It feels so great to be back in the kitchen after about a month off from cooking. I didn't cook much the last couple weeks of pregnancy, my back hurt and I was tired after carrying that belly around all day. :) The only things I did cook were freezer meals to pull out the first couple weeks after Nyla was born, when I didn't feel like cooking. I did that with about 6 weeks to go. I'm glad I did because on nights that are just crazy, I've been able to pull out taco meat that's ready to go or a lasagna. I even made some breakfast breads so I'd have something different to eat, besides cereal and Daniel could take to work too.
Thankfully we've also had plenty of people bring us meals which got us through quite a while and we're still working on some of them. Daniel and I eat the leftovers for lunch.
But I've been so ready to menu plan and grocery shop (I hadn't done that in 4 weeks). I know that sounds so silly, but I really enjoy planning our meals and budgeting when I shop. I find a thrill in it for some reason. I guess I enjoy saving money.
So as August began I wanted to menu plan. Yes, it's adventurous when you have a newborn that's only about 15 days old, but I knew I could at least plan and if we had a bad day I could always go to my deep freezer and pull out the meals I made before she was born. So far, I haven't had to do that! When Hubby gets home he's able to rock and diaper Nyla while I cook. And for this I am so thankful. I love being in our kitchen and making meals for us to enjoy together.
Below is one of my latest ventures. I'd never made manicotti before this time, what a learning experience. I let the manicotti shells go too long so they were too soft to handle, some even fell apart. I made it work though, so it wasn't too much of a problem.
The verdict? Delicious! It made so much I froze the other pan of it and pulled it out tonight for dinner. It was just as good as last time. Now Hubby has lunch tomorrow and I've got 2 convenience meals (leftover meals perfectly portioned and labeled in the freezer for Hubby to take to work if there are no leftovers from the previous nights dinner) in the freezer for him for another time, he just loves those.
Here's the recipe, enjoy!
Three-Cheese Manicotti-From: Taste of Home Cookbook
20 uncooked manicotti shells
2 cartons (15 oz each) ricotta cheese--I substituted cottage cheese (they don't sell ricotta at Aldi) and it tasted great, I actually liked the taste better than ricotta
5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided--1 or 2 cups of Italian blend would be good too
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seasoned salt
2 jars (26 oz each) spaghetti sauce, or your own
1. Cook manicotti according to the package instructions (like I said, I overcooked them so they were too soft, so be careful). Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese), 3 cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs and seasonings.
2. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce each into two ungreased 13x9 in baking dishes. *Stuff manicotti shells with cheese mixture; arrange over sauce. Top with remaining sauce.
3. Cover and bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and manicotti is heated through.
*I put half the cheese mixture into a gallon bag and snipped a corner and piped the cheese mixture into the shells, much easier. Only do half the mixture (or less) at a time though, otherwise the bag is too heavy and you can't stuff the shells properly.
Like I said, it makes quite a lot for 2 people. 10 servings or 2 manicotti each, so I froze the extra pan. I never cut a recipe to work for just two people. We enjoy leftovers and being able to freeze extra to pull out for another dinner.