Easy Manicotti with Italian Sausage

Easy Manicotti with Italian Sausage

Pasta. Sauce. Sausage. Baked. Four of my favorite words. This is my take on a recipe from The Recipe Critic. Manicotti is typically meatless, but I had a pound of Italian sausage and thought why not?! Enjoy some baked comfort food!


  • 10 manicotti
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage (optional)
  • 16 ounce ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 jar (16 oz) marinara sauce
  • fresh basil, for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, brown the Italian sausage until thoroughly cooked. Drain grease and add marinara sauce. Mix well and set aside.
  1. Cook the manicotti according to package directions and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta, one cup of mozzarella cheese, parmesan, spinach (optional), Italian seasoning, and egg.
  1. In a 9×13″ pan,  add 1 cup of marinara sauce and sausage mixture to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture. Piping bags work great to fill the shells if you have them on hand, but if you don’t, I find that placing the filling in a large Ziploc bag and snipping a small corner of the bag works great to fill the shells. Line the bottom of the pan with the manicotti in an even layer over the sauce mixture. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
  1. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.
Set and Forget Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Chicken and Vegetables

Set and Forget Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Chicken and Vegetables

It’s fall and the cool weather and busy schedules have me pulling out all of the favorite slow cooker recipes. This one checks all the boxes: full of flavor, total meal in one pot, set and forget. This recipe is adapted from a Crock Pot Creamy Ranch Chicken and Potatoes recipe from Wishes and Dishes.


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs (I use frozen when I’m in a pinch sometimes and this recipe still turns out great!)
  • 1 small bag petite red potatoes, whole
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and cut
  • 3 ribs of celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet dry ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • fresh thyme, for garnish


  1. Spray a 6-7 quart crock pot/slow cooker with non-stick spray OR use a plastic liner.
  2. Place cut vegetables and potatoes in the bottom of crockpot. Layer chicken on top of the vegetables.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream of chicken and mushroom soups, dry ranch dressing mix, heavy whipping cream, and milk. Pour this mixture evenly over the chicken. Place butter on top.
  1. Cover crock pot and cook on HIGH heat for about 4-5 hours OR on LOW heat for 7-8. All crock pots cook at different rates so be sure the chicken is cooked through.
  2. Top with fresh thyme if desired.
Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

I had a bunch of eggplant left after making ratatouille for the first time and thought what better dinner to make than eggplant parmesan? So here is a great eggplant parmesan recipe from Love & Lemons. The baked eggplant is so good right of the oven some of it didn’t even make it into the baking dish. I just might have to make some for a snack sometime without sauce and cheese!


  • 2 large eggplant, cut into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt, more for sprinkling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 28 ounces Marinara Sauce (I prefer tomato basil, but any variety will do)
  • 2 large balls fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized shallow dish, whisk the eggs and milk.
  1. In another medium-sized shallow dish, combine the panko, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
  2. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture and then into the panko mixture. Place onto the baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 18 minutes or until tender and golden brown.
  1. In an 8×12 or 9×13-inch baking dish, spread ½ cup marinara, layer half the eggplant, and top with 1 cup of marinara and half the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, the remaining marinara, and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a few more pinches of sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted. Turn the oven to broil and broil for 2 to 4 or until the cheese is browned and bubbling.
  1. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil.
Classic Ratatouille

Classic Ratatouille

Well, you’ve seen the movie, so now it’s time to make the dish. I wasn’t too sure about this one, but decided it was time to finally attempt this one. I’m SO glad I did! I found this recipe from Tasty. I went with this recipe because of the rave reviews and it did not disappoint! Find yourself a little rat chef to place under your hat, chop up these awesome vegetables, and get cooking!



  • 2 eggplants
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchini


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves

Herb Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  2. Slice the eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini into approximately ¹⁄₁₆-inch (1-mm) rounds, then set aside.
  1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove from heat, then add the basil. Stir once more, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.
  1. Arrange the sliced veggies in alternating patterns, (for example, eggplant, tomato, squash, zucchini) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Make the herb seasoning: In a small bowl, mix together the basil, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Spoon the herb seasoning over the vegetables.
  2. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  3. Serve while hot as a main dish or side. The ratatouille is also excellent the next day–cover with foil and reheat in a 350˚F oven for 15 minutes, or simply microwave to desired temperature.
Nugget Dupe Just in Time for Christmas!

Nugget Dupe Just in Time for Christmas!

If you’re a mom of a child of any age, you’ve likely heard this, “Mom! Mom! Can I PLEASE have a Nugget?! They’re SO fun!”. I’m all for toys that use their imagination, let them climb and play, can be used for multiple things, and don’t take batteries, but $300 for cushions is hard to justify or wrap my mind around.

I searched and searched for several years for great dupes, but all of them were nearly the cost of a Nugget with horrible reviews or the colors were just so awful they would look terrible in any space, so I gave up. I was adding something to my Kohl’s cart one day when an ad popped up for the Yourigami Folding Convertible Kids and Toddler Play Couch. I was shocked that the colors would go great in any space and the cushions looked very similar to the style and size of the Nugget. But, what were the reviews like? The reviews were great and the cushions have removable covers. SCORE! The price? $259 (the price of an original Nugget), but there was a 40% off sale using a Kohl’s card and an extra $10 off a Home purchase. This brought the total down to $149.40 before tax with free shipping. Done deal!

The package arrived right to our door in a compact package and when left out the cushions bounce back and reshape over a few days. This price I can live with! The kids will love this for Christmas and we’ll get a lot of use with much less guilt than the hefty price of a Nugget.

While the 40% off sale is over, they’re bound to have one again and there is currently a Black Friday sale making the sale price of this convertible couch $169.99 and a code may be used for an additional 15% off (SAVE15), $5 off in store pickup option, as well as receiving $30 Kohl’s cash making the total $110.24.