Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yummy Pancakes!

Variety for lunch is always a little challenge because I want it to be healthy, quick, and something the kids and I both will enjoy. (I have vowed never to buy chicken nuggets, fish sticks or corn dogs!) Today we had pancakes with sweet potatoes and boy, were they a smashing hit! I just microwaved the sweet potato for 4 minutes and used a fork to mash it up. Here's the rest of the recipe! (Yes, it's from Deceitfully Delicious!)

Pancakes

1 c. water
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. sweet potato puree

Mix these ingredients and add 1 c. dry pancake mix.
Make in skillet just like regular pancakes. Serve with
maple syrup or powdered sugar.

*This recipe make 5 medium pancakes, so double it if you have a big family!

YUM!

A very sneaky casserole

Last night, I had a special Girls Night at church, so I needed something quick, yummy, and easy for the kids to eat with Cody. This was sort of a combination of Rachael Ray's Not Lasagna Casserole and Baked Ziti. PLUS, I added some carrots for that hidden punch of vitamin A! Cody said the boys ate 2 huge bowls of pasta, and he and Cloe enjoyed it too! I have no idea how I'm going to feed these little boys of mine when they have those huge growth spurts in the future! Here's the recipe:

1 lb. mini penne pasta (Barilla just came out with mini pasta--it's perfect for kids!)
1 small can petite diced tomatoes
1 small can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. browned ground meat (I used what was already done in the freezer 1/3 sausage, 1/3 hamburger and 1/3 ground turkey)
1 chicken bullion cube (I love Knorr bullion)
1 cup small curd low-fat cottage cheese (they'll think it ricotta :))
1 super large carrot finely grated
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
dried basil
onion powder
salt & pepper

Boil pasta just shy of being al dente. Drain and place in baking dish or 9x13 pan. Pour both cans of tomatoes, browned meat, and grated carrot over pasta and stir it all together. (Now the rest gets pretty ungourmet-like!) Break up the bullion cube and sprinkle over the top. Sprinkle salt, pepper, onion powder and basil over the top. Mix seasoning in with pasta mixture. (Now taste a noodle and add more of whatever you think!) Place dollops of cottage cheese around the pasta dish and "poke it" down in the pasta. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 until cheese is melted and a little golden.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm going to let it all out!

So far, I don't think anyone is actually reading this blog, which is actually pretty ok with me. I'm just happy with getting a few of my favorite kitchen experiments down and organized! Today, I've cooked a lot, but I don't really feel like talking about it. Sometimes, life is more important than the food I'm making! So, I'm guess I'm going to get more personal than kooky recipes! Life feels like it's coming at me hard and fast today. We're learning about JOY in our Ladies Bible Study and today it's a real fight to find joy.
A passage that we studied this week keeps coming to mind. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed." I'm sure that seems dramatic to relate this to my life, but I feel like I do have troubles on every side. My grandparents' nursing home seems to be "after" my grandma. Now they're trying to accuse her of bruising my grandpa. I'm sure she did bruise him--he bruises like a peach...they're just old people. Why can't people accept that? They want to sedate her. That would crush me! I know my grandma prayers for me diligently every day! I need those prayers! My phone calls to her brighten my day as much as they do hers. Please, Lord, take her home to be with YOU, soon! I would miss her greatly, but her troubles on this earth would cease...
Another friend is losing her baby today. The word miscarriage seems so cold...her baby is going to be with Jesus. There's hope and despair, mingled. I wish I could just take this from her. I don't have any amazingly comforting words, only trust God, cling to your Savior.
Other people we know are fighting to save their marriages. Others are fighting depression. Some are battling diseases and cancers. It seems like there is despair on every side...
But 2 Corithians 4:10 goes on to say "Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." I do want to glorify God in my life--even through my sufferings. It still seems heart breaking to tell these sisters and brothers in Christ that we're sharing in the death of Christ so others can see HIM in our lives.
But then there's more hope (just as God always gives hope!). The next few verses say, "13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[c] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[d] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[e] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."
I feel like giving up today. I want to go somewhere warm and the people aren't hurting. I know--that place doesn't exist here on earth! I'm longing for my Savior today! But here, I'm commanded not to give up! I need to keep sharing Christ and doing good to everyone, especially those in the household of faith--another passage tells me! These trials are "small" and won't last forever. (Although the pessimist in me knows the next trial is on the doorstep.) There is hope--when I fix my gaze "on things that cannot be seen"--a life forever with my Savior!
So, I'll keep going, but not in my strength--I'm clinging to Christ for His grace, His strength, His comfort, His peace, His encouragement... Colossians 1:11 says, "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all of HIS glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father..."
I want to be filled with endurance and patience and HIS glorious power! I also see how God gives me only what I can handle for the day--through HIS added strength. Although these trials are seemingly pressing in, my 3 children are being so sweet today! We have a really fun family night planned! I'm so thankful God has given me such a wonderful family! I can press on...I can have joy...I can keep trusting my Savior!

***Here's a touching little side note that has come out of one of these "trials" today: Unfortunately, Cloe is the only listener and conversationalist I have during the day, so sometimes she learns about a lot of grown-up problems. We dropped of a care package for my friend who lost her baby today. Cloe was wondering why Mommy's friend was "sick" and if we were going to catch it. I finally just explained to her that Mommy's friend had a baby who was in her tummy but the baby had died and went to be with Jesus. Of course, Cloe wanted to know if it was a boy or girl. I told her we didn't know. She said we could turn around and leave Carson with her if she needed a baby because Carson could still be a baby a lot of times (poor brother!). I told her we should just pray for mommy's friend and God would comfort her. Then Cloe said, "Mommy, when I grow up and get older but you're not dead yet..." Yes, Cloe... "If I have a baby in my tummy and it dies and go to be with Jesus, will you bring me a bag with soup and cookies, and oranges, and bread...just like your friend's. 'Cuz that will make me feel better." Yes, Cloe. Mommy will bring you all that and more! Father, I pray that my little girl won't ever have to experience the loss of a baby, but if that is Your plan for her life, I pray that I will be able to be there to encourage and love her! Thank you for giving her sensitivity to hurting people and a love for Your children!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Empty Cupboards

So, the other day, I said I was going to make some yummy spaghetti sauce...well, as it turns out, I really didn't have any of the right ingredients. Augh! That ALWAYS happens to me! Unfortunately, when I get it in my head I want to make something, I usually just try to use whatever I have to make it work. This time, surprisingly enough, it turned out pretty well! The recipe called for crushed tomatoes, and I had only stewed and diced. So that's what I used. Also, who knew that stewed tomatoes had onions, garlic and celery in them!?!? They smelled great--even if it wasn't exactly the flavor I was going for... Here's my hodge-podge recipe. It's sort of a keeper, but I'll definitely be stocking up on crushed tomatoes!

Londa's Hodge-Podge Sauce
1 small can stewed tomatoes
1 small can petite diced tomatoes
4 steamed carrots
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small diced onion
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. each of Oregano and Basil (more to taste)
1 tsp. minced garlic

Brown the beef and onion. Drain off fat.
In another pot, combine carrots and tomatoes. Use a hand blender to puree mixture. (Yes-that was sort of a hassle...)
Add beef and seasonings. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture thickens.
Serve over whole wheat or whole grain pasta. Top with grated
parmesan cheese. (& don't forget to buy the crushed tomatoes next time!)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Snow day!


Well, the snow has struck again! This time we had a special day to be home as a whole family. So far, we've been enjoying warm comfort foods & it looks like that's going to continue for the rest of the day! For breakfast, we had my two favorite kinds of muffins: blueberry lemon and applesauce oatmeal! I love the hidden nutrition in these muffins, too! Of course, they're from my new cookbook: Deceitfully Delicious.


Applesauce Muffins
Topping:
2/3 c. old-fashioned oats
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. trans-fat-free soft tub margarine

Batter:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 c. squash or carrot puree
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.
Stir together ingredients for topping and set aside.
For the batter, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix applesauce with milk, vegetable puree, sugar, oil, and egg with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture and stir slowly until just moistened. Don't overmix!
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Top with streusel mixture. Bake until the topping is lightly browning and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm or store in an airtight container.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 T. trans-fat-free soft tub margarine
1 c. lowfat lemon yogurt
1 c. blueberries (I used frozen whole blueberries)
1/2 c. squash puree
1 large egg
2 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 c. flour
1/4 c. flaxseed meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and margarine with a wooden spoon. Stir in yogurt, blueberries, squash puree, egg, lemon extract, and lemon zest.
Add the flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir just to combine, but don't overmix. Batter will be lumpy.
Divide the batter among the cups. Bake until the tops are lightly browning and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle, about 13-16 minutes. Turn muffins onto a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container or wrap and freeze for up to one month.

**I love the texture the flaxseed meal add! It's so good for you, too!

Better run, time to make spaghetti for supper! Then it's movie time with the family on this snowy night!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Several years ago, Martha Stewart came out with her Everyday Food Magazine. I loved it! Cloe was a new baby and money was kind of tight since I was going to be staying home with her, so I would cut corners and save pennies so I could buy the new issue as soon as it hit the stands. Then I would try and make all these fancy recipes adapted to our little budget. It was fun and we had an assortment of really good "Martha Stewart" meals there for awhile! A few of the recipes have stuck with us and we enjoy them often. Our favorite is for Baked Ravioli. I mostly use this recipe for the spaghetti sauce, but it's also really good baked with the ravioli or penne pasta. Of course, it is tweaked a little, so I'll give you my version...

Sauce:
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
coarse salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 large (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 large (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cool, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and tomatoes. (Taste test to make sure it takes good--it might need more salt.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sauce starts to thicken (20-25 minutes).

For baked ravioli or pasta, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook pasta according to box directions. Drain and mix with pasta sauce in a 9x13 baking dish. Top with 1 1/2 c. mozarella cheese and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.


**To add a little punch of nutrition and vitamin A, add 1/2 c. shredded or pureed carrots to the sauce. It adds a really nice, hearty flavor!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cupid's Cups


Last Wednesday, Cloe needed to bring 20 treats to school. The letter of the week in her class was "P", so trying to be a creative mom, we endeavored to make jello "P"arfaits. Now, I had watched the weather and knew it was going to snow a zillion inches, but decided it would be my luck that they would have school if I didn't make the treats. SO, we made 20 cups of jello parfaits. It took a few more hours than I was expecting because of the number we had to make, but we were ready to go! Of course, the next day, school was canceled! Our kids had jello for breakfast, jello for our snack, jello for supper... They loved the snow day! These treats did turn out SUPER cute, though! It's definitely a recipe I will make again. They are so pretty that it's worth the time!



Cupid's Cup (or Jello PARFAITS--we tripled this recipe for 20 small cups)

2 c. boiling water (divided)
2 pkg. (4 serving size) Strawberry or Raspberry Jello
1 1/2 c. cold water, divided
ice cubes
1 c. Cool Whip (I used 2 whole tubs for my triple batch)
8 or 10 oz. clear cups

Stir in 1 cup boiling water into 1 package of jello until dissolved. Stir in 1 cup cold water and pour into cups. Chill until set.
Next, stir in 1 c. boiling water to other package of jello. Add ice and 1/2 c. water to equal 1 cup. Stir into jello until it starts to thicken. Whisk in cool whip. Pour evenly into cups and chill. The top 2 layers "magically" appear!

Top with any special heart candies right before serving.

Makes 8 2/3 c. servings or 7 servings in 10 oz. cups.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

A friend called last night and asked if I could feed the college students at church, so I dug in for a recipe that would feed a big crowd! I've pretty pleased with my chicken and noodles, and most people seem to enjoy them. When we were first married, I learned how to make really good chicken stock from a Martha Stewart show. It's still the best way I've found! This is such a warm, comfort food. I leave the carrots in just to give some extra nutritional value! (and I'm getting more veggies in my kids!)

First, start with the chicken stock:
1 whole chicken (I am really trying to use hormone and antibiotic-free chicken. It's on sale at Target a lot, but you have to catch it at the right time--it goes fast!)
Celery leaves and a few stalks
4 whole carrots or 8-12 baby carrots
1 diced onion
salt and pepper
Knorr chicken bullion cubes

Put all the ingredients in a large stock pot and fill with water. Bring just to a simmer and let cook until chicken leg is nice and wiggly. Don't let it go too long or the chicken will be come stringy. You can also cut into the chicken to check that it is cooked through.
Let cool just slightly. Pull out chicken and set aside. Pull out carrots and set aside. Put the rest of the stock through a strainer to remove all the celery, onion, and other floaters.
Pull chicken of the bones and put back into stock. Slice cooked carrots and add back to pot.

While chicken is cooking or earlier in the day...
Homemade Noodles (this recipe usually to be doubled or tripled...)
1 beaten egg
2 T. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, combine egg, milk and salt. Stir in just enough flour to make a stiff dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. (A sneaky mommy will stay in the kitchen and enjoy a little sweet treat during the time...) On a floured surface roll out dough into a thin rectangle. The next step can be done immediately or dough can dry for 20 minutes--cut with a noodle cutter or cut with a sharp knife into 1/8-1/4 inch strips. (A noodle cutter works the best--I got mine at an antique store--no it's not rusty!) Also cut the rows of noodles into 1-2 in. pieces. Noodles can be taken up right away or allowed to dry. Whichever is easiest!

Shortly before serving, bring stock with chicken to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 5-10 minutes or until done. Add bullion cubes to taste. (Usually 2 cubes works well.)

Another easy way is to buy egg noodles and just cook them according to package directions in your chicken stock.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Guess What!


Hey--check out my new CD! It was just released. PASSION: GOD OF THIS CITY. Seriously, we're ON this CD! Cody and I went with our college kids (YALL!) to Chicago in October and six of the songs were recorded live at the Passion Conference. I think if you listen really hard, you can hear us singing! No kidding! Now run out and buy this CD. Hurry along! I know you want to hear me singing in your cars all the time! Oh by the way, my "cover" name is Christy Nockels. Well, maybe not, but someday in heaven I'll sound like her! For now, I guess it's just in my head! You will love this CD and you'll have a heads up on what we'll be singing in church real soon! Now go buy it!

Life!

Well, I thought I should blog something other than food. I'd like to think I have a life outside of the kitchen. Probably not, but it's worth hoping for! Tonight, Cody and Cloe are on a date to a basketball game at Norwalk High School. They are watching a couple of boys from our church play. It's been a peaceful evening! The boys are already in bed. It's just me...and the laptop...on my blog. How truly sad! I guess it's a good thing I enjoyed my social in college and pre-babies so much because it's all kind of gone down the tubes! BUT not tomorrow! It's my birthday! I'm turning the not-so-glorious age of 31! I had a college professor tell me once that even though the years change, your mental state never really leaves hoping your young and cool. I guess that's where I'm at! This morning, Cody let it slip that he has a babysitter coming and we are going on one spectacular date! It's been quite awhile since it's just been the 2 of us! I know I'm using a lot of "!" but it's really that exciting!!! I'm going to have to narrow down the choices of dining and after dinner activities, but I'm sure it's going to great!
Lately my eyes have been literally hurting so bad and seem to be causing me a ton of headaches, so I started calling around to price eye exams. Wowza! It's been quite awhile since I've had my eyes checked, but I'm pretty sure the cost has like tripled! We don't have vision insurance and we also aren't exactly swimming in the cash for medical expenses. But, just as always, God is providing for this need, too! We had a super sweet old man pass away in our church this past week and Cody got to do his first funeral. I am SO proud of him! He studied so hard and really prayed about what to say that would comfort and encourage the family. I think he did awesome! I get a little choked up just remembering how handsome he looked standing behind the pulpit, talking to the family. God has really grown him into a man who loves God and longs to serve Him with everything he has. It's so humbling to me and I often feel so selfish when I compare what I'm doing for God. 2 guys have come to Christ recently because of Cody's contact with them! I'm so excited for him! So, back to my eyes, there's a reward for doing funerals! A little check from the funeral home and it will cover the eye exam! I know it's pretty selfless of Cody to "donate" this toward my eyes, but he says it cheaper than a blind wife! I guess he's always right, too!
Well, that's a little glimpse into my life these days! I did spend quite a substantial amount time at the mall today and found lots of little bargains! The kids were SO good, too! I love them! I'm so glad they don't mind me dragging them around to the mall! Maybe we'll just keep beating these winter blues and head out again tomorrow, too! After all, it will be my BIRTHDAY! hahaha

French Toast

Tonight we had breakfast for supper. That's one of my favorites! Cloe and Cody had eggs, but the boys and I had French Toast. It was super easy and had a yummy twist! The best part--it didn't even need syrup! I had clean, non-sticky happy boys!

French Toast
4 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons pureed squash
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
6 pieces of bread (more or less depending on how soaked you like your bread)

Mix eggs, squash and spice. Dip bread and cook in a hot skillet.
This would be great topped with fresh fruit, too!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Creamy Potato Soup

This will probably be the most unhealthy recipe ever posted! But it is so yummy! Again, it's something that only I would eat and the rest of my family would have to go hungry, so I only make this for others. The recipe came from my mother-in-law and I added a few extra things...
Sounds like something good for a cold, snowy night!

Creamy Potato Soup

1 large bag frozen, shredded or cubed hash browns
1 -2 Knorr Chicken Bullion cubes (this is the best brand ever!)
1 (8 oz block) cream cheese
1 quart whole milk
Dill weed (sprinkle till there's a lot of little green sprinkles throughout)
minced onion (just a pinch or so)
salt and pepper
Bacon bits, green onions, cheddar cheese

Melt cream cheese in milk. Add bullion and minced onions. Bring just to a simmer. Stir in potatoes, dill weed, and salt/pepper to taste. Keep stirring often so it won't scald on the bottom. Stir until potatoes are cooked. Serve in bread bowls if desired. Sprinkle with bacon bits, green onions, and cheddar cheese. This recipe works nicely in a crock pot, too. It doesn't scald as easily in a crock pot. Sometimes I add a couple of hand fulls of cheddar cheese and some green onions while it cooks when I make it in the crock pot.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love any type of Chicken Tortilla or Enchilada soup, but my family really doesn't. I try to find ways that I can enjoy it, without making my family suffer. I took this soup to our Super Bowl party and it was a hit! Rachael Ray had made a long and a short version of this on her show last week. I just made the short version with a few tweaks of my own...here it is!

Chicken Tortilla Stew (Speedy Version--slightly tweaked from Rachael Ray)
3 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper
1 16 oz. jar good quality roasted tomatillo salsa (I got mine from Target for $2.99--hot, spicy, green & good!)
2 quarts chicken stock
1 can white corn, drained and rinsed (I couldn't find hominy)
1 bag small white chips (Target brand works great!)
4 small chicken breasts marinaded in lemon pepper, cooked and shredded (also available at Target--super sale!)
cilantro, chopped
sour cream and cheddar cheese for garnish

Heat olive oil, add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft--8-10 minutes.
Add the tomatillo salsa, chicken stock and corn to the pot and bring to a bubble. While the mixture is coming to a bubble, place a couple of handfuls of chips in a bag and crush them. Add to soup. Just before serving, add shredded chicken and stir to heat through.

Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese and more chips to garnish!

Macaroni and Cheese

Well, I'll have to admit, this is the sneakiest I've gotten with a meal so far! Last night, we tried Macaroni and Cheese from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook. It has pureed butternut squash in it along with an assortment of dairy products. As I was making it, Cloe pointed at the squash and said, "I sure hope you're not planning on putting that in our mac and cheese!" When it was all done and ready to serve, I asked her if she would try it for mommy. She got the spoon up to her mouth and then suddenly paused and said, "No squash, right?" I didn't lie; I just didn't answer her directly. "Would mommy put squash in macaroni and cheese?" Hmmm....yes...shhhh! She took the bite and said, "Oooo, I love it. There's no squash in there!"
Now, I'm sharing this recipe, but if word gets out that my family ate squash in our macaroni and cheese, I'm done for! Cloe, very admittedly would be upset and Cody would probably feel a little betrayed as an avid "squash hater." So please do me this favor, keep it under wraps! We don't need anyone spilling the beans on our little project to get more veggies in them! As long as they don't see it, they'll just wonder at the flavor. Myself, I rather enjoyed the hearty, rich flavor of butternut mac and cheese! Hope you enjoy this!

Macaroni and Cheese
(I doubled the following recipe for our family, but did have a ton left over.)
1/2 box elbow macaroni (I used small shells)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. flour
1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 c. pureed butternut squash or cauliflower puree
1 1/2 c. shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add macaroni, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.

While the macaroni is cooking, coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the oil, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the milk, and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3-4 minutes. (this happened much faster for me) Add the vegetable puree, cheddar and cream cheese, and seasonings. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in macaroni and serve warm. (I did have to add probably an additional cup of milk to make it extra smooth and creamy.)

Remember, DON'T TELL!!!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Up and running!

After a super long week without internet, we are back! It was a long week not being able to "keep up" with the life of emails, study materials, online ads, coupons, & deals! I guess I've just gotten so spoiled with the convenience that the internet provides for my life! We did have some great meals, though! One of our most favorite meals lately has been Rachael Ray's Not Lasagna Casserole. It has 3 different meats, lots of tomatoes, a hidden carrot and ricotta cheese! This is the perfect supper for a cold night. The kids love it and it's one of Cody's favorite meals, too! It's a keeper! (Here's a little sneaky hint--if you don't have ricotta, you can put cottage cheese in the blender until smooth and no one will know the difference. Shhhh....)

Not Lasagna Casserole
1 pound campanelle (curly-shaped hearty pasta), we use Barilla brand
salt
3 T. EVOO
1 pound ground beef, pork sausage, ground turkey MIX (1/3 pound of each--1 brown all 3 pounds together and save the rest for more cooking!)
1-2 large carrots, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, grated
Black pepper
1 large can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. basil leaves torn or 1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2-1 c. grated Italian blend cheese

Preparation
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once at a boil, salt liberally and add pasta. Cook just shy of al dente, leaving a good bite to it (6-7 minutes).

While water comes to a boil, heat 3 T. EVOO over medium high heat. Add the meat and lightly brown it, breaking it up into small bits with the back of a wooden spoon. (take out extra meat at this time if browning 3 lb. together)

Add carrot, onions, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until veggies soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock to veggies and meat and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in basil.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer to a 9x13 casserole dish and gently stir in ricotta cheese. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake 15 minutes until the top crusts up a bit. YUM!