sauce topped with cheese is my cold weather comfort food. So when the weekend arrives I like to prepare meals that will provide me with multiple nights’ worth of dinner options, like my stuffed shells in a vodka cream sauce.

This will make enough extra sauce that you can either freeze it or use it later in the week over rigatoni or spaghetti. And these shells are so filling that you’d better invite some friends over to help you eat this; otherwise you’re going to have it as leftovers for a good week!

Katt’s Stuffed Shells in Vodka Cream Sauce

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Stewed Over Fall

Ahhh, fall. The crispness of the air as it begins to cool, the chill in your chest as you take that first brisk breath. The sting of the frost, the bite of the wind, the…the hell with that! This is exactly why I moved to L.A. Three-hundred-plus days of beach barbeques until the weather dips down into the 70s. Then of course, you’re forced to move inside. Ugh! I get goose bumps just thinking about it…

I grew up in the Midwest—northern Indiana to be exact—and I miss the cold Lake Michigan wind chill about as much as I miss acne. Ten-degree mornings and ice cold leather car seats? F that! If I can’t get a sunburn on Thanksgiving, I’m bummed! So pardon me Mr. Gore, while I release these fluorocarbons. Bring on the global warming, Woo Hoo!

But, we still like our fall food out here on the left coast, and when I feel it dip below the 80s, I like to bring out the soups and the chilies. So how about a little beef stew to get things crackin’? What I really like about the following recipe is how it magically changes from rank tasting to righteous during the long simmer. You’ll see. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.

Katt’s Bitchin’ Beef Stew

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Oktoberfest for Everyone: Beer Braised Chicken

Come Autumn in Germany (and basically all over the world nowadays), crowds celebrate their inner Bavarian spirit and love of all brewed beverages during the 16-day Oktoberfest beer festival. While we have never experienced Oktoberfest in its country of origin, we can only imagine how fun it would be to gather around long tables in rustic beer gardens, chow down on bratwurst and pretzels, and sing and dance along to live oompah music.

For now, a more realistic approach to celebrate Autumn—and beer—is to put our own Boston twist on a dish braised in Sam Adams Octoberfest beer. The brew’s robust, caramel flavor adds a complexity when simmered slowly with chicken, thyme and root vegetables.

Oktoberfest Beer Braised Chicken

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100 Ways to Use Beer in Food and Drinks: #14 Cake

Upon skimming through the latest version of Cooking Light, we fell upon a “breads” section—correction—“quick breads” section. You’re wondering why I’d be skimming through Cooking Light? The gf has a subscription and you do know I’m watching my girlish figure… Anyway, we decided to go with the maple stout “quick bread” recipe since I had some of my homebrew stouts left.

But first: I’ve come to the conclusion that the jerks at Cooking Light have some gall to call this thing bread…er “quick bread.” I have no f’ing clue what the hell quick bread is, but this thing is cake…and I’m proud of it. I’m not doing research on what quick bread is either—I don’t want to know. Okay, now we can move on.

I got out my Vanilla Cafe Con Leche Stout and we started baking. Typically, when the two of us do some form of cooking/baking, there is an ample amount of bickering  (and in my case, exaggerated *sighs*) occurring.  However, this time we did well as a team; I had a good feeling about this.

The cake came out really well, with rave reviews from the fam. Probably the best of these cooking with beer recipes to date.  I claim fame to this recipe for two reasons:

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Cooking with Booze: Beer-Battered Baja Fish Tacos

Inebriated……clobbered……blitzed……hammered……obliterated……tanked……soused……ripped…..oh, sorry. I was just looking at some pictures of past dinner parties that I’ve hosted. And I’ve made a shocking realization—my friends can’t hold their liquor!

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to figure that out, considering that on two separate occasions my mailbox ended up on the hood of someone’s car shortly after the conclusion of my party. Or the time that one of my friends unwillingly used the sprinklers on my lawn as his alarm clock. (He still made it to work on time. Air traffic controllers start pretty early around here.)

Could it be that I’ve missed the warning signs in the past? I thought those Christmas card mug shots were pretty funny. And if the guy on the corner doesn’t like people driving across his lawn, he ought to put up a fence! Could it be that we’re just getting older, slowing down, becoming (dare I say it?)….responsible?

Now that most of my friends and I are in our mid to upper fifties, I guess that a little easing up should be expected. Some of us are on our second or third spouse, hip, shoulder or knee. Could that piece of charcoal that passes as our liver be next? Does alcohol compliment food, or the other way around? What was I talking about……?

Oh yeah, booze……hooch……giggle juice……rotgut……moonshine……grog……sauce…..god, my mouth is watering. Man, I need a drink. And some food. Oh yeah, food! THAT’S what this piece is supposed to be about. Food that soaks up booze. Fried food, like fish, which I hear is good for your brain, although I can’t remember who told me that. Fish tacos are not only fried, but they’re even MADE with booze. So here’s a recipe that covers all the bases and still gives you a good dose of omega-3s, which the brain cells that aren’t slaughtered by the alcohol will be very happy to receive.

Katt’s Baja Brain Boosters

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Endless Ice Cream: Lemongrass, Coconut and Ginger

Ahh, lemongrass. One of my favorite flavors. Every once in a while they have stacks of fresh lemongrass stalks at the grocery store. I happily buy several stalks of it and use it in soups, sauces, and stir-frys. I recently read that you can turn supermarket stalks of lemongrass into your very own plant, giving a bounty of lemongrass whenever you want it. After tasting this ice cream I think I’ll have to start growing my own- I anticipate making this happening many, many times.

Note: If you’ve never worked with fresh lemongrass before, here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll need to do: Trim the root end from the bottom and the papery end from the top of the stalk. You should be left with a 2″ to 4″ piece. Remove the outer leaves one at a time until the leaves are no longer brownish or papery. The remainder should be about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Grab a rolling pin, hammer, or anything heavy and sturdy. Beat the crap out of the pieces of lemongrass. This releases the flavorful oils. Finally, cut the bruised pieces into 1/4″ slices. You’re good to go.

Lemongrass, Coconut & Ginger Ice Cream

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