May 03, 2012

Recipe: Spinach & Sausage Stuffed Shells

Whenever PDubbs or I has a big exam or project coming up, the other one is pretty much responsible for making sure the person studying actually eats. PDubbs spent all of Tuesday studying for his last undergrad final so it was my turn to fuel his brain. We had a rare tub of ricotta in the fridge (from birthday pancakes), beautiful ripe tomatoes and some jumbo shells just waiting to be stuffed - stuffed shells it was!

Having never made stuffed shells before, I did some quick searches on tastykitchen. After cross-referencing a couple of different recipes, I took a little from each one and came up with a game plan: make the sauce, make the filling, stuff the shells & bake! PDubbs threw together some simple and tasty garlicky green beans to round out a wonderful meal. I foresee this recipe being added to our usual dinner rotation.

Spinach & Sausage Stuffed Shells 
Adapted from Kristy & shellbell396

1 box jumbo shells (12 oz)
3/4 lb sausage, sliced or crumbled
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
9 oz fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c part-skim ricotta cheese
2 c non-fat cottage cheese
1 c parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for topping)
1 c mozzarella cheese, grated (plus more for topping)
homemade tomato sauce (or 1 jar favorite tomato sauce)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook jumbo shells according to package. Once cooked, rinse under cool water and set aside.
2. In a large pan, brown sausage over medium heat. Reserving the oil, remove from pan and set aside.
3. To the pan, add onions and cook until fragrant. Move onions to outer edge of pan and add spinach to the center. When spinach is wilted, add garlic for 30 seconds. 
4. Transfer spinach mixture to a colander lined with paper towels. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible and set aside.
5. In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses, sausage and spinach mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9x13 casserole dish (or several glass baking dishes, if you don't have a casserole dish like us :) ) by spraying with cooking spray.
7. Assemble the shells! Coat the bottom of the dish(es) with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Place 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture in each shell and place in dish seam-side down. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top of the shells, making sure it gets down between the shells.
8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover and sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake uncovered for 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Serve and enjoy :)

Homemade Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Bev Cooks

3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
2 lb tomatoes, roughly diced
1/4 c red wine
salt and peper to taste

1. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When heated, add garlic and onions and cook until fragrant. Add paprika, oregano, bay leaf, tomatoes and wine. 
2. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. 
3. Remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender/blender/food processor, process sauce until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

May 01, 2012

Last Last Day of Class

Last Wednesday was the UF class of 2012's last last day of class in undergrad. While many trotted off to lectures into the beautiful morning, I was headed to a different type of classroom: the operating room.

No, I wasn't getting surgery - just watching. Although my practicum officially ended Sunday night, my instructor agreed to let me scrub in on a surgical case. And even though my alarm was set for the ungodly hour of 5:15 AM, I was too excited to care! I got a text from one of the nurses on the unit at 5:30 telling me to meet her on the floor at 7. After a quick change into surgical scrubs, I was brought to the pre-op holding area to meet my patient, who was having a coronary artery bypass graft (lovingly referred to as CABG or "cabbage"). I was especially excited for this type of surgery because Grandpa Jimmy Rock had one a few years back and I've cared for tons of patients in the ICU and regular units after this surgery. I barely had enough time to put on my scrub cap & mask before we were rolling to the OR.

I'll spare you the boring medical stuff, but I will say that it was totally awesome! The team of anesthesiologists, surgeons, perfusionist, nurses and techs worked seamlessly together from the second the patient rolled into the room. The sterile field ready to go, the anesthesiologists sedated him and then put all of their IV lines in to precisely monitor his vital signs. The nurse was running around getting the room set up. I loved watching all of the sterile procedures and how everyone knew what everyone else was doing.

I don't see myself working in an operating room anytime soon. I understand why surgery is necessary (in most cases) but I've seen the suffering that some patients go through after such an invasive procedure. I'd rather stay at the bedside and help these people get better.

And that concludes my practicum, spring semester, senior year and undergraduate career. All that's left is to walk across that stage and flip my tassel!