Homemade Manicotti

3_FullSizeRenderHere’s my disclaimer.  I did not learn this from my Italian mom who learned it from her’s and so on.  I just am in love with Italian food. This is easy enough that my preteen daughters can do it and even the pickiest of eaters loves it.  I use my own sauce but store bought will do.  Its also a great place to hide shredded vegetables.

Homemade Manicotti

Noodles (Really, they’re like making crepes):

3 c. flour
2 c. milk
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt

FullSizeRender Whisk until smooth. Put 2 T. at a time on a hot greased skillet and spread into a 5 inch circle. Cook low to medium heat until set. Try not to brown. You technically shouldn’t turn them but sometimes they start to brown on the bottom but the top is not set so I quick flip them and then take them right out of the pan. Stack on waxed paper. I used to layer them between waxed paper but I realized that they stick more to the waxed paper than they do to each other.

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Filling:

2 lbs. ricotta cheese
½ c. grated romano, parmesan, or asiago (my personal favorite) or any blend of these
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. dry parsley or 1 ½ T. of fresh parsley

1_FullSizeRenderYou also need 2 jars of spaghetti sauce and the equivalent of two 8X11 casserole dishes

Spread ½ of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the dishes. Fill noodles with approximately 1/8 cup of ricotta filling. (This is approximate because, if you’re like me, you’ll make noodles of varying sizes.) Lie them up in the bottom of the pan. (I turn them over so the weight of them holds the top shut.)

1_FullSizeRenderWhen you’ve filled all of the noodles, pour the other half of the spaghetti sauce over the top of the manicotti. I like to add a sprinkling of asiago on top but it’s not necessary. Cover and Bake at 350o for 20 minutes then uncover and bake 20 more minutes.

Usually there are no leftovers in our house but it does freeze well. Happy eating!

Angels among us

In Fall of 2008, when I was 38, I went back to college. I didn’t want to just to further my education…I wanted to change the course of my entire life.

After my brush with Lyme arthritis, I realized that I could not physically work forever as a bedside nurse. When I reassessed what I really wanted to be doing, I came up with a huge list. Apparently while I was busy raising a family and working a job, I had neglected my dreams.

Since nursing is such a specialized field, I set out to get a non-nursing bachelor’s degree first. This degree was tailored to what I perceived as my weaknesses and interests. (Given my age and situation, I consider it a pretty tame midlife-crisis but, now that I face the student loans, I realize that it probably would have been cheaper to buy a sports car.)

When I started, I was a single mom with children aged 4, 5, 5, 6, 15, and 19. It was very difficult at first because my little ones did not understand timed tests, the need to focus when formulating a response, and pretty much privacy, in general.

One night, with a deadline looming, children pestering, and quitting on my mind, I got a call from my friend, Joanna. She was passing through and wanted to stop by. I cried on the phone to her and she came anyway (a mark of a true friend). That night, she made us tea, sent me to my computer, and stood watch over me.

Whenever my kids needed to ask me something, get a drink of water, or just randomly stare at me, she was there, gently filling the need and guiding them back to their beds while I finished and submitted my homework with just minutes to spare. Three years after I started college, Joanna was killed in a car accident so she never got to see the fruits of her labor at my graduation.

But whenever I felt that the weight of my life was too much and I wanted to quit, God sent another one of my earthly angels to encourage me. My coworkers, friends, and family, many without even knowing it, provided me with the encouragement and strength to keep going. My one sister, Janee, pestered me constantly (as only sisters can) over staying on task and finishing my degree ( I had to take a third semester of French more than 20 years after taking the first 2 semesters and it was almost my undoing).

Over the course of time, I was able to stick to it and finish my degree and move on to pursuing an MBA. My goals for myself became more defined and I did eventually leave nursing. I learned a lot going to college this second time around but the greatest thing I learned was that I may be single but I am not alone…my God is near and my life is overflowing with angels and all the better for it. So, thank you to all of my angels and congratulations on our graduation!