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March 9, 2012 / staceyj

One Grocery Trip…A Week’s Worth of Meals: Day 5

So here we find ourselves on the final day of my experience cooking through Everyday Food magazine’s ‘The $50 Week‘.  Ah, $50.  You were the hopeful promise that drew me to these delicious recipes in the first place.  Well, that and the freedom from menu planning for five glorious days but I digress.  Sweet, $50, a dollar amount that both my budget and my stomach totally got on board with.  Blessed, $50, that quickly morphed into much…oh, so much…more when I came to Day 5’s recipe.

So here’s what happened.  In preparing for today’s yumminess, I began reviewing the recipe again so I could figure out timing, make sure I had all the ingredients I needed and see if there was any prep I could start ahead of time.  I know.  So responsible, right?  And it was during this very process that (insert large ‘GULP!’ here) I realized I had made a pretty major mistake.  Imagine my surprise when a food-processorless (totally made-up word alert!) individual like me realized that a food processor was a necessary appliance to make this dish.  Oh boy.  Now I had had a lovely food processor at one time.  It was a hand-me-down and had processed its last more than a little while ago.  Up until this point, I had managed to use my trusty blender or my good ol’ knife to handle all food processor-type tasks.  But there was no circumventing the processor this time.  It finally had my number.  And it knew it had the upper hand because time was not on my side.  It is at this point I realized that I had but two options.  Option #1: Ditch the recipe and call four days under my belt good enough and live with the eternal regret of never knowing the sweet taste of victory.  (O.k., so that may be a wee bit on the dramatic side.)  Option #2: Blow my $50 dream week budget and go get me a food processor.

Blog friends, meet Mr. Cuisinart.

Mr. Cuisinart, meet blog friends.

As you can see, I went with Option #2.  With my fridge already full of the recipe’s ingredients and four days of meals under my belt, I wasn’t going to stop now.  So I went online, researched the best food processor for my needs, headed to Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon in my hands and bought the Cuisinart Prep Plus 11-Cup Food Processor.  When I did my initial research I had decided on the 9-Cup but Bed, Bath & Beyond didn’t carry that beauty in the store.  Man!  My $50 budget is now but a very distant memory.

You may be wondering why I call my new food processor Mr. Cuisinart.  Well, this thing is serious.  I mean anything that comes with a 45-minute instructional DVD needs a proper name.

On to today’s recipe, creamy shells with tuna and spinach!

Ingredient List
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced small
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
4 cups whole milk
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 hamburger bun, torn into large pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
2 cans (6 ounces each) light tuna in water, drained and flaked
6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (about 20), cooked according to package instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium pot, heat oil over medium-high.

Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, and cook until slightly thickened and bubbling, about 3 minutes.

And we’re still whisking…

Season with salt and pepper and let sauce cool slightly.

In a food processor, combine bun…

(My hamburger buns fell prey to some hungry family members so I improvised and used 1 and 3/4 pieces sandwich bread instead.)

…Parmesan,

…Italian seasoning and red-pepper flakes.

Process until fine crumbs form.  (I used the Pulse feature on the processor so I could prevent the crumbs from turning into dust.  That little appliance is powerful!)

Transfer half the mixture to a large bowl and combine with spinach,

tuna,

and half the sauce; season with salt and pepper.

Fill each shell with 2 heaping tablespoons spinach mixture and place in a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Top with remaining sauce and breadcrumb mixture.

Bake until sauce is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.

Now for the salad.  In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon each of red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil,

1/2 teaspoon sugar, (Isn’t it just plain ‘sweet’ that the sugar is being measured by a heart? Nothing gets by me.)

and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.  Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk to combine.

Add 3/4 head iceberg lettuce, chopped, and 1 tomato, cut into wedges.  Toss to combine.

Imagine roaring applause as you bring today’s meal to the dinner table.  O.K. now that’s enough dreaming.  If you don’t stop, the applause may drown out the kitchen timer.  And if you miss the timer and leave the pasta in the oven too long it’ll burn baby!  Burn.

Seriously though.  Relish in the fact that you fed your family dinner all week for $50…unless of course you are like me and had to go and buy a small kitchen appliance.  Then deny yourself relishing and quickly get about the business of coming up with clever ways to use your new food processor.

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