Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Eggplant Manicotti Recipe

*** If you've found this site via Pinterest, Welcome! I encourage you to take a look at the rest of this blog to find more posts about clean eating, healthy choices, exercise, and most I've been learning to find love and happiness for myself. Enjoy the recipe! =) ***

I love food...this should be a well known fact by now if you've been reading this blog at all.  I love cooking, I love eating, I love trying new things, most of all I love how food has a tendency to bring people together.  For good or bad, food is a comfort for many of us.

When my grandmother passed away people brought food to the funeral home for my family to eat.  When my grandfather passed away people brought food to my grandmothers home.  When my mother had surgery people brought food to my parents house.  When I've been sick friends have brought food to my apartment for me so I didn't have to cook when not feeling well.  Finally when a good friend of mine had her first child her fridge was so full of food she literally didn't have to go shopping or out to eat for over a month!  Let's face it, when something happens to someone we have a tendency to bring them food to help.  I see nothing wrong with this, as a matter of fact I think that it can be a huge help sometimes.

I also know that I can only eat so many casseroles before they go bad though.  This is why I have been trying to work on a meal that would freeze well for situations like this so that the individual can just freeze it and pull it out when they have eaten all the other dishes.  I wanted it to be healthy too, so no cream of ick soup in it at all!!!  Also I wanted to make something so on those lazy days when I just don't feel like cooking I can just toss it in the oven and have dinner!  (Yes I can be super lazy when I want to be! lol)

So I decided to tweak a recipe I found in Rocco DiSpirito's cookbook, "Now Eat This!".  I made the dish larger (to feed more people), and added a bit more too it since I felt like it needed some protein.  So I'm sharing with you my adapted recipe for Eggplant Manicotti which I think it pretty amazing!  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!  =)

Eggplant Manicotti
 8 Servings

2 Large Eggplants
2 Cups Ricotta (You can also use cream cheese, or cottage cheese if you can't get ricotta or don't like it.)
1 Cup Parmesan
1 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
1 Jar Pasta Sauce (I jazz up jar sauce with a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 2 minced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of dried onion.  This is totally optional though!)
1 lbs. Ground Beef (You could also use ground turkey for a leaner option)
1.5 Cups Mozzarella
Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and spray 2 baking sheets with non-stick spray.
  • Cut off the ends of each eggplant and then slice lengthwise into 8 slices about 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Lay the eggplant slices in one layer onto the prepared baking sheets.
  • Season the eggplant with salt and pepper and either spray with non-stick spray or sprinkle with a light coating of oil.
  • Roast the eggplant in the oven until tender, approximately 20 minutes.  ***Note that if your slices are not equally thick some may roast faster than others so pull thin slices out before they burn!***
  • Once the eggplant is roasted allow it to cool, outside the oven, slightly while you prepare the filling and sauce.  (Leave the oven on if you are not planning to freeze this meal for later!)
  • Brown ground beef in a skillet, and drain fat once cooked.
  • Add pasta sauce to beef and allow to heat together.
  • Combine the ricotta, 1/2 Cup of the Parmesan, and the basil in a bowl.  Season this mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  (You could also add the meat to this mixture rather than the sauce if you want, but it does thin out your cheese mixture.)
  • Place one third of the sauce on the bottom of a 8"x11" baking dish and spread it out.
  • Lay a roasted eggplant slice on a work surface and spoon some of the cheese mixture onto the bottom of it.  Roll up the slice encasing the filling in the eggplant.
  •  Place the completed roll seam side down into the baking dish on top of the sauce.
  • Repeat for all pieces of eggplant and then cover with the remaining sauce.
  • Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the mozzarella cheese.
Yes, this is more cheese on top than the recipe states...I have a thing for cheese.

At this point you can cover and freeze the dish for you to finish cooking later, or to give for someone to finish.

To finish cooking bake at 450 degrees till the cheese and filling are bubbly and warm.  About 30-45 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Never Stop Feeling

Life is hard...

Why does no one tell you this when you are 10 and think that the fact that the kid that sits behind you in class and tugs on your hair is the most difficult thing you will ever have to deal with.  Or when you're 15 and think that when your parents tell you, you can't go out with your friends till you finish your homework it's them being "so unfair".  Or when you're 18 and you ask a guy to go to Prom with you and he turns you down leaving you to go alone.  Or when you're in your 20's and your first real relationship ends and you think the world is ending.  Why does no one tell you that there are things in this world that will be more difficult to deal with than those.  Or if they do tell you, why don't you believe them?

Along the same lines, why does no one tell you how wonderful things can get too?  And again, if they do, why do we insist on not believing them?

Right now as most of you know from reading previous posts, and from talking to me personally, things are really hard for me.  Everything from being sick, to stressing over money, to family and social life issues are challenging my resilience.  Honestly there are days I just cry...and I'm not talking about little woe is me tears.  I'm talking big crocodile, I can't breathe, my nose is a faucet, ugly tears.  As much as I hate that, I know that the alternative is not feeling anything and shutting down, and that scares me more than the tears.  I know that as long as I am crying, I'm still feeling, and even if I don't like to feel that way if I'm still feeling I'm alive.

This week, September 10-14, is National Suicide Prevention week here in the United States.  This week I am being reminded of how things could have been so different for me...and my friends and family.

Some people are going to find this post particularly difficult to read, because it's not something that I openly share or talk about.  It's also not something that I hide or am ashamed of either.  It's something I need to say though.

I have attempted suicide.

I obviously failed in my attempts or I wouldn't be telling this story now.  The fact is that there is such a stigma associated with mental health that I don't share this information openly.  I sometimes feel that people would judge me, and look down on me if they knew that I have demons that I battle with.  I've learned though that by remaining silent I am not being myself...I'm also not helping others who are struggling know that they are not alone.

I won't go into great detail about the how and why of my attempts (and yes there has been more than one), because to be honest that isn't the import part of why I am sharing this.  I decided that I wanted to study Psychology I think because I wanted to understand myself.  I wanted to know why I go through times where I just feel like I can't handle one more thing in my life.  I wanted to understand if there was some magic link that would appear telling me that I felt this way, because of some mysterious part of the brain we have yet to understand.  I wanted an answer.  The fact is that in studying Psychology I ended up with more questions about myself than answers.  The brain still is very much a mystery, and even though we may understand some of it, we will never fully understand it since everyone's is different.

For me when I attempted suicide the main thing I wanted was to stop the pain and overwhelming feelings I was having.  I didn't want to feel anymore.  I've learned though that without those overwhelming feelings, without that horrible pain and sadness, I wouldn't understand the good emotions I have too.  All the happiness, pride, and love I have had and will continue to have in my life.

Life is hard, but life is amazing too.

Anyone in education is familiar with a bell curve.  That's the old belief that the distribution of grades should resemble a bell shape with a few A's and F's, a few more B's and D's, and the most students receiving a C.  In academics I've never liked this, but for an emotional life cycle I do.  I think that there are highs and lows and you have to get through the lows before you can get to the highs, and there are always going to be both in life.  Sometimes the lows are really low, and sometimes the highs are really high, but they balance each other out eventually and then you end up in the middle section of contentment.

Everything in my life is not perfect, it never will be.  I will always look back at that kid in school who tugged on my hair and think, "why did I think that was the most difficult thing I would ever have to deal with?  I'd go back there in a minute!"  I will always think that as I get older things get more difficult.  I know though that they don't, they are just different, and sometimes different is good, and sometimes it isn't.

One thing I do know for certain though.  Although I may feel like I want the pain to end again, and want the overwhelming feelings to go away.  I will NEVER go back to the place where I feel like ending my life is the solution.  I know I have friends and family that love me, and will help me in any way that they can.  The thought that I almost left them before my time was up, because of temporary problems pains me.  I couldn't bare leaving them with that kind of pain.  It's been years since I last attempted, and I know now that everyday I wake up is a gift I almost took away from myself.

Everyday you wake up you're one step closer to things getting better, just hang on.  <3

Wednesday, September 12, 2012