Cheese Manicotti

I’ve been making this version of cheese manicotti for so many years, it’s hard to believe I haven’t gotten around to sharing it with you guys! While many baked pasta dishes can take all day long to prepare – between making the sauce, cooking the pasta, and layering the pasta before baking – this one only takes a few minutes. And the flavor is unparalleled.

The key is using no-bake lasagna noodles to make the manicotti. No stuffing tubes required! The cheese mixture is simply spread on some lasagna noodles that have been softened using a bit of boiling water, rolled up and placed in the baking dish, then topped with a simple tomato sauce that takes just a few moments to bring together. With the addition of fresh basil, the sauce is really delicious too – light and bright in flavor.

This was the first time I’d made it using homemade ricotta, and it really took it to the next level. So, if you have an extra few minutes – I’d highly recommend taking the time to make your own, but it’s certainly not required. I like to serve with a nice green salad and some crunchy garlic bread for a traditional Italian meal that the whole family loves. It’s a favorite in our home, and I know it will be in yours as well!

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2007

Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Guys, this is one of my favorite side dishes of all time – and frankly I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share it here on the blog. Slow roasted garlic, butter, fresh parsley, and tender red potatoes mashed up into a delicious heap of goodness.

It’s a nice change of pace from the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, and the flavor is just wonderful. It takes a little bit more time and forethought, as you have to roast the garlic ahead of time before mashing the potatoes – but trust me, it’s worth it! Roasting the garlic, as opposed to just using garlic powder, really mellows and deepens the flavor – so it doesn’t have that harsh bite that many garlic mashed potatoes have.

I like to add parsley, for a little pop of color and bright flavor, but it’s great with other herbs as well – I’ve used some chopped rosemary and thyme in the past, and both were wonderful. This side dish would be great on your Easter table, paired with ham or turkey. Or, it’s always my go-to side to serve with a homey traditional dish like meatloaf. It’s a favorite in my family, and I know it will be one in yours as well.

Bean & Cheese Enchiladas

If I had to choose a favorite cuisine, it would be Mexican. It’s something that I really came around to during my first pregnancy, and it definitely stuck with me. Sadly, our only local Mexican restaurant closed it’s doors a few months ago – which means we have to drive 40 minutes north or south to go out…and that’s really sucked this time around as far as pregnancy cravings are concerned.

I already have a few really good enchilada recipes up my sleeve, but sometimes you just need something super-quick and easy. That’s where these bean and cheese enchiladas come in. I almost always have all the ingredients on hand to make them, they come together quickly, and they’re filling and delicious.

If you’re worried about spice, don’t be – they aren’t spicy. The green chilies are very mild, but add a nice bite of flavor. I wrote the recipe using canned pinto beans, but I’ve been soaking my own beans lately and doing it the “old-fashioned” way. If you’re down with that – you’ll need about 3 cups of dried beans. I’ll cook them with a smoked ham hock, ham base, or some bacon for a little extra flavor. But,  rest assured they’re great with canned beans too! Also, take a few minutes and make your own enchilada sauce. It literally takes less than 5 minutes to throw together, and the results are so much more delicious (and economical!) than the stuff from the can. Just saying…

They’re gooey and delicious with the use of flour tortillas and plenty of cheese. We all really loved them, Andrew declaring that they’re his second favorite enchiladas – right behind the beef. Which is really saying something considering that my chicken version was the favorite meal in the house for quite a few years!

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Growing up, Brussels sprouts were always one of those things that I thought I didn’t like – probably because they were usually frozen and then steamed. All in all, mushy and flavorless. A few years ago I took a recommendation I’d seen somewhere and tried roasting them. Mind blown. Wonderful rich flavor, tender yet with some bite left, not to mention they were absolutely beautiful when cooked.

At first I roasted them simply with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. But somewhere along the line I started adding a little balsamic vinegar into the mix before roasting, and I haven’t looked back since. It adds a depth of flavor and a slight tangy note that pairs so perfectly well with the veggie. Some people add it after the roasting process, but I like to add it before as the heat really mellows the flavor of the vinegar as well – mingling all those flavors together.

They’re great served with just about anything, and I’ve even been known to save leftovers to toss with a little bit of pasta with olive oil and garlic the next day. Makes a delicious and easy lunch!

So if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, definitely give this recipe a try. I promise it will be eye opening and life changing! People are always shocked when I tell them that they’re one of my little ones favorite vegetables, but when they’re this good – there is no excuse for anyone not to love them. Give them a try!