Monday, May 25, 2009

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta

I was really in the mood for a pasta bake today and got online to try and find a really good recipe. I came across this recipe from Rachael Ray that looked pretty good. I have to say, I am a fan of quick meals and her idea of 30 minute meals sounds really good, but most of the time, I don't have the ingredients she calls for and it takes me an hour to make her recipes. But despite all that, I decided to give this recipe a try.

Here is the end results:It turned out very tasty! My husband gave it 5 stars and he doesn't do that very often. It was my very first experience with Ricotta cheese and it turned out great. I did use dried basil instead of fresh basil since it costs an arms and a leg, but other than that I followed the directions. It took me about 50 minutes to make, which was pretty good considering Rachael Ray said it should take about 40. This one's going into my recipe box for sure!

Here's the full recipe:

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta


  • 1 pound small shell pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan in a slow stream
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 small to medium yellow onion
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes, any brand
  • 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup store bought basil pesto sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Add small shell pasta and cook the pasta to al dente doneness which means that the pasta will still have a bite to it or be a little chewy. The pasta will soak up more juice and keep on cooking after we drain it, so we need it to be a little under cooked. The shells will probably cook about 9 or 10 minutes.
Preheat a deep, big skillet or a medium sauce pot over medium heat.
Place garlic on the cutting board and place the flat of your knife on top of each clove. Carefully give the garlic a whack with the palm of your hand to separate the cloves from the skins. Throw out the skins and chop up the garlic. Remember to keep your fingers curled under and the edge of your sharp, chef's knife tilted slightly away from your body.
Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan by pouring a slow stream of it twice-around-the-pan. This will be about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Do not let the oil pour out too fast. You are looking for a slow, steady stream. Add the garlic to the oil. To chop the onion, cut the ends off and cut the whole onion down the center. Wrap half and save it. Cut the other half into thin slices then twist the slices a quarter turn and chop them again. Hold the tip of knife on the cutting board and lift the back of the knife up and down over the onion to make the pieces really small. Add the chopped up onion to the garlic and oil. Cook, stirring a lot, 5 minutes until the onions are mushy and look cooked.
Add the tomatoes to the onions and stir. When the tomatoes come to a bubble, reduce the heat under the sauce to low. Stir in basil pieces to wilt them. Season the sauce with salt and peppe, to your taste.
Preheat your broiler to high and place a rack in the center of the oven.
Drain pasta shells. Add them to a casserole dish. Add pesto sauce, 1 cup of ricotta cheese and a handful of grated Parmigiano, too. Stir carefully and coat the hot pasta with the pesto and cheeses. Pour the hot tomato and basil sauce over the pasta, as much as you like. You can always serve a little extra at the table, to pass around. Shred up some mozzarella cheese with a grater and scatter it over the pasta. Add a final sprinkle of Parmigiano to the mozzarella as well. Place the casserole under the broiler in the middle of oven, 10 to 12 inches from the heat. Let the cheese melt and bubble on top, 3 to 5 minutes.

Book review for A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I can and have literally read through the whole day! I went to the library book sale last year and they were selling whole boxes of books for $5. One of the books I got was A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans.

Here's the summary inside the cover:

"Robert Harlan has three loves in his life: his wife, Allyson; his daughter, Carson; and his writing. A sales rep for a small radio station, he has hopes of one day leaving it all behind for a successful writing career. When he is unexpectedly laid off from his job, Allyson encourages him to pursue his dream of writing. He writes a novel entitled A Perfect Day, based on the last few months Allyson and her father Spent together as he died of cancer.

The story becomes a huge success and Robert finds himself swept into a new world, far from his wife and home. In time, Robert loses track of the things he loves most... until he meets a stranger who begins telling him intimate details about his past, his present and, most important, the brevity of his future. Thinking that he has just months to live, Robert begins to discover the truth about himself: who he has become, what he has lost, and what it will take to find love again."

Overall, this is just an OK book. A few times I wanted to peek at the ending to make sure everything turned out OK. I do admit, it did make me a little more grateful for my family and all they do for me. This book certainly had a strong morale behind it and wasn't just a book you forget about after you're done reading it. It was an easy and thought provoking read and kind of makes me glad I'm not famous!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I decided I needed something quick and easy to make tonight since my husband hadn't eaten dinner and was getting home late. I saw a bag of italian flatbread and decided I could base a meal around them.

Here are my ingredients I used for the wraps:

Italian Flatwraps

Smoked Deli Turkey



Sliced Mild Cheddar Cheese

Sliced Roma Tomatoes

Sour Cream and Salsa Mixed

It was very filling and very scrumptious! SUCCESS!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flower Pens!

People are always stealing pens from my place of work. The customers think that our pens are really nice and some even ask if they can take them. Ummm.... No, you can't. We actually pay for our pens, we do not get them for free. No touchy! So I decided to make pens with flowers attached to them so it would be harder for customers to steal. They were actually much easier than I thought. I used the following:

Nice pens ( I LOVE the G-2 Pilot pens)
Long stemmed flowers of your choice
Floral tape
Flower shears

Cut the flower's stem to the desired length. Hold your flower firmly against the pen. Leaving about 1/2 an inch, start wrapping the floral tape around the bottom of the pen, keeping the floral tape tight. Work you way up the pen, gradually including your flower. Stop about a half an inch from the top of the flower and work your way back down. The floral tape will stick to itself so there is no need for glue. To end the tape, you simply need to just ripe the tape and smooth down.

Here's how my turned out:
I think they are lovely! The total cost at the craft store was $10.09 (not including the pens). It will make around 12 depending on what kind of flowers you get. Yay for me!

First Day!

I love reading other people's blogs but I'm not sure how good I will be at my own. I have decided to post what my hobbies are for a few reasons:
A. To show myself what I have done so I can pat myself on the back!
B. To encourage others to try new and different things!
C. To have fun!

My first order of the day was to bake some bread. Bread brings back many memories for me and one of my favorite types of bread is Dilly Bread. Some of it's unusual ingredients include: cottage cheese, dill, and salt but it all comes together and makes it so fabulous. Here's the link to the recipe.

And here's the final product:

Photography is definitely a hobby I need to work on. I'm hoping that the more I cook and photograph, the better I get!

I also thought of making this lovely Poppy Seed Chicken casserole but I didn't have all the ingredients. I decided to go out on limb. Those who know me, know I NEVER have done this before. I usually follow recipes very strictly and I NEVER make up my own recipe. This was a first and it didn't turn out bad surprisingly. I had to use what I had in the cupboards and the fridge. Can I name it Sunday Surprise or is that taken yet? Oh well here it is:
Sunday Surprise:
1 large can chicken
1 small can mushrooms
2 T poppy seed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 C. sour cream
1 package Stove Top Stuffing

Mix the first five ingredients together and bake in the oven @350 degrees for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Stove Top Stuffing according to directions. Once chicken mixture is done, remove from the oven and top with stuffing. Put mixture back into the oven for another 15 minutes until bubbly.

Here's the final product:
My Dear Husband ate it and said it was good. He usually gets fed much better than cream of chicken but he is grateful for anything. He's so wonderful!

Thus concludes our Sunday dinner. I was very happy with the results and can't wait to try something new!