Archive for cooking

Mom’s Manicotti

When I was a kid, birthdays were treated as sacred days.  You didn’t have to make your own bed, you didn’t do any chores (including supper dishes!), and most importantly, you got to pick your favorite meals.  There were a few staples in our house.  I know a lot of kids love to order pizza on their birthdays, but where we lived the pizza options were pretty bad and besides, why would you want that when your mom was such an awesome cook?  One of the recipes that was a standby birthday request for me and the family was manicotti.  Now, I have no idea where my mom got this recipe from.  As an Air Force wife, she collected a lot of recipes over the years from fellow military spouses.  Or maybe it came from her family.  I have no idea.  We’re not Italian, so I’m going to guess the former.  This is comfort food at its best.

Cheese Manicotti

Shells

A shell cooking

4 eggs

1C flour

1C water

dash salt

Mix in a food processor (no, seriously.  I tried not to and they were just too lumpy.  Alternatively, you could try a blender).  Pour 2 to 3 T of the mixture into the bottom of a non-stick frying pan on medium low heat and swirl the pan around to spread the batter out in a circle.  Let it cook until it’s flippable and leave briefly on the second side.  Turn out onto a plate until you’re ready to start filling them.

 

The batter

 

 

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish with sauce to prevent sticking.

Cheese Filling

2lbs ricotta cheese

1T dry parsley (or 1/4C fresh parsley)

1/4C parmesan cheese

8-12 oz grated mozarella

salt and pepper to taste

 

Blurry action shot of spooning the cheese into the shells

 

 

Mix all the  ingredients together and spoon into the shells.  Lay in a single layer in the 9×13 casserole.  Once all the manicotti are in the pan, cover the whole thing with more sauce and bake at 350 degrees- 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.  Enjoy!  If you want the recipe for sausage filling, let me know.  They’re just as yummy.  🙂

 

 

Somehow, I failed to get a picture of the finished product. Whoops.

 

Imagine the above picture with more sauce on top.  I fail at documenting my cooking.

 

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Applesauce: An Essay in Photos

Okay, maybe there will be some words, too.  Mr. Cookie and I went apple picking last weekend.  The orchard we went to did a lousy job of labeling apples and we did a lousy job of identifying them, so I have no idea what kinds of apples we picked, just that we did so because they were tasty and sweet.  We ate a lot of apples that day (so good!) and got the best the orchard had to offer.  This is my third year making my own applesauce and canning it and also the first year I did it completely on my own.  I missed having the help of a friend, but I have to say that even though I was processing more apples than in past years, I think I’ve finally developed a system and it went really fast.  And it wasn’t that I couldn’t have had help; several friends asked me to.  Life has been so crazy busy though that by the time I could have gotten around to coordinating schedules my apples would have gone bad.  😦  Read on to see me making and canning my applesauce.

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The Kitchen is My Studio, Food My Artistic Medium

Well, I currently have about a half bushel’s worth of apples glubbering away on the stove, ready to be canned and put away in the basement.  The hot water bath canner is coming up to a boil and the jars are sterilizing in the dishwasher.  I adore this time of year.  It is a time of apple cider donuts, crisp air, crunchy leaves underfoot, and hot cider.  I also bought some pumpkins at the orchard yesterday and used them to make homemade puree.  SO COOL!  I’ve already used some of the puree to make a pumpkin jelly roll for my mom’s husband, whose birthday it is tomorrow.  They are in from Alaska and his birthday just happened to fall during their trip so Mr. Cookie and myself are helping them to celebrate.  On the menu:  manicotti; italian sausage, onions, and peppers; salad; roasted nuts; the aforementioned cake (which tastes amazing, btw); hot apple cider; and cinnamon ice cream.  Yum.  I’ll try to update this later with pictures of the apple sauce and I’ve also got a post coming later this week on how to make your own delicious, homemade manicotti.  Yum!

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ArtEpicure

I’m waiting for Mr. Cookie to return from Memphis tonight on a delayed flight and while I’m sitting here I thought I might as well share with you what I did this evening.

My friend GirlyQ had been suggesting for awhile that we take some cooking classes together, so when Groupons came up for a local cooking school we decided to jump on the opportunity.  We signed up for a chocolate class (tonight) and a chicken class (next month).  I expected to learn a couple new techniques and get a couple recipes but wound up getting so much more.

ArtEpicure is located in the Brickbottom building, which houses the Brickbottom Artist Association.  I was living completely unaware that such a fabulous organization or place existed until just recently.  Artists rent spaces in this building and, as it turns out some also live there.  The chef who owns the cooking school lives there with his wife in a cozy space that includes a kitchen space surrounded by floor to ceiling book shelves, a smaller curtained off studio where his wife makes jewelry, and an upstairs loft area where they sleep.  You are surrounded by the many implements of a seasoned chef along with hand crafted marionette puppets hanging along a window, photographs of far away places covering the fridge, and walls crowded with paintings.  Two cats hold court and watch the proceedings.  As I learned, they do not object to petting and in fact will stretch out and bask in your ministrations but know to keep their distance while the cooking takes place.  It is a homey place because it is a home.  You sit around a huge island where Chef Mark talks to you as you all assist in preparing incredible food.

In addition to taking away recipes for chocolate mousse, chocolate pudding, bourbon truffles, chocolate soup, and flourless chocolate cake, I took away a newfound appreciation for fresh local food and a deep respect for the art of culinary mastery.  Chef Mark really believes in shopping locally and fresh as much as he can and is happy to divulge his favorite markets, farms, and brands for everything.  Huge bars of chocolate were chopped down for each recipe.  Nary a Hershey or Toll House bag was in sight.  Eggs and raw milk that had been procured at a farm in Foxboro were also used, along with organic sugar.  Even though we were not cooking anything but chocolate recipes for this class, he also talked about his own experiences as a chef including practices in buying and cooking meat.  Cans can’t be found in his kitchen (well, except for the coconut milk we used in the soup) but instead you can find one whole wall with ceiling to countertop shelves covered in glass jars of beans, spices, grains, and baking supplies.

There was such an incredible love and respect for food shown in his kitchen that it reminded me how special and lovely food can be when prepared completely by hand.  It has ignited in me a desire to buy less prepared food and take more time making my own.  I want to cut back on the amount of chemicals I’m putting into my body.  I want to eat local foods.  I want to take the time and love to cook wonderful foods that I and my husband can enjoy together.  Surely this desire will make us healthier and bring us closer.  There is something about the ritual of preparing food that nourishes my soul and too often I get caught up in the need to make something quickly that quality and health is sacrificed.

I believe that I may make my own chicken stock next week and freeze it.

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Diet

Some define the word diet as a negative thing:  something we do when our pants are getting too snug.  Something we quit when our pants stop being snug or it doesn’t work.  Something we do again when the pants inevitably get snug again.  When I was in undergrad, the health and fitness adviser put it a way that makes a lot more sense to me.  I had gone to him to consult on my plan for losing weight.  I wanted to make sure I was doing it healthfully and he reassured me that I was but he also gave me some very good advice.

He told me that those people who see a “diet” as a temporary thing will never be successful.  We are all on a diet.  Some of us are on the junk food diet.  Some of us are on the health nut diet.  Some of us are on a vegetarian diet.  You get the idea.  You can’t view a diet as a temporary fix.  You have to find a diet that works for you and stay with it even when you’ve reached your goals.  Diet is lifestyle.

That’s why, this time around, I’m really committing myself to eating in a way that I’ll be happy to maintain when I’ve lost all the weight I need to lose.  I can honestly say that I enjoy the food I’m eating.  I don’t feel deprived.  I’ve had some slip ups but they have not been hugely detrimental.  I’m eating a lot less junk and putting food into my belly that really fulfills me.

Through my fitness check up posts you’ve caught a glimpse of what my diet is like.  For those of you who have asked for a more detailed description of what it is I’m trying to do, this is for you:

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Veggie Delight

Every other Friday, a little green box greets me on our back porch.  It’s always a little exciting, because you never know exactly what will be inside.  Granted, you have some idea.  There will probably be vegetables.  There will probably also be fruit.  No doubt, this time of year, there will be oranges, pears, romaine, potatoes, and a slew of other things.  Last week, this was our box:

For the record, there are:  oranges, pears, bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, leeks, red potatoes, cabbage, romaine, parsnips, onion, and some other stuff I’m forgetting right now.  The really nice thing about the service we subscribe to is that everything is organic and they try to get all their produce from as locally as possible (although some things will come from the furthest point away: FL- like oranges).

I love to plan our meals around this box.  It’s an exercise in creativity sometimes.  But, for example, this week I planned out this menu for our dinners (and the produce is uses up).  Mondays we’ve been getting this food service just to try it out but that’s not going to last long because we have not been wowed by it.  Fridays are usually a leftover day.

Tuesday:

Tofu & Leek stir-fry (leeks, onion, scallions)

Wednesday:

Galumpkis (cabbage, onions)

Thursday:

Crock Pot Pot Roast (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions)

Not to mention, most of the fruit gets eaten in lunches and for breakfast.  We’ve already plowed through most of the apples and bananas and are making a dent in the oranges and pears.  We’ve been trying more fruit based desserts.  For example, on our picnic on Saturday, I made a fruit salad with apples, bananas, and pears.  I mixed it with greek yogurt, marscapone, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla.  So good!  And, full of protein!

This is one of those small things that makes me happy.  There is a certain satisfaction when it’s the Thursday before a new box and we’ve managed to get through most of the produce.  🙂  Now that it’s spring, I’m curious, are there any “small things” that are making you happy?

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Identity Crisis

When Mr. Cookie and I started dating, we both had very clear hobbies that we each excelled at with little overlap.  We complemented each other nicely.  I was the one who cooked (and it is quite possibly the way I won him over).  He was the one who excelled academically and could debate you under a table.  He stimulated me mentally.  I stimulated him through gustatory means.  I was the one who enjoyed theatre.  He enjoyed sports.

Over the years, our interests have become more shared, which is nice in many ways and frustrating in some.  We’ve still had our divergent interests and strengths though.  However, in the last few months, I feel that things I used to excel at, my special unique talents, Mr. Cookie has been vastly improving at while I stand still.  He loves to cook now and, quite frankly, the things I am best at cooking no longer figure in to the diet that we’ve set out for ourselves.  I don’t really do theatre so much any more.  I’ve joined him intermittently in the sports thing, but I’m never going to be as fast, strong, or dedicated as he is.

So basically, I’m feeling like the things I bring to the marriage as part of my identity are no longer important or as needed (except for maybe laundry skills, but who wants THAT to be their “talent”?).  I feel completely immature feeling that way, but I need to find something new, something that is uniquely mine to excel at.  Thoughts?

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