Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spinach Manicotti in Creamy Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite types of pasta is Manicotti. When I came across this recipe in the December 2010 issue of Every Day Food, I just had to make it. I have actually had the ingredients on hand to make it for a few weeks now, I just finally found the time to make it. This is very tastey, and very rich. The recipe makes a ton of spinach/cheesy filling, so you don't have to worry about skinny little shells! Probably not something I will make all the time (or else I will be 500 pounds), but something I might make every few months.

Spinach Manicotti in Creamy Tomato Sauce

-- 8 manicotti shells
-- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
-- 1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
-- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
-- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
-- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
-- 2 cups prepared marinara sauce
-- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
-- 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta shells according to package instructions. Drain well and arrange in a single layer on an oiled rimmed baking sheet.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and lemon zest. Stir in spinach and season filling to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer filling to a zip-top plastic bag. Twist and squeeze bag so filling is in one corner. With scissors, snip a 3/4-inch opening in corner.
Pipe filling into both ends of each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells in an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk togerther marinara sauce, oregano, and cream. Pour sauce evenly over stuffed shells and top with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Please note I added some shredded mozzarella cheese because I just can't have enough cheese!!
Bake until sauce in center of dish is bubbling and Parmesan is browned in spots, about 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Recap -- My Favorite Photo

This is my favorite photo from Christmas this year. This is what happens when your 4-year old nephew finds out that Santa is ringing the doorbell!

Every year, since I can remember, Santa brings PJ's to the kids on Christmas Eve. He rings the doorbell, and when we answer, there are packages with new PJ's in them on the front steps. Since we have grown up, he now brings PJ's to the little kids. Ok, really he still brings PJ's to me also, but that is only because I don't have kids yet, and as my Mom says, I am spoiled!

We have also started a tradition of opening stockings every Christmas Eve. This involves the little kids and the big kids. There are always fun things such as lip glosses, gift cards to Starbucks, a cute snowman spatula, and other fun things like that.

What traditions do you have every year?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Gift Recap

Some of my favorite Christmas gifts from this year.

 Martha Stewart Encyclopedia of Sewing & Fabric Crafts

Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook

Tiffany Key Charm

Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (Breast Cancer Edition)

Rachel Ray Moppines
Simply Vera Wang PJ's (the softest PJ's ever!)

Cashmere Sweater (my first and it is sooo soft!)

Snoopy Salt & Pepper Shaker (So funny! I love beagles, so my Mom thought I just had to have this!)

Hope Santa spoiled everyone like he did me! What were some of your favorite gifts?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Parties 2010

Hope everyone had a great holiday! The last few months has been crazy busy for me, but I did have a little bit of fun. I ended up having 4 holiday party/dinners for the month of December.

The first party was the first weekend of December, and it was our corporate work holiday party. This was for all of the companies under our parent company, so there was probably about 500 or so people there. The company rented out BOMA (Bar of Modern Art). BOMA is really cool because it used to be a Presbyterian Church (which is a little odd I might add), but is really cool because it has a ton of stained glass windows, and lots of great architecture. The sanctuary is where the DJ and the dance floor is located.

I didn't get any pictures, but there was a free photo booth, so we of course had to get our picture taken. 

The next weekend some of my best girl friends all got together for dinner at Marcellas. I hadn't had a chance to catch up with them for a couple of months due to my busy work schedule, so it was great to get to see them.

The third weekend in December, the same group of girlfriends, and their husbands/significant others all got together for an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. I was so bummed that I arrived too late for the sweater contest, but then again I thought my sweater was tacky, but not ugly (I am on the far left). Anyway, we had a great time eating, drinking and goofing off.

The last party, which unfortunatly I don't have pictures of yet, was for my small company. We had a holiday bowling party the Friday before Christmas. We got to leave work around 2:30 pm, and we were able to bowl 2 games. My first game was a bust and I only scored a 68. The second game I somehow managed to score a 165. I totally impressed everyone, and it was crazy because people at the far lanes kept coming down to see if I really had scored that high.

It has been a whirlwind these last couple of months, but it was great to finally take some time to have some fun with my friends!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Parade of Homes

Welcome to my home!

Since I live only with my pup Abby, and because we are both girls, I have choosen to have pink holiday decorations. I figure I might as well enjoy the girly decorations while I can, right! I also have a pretty small living room, and although I do have a really nice 6 ft christmas tree, I have opted to keep it in storage and pull out this cute little tree year after year.

A few years ago I came across this cute little tree at Pier 1, and knew it would be just right for my small apartment. They also had a ton of cute pink ornaments and other holiday decorations that matched perfectly. I scooped them all up right on the spot, and have been using them for about 4 or 5 years now. The little santa box was from my Grandma last year, and the other little ornament was from our trip to Hilton Head this year. It is a lighthouse.

More pink decorations from Pier 1. The stocking holders are actually from Target. The christmas picture on the little stove was from my niece and nephew from 2 years ago. I actually keep it out year round because they are so cute! The little Brutus Buckey guy at the bottom right was a gift from my mom a few years ago. She has a friend from church who paints these cute little critters and things on sidewalk pavers.

This little display is in my kitchen. I just love it when there are displays of a bunch of glass containers of candy in the kitchen, so this is my little take on that. I am using candy cane Hershey's kisses (which are boyfriend and I can't stop eating them!!). The plate is from Target, and I think it is so cute I might keep it out through the rest of winter. The candle is Spice from Bath and Body Works, and is one of my many holiday candles.

This is a little candle display on my coffee table. At the bottom of the hurricane vase are little glass beads and silver bells that I got from Pier 1. The platter I got from Target a few years ago. I just added a candle, and a little ribbon, and instant centerpiece!

And this is the centerpiece on my dining room table. I just loved this table runner from Pier 1 and totally had to get it! It has little jingle bells on each end. The platter and stand is from Southern Living at Home, and I just added some ribbon. The christmas cactus I picked up at Lowes and just loved the hot pink flowers.

I hope you enjoyed all of my holiday decorations. Thanks for visiting!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favorite Holiday Movie of All Times -- Christmas Vacation

My favorite holiday movie of all times is Christmas Vacation.

I think I have seen this movie about 100 times, and every year I watch it over and over again, because I love it! It's funny because I don't typically remember movie quotes, but I remember so many lines from this movie.

My all time favorite part of the movie is where Clark is going on a rant about his boss after finding out he is not getting his holiday bonus, and starts going on and on about his boss. At the end he says

"Hallelujah! Holy s&*#! Where's the Tylenol?"

I think many people can relate to that part of the quote especially around the holidays.

Another favorite part is when Clark is at work, and all these upper level managers pass by and he starts telling everyone Merry Christmas at first and then goes on to say:

"Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my a$$, kiss his a$$, kiss your a$$, happy Hanukkah."

Oh and who can forget Eddie, his family, his RV (aka tenament on wheels), and of course snot.

Eddie's was famous for his quote "Merry Christmas. Shitter's full."

And who can forget dear Aunt Bethenny and her poor cat, who used up all it's 9 lives after eating the christmas lights.

Oh how I will need to go and watch this movie again. I believe I have it on both VHS and DVD.

What's your favorite holiday movie?

Linking up to Beverly's Pink Saturday post.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mrs. Miracle (Book/Movie Review)

One of my favorite Christmas movies/books is Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle.

Last year the movie debuted on Hallmark Channel. I loved it so much, my brother got me the book for Christmas.

The storyline is about a man (Seth) who has lost his wife and is trying to raise their twin boys. The boys are a handful, and they keep going through housekeepers/nannies. After their last housekeeper/nanny has quit, and Seth thinks things are going to fall apart, an older woman shows up at their door. Her name is Mrs. Merkle and she states she was sent to them as the new housekeeper/nanny.

Mrs. Merkle quickly goes to work and sets the boys and the household straight. The boys love her, and start calling her Mrs. Miracle because she can make miracles happen.

During the story, Seth meet's Reba. Reba owns a travel agency, and she is having problems of her own trying to cope with how her sister ruined her engagement 4 years ago. She ends up helping with the church christmas program, where she meet's Seth and his boys. They quickly fall for each other, and you find out that Mrs. Miracle is behind the whole set up.

The book is a little more indepth than the movie. The book introduces more storylines and characters such as Seth's parents. I loved both the book and the movie, and although I usually like to read the book before watching the movie, it was kind of interesting to watch the movie, and then read the extra storylines in the book. I was afraid they were going to be exactly the same, and since I just watched the movie again last weekend, when I was reading the book this week I was afraid I would be a little bored, but I wasn't.

This year Call Me Mrs. Miracle was debuted on the Hallmark Channel as the follow up to Mrs. Miracle. It is also available as the book as well. I have the movie recorded on my DVR and will probably watch it this weekend and then try and pick up the book later this week.

I highly recommend if you come across the movie to check it out. It's a great family movie and I think what I love best about it is it totally reminds me of Mary Poppins, which is one of my favorite childhood Disney movies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sugar Crinkles -- Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipe

I love making christmas cookies. Every year I always like to try a new recipe, but I also have my favorites I love to make year after year. A few years ago I purchased one of my favorite cookie cookbooks.
Southern Living Incredible Cookies

One of my favorite recipes from this cookbook is the Sugar Crinkles. They are a sugar cookie that is rolled into balls, and then rolled into sugar. They are similar to a molasses sugar cookie because they have that crinkled sugary coating. What I love about them though is they have a slight lemon flavor. Sugar and lemon to me is a great flavor combination. I love to add red and green sprinkles to my sugar to make them even more festive. Below is a picture of the cookies I made last year.

Sugar Crinkles

Yield: about 5 1/2 dozen

-- 1 cup shortening
-- 1 1/2 cups sugar
-- 2 large eggs
-- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-- 2 teaspoons baking powder
-- 1/2 teaspoon salt
-- 1/4 cup sugar

Beat shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings, beating until blended.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to shortening mixture, beating well. Cover and chill dough.

Shape dough into 1" balls. Roll balls in 1/4 cup sugar. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350° for 8 to 9 minutes or until barely golden. Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I am posting this recipe for Beverly's Pink Saturday

Friday, December 3, 2010

O Christmas Cactus!

My Grandmother has had a Christmas cactus for a couple of years now. I believe that they are similar to poinsettias and only bloom during the holiday months.

This year I decided to get one as well and am using it as a centerpiece on my dining room table. I just love the funky leaves and the bright pinky/red flowers.

From what I have read online, the key to getting it to bloom during the holiday season is to keep it in a cool room during the Fall months, and to make sure not to overwater it. You then have to keep it in a cool room for another 30 days after it has bloomed to allow it to rest. I haven't had a chance to ask my Grandmother how she gets her's to bloom every year, but it always does!

This is a picture of my Grandmother's Christmas Cactus which bloomed in November. Wish me luck that I can keep mine just as long! If anyone has any tips, please share!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I totally cannot believe it's already December! Where did the time go?? I keep putting November dates in my emails, so hopefully I can get into the groove of writing December.

Today we had our first snow fall, so it's starting to look like December! All throughout the day we had some flurries, but now the roads are icing over. They even had to shut down the interstate due to so many accidents. I am getting ready to enjoy some hot cocoa and curl up with a good book and my pup dog.

I came across this fun recipe the other day, so I think I might try it. It looks really good!

Cocktail o'Clock: Rocky Road Hot Chocolate

In a large ovenproof mug combine 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1½ cups hot milk and 1½ ounces amaretto. Top with miniature marshmallows and place under broiler until golden brown and puffed.

From Every Day Food