Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Ready for Valentine's Day

I saw this cute idea on Pintrest.  It's more fun than I thought it would be.  First, I cut out a TON of 3" pink hearts (thanks, Cricut. . . again!).  Stacked them in four stacks.  Then I put initials on each heart per stack (H for Heidi, Sean, W for William and C for Charlotte).  Then I had a little family meeting to explain the game.  I got out a large clear vase and told them we were going to see how much we can fill this up before Valentine's Day.  In order to fill it up, we needed to hand out hearts to those we love in our family.  But, it needs to be a surprise!  When you give someone a heart, it's like saying, "I love you!"  When you get a heart, you drop it in the vase and that's how we fill it.  I swear you can't help but smile when you find these hearts in the least likely of places.  William usually will set one on my pillow or on the floor in front of my door.  Sean has been more creative.  I've found hearts on my Diet Coke in the fridge, inside my Nook cover, and even in each shoe!  I've handed my share out and helped Charlotte.  We've put them in toy boxes, Sean's jacket and cover, William's Wii controller, under car keys, etc.  It's been great and our jar is almost half full already!  I totally recommend this game to anyone.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Recipe of the Month

Here's a rib sticking, tummy warming, favorite.  Homemade manicotti!  It's so easy to make and is a real crowd pleaser.  This is especially a good meal for taking to someone sick or home from the hospital.  You'll need a couple of things you might not have on hand so it may require a special trip to the grocery store.  You'll need:

2 cups of shredded pizza cheese (I use the kind in a bag.  Remember I'm lazy!)
2 tubs (32 oz each) of ricotta cheese (I use whole milk but if skim would work too)
2 Tbs dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all of the ricotta and half of the pizza cheese with the basil and salt.  Then spoon the cheese mix into  a gallon sized Ziploc bag.  Set aside.

Now get a baking dish or roasting pan and spray the bottom and edges with Pam.  Then spoon your favorite pasta sauce to coat the bottom of the pan.  I used Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  (You will eventually use 2 24oz jars of sauce.  If you make your own make sure you have about 48 oz of it). Get a large stockpot of water on the burner.  Salt the water and bring to a boil.  While that's heating up get the pasta ready.  I used:

1 pkg. Lasagna Sheets (found in the the dairy dept. or by the other refrigerated pasta)
Lasagna sheets are thick flat sheets of pasta that just need to be blanched.  If you don't have the sheets, I guess you can use manicotti tubes and fill those.  You'll need to follow the package directions about preparing them and skip to the part about the filling.

Cut your sheets in half so you have 16 squares.  Drop them in the boiling water, one at a time, and boil for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water 30 seconds.  Remove and set aside.

Now you're ready for the filling!  This is a basic cheese filling but you can add stuff to it.  A box of frozen chopped spinach would be tasty.  Maybe some chopped sun dried tomatoes. . .

Line up a few at a time on a large flat work surface.  Get your cheese filling bag and snip the bottom corner with some scissors.  Pipe cheese filling down the center of each square.  Roll and place, seam side down, in the sauced pan.  Fill the pan then coat more sauce all over the top of the manicotti.   Cover with parchment paper on top of the sauce and then foil on top of that.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Then take off the foil and parchment and cover with the rest of the pizza cheese.  I love me some cheese so I put some extra on for good measure.  Put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese.  Your kitchen will smell like you've died and gone to Italy!!  After you pull it out, let it rest for about 15 minutes and serve with extra pasta sauce.  Salute!