Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Festivites, Manicotti & a Baking Disaster!!

A couple months ago I made a promise to Ava, that sometime this winter we would go night sledding.  Well, Friday night I made good on that promise.  We had our friends over for drinks and appetizers.  It was a nice evening…everyone had had a lot going on this previous week and it felt good to hang out with our best friends, vent a little and laugh a lot.  I had been thinking earlier in the evening that it might be a good night to do the sledding because it was going to be a full moon and it had been snowing for about 14 hours straight.  As it got dark I finally mentioned it to Ava.  Well, that set it off…of course we were going to do it!!  We tried to convince the Frasers to join us, but they had a sleepy girl so it was just us.  We bundled up, got in the car and headed over to the Regional Park and headed up the hill.  The girls just ran up, so excited for what was to come.  They weren't even scared that it was dark…the moon was hidden behind clouds, but let off a beautiful pinkish glow in the night.  Once at the top…Matt didn't even gave Ava a choice, he set her off down the hill.  Layla and I were right behind.  This hill is pretty steep and with all the fresh snow we flew down the hill.  There were squeals (mainly mine) and giggles and lots of "Let's go again!"  We convinced Matt that he could in fact ride on the little flying saucer with the girls so it was a continual trade…me going with Layla, then with Ava and so on.  We probably went up and down that hill a dozen times…Matt and I were soaked by the end (Neither of us were really dressed appropriately)  The snow would just fly up right at the girls faces, but they didn't care…they were all smiles.  It was refreshing…the beautiful night sky, the crisp air and the calm of being the only ones out.  There really is something about flying down a hill on a plastic object with snow spraying around you and the stars in the sky.  We came home happy, red cheeked and soaking wet!  It was a good farewell to the snow. (You hear that Winter…we said farewell, now go on and leave and give Spring a chance to visit!!)  
Earlier that day, after Ava was home from school, we continued our tradition of doing some sort of fun Friday activity with a tea party at home.  The snow storm that was happening out our door kept us indoors, cozy and happy.

Saturday was lovely…the sun was out in full force doing its best to melt all the snow.  There was water dripping everywhere and our attempt at a snow bunny for Easter melted away.  We died Easter eggs.  The girls have gotten so much more independent over the years with it…this year doing it all completely themselves.  They turned out beautiful.
That evening we continued the fun with a movie night for the girls (The took me back to the day!!)  and an at-home-date-night for Matt and I.  So, after popcorn and movie, Matt and I set off to make some homemade manicotti with a caramelized onion/fennel filling & marinara sauce.  We have done manicotti before and now that I know how much easier it is to make your own than try to fill the store bought once (and don't even get me started on how much better they taste) I have a whole new perspective on this pasta.  I was totally inspired a couple months ago at this fabulous restaurant in Missoula over this ravioli I had that I tried to replicate it for the filling for our manicotti.  It was all topped off with my marinara sauce and some wheat-herb baguettes and some wonderful CA pinot noir that Matt picked up.  One of the BEST date night meals we've had.  (and let me tell, we have good ones!!)

Manicotti Shells:
-Mix 2 cups flour, 2 cups water, pinch of salt and 6 eggs into a smooth batter.  Cook on a greased griddle, lightly on each side, then they are ready to fill
Manicotti Filling:
-Caramelize Onion & Fennel (heat around a 1/2 tbls butter and 1/2 tbls oil in a saute pan, add sliced onion and cook over medium around 10 min.  After that, lower heat, sprinkle with a little sea salt, sugar and fennel seeds...continue cooking stirring occasionally for around 40 minutes.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for the last few minutes.)
-Finely chop the caramelized mixtures, add to a bowl along with a container of ricotta, torn fresh basil, s&p and some shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well and use to fill the manicotti shells, roll and place seam side down in a casserole dish.  (pour a little of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan first.)  Pour the remainder of the marinara sauce all over the manicotti and sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan & mozzarella cheese.  Cook for around 30-35 minutes in a 350-degree oven
Marinara Sauce:
-Heat some olive oil in a large sauce pan.  Add some sliced onion (around 1/2 of an onion) and a couple cloves of crushed garlic.  Cook around 10 minutes.
-Add chopped carrots & celery (around 3/4 cup each) to the pan and cook for around 10 more minutes
-Add a large can of diced or crushed tomatoes, s&p, torn fresh basil & around 1 tsp of each dried oregano, basil, marjoram & sugar.  (add any other spices you like!)
-Simmer, uncovered for around 1 hour
manicotti) or keep it chunky & it's ready to go.  (my girls eat it a lot better if it's pureed)

After we stuffed ourselves with all that food it was time to play Easter bunny.  We filled eggs & baskets & hid them all throughout the house.  The girls woke up early so excited to see if the bunny had come, and to see if he had eaten the carrots they left for him!  (I was up before them, hiding some of the eggs out in the snow filled back yard!)  After all the work it took them less than an hour to go through their baskets and find all the eggs!

 We spent the afternoon at my parents house to continue the Easter celebration with Grandparents & my sisters family.  What a difference the sunshine the time we were there the snow had melted and the second Easter egg hunt of the day got to be outside in the sunshine!!

We enjoyed good company, good food (I made veggie grape yummy!!) and a lovely afternoon.  I was supposed to bring a dessert and had this recipe I wanted to try for macaroons.  They seemed perfect for Easter, light & airy & with some food coloring a nice spring color.  However, they did not turn out as planned....

I have NO idea what I did wrong!!  I re-read the recipe, didn't forget anything, they just fell apart.  The thing was they tasted really good.  So...what are ya gonna do??  Well...I took lemons (or in this case, crumbled cookies) & made lemonade (crumbled them all more, whipped up some brownies and sprinkled them on top)  This was not my finest dessert...but it worked and there was still a pretty Easter dessert.  (Luckily my sister also made a dessert and hers was soooo yummy!!)

The rest of this week will be full of party planning for Ava...I can't wait!!
Hope your Easter was fantastic!!!

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