Stuffed Shells

15 Mar

I, like many people, go through obsessive phases in my life. Last year I was obsessed with going to the gym during my lunch break. I mean, I was REALLY into it. I had a sweatband. That lasted about 2 ½ weeks before I reverted back to my usual slothful self. Then I was obsessed with lemon water. I would go through 2-3 lemons a day. I was eating so many lemons that my dental hygienist actually recommended that I start using Pronamel toothpaste.

So what is my latest and greatest obsession? CHIA SEEDS!

It all started while I was watching my favorite television show, ABC’s The Chew. Daphne Oz, the daughter of the famous Dr. Oz and co-host extraordinaire, was on the program discussing super foods. She explained that chia seeds are jammed packed with protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also take on any flavor that you mix it with and they swell up to seven times their size so it makes you fuller. This sparked my initial intrigue. I thought to myself: Gee, I should go buy some of these things. But then I forgot.

Several weeks went by and I never gave the chia seeds a second thought. Then one day, my friend Kim from work brought in a container of chia seeds that her mom had given her to try. We didn’t know too much about how the seeds actually worked so we started to conduct several experiments. We ate the seeds raw, they were OK. We mixed some seeds with water to create a gel-like concoction, which was not good. Then we tried sprinkling them over our lunches. This yielded the best results. As Daphne had said, the seeds by themselves do not really taste like anything and they do take on whatever flavor you are mixing it with.

I was so excited over the discovery of these chia seeds, I ran over to Giant Eagle to buy some. I searched the store high and low but every single bag/container of chia seeds was sold out! The fact that they were in such high demand only made me want them more. Now it was a challenge. It’s human nature to want something you can’t have, right?

To make a long story…well, not as long…I found the seeds and I have been trying to incorporate them into some of my everyday recipes to make them “healthier”. Like these sausage stuffed shells! The fiber in the chia seeds actually counteracts the saturated fat in the sausage (hopefully).

stuffed shells

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells
4 servings

1 12 oz box Jumbo Shells
1 lb. bulk sausage (hot or mild)
2 eggs
1 tsp chia seeds
½ cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups of chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz can peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup white wine
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Brown sausage in skillet on medium-high heat. Using a wooden spatula, break up the meat into small pieces while it is cooking. Once meat is brown, set aside and let cool.
2. Pour the can of San Marzano tomatoes into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, or your hands, crush the tomatoes until it creates a chunky sauce.
3. Cook shells per box instructions, set aside.
4. While the sausage is cooling, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. The onion will turn into a translucent color. Add the garlic and sauté for about another minute, then deglaze the pan with white wine.
5. Add crushed tomatoes to the garlic and onions. Cook until the sauce begins to bubble, then reduce to simmer. Add parsley and salt, continue simmering for 20 minutes.
6. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the shells. Combine the sausage with eggs, chia seeds, bread crumbs, cheese, spinach, seasoning, garlic, onion and salt. Mix well.
7. Spoon the mixture into the cooked shells. Then carefully place the shells in the simmering sauce, open side up. I suggest lining the shells from the outside and working your way towards the middle. Sprinkle grated cheese over the shells. Cover and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.


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