an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

Cheater’s Ravioli

I’ve been finding some awesome ravioli recipes, but I haven’t even started to master making fresh pasta…so I needed a different way to try my ravioli recipes.

And then it came to me: I could stuff it into manicotti. And that is what this recipe is. It’s portobello mushroom manicotti. Instead of using any recipe I found online, I just made it up on the spot.

Here’s most of what you’ll need:

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I added a few things along the way (there was no real plan, I was completely improvising.), and, you’re obviously going to need some kind of pasta sauce (I used the pot of sauce I have in the fridge), but I’ll let you know what you’ll need.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

So, you’re gonna want to start a pot of water to cook the manicotti (this recipe will make more than enough for the entire box, if that’s what you’ll need. For two people, half the box will do. Go ahead and wash the mushrooms and let them drain in the sink while you chop the onion and garlic (I used 4 cloves) very finely. In a somewhat large pan, go ahead and start cooking the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil over medium heat, until they’re soft and the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, chop the mushrooms finely, adding them to the pan once the onions and garlic are soft. Add salt and pepper while the mushrooms are cooking, letting them go until they’re soft. Add the mushroom mix to a blender, including all the liquids in the pan, add a little heavy cream (or milk will work, too), and blend until at least somewhat smooth. It doesn’t have to be that smooth, there can be some texture to it. Fold the pureed mushroom and ricotta together until completely mixed.

When the water boils, cook the manicotti according to package directions, then drain. You’ll want to let them cool a little before handling them, and you’ll probably be working on other things while that happens anyway. Go ahead and put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Once they’re cool, unless you have a pastry bag, you can split them down the middle, so they can lay flat, and fill them with the mushroom-ricotta filling before rolling them back up. If you have a pastry bag, or know some other, brilliant way of filling manicotti, leave them whole and fill them. Also, if you know some other brilliant way of filling them, you should let me know.

If you do it my way, they’ll look like this when you’re done filling them:

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Cover them with another layer of sauce. If you want to, add a layer of mozzarella over the sauce, but I didn’t because I ran out of cheese (which is a total crime in our household). Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered if you don’t have cheese, but I’d cover it if you add cheese for the first 15 minutes at least.

And, enjoy!

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I know I sure did.

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Salted Caramel Sauce

There are times to twist things, and times to leave well enough alone. This was one of those times. I knew that this was one of those recipes that I had no idea what to do with in the first place, so I left well enough alone. Now that I made it, I think I’ll add less salt next time. It was good, but a little too salty for me (and almost nothing is too salty for me).

 

There are so few ingredients that there’s really nothing to tweak. Butter, sugar, cream and salt. I love simple recipes with easy ingredients. This kind of thing makes me really happy. When you get too many ingredients, you really start to lose me, because I want things done as simply as possible. Super-complicated recipes just make me want to modify them really badly. This one, as simple as it was, needed no tweaks.

 

Because this is one of those recipes where you have to constantly stir, I didn’t get to take as many pictures as I wanted to, but this is just the melted sugar as it cooks to the right color. It smelled wonderful, let me tell you that. When you add the sugar and the butter, the recipe told me that it would “bubble up.” What it didn’t mention was that when it bubbles, it’s also steaming, and steam is dangerous when you don’t expect it. So if you decide to try this, expect the steam and keep your hands as out of the way as possible.

This is the loveliest part. Letitng it cool to transfer it to its container. All I wanted to do was try it, but, obviously, it was too hot for that. Knowing that I needed to let it cool was pretty much torture, because caramel is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

The finished product. And it is as good as it smelled. I’ve been using it on ice cream lately, because it it definitely ice cream season around here. I’m definitely thinking I won’t be buying caramel sauce again!

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S’more Cookies

This is another snack for my hubby. Because I seriously don’t like marshmallows, and he loves them. He really, really loves them. In fact, I bought the bag of mini-marshmallows for this project and I almost didn’t get to do it because he just sat there and ate them! But I saved enough to do this one

You can see what my husband likes to snack on, right? (the open marshmallows and chocolate chips should be a clue!) This is definitely one of those recipes that doesn’t need much in terms of stuff or work, and that is always nice for me. It was easy, just laying everything out and getting it into the oven.

This is where I veered off the recipe and tried my own thing. I thought, if I used the broiler, it would go quicker, and the marshmallows would get that pretty golden brown color that we all love. I was so wrong. I put them in and cleaned everything up and wanted to check something on my computer really quick, less than 5 minutes, really, and when I popped open the oven to check them, there was fire. (No, really, literal fire) Once I got the fire put out, this is what I was left with:

Lesson learned: marshmallows and broilers are a bad combination. The chocolate didn’t even attempt to melt and the marshmallows turned into little charcoal puffs. My house smelled like smoke for the next two days, even with the fan running and the porch door open (I hate that there is no way to have real air currants through the house!)

I did try again. Not that day (I was too annoyed to try again), but a few days later, I did it again, this time following the directions. With much, much better results.

Here’s what they should look like toasting in the oven. They got all round and very lightly brown before I pulled them out this time, instead of pulling live flames from the oven. And the chocolate was melty, but not too much. I could still see some individual chips after they were assembled.

I tried to coat them in chocolate like in the recipe, but I have never been very good with that. My chocolate ended up not melting very well and not coating the cookies. So one got thrown away in failure, but the rest are wrapped and waiting to be eaten!

 

The moral of this story is that, sometimes, following the directions is the best idea ever!

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Energy Bars

My husband goes through Chewy Bars like they’re going out of style. And really, they’re not good for you. So when I saw this, I knew I had to make them for him. Now, generally, I’ll make a recipe just the way it is if he’s the only one eating it, but this recipe calls for coconut, and he is not a fan. So nix the coconut for me. Here’s what I used:

The peanut butter is crunchy, and instead of honey, I used Agave Nectar, which I found out you can use in place of honey with exact measurements. (I used the Agave nectar because I was curious about it, and also because I couldn’t find honey at the grocery store. it’s moments like that when moving across the country sucks!) As I went along, I added more things in, but I’ll get to those later on.

I mixed everything together as instructed in the recipe, and then realized that it wasn’t as cohesive as it should be because I’d used the crunchy peanut butter. So I pulled out the creamy and added a spoonful to make up for all the extra peanuts that got added. While I was in the cabinet, I noticed the dried fruit mix that was in there as well, so I grabbed it and added a handful to add something that would help keep him fed in the mornings. And then added more peanut butter to make sure everything was sticking together.

Now, instead of making them into balls, I decided on making bars, because he’s going to be taking these with him to work and it’s way easier to transport them that way for him, plus it’s the more familiar version, and he likes familiarity. So I spread them in a loaf pan lined with tin foil and let them set up overnight (because I didn’t want to finish them that day and I really didn’t need to. The next day I cut them easily into bars and wrapped them individually for him, so he could grab one and go. Here’s the finished product:

 You’ll notice I labeled them “granola bars” even though that’s not technically true, mostly because he calls everything in that form “granola bars.” They’ve been taste-tested and approved of by him, so this will probably end up being a weekly recipe, with tweaks along the way to make sure they don’t get boring.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

OK, so, Cream of Mushroom Soup. This is something I’ve always seem come from can , and usually cooked with chicken and rice. SO why no make it myself? I thought it sounded like a good idea and I turned to my go-to online recipe file allrecipes for an easy cream of mushroom soup recipe and found the one from the picture. Go, take a look at the recipe, than come back for the twists. I’ll wait, I promise.

So now that you’ve seen the super-simple recipe, I’ll tell you what I did and what was different. First, I discovered that I had no chicken stock that wasn’t frozen…oops. And I don’t have chicken bouillon cubes, so I used beef instead. And I didn’t have thyme (although I did have plenty of time). I’m terrible, I know, ignore the bad jokes.

I followed the directions (with the changes above), and added two cloves of garlic (because I have a total love affair with garlic).

There’s everything boiling away in the pot, getting nice and soft together in the improvised beef stock. I also had a brilliant idea while the mushrooms were cooking down to use my immersion blender to get everything blended together, but I don’t recommend it. It really, really didn’t work out for me. I ended up still needing to use my actual blender.

It looks pretty bad, right? It’s just about one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Now, when it came to making the roux, I had about half a sick of butter in the fridge, so I decided to use 4 tbsp of butter instead of 3…and initially i stuck with the original amount of flour, too, but ended up adding another tbsp to make up the difference. This made my soup a lot more thick than it was supposed to be, and I’ll tell you how I fixed that later.

Roux is something I’m still learning, so I have no idea if that looks right (someone can let me know, ok?), but it seemed about right, so I added the milk (forgot the half-half) and the pureed mushroom mix back into the pot to cook again.

I mixed it together and realized that it was super-super thick. Like, way, way too thick. So I added more milk. And I didn’t measure, because I’m terrible at measuring. But I got it down to a thinner consistency and let it thicken up a little bit again until it looked (and tasted) good. I was also adding the salt and pepper and a little bit of garlic powder to get the taste back to what I wanted. This is where I ended up:

This made two pints of soup (more than I would use soon) and it’s not the pretties thing in the world, but it came out tasty and it’ll go nice with my chicken and rice tomorrow night.

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