Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

 Tonight I wanted to make my husband something for dinner after after a not so awesome dinner the night before. Lately Ive been doing this thing where I go to the grocery store undecided on what I want to make for dinner and then I wander up and down the aisles, putting things into my basket, and taking them out. This battle in my head continues until I have settled upon an idea, which can take awhile as I am horrible at making up my mind (reason #1 why my husband will NOT go grocery shopping with me). Anyways tonight I knew immediately I wanted to do a pasta dish but it took a good 25 minutes for me to finally decide on manicotti. I love manicotti because it is such a versatile dish. Truly you can put any ingredients into it and it is hard for it not to be delicious. My favorite however is a yummy combo of spinach and sausage. My manicotti is made with a blend of cheeses, each with its own texture, yummy hot Italian sausage, onion, and spinach. On weeknights when I want to get dinner on the table in a hurry, I grab a jar of marinara sauce from the store and add a can of diced tomatoes, but believe me when I say everything is better when you make your own sauce. That however is not always an option, and so jar marinara, you win.

Assembled Manicotti- ready for the oven

Hot out of the oven. Don't forget to let cool!

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground sausage (I use hot italian)
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup part skim ricotta
1 cup (1 pkg) cream cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup Panko Bread crumbs
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 egg
1 tsp fresh parley, chopped or ½ tsp dried
Freshly ground salt & pepper
1 pkg manicotti noodles, uncooked
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with herbs, drained
2 cups Marinara sauce (or 1 jar)

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x12 baking dish pour half of the jar (or 1 cup) marinara sauce. Make sure it covers the entire bottom of dish. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened about 3-4 minutes. Add sausage to pan and cook until browned. Add in garlic and cook for another minute. Remove sausage from pan and let cool. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, spinach, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine completely. Add in sausage mixture and stir combine.

Stuff uncooked manicotti with sausage/spinach/cheese mixture (I like to put the mixture into a plastic bag and cut a hole at the corner to use as a “pastry” bag to fill manicotti, but you can also do my hand). Place manicotti in baking dish on top of marinara sauce. After all manicotti are in pan, drizzle the other cup of marinara on top. Top with the diced tomatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Continue baking uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool then serve.

Makes 13-14 Manicotti

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need

Don't you love that feeling? That moment when you finally realize you found the one.  Your heart stops, you get butterflies in your stomach and you cant stop smiling. You know what I am talking about- The PERFECT chocolate chip cookie. It's love at first bite.  I'm happy to say that your life long search for that perfect companion to that cold glass of milk is over. This cookie is everything you were ever looking for: crispy outside with a soft chewy inside filled with soft gooey chocolate and (my addition) crunchy pecans. What really makes this special is that little hint of sea salt that you get with each delectable cookie. 

 I wish I could say that I created this masterpiece but another fellow blogger at Savory Sweet Life deserves all the credit. Needless to say you will never need another recipe ever again. My dear husband gave me the stamp of approval through small moans of joy in between bites. I think this is a fantastic cookie and can be dressed up (with a variety of nuts, toffee, etc.) or enjoyed plain and simple. What is more amazing than a warm cookie on cold winter night? Stay in, treat yourself (or someone special) to these and you won't be disappointed.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from SavorySweetLife

2 sticks of salted butter (1 cup), softened
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
12 oz pack of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar in mixer on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light & fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla and continue mixing for another two minutes. Add in baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and flour until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon 2-tablespoon sized mounds of cookie dough onto cookie sheet, sprinkle top with a pinch of sea salt. Bake in oven on medium rack for 12-14 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven. Let cool for two minutes on baking sheet. Move cookies (keeping on the parchment paper) to cooling rack and let cool for an additional five minutes.

Makes about 30 cookies

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