Monthly Archives: October 2011

My sought after lasagna, with a pumpkin twist

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Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the recipe as requested by some of you from earlier in the week. Now, before you go, “Whoa lady, that looks like a lot of work!” let me just say that it’s lasagna. It takes a little effort to make the thing but it’s easy to double and freeze and it tastes amazing on a cold night. So gear up and give it a go.

A quick note on the pumpkin: this can be simply taken out of the lasagna. I added it based on a recipe a friend sent me but didn’t find the addition made the lasagna very pumpkin tasting. Maybe substituting pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon would help enhance the flavor. Just brainstorming with you all. I’m no expert! But without the pumpkin, this is my go-to lasagna I make all the time.

Ingredients:

3/4 package lasagna noodles, about 12 noodles

1 pound italian sausage/ground beef, any combination of the two will do. I also use goose meat.

1 small onion, diced

2 cloved garlic, minced

1 1/2-2 cans marinara sauce depending on how saucy you like it

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp basil leaves

1 Tbl oregano leaves

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1 Tbl parsley flakes

1 quart ricotta cheese

1 can pumpkin

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

1 – 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese. How cheesy do you like it?  Best if bought in a block and shredded yourself!

Food Prep:

1. Cook lasagna noodles, or other noodles according to directions. Coat them in oil and separated them otherwise they’ll stick together while you’re finishing the other steps.

2. Brown meat, garlic and onion. Drain. Add sauce, sugar, salt, basil, red pepper, cinnamon and oregano. Simmer 10 minutes.

3. Combine ricotta, pumpkin, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley and salt in medium bowl.

4. Shred your mozzarella into a large bowl.

This pic shows my assembly station. Noodles, cheese, ricotta mixture and sauce all surrounding the pan.

Assembly:

4. Spread a thin layer of sauce in a 9×13 inch pan. You’ll probably have left overs for another loaf pan of lasagna.

5. Layer 1/3 each in order: noodles, ricotta mixture, sauce, mozzarella cheese. Repeat x 3.

*Note, you can use 3 noodles per layer for the 9×13 pan and then you’ll have some left for aloaf pan.

6. Cover and bake at 375 degrees 45min-1hour or until hot and bubbly. Uncover last 5 minutes.

7. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If freezing for later forego the baking until you’re ready to eat and add more sauce! Like 1/2 jar since the noodles soak up a lot of the moisture. It will take about 1 1/2 – 2 hours if frozen.

I love to double this recipe so I can freeze some for an easy dinner later or to bring to a buddy. When you’re dealing with so many ingredients it’s easier to double the recipe than take everything back out in a few weeks to make again.

Enjoy!

Busy being sick

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Well, the week came and went again and I didn’t get on the computer at all so here’s another recap. For the record, I don’t understand how people blog every day. I intend to post stuff more often but simply can’t find the time. Or maybe I just value my sleep too much to spend the extra time at night to post although I swear I didn’t get much sleep this week at all anyways! Whatever.

So here’s what went down.

We went to a wedding for one of Cullen’s oldest friends. It was wonderful. There were good feelings flying around the room and the little flower girls and ring bearer had sneakers on that lit up. I was jealous. Heals vs. light up sneakers… it’s a no brainer!

We had ice cream with the kids. Or rather, the ice cream consumed our kids. Lilly was a hot mess by the end but loved every melted lick. We ditched the sticky kids with my mom and cousin for a second night and headed to Chicago to spend an awesome evening eating and celebrating with friends.

The next day we made Halloween sugar cookies with a few fun neighbor friends while watching the Bears Game. Lauren has been asking to bake with me for ever and we finally did. It’s so fun to see the creativity of older kids come through onto their cookies! We’ll be doing this again soon.

Then begins the week of sick days. Lil stayed home almost the whole week and we crafted. A lot.

We made jack-o-lantern clementines:

We made stained glass and a window valence made from a pillow case for the basement:

We made glittery googly-eyed pumpkins while Odin napped:

We created things in the kitchen too. Bacon wrapped chicken thighs over potatoes and onions:

Pumpkin cupcakes with rum and maple and cinnamon cream cheese frosting. They are amazing just like the Better-than-sex cupcakes from cupcakeproject.com a month ago:

Here’s the link to best fall sweet yet! http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2008/11/pumpkin-cupcakes-with-rum-and-maple.html

Then we had a play date since Lil was feeling better. We made spiders out of hand prints and ghosts out of foot prints.

Afterwards we made pumpkin lasagna and had friends over for dinner. The pumpkin was mixed in with the ricotta. I used a whole can but really couldn’t taste the pumpkin. My taste buds may have been in pumpkin overload at the time due to pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin cupcakes all made in a 24 hour period. I’ll make a new post with the lasagna recipe soon.

Then we had another Halloween sugar cookie play date but this time with the little buggers from our play group.

Yesterday we had a Fun Fest at Lilly’s school and I worked the Boo Buckets. No pictures because I went from hunting in the morning to cleaning my room then got in a quick shower and sped to the school. Essentially I was too scatter-brained to remember my camera. The Fun Fest was fun but I pulled a muscle in my back and my butt. Seriously people, volunteering at school functions is hazardous to your health. Be ware and be careful! I should have stretched before hand. Simply put, I was unprepared for the physical demands of Boo Buckets. Chasing after rolling pumpkins for an hour is demanding work. Also, I must comment on the fact that I had to repeatedly explain how to play the game. That’s when I realized these kids have no idea who Bozo is which made me a little sad.

Okay, I’m worn out from posting all this and have caught Lilly’s cold. I hope you were entertained by the pics and maybe got a few ideas for projects of your own.

Happy Halloween to you all! I promise it won’t take a week to get our Halloween antics posted!

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I have a little helper and her name is Lilly-Bear. I have been training her up to bake with me since it makes the process so much more enjoyable. Exchanging the word enjoyable with slow or frustrating also makes the sentence true but let’s not dwell on the negatives, people.

She really enjoys pouring all the ingredients into the bowl by herself and watching the mixer stir it up.

I let her scoop out the dough and then I plopped it onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets. It’s all about easy clean up ladies and gentlemen.


This picture illustrates why her help makes the baking process both slow and frustrating at times. It’s impossible for this 3 year old to not lick her hands when they get messy no matter how many times I tell her not to (frustrating), leading to multiple hand washings (slow). Oh well. She’s certainly cute to look at.

Cookie may be the wrong word for this treat. There is nothing crumbly or crunchy about it and it bakes up into unique shapes based on how you plop the batter onto the cookie trays. I’d say it’s much more like a muffin. Call it a mufkie, a cookfin or whatever the heck you’d like, just make these delights and see for yourself. In the past 30 hours me and the kids have eaten scores of these babies. Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients: 

1/2 Cup butter,1 1/2 Cup white sugar, 1 egg, 1 can pumpkin (not pie mix!) or 1 1/2 cups (depending on how much pumpkin flavor you like), 1 tsp vanilla, 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 flour (if you use more pumpkin, use more flour), 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl cream butter andsugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla.

In another bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Gradually mix into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto cookie sheets. Bake about 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

My Guys

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Yup. There they are. They’re both so nice when they’re sleeping.

He turns into a hitting, biting ninja when he’s awake. Aside from wearing the occasional tutu and heels he’s such a boy! And hey, there’s nothing wrong with your older sister dressing you up. The kid will grow up to be just fine. Go ahead, ask my brother.

Whirlwind Week

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Whirlwind Week

Um, it’s Friday.  But I bet you already knew that.  I just have one question though.  How the hell did we get from Sunday to Friday so fast? Oh wait, let me show you just a sampling of what we did.

Sunday:

Making Ghosts out of footprints

Baking a 6 cheese lasagna with Grandpa Frank and Grammy using unusually long noodles.

Monday:

Well… there should be some pictures from our trip to Chicago on Monday inserted here but I didn’t take any. It might be because Lilly was being a very challenging 3 year old at our friend’s house or it might be because Odin was cranky since he thought 5:30am was an appropriate time to wake up. Either way there are no pictures and there is no way I’m bringing my children to Chicago again any time soon.

Tuesday:

Chilling in Grandma’s Car on our way to the Pound to find a dog for her. She’s still in the market so I’m sure we’ll be going back soon. The kids loved looking at the cats.

Wednesday:

Being hams after preschool.

Afternoon at Tom’s Farm Market Fall Fest

Thursday:

Lindsay and Erik came to visit from Florida!!! They lived with us for a while in Chicago and as soon as I win the lottery I’m buying a commune and making them live there with us. I love them. They just left after a quick 24 hour visit and I already miss them terribly. Anyways, Halloween cookie fun ensued.

Once the kids went to sleep and our sugar comas wore off we ate ABTs and butternut squash for dinner. FYI: ABT stands for Automic Buffalo Turd. Don’t ask, I don’t know. What I do know is that you take half and jalapeno, fill with cream cheese, sit a small piece of meat on top (we used dove breasts), wrap in a strip of bacon, season, grill slowly for 45 minutes and then try to wait for the molten lava cream cheese to cool off enough to devour these suckers. I burned myself. It was worth it.

It’s Friday. I’m sitting at my computer all alone with a belly full of pumpkin pancakes because Cullen decided he would take the kids on Lilly’s school field trip to the apple orchard. My minutes are numbered since they are on their way home now. I know this because Cullen called and said, “From now on, you can do this stuff.” Bah Haaa! Win for me.

Well, I guess there you have it. That’s a typical week for us. Of course there were also doctors appointments, chiropractor appointments, grocery shopping and preschool which helped round out the days.

I guess I feel better knowing we packed a lot of fun into the week even if I need this blog and pictures to help me remember what is was we did.

Playing with fondant

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I have a good friend, Rebecca. We share a passion for baking though our styles and methods differ a bit. I like to focus more on the actual cake and Rebecca’s talents lie in the decorating realm. She does wonderful things with fondant and has a cabinet full of baking tools I pine for.  Wednesday I dragged the kiddos over to her place so I could learn how to make and work with fondant. She made me this nice orange cake and then made me do everything else.

I assembled the ball, made the fondant (which is quite an interesting and messy process but cool none-the-less), covered the ball, and then decorated it. This is what I ended up with:

It’s a pumpkin. A lopsided, imperfect, delicious pumpkin.  I really wish I had remembered to take a picture of the fondant making process. I started with a huge blob of melted marshmallows and by kneading in a bag of powdered sugar (and maybe some sweat) on a heavily greased counter I ended up with a large ball of fondant. I’m not sure if it’s worth all the effort to make my own fondant when I can just buy it but it certainly is fun creating an edible cake like this and I certainly can’t do this with butter cream! So, Rebecca, thanks for making fondant seem less intimidating.

Just the day before Lilly was looking on the counter where I keep the sweets and she asked, “Mom, why we don’t have any cake?”

You poor deprived girl, let mama fix that for you.

 

And all was right in her world again.

 

 

No patience for your shit

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I’ve felt like this squirrell all damn day, on alert but totally exhausted (read: cranky as shit). Plus Lilly was a total butt-head.  All day. I blame the fact that she had 4 days off of school. Though on second thought maybe it was that she spent 24 hours with my mom getting spoiled. Rotten. Yes, I’ll blame my mom. And now I’ll go to bed because decorating the house for Halloween and arguing with Lilly has left me spent.

*Side note. I feel it’s a grandparent’s duty to spoil their grandchildren rotten at the parents’ expense but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it occasionally.

What’s the best way to spend some kid-free time?…

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…Eating and sleeping of course! Yesterday we convinced my mom to take the kids for the night so we could enjoy a night out. It was sorely needed. We had about 24 hours without the kids which felt like forever… in a good way. We’re not the type of parents that have ever found it hard to leave the kids for any period of time. We pawn them off to friends and family whenever we can and run out the door, hardly looking back.

So this time we ran over to our friend’s place where we were made a delicious meal of crab dip, cherry and cheddar-pepper sausages and a wild rice dish. The food and company were great and it was all the better because I didn’t have to do any of the cooking or cleaning up. It’s amazing how much less I eat when I’m not serving two toddlers and then cleaning up the left overs.

Our post-dinner activities included sitting around a campfire and then watching John’s dog Turk attempt to defile his girlfriend, Leslie. It was high-class entertainment for sure. I bet you’re sorry you missed out!!!

On our way home we stopped by a neighbor’s house for an extra hour of fun before passing out close to 2AM knowing there wasn’t going to be anyone waking us up at 0-dark-thirty. I pulled my hungry ass out of bed close to 10 and made breakfast for two.

On the menu: Hawaiian bread french toast with pumpkin butter and maple syrup. It was darn good but unfortunately I was all out of pecans and walnuts. wah wah.

Then we walked the dogs and got home just in time for the Bears game. Our Bears game fare included more sausages like the night before and then I made this:

You should smell my house right now. It’s heavenly. This Ultimate Banana Bread recipe comes from Cooksillustrated but I added the chocolate chips to the recipe because everything is better with chocolate chips. If you don’t agree, I don’t think we can be friends. The pic shows the two smaller loaves. The large loaf was mostly devoured by the vultures sitting around the football game before I thought to take a photo of it.

It’s a blurry pic and for that I’m sorry but I had to work fast otherwise the above pic would just have been crumbs.

 

These are my guys. I think they’ll keep me around for a little longer. I wonder how they’re going to embrace the zucchini bread that’s up next…

As for myself, I have a happy heart, a clear head and a full belly so I’m as content as could be. Life is good.

As for you, you’d better just make this banana bread. your won’t be sorry. Here’s the recipe:

Ultimate Banana Bread from Cooksillustrated

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2teaspoon table salt
  • 6large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (see note)
  • 8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 2large eggs
  • 3/4cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2teaspoons granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  2. 2. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl (if using frozen bananas skip microwaving and just thaw saving juices); cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
  3. 3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  4. 4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts and 1/2 cup chocolate chips, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise (I skip this step). Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
  5. 5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Cast liberation day

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We took Odin on Thursday to get his cast removed. We were all excited about it. I was excited to be done with bagging his leg before showers, getting kicked in the crotch and carrying/strolling him everywhere when we went outside. I was also thrilled with the notion that I would no longer have to stretch his pant leg to get it over the cast and the kids could resume taking bathes. Odin’s stink factor was getting out of hand.

This was day one. The cast was novel, fun even.

This was day twenty-one. The cast had became part of Odin. For the last two weeks the kid was walking, running, jumping and climbing as if it wasn’t even there.  Through it all though, his big sister was right there with him. She was kind, loving and supportive. She started calling him Buddy in a very tender way. “Oh Buddy, does it hurt?” “Here Buddy, let me help you.” “Yeah! That’s your cast, Buddy.” I was so proud of her and the way she was watching out for her little brother.  That’s why I wasn’t surprised that while O was lying on the table getting the cast cut off she was wedged herself right between me and the table and told him what a good job he was doing while stroking his hair and holding his hand. *sigh!*

This right here, this love between siblings, is what makes me want to have a hoard of children so that no matter what life throws at them they will always have the support of their brothers and sisters to get them through.

Now I need to go and cry a little. I want my brother and sister. Wahhh!