Monday, September 27, 2010

"Waste Not"

In deciding what to make for last night's meal, I inquisitively scanned my pantry for "ideas"...ideas based on what ingredients I already had in my possession.  I saw an unopened box of manicotti, which was left over from a huge Italian family dinner, as well as the knowledge that I had tons of frozen Italian sausage and fresh Ricotta cheese left over as well.  I then went to the Internet and searched  for a recipe of "Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti" and I found one that was not only easy to prepare, but delicious at the same time.  Giovanni yelled, "Mama - I LOVE IT!...This gets a HUGE thumbs-up from me!  Sophia and Giovanni both had two helpings as did their Daddy.  He quoted that this was "really" good!

I had a comforting feeling as I prepared this meal knowing that we were utilizing what we had in our cupboards and refrigerator, rather than allowing it to go unused, which sometimes tends to happen.  I am always attempting to make the children aware of how we should not waste, and how we need to remember how blessed we are.  Blessed with the ability to buy food, the blessing of shelter and family, and blessed with our health.  That awareness went into each step of preparation for this meal, and we mentioned it in our blessing beforehand.

We are closing in on September and we have roughly $85.00 in our jars.  We are going to donate to Families Forward this month since they are so wonderfully successful in helping families that are experiencing struggle of many sorts.  If every family who is blessed with good fortune were to donate something to a family less fortunate, I am convinced that it would make a difference.  It leaves a mark on some one's soul when they know that they are cared about in perhaps their lowest moments.  I believe that such an experience is never forgotten, rather remembered forever.  Often times, it is the catalyst to a future good deed by the one that was helped in the first place.  For instance, on a recent date night with my husband, he mentioned that he had bought a homeless person on the street a hamburger while on a business trip.  He said, "You know, Jenn, honestly I don't know if I would have stopped to take the time to do that before this blog.  You have me thinking about it!"  To which I replied, "Honey, I love that!  And to think of how he was once some one's newborn...what is his story?  What happened during his life to which led to his homelessness?"  Joe replied, "You know, that is a good point...the next time I do that, maybe I'll sit down and have a conversation with that person."  That made my heart smile.  Sure, if one is intoxicated and obliterated, or mentally ill on the streets, sitting down and having a conversation is not going to be productive or perhaps "safe", but there are many that are sober and hungry and lost.  Caring about another goes much farther than our eyes can see.

Here is the recipe for you all to enjoy:

"Laurie's Stuffed Manicotti"

1 lb. mild bulk pork sausage (For all the vegetarians, you can simply skip this ingredient and it would still be delightful!)
2 (15 oz.) cans Hunt's Italian tomato sauce
1 ( 6 oz.) can Hunt's tomato paste
1/4 c. water
1/2 TBSP. packed light brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. parsley flakes
12 manicotti noodles, cooked, rinsed, and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, brown sausage, drain.  Remove half of sausage, set aside.  Stir tomato sauce, paste, water and brown sugar into sausage, simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine remaining sausage, ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, egg and parsley.

In a 9x13x2 inch baking dish, pour 1/3 of sauce mixture.  Stuff manicotti noodles with ricotta mixture and place on top of sauce.  Pour remaining sauce over stuffed noodles.  Top with remaining mozzarella, sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Courageous Souls"

"Courage" is a word that often describes one's attempt at something frightening or uncomfortable.  However, it also describes one's heart or one's soul.  I have been blessed to know many courageous people in my of which is our dear friend, Paul Snyder.  He is the most loving, generous, and compassionate soul. He endured a horrible bicycle accident three and a half years ago that left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.  He has had numerous setbacks due to extreme pain and complication -- something that as he puts it, "...just goes along with every spinal cord injury."  He is optimistic and is married to "Sally Lou" whom I admire and love more than words can express.  These two individuals are the epitome of friendship and love.  Both Paul and Sally are true humanitarians who have been involved in so many philanthropic endeavors.  The world needs more like them for sure!  I pray for Paul's recovery and I have had several dreams that vividly show him walking again.  For those of you that know me, I have been known to have many a "psychic moment", so I choose to believe that this will happen.  I pray for it often.

I also pray for those miners trapped in Chile.  My friend (and overly-generous contributor to this blog project), Nancy, shared the story with me of what these men have endured.  I make it a point not to read the newspaper because it is depressive and pessimistic all around...not how I like to begin my day! Nancy is another one that exemplifies a gorgeous human spirit!  I just knew that when she met Paul and Sally, they would just hit it off!  Nancy called me after a recent get-together, where Paul and Sally were also present, and she said, "I just LOVED them!"  I do not believe that anyone would ever say otherwise.   Those poor miners in the caves of Chile must be so scared, and I am praying that they have the courage to believe in their rescue and survival...thank God that they are alive, and I just hope that the heroes involved in the rescue attempts also allow their courage to prevail!

If only each and every one of the fortunate individuals on this planet could be courageous enough to trust that when one gives, they receive so much in return.  It is as if God just opens your heart and douses it with love -- it is a great feeling.  And, I truly believe that the reason it feels so good is because it is exactly how He wants it.  God's greatest gift is the ability to love and care for others.  Sorry for any atheists or agnostics out there -- obviously we will disagree on this point, but I invite you to put it to the test -- what do you have to lose?

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup pesto
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 medium-size green pepper, seeded & chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tube (18 oz.) prepared polenta, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 14)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian-blend cheese
4 cups chopped radicchio
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the beans, 2 Tablespoons of the pesto, onion, green pepper and Italian seasoning.  Place half of bean mixture in bottom of slow cooker.  Layer half of polenta slices over top, pour 1/4 cup chicken broth over polenta then sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese.  Repeat layering one more time.  Cover and cook for 2 hours on HIGH or 4 1/2 hours on LOW.

2.  Stir together remaining 2 Tablespoons pesto and remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth.  Pour pesto mixture into slow cooker, add radicchio and gently stir to combine.  Place tomato slices on top and continue cooking for another 30 minutes on HIGH or LOW.  Serve immediately. 
(Makes 8 servings).