Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kale Stuffed Pasta Shells

Guilty pleasure time!!  As you may have noticed, many of my food blogs involve some type of pasta.  It is one of my most favorite things to cook and eat.  Italian food is always very pleasing to the eye, the nose, and the tummy. This particular recipe just sorta hit me one day, and I thought to myself, "Self, why did I not think of this sooner?"  And I had to share it with you.  This is my Kale Stuffed Shells (You are welcome!)

Kale Stuffed Shells

The star players of this recipe are kale, walnuts, marinara sauce, large pasta shells, a garlic clove, Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese

Matt calls this my flying saucer.  He can call it whatever he wants if it will make him eat some steamed veggies.  Its real name is a steamer basket, but shh!  Don't tell him that!  I placed a steamer basket in a large pot with about one inch of water at the bottom.  Turned the eye on high until the water is boiling.  If you do not have a steamer basket, do not fret!  Just fill up the pot halfway with water, bring it to a boil, and boil your kale for 2-3 minutes.  Then strain your kale.

Ahh... look at those amazing colors!  Kale has gotten a lot of buzz lately for being a "superfood."  What is a superfood you may ask?  A superfood is a nutrient rich food that is full of vitamins and minerals.  Kale is thought to have amazing anti-oxidant properties, can prevent some cancers, and promote urinary tract health.  Place your lid on the pot and let steam for 4-5 minutes until it becomes a darker color and has wilted.

...like this!

Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of walnuts, 1 garlic clove, and 1/2 tsp of pepper to a food processor, fitted with the steel blade.

Blend everything together until it looks like this: kinda crumbly 

Add your kale and about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Congratulations!  You have just make kale pesto!  Yayyyy!  We could just boil some pasta, toss everything together, and call it a night.  But, lets not forget the carnivore that sniffs through my kitchen, asking, "where's the meat?"  

I browned one pound of Italian sausage

Add 16 oz of whole milk ricotta cheese to a medium size bowl

Add your kale pesto to the ricotta cheese

Drain your sausage, and add it to the ricotta-kale filling

Meanwhile, I have been cooking up some Jumbo shells

And choppin' some mozzarella.  We have all of our components.  Lets put everything together!

Drain your pasta shells.  I rinse my shells with cool water after I drain them to make them easier to handle.  When you let pasta cool in your strainer, you (maybe its just me) get these white patches  where the water droplets sat too long on your noodles.  I add a thin layer of marinara on the bottom of the pan to prevent the shells from sticking.  Next, I stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture. 

Add the remainder of your marinara sauce over the top of your shells

 The mozzarella is the crowning glory.  Cover everything with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.


There are no words

This would be a great recipe for entertaining!  It serves six people easily and if you add a salad and some french bread, it could feed more like eight people.

Matt and I both really enjoyed this dish.  He is not a big fan of kale, but had no idea it was in this recipe.  He actually said that these were the best stuffed shells he had ever had.  I hope you feel the same way!

1 lb of Italian sausage
1 jar of marinara sauce
1/2 box of large pasta shells
1 bunch of kale
16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
1/2 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of whole milk mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Add water to a large pot until it is 1 inch deep.  Place your steamer basket into the pot.  Bring the water to a boil.  Remove the kale leaves from the stalks and rinse them to remove any grit.  Add the kale to your large pot, cover it with the lid, and cook for 4-5 minutes until it has wilted and turned a dark green.  Remove the kale, refill the pot with water and bring it to a boil for your pasta.  Cook the pasta shells as directed

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the Parmesan, walnuts, pepper, and garlic clove.  Blend until a crumbly consistency.  Add the steamed kale and the olive oil.  Process until smooth and everything is combined.

In a saute pan, brown 1 lb of Italian sausage.  Once the meat is fully cooked through and no longer pink, drain the sausage of the fat.  

In a medium bowl, add the ricotta cheese, Italian sausage, and the kale pesto.  Stir until combined.  

Take a 9x13 casserole dish and brush a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom.  Stuff your pasta shells with the ricotta cheese mixture and place in the casserole dish.  Add mozzarella to the top, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Since moving to Naples

Hello, everyone!  I know you are relieved to know that I did not fall off the face of the planet.  I have been so eager to begin blogging again.  Since being in Naples, I have been challenged in so many ways.  Initially, it felt so bizarre to be living in a place where I had no clue where to find anything.  Thank the good Lord, we now have GPS because I would probably still be circling the city to find something familiar.  By the way, did you know that all the streets here are named really weird things?  GPS: "CVS is located at the corner of Rattlesnake-Hammock and Tamiami Trail."  What is a rattlesnake-hammock, and how do I avoid it at all cost?

Secondly, it has been strange knowing less people than I have fingers.  Being from the booming metropolis of Jackson, and having lived there my whole life, I probably know at least several hundred and probably a thousand people.  Going from knowing that many people to knowing so few has been very interesting.  You know when someone who has lost a limb says they still get "ghost itches" in the place they are missing?  I am not comparing my situation to an amputee's, but sometimes I sit at home and get this feeling I am supposed to be somewhere or supposed to go see someone.

Lastly, it has been one of the biggest challenges mentally that I have ever experienced.  Before I delve deeper into this subject, let me explain a little bit about my program.  As previously stated, I am living in Naples, FL.  Yes, gorgeous, beautiful, get-away place of the stars, Naples, FL.  And while it has unsurpassable beauty, this city, and the county in particular has some big problems.  We have the richest of the rich, but we also have the poorest of the poor.  My program got started by the richest of the rich to help the poorest of the poor.

About eight years ago, some wealthy benefactors wanted to raise money to support...something.  So, they planned a wine festival.  These people did not know how much money they were going to make, so they wanted to see how much they got and then decide what they were able to do with the money.  They were expecting $100,000, maybe $250,000.  They received $8 million!!  "What are we going to do with all of this money?" they thought (#richpeopleproblems).  They decided to do some surveys to find out what the greatest need in Collier County was.  Surprisingly, the results pointed to children's dental care.  Things began to fall into place.  A college campus agreed to donate the land for the project, and our clinic was built.

This is where I go to work every day.  Isn't it beautiful?  The palm trees have filled in since this picture was taken and there are bushes along the front.  Oh, and did I mention the clinic is in a resort?  Yes, it is in a resort.  It is Naples, after all.  What did you expect?

You may ask, "Is it that easy to just start a pediatric dental residency?"  Of course not!  These wealthy benefactors thought of everything.  How do we provide Collier county with dental care for the masses?  One or two dentists is not going to cut it.  They joined with University of Florida and expanded their pediatric dental residency. This Mississippi girl is now a Florida Gator.

What all do you learn in a pediatric dental residency?  Can't kids just go to regular dentists?  Of course kids can!  I went to a general dentist my whole life.  I went for my cleanings twice a year, got my prize from the treasure chest, and walked out the door.  It was always a very positive experience for me.  Not everyone's experience was like mine.  We are seeing two to three kids a day that are 4 years old with a cavity on every tooth.  It is just not realistic that a child would be able to come in to the office for 6 appointments where they are getting numbed up and hear all of these weird sounds and leave the office with a positive attitude towards dentistry.  Our job is to learn when a child can handle having work in the chair with Nitrous Oxide gas, when they need a little bit of sedation, or when they need to be taken to the operating room for general anesthesia.

This very concept is what I have been hard at work learning over the past few months.  They start us out with a heavy didactic load learning about behavior management, patients with special needs, and most of all, pediatric sedation.  I can tell you, I have done my share of studying in my years of school; this is the hardest I have ever had to work in my life.  This past Friday, I took my last exam, and I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to be finished.  Throughout my weeks of study, I tried to keep positive by telling myself, "I am so tired, but there is no other program I would rather be in."  I know that if any bad situation would arise, I am fully capable of handling it.  Let's just say, I am very grateful for the kick in the rear end.  It will greatly benefit me and my future practice in the long run.

Right now, I am seeing about twelve patients a day, and they work us up to seeing twenty four patients.  Next week, I will start taking cases into the operating room where we will fix all of their teeth in one visit.  After I find out that I have passed my tests, I will begin sedating children in the office where I will be administering medications and doing their dental work while monitoring their airway and vital signs.  I feel like we are surrounded by cavities, and we can't keep up.  We are working on educating the parents to help reverse the masses of children with early childhood caries.  It is a slow process, but I definitely feel like we are getting places.

Enough about school, let's talk about fun stuff!  Here are a few snapshots from things we have done here in Naples.  Sorry for the quality!  Most were taken from my phone.

Matt and I went to the beach one night, and we saw some beautiful sights.  It was crawling with sea creatures!

My first day of school was on Matt's birthday.  I didn't get home til 8 that night.  I felt terrible!  What made matters worse was that we were so new to Naples that we had no idea where to go celebrate.  We had only seen one restaurant besides a Cracker Barrel and a Waffle House.  Not to say these are not fine establishments, but tonight was a special occasion.  I had to treat my baby right at the local Cracklin' Jacks.  It is basically a fried food joint as the name implies.  I think Matt got a Swamp platter which had alligator, frog legs, and catfish.  I was a little more tame and got the fisherman's platter with shrimp and catfish, all fried to perfection.  As a bonus, they bring you out every side you could imagine: beans, collards, corn, mash taters, slaw... you name it.  They bring it!

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.  You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.  Please don't take my sunshine away!

One night while I was washing dishes, Matt came out of the study with a fishing pole slung over one shoulder and said, "I'm going fishin'.  You wanna come?"  I am never going to turn down a nice sunset over the water, so I tagged along.  This picture was in the lake in our gated community.  There are very few places where you can walk out your front door and go fishing any time you want.

The sunsets here are breathtakingly beautiful.  I feel so blessed that I am able to witness them.

Beach fireworks show for the 4th of July!  All of Naples came out to see it.  These pretty ladies are Maegan and Courtney.  They are second years in my program.  I am so thankful for all of the second years' kindness and encouragement over the past few months.  They are an amazing group of people!

Each week we have a girls night.  We were getting together to watch the last season of the Bachelorette, but now that it is over, it is just girl time.  Sara, in the blue chair, and Lindsey in the blue shirt are in the program with me.  Stephanie, in the gray shirt and Lory in the black and white dress are wives of the two guys that are also in my program.  Stephanie is a nurse and training to become a nurse practitioner.  Lory is physical therapist, so we have healthcare covered down here in Naples.  I am so glad to have these special ladies in my life!

One night, Matt and I strolled down our fancy 5th Avenue.  We stopped in this cute little store for some gelato!  I think it was a butter pecan or something absolutely delicious.  Is it the baby spoons that make gelato so good?

Matt has met a fishing buddy down here.  Guess what his name is!  You will never guess... it is Matt.  And sometimes it scares me how similar they are.  A few weeks ago they caught some redfish and grilled it up.  Believe me, I do not take this next statement lightly: it was the BEST fish I have ever eaten!  It was straight out of the ocean, grilled with lemon, lime, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Matt finished it with an herb oil using herbs from our garden.  No joke!  Best fish ever!

Our sweet little family of two has now become a family of three!  (No, No, No, No, No babies yet)

We are happy to announce that we were finally able to adopt a puppy.  She is 9 weeks old and a bottle of energy!  She is lab/catahoula hound/australian shepherd mix and smart as a whip!  After one week of having her, she has already learned how to sit, drop it, and go get it!  I am just scared for the day she outsmarts us.

I know I am forgetting something to update you on, but for right now, I will call it a night.  I have some sweet puppy dog eyes begging me to get off the computer.