Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spinach Manicotti

...one of my boyfriends favorite meals is manicotti.  I don't make it for him very often, because it's such a messy and fussy thing to make.  But it's winter.  And it sounded really REALLY good.  A nice warm Italian meal on a really cold day is so good.  The secret ingredient here is the nutmeg, which adds just enough balance to the bold tomato and garlic flavors in this dish.  I hope you guys like it as much as we did!

Spinach Manicotti
1 package of manicotti noodles
1 LG package of fresh spinach (about 6 cups)
2 C ricotta cheese (part skim)
1 egg
1/3 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 jar of Newman's Own marinara sauce
garlic, oregano, nutmeg, salt, pepper, olive oil, cooking spray, and basil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Dig out a large casserole dish.  Line the dish with your uncooked noodles in a single even layer to see how many fit in your pan (this is how many you will cook).  Fill a large pot with water, add olive oil and salt and bring to a boil.  Cook noodles to al dente (you don't want to cook them all the way because they will become hard to stuff and they will fall apart).  While your noodles are boiling, spray your casserole dish with cooking spray and sprinkle the pan with a light layer of oregano.  Meanwhile, pull out a large saute pan.  Wash and drain your spinach.  Fill your pan with as many spinach leaves as possible (they will reduce down while cooking, making more room for fresh leaves, which you can just throw on top of the wilted ones, stirring as they cook) and cook them on medium heat.  When the leaves are cooked, add your garlic ( I like to use the kind you can find minced in a can next to the fresh garlic in the produce section in the grocery store...just about half a tablespoon full), and reduce the liquid out of the leaves, draining if necessary.  Then take the spinach off the heat, and add your ricotta and parmesan cheeses, salt and pepper, egg, basil, and a light sprinkle of nutmeg.  Mix the spinach/cheese mixture and to make things easier for stuffing.....put it in a pastry bag with no tip, or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off to pipe your cheese mixture into your noodles.  Place your noodles in your greased casserole dish, and start piping a little cheese mixture into each noodle.  (Twist the end of your pastry bag to prevent mix from escaping out the top.  This is a messy meal to make!)  Wash the cheese off of your hands, and then pour your maranara sauce over the top of your noodles, and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve with some nice warm french bread, and this makes a fine filling and comforting winter meal.

Holly Jolly Christmas

I hope everyone had a fantastic and magical Christmas this year.  Ours was sparkling white and gorgeous!  But now it is time to pack ups the decorations, relax and play with our new toys, make New Years resolutions, and enjoy the last few days of 2010.  Lets all breathe a huge sigh of relief folks,...it's over!  A few hilights.......

We went to go see Troy Christmas night, which by the way, was really pretty cool.  This Christmas didn't seem to be as drama filled and stressful as ones in years past.  I think making my gifts this year really helped.  I fight this little (big) battle with myself every year about gifts, working myself up into a panic about the "right" thing to do.  This year I just went with what felt right for our familys sanity and budget, and it worked out.  We had a lot of fun making stuff, and avoided those awful holiday crowds full of hateful people.  It was really nice.  I'm really looking forward to 2011.....how bout you?!??

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

oreo balls

Image found on Google image search.

A co-worker brought these treats into work for us to enjoy the other day, and enjoy we did!  I had never heard of such a thing until that day, and I have to say, they are completely amazing.  And really easy to make too!
Oreo Balls
1 package of Oreos
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1 package of white chocolate bark

* Crush up your Oreos.  You can do this in a food processor or a Ziploc freezer bag with a hammer.  Mix together crushed Oreos with your softened cream cheese.  Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet (that will fit into your freezer) lined with parchment or wax paper.  Freeze the balls for a half hour.  Next, melt your white chocolate.  Pull out the Oreo balls and dip them into melted chocolate using a toothpick.  Place them back on your lined cookie sheet.  You could customize your balls by adding food coloring to your white chocolate, and/or using milk or dark chocolates, and/or sprinkles or candy bits.

These things are so cute, creative, and delicious.  They would be perfect to give as a gift, to bring to a holiday party, or just to enjoy yourself!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

more elf on the shelf ideas.......(for our frosty)

 I wanted to have a list of ideas for this year and next year to have on hand, all in one place.  These ideas aren't all mine, but they are the ones I like best.........
* adding green food coloring to the toilet water, and unraveling the toilet paper.  also, frosty writing his name in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror, and leaving new holiday body wash and loofas!
* frosty hiding in the freezer (because it reminds him of his cold home in the North Pole), possibly perched on top of a brand new box of Klondike bars or something fun like that.
* staging frosty and some barbies in a cotton ball "snowball" fight
* frosty bringing us Elf (the movie)
* finding frosty has taken our car for a spin.....(finding the car parked backwards and frosty perched up on lots of pillows behind the steering wheel)
* finding frosty hugging a can of fake snow and noticing all of the windows have been sprayed with it!!!!
* frosty bringing us Frosty brand sodas
* frosty making snow angels with flour on the counter
* frosty bringing two girl elves back with him from the North Pole found in the girls stockings
* frosty found on the couch with popcorn and the remote and Christmas movies out
* frosty found with a parachute, stuck in a tree, not able to quite make it back in on time
* found in a wet shower, with a tiny towel around him, and finding Christmasy stuff drawn all over the shower walls with bath crayons
* frosty found on top of the oven with fresh cookies made
* frosty found with my knitting needles, wrapped in a little scarf for himself
* frosty found drunk
* finding frosty amongst a box of crayons holding a picture he colored of himself
* frosty popping up out of our gingerbread house chimney

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

make your own Christmas Crackers

 What is a Christmas Craker you say?  A Christmas cracker is a prettily wrapped tube filled with little trinkets.  They sit at your place on the Christmas table, and everyone pulles their cracker open (they make a fun cracking noise), and see what kinds of surprises they find inside their cracker.  Usually there is a paper crown inside each one, which will have to be worn for dinner of course.  This is a fun little tradition that has been enjoyed overseas for a long time.  I think it is a fun idea.  You can read a full description about Christmas crackers here and an awesome tutorial here on how to make your own!

Monday, December 6, 2010

What is "elf on the shelf"?

We named our Elf on the Shelf Frosty

Reindeer food for Elf on the Shelf

"Elf on the Shelf" is a little vintage inspired elf (with a felt body and a plastic head) that sits perched up on a shelf in your house.  You can purchase an Elf on the Shelf book/elf at Barnes & Noble, and probably other retailers, but that is where Gramma got the girls their elf.  The book tells the story of the elf, who comes to visit your family each holiday season.  He sits on your shelf politely watching your behavior all day, and at night he flies to the North Pole to report back to Santa weather you've been bad or good.
  Elves are mischievous little things though.  They often don't climb back up on to the shelf where they belong.  Elves have been found hanging out in Christmas trees, perched up on pillows and found behind the steering wheel of the car (which has been mysteriously parked the opposite direction or even all the way down the street!), families have found green "elf pee" in their toilet in the morning along with paper trailed around the bathroom, elves have made elf sized snow angels (made out of flour) on the counter....elves have been found "drunk" (passed out with beer bottles around them), one elf hung a childs undies on the Christmas tree!  It has been made known to me (by my children of course) that if you are really good your elf will bring back a girl from the North Pole with him!!
We the girls named our elf Frosty.  Mommy didn't know the full extent of the Elf on the Shelf magic yet, so our elf hasn't gotten into too many adventures yet.  Mommy didn't know that she had to talk to the elf so that he would be more comfortable around us, and wander away from his shelf.  Now mommy knows.  Frosty has already brought us back some Reindeer Food (oatmeal with sprinkles and colored sugar).  Tonight our elf Frosty is sitting among our twinkly pink Christmas tree.  Tomorrow he might pee in our toilet!!
     Oh, and I must mention that if the children mustn't touch the elf or the elf's magic might go away and he won't be able to fly back to the North Pole to tell Santa if they've been bad or good, and so Santa might think that the children have forgotten about him.  Parents can touch the elf though.
  You can find ideas for your elf on the shelf here and here.
I browsed Etsy today looking for cute vintage elf friends, and there are plenty.  Frosty plans on bringing back two girls (one for each of ours), and putting the girl elves in their stockings!!
  I think our elf will bring the girls the "Elf" movie (we've been wanting to see it, and how fitting would that be?!).....and I remember seeing Frosty brand colas at the grocery store...Frosty may have to show up with some of those for us too.  Thanks Gramma.....this is going to be fun!
  Do you guys have Elf on the Shelf?  What kinds of trouble has your elf gotten into?  What gifts has he brought you?  I'd love to hear your Elf on the Shelf ideas and stories!!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Keepsake Cookbook

For this Handmade Holidays post, I wanted to share with you a recipe scrapbook that my mom gave me for Christmas last year.  It was by far the best present ever!!!!!  She scrapbooked the first few pages, and the rest is filled with hand written family recipes.  It is the sweetest thing.  If you spend the time and put in the effort to make something creative, it will always be a better gift than anything money could buy.  Here is what it looks like....
She purchased a pretty recipe book with divided sections for different categories of food.  Then added scrapbook pages (in page protectors) and wrote in all the recipes.  My dad even wrote in a few too.  This would make a really special gift for your loved ones for the holidays.  You could also do the entire thing by hand, or look into your local copy shop to get something printed/bound.  Online photo shops like Snapfish offer photo books as well, which you could easily customize by adding in pictures of your drawings and hand written recipes....with photos too!!!  You should totally do this for Christmas this year...your family will be really proud.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's begenning to look a lot like Christmas!

On Monday, my terrific boyfriend bought me an iPhone4!!!!  So, needless to say, I've been playing with it all week.  It's been so much fun!  I got this really cute Speck case for it (the plaid is actually real fabric! eek!!) a while back at Target.  It looks like this:
There are so many apps to browse through!  Wow.  If you have an iPhone, what are some nifty apps I should know about??  I downloaded some fun games like Plock, Mega Jump, and Oven Break.  I've been using a cute food diary app called Lose It.  And I got some great sleep sounds (Relax M.) and a cool app called Cures A-Z.  Of course I had to get some fun photo apps, like Hipstamatic, Instagram, and ShakeItPhoto (which is like a Poloroid app).  Here are some of my first cell phone shots:

It's our sad little pink Christmas tree.  Actually it's quite beautiful....Here are some pretty holiday photos I took with my regular camera:
IMG_1985 (2)
Much of my time these days is occupied with making things & family time.  I'm working on an advent type mini journal with my family.  I'll post about it soon!  Do you all do advent calendars?  I also signed up for Shimelles  Journal Your Christmas this year, which I can already tell I am going to have tons of fun with!!  I also signed up for Elsie's E-Course on blog improvement, which has me thinking a lot about the focus of this little blog & the direction I want to take with it......exciting!  I have so much to read and create and do....all fun!!!!!  I'm gonna go dye my hair pink now! * I'll post photos soon....stay tuned!  ;)