Manicotti

¬†All of the sudden last weekend I had the “oh no winter is coming to an end soon and I haven’t made a hugely indulgent comfort food dish yet” thought! Comfort food and large cozy sweaters go hand in hand, right? Pretty soon the large cozy sweaters will be in the back of the closet waiting for next winter, and we won’t want to turn the oven on because it’s too hot and humid outside. ūüėõ

This dish was that best thing I have made in a while. There are THREE kinds of cheeses, need I say more?! Enjoy ūüôā

Manicotti

Ingredients:

  • 2¬†teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • ¬†1 medium onion, diced
  • ¬†1/2 to 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 cups marinara or¬†spaghetti¬†sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano,
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¬†14 (8oz. package) manicotti
  • ¬†1 (16 oz.) container whole milk ricotta
  • ¬†3 cups¬† mozzarella, freshly shredded
  • ¬†1 cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • ¬†6 oz. frozen spinach, drained of excess water
  • ¬†4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¬†salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¬†2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add ground beef and diced onion and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the excess fat, if there is any. Add 3 cups of the marinara sauce, the spices and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add manicotti noodles and cook until tender but firm (about 5 or 6 minutes). Brush a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Remove manicotti from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on the baking sheet to cool.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the parmesan, spinach, minced garlic and pepper to taste.
  4. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish. Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  5. Fill the manicotti with the cheese filling. Note: I used a butter knife and it wasn’t too difficult to slide the filling in to the pasta, it just took a little patience. Place the filled manicotti in one layer in the baking dish. Top with the beef and marinara sauce mixture and the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
  6. Dot the top with the small pieces of butter. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until nice and bubbly. Allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 7-8 large servings.

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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Black Bean Burger

Happy Sunday! If you’re like me you ¬†typically ¬†do your meal planning and prep for the week on Sunday’s. I try (try being the operative word) to plan out everything Aaron and/or I will make for dinner the upcoming week and buy all of the groceries on Sunday morning. ¬†Then it’s a breeze to have home cooked meals and leftovers all week long‚Ķ at least that’s the goal!

This recipe is an easy and flavorful weeknight meal to add to your repertoire. Have a wonderful week!

Black Bean Burger

  • 2 cans (14.5 each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated yellow onion
  • 1 small red pepper, diced small
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hot sauce, to taste (I used about 6-8 shakes)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Avocado (for topping)
  • Buns, cheese and other burger toppings (if desired)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mash the beans with a fork, leaving some beans whole. Add the rest of the ingredients through the hot sauce.
  2. Form in to burger patties (I usually make 5 patties).
  3. Heat a large skillet and melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook burgers for about five minutes on each side. Serve with a bun, or not, it’s great both ways.

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Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Happy wintery mix (if you’re in the Madison area) Tuesday! This is the kind of recipe that a day like today calls for. It’s so simple, just a bit of chopping, throw it all in the slow cooker and you’re done!

By the way, how cute are my soup crocks in the picture?! They were a birthday gift from my parents, and¬†I have¬†six different colors. Good thing I have lots of kitchen storage; you can never¬†have too many kitchen gadgets and serving things ūüėČ

Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large (or 5 medium) carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves,¬†minced
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I use 2)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a large slow cooker add all of the ingredients, except for the parsley. Cook on low for 5-7 hours, or until the chicken breast is cooked through.
  2. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Shred chicken with two forks (it should be very tender!). Return the chicken to the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker off and stir in the parsley (don’t skip the fresh herbs, it really adds a lot to the soup). ¬†Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and their Pod

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Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Crutons

tomato-basil

By guest blogger Aaron Katzfey, the other chef in the yellow kitchen

Aaron here, and I’m excited to share this recipe with you. Since Leeann never lets me post a recipe, you know this one is delicious. Give it a shot, and you won’t be disappointed. This recipe makes a great, creamy tomato basil soup and the crutons give it a little more body and flavor as a topper. Leeann made a point to tell me my picture includes a bowl and plate that don’t match. Aaron doesn’t care. Focus on the deliciousness, not the ceramics.

Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Crutons

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 pieces of bread, any kind
  • Aged sharp cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your choosing)

Let’s get to the action!

Directions

  1. In a soup pot, add olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Add garlic to onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and some pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or transfer into a blender
  4. Stir in cream and basil and simmer for another 15 minutes. Voila!
  5. While the soup is simmering for the last 15 minutes, grab your bread and cheese and make two grilled cheese sandwiches in a skillet. When done let them sit for a little bit on cutting board to cool so the melty cheese doesn’t melt out of the sandwiches. Cut into small crutons and/or long skinny dippers. Enjoy with your soup!

Makes approximately 6-8 servings.

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Easy Popcorn Trick

This isn’t really a recipe but I couldn’t resist sharing this popcorn technique. Did you know that store bought microwave popcorn is loaded with harmful chemicals? With this method you don’t even need any oil, just the kernels and a paper bag! It works like a charm!

Easy Popcorn Trick

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • Brown paper lunch bag
  • Melted butter & salt (optional, but clearly necessary ūüôā )

Directions:

  1. Put popcorn kernels in the lunch bag. Fold the top of the lunch bag three times. Place the popcorn in the microwave and set it for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
  2. Keep a very close eye on the popcorn and listen for the popping to slow down. Once the popping slows, pull it out of the microwave. It usually takes a bit less than 2 and a half minutes.
  3. Pour popcorn in a bowl and add melted butter and salt, if desired.

Popcorn trick learned from 100 Days of Real Food

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Brussel Sprout & Cranberry Salad

image

I’ve been on a roll lately, cooking up a storm! November and December are most definitely my favorite months to cook and bake. Thanksgiving and Christmas food = THE BEST!

This salad could easily be added to the Thanksgiving menu. To jazz it up for a holiday I would also add something that makes everything better… bacon!! Even my Dad went back for a second helping, and he isn’t always easy to please ūüėČ

Now, how ridiculously adorable are these two?! 

Brussel Sprout & Cranberry Salad

  • 3-4 cups brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves pulled away
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup feta¬†cheese crumbles (I like to buy the brick and crumble it myself)
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 2 jumbo shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • For the Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. To shred the brussel sprouts hold the brussel sprout by the core and thinly slice it with a very sharp knife. Discard the cores. Place shreds in a medium bowl. Add cranberries pecans, feta and apple.
  2. To make dressing combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small mason jar. Shake well to combine.
  3. When you’re ready to serve the salad prepare the shallots. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and butter. Add half of the shallots and caramelize until just golden. Remove and place on a plate with paper towel. Do the same with the second half of the shallots. They get kind of crispy and really make the salad great!
  4. Add shallots to the salad and toss with the dressing.

Makes 6-7 servings.

Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats.

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