Simple Make-Ahead Lasagna Recipe

I was home from school for two days this week for mid-winter break. It was a lovely thing for many reasons, but the reason my family loved was that we would get a hearty meal that I didn’t have to whip together in less than 30-minutes.

Most things that take longer, I can make ahead on Sunday if it’s something we really want for dinner that week, but there is something so yummy about putting something together and baking it right there on the spot.

One of Cortney’s favorite meals is lasagna. I’ve seen a lot of lasagna recipes out there, but the one my mom always made for our family is a favorite and I have never felt the need to try anything new.

lasagna

Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1lb canned tomato
  • 12oz tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • garlic
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 12 lasagna noodles (boiled)
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese OR cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • parsley flakes
  • dash salt
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 18 mozzarella cheese slices

Directions

Step 1
brown the ground beef and then add the tomato, tomato paste, basil, garlic, and salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
Step 2
boil the lasagna noodles as directed
Step 3
mix the ricotta (or cottage) cheese with the eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Step 4
Assemble the lasagna in a well-greased 9x13 pan: noodles, cheese mix, mozzarella cheese, meat, repeat (I usually get three full layers, but if you make the layers super thick, you might only get two)
Step 5
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees (or for 45 minutes if you refrigerate the lasagna before hand)

We like our lasagna with garlic bread and salad. Plus it makes for some yummy lunch leftovers!

What is one of your family’s favorite meals? Do you get to eat it often or is it just for special occasions? Or do you have a favorite lasagna recipe?

Cheese Chowder

A

When I was in college living in the dorms I worked in the cafeteria as an id card swiper. The position was called “checker”. My favorite shift was the post lunch, but pre dinner shift.  The two-hour stretch when the only food the caf served was the cold cereal bar, the Sara Lee Deli sandwich line, and the grilled cheeses that were made to order.

There was also always soups of the day.

My friend Todd and I would start getting all dancey when the soup was “cheese soup”.

Grilled cheese (with colby…which you could only get if you knew the kid on grilled cheese duty) and a bowl of cheese soup was one of my most favorite things about the dorm caf.

(Thankfully since I lived in the dorms farthest from all the academic buildings and driving to class wasn’t really an option, I did NOT gain the freshman fifteen.  If the circumstances were different, that much cheesey goodness in my life would have made me a much more round college student.)

Anyway, I have never forgotten about that cheese soup.

It’s probably been 15 years since I had it, but I have never stopped looking for something as flavorful and satisfying (I realize it probably came out of a giant can, but it was YUMMY, darn it!).

Until now.

I’ve mentioned my love of my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook before (not an affiliate link), and this is another gem from there.

I also love it because it can be played with to be just a cheese base soup for broccoli cheese soup or cauliflower cheese soup or any other kind of yummy cheesy soup by omitting the celery, peppers, and onion.

Cort suggests adding bacon to it because all things are better with bacon.

So here it is…my beloved Cheese Chowder:

Cheese Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 dash chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon granuales
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded American cheese

Directions

Step 1
In a large saucepan bring water to a boil and add carrot, celery, red pepper, and green onions. Cook, covered for about five minutes or until veggies are tender. Do NOT drain.
Step 2
In a small bowl whisk together one cup of the milk with the flour. Stir this into the veggie mix on the stove. Then add the remaining milk, the bouillon granules, and the white pepper.
Step 3
Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Then cook and stir for about one minute longer. Add the cheeses and stir until melted.

Remember: I never claimed to know any healthy dishes.  The almost pound of cheese in this recipe should be enough proof, but I though I should give the disclaimer!

 

Easy Minestrone Soup

Last week was cold and rainy. I don’t think the sun came out much at all.

Plus there was the time change which meant I left for work in the dark and came home in the dark.

This signals two things to me: A) I need to get out my Happy Light, and B) I need a comfort food soup to slurp.

minestrone soup

I got this recipe out of my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

I like this recipe because it’s easy and quick, but also because my kids will eat the parts of it separate from the soup. For instance I boil a few extra noodles to leave out of the soup for the boys.  They will also eat some of the veggies if I leave them out of the soup.  Everyone was happy and Eddie even declared it a “delicious meal!” when I served it.

If the four-year old thinks it’s delicious, you know you’ve won dinner time.

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 14-oz cans of Beef Broth
  • 1 15-oz can of red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 15-oz can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 14.5-oz can stewed tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 11.5-oz can veggie juice
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (crushed)
  • 1.5 cups loose-packed frozen mixed veggies (like Italian blend)
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (like medium shell macaroni or mostaccioli)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves (cut into strips)

Directions

Step 1
In a 4-quart Dutch oven combine the beef broth, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, undrained tomatoes, veggie juice, tomato paste, sugar, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil.
Step 2
Add mixed veggies and reduce heat. Let simmer covered for about 10 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Step 3
Stir in the cooked pasta and the spinach; heat through.
Step 4
Serve with a little parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

The recipe makes a LOT, so next time (yes, there will be a next time), I will probably only make half a batch. I like leftovers as much as the next guy, but it made a LOT of soup for two people.

 

Creamy Tomato Soup

A few weeks ago I mentioned on Facebook that I was currently eating my very first grilled cheese/tomato soup combo.  There was shock and disbelief that I made it 35 and a half years before dipping my first grilled cheese into some Campbell’s tomato soup.

Of course I loved it.

For some reason I had been under the impression that I hated tomato soup. I’m not sure where I got this idea other than I don’t like raw tomatoes. But tomato soup doesn’t taste like taking a bite out of a raw tomato.

Anyway, since I thought it was tasty, I was determined to make my own tomato soup.  Not that anything is wrong with Campbell’s, but homemade is always better than something out of a can.

So I scoured Pinterest for a recipe and I stumbled upon something that I pinned long ago…something my friend Nichole posted on her blog.

This week I decided we needed an easy dinner on Halloween so I made tomato soup by adapting her recipe for Creamy Tomato Soup, and Cortney whipped up some grilled cheese sandwiches.

creamytomatosoup

Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups water
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 small yellow onion (sliced)
  • 3 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cream

Directions

Step 1
In a large sauce pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until translucent
Step 2
Add the water and reduce by half.
Step 3
Add the tomatoes and cream and reduce by half.
Step 4
Remove from heat and use an emulsifier, blender, or food processor to blend until smooth.

I think grilled cheese and tomato soup might be my  new favorite thing.  I can’t believe I waited so long to try it!  Mmmm!

Easy Homemade Chicken & Rice Soup

I don’t know about you, but when the temperature dips below 65 degrees, I start thinking about warm comfort food. And one of my favorite comfort foods are soup and chili.

Oh man, I am thinking about how yummy it smells to have soup plupping on the stove, and how cozy my tummy feels when I’ve finished a cup or bowl. Mmmm!

Since Cortney and I love a good bowl of warm deliciousness, I decided to try to make a new soup/chili once a week this fall.  And guess what, I’m going to share them with you!

The first soup–and the one that made me want to eat soup weekly–is my mom’s homemade chicken and rice soup.

chickensoup

It’s a soup-er easy recipe (see what I did there?), and very soul-warming. I made it because I was craving my childhood. I wanted the warm safety of my parents’ house and specifically the predictability of a warm, home-cooked meal on the table every night.

Just the smell of this soup calms down all the hurt in my heart and hushed the buzzing in my head.

I hope it works this magic for you too.

Chicken & Rice Soup

Ingredients

  • chicken broth (you can use a couple of the boxes from the store, or I use what I get from cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot)
  • chicken (I shred and chop about a quarter of a cooked chicken. You could also use a mixture of dark & white canned chicken meat)
  • 4 stalks of celery (chopped up, leaves and all)
  • 1 white onion (chopped)
  • 2-3 chicken bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup rice (do NOT use minute rice for this (and I use a bit under a half cup))

Directions

Step 1
put it all together in a big pot on the stove and bring it to a low boil. Reduce heat and let it "plup" for about an hour.
Step 2
serve with crackers or bread or whatever you love with soup! Enjoy!

Want more recipes that I’ve posted before?

This is my Veggie Beef Soup recipe (also from my mom) and this is my White Chicken Chili recipe (adapted from a recipe by my aunt).

Cinnamon Bread & Prayers

We got some devastating news this week.  After spending Thursday trying to process what this news means to our family, I began to wring my hands worrying what I could do to reach out and help.

Saturday I called my mom and told her that because I didn’t know what to do, I was going to bake our family members some bread and could I please have her cinnamon bread recipe.

“Of course that is what you’re going to do! You’re Dutch!” she laughed as she rummaged through her recipe box. “Here it is. Oh this is a good one to make. It is so yummy.”

cinnamonbread

Saturday afternoon, I combined ingredients, I mixed them, and I prayed.

In no time, our home was filled with the scent of cinnamon and sugar and prayers hanging thick in the sunshine-filled kitchen and living space.

Cinnamon Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil (I use canola oil)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup soured milk (You can use buttermilk or I use milk with some white vinegar mixed with it.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Step 1
Mix egg, 1 cup sugar, oil, flour, salt, soda, and milk together well.
Step 2
pour half of the batter into a well-greased loaf pan
Step 3
whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon
Step 4
shake half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture on poured batter and swirl it around on the top of the batter.
Step 5
pour second half of batter into pan
Step 6
shake remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture on top and swirl a bit (I like to leave some not swirled in to be a little loose on top of the bread)
Step 7
bake at 350 degrees for just under an hour.

When someone you love is hurting, what do you do?

Because Ice Cream

It’s summer!!! LA LA LA!!!

Oh summer…you are so lovely.  No work, hours with my boys, waking up to a 3-almost-4-year old each morning sliding into bed saying, “I’m just going to watch Chugington in here, Mommy.  Try not to snore.”

Yes, summer you are lovely.

And the most lovely thing about summer?

ICE CREAM!

simple chocolate ice cream

Oh yeah…who wants some?

You do, that’s who.

Last year for my birthday I got an ice cream maker.  My mom thought I was crazy to ask for one, and Cort figured it would be one more thing that sits in the cupboard unused.

Oh how wrong they were.

As soon as the weather warmed up, I put that mother to use last year.  My favorite from last year was cheesecake ice cream with raspberry sauce.

So because it is officially summer of 2013, it is officially time to break out the ice cream maker again.

Eddie chose chocolate ice cream as our first batch, and since he was going to be my helper, I let him pick it.  Even though it’s so dang easy.

best helper ever

best helper ever

This recipe also does not require the stove, so I figured it was a good one for us to start with this season.  Eddie added each ingredient and then stirred it up.  He also waited patiently for the 2 hours it needed to chill.

HA HA HA HA HA!!  :wipes eyes:

No, he was not patient.  At all.

But eventually the time came, we put it in the ice cream maker, it made us ice cream, and we ate it.

And there were chocolate mustache duck faces made.

2013-06-05 18.25.17

Because YUM!

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Note

*This recipe was originally found in the Cuisinart Recipe booklet, but I tend to play with the measurements so this is what I use.

Directions

Step 1
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, and salt.
Step 2
Add the milk and, using a hand mixer on low speed, beat to combine until the cocoa, sugars, and salt are dissolved.
Step 3
Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
Step 4
Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight)
Step 5
Following the directions of your ice cream maker, pour mixture in. (I have a Cuisinart, so mine has to mix for about 15-20 minutes).
Step 6
If you want it thicker, freeze immediately for about 2 hours, otherwise serve it up in a bowl or on a cone!

What is your favorite summer treat?  If it’s ice cream (like ours) what is your favorite flavor?

It’s a Fish Pouch!

It’s been awhile since I shared a recipe, but I found one this week that every member of my family loved…and it wasn’t a carb-fest or full of cheese!

I know. I am just as shocked as you are.

And here is the most shocking thing…it’s fish.

Yup. ALL four of us LOVED this meal.

It’s SUPER easy, it’s a great summer grill meal, and it’s pretty healthy!

And it’s a POUCH. Of FISH!

grilledfishveggies

I actually have no idea why I find fish so funny, so let’s just get to the recipe before I embarrass myself, m’kay?

Grilled Fish & Veggie Packets

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Basil leaves (divided)
  • 1 Zucchini (thinly sliced)
  • 1lb Halibut Fish (cut crosswise into four pieces (I used Tilapia))
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/4 cup Italian Dressing

Directions

Step 1
heat the grill to medium heat
Step 2
reserve 1/4 of the basil leaves and cut the remaining basil leaves into thin slices.
Step 3
place zucchini on the centers of four large sheets of tin foil and top with fish, tomatoes, and sliced basil.
Step 4
drizzle each with Italian dressing.
Step 5
fold to make four packets.
Step 6
grill for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Step 7
carefully open packets and top fish with reserved basil leaves.

I was going to serve it with brown rice, but then I forgot to make it, so we had unhealthy dinner rolls.

This dinner was a HUGE hit.  Charlie and Eddie both ate everything but the tomatoes with Eddie even declaring, “Mmmm! Zucchini is pretty good!”

A three-year old announcing the “pretty goodness” of zucchini and not fighting at all about eating the fish?

Win.

What do you like to grill?  We need more ideas than just hot dogs and fish pouches.

 

*I found this recipe in my Kraft Food & Family magazine.

Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like a Homemade Cocoa Cake

Wednesday was Charlie’s birthday, and while his party is not until today, we still needed to celebrate.

With Eddie we started the tradition of taking him out for dinner on his actual birthday, last year to Red Robin.  We love Red Robin because it’s such a great place to take kids.  Eddie loves almost everything on their menu, plus he loves that they have pictures on the kids menu, so we go through and circle what he wants: a main dish, a side dish, and a drink.

When we asked Eddie where he thought Charlie would like to go for his first birthday, he agreed that Red Robin would be the best ever place to go.

Once there, Charlie totally approved.

birthday bird2

Of course, you can’t have a birthday without birthday cake.  And even though our waitress had all the servers sing to Charlie and bring him a giant Sundae, we really needed birthday CAKE, amiright?

Tuesday I had shot out of my staff meeting like a bolt of lightening to get home before all the boys so I could squeeze in baking a cake before dinner had to be started.

2013-03-12 16.10.44

Since Charlie is not old enough to choose his cake flavor, I chose one of my favorites for him: homemade cocoa cake with cream cheese frosting.  My aunt used to make it, and I loved it so much I asked for the recipe.

2013-03-12 16.23.42

As you can see, The Bird loved it too.

birthday bird1

He approached it with caution at first, but once he tasted that sweet, sweet nectar that is cream cheese frosting, he proceeded to suck all the frosting off the cake.  Then he picked up the cake and destroyed it.  It was awesome.

Cocoa Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups shortening (my aunt uses margerine, I use cocnut oil, but you could used Crisco or butter, I suppose)
  • 1 cup sour mik
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup hot black coffee

Directions

Step 1
blend together the sugar, cocoa, and flour.
Step 2
add soda, salt, shortening, sour milk, and vanilla. Beat together for 1 minute.
Step 3
add the coffee and beat for 2 minutes
Step 4
bake in a 9x13 pan at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 1 packet cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Step 1
beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Step 2
Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually add additional powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.
Step 3
This amount will frost tops and sides of two 8-or 9-inch layers. (Half the recipe to frost a 13x9 cake). Cover and keep frosted cake in the fridge.

It was a happy birthday, indeed.

What is your favorite birthday treat?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookiesI am pretty sure zero people out there need a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I mean, there’s one on the bag of chocolate chips.

But I just can’t help sharing this recipe.

When I bite into these, it’s like I’m eating my childhood.   Wait.

Ok, let’s try that again.  You know how sounds and scents can bring you right back to a place?  One bite of these cookies brings me back to being a kid.  From helping my mom mix in the chocolate chips to licking the beaters (yup, there’s raw egg in there.  We live dangerously).

They remind me of coming home from somewhere and seeing a bunch cooling on a cut up brown paper bag (my mom had a cooling rack. She hated it and gave it to me.  She still cuts up the brown paper bags from the grocery store to use for cooling treats).

My mom has been making these bad boys my whole life; it was the first recipe I knew I had to take with me when I moved out 13 years ago.

I mean, who doesn’t love the sweet taste of their youth?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tarter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1
First cream together the brown sugar, white sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl
Step 2
Then mix in the flour, soda, salt, and cream of tarter. I like to add a bit of cinnamon here too.
Step 3
Lastly fold in the chocolate chips.
Step 4
Take spoonfuls of the dough and drop about an inch or so apart on a baking pan.
Step 5
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes

Every time I eat one of these, I am brought back to being a little kid.

And because Cort has a sweet tooth (mostly for chocolate), he likes to make these often.

What treat reoccurs often in your house?  Or what treat reminds you of your childhood?

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