The following recipes are perfect fare that can literally be served for any meal.
It’s as if September arrived and “boom,” it is autumn. I’m sure there are warm and dry days ahead, but after one of the hottest summers in a while, the chill has been somewhat of a shock. Still, we know what we’re in for so there should be no surprises when the days become shorter and we wake up in the dark.
So, when it comes to eating, we are yearning for more and more warm and comforting foods. The following recipes are perfect fare that can literally be served for any meal.
Vegetarian Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells
Stuffed pasta shells are great for many reasons — light, pretty, easy and each shell is an individual portion.
- 12 oz. to 1 pound jumbo pasta shells
- Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
- 2 packages (10-ounces each) frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
- 2 tsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
- 1 pound (16-ounces) ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
- 3 Tbsp. prepared pesto
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large egg
- 3-4 cups (or more to taste) good-quality marinara sauce (your favorite)
- Fresh grated or shaved Parmesan cheese to taste (about 1 cup to start)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a large baking dish or disposable aluminum pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Cook the shells according to package instructions to al dente (undercooked is better than overcooked). Carefully drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Drain the spinach in a colander for 15 minutes.
Make the filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.
Divide the filling among the shells (use all the filling). Discard broken or damaged cooked shells (or chop them and put them in soup!).
Assemble the dish: Spread half the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the shells, open side up in the baking dish (use more than one baking dish if the one you are using isn’t large enough).
Spoon the remaining sauce over the tops of the shells. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Makes 8 or more servings.
Overnight Pumpkin French Toast
Although I’m not a big fan of the pumpkin spice craze, this is a recipe that is worth the praise. Make this in the morning or the night before you serve it, and bake it close to when you serve it.
- 1 1-pound loaf or 1½ pound challah with crust, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. salt
- 6 large eggs
Spray an attractive glass or ceramic baking dish (9×12-inch or equivalent). The dish should be more than 3 inches tall.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk together custard ingredients and pour over the bread cubes. Use a rubber spatula or your hands to toss the ingredients.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with plastic wrap up to 24 hours in advance.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake about 1 hour, until very puffy and golden. Serve immediately, sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired, and real maple syrup. Or serve warm (the French toast will deflate). Makes 12 or more servings.
Curried Cauliflower Sweet Potato Soup
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
- 1½ Tbsp. ground curry
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- ½ tsp. ground cumin seeds
- 8 cups water
- 3 cups chopped cauliflower florets
- 4 cups 1-inch diced sweet potatoes
- 1 Tbsp. turmeric
- 1 can (about 14-oz) chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish: fresh plain yogurt
Combine oil, onions, bell pepper and garlic in a large pot over high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened. Add the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT lemon, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Serve hot, with a dollop of yogurt. Makes 8 servings.
Zucchini Coffee Cake
Simple because it’s made in a baking dish (so you just cut it into squares) and it always comes out perfect.
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×12-inch baking dish with parchment. Set aside.
Make the topping: Combine the topping ingredients and stir well (should be crumbly). Set aside.
Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla extract together in another bowl and stir or mix well (use an electric mixer, if you wish). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Fold in the zucchini. Spread into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top.
Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 20 servings.
Hearty Mushroom Barely Soup
- 1½ pounds button or white mushrooms
- 3 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
- 1½ cups chopped yellow or white onion
- 1 tsp. chopped garlic, optional
- 1 cup ¼-inch diced celery
- 1½ cups ¼-inch diced carrots
- 1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups beef broth or water
- 1 cup pearled barley
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 oz. Sherry, if desired
Trim the ends of the mushroom stems and place them in a colander. Rinse them, turning them with your hands, to remove any soil. Slice the mushrooms.
Melt butter or oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the celery and sauté for 3 minutes more. Add the carrots and parsley and stir well. Add the broth, mushrooms and bay leaf and stir well.
Bring the soup to a boil, stir in the barley and bring to a boil again. Add 1 tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. of pepper, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Stir in the Sherry, if using, and peas and cook for 10 minutes more. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 or more servings.