Friday, April 22, 2011

(Fast and Easy) Lazy Mom "Almost" Lasagna

Last night at 5 o'clock I found myself standing in the middle of my kitchen, staring blankly at my stove, wondering what I on earth I was going to make for dinner. My kids had to be out the door for a movie date with Grandma by 6:15, and I had nothin'. I knew I had a pound of ground beef defrosted in the fridge, and that was about it. In such a case, I usually go to our old standy, spaghetti, but I'd already made spaghetti this week, so that wasn't going to work. The next thing that came to mind was lasagna, but that just takes too darn long. If only I could make something like lasagna that was fast and easy: no messing with the long noodles and making all those layers and mixing up all the cheeses. I do have a recipe for lasagna that uses uncooked noodles, but at that moment, even that seemed like too much work. I needed EASY!  So I came up with this fast and easy lasagna bake. I call it:

Lazy Mom " Almost" Lasagna
by Machelle Littlefield

makes 6-8 servings

1 lb ground beef
2 jars spaghetti sauce
2 c. cottage cheese
parmesan cheese
2 eggs
shredded cheese
16 oz. noddles (macaroni, shells, penne, whatever)

     Put your noodles onto boil. I used Penne Rigate. Don't let the fancy name fool you...It was a $1.00 box of noodles from Walmart. Anything would really work here...macaroni, shells, whatever. Brown 1 lb of ground beef. Pour the 2 jars of sauce in with the cooked beef. We like it pretty saucy, so two may be too much for you.
     In a separate bowel, put about 2 cups cottage cheese and blend until smooth. I use a stick blender for this. Throw in 2 eggs, and about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and blend well. I added some italian seasoning blend, onion salt, and parsley flakes. Grate some cheese. I used colby jack, because that's what was in the fridge. Something with mozzerella or jack melts best, but whatever you have on hand will be perfect.
     Once your noodles are done, drain them, and pour half of them in a 9x13 pan. Top with half of the meat sauce, and all of the cottage cheese mixture. Add the rest of the noodles, meat sauce, and top with the shredded cheese. Throw it in to the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
     The kids loved it and my picky hubby had about 4 helpings.  He actually said he better not have more because "his stomach felt like it was going to explode."

Now, as I'm typing this recipe, I realize that in this version I DID make a cheese mixture and create layers (so I don't know what all my complaining was about earlier. ) All I know is that I avoid making regular lasagna because it just feels like too much work, but this recipes really felt like I threw it together in a jif. So give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Okay, This isn't a "quick and easy" recipe your family will love...But it is a screamin' deal that I wanted to share!

I have been waiting all year for this sale! Flirty Aprons 60% off...$9.60-$10.38 with code!
Ever since I saw Flirty Aprons on the Bonnie Hunt show, I knew I wanted to get a few for birthdays and especially for Mothers Day.  They are so stinkin' cute! With most of the aprons priced between $25-$30, I never got around to ordering. I heard that once a year they go on sale for a screaming deal, and I have been watching and waiting to see what sort of deal I could get. I just found out the once-a-year-blowout-sale has started!!! I am so excited..I wanted to share this with you in case you were looking for something fun and different to give for Mothers Day. The prices are so good I think I will stock up and order several extra to cover some Christmas gifts as well. So here is the deal:

60% off  Marilyn Style Aprons with code MARILYN60 through 5/10/2011  ONCE A YEAR CLEARANCE SALE

20% off all aprons with code 20M2011 through 5/10/2011  Mothers Day Special

Women's Marilyn Apron Mint-a-liscious

Was $27.95
Now $23.99
*$9.60 after code


Women's Marilyn Apron Sugar n' Spice

Was $27.95
Now $25.95
*$10.38 after code

Womens' Marilyn Apron Strawberry Shortcake

Was $27.95
Now $23.99
*$9.60 after code

60% off Marilyn Style Aprons MARILYN60 - exp 5/10/11: Use code in checkout
All other aprons, 20% off 20M2011 - exp 5/10/11: Use code in checkout

*Shipping was about $4.75 (for up to 3 aprons)

LINK to Flirty Aprons 60% off Marilyn Aprons with code MARILYN60 through 5/10/2011 

LINK to Flirty Aprons: 20% off All Aprons with Code 20M2011 through 5/10/2011 


I've been getting lots of feedback from people trying to order these aprons, and I am hearing that some people are being told they are sold out. I contacted the company and was told they are selling like crazy at these amazing prices, but they are making more aprons as fast as they can. If you want to get in on this deal, just keep checking back to see when they are back in stock. Of course, if I hear anything, I'll pass it on!

Quick and Easy Curry Chicken and Rice

This is super easy Curry Chicken and Rice is truly a favorite, "go-to" recipe in our busy home!
I found this fabulously easy and oh, so yummy recipe in the cookbook put together by our local elementary school. Once I tried this fast, easy recipe, the whole family was hooked! I have found that the very best recipe books are put together by local school or church groups. They are ususally done as fundraisers, and people seem to really step up with their best family recipes...The best thing is that the recipes included in these local books seem to be the fast and easy, "real" food that "real" families eat. So many nationally produced cookbooks are full of fancy pictures and ingredient lists as long as my arm...they are interesting to look at, but does anybody really make that stuff? So as a general rule, whenever my local school or church group comes out with a new cookbook, I'm the first in line to buy one!

We are a big fan of chicken and rice dishes at our house, and it took me several years to learn the secret of making really good rice. I always used regular 'ol Uncle Bens or whatever rice I could find on sale. I love the fabulous, slightly sticky, moist, perfectly steamed rice from our local chinese restaurant, but never really gave a second thought as to whether I could make that kind of rice at home. I began to notice that whenever we had rice at my mother-in-laws house, her rice was the perfect, moist, steamed rice like the restaurants would serve. I finally asked her about it, and she taught me a secret that changed my rice cooking life forever!

If you want perfect, chinese restaurant style moist, "sticky" rice, Uncle Bens just won't cut it.

You need to buy Calrose rice, often found in the asian section of the grocery store. It is sometimes labeled as Jasmine rice. This is rice with the outer coating of starch left intact, which makes a wonderful, moist, slightly sticky rice perfect for serving with meals that contain a sauce of any kind. I serve "sticky" rice with all sorts of dishes: beef, chicken, pork...anything with a sauce, such as No Leftovers Curry Chicken, for example! You don't even need special equipment to get perfect rice every time. More on that in a bit.

I recently made this chicken recipe when I had a house full of people for one of my daughters birthday parties. As I took it out of the oven and walked through the kitchen to place it on the table, everyone I passed took a whiff of the deliciousness and commented "What is THAT?????? It lookes so good!" And of course, it WAS! Enjoy!

Super Easy, No Leftovers Curry Chicken
serves 6-8

6 uncooked chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1 cup mayo (fat free works great. I often use regular but it's a little "heavy". )
1 c. parmesan cheese (I use the stuff in the can)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (I use less for the kids)
1/2 c. herb seasoned breadcrumbs

Mix soup, mayo and curry powder. Pour over chicken in 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cheese and top with breadcrumbs. Drizzle with melted butter. I often double the sauce so there will be extra to serve over the rice.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Perfect Easy Rice

I use my 4 qt. pyrex casserole dish with a lid for this. I just take 2 cups Calrose or Jasmine rice, and place in casserole dish. Add 3 cups water and place lid on dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. This serves 6-8 people

Friday, April 8, 2011

8 Foods Not to Cook Naked

This was too fun not to share.

8 Foods Not to Cook Naked

Cooking naked could be said to be a freeing act: one where you let go of your inhibitions to connect with your body and the food you eat. You become enraptured in the art of cooking and begin to appreciate your food with a new profound sense of self-awareness — smells, sounds, and tastes are more pronounced. Or, it could be a silly experiment where you only inflict pain on yourself.
In case some of you soul-searchers, freethinkers, or adventurous eaters are looking to try this out, we drew up a quick list of foods that you should definitely not make when cooking naked.

Tastes so good, but is the spitting oil worth it? Maybe these little piggy parts wait until you have some clothes on. (Photo courtesy of Istock/MentalArt)

JalapeƱos or Other Hot Peppers
Hot seeds. Unprotected areas. Burning. Ouch. Not the best move. Even if you envision mashing ripe avocadoes between your fingertips to be the ultimate sensual experience, you might want to leave the jalapeƱos out of the guacamole if you’re doing this in the nude. Just a thought.

Searing Meat
A hot, oiled cast-iron pan making contact with raw meat is a beautiful thing — when you’re not standing next to it naked. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/naotakem)
Potato Latkes
We are talking about some serious hot oil here people, especially if you want to get that crisp exterior; this is a dish best left to those who are clothed.
Deep Fried Turkey
The allure of standing in the outdoors, getting in touch with nature, and working with your hands to deep-fry a turkey to create crispy, flavorful skin might sound appealing (if you live in a warm climate), but if that big bird falls in that oil just a little too quickly or flies off the handle, you are in some deep-fried trouble of your own my friend.
Trying to capitalize on your make-your-own sushi class, you figure working with brown rice and raw fish could be a healthy, revitalizing experience. But what happens when that finger grazes some wasabi and then happens to scratch an unnamed orifice… ? Think about it.
Tomato Sauce
Yes, crushing tomatoes with your hands and smelling that intoxicating scent of sauce at a heightened sense of awareness must be nice, but sputtering flecks of tomato flying out at you as you bring it to a simmer might not be so nice.
Making Caramel
Sweet seduction and a silky, buttery mouthfeel all come to mind at the mention of caramel, but cooking with sugar is not a smart move. There is going to be some serious splattering going on and that’s not something you want to expose yourself to.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lil' Cheddar Meatloaves and O'Henry bars...Fast, easy, and sure to please!

Finally, I'm worth my beans!!

Pretty much as soon as I started collecting recipes, I started looking for a really yumalicious meatloaf recipe, because, after all, every self respecting Mom worth her beans can make a decent meatloaf, right? Over the years I've tested many different combinations of breadcrumbs, beef and spices...some called for oatmeal, others used cracker crumbs, even cornflakes. Some were slathered in a carpet of ketchup, others were stuffed with things that gave my picky children heart even called for "wheat berries" and flaxseed, but that's a story for another time. When I found this recipe for Lil' Cheddar Meatloaves, I knew my quest was complete. This fast and easy recipe is a keeper, the kids love it,  and they are moist and flavorful every time (the meatloaves, not the kids....)! So with this fast and easy meatloaf recipe in my collection,  I am even closer to my goal of being a "self respecting Mom who is worth her beans!". Pair this with an easy dessert like Fast and Easy O'Henry Bars, and all you need to do is throw together a green salad and maybe cut up some fruit or something, and dinner's on!

Lil' Cheddar Meatloaves
original recipe by Marina Crowther, revised by Machelle Littlefield

makes 8 servings

1 egg
3/4 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. quick cooking oats
1/2 c. chopped onions (or 1 tsp. onion powder for kids prone to freaking out over actual onions)
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground beef
2/3 c. ketchup
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp prepared mustard

In bowel, beat eggs and milk. Stir in cheese, oats, onion and salt. Add beef and mix well. Shape into 8 mini loaves. Place in 13x9 pan. Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard, and spoon over loaves. Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes or until meat is cooked through.

Fast and Easy O'Henry Bars
recipe by Carolyn Rowley

4 c. quick oats
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 stick melted butter
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 TB vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter

Mix together oats and brown sugar. In separate bowel, combine butter, syrup and vanilla. Stir these 2 mixtures together. The longer you mix it, the better it will be. This is a great job for little hands! Pat into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 about 15 minutes, just until it firms up and is golden. Do not over cook! When cooled, top with peanut butter and chocolate chips that have been melted together. YUM-O with a capital YUM!

Have a perfectly wonderful day,