Lazy Lasagna Bake

It’s officially that time of year…I’m spending more time being sick than I am being well. Thankfully, this time around was just a small cold, but its parting gift was a scratchy, chain-smoker voice. I’m on day three of that. Joy! But, it’s given me an excuse to drink obscene amounts of tea, so there’s that. In other news, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on behind-the-scenes stuff for “Table for One.” I’m not ready to share yet, but I am so excited for what I have in store. I can’t wait to share with you all soon!

I have been making this Lazy Lasagna Bake recipe since high school. It’s seen a lot of changes since then, but is just as good on a chilly night now as it was in 2002. I am a huge lasagna fan, but most nights, it seems like too much effort to make a pan just for me.  This will give you the lasagna taste without all the work. I made it tonight with ground beef, but it’s great without too. This is really easy to customize with veggies, spices, etc. Make the recipe as is, or use it as a base. Either way, let me know what you think!

Lazy Lasagna Bake

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What I’m Listening to: “Look After You” by The Fray

Ingredients (makes 1 serving)

-1/4 lb. ground beef (I bought a pound, and split it up- wrap the meat in plastic wrap and seal it in a freezer bag)

-Red pepper flakes

-1 1/2 cups of egg noodles

-1 cup of spaghetti sauce

-1/4 cup of cottage cheese

-1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, plus extra for topping

Preheat the oven to 400. Place the ground beef in a small skillet. Season with red pepper flakes, or your favorite meat seasoning. Cook until the pink is gone, stirring occasionally. Set the meat aside.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Cook the egg noodles for 8-10 minutes; drain. Return the noodles to the pan. Add the meat, sauce, cottage cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Heat over low and mix well until the cheese melts.

Pour the noodle mixture in a small greased pan. (I have single-serving bakeware and highly recommend it!) Sprinkle lightly with more mozzarella…or not lightly. I’m not here to judge! Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pasta is hot. Serve with bread and a side salad.

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Ultimate Creamy Mac and Cheese

Does anyone remember that show Ashton Kutcher used to host on MTV? I think it was called “Punked”? Anyway…I feel like I’m on that show, probably on a daily basis. Today, and honestly most days, it’s my cats that cause me the same distress and embarassment that Ashton caused numerous celebrities…in hilarious ways. Some backstory…today was  a big day for me at work. For the past 4-5 months, my friend, Caroline, and I have been co-chairing the United Way campaign for our entire city. We’ve attended meetings, trainings, and had to come up with a video to convince people to donate. We wrote the script, cast the actors, and were present for the video shoot. (And I was in it…never again!) Anyway, today was the first of two presentation days. I left the house much earlier than usual, and came home this afternoon for a quick break before our second presentation of the day. Now, let me be very clear about something…Stella and Charlee have ALWAYS been indoor cats, except for the first 3-4 months of their lives, when they were outdoor strays. (Or, in Charlee’s case, a barn kitty.) I don’t let them outside, we don’t go for walks. Nothing. Even so, they have this crazy fascination with outside. So, when I got home today, I no more than opened the door, and Stella went flying out onto the deck. I set down my purse, closed the door, and chased her down. (This is a pretty normal occurrence.) I told her she was naughty, opened the door to let her back in, and out came Charlee. Charlee likes to think she is brave and outdoorsy, but alas, she is not. Her trips outside are much less frequent, but today, she ran outside like a bat out of hell, and scurried about the side of the house. Once she got to the fence, she stopped, so I picked her up, told her she was naughty, and opened the door to put her inside, when out came Stella. THIS HAPPENED THREE MORE TIMES. I’m serious. I finally managed to get them both inside, but who knows what will happen when I have to go back to work… Wish me luck!

I have been searching for a good mac and cheese recipe for…well, forever. But every time I try a new recipe, it’s a bust. Too dry, not enough cheese, not enough flavor, tastes like plastic…I could go on. But then, I found this recipe. I made some changes right off the bat, and it was delicious! The perfect mac and cheese…creamy, cheesy, and full of flavor. I was a little wary about the amount of leftovers, so I figured I’d make less next time. The next night, I reheated some of the mac and cheese, and it was JUST AS GOOD as the first time! In fact, I ate it four days in a row and didn’t get sick of it! This is exactly the type of recipe I’ve been looking for, and, after a little testing, I’m ready to share it with you all. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Ultimate Creamy Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Bless This Mess

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What I’m Listening to: season 5, episode 22 of “How I Met Your Mother”

Ingredients (makes 4 side portions, or 2-3 main dish portions)

-3 cups of small-shaped pasta (I used radiatore)

-4 tbsp of butter

-1 12oz can of evaporated milk

-2 eggs

-1/2 tsp dry mustard

-1/2 tsp black pepper

-1/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp paprika

-2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar

-1 cup of shredded mild cheddar

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. When done, drain the pasta and return to the pan. Place the butter on top of the pasta and heat on low. Stir until melted.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, 1/2 the milk, dry mustard, pepper, salt, paprika, and sharp cheddar. (I did this step while the pasta was cooking.) Pour over the hot noodles and mix well. Continue to cook over low heat. Add the rest of the milk and mild cheddar. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve!

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Cooking for Beginners: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Thank goodness it’s the weekend. This was one of the longest weeks of my teaching life. This was the week that the cold, gloomy weather decided to take hold of my students. My preschoolers were super chatty and racing around the room at lightning speeds, while my dancers were sleepy and unmotivated…which made me feel sleepy and extra motivated. Case in point: I stood at the front of at least four of my classes, jumping around and yelling “dance is fun! Isn’t this fun?!” Nope. Dance was not fun this week. It was hard work and a lot of patience. I am hoping for a miracle next week, because we still have 5 long weeks until Thanksgiving, and I may just end up in the fetal position under my desk. Seriously.

This was the week of pumpkin recipes at my house! I posted my Pumpkin Crunch recipe yesterday, with a sneak peek at today’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe. These are seriously the easiest muffins ever. Even easier than a mix. There’s no egg, no oil. Easy. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of breakfast foods, but these muffins could change me! This recipe does make 12, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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What I’m Listening to: “Am I Wrong?” by Nico and Vinz

Ingredients (makes 12 large muffins)

-1 can of Libby’s Pure Pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling)

-1 box of yellow cake mix

-1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, cake mix, and chocolate chips. Scoop the batter into cupcake pan liners. (The liners will be very full.) Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Crunch

Guys! I know I normally have a story or something to go with every post, but I’m just too excited about this recipe…because it’s two recipes! Yes! Two. The first recipe, Pumpkin Crunch, is my FAVORITE fall dessert. My mom used to make this all the time when we were growing up, and I make it at least once a year for myself. The original recipe makes a 13×9 pan, so I’m hoping this smaller version will be friendlier to my waistline. (Although with the cup of sugar and stick of butter, I’m not so sure…)  You’ll have leftover pumpkin and cake mix from the Pumpkin Crunch, so you can combine them to make muffins! Two recipes in one…what could be better?!

Pumpkin Crunch

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What I’m Listening to: Pentatonix

Ingredients (makes an 11×7 pan)

-1 heaping cup of canned pumpkin (I use “Libby’s”…not pumpkin pie filling)

-1 cup of milk

-2 eggs

-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

-1 cup of sugar

-1/4 tsp salt

-1 box of yellow cake mix

-1 stick of butter, melted

-Chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and salt. Mix well, then pour into a greased 11×7 pan. Sprinkle 2/3 of the yellow cake mix generously over the top. Set the rest aside. Pour the melted butter evenly over the cake mix. Top with chopped pecans. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

You can mix together the remaining canned pumpkin and cake mix to make muffins! I threw a handful of chocolate chips in, too. That’s all you need! It made four muffins. I baked them at 350 for 25 minutes. Check back tomorrow for the full muffin recipe!

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Cooking for Beginners: Pepperoni Pizza Pouches

My cats are in absolute heaven today. Aside from a Starbucks run this morning and a pit stop at Target to get cheese for dinner, I’ve been home all day, curled up under a blanket and watching “How I Met Your Mother.” It’s rare that I am home for the whole day, even on the weekend. Any hopes of productivity went out the window when I woke up to overcast skies and light drizzling rain this morning, so, a Lazy Sunday it was. Charlee has been sleeping on my bed and Stella has spent the better part of the day laying on my lap, which is where she is currently. She loves my blogging time. I generally blog while sitting on the couch, so she’ll wait until I’m a few sentences in before squeezing into the space between me and my laptop, and making herself at home. It’s cute, but seriously. I think I could cut my blogging time in half if she wasn’t looking to have her belly rubbed every 2 minutes.

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I am really excited about my second “Cooking for Beginners” post!  I promise that I’ll branch out from pizza-themed recipes, but hey, it IS National Pizza Month. This is basically a glorified Hot Pocket…except I didn’t burn my mouth on mine, so I like them much better than the store-bought kind. I was able to pull this recipe together with ingredients I already had in my kitchen, and the prep was minimal. I made these for lunch today, but I think they’d also make a great appetizer, especially if you cut them in halves or quarters. Serve with some marinara for dipping and fruit on the side.

Pepperoni Pizza Pouches

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What I’m Listening to: “Stay with Me” by Sam Smith

Ingredients (makes 4 pouches)

-1 package of refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits (8 ct)

-1/2 cup of leftover spaghetti sauce, plus extra for dipping

-1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella

-12 pepperonis

-2 tbsp butter, melted

-1/4 tsp garlic powder

-1/8 tsp oregano

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a second piece on a flat surface, as a work space. Place two biscuits on the work surface at a time, a few inches apart. Flatten the biscuits with your hands, while maintaining the round shape. Spoon 1 tbsp of sauce onto each biscuit and spread with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle a 1/2 tbsp of cheese on one of the biscuits. Cover the cheese with 3 pepperonis, then sprinkle with 1 1/2 tbsp of cheese. Take the second biscuit and lay it over the first, sauce side down. Press together with your fingers. If the sauce leaks out, that’s ok! Use the tines of a fork (the part you eat from) to seal the pouch, all the way around. Move the pouch to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining biscuits until you have four pizza pouches.

Bake in the oven for 13 minutes. In the mean time, melt the butter, and mix in the garlic powder and oregano. If you want a bolder flavor, feel free to double the amount of spices you use. When the pouches are done, spoon the garlic butter mixture over each. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

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Creamy Potato Soup

When I bought my house two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I mean, really. No idea. What do you mean I can’t set my heat at 78? I have to mow my lawn how often?! What’s escrow? But, after getting a new water heater and clothes dryer, paying a $300 heating bill, and finally figuring out how to mow the hill in my front yard, I feel like I’ve got this. Well, I did feel like that, until Monday. On Mondays, I don’t work until noon, so I usually get up, have breakfast and watch a little TV, go for a walk, shower, do some chores, and then head out for the day, This past Monday, I made it to “have breakfast and watch a little TV.” Before I took my walk, I decided to reshoot my blog pictures for today’s post, because they didn’t turn out like I wanted. I opened the refrigerator door to get my soup so I could reheat it, when the fridge door, FELL OFF. Yes, you heard that right. One minute, the door was attached, and the next, it was smashing into my hip and coming dangerously close to chopping off my toes. After the shock of holding my fridge door wore off, I propped the door against my now exposed fridge, and started making phone calls. First, I called my dad (“Your door what?!”). Then, I called Sears, where my fridge was from. (“We can fix it next Tuesday…does that work?”) The same thing with the next place I called. Finally, the third repair place I called agreed to come over within the hour (after laughing at what happened) to take a look and see what they could do. Thankfully, it was an easy fix. Part of the hinge had been unscrewing over time, so when I opened the door on Monday, it was enough for the screw to fall out. The repair man fixed  it up for me, explaining what he did as he did it, and told me that in all his years, he’d never seen this happen before. Of course. But, I’m not complaining. I have a fridge. It has a door on it. I’m good. Although, I never did get those blog pictures retaken, so you’ll have have to suffer through the originals.

With the weather getting cooler, it was only a matter of time before I posted a soup recipe. I’ve also gotten many requests for soup on my Facebook page, so I decided to start with one of my favorites. I’ve honestly never known anyone to not like potato soup. It’s so versatile! You can eat it plain, or add bacon, cheese, chives, crackers…the list goes on. I’ve made this potato soup as basic as you can get, so feel free to add any of your favorite toppings to the end. This recipe is also vegetarian friendly! Enjoy!

Creamy Potato Soup

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What I’m Listening to: “God Only Knows”, the BBC remake of the Beach Boys original

Ingredients (makes 4 heaping servings)

-4 cups of baking potatoes, peeled and diced

-3 or 4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

-32 oz of chicken or vegetable broth (I can vouch; they are both delicious!)

-4 tbsp of butter

-1 small onion, diced

-4 tbsp flour

-1/2 tsp salt

-1 tsp ground pepper (black or white…I like white, as it has a little kick to it!)

-2 cups of milk

Wash, peel, and cut up the potatoes and carrots, placing them in a stockpot. (Any pan that can hold at least 8 cups is great!) Add the broth to the pot, and bring to a boil on high heat. Once the broth is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and let the vegetables cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a smaller pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. (You may want to taste test, to make sure the texture works for you.) Next, add the flour to the onion mixture. Whisk together quickly. Once the mixture has thickened, cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the salt and pepper, continuing to whisk. Add the milk slowly to the onion mixture in three parts, whisking quickly after each addition. After all the milk has been added, cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture takes on a gravy-like thickness, it is ready and can be removed from the heat.

If you like your potato soup to have a thick consistency, scoop out a cup of the broth and set aside, before moving on to the next step. Pour the milk mixture into the vegetable pot and stir to combine. Heat on medium until the soup is hot. If you removed the broth and find your soup to be too thick, add the broth back in, a few tablespoons at a time, until the soup is the right consistency. Serve with your favorite toppings and warm bread.

Note: The soup does thicken when refrigerated. I’ve found that if you use around 3 cups of broth, I usually need to add a little water or milk when reheating the next day. However, I did the full 4 cups this time and it’s the perfect consistency.

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Cooking for Beginners: Pizza Burgers

I never realized how hard my name is to say, until I started teaching preschool. Most of the kids do pretty well with it, but I have a little guy in class right now that’s…struggling. He had my name right the first week of class. Then, it was Miss Jeff for a day, followed by Mom, which is pretty typical. Now? I’m Miss Chef. It’s ADORABLE. I can’t even handle it. And…it’s just one more very important reason you should read my blog. MISS CHEF. It’s in writing.

So, it’s National Pizza and Pasta Month, and the celebrating has begun! Although, it’s pretty much always National Pizza and Pasta Month at my house, so…  It’s also my very first “cooking for beginners” post, so I’m really excited. I’m kicking off the month and the blog series with a recipe I absolutely love: Pizza Burgers! My mom used to make these all the time! Now, I know I’ve said before that different recipes were ugly, but this one truly takes the cake. Not. Pretty. (Also, not pretty when you eat them. This is NOT a first, second, or third date food!) But I digress. These are SO easy to make, even if you’re not confident in your cooking skills. There are only six ingredients. Six very affordable ingredients. Did I mention they take less than 30 minutes? Best recipe ever.

Pizza Burgers

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What I’m Listening to: the pilot episode of “Selfie” (still deciding if I like it)

Ingredients (makes 6-8 burgers)

-1/2 lb of ground Italian sausage (My mom used to make them with ground beef, or you could use ground turkey as a healthy alternative. If you go either of those routes, season generously with Seasoned Salt and garlic powder.)
-1 small can of tomato soup

-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

-1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

-1 tsp dried oregano

-3-4 English muffins, halved

Place the Italian sausage (or other ground meat) in a large non-stick skillet. If you aren’t sure if your skillet is nonstick, lightly spray the skillet with cooking spray. Turn on the stove burner to medium heat and start to break up the meat with a spatula. Once the meat is broken into small pieces, allow them to sit for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned. Turn the sausage over to brown the other side. Continue to stir and turn the meat every 1-2 minutes. It will be done when there is no pink and the meat is browned, but not burnt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the can of tomato soup (do NOT add the water like you would if you were making soup), the shredded cheeses, and the oregano. Mix well.

Place your English muffins in a toaster on a low setting. Toast lightly, then place center up on a baking sheet. Place a large spoonful of the meat mixture on each muffin, using the back of the spoon to spread it. (Recommended by Miss Chef: only make as many as you plan to eat in one sitting. They do not reheat well!) Bake the pizza burgers in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until hot. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes, then enjoy!

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