Lasagna~ a recipe for all that spaghetti sauce

Now that you know how to make some kick butt spaghetti sauce that could feed an army, lets get to some recipes that make use of it all.  First up …. Lasagna!!

After experimenting for a while to try one that everybody loved, I finally think I found it.  My husband took a pan of it to work to celebrate their last day before going on a 2 week “vacation”, and one guy had 6 pieces!!  I could barely finish off 1 piece!!  I think that means this recipe is a winner. So on to the good stuff….

lasagna

Lasagna (makes 2 pans)

24 lasagna noodles ( I made one pan with gluten free noodles and one with reg. noodles)

1 lb hamburger

1 lb Italian sausage (bulk)

homemade spaghetti sauce (I used 2/3 of the bulk kind I made in my other post)

3 eggs

chopped parsley (roughly half a bunch you get from the store)

1 1/2 c parmesan cheese

7 c mozzarella cheese

1 large container ricotta cheese

1 small container cottage cheese

Preheat oven to 425*F.

In a large pot, cook lasagna noodles according to the package.  Drain and set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, in a large pan, brown the hamburger and Italian sausage.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, scramble the eggs and add in the chopped parsley.  Mix in the ricotta, cottage, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses until well blended.

Now you are ready to assemble.  Starting with a large baking dish (I use a 9×13″) spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Lay down 3 pieces of lasagna. Top with hamburger/sausage mixture, sauce, and cheese mixture.  Repeat until all of the noodles are used.  Top the top noodles with sauce and cover pan with aluminum foil.

*Remember this makes TWO pans worth of lasagna*  So don’t try to squeeze all the ingredients into one pan 😉

Bake the lasagna at 425*F for roughly an hour to an hour and a half, or cooked all the way through ( the cheese deep in the middle is melted).

It seems like a pretty long process but it’s not really.   And you get two pans worth instead of just one.  If you don’t need two pans of lasagna right away, you could always freeze the other one for a quick dinner when you don’t want to cook.  Just pop it in the oven and let it cook away.  No prep and no fuss, and waaayyyy tastier than the frozen ones you buy at the store!!

I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to share this post or any others with your friends, fellow bloggers, facebook family, and more!  I’d really like to get some suggestions for meals and more.  Don’t forget to “like” my page on facebook too!!

CSA Tuesday and a Recipe for Spaghetti Sauce

It’s CSA Tuesday again!!  I freakin love Tuesdays.  I am always super excited to see what I will get in my share for the week, and come up with something different to make with all the fresh produce!  My husband thinks it’s a tad bit odd that I get excited over vegetables, but you know, I just can’t help it.  Sadly, it is just as bad when I discover a new vegetable growing in my garden.  Today I found a summer squash that was ready to be picked, and I brought it in the house and paraded it around like a new show pony.  I couldn’t help it.  This is the first year my meager gardening skills have actually produced more than just one radish and two green beans.  (And yes that was my previous record for vegetables)  I am starting to think the older you get, the more your green thumb comes out.  Anyhow, I am pretty stoked.

This week my kids helped me pick up my goodies from the CSA.  We picked up 1 head of cabbage, 1 spanish onion, 1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard, 1 bag of shell peas, 1 head of lettuce, 2 large cucumbers, 2 huge zucchini, 2 huge summer squash, 2 heads of fresh garlic, 1 of the biggest bunches of basil I have ever seen, and a small basket of blueberries. (It was a choice between blueberries, raspberries, and black raspberries)

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Did you see that head of cabbage?!  Its the size of Little Man’s head!!  (BTW… that is Little Man in the picture.  He insisted 😉

The blueberries are soooo juicy and sweet.  Little Man couldn’t keep his hands out of them, and I had to eventually hide them so I could make muffins with them later.  This picture is after he had already picked off a handful or so.  He is super sneaky.  😛

So what do I have planned with my haul?  Really I have no clue!  Onions are always easy to use, and the garlic is going to dry since I recently bought some.  I am thinking I will save some basil to have on hand fresh and dry the rest.  I am going to try a few ways I have seen on pinterest, and see how it goes.  I am not too concerned though as I still have my own growing in my garden.  The rest I have no clue…. so much produce and not enough ideas I guess.  I’m just now getting to some of the produce from last week’s CSA!

Now for the recipe…

I used to buy bottled stuff.  My mother used to make her own spaghetti sauce when I was a kid (well she still does) but I never liked it.  Now that we are trying to live more frugal, and eating more whole foods so to speak, my Ragu is no longer going to cut it.  I can make 4 times as much for half the price.  So I started experimenting, and so far everyone has really enjoyed my new (semi) home made spaghetti sauce.  So here it goes…

tomasauce

Spaghetti Sauce  (makes a whole lot)

1- 6lb 9oz can of tomato sauce

1 onion chopped

3t chopped garlic

2t dried oregano

2t dried basil

3-4 bay leaves

roughly 8-10 sprigs of thyme

2 pinches of dried rosemary

dash of sage

fresh chopped parsley

1/4 c sugar

1T extra virgin olive oil

In a large saucepot, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic, and cook until onions are soft.

Add tomato sauce and all seasonings including the sugar, and simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hrs stirring occasionally.

Before serving, remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.

That’s it!!  Super easy!!  The hardest part is measuring all the seasonings and getting them just the way you want them.  The best part of making your own sauce is you control the flavor.  Feel free to experiment and make changes as you see fit until it is perfect for you!!

Now that I have made my sauce from scratch I don’t think I will ever buy the bottled stuff again.  I have had so many compliments about this sauce it would be crazy to go back to bland bottled stuff.  And now that you have the recipe for sauce, I have plenty more recipes to use it with.  Don’t let all that extra sauce go to waste!!

Why my girls are going to hate me.

Our kids all have chores.  My oldest takes out the trash and helps with the laundry, my two girls do the dishes and wipe the table, and my youngest helps me set the table before dinner.  Now mind you, that is in addition to keeping their own rooms tidy, which can be quite the task.

Usually the girls’ chore only happens after dinner, or first thing in the morning…. between yesterday and today, they are going to hate me.  😛

Since my husband is on “leave” so to speak for two weeks while his car making plant is on their mandatory two week shut down, we have been trying to save money any possible way we can.  Which means no more paper plates.  No more paper plates = more plates in the sink.

Yesterday was quite possibly one of the worse days this summer.  Besides getting some not so great news, I had something bad happen…. I was going out to get something from our deep freezer for dinner.  I opened the lid, and TADA!!  It was not running, and half of my food was thawed.  :O  In a massive panic, I cleaned out the freezer and brought everything inside to take inventory of the things I could salvage.

I cooked 5 meals worth of food last night.  Which in turn = more dishes.  And since I was so focused on saving what I could from my deep freezer, I didn’t even get the chance to cook up hardly any of the produce that’s just chillin’ in my fridge from my CSA.  So guess what will be happening tonight….. Yep you guessed it.  More mass amounts of cooking and prepping… which means more dishes.

I swear my girls have washed every dish in the house like 3 times since last night.  After tonight, I’d say they earned a treat of some kind!

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

First I’d like to say I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!  We celebrated by BBQing with family.  You know, traditional 4th grub…. hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob, and watermelon.  The weather wasn’t too shabby, some occasional drops of rain, but mostly clear so we spent most of the day outside.

The morning of the 4th we went to a local parade like we do every year.  This year however, we were able to witness a good deed.  About 1/3 of the way into the parade, a man who was driving a tow truck for a local company stopped the parade dead in it’s tracks.  We were all kind of wondering what he was doing, when he stepped out of his truck and crossed the street to hand deliver two heaping handfuls of candy to a little boy in a wheel chair.  It was beautiful and heart warming, and made me feel lucky to witness such a wonderful display of humanity.  I wish I would have been quick enough to take a picture, but I didn’t :/

Now onto the recipe….

Have I mentioned before that we love broccoli?  This makes easy use of any and all broccoli that enters our house.  My kids love it, and my husband has mentioned more than once that he would rather have my homemade alfredo than the store stuff any day.  Problem was, the jarred stuff was sooo convenient.

Now that we are trying to save moolah for a house, some conveniences have to be sacrificed, and why not start with the ones that will improve something in our lives rather than make it feel like we are living with less.

alfredo

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

1 lb chicken tenders

2 heads of broccoli cut into florets

2 lbs pasta  ( I usually use 1 lb gluten free fettuccini and 1 lb reg fettuccini made in separate pans since only 2 of us is gluten free and lets face it, gluten free pasta is expensive!)

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1 1/2 c milk (2% or whole is fine)

3 egg yolks scrambled

3 c parmesan cheese  ( I added some Italian cheese the last time because I ran out of parmesan, and it still came out great.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match different cheeses once you feel comfortable, or if you run out of parm like me 😉

About 4 decent sized cloves of garlic chopped ( you can use more or less depending on how much garlic you like)

salt & pepper

fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Lay chicken on a cooking sheet and season with salt and pepper ( I personally like season-all and hot shots).  Once the oven is heated, place chicken inside and cook for roughly 20-25 min or until cooked thoroughly.

While chicken is cooking place your water on the stove and boil.  Chop the broccoli if it is not already chopped and place into steamer.  (I have a pot that has a steamer insert inside it.  If you do not have one, or a steamer at all, try placing a metal strainer on top of a pot of boiling water so that it is not touching the water.  Place a lid over the veges inside the strainer and it works as a steamer)

Cook pasta according to box directions, with broccoli steaming on top.

In a separate pan, start to heat milk and cream on low.  Make sure to continuously stir the milk mixture throughout the entire process so that it doesn’t curdle or burn.  While stirring, mix in the egg yolk mixture.  Once warmed slowly mix in the cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Continue to warm and stir until mixture thickens.  Voila.  Alfredo!!

Once pasta is cooked, drain and plate.  Top with chopped chicken, steamed broccoli, and alfredo sauce.  Sprinkle parsley on top and you’re done.

It’s pretty easy, but your arm will start to hurt after a little while from all the stirring.  And my hubby is right, it is absolutely better than the store bought jarred stuff.

Save Money by Saving Your Carpet!

Quick money saving tip for the night!  My youngest just spilled red koolaid on the floor.  Literally 15 minutes ago.  I was not happy. :/

Thankfully living in military housing for years has taught me a few tricks for fixing things so I don’t pay outrageous move out fees.

So here’s my tip for getting that nasty red koolaid stain out before you spend hundreds replacing carpet.

First, go grab your iron and plug it in.  If you have a steamer iron, make sure it has water in it.

 

iron

(Every post needs a pictures, so here’s a picture of an iron.  I was in too much of a hurry to actually take pictures of the disaster that was my carpet)

The grab a white towel.  Technically I don’t have any “white” towels, mine is striped.  Personally I don’t think it matters as long as the towel has been washed and is color fast.

In a bowl (or spray bottle if you have one), mix together some Dawn dish soap and water.

Now the process….

Clean up as much of the koolaid as you can with paper towels.

Next spray, or scrub with a brush, the Dawn/water mixture onto the stain.

Cover with the towel.

Iron the towel while it is on the stain.  It will take multiple ironings.  In between each one, spray with the Dawn mixture, and use a clean piece of the towel.  Heck, it may even take a few towels, but it will work!!

I now have clean carpet!!  In fact, now I have to clean my whole carpet because the spot I cleaned is too clean… *sigh*   A mother’s work is never done 😉

Oh and did I mention it works on old stains too?!  I had a stain in one of our military homes that I couldn’t get out for a year.  This trick was my last resort, and it worked a whole year after I made the stain!!

 

 

CSA Tuesday

 

Today was the second pickup day for my CSA share, and I am quite excited for this week’s bounty!  We got a huge head of cabbage, 2 zucchini, a cucumber, a whole head of leaf lettuce, a bag of mesclun,  2 heads of broccoli, a bunch of swiss chard, 3 beets with the greens, a bag of snap peas, 2 onions, and a thing of raspberries!!

 

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It sounds odd to say that I am excited for vegetables, but I really am!  I received some of the onions in my share last week, and they are the best onions I have ever eaten.  I cut the tops off and used them for my soup base last week, and the actual onion part itself was so crisp…. Mmmm…

My youngest son started digging into the raspberries as soon as I walked in the door.  He spotted them like a hawk, and started picking them off the minute I wasn’t looking.  Little sneak.

The broccoli didn’t stand a chance either.  It is one of our favorite vegetables, and was quickly included in tonight’s dinner.

I have big plans for the cabbage.  I love cabbage rolls.  Like, lllooooovvvveee them.  But unfortunately for me, my husband does not.  He can’t stand the taste of cooked cabbage or the smell of sauerkraut, which means I can only get away with making them once or twice a year.  I haven’t made them in a long, long time though, so I think it’s due time.

As for the rest, who knows!!  But I am excited to try some new things and share them with you!  If you have any recipes that use the veges I got today, please feel free to share!!

Manic Monday~ Crockpot Chicken Tacos w/ Homemade Pico de Gallo

Mondays are usually very busy at my house.  It starts the work week for my husband, school week for the kiddos, and back to school for me as well, which means we are all usually pretty pooped by dinner time and NO ONE wants to cook.  Thankfully for the next two weeks my husband is on mandatory vacation, so we can all spend some summer vacation time together.  Still, a Monday is still a Monday….

If I know I am going to have a busy day with little time to spare, I usually try to throw something in the crockpot.  Crockpots are great because I can throw the uncooked meats and veges in when I wake up in the morning, and when dinner time is up I have a perfectly cooked hot meal with little effort needed.

While feeding my addiction to pinterest, I have noticed that this particular recipe has become increasingly popular.  I personally have made it for quite a while, although not exactly the same as the one I found on pinterest.

Hopefully you enjoy this version just as much.  I have found that it tastes almost identical to my local Mexican restaurant’s version of shredded chicken.

chicken tacos01

Crockpot Shredded Chicken

3 frozen chicken breasts  ( I like the bagged boneless skinless individually frozen ones)

1 c Pico de Gallo

1 bell pepper sliced

1 sliced onion

1/2 packet of Ortega reduced sodium taco seasoning  (I am working to find a suitable substitution using only spices)

3/4 c water

Basically just dump all the ingredients into the crockpot and cook on high for about 6 hours.

Once the chicken is tender enough to pull apart with a fork, shred using either two forks, or if you have a Kitchenaid, place the chicken in the bowl with the paddle attachment on and mix on low for about 30 seconds, or until the chicken is thoroughly shredded.  I usually add quite a bit of juice to the chicken while I am shredding so it stays nice and moist.

Voila!  That’s it!

For tacos, pair with….

Warm corn tortillas for gluten free folks

Flour or corn tortillas for non-gluten free folks

refried beans

lettuce

fresh pico de gallo

sour cream

guacamole

This recipe usually makes enough chicken for my family of 6 plus a little something left over for my lunch the next day.  Sometimes I make it solely so I have something yummy besides a sandwich for my lunches.

Pico de Gallo is so easy to make and so good fresh I am surprised people buy jarred salsa from the store anymore.

Basically the recipe is….

1-2 tomatoes (Fresh during the summer is best, but any in the produce isle will work)

1/2 onion chopped into small pieces

1/4 jalapeno chopped into itty bitty pieces (if you a heat sissy like me 😉

juice of 1/2 a lime

2 cloves garlic chopped

1 small bunch of fresh cilantro leaves chopped  ( I use about 10-15 stems from the bunch you get at the store, then remove the leaves from the stalks)

Chop up the tomatoes, and mix with onion, jalapeno, lime juice, garlic, cilantro.  You can add other ingredients if you wish, such as green onion or peppers, but basically that is all you need.  It is best when eaten 5 mins or so after you make it, but it can hold in the fridge for a few days.  It is amazing with tortilla chips.

So here’s the question for you today…. Do you have a favorite Mexican dish you love to make?  I am desperately searching for a good Mexican Rice recipe that tastes like the kind you get at the restaurants.  If you have one you’d like to share, please pass it on!