Manicotti

Seeing as how we had eaten so much Italian influenced food during Argentina week, it only made sense to follow it up with Italian week. We’ve had our fair share of Italian food so it was difficult to find things we hadn’t eaten. When I’ve had difficulty finding recipes in the past, I’ve turned to friends who have first hand knowledge of the cuisine so this go around, I contacted my friend Kym for some help.

I actually “met” Kym through her husband, Tim, and I “met” Tim through our blogs over ten years ago. Yep, we’re cyber friends! If memory serves me well, Tim and Kym weren’t even engaged when I met him but I think they got engaged shortly after. Regardless, it’s been awesome to see their journey and it’s probably been the same for them watching mine and James’. Now that I think about it, I’ve turned to Kym numerous times for advice on things like planning our wedding, getting things ready for the birth of the girls, and how to survive parenthood. Kym, you have been a fountain of knowledge and I appreciate you so much! Thank you!!!

This manicotti recipe is one Kym uses with a few changes.  For the filling she uses two pounds full fat ricotta, half pound shredded mozarella, a half pound pecorino-romano, and two eggs. She also adds oregano and basil to her mixture but did mention that’s not necessary if you’re using a flavored sauce. You can use pre-made tomato sauce but it’s really easy to make your own so I highly recommend it. I always make my own sauce from a can of San Marzano tomatoes (pricier but worth it for the flavor), garlic, S&P, and oregano and basil. If I’m feeling frisky, I add in shredded parmesan. Oh, and she also doesn’t use oil in the crepe batter. She said the key is to make the batter thin enough to where you can put a spoon in it and the batter pours out.

I’d never made crepes before but I made masala dosa (I will never stop bragging about that) and they’re basically one and the same so I wasn’t worried. My batter came out thin just from following the recipe and Kym’s note to not add oil so I was grateful for that. It took a few crepes before I got good at making them a decent round shape but once I did, I was on a roll. The recipe said it makes 24 crepes and it was not wrong, I got exactly 24. Then it was just a matter of filling them and baking them. I will note that the recipe says this will feed eight to ten people but there were only four of us so I halved the recipe for the filling.

So my manicotti didn’t come out looking like the pictures on the recipe but they were still delicious. When I posted on Instagram and FB, I mentioned they looked like enchiladas and Kym said they’re basically Italian enchiladas so yay, I got it right! The girls love tortillas, like LOOOOVE tortillas, so the way I got them to eat the manicotti was by telling them they were stuffed tortillas. I think they each ate half a manicotti and then asked if they could just eat the tortillas; they each ate about three.

These things were filling but they were so good! I thought they would be harder to make but it was actually pretty easy. Yeah making the crepes took some time but whatever, it wasn’t terrible. I had about twelve crepes leftover and I refrigerated them in the hopes of using them for breakfast crepes a couple of days later but that didn’t happen. But just so you know, you can refrigerate them for up to a week and freeze them for up to six months so it’s not a complete waste of food.

Thanks to Kym, the first night of Italian week was amazing! I’m definitely saving this recipe because it’s so easy and it’s way better than using the pre-made shells. Also, I learned how to make crepes.

Recipe

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Breaded Pork Cutlets, Noodles with Cabbage, and Tomato Salad

Now that I’ve gotten all of the feels out of the way, it’s back to posting about food! I was going to apologize for being a Debbie Downer but feeling bad about feeling bad is part of the problem! Moving forward.

This was the second and last meal I prepared for Hungarian week. There was a reason I only did two but I can’t remember what it was, it was over three weeks ago…We actually drove up to Sun City and prepared this meal for James’ grandparents since his grandmother is Hungarian-American. Cooking in another person’s kitchen was an experience. James’ grandmother was very accommodating but taking over someone’s personal space is weird. It felt odd rummaging through cabinets and drawers, looking for a certain pot or spoon, like I was going through their underwear drawer. My kitchen is my space, it is one of the few rooms in the house where I claim complete ownership, and I don’t like people messing with my stuff. I don’t even like James messing with my pantry because he always puts things based on where he thinks they should go and, no! It’s my room! So I was extra respectful of the space I was in and made sure to put everything back from where it came.

Everything turned out great, though. The cutlet recipe said to not crowd the pieces together or to use two pans if necessary. I didn’t want to create an even bigger mess so I stacked the chops on top of each other and followed the rest of the recipe to a T. I think this created some additional moisture and as a result, the chops came out exceptionally juicy considering they were fried. I didn’t really know what to expect with the noodles and cabbage. I’d never had that combination before but I had a small inkling that it would be very bland. Um, it was not. It had a nice richness to it and I think that was because I had to brown sugar in oil beforehand. Had the sugar been missing, I think it would have been pretty forgettable. The tomato salad was fine, nothing exceptional, but it was easy and tasty so I will save that recipe.

Everyone enjoyed the meal, even the girls. James’ step-father took home seconds so I took that as a good sign. GrandMary also asked for some leftovers and believe me, that’s a pretty big deal. I’ll post the recipes tomorrow. Right now I just want to go veg out and watch Empire. I need to know what happened to Andre!

Chicken K’dra and Eggplant-Tomato Salad

This meal took for-e-ver! Seriously, I was in the kitchen for almost two and a half hours, which is two hours too many for me. Thankfully it was Easter evening so the girls were exhausted from visiting family all day and I was able to cook in relative peace. It’s a lot harder to spend so much time in the kitchen when the girls are running around like maniacs and I’m trying to concentrate on a recipe. I mean, I still lost it a few times, like when I was chopping onions and the three year old decided to screech for no reason, causing me to jump and almost chop my finger off, but overall James handled them and kept them out of my way. 

By the time we finally ate, I was beat, but this was a fantastic reason to be exhausted! The chicken was scrumptious; just the right amount of savory and juicy. It just fell apart, probably because it simmered for almost two hours, but it was delicious. I could taste the butter but it was very sublime. The cinnamon scent was stronger than the actual flavor but the flavor was most definitely there. I don’t know how an entire cinnamon stick could leave such a slight taste but I guess that’s Moroccan magic. 

The eggplant-tomato salad could have been better. It was good but I think I added too much lemon because it was very acidic. The recipe called for two to three large tomatoes but my tomatoes were small so I still used three. I probably should have used two because combined with the lemons, it was very tangy. Or maybe I should have used another eggplant…whatever, mental note made. 

I also made poached pears in a rose water syrup. Ever since we had the Oranges in Rose Water I can’t get enough of the stuff and try to find new ways to use it. They were amazing, of course.

Two things to note from this meal:

1. I finally got the right amount of liquid right for a tagine! My last two attempts at tagine came out watery because I kept forgetting I wasn’t using a tagine and needed to adapt the recipe. Not this time! This time I remembered my limitations so I added a lot less water than the recipe called for and it worked! Third times a charm!

2. Both girls ate this meal! BOTH GIRLS ATE THIS MEAL! Sorry for the yelling but this is a big deal. The baby especially loved the salad and the three year old was all about the chicken and beans. You just never know with kids. I thought the three year old would be into the pears because they were sweet but she had no interest; the baby was shoving them into her mouth with both hands. 

Morocco week worked out very well for us. They were time consuming, for sure, but the effort paid off. This week we are going to Russia. 

I’m going to have to run a lot more this week.

Recipe 

Vegetable Tagine

I planned this meal knowing I would be exhausted and the girls would most likely be cranky. I was going to need something easy and fast and this dish lived up to both requirements.

James was off work for Good Friday so we took the girls to Sweet Berry Farm. It took us an hour to get there but luckily the drive was through the hill country so we got to take in miles and miles of Texas bluebonnets. I can’t get enough of Texas in the Spring time, when everything is still cool and green. Give us another month and it will be scorching and brown but I’ll have my memories (and beer) to get me through it! The girls ran around for two hours, picking strawberries, petting goats, and having a blast. It was also pretty fun for us and I can’t recommend it enough to families with kids. 

We got home and had a play date with the neighbors for a bit. By the end of it, I was beat and like expected, the girls were over life. James got them into the bath and I started making dinner.

Since this was another tagine, I tried to keep the reduction of liquid in mind so as to not have another watery meal. I still added too much. The recipe said you could use a tagine or a flameproof casserole dish but since I have neither, I used my Dutch oven. I used about one and a half cups of veggie stock when the recipe called for two and a half and it was still too much. The recipe also said to keep it in the oven until the tomatoes browned but after twenty minutes, my tomatoes still weren’t brown so I took it out. I’m sure it was because of the stock so, duly noted tagine!

I served it along with an herbed couscous of mint, parsley, and scallions. The tagine was great, aside from being watery. It was filling without feeling gluttonous, if that makes sense. This dish is often served as a side dish but can be made the main meal. If I make this again, I will make it as a side dish. It was good for what we needed, fast and filling, but had I been really hungry, I don’t think it would have worked as well. 

Neither girl ate the tagine but they did like the “rice” couscous. Well, the three year old liked the rice after she took out all the “yuck’ a.k.a green herbs. She has her own vocabulary.

Recipe