How to Make Perfect Pasta Salad {without a recipe!}

I love pasta salad, and it’s so versatile. You basically boil some pasta, throw in some veggies, and add a dressing. Right? Well…that hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past. I just couldn’t get it quite right. Until now!

Through some trial and error, I have figured out a few tips that make for the perfect pasta salad every time. I have been able to make a little or a lot, use whatever is on hand, and it’s good every time! I have posted these tips (and a basic recipe) over at Eat at Home today. I’d love for you to head over and check it out!

Lasagna with Italian Sausage {#sponsored}

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sargento. All opinions are 100% mine.

With the holidays upon us, lots of people are probably thinking of ham, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. At least that is the traditional fare in my house. However, over the years I have heard several people say that their traditional meal includes lasagna. I have a friend who will visit her parents and her in-laws on Thanksgiving, so she has turkey, ham, etc at lunch, but for dinner, her mother-in-law prepares lasagna and some different dishes that incorporates their family’s heritage. I think that is a pretty neat idea.

Since I’ve been thinking about lasagna non-stop, I decided it was time to make it. I had homemade Italian turkey sausage in the freezer, so I decided to use that for the meat sauce, but you could use ground beef, ground turkey, or skip the meat all together. You could use roasted vegetables, as well. I added a little kale in with the meat, but just a little, and chopped very fine because my kids can spot something green in their food a mile away. When they asked what the flecks of green were, I told them they were herbs. No, I don’t advocate lying to your children, but, well, I will lie to mine if it means getting some vegetables in them. (And technically, there are herbs in there.) Of course, the most important component of lasagna, in my opinion, is the CHEESE. Mo’ cheese is mo’betta in my house.

My plan was to pick up mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan but then I saw the Sargento Chef Blends Shredded 6 Cheese Italian and I thought, YES! It’s a blend of Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and Asiago. Why limit myself?! I also used sliced Provolone and shredded Parmesan. What can I say, I really like cheese.

Lasagna takes some time and isn’t exactly ‘quick and easy’, but it is definitely worth it. I would also say this was Holiday worthy as well!

Lasagna with Italian Sausage

  • 1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (I used homemade Italian turkey sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kale, stem removed, finely chopped (desired amount, optional)
  • 1 jar (approx 24 oz.) or 2 1/2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese if you prefer)
  • 1 cup Sargento Artisan Blends Shredded Parmesan Cheese, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9-12 lasagna noodles (depending on pan size, mine held 9)
  • 8 oz. Sargento Chef Blends Shredded 6 Italian Cheese
  • 6 slices of Sargento Provolone (or 12 if using the Ultra Thin sliced)
  • olive oil (for drizzling bottom of pan)
  1. Prepare meat sauce by browning ground meat on medium high heat (if not using Italian sausage, then season meat with salt and pepper, to taste) with the onion, garlic, and kale (if using). Once meat is cooked through and onions are tender, drain any fat and add the spaghetti sauce and crushed red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, Italian seasoning and salt. Set aside.
  3. Boil lasagna noodles per instructions on box for al dente.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  5. Arrange 3 to 4 lasagna noodles in bottom of pan, side by side (mine held 3).
  6. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture over noodles.
  7. Top cheese mixture with 1/3 of the meat sauce.
  8. Top meat sauce with 1/4 of the Shredded 6 Cheese Italian cheese.
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 two more times.
  10. After the last layer is complete, place the 6 slices of Provolone cheese on top along with remaining Parmesan.
  11. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until bubbly (40-45 minutes). Then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbling.
  12. Let lasagna cool for 15-20 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long, we couldn’t!)

Recipe adapted from South Your Mouth


Look at all that cheese! Can you see why I’m a fan of Sargento Shredded Cheese? Well, not just the shredded, we use the sliced all the time too. We love Swiss, Provolone, and Cheddar on our sandwiches. If you love cheese too, then check out Sargento on Pinterest. There are lots of recipes available!

Also, Sargento currently has a recipe contest going on. Head to Sargento on Facebook to find out all the details and enter to win! You have to submit an original recipe and photo of a dish featuring a Sargento Shredded Natural Cheese variety, plus an explanation of why using real, fresh-tasting ingredients like Sargento Shredded Natural Cheese matters to you. The Facebook recipe contest winner will receive $2,000 toward kitchen supplies and ingredients for the perfect holiday meal, plus a year’s supply of Sargento Shredded Natural Cheese. Sounds good to me!

I’m curious, what do your traditional Holiday meals include?

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Super Bowl Round-Up

If some of you are like me and just now digging out from the snow, you may be heading to the grocery store to stock up on supplies for the game tomorrow. I may not know who’s playing, but I have my Super Bowl menu pretty much figured out – priorities.

(Pictured, left to right)
and if you like any of those, you may also like:
Chicken BBQ in the Crockpot
-OR-
“Cheater” Chili (super quick and easy, 3 ingredients!)
and just a suggestion, but the best chips ever (IMO)
Let’s not forget the dessert!
Chicago Mix (for the sweet and salty lover – just sub out the candy corn for your favorite candy!)
Looking for something simple and low fat? The 2-Ingredient Angel Food Cake is the ticket.
Or, need something low carb?
These Cinnamon Crunchies will satisfy the low-carber’s sweet tooth!
You can also turn almost anything you have on hand into a delicious flatbread or pizza…just stock up on some Stonefire Flatbreads. They are delicious!
{Disclosure} I was sent samples to try, and there will definitely be more of these in my future. Expect some recipe posts soon!
You can also keep things neat and tidy by having Stonefire Pita Bread ready for filling at your Super Bowl gathering. That way, when people jump up and down, the contents won’t go flying everywhere 🙂 Yep, always thinking over here. ha!
Have a great weekend!

Macaroni n’ Cheese PIZZA

Mac and cheese pizza.  It’s a thing.  I wasn’t aware it was a thing, but it is.  I was casually perusing the isles of a Fresh Market grocery store with my 11 y/o daughter and mom one day, when they were giving out samples of a macaroni and cheese pizza.  My daughter went nuts, b/c she is a mac n’ cheese freak.  I think she would eat it everyday.  She ate several samples, it was embarrassing.  Finally I said in that quiet hiss that only mothers can do…’no more! We’ll make one at home!’, and that’s how macaroni and cheese pizza became ‘a thing’ in the mo’betta house.

This is so ridiculously easy that I am almost embarrassed to post it.  Almost, but not quite…b/c if you have a mac n’ cheese AND pizza fan at your house, and you didn’t know this was a thing, then you will love me.  Okay, maybe not love, but, ya know – like me a little, because don’t we ALL need some seriously easy throw-together-at-the-very-last-minute recipes? Yes. Yes we do.

Macaroni and Cheese Pizza (short cut version)

Kraft Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese (or your favorite brand)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or again, your favorite)
prepared pizza crust (I like the Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust)
real bacon bits (to taste…I just sprinkle some over the top)
Prepare macaroni and cheese and pizza crust according to package directions.  The Pillsbury crust says to pre-bake a few minutes, so after pre-baking, spread prepared macaroni and cheese over the crust.  Sprinkle the 1/2 cup shredded cheese and bacon bits over the top.  Pop back into the oven until everything is nice and melty and crust is completely done.
BAM! Dinner is D-O-N-E.
Now, obviously, this is a quick and dirty version, and you could make this with homemade mac and cheese and homemade pizza dough.  It can be as simple or complex as you would like.  All I can say is, it is quite a hit with my 2 girls!  I know it may seem strange, but it is actually pretty good, and I am not a fan of macaroni and cheese. *gasp*  I know, right?!  I’m weird like that.
Have you ever had macaroni and cheese pizza?  What is the “weirdest” pizza you’ve ever had?
 

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Cincinnati Chili

I’ll be honest.  I’m a born and bred Southern girl, and never had I heard of putting chili on spaghetti.  You put spaghetti sauce on spaghetti.  Or, if you are feeling fancy, maybe some white sauce, but not chili.  So, when Biz from My Bizzy Kitchen started talking about ‘Chili Mac‘, I was intrigued.  When she said, chili with no beans, I was sold.  I wanted to give her Cincinnati Chili a try.  And yes, Biz, I went and put green onions all over it 😉

Cincinnati Chili 

  • 1.5 pounds ground turkey (or ground beef)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook onions until softened. 
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, cooking until fragrant (just a minute or two). Add ground turkey, breaking it up into small pieces. *I cooked my turkey until almost done before adding in #3, however, for traditional Cincinnati chili, ground beef (or in my case, turkey) is supposed to cook in the boiling broth.
  3. Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, and vinegar.
  4. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chili is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
To serve – Can be served over spaghetti, with toppings of choice.  
According to ‘What’s Cooking America‘….
Cincinnati chili lovers order their chili by number. Two, Three, Four, or Five Way.”

Two-Way Chili:   Chili served on spaghetti
Three-Way Chili:   Additionally topped with shredded Cheddar cheese
Four-Way Chili:   Additionally topped with chopped onions
Five-Way Chili:   Additionally topped with kidney beans

Verdict? This was delicious.  A little different than what I am used to, but delicious all the same.  This is why I love reading food blogs! You learn so much about how others view food, what their traditions are, and about how different regions have their own ‘specialties’. I don’t think about foods varying very much just from state to state, but they do.  Plus, I wasn’t exposed to much more than meat and potatoes growing up! I guess Eastern NC is known for their BBQ (pork, of course).  Not sure what else?!
What foods are most popular where you live?  Feel free to leave links, recipes, etc!

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

I am generally not a huge fan of baked spaghetti.  It seems like when I have made it in the past, it was always  kind of dry, or ‘paste-y’ if that makes since.  However, when I saw this Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti over at Plain Chicken, I thought I would give it a try.  I am so glad I did!  It was the best baked spaghetti I have ever had!  I was pleasantly surprised, and I will definitely be making this again.  I made just a few changes to the original recipe (in italics).

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

12 oz spaghetti *I used Barilla Plus – a higher protein pasta w/a lower glycemic index
1 (28 ounce) jars prepared spaghetti sauce
1 lb lean ground beef *I omitted & added turkey pepperoni instead
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces cream cheese *I used fat free
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated *I used a little extra 🙂

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet.  Drain and place cooked spaghetti in bowl.  Add cream cheese, Italian Seasoning and minced garlic.  Stir until cream cheese is melted and the spaghetti is thoroughly coated. 

Add pepperoni to spaghetti sauce.

Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan.  Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Put spaghetti on top of sauce and top with remaining sauce.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Verdict? The end result is a warm, creamy, cheesy plate of yumminess!  

I’m linking up today with Simple Living and Eating, Just Us Four; Bacon Time with Hungry, Hungry, Hypo; Six Sisters’ Stuff, Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Simply Sweet Home, Rattlebridge Farm, Miss Information, Foodie Friends Friday, Close to Home, Mommy’s Sweet Confessions, Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

My sister has been talking about how delicious Orzo with Roasted Vegetables is for a while now.  I love orzo, but when I heard ‘roasted vegetables’ – I sort of thought “ewww”.  However, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have recently discovered that I actually like roasted vegetables.  So, I figured it was time to re-visit the recipe.  Especially since I still have…
I did not follow the recipe exactly, I just used what veggies I had on hand.  This is one of those recipes that you can change up quite a bit, depending on your likes (peppers) or dislikes (mushrooms).  I don’t think there’s any hope for mushrooms.  They just gross me out.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

adapted from For the Love of Cooking 

6-8 spears of asparagus, sliced in thirds
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced (I threw some banana peppers in there too)
1/2 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, leave skin on while roasting
15-20 grape tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil (divided)
Juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 cup orzo
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese
10 fresh basil leaves
 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
For quick clean up, use a foil lined baking sheet, then spray with cooking spray.
Toss the asparagus, bell peppers, onion and garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper on the baking sheet.

Roast for 20 minutes, then toss & add the tomatoes. Roast for an additional 10 minutes.
While veggies are roasting, prepare the orzo per instructions on box.
Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
When vegetables are done, carefully squeeze the garlic from their skins and mix with orzo.
Add roasted vegetables to the orzo.
Combine: lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste) and pour over orzo/vegetables.
Add the green onions, feta cheese and basil. Toss to coat evenly.

I made Whole Wheat Beer Bread to go with it.  I heart bread products.  and beer.  Since I have discovered the Michelob Ultra Peach flavor (and love it), I thought I’d give it a try in the bread.  I also added cinnamon, to make kind of a sweet bread.  It was very good.  As in, I ate 1/2 a loaf in one evening good.  There’s not much better than warm bread with a schmear of butta…mmmm…

So, I thought I was all that making this yummy, and very healthy meal. The hubs liked it, but the kids were less than impressed. They did like the bread however. They think I’m the craziest mother ever b/c I feed them things with beer in it. My mother-in-law would not approve. Anywho…the next night I had left overs and fixed these for the kids
They said I was the BEST cook EVER.  Kids are so easy.  Okay, not really, but this was a super easy recipe from Pillsbury.  I used Reduced Fat Grands biscuits and Cabot’s 50% reduced fat cheese, and ham (without added nitrates and nitrites, of course – geesh, all the crap moms have to remember).  I highly recommend using reduced fat ham and cheese or when you bite into them you will get grease/”juice” running out.  ewww

So these little gems get 5 stars in my kids’ book.  Guess I’ll be making them more often.  Grands makes a reduced fat wheat biscuit that I’ll use next time, but couldn’t find them at my regular grocery store. (what else is new?)

I’m linking up with Finding Joy in My Kitchen