Tag Archives: casseroles

Zeesst Right!

21 Feb

Some things in this world are marginalized to the extent that they are rarely thought of. Take lemons, for instance. More specifically…lemon zest.

Now, I know that compared to recent events in the Middle East, your average zest may seem rather trivial, but to a dish, it can be the difference between an ordinary manicotti and a manicotti of extraordinary flavor.

Lemon zest, put in places not usually mentioned (no, not there) can trick the palate into thinking that your usual dish has become something altogether different.

That’s what happened to my manicotti. I decided to add some to the spinach and garlic I sauteed in olive oil. I also added a bit more into the ricotta cheese-egg mixture, to which I also added in the sauteed spinach, along with some pre-grated cheese combo of fontina, parmesean, mozzarella, and some others can’t recall,  sea salt, cracked pepper, and dried oregano from last summer’s garden. This became the filling. I cheated and used some store-bought sauce. As Kaukab would say, “So, sue me!” (She’s been known to do the same, so I feel fully vindicated in admitting as much.)

Here’s what it looked like:

Zesty Manicotti

Single Serving Size

Here’s the whole pan:

Two Boxes Worth (16 oz. total)

I followed most of the boxed directions. Except, I used three eggs, total versus the two-per-package noted. And, I used one large container of ricotta (30 oz. and drained of any liquid) for both boxes and a 45 oz.-sized jar of marinara sauce, as well as an 8 oz. bag of frozen spinach, defrosted and the liquid drained. I used two cloves garlic, minced and extra virgin olive oil to saute with. All of the cheese used came from an 8 oz. bag of the cheese combo described earlier. I used about 2 or 3 oz. of it to blend in to the ricotta mixture and the rest got sprinkled atop the manicotti. There were enough manicotti shells to make two layers, so I poured about 1/4 of the sauce on the bottom of the pan, then the first layer of manicotti, then another 1/4 on top, then the second layer, and finished off with the rest of the sauce. Then, sprinkled with the cheese and
covered with foil and into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. 
In the end, you’ll have a wonderful, zesty dish of manicotti. Even the boys liked it! Despite all the questions about spinach from drummer boy.

No More Chicken!!!

24 Jan

Yesterday, Hubby had offered to go get us some groceries. While ticking off a litany of foodstuffs, drummer boy emphatically remarked, “Whaaat!? No, no more chicken!” All I had done was to request a couple of those tasty (and convenient) roast chickens; which, by the way, hubby enjoys and said as much. When I explained, emphatically, that the chicken was necessary in that it provided me with innumeral ways of preparing meals for the coming week and that one of those meals might (if he was good) involve a taco-inspired rendition, he retreated, but not without a last disapproving headshake. Oh, if only Kaukab were here! 

Regardless, I have my chickens and they will afford me meals for the week, which will include: chicken tacos, chicken soup, with cannelini beans, spinach, and possibly a few chopped tomatoes in a chicken stock–still trying to figure out how and what to assemble. But, the one I know everyone will look forward to, including the chicken-repulsed one is this:

My Quick-Version Turkey Tettrazini (but, with chicken)


I had made this twice before–in the same week.  That’s how much they liked it. In fact, drummer boy had spent the night away from home (we knew where he was) the first time I had made it. I had saved him a bit, so when he had returned home and had tried it, he emphatically (not really) judged it as acceptable.

This pleased me, particularly because it was an easy win. By combining all the ingredients into the same casserole dish to be baked, it saved me time and effort.

Here’s what I did:

1/2 lb. dried thin spaghetti (could use penne or some other favorite of yours) broken into thirds–roughly (you may need a bit more, depending on the size of your baking dish–I used a med. round dish with about 2″ to 2 1/2″ depth, if that helps you any).

whole milk or half/half, or combination of, enough to cover the ingredients (I prefer whole milk, but I won’t mind if you use less than whole. It’s not like I’m going to tell Kaukab.)

1 small broccoli bunch–heads only, chopped into small pieces

breast meat, or any other part, of 1 roasting chicken, chopped into small pieces

8oz. cheddar or your favorite cheese, shredded

panko breadcrumbs, or any other you like

1/4 of stick unsalted butter

garlic salt–pinch


cayenne pepper-pinch

1/4C parmesean (to mix with breadcrumbs)

2 T. parsley, finely chopped (to mix with breadcrumbs), optional

1 T. flour

1/4 of small onion, finely chopped (I didn’t use, because I didn’t think of it, and the boys may have been displeased)

4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced (I didn’t use–see above)

Now, the east part. Set oven to 375 degrees.

While preheating:

Get your baking dish. Lightly rub the bottom and sides with some of the butter. Reserve for topping the casserole before putting in oven. Into the dish, dump your pasta, broccoli, chicken, onion and mushrooms (if you want to use). Pour the milk, or half/half, or combination of over this, until it more than covers, leaving about an inch from the top. With a whisk or fork, stir in flour (adding slightly more if it looks like you need), and sprinkle in pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic salt, and stir once more. 

Place in middle of oven, uncovered. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.  Check with spoon how much liquid remains, stirring to mix more. You should have slight amount of liquid. If still too liquid-y, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle top with breadcrumb mixture and dot with remaining butter, making sure to place enough butter dots about the surface area. Put on upper shelf and broil until forms a nice golden crust. Watch carefully.

Remove from oven. Let stand 5 or 10 minutes.

Serve to picky eaters, everywhere.

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