Friday, November 27, 2015

Funny Friday: Get In There

Today’s post is November’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.
 
Funny Friday | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Here’s today’s picture. It was submitted by Confessions of a part-time working mom
 
Funny Friday: A monthly collaboration. One picture, five captions | picture contributed by Confessions of a part-time working mom | www.BakingInATornado.com
 
 
1. Wife to husband: Where did you go to buy this spaghetti, up the beanstalk? 
 
2. Spaghetti to the cook: Hey, you promised me a nice hot bath. I'm gonna need a bigger tub. And where's the shampoo?

3. Hubs mumbling to himself: Make spaghetti, she said. It's simple, she said. Just drop it in the boiling water, she said . . .

4. Hubs still mumbling to himself: Oh, I get it. First I cook this side, then I turn it around and cook the other side. But wait, how do I get the middle?

5. Hubs, scratching his head and still mumbling to himself: I know, I bet it just sinks into pot as it softens. Yeah, that's it! And it's done when it's all in there. Perfect. I'll just stand here and wait.
 
Speaking of spaghetti:
 
 
 
Hearty Meat Sauce for a hot and filling spaghetti dinner. Developed to have a bit of a kick to it, but the heat can easily be toned down. This chunky meat sauce can be made stove-top or in a slow cooker. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Hearty Meat Sauce
Stove-top or Slow Cooker
  
Hearty Meat Sauce for a hot and filling spaghetti dinner. Developed to have a bit of a kick to it, but the heat can easily be toned down. This chunky meat sauce can be made stove-top or in a slow cooker. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

Someone Else's Genius
 Confessions of a part-time working mom
 The Momisodes
 Spatulas on Parade
The Bergham Chronicles

Baking In A Tornado | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


 Hearty Meat Sauce (Stove Top or Slow Cooker)
                                                      ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
1 can chopped tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 oz)
2 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
2 cans tomato paste (12 oz)
1/2 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
1 TBSP salt
3 TBSP sugar
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped onions

1 TBSP butter or margarine
1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 green pepper, cleaned and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

2# hamburg
1# hot sausage
 
Directions:
*Place the first 15 ingredients into a large pot on medium or a large slow cooker on high.
*In a skillet, melt the butter or margarine. Add the mushrooms, green pepper and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Add to the sauce in the pot.
*In the same skillet, cook the hamburg and hot sausage until completely cooked through. Drain well and add to the sauce in the pot. Stir well.
*Slow Cooker: Cook on high for one hour, reduce to low and cook for 3 to 4 hours, stirring about once an hour.
*Stove-top: Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every half hour.
*Remove the bay leaves and serve sauce over pasta of your choice. Leftovers freeze well. I use this sauce for my lasagna also.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Survival of the Fittest


 Two weeks ago some friends and I published a monthly Blog With Friends post based on the theme of Family. My friend Melissa's contribution was a very funny guide called How to Survive the Family Holiday Season Without Going Nuts. With her permission, today I'm posting a follow up to her post, but in the form of a challenge.

I asked a number of blogging friends for their advice, hints or tips on how to survive the holidays. It could be serious, it could be humorous, but there was a catch. It had to be said in just one sentence.  

What we ended up with is a great mix. Some thoughtful insight, some comic relief. We have general seasonal advice and some holiday specific tips. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed collecting them.

Survival of the Fittest: many bloggers share tips, suggestions, hints and advice on how to survive the holiday season . . . all in one sentence | www.BakingInATornado.com | #humor #blogging #holiday

Carol of Never Ever Give Up Hope
Hire a housekeeper the day before.

Alexandra from Fun and Fit:
Take a 20 minute nap or go for a walk around the block when you get overwhelmed, whether from chores or people.

Minette of Southern Belle Charm
Book a cruise on the 23rd of December and be gone until the 2nd of January.

Ali from Ali Davies:
Set strong boundaries for yourself and others that protect what is most important and how you want things to be. 

Bernadette of Rants From My Crazy Kitchen:
Drink, regularly, and in copious amount.


Tamara of Fitknit Chick:
Congratulate yourself for what you manage to accomplish rather than chastise yourself for the things you didn't.

Valerie of Midlife-A-Go-Go:
Eating is not an Olympic sport; take the time to chew your food thoroughly because it aids in digestion and you won't be swallowing giant lumps of food that will sit in your stomach like lead balls.


Carol of Carol Cassara:
Pick ONE event to spend with family, either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; on the other day, do exactly what you want, whether it's hanging with hubby at home, going out to dinner or just having Christmas snacks all day. 

Erin of Searching for Sanity
When in doubt, ask yourself "What would Martha Stewart do?" then do the exact opposite.

Mary of Deep South Dish (and author of the cookbook by the same name):
Do as much of the prep work as you can in advance: chop and tightly store veggies in the fridge, toast and crumb breads for stuffing, prep macaroni and shred cheese. 


Spiced Pie With Pecans, a Pecan Pie with some new flavors and kicked up a notch | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert

Spiced Pie With Pecans
Spiced Pie With Pecans, a Pecan Pie with some new flavors and kicked up a notch | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert





Dawn of Spatulas on Parade
Delegate: for example if everyone is to bring a dish and you can't stand Aunt A's potato salad but she insists on bringing that, ask her to make a specific dish you do like and if there is none, tell her you "NEED" her to bring . . . soda, tea, cups, whatever.

Rena of Rena's World
If you don't like what's on the menu, Waffle House is open!

Michelle of Neverland Without a GPS
Three gifts per person because that's what Jesus got and it's his birthday.

Kelli G (a Facebook friend):
Drink up.

Lisa of Tweenior Moments
Online shopping!

Diane of On The Alberta/Montana Border
It may not be easy, but fill it with family and visiting, games and food. 

Robin of Someone Else's Genius
Avoid eye contact; staring makes people uncomfortable.


 Mary of Deep South Dish (and author of the cookbook by the same name):
Take the pressure off the host: we all share in the cooking and bring our favorite dish to my son's house.


And here's mine:
When the going gets tough, the tough pack a bag and get going.


I hope you were able to find something in this post to relate to, whether it was inspiration or amusement. This time of year we can all benefit from both. If you have a tip of your own to add, leave it for me in the comments.

I'm grateful for all of my readers, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. If you need me over the next few days I'll be at home cooking and baking and putting every one of these golden nuggets of advice to good use.

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Spiced Pie With Pecans
                                                                        ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
1 (9 inch) pie shell
1/2 cup butterscotch baking chips
4 TBSP butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup spiced rum
1 TBSP vanilla rum
1 TBSP orange liqueur
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves

OPT: Whipped cream for serving

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Melt butterscotch baking chips. It's best to microwave them in 20 second intervals at 50% power, stirring well in between microwaving so they don't seize.
*Whisk together melted baking chips, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, both rums, orange liqueur, and salt. Once incorporated, whisk in the beaten eggs.
*Mix in the chopped pecans. Pour mixture into the pie shell.
*Decorate the top of the pie with the pecan halves.
*Bake for 30 minutes, tent with tin foil and bake another 20 to 30 minutes or until the center is just set. Allow to cool.
*Serve with whipped cream. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fly on the Wall: Grocery Store Woes

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 11 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.

Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics



I'm sorry to admit that a fly on the wall would have seen me yelling at my grocery list this week. I keep my list online, then print it out when I go to the store. I know people keep them on their cells, but I'm a dinosaur and this is what works for me.

I had tobasco (as in sauce) on the list this week. But the document kept auto correcting me so every time I went in to review the list or add something to it through the week, I'd see that I had tobacco on the list. I'd correct it, but without fail my correction was overridden.

I printed the list, and as I was heading out the door my family saw me looking at the list and screaming "tobasco, damn you, tobasco. I do not want tobacco, I want tobasco."

Since they're all {{ahem}} pretty used to me. They seemed to take my little outburst in stride.



Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


And, since we're questioning my sanity, in the grocery store last week I may have been standing in the aisle looking at my list and laughing. Why? My list told me to. 

I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I typed up my list, but I was making my way through the store grabbing items, putting it into my cart and then checking what's next. I had just put the orange juice in the cart and was checking the next item, when this is what I saw on the list:

soda
milk
heavy cream
orange juice
LOL
eggs
paper towels

Sometimes you just gotta stand in the grocery aisle and laugh, I guess.


Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Let me start this story by saying that I am not and never claimed to be a food expert.

I had an idea for a recipe earlier in the month and went to the store for the ingredients so I could try it out.

I could not find one of the ingredients, Pumpkin Seeds. I circled the store once; the baking section, the nuts section, the healthy foods section. Nothing. In one of the sections I found pepitas. They look similar to pumpkin seeds so if I had to, I'd take them home and see what they taste like before trying another store.

A store worker saw me and offered to check the back room. He found pumpkin seeds but they were in the shell. No way.

Circled the store one more time and nope, didn't miss them the first time around, I couldn't find them. I decided to go with Plan B and buy the pepitas and see what they taste like before looking further.

I came home and Googled "pepitas". Imagine my surprise when I found out that pepitas is spanish for Pumpkin Seeds. And how stupid I felt when I realized that if I had the brains to google them in the store I could have saved myself two laps around that place.


Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

I mention often, in these Fly posts, the fun or funny or interesting or even famous follows I get on social media. This one really took me by surprise. I mean, who knew that Leonardo DiCaprio was even aware of who I am, let alone be following me on twitter.

Lenardo-di-CRAPio twitter follow. Some people have way too much time on their hands | www.BakingInATornado.com | #humor #funny


Oh, wait. Does that say lenardo-di-crapio? Yeah, that explains it. I'm far less impressed now. 



 Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

I know things change, many for the better. And they affect not only our lives but how we talk to each other too.

But I have to admit that neither growing up, nor after I was married or even after we had kids, when thinking about family, sitting around the dinner table laughing, talking, discussing, this is a conversation I never expected to have:

Me: Is Purdue playing a home game or an away game tomorrow?
Hubs: I don't know, let me ask my phone . . .




Raspberry Star Cookies: Holiday baking made easy. Rich raspberry flavored cookies rolled and cut out into star shapes, drizzled and then decorated with your choice of embellishments | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cookies #holiday

Raspberry Star Cookies



Many of you probably know that it was Halloween a few weeks ago. What you don't know is that Halloween seems to be a prime pick on Mom day. College Boy was having way too much fun with this concept and by mid afternoon, I knew I had to shut him up down.

College Boy: So I see you're dressed as a witch again today.
Me: I hear on Halloween witch spit in your dinner is good luck.

I win.



Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


Speaking of dinner conversation, were talking at dinner about the Marshmallow only Lucky Charms cereal that was being released.

College Boy: Did you know they were only making 10 boxes?
Me: No, how does that make sense?
College Boy: You have to win a box.
Me: That's pretty disappointing to all the people who want them.
College Boy: I know. Imagine how many people got their hopes up. I mean the marshmallows are the only part worth eating. The regular Lucky Charms is really a few marshmallows in a bunch of cat food.
Me to Hubs: I used to get so mad at College Boy I finally stopped buying them. He'd eat all the marshmallows and throw the cereal away.
Hubs: In the grocery store?
Me: {{blink, blink}}.
College Boy: {{massive eye roll}}.

Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

My boys have accused me of threatening them. I have no idea what they're talking about. I asked them to pick up their rooms (for like the 50th time) when they didn't, neither one of them, I did not threaten them. I just showed them two pictures:

This is the tree that did not grow according to my expectations:


Fly on the Wall: Grocery Store Woes | Tree threatening the house | www.BakingInATornado.com

And here it is now:

Fly on the Wall: Grocery Store Woes | Wood pile picture | www.BakingInATornado.com




Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

College Boy and I fight all the time about him being late. I tend to be prompt and he . . . not so much. In fact, not even close.
Me: You're late. You're always late.
College Boy: I'm not late. It's 1:55, I don't have to be there until 2:00.
Me: First of all, if it's 1:55, you won't be there by 2:00. Second, it's 2:00.
College Boy: It's 1:55. Look at the clock in my room.
The clock in his room stopped working a year ago. I'm not putting a battery in it because he's a big boy. He's not putting a battery in because he's a lazy big boy. 
So whenever he wants to prove a point, he moves the hands to wherever he wants.
So in his opinion, that clock works better for him than it did when it told time.
See what I'm dealing with here?


Fly on the Wall | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

College Boy and I have gotten into the habit of discussing absurd news stories we read, always trying to outdo each other in the ridiculousness of the stories we find. Last week I knew I'd found one he wouldn't even believe.

Me: OK, here's the story I found today: a woman in Massachusetts was allowed to have her drivers license picture taken with a colander on her head. She said it was for religious reasons, says she's a Pastafarian.

College Boy (interrupting me): Oh, yeah, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Me (eyes wide, totally in shock): Yes. That's what she said. How do you know?
College Boy: I know about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

That damn kid wins. Every time.

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:



Baking In A Tornado | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


Raspberry Star Cookies
                                                                       ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp raspberry extract
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
red food coloring

  8 oz vanilla bark, white candy melts or dark chocolate chips
green colored sugar, multicolored nonpareils or mini M&Ms

Directions:
*Cream the butter, margarine and sugar. Beat in egg, raspberry extract and red food coloring. Mix in the flour and baking powder until it forms a dough.
*Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
*Roll out the dough, either between pieces of wax paper or on a floured surface, half at a time, to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with star shaped cookie cutter.
*Bake approximately 10 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on pan before removing to cool completely.
*Melt the vanilla bark, white candy melts or dark chocolate chips in microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and then in 10 second increments until completely smooth. Place in a plastic sandwich bag, snip a small piece off the corner of the bag and pipe the chocolate back and forth across the cookies.
*Immediately sprinkle with colored sugar, nonpariels or add a few mini M&Ms for decoration. Allow to set completely before storing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Haiku or Hai-can't

I participated in a Secret Subject Swap writing challenge back in April in which my prompt was to create an Easter Haiku.

Let me tell you that it's a well established fact on this blog that I suck at poetry, even when I can write unencumbered by rules. 

Haiku or Hai-can't, a celebration of Thanksgiving through Haikus | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


But a Haiku is a very specialized form of poetry. It's written in only three lines and we all know I tend to be . . . well . . . wordy. It also sticks to a strict number of syllables in a specific order, generally 5 - 7 - 5. And because that's not enough of a challenge, the content is supposed to be two different components brought together seamlessly, one of them
frequently being a reference to nature. Apparently the only thing I'm not required to do is write it while standing on my head.

Nonetheless, a challenge from another blogger is not to be ignored. I wrote an Easter Haiku and a Passover one too. To all who read them and then wanted to scratch their eyes out, I once again apologize.

But today is about redemption. I am anticipating having both of my boys home for Thanksgiving and it's no secret that the one with a broken leg is long overdue for a hug. So I'm eager to write about my thoughts this season. Yes, even in Haiku format:


Anticipation:
Driving to the airport I'm
three hours early.

Shopping, cooking, prep.
Broken nails, burns on my arm.
Worth it, Thanksgiving.

Take two days to cook,
barely an hour to eat.
More time for those hugs.


Thanksgiving's full house:
Silence may be golden but
noise is medicine.


Harvest Soup: A warm and comforting meal for a cold Fall or Winter day or a perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas first course. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #holiday #soup

 Harvest Soup
Harvest Soup: A warm and comforting meal for a cold Fall or Winter day or a perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas first course. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #holiday #soup




Often life gets sour.
But looking round Thanksgiving
table, I see sweet.

Wine, appetizers,
turkey, stuffing, all the sides.
Race you to the couch.

Dinner time-capsule:
babies, toddlers, then young men.
I see all at once.

Home, when all are here.
Evening snow falls upon a
Mom smiling, content.


So . . . what do you think? Haiku? Or Hai-can't? 

Before you go, click on these links to more Thanksgiving poetry by some of my friends: 

Haiku or Hai-can't: A Collection of Thanksgiving Poetry | www.BakingInATornado.com | Graphic by Robin of Someone Else's Genius blog


Thanksgiving Haiku by Dawn of Spatulas on Parade.
Turkey Day Haiku by Robin of Someone Else's Genius. 
#ThankfulPoetry by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles.
Thanksgiving Poems by Candice of Measurements of Merriment.
A Time For Thanks by Steena of The Angrivated Mom.


Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Harvest Soup
                                                                        ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
small butternut squash
1 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper
1 TBSP butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 apple, chopped, I use Braeburn
1 1/2# fresh pumpkin, peeled and cubed or 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt 
1 can evaporated milk

OPT: roasted shelled pumpkin seeds for garnish
OPT: dollop of sour cream for garnish

OPT: serve with Cinnamon Cranraisin Pumpkin Bread

Directions: 
*Peel and cube the squash. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
*Drizzle the squash with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until soft.
*While the squash is cooking, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook and stir until the onion starts to soften. 
*Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Mix in the apple, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add in half of the roasted squash (reserve the other half to serve as a side dish with dinner the another day) and simmer another 10 minutes.
*Carefully, in batches, puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pot. Add in the evaporated milk and simmer until hot.
*OPT: Serve with a dollop of sour cream and roasted shelled pumpkin seeds.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Use Your Words: Life on the Homestead

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

Use Your Words | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I’m using: homestead ~ wine ~ mailbox ~ elephant ~ black dog

They were submitted by: Eileen's Perpetually Busy.

Here on ye olde timey Tornado homestead, life is tough. Though our land often hosts much wildlife: rabbits, turkeys, deer, raccoons, possums, they do not provide sustenance. Nay, all they are good for appears to be providing us with organic fertilizer. Good thing we don't have elephants.

And although the young 'uns were off to college, seems the older learned about the Homestead Act, and has returned to challenge us for proprietorship of this here domicile. In the spirit of "possession is 9/10 of the law", he's laid claim to a bedroom, a bathroom, all common rooms, the kitchen and all contents thereof.

Meatless Manicotti: A hot bubbling dish for a cold fall or winter night. This meal is so hearty and filling you won't even miss the meat. Serve with Garlic Bread and a salad and dinner is complete. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Meatless Manicotti
Meatless Manicotti: A hot bubbling dish for a cold fall or winter night. This meal is so hearty and filling you won't even miss the meat. Serve with Garlic Bread and a salad and dinner is complete. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner


We didn't raise us no dullards, Hubs and I, so the battle will be long and drawn out, but we do still have a few tricks up our sleeves. Since we're still paying the mortgage and saddled with the taxes, we're fighting back, staking our claim. 

Being a settler with priorities, the first field of battle will be the heart of any G-d fearing woman's home, the wine bar.

My strategy for defending this sacred spot is simple, he cannot have what I've already drank. It's a challenge, but I'm a woman of hearty Russian peasant stock, not easily defeated. I will conduct myself in this battle with black dogged perseverance. And if I do not succeed, I'm sure my effort will be worthy of a Purple Heart.

Commence the wine consumption strategy . . .

. . . You know {{hiccup}}, now that I give thissssh some thought {{hiccup}}, who wants all the chores and resssssponsibilites that come with owning a homestead {{hiccup}}? Let him have it. I think {{hiccup}}. Where was I? Oh yeah, I think I'll be perfectly happy {{hiccup}} living in the mailbox.

I need a housewarming gift for the new landowner of ye old timey Tornado homestead. Wonder where I can get an elephant.


Links to the other Use Your Words posts:


Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


Meatless Manicotti
                                                                        ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cups shredded mozarella 
1/4 cup shredded provolone
1/4 cup + 3 TBSP grated parmesan
1 box (10 oz) frozen spinach, defrosted 
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups HOMEMADE MARINARA
12 - 14 manicotti shells
 
Directions:
*Preheat oven to350 degrees. Lightly grease a 15 X 10 baking dish. 
*Drain the defrosted spinach. Press between towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
*Mix the egg, mozarella, provolone, 1/4 cup parmesan, spinach, sugar, cayenne, salt and pepper.
*Place the marinara and 1 1/2 cups water in a pot and heat until hot.
*Using a knife, carefully stuff the manicotti shells with the cheese mixture. Use the tip of the knife to work the mixture inside the shells. It's easiest to work from one side, then the other. Be careful not to crack the shells. 
*Place the stuffed shells into the prepared dish. Leave space between them as they will expand.
*Slowly and carefully pour the hot sauce over the stuffed shells.
*Cover tightly with heavy tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. *Carefully remove the tin foil, sprinkle with the remaining 3 TBSP parmesan and return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.