Calling all foodies....

If you read my last post, you know I am diving back into my cooking realms and getting all "wifey" up in here to say the least. From pastas to pies I feel like I'm finally getting my groove back. I found this quote to be pretty profound as I've started the cooking journey in the role of Mrs. Baran (still getting used to the new last name!)...but it really makes you think about how cooking is good for the soul. "Cooking is one of the strongest ceremonies for life. When recipes are put together, the kitchen is a chemical laboratory involving air, fire, water and the earth. This is what gives value to humans and elevates their spiritual qualities. If you take a frozen box and stick it in the microwave, you become connected to the factory." Laura Esquivel says it all here. I mean maybe you don't maybe you do, but for me, when I microwave some chicken nuggets and have a side salad bought from Harris Teeter I feel pretty bleh afterwards alongside just in a crumby mood. Yet, when I take time to look up a recipe, gather the ingredients, get my hands dirty and create something myself...I feel a complete 180. For instance we typically buy meatballs frozen and will just add them into any Italian pasta and it takes a few minutes. The other day I decided to make the meatballs from scratch and even added an apple cider jam (just a tablespoon) to the mix for a fall-esque kick. Can I just say it was as if I had never had meatballs before? I mean it was so immensely scrumptious and I was proud of myself for making my family a homemade meal. Did it take a few more minutes..sure...were the few extra minutes worth the taste? HECK YES! 

So, reflecting from the quote above, I really do think it makes a huge difference when one puts time/energy/effort/love into each meal because it does make the soul feel better. You don't feel like you just consumed factory food. I don't want this all either to sound as though I don't touch fast food or eat out because believe me I still do (we are all human right?). However, I o notice a difference when I'm in charge of what my meals entail. If your not much of a cook just give it a try with something simple at the "get-go." For me I started with breakfast foods and ventured to more heavy course meals involving different spices/ingredients. The new blog will have its own "Taste & Tell" category due to cooking being such a vital part of life for Corey and I. 

Below I have a cherry pie recipe, an easy go-to lunch perfect for Fall and lastly another stuffed shell recipe!


Cherry Pie

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Ingredients

Pastry--  2-cups all-purpose flour // 1-teaspoon salt // 2/3-cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening // 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Filling -- 1 & 1/3 cups sugar //  1/2 cup all-purpose flour // 6 cups sour cherries, pitted // 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, if you want!

Steps

  • 1. Heat oven to 425°F. In medium bowl, mix 2 cups flour and the salt. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

  • 2. Gather pastry into a ball. Divide pastry in half; shape into 2 rounds. Wrap flattened rounds of pastry in plastic wrap; refrigerate about 45 minutes or until dough is firm and cold, yet pliable.

  • 3. Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate. Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

  • 4. In large bowl, mix sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Stir in cherries. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over cherries. Cover with top pastry that has slits cut in it; seal and flute. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

  • 5. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving.


Stuffed Shells

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Ingredients

  • 1 box of Jumbo Shells, 12 oz
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, approx 4 cups
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 jars Bertolli Olive OIl & Garlic Tomato Sauce, 24 oz each

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Mix together ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, garlic powder & black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Cook pasta in salted water until al' dente. Drain.
  4. Pour 1 jar of sauce in a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish.
  5. Fill each shell with cheese mixture.
  6. Place shell in dish on top of sauce - seam side up.
  7. Continue with all shells. When dish is full, create a second layer. You can spread a spoonful of sauce over bottom layer of shells to prevent sticking.
  8. Pour remainder of second jar of sauce over shells. Sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
  9. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes.

Easy seasonal lunch

Turkey Sandwich- 

  1. Mix the mayonnaise, salsa (if you choose to add), and green onions in a small bowl. Spread the seasoned mayonnaise evenly on each slice of bread. Layer the turkey and cheese on 4 of the slices. ...
  2. Tis part is optional! You can melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat OR fry sandwich in butter until lightly toasted.
  3. I will sometimes add a side of dill pickles or radishes or carrots!

Soup-

Now when it comes to a bisque here is a steady recipe that works every time. If you do want lobster or a crab bisque you may be cooking a bit longer but like I said cooking can be seriously therapeutic. Pictured below I had leftover lobster bisque from Panera so not my own creation but I do recommend their soups if you don't have time to concoct your own masterpiece! Below is a basic bisque recipe which for me is always a go to come the chilly seasons. 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; cook and stir onion and celery with a pinch of salt until onion is translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. ...
  2. Pour chicken broth and tomatoes into onion mixture. ...
  3. Blend soup with an immersion blender in the pot until smooth.

It's October!

Where has time gone? I find myself asking this question quite a bit these days....like where did the last year vanish being engaged, why does the morning serentiy leave in the blink of an eye, where did the summer flee to and why does autumn pass by ever so quickly??? Don't get me started on my actual wedding day, because they don't joke when your told 900 times the day goes fast so enjoy every detail. Time is always tricky in that we seem to want/long for future festivities/occurrences... yet once they arrive we simply want to go back...relive...and pace ourselves more-so. The past couple months (especially) for me have really flown by...like how is it already October? How did my wedding month seem like an hour long total? This upcoming holiday season and as Fall takes shape, I am making a few changes as a married gal mostly because I am constantly wishing to savor life just a bit more here in the present. Here are a few ways changes are gonna be made--

1. Take time to read a book. Sounds simple but for some of us, we don't really yearn to dig into a book. I have always been super active and staying busy keeps my anxiety at a stable low...therefore sitting down and reading a book has always sounded almost, no not almost but rather extremely awful. A good friend of mine told me (recently) how taking time each day and really finding a book I can relate to or something fictional would be such a stress reliever. Who knew? Okay maybe you did and your wondering why I never thought so but as I said above it seemed far opposite of stress relief. SO going to pick out 2 novels....and aim to finish them by the end of the holiday season. Wish me luck! I'll also probably share with you bits & pieces from each.

2. Cooking regularly at night. Another simple task you would think but when your hubby has always been the "chef" of the house it's sort of a big change for us as newleyweds. I used to cook religiously and one day we just sort of flipped roles. Corey has really loved creating new concoctions and to my surprise they are always scrumptious..literally delicious. However, once kiddos come about (if that is God's will) I would like to have dinner prepared and ready to go before 8pm. Now I've got the cooking hat back on and trying new recipes while incorporating whats in season and really getting into it dare I say? I have found a whoe new love for the cooking network and find it calming watching cooking shows..so looks like this married gal is about to fulfill her duties of "wifey in the kitchen."

3. Developing a solid work out regime. I hate the gym. I hate the gym. I hate the gym. Did I mention my loathe of gyms?! Believe me, I've given them numerous chances...tried out several gyms...different classes?..idk! it just is not for me! I would rather go for a run outside or get my yoga mat out and relieve some tension via soothing meditation. However, lately I haven't put in the time or effort to keep my body fit nor in shape which is not okay! To switch this up, each week I'm devoting 40 minutes to working out in some sort of fashion. I'm pretty active with the little I nanny for so 40 minutes should be sufficient for now ..baby steps people...baby steps. 

4. Stop being a hoarder. No I'm not like intensely hoarding stuff ....okay except clothes. I maybe have outfits all the way back from high school and college hanging in the back of the closet. On my behalf... I keep my clothes fairly brand new looking always so I guess I've felt bad about just giving them away? I mean what if some occasion arises and I regret a jumper I gave to goodwill a month prior? HA ..but really!? Anyways, enough is enough and I would rather see only clothes I'm wearing more than lets say once....let the sorting begin! 

5. Lastly this blog alongside photography are about to really make a statement. I cant wait to share the revamp of this blog and finally kick off amanda leigh photography this winter! Many projects are in the works and looking forward to all God has in store.

AND speaking of photos...here are a few throwbacks of me and my sweet nieces! I so love the raw and boldness black and white photography bring!


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Taste & Tell: Kale/Mozzarella Chicken Burgers!

SO I was a bit skeptical before trying these out...i mean the list of health benefits was like 10 things at least so in my head I'm thinking "these will probably be disgusting but HEY its a change up from other unhealthy options I've slightly been devouring (go away donuts!). Anywho, I decided to give them a try and I have never been more pleasantly surprised by health food. The taste is so savory and honestly they don't taste one bit healthy or cardboard-like making them Amanda approved! There are so many ways to cook these, prepare them, combine them with other sides...SO here is how I do mine...I add a little olive oil (barely any) to a skillet and throw the burgers on (switching sides every few minutes). While those are heating up I prefer to add a pasta (any will do & kudos if you have some veggies as a pasta addition! I sometimes grate a little cheese or seasoning on top of it all and there ya have it! Easy lunch or dinner recipe and they take little to no time...which is a bonus if you're like me and are trying to multitask alwayssss. Truly give these a try, you all will not be dissapointed AND on top of it all they are kid approved! Tatum is into dipping anything in some sauce so I always add a teaspoon of avocado ranch for her to dip away!