Friday Favorites – Build Your Own Pizza Night!

Full disclosure, I completely suck at meal planning and food prep. I scroll through my Instagram feed and have moments of borderline idolatry as I stare longingly at a week’s worth of protein bites, homemade casseroles, fruit salads, and perfectly proportioned snacks. If I can make it to the store on the weekend to buy enough food for lunches for the week, I typically chalk it up as a success. As much as I would love to get my act together enough to go into the week with a refrigerator full of containers with post-it notes of, “Preheat to 350 and bake for an hour,” I am yet to experience the joy of it.
Instead, each afternoon, I sort through the same habitual routine with my inner dialogue of What type of food sounds good? Mexican? No, we’ll have that this weekend. Italian? Maybe. Chinese? Better for a night that I don’t feel like cooking. We could do Sushi.
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So today, I am linking up with the lovely Katie and sharing one of my (Friday) Favorite solutions for a dinner that will leave everyone saying, “Please, Sir. I want some more.”
As a vegetarian living amongst a lot of meat eaters, I found that one of the best ways to solve the dinner dilemma is ‘Build Your Own Pizza Night.’ That way, each person can decide exactly which toppings they want right down to the marinara, barbeque, pesto, or Thai sauce.
Reader Question – What is your favorite go to dinner during the week?

Mama’s Manicotti

Hello and Happy Saturday! I am currently sitting in my robe, comfy on the couch, soaking up this long weekend! I wanted to quickly check in and share a recipe. I hope y’all enjoy!

On evening’s that Dan is scheduled to work late, I often have a bowl of cereal for dinner. Or, if I am feeling fancy, I will make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am all about the quick preparation and easy clean up. I fully intended to have this simple meal many nights this week and was pleasantly surprised when Dan texted me mid-week to let me know that he would be home by 7:30. Forget Frosted Mini Wheats. I decided to hurry to the store and pick up the ingredients for one of my all-time favorite meals, manicotti!

My mom is a pro at making manicotti and I have helped her prepare the dish many a times. Making it on my own was a different story. Let’s just say that I am glad she kept her phone handy as I called her 4 times throughout the process. The shells aren’t cooked. They will cook in the oven. Right? Right! The spinach is frozen. Should I cook it in the microwave? No, I will just run water on it and it will defrost. Right? Right!

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Miraculously, I successfully prepared the meal, included a side of garlic bread, and even a pan of brownies for dessert. If you have an hour to spare, I promise this dish is worth the time in the kitchen! Here is what you will need

1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
1 (8 ounce) package manicotti shells

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, egg, parsley, pepper, garlic powder, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Stuff uncooked manicotti shells with cheese and spinach mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until noodles are soft.

Reader Question – What is your signature dish?

Date Night!

Dan and I did something crazy this week. We went out to dinner on a work night. Okay, so I know that isn’t really all that crazy, but considering the fact that I am usually in my robe by 7:00 PM, or whenever we walk through the front door, it was definitely outside of our normal routine. I have to admit, it was fun to put on make-up, take the time to style my hair, and remind Dan what I look like in something other than yoga pants and a t-shirt.
ImageWe decided to go to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner. It’s only a couple blocks from our place, and I love the menu. For our appetizer, we shared the tortilla spring rolls, which we had never had before. Mighty tasty! I had pizza as my main course, but was obviously excited enough when dinner arrived that I forgot to take a picture.

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It was a beautiful night, so we skipped dessert at the restaurant and opted instead to walk to an ice cream shop down the street.

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We split, aka, I had ¾, of cake batter ice cream with gummy bears and snickers. And, it was so good that I have been craving seconds ever since.

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Reader Question: What is your favorite fun way to spend a weeknight?