Ricotta and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Shells

These babies are not the insipid things that used to pass as your school lunch.  These guys are fun, delightful, and full of yum.  The kale adds a grownup kick and the fresh mozzarella is also a nice bump in flavor.



Ricotta and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Shells
You will have extra sauce from this recipe, but that is never a problem in our household. Simply freeze what you don’t use for another time.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup minced onion; about 1 small onion
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 4 cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Filling and Shells
6 ounces jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt (for the kale)
8 ounces kale, chopped; about 8 cups lightly packed
16 ounces ricotta cheese; 2 cups
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 1 cup lightly packed
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (for the filling)
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 large eggs
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Tomato Sauce
Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions. Sauté the onions for 7 to 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté for another 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Makes 3 to 4 cups

Filling and Shells
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta shells, stirring often when they first go into the pot. Cook until al dente, drain, and then rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and salt and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until translucent and beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the onions are very soft and caramelized. Remove 1/2 cup to a medium bowl (that will receive the ricotta filling). Add the kale to the skillet and cook until wilted but still bright green. Transfer to a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish.

Combine the rest of the filling ingredients, except the eggs and mozzarella, with the onions in a medium bowl. Before adding the eggs, taste for salt. I typically don’t feel any is needed due to the bread crumbs and cheese, but it’s good to double-check.

Scoop soup-spoon portions of filling and press into the shells. Try not to overstuff so that you have enough stuffing at the end. Place the shells onto the kale and cover with 2 cups of tomato sauce. Lay slices of mozzarella over the sauce. Bake for 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly on the sides and the filling is cooked through.

Serves 4 to 6

Holiday Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Roll Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

This recipe was given to me by my friend, Linda Bournival, and I’ve only adjusted it for style, not content. She makes it for holiday gifts and gifts it with the recipe included since so many people ask her for it. It will forever be one of my favorites.

Pumpkin Roll
unsalted butter (for the jelly roll pan)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup minced pecans
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 15 1/2- x 10 1/2- inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment paper. Place a sifter on top of a small plate and measure the dry ingredients into the sifter. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with a whisk or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the pumpkin, combine well, and then sift in the dry ingredients. Spread the batter onto the prepared pan and sprinkle with the pecans. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center is done and the edges pull slightly away from the pan. Meanwhile, spread a kitchen towel out on the counter and sprinkle with the confectioner’s sugar. Turn the finished cake onto the towel to cool. Peel off the parchment paper and roll the cake and towel into a log. Set aside to cool.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides occasionally. Unroll the cooled cake and spread the filling over the whole cake. Roll up again, removing the towel and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the filling to set and slice into 8 to 12 pieces.

Serves 8 to 12

May your holidays be filled with love and laughter

New Cookbook!

Announcing Sugar and Salt: Book Two -The Orange Book!  This collection of recipes from my galley and home kitchen will arrive at our door step (or barn step) soon!  Here’s a look at the process….

Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Over the past several months we’ve been getting serious about producing a cookbook, so we made a lot of food.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Some of it was chocolate! And delicious.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Some of it was healthy. And delicious!
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
When we couldn’t hold all of the pieces in our head any longer, we posted it all over the office walls.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
We got to knit. And made a Ball jar cozy (several actually) using Mim Bird‘s pattern.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Occasionally, we made cocktails. They were well timed.
Then Elizabeth made them look pretty in photos.
Then Elizabeth made them look pretty in photos.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
And then we drank them.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Some of us had lemonade instead. And also, one of us got confused.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
Then we made Brussels sprouts that were so good we almost didn’t get the photo (because we ate them all while standing at the stove).
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
A lot of words got written and someone had to take a doggie break.
Photo by Rocky Coast Photography
And then there was more food.

Now that was fun!

Click Sugar and Salt to order.

Pan-seared Cauliflower with Kale Pesto

While initially I created this dish as a side to some sort of healthy protein, the more I snacked on it (while plating it up), the more I decided that this could be the highlight of a meal.  Served over polenta or quinoa and with a salad, I’d be a happy camper.  Only those major meat-lovers would be sad to not have their mainstay.  The rest of us, though?  Yum.



Pan-seared Cauliflower with Kale Pesto
Did you know that the green leaves on the bottom of the cauliflower heads are edible? Use them for kimchi, a small slaw, garnish or in a stir-fry. Think about them as you would cabbage.

1 head cauliflower
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 anchovies, minced
1/2 cup kale pesto
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower. Make slices 3/4-inch thick beginning at one end as you would bread. When you reach the core, turn the flat side down and repeat until you have cut all four sides. Discard the harder and more fibrous core.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the cauliflower, salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Check often to stir and reduce heat to medium if the pieces begin to darken too much. Break any large pieces with a wooden spoon. When the cauliflower begins to soften, about 10 minutes, add the anchovies and mix in well. Add the kale pesto, mix well and transfer to a bowl or platter. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and serve.

Serves 4 to 6


Kale Pesto
This pesto is slightly milder than the perfumy basil variety, with a minor bitter note. It’s a star in our house and is used in soups, pastas, sandwiches and pizzas – all the ways you would consider for a traditional pesto. Also, if you have someone with a pinenut allergy, sunflower seeds are an excellent substitute.

8 ounces kale leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 teaspoons minced garlic; about 3 cloves

Combine all ingredients in a food processer. Freeze what you won’t use within a few days.

Makes 2 cups

Lovin’ my veggies

Fun Photo Friday – Pasta Party with a Valentine’s Day Theme

While Valentine’s Day can be just for lovers (xo to my husband), I also like the idea of spreading the love a little further – to friends, family, guests, and beyond.  This little photo essay is from a pasta party we hosted at the house last weekend for in-town and out-of-town guests.

Initially an auction item supporting Trekkers, an adventuring mentor group in which both girls are involved, the party became a celebration of food, friends, and Maine.  A guest of the Riggin bid on the party, Jon and I hosted, and we all ate and made merry.  What a wonderful afternoon.









Love to you all

Five-Spice Snickerdoodles

So, Snickerdoodles, huh?  Comforting, homey, simple and… swanky when made with five-spice powder instead of simple cinnamon.  These are the grown up version.  The have-with-Darjeeling-tea version.  They are a taste of home with a party dress on.  I don’t often make cookies on the boat because they are touchy to do in a wood stove with lots of turning and watching, but I could be talked into it for these pretty gems.

SnickerdoodlesFive-Spice Snickerdoodles
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

To Roll:
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugar and butter; then add the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix with the creamed mixture. It comes together nicely with a strong mixer, but if you are mixing with a wooden spoon, you may need to work it a little with your hands as the dough is fairly stiff. Mix the sugar and five-spice in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar and five-spice mixture to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack and store in an air-tight container.

Make 2 to 3 dozen

Sesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp

Today I’m thinking about healthy choices – in what I eat, how I move, the interactions I have with my family – and the balance that is required to do these things well.

Greens AND brownies, running AND couch time, speaking my mind AND holding my tongue.  I want them all, just not in the same amount and at the same time.  The trick is to navigate when a brownie is just the thing (and these King Arthur Flour brownies are totally the thing) and when greens are a better choice.  Likewise with relationships, say, just hypothetically, when you are having a conversation with your daughter about future college and life plans when you are both hormonal.  Sometimes the healthiest choice is to say what you feel.  Other times, it’s best to not share exactly what is running through your mind in that specific moment.  When I’m navigating these moments successfully, which, let me tell you, is not always the case, I’m feeling my way to the best choice.  Calmly noticing.  Aware, but not hyper sensitive.

And, not to segue too abruptly to food, but actually, the same is true when I’m making a recipe.  I sort of feel my way to the right flavors.  In the same way that you might feel your way through a delicate conversation.  In this case, it’s a conversation with food and flavors.  This meal, the creamy AND limey, the greens AND rice, the chicken AND shrimp is one with balance.  One that walks the line of not too much sharing and not too much holding back.  I could have used a little more of that last night when in conversation with my daughter.  Ah well, at least I managed it in this meal.

SeasmeTahiniChickenSesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp over Rice and a Bed of Spinach
This dish is just as easily made with chicken OR shrimp, but the combination of the two is my favorite.
Basmati Rice:
2 cups basmati rice

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
8 ounces boneless chicken breast; about 1 large breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces medium (41-50 count) raw shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
8 ounces baby spinach leaves

1/4 cup sesame seeds
Wedges of lime
Cilantro leaves

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. The water should be as salted as you want your rice and no more. Add the rice and stir well. When the water again comes to a boil, set the timer for 18 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let sit for 5 minutes or longer while you prepare the sauce.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Heat, stirring often, until the seeds begin to brown. Transfer to a blender and add the chicken stock, tahini and tamari. Blend until well mixed and smooth. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, garlic, ginger and chicken and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook until you can just see a little bit of gray remaining. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well adding water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately over rice and a bed of spinach. Garnish with sesame seeds, lime, cilantro, and Sriracha.

Serves 4 to 6

Finding the balance where I can.

Maine Seafood Chowder

Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal.  I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.

It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.

All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers.  True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture).  In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon.  Always.  If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.

This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store.  This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct.  In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.

Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long.  It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.

Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past.  Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.

Maine Seafood Chowder Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams

Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.

Serves 6 to 8

Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!