Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Easy Cheesy Stuffed Manicotti

Fall always brings out this inert desire for me to cook. I do cook year round but Fall makes me want to try new things, experiment, make warm, gooey dishes to delight the family.

In general I like to cook. But sometimes I get bored with my everyday meals. And worse I hate doing dishes. So that makes my desire to cook diminish greatly. When Dennis and I moved into our first apartments I HATED those tiny little kitchens. I made him swear that one day when we bought our own house it would have a big kitchen. One where I could place rows of cookies fresh out of the oven on wax paper along the countertops. With tons of cabinetry for all the fancy kitchen gadgets I would need and a dishwasher.

He held true to his word. When our house was built he made sure I had an 18' x 16' kitchen. Complete with countertops and cabinets on every wall and a dishwasher.
It's gorgeous and I love it. It's decorated with sunflowers, black crows, interesting baskets I have collected through the years and wax sealed glass bottles of garlic, olives, peppers, and veggies.

I have fed hundreds upon hundreds of family members and friends from this kitchen in the 10 plus years we have lived here. Everything from holiday dinners to our annual soup potluck gathering, birthdays, and just everyday dinner. And the one thing I have discovered is that the bigger the kitchen the bigger the mess. LOL! I am not a neat cook. But I can cook. Southern roots have given me the ability to make some delicious and weird to some dishes. But desire has driven me to try Chinese, Greek, Indian, and all sorts of other regional food. I love to try new recipes. But I am just like everyone else. Time is not always a convenience I am afforded. So my solution has always been to find a great recipe and figure out how to make it quickly and still keep the quality.

For the next 7 days (Maybe longer) I am trying a new recipe every night. I am all about quick and good. So if you'd like check back in the next week or so and I will share my newest attempts at breaking the kitchen boredom. I guarantee these will be easy and not super expensive. I am a budget gourmet, LOL!

Tonight I based my recipe from a Kraft Kitchens recipe for easy baked manicotti. This is my rendition:

Easy Cheesy Manicotti

1 Large Jar Prego Spaghetti Sauce (I prefer Prego, if you prefer another use it.)
1 Egg Slightly Beaten
1 1/2 Cups of Ricotta Cheese
2 Cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese (I used fancy shredded because it was on sale.)
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Pound of Hamburger Cooked, Crumbled fine, and Drained
12 Manicotti Shells, cooked and rinsed in cold water per package directions.

13x9 Inch Pan
Gallon Size Ziploc Bag
Aluminum Foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start the manicotti cooking according to the package direction.
When done drain and rinse with cold water.

Cook the hamburg until done, breaking up with a spatula during cooking.
When cooking hamburger or ground meats I use a metal potato masher to crumble it instead of a spatula. This breaks it down into smaller pieces which my kids prefer.
Drain well.

In a bowl combine the following ingredients:
1/2 of the Cooked Hamburg
1 Egg Slightly Beaten
1 1/2 Cups Ricotta Cheese
1 1/2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese (Set the other 1/2 cup aside for later.)
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil

Mix well.
Spoon mixture into the gallon size Ziploc bag and seal. Snip the bottom corner of the Ziploc.

Pour enough spaghetti sauce into the baking pan to just cover the bottom.

Twist the top of the Ziploc bag and gently fill one half of a manicotti shell. Then turn and fill the other side. Don't overfill! You can always add more filling later if there is extra left.

Place filled manicotti shells on top of the spaghetti sauce in the baking dish. Pour the remaining jar of spaghetti sauce over the manicotti.
Sprinkle the remaining hamburg on top.
Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 40 minutes or until heated through.

Dennis, Ash, and I all LOVED this! It was gooey and filling. Cameron even liked it and he is the pickiest eater ever.

I didn't put this in the recipe above but I always add a teaspoon of sugar to any tomato based recipe I make because it cuts the acid and causes less heartburn. Dennis gets heartburn pretty bad and this stops that. I don't know why but it does.
Weird, I know.

I served this with garlic bread cut in thin slices and a wedgy salad. What's a wedgy salad? This is Ash's version of a garden salad. She cuts a head of lettuce into small wedges and places the wedges in a bowl. Between the wedges she put slices of cucumbers and tomatoes. Then she sprinkles it with cheese and bacon bits.

Super simple and a different twist on the plain old looking salad.

Well, I'm undecided about tomorrow but I am thinking Taco Skillet. Tune in tomorrow for the results.



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