Lasagna!

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This plate of goodness was part of my Valentine’s present from Josh.  It was num-nummy!  (as usual)  Josh makes the best lasagna in the world!  It’s a two-meat, five-cheese tower of decadence reserved for special occasions.  It’s kinda expensive to make, but if you double it and make two (one to freeze), it reduces the cost-per-serving (or the wasted extra materials) considerably.  Plus, that means you have nearly a week’s worth of meals or an extra meal to give to a sick relative or friend.

Also, this recipe makes a ton!!!  It says it serves 12, but it serves waaaaaaaaaaaay more than that!  Even if you are talking twelve heavy-eater servings.  Oh, and I would recommend disposable pans for this (deep ones…the ones for “lasagna” are too shallow).

On Saturday, when we served it, I meant to serve it with a nice arugula salad with a vinaigrette, but Josh and I were all about the lasagna.  Muffin had eaten heavily at Granny’s during the day, so he didn’t want any.  He did, as we had leftovers of it throughout the week, discover that he loved ‘Pizzagna.

What does Josh do that makes the recipe so spectacular?  The recipe calls for ground beef and bulk pork sausage (which we take to mean Italian sausage).  He leaves the meat in fairly large chucks as it’s cooking in the tomato-based sauce, so it’s almost like beef meatballs and Italian sausage meatballs.  Supper yummy!

So, what does he do?  He does this:

Traditional Lasagna

Adapted from Taste of Home

1 lb ground beef

3/4 pound Italian sausage (We use mild)

24 ounces tomato sauce

12 ounces tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

24 ounces small-curd cottage cheese

8 ounces ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained (Do not buy no-boil lasagna!)

6 slices provolone cheese

12 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, brown meats over medium heat until done (keeping in fairly large/small meatball-sized chunks).  Drain.  Add the cans of tomato product, garlic, sugar, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and parsley.  Stir in cottage cheese, ricotta, and Parmesan.

Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in an ungreased disposable foil pan (13 x 9 but deep).  Layer with 3 noodles, provolone cheese, 2 cups cheese mixture, 1 cup mozzarella, three noodles, 2 cups meat sauce, remaining cheese mixture, and 1 cup mozzarella.  Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce, and mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 50 minutes.  Uncover and bake 20 minutes or until heated through.  Let stand for 15 minutes before eating.

What is your favorite Italian dish?

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Josh’s Lunch Salad and Playground Stories

This morning Josh wanted me to make him a salad for lunch rather than a chicken salad sandwich.  So, I used some of the spring mix from Sam’s that we had split with my parents, a half carrot from Muffin’s supply of organic carrots, Craisins, some of the grape tomatoes earmarked for the pasta salad this weekend, some celery, some cheese, and sliced Margarita Grilled Chicken.  I really like making him salads for work because I feel that’s the one time I’m really successful at plating.  Salads can be made so attractive and colorful.  This was this morning’s effort.

Also, they are fully customized.  Don’t want almonds.  No problem.  Want grated carrot instead?  Great.  Olives?  Sure.  I really love having salad bars when we entertain (especially my parents and my sister).  It’s also a great use for leftovers.

On another front, I’m going to attempt to return Print Shop.  There seems to be a compatability issue with Windows 8 (and, from what I can tell, most desktop publishing programs).  The upshot is, Josh receives a work discount for Office Professional.  He purchased me Office Professional for Mother’s Day.  Publisher comes with this version of Office, and it seems to do everything that I need that Print Shop did and more.  And it’s compatible with Windows 8.  The photo editing and graphical enhancement above were completed in Publisher.  It doesn’t have an Eye Dropper color picker (that I have found), but Paint has one so I can just use that to find the RGB codes for what I want.

What has Muffin been doing lately?  After the cleaning blitz this weekend (a very tumultuous 36 hours that involved me raising my voice a lot more than I wanted and Muffin standing still not cleaning his room), he finally cleaned his room enough–for now.  And he was able to receive his bribe prize, a trip to our local shopping mall where they have a mini indoor playground.

I’ve grown leery of indoor playgrounds.  Muffin is not a child on medication, and, as such, is rambunctious.  He is not the Stepford Child.  He finds joy in the world around him and lets everyone know about it.  At our local Chick-Fil-A restaurant, an incident happened (not where Muffin hurt someone) where Muffin was pinched hard on the cheeks by another child (hard enough to leave marks even two days after and dangerously close to his eyes) and punched on the chin by the same child.  Extenuating circumstances left me at a loss on how to 1) confront the situation and 2) comfort my child.

I don’t really want to get into those circumstances, but let’s just say, it was not a situation where I felt able to discuss with the parents their child’s behavior.

So, I was understandably uncomfy with the idea of taking him to the mall to the play area.  But I stupidly used that as a prize for him.  When we first arrived (right at the opening of the mall for the day), he was all alone in the play area.  Then, suddenly, there was a massive influx of little bodies (most smaller than Muffin, who is rapidly reaching the height limit for the play area).  He found two other little boys to play with and a girl to protect.  Muffin has a very strong protective instinct.  When he thought she was in danger (she really wasn’t), he caught on to her plight and decided to follow her around and be her knight in shining armor (regardless of how that metaphor raises the hackles for some…it fits in this case).

I realized something very important from these two incidents, something that has many very positive points, but a few negative ones, as well.  Josh and I have raised Muffin to be color blind and really blind of differences that other people would be uncomfortable with.  Both of those are very good things.  I’ve been raised in the South all my life and have seen the ugliness that racism and intolerance have caused…for everyone.  I’ve seen people who were “englightened” and “progressive” turn into some of the most destructively cruel people when confronted with differences.  If I could, I would wrap my son up in a bubble because I don’t want him exposed to that cruelty.

He’s already faced tastes of it, and here is where the negatives of his upbringing come into play.  We’ve focused so much on teaching understanding and friendliness that he has no concept or understanding of exclusion and meanness.  The few times he has witnessed that negativity in a public situation, he becomes first nervous, then confused, and finally frustrated.  How do you teach a four-year-old that not all people are inherently nice?  I’m not talking about “stranger danger”; I’m talking about the people that he will be interacting with daily in the public being rude, cruel, intolerant, and inconsiderate.

But, for now, this is his countenance most of the time.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

 

Josh’s Favorite Meatloaf–Oma’s Recipe

Muffin Approved

Preheat oven – 350.

Combine:

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1 beaten egg

1 cup rolled oats (or cracker crumbs)

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tsp. minced onion

1/2 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Blend thoroughly.  Pack lightly into a 9×5 loaf pan.  Make 3 diagonal indentations across top and fill with 3 tbsp. ketchup.  Bake in 350 oven for 1 1/2 hours.

For a printable version of this recipe, please see my recipe page.

I made this Sunday for the “date night redo” meal.  I’ve also made it as meatloaf muffins, stuck a finger of my impeccably clean hand into each “muffin,” and then filled that indentation with ketchup.  Josh always eats his meatloaf (in whichever form I make it) with extra ketchup.  I usually use cracker crumbs; on Sunday I used store-brand buttery round crackers (the brand name starts with “R”).

A Long-Overdue Update

It seems that I am cursed with “wannabe-blogger-but-seem-to-forget-my-blog-exists-for-a-few-years-itis.”  One of my summer goals is to be a more faithful blogger.

Rene is now two years old, in a new house, with a new best friend:  Daisy, a mixed-breed Beagle puppy rescued from the pound.  Daisy has a few bad habits (reality TV, being a bed potato), but she has really blended into the family well.

Josh and I are still in search of the great deal as well as mastery of the kitchen.  In the great whirlwind of the past two years, Rene has proven a gung-ho participant of our experiments in the kitchen.  There is very little (excluding raw cruciferous vegetables) that he will not at least try.  He seems to be a fruititarian (and can consume massive quantities of grapes, berries, and pineapple).

One thing that has kept me (ahem) busy is the great (Josh, if he reads this will surely be adding, waste of time) Pinterest.  I heart Pinterest.  I am addicted to Pinterest.  It has been way too long since my last pin (a few hours).  🙂

However, naysayers of Pinterest aside, the most wonderful site on the planet has inspired me immensely.  I have attempted several recipes (well, thought about attempting and have actually attempted a few).  In the next few weeks, I will post a few of those.

I do not promise to be a very proficient blogger with snazzy media sidebars, but I hope to provide entertainment, cute pictures of Rene (“Muffin”) and Daisy (when she is not in her Chicagolicious-Next-Top-Model viewing marathons), and some useful information.  I hope you stick around to enjoy the visit.  While you are waiting around for the next post brew up some Southern Sweet Tea perfected by my Canadian (northern Ontario-hailing) husband, Josh.  Like most great southern (American) recipes, it may seem a bit excessive, but it really hits the comfort food spot.

Canadian Southern Sweet Tea (a la Josh)

1 family-sized tea bag of Orange Pekoe tea (It will be soaking for a nice long while in the sauna-a.k.a. pitcher of hot water, so make sure it is a brand you feel comfortable with drinking.)

1 quart boiling hot water (see below for directions)

1 cup white sugar (although Josh is thinking we may switch over to honey when we buy some from the local beekeeper tomorrow–I will keep you posted with updates in that venture)

1 quart cool water

In a half-gallon pitcher (or a gallon if you want double the comforting love), add the sugar.  Secure the tea bag to the handle of the pitcher by using the little little gashes on the tea label to make a loop with the string.

Boil 1 quart of water in a tea kettle.  Trust me on this.  I have spilled enough boiling hot liquids from saucepans to know:  use a tea kettle.  Plus, it makes that really cool whistling sound that always gets Daisy’s attention.

Pour the boiling water into the pitcher, being sure to douse (I love that word!) the tea bag with the boiling water.  Aim for it if you have to.  The purpose is to get the tea and the bag wet enough so that an infusion happens.  A dry tea bag means you have hot sugar water.  Stir until sugar dissolves.

Let it sit for no less than 10 minutes.  (I know some people are having issues with the tea bag–and not loose tea–as well as leaving it steeping for so long.  Trust me.  It’s good.  If you have problems with it, continue on with your previous method.  You just won’t be making Josh-tea.)  Once the water in the pitcher is a dark brown (Think of it as tea concentrate!), remove the tea bag to be placed in the compost and add the remaining water.  Stir.

*Do not forget that you have tea steeping.  It tends to be a bit strong after a couple of hours, even with the water added.

If you simply are parrrrched and cannot wait a moment longer for tea-filled refreshment, load your cup full of ice (mason jar, plastic Mardi Gras cup, wine goblet, whatever strikes your fancy) and pour the tea slowly (directly on the ice) into the destination drinking vessel.  Garnish–if you must–with mint and/or lemon or other citrus or whatever you want.  Drink.  Repeat.  Make some more.  Repeat.