Baked Manicotti

Yummy!

Preparing healthier meals is one of the journeys I am on in this new year.  This baked manicotti recipe is one that I put together from several different recipes I found.  The cheeses are homemade as well as the spaghetti sauce, and the basil and parsley are from last summer’s garden.  I get my eggs from a friend who has pastured chickens which is a huge blessing!  The only thing in this that’s not so good for you is the white pasta shells.  Since we don’t eat pasta much (maybe once a month or so), and since my tastebuds seem very whole wheat pasta resistant, I am ok with the compromise this early in my journey, although when all the pasta I have is gone I hope to switch to the brown rice pasta.  🙂  You can always use whole wheat, sourdough, or brown rice pasta for yours.

Baked Manicotti Recipe

12 large manicotti-you can also use the shell shaped ones for fun

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

3 cups spaghetti sauce

Prepare pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water.

Put one cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Pretty sauce

Mix egg, ricotta cheese, 1 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, basil, and parsley in a small bowl.

Mix the herbs, egg, and cheeses well

For easy stuffing, put the cheeses in a plastic baggie that seals and snip off a bottom corner.

Cheese mixture in the baggie with the corner snipped off

Insert the cut corner into the manicotti and squeeze the bag to pipe the mixture into the shell.  Be careful you don’t overfill it or it may split.  Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish.

Stuffed shells on their bed of sauce

I actually had some odd sized shells so I just stuffed until I was out of stuffing.  🙂  Now you need to pour the rest of the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the last 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese.

All ready for the oven

Now bake this in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Bubbly and nicely browned

I served this with a simple salad, green beans, and garlic toast made with my Italian Herb & Cheese Bread recipe that I also use for pizza crust.

This is really simple to make.  You can even assemble the dish ahead of time and put in the oven when you get home from work.  Just let it come to room temp while the oven is preheating.  You’ll need to add about 10 minutes or so to the cooking time if you bake it cold.  Give it a try and then come back and let me know what you think!

I linked up at Foodie Friday, Monday ManiaSimple Lives Thursday, and Meatless Monday.

Garlic and Taters and Onions, Oh My!

I’ve spent the last few weeks periodically drooling over the seed selections in my Baker Creek seed catalogue.  I always dream of having a huge garden when in reality I only have a very small garden spot.  It’s always a little painful to have to eliminate choices I don’t have room for.  Especially from Baker Creek.  They sell heirloom seeds from all over the world.  If you enjoy gardening, I would encourage you to visit their website.  So many seeds, so little room!

I think I have narrowed down my picks for this year.  Pretty sure.  Maybe.  I’m going to give broccoli a try since it’s something we all really like,  And of course salad fixin’s are a must.  There’s nothing quite like picking your lunch 5 minutes before you eat it!  I’ve chosen a salad mix and green onions, and I’m going to try celery this year too.  Carrots don’t seem to like my dirt so I’m giving those a pass.  Green beans will grow up the chain link fence along with sugar snap peas.  I’ll have some tomatoes in pots as well as potted herbs:  basil, oregano, rosemary, chives, cilantro, and parsley.  And although I would love to have potatoes, onions, garlic, and sweet corn there just isn’t enough room.  Same goes for watermelons, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, and so many others.  Sigh.

So for now I will plant what I can in this season and continue to plan for my big garden in a future season when I have more space.  It’s actually kinda fun to plan out the perfect garden.  On paper there are no limitations and I really like that idea.  It’s still a little too early to start planting here but it’s supposed to be around 65 degrees today, so I think I’m going to go outside and play in the dirt!

Do you have a garden?  What are your favorite things to grow?

I linked up with Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

New Year, New You: January Re-cap

Happy last day of January!  Since it’s the end of the month I thought I would just share with you my changes for the month.  Some changes have been easy, some have been harder.  It actually only took a few hours to clean out the pantry, although the emotional trauma is still with me.  🙂  So, drumroll please:  in the healthy eating category I got rid of the bad oils, high fructose corn syrup, white refined sugar (see what I did with that here), and I’m working in kicking my Dr. Pepper habit.  I have begun soaking my oatmeal and I installed a faucet mount water filter for drinking and cooking.

In other areas, I have begun recycling (I know, right?) and I am doing a ton of research on whole foods, traditional ways of food preparation, and healthier alternatives to household products.  And I’ve been more consistent with my blogging! 🙂  My pantry purge also triggered a purging spree throughout my entire house.  If I don’t love it and/or use it, it’s outa here.  It’s been incredibly freeing to de-clutter.  And I love having less to dust.

So there you have it.  Some baby steps towards a better year and a better, healthier life.  Over this next month I hope to find healthier versions of some of our favorite foods, especially some of those packaged mixes the I like.  Switching to whole foods is a process and there’s grace for the journey.

Have you made some changes this month?  What has been the most challenging for you?