Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Easy Baked Ziti

My favorite part is the first word in the title: Easy. Sometimes it's necessary to tweak my cooking philosophy, especially when I have little energy or am sick for much of the day. I think, simple, unpretentious, great tasting food is best though, yes? Every week I try to make at least one OAMC {Once A Month Cooking a.k.a destined for the freezer} recipe so that we can still have homemade meals without me actually cooking & prepping them in the evenings. Last week, I had a taste for baked ziti so I consulted a bunch of allrecipes recipes and came up with this.

Easy Baked Ziti
makes 2 8x8" dishes or one 9x13" dish
{I used 2 disposable 8x8" pans, as it makes for easier clean-up. The 8x8" dish was enough for my family of 2 adults and 2 children. When adding a light salad for the adults, there was still a bit of leftovers.}
1 16 oz. box mostaccioli or penne noodles

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 pound italian sausage

1 16 oz. container ricotta cheese

1/2 c. sour cream

2 c. shredded mozzarella

Boil noodles in salted water until barely al dente. You want them still a bit firm since they'll continue to cook in the oven. While noodles are boiling, brown up the italian sausage until no longer pink. Add the spaghetti sauce to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits. {There's flavor in those bits!} Let cool a bit. In a big bowl, mix together the spaghetti sauce mixture, the ricotta, and the sour cream. Dump in the noodles & toss thoroughly to coat. Lightly spray your desired pan(s) and add the noodles, dividing equally if using two pans. Top with shredded cheese. If you're baking it now, pop it in at 350° F for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly. Otherwise, cover with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and put it in the freezer til needed. Enjoy with some crusty bread & a light salad!

:: waiting for the cheese ::

**This is just one of those "base" recipes that invites you to add the things you love. Don't like sausage? Add lots of veggies instead, like peppers, onions and mushrooms. Or chicken sausage plus all of the above veg! If you like it spicy, add a bit of crushed red pepper. I used part-skim ricotta and light sour cream, but you can make it with regular versions if that's your thing. Go ahead and top it with a shredded pizza cheese blend, if that's what you have on hand. So many ways to make it your own. **

Monday, January 26, 2009

Four Years and Counting

From what I recall, she came out hollerin'. Dubbed by her grandma "the world's quietest baby", she was also the earliest {continues to march to her own drummer} and the lightest {at 7# 2 oz.}.


Four years have gone by since the day we first met face to face and I can't imagine my world without her in it. God gave her an extra {and I do mean extra} dose of personality, or spunk, if you will. Laughter really does follow her wherever she goes, as the quote on her bedroom wall suggests, leaving the lives of those around her never dull.

**HI-YAH!! A little birthday karate **

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Friday, January 23, 2009

When One Store Closes.....

...another one opens.

Isn't that how the saying goes? *grin*

I was only slightly dismayed to find that my local {and when I mean local, I mean the only one within about 15 miles} Blockbuster was closing. Economy, I suppose. I probably spent too much of my meager funds there anyhow, even at only 1 or 2 rentals a month. This means I will have to use more free Redbox codes, as well as my shiny new library card, for DVD rentals. Fine by me!

The opening?

Walgreens! That gets a big WHOOT! WHOOT! from me. I'll be checking out the weekly deals now, in hopes to build my stash of personal care products for free or very little. I'm pretty excited about this one. Not as excited as if it were a CVS {gotta love those ECBS}, but I'll take what I can get.

Both the closing & the opening are great blessings as they will help me improve my finances in '09. Off to look at Walgreens deals now.....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When Baby Meets Oreo

The Oreo might've won, but Sebastian sure got the last laugh!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Toasted Pecan Filling

The art of creating is a big part of me. It is both energizing & relaxing. The excitement of ideas. The work of my hands. Beholding the crafting of something new. What with all my most-of-the-day-sickness though, the only thing I've been creating is a new life, and well, it doesn't quite have the same effect. All this to say.... inner chef was withering.

I would lovingly gaze at cookbooks or my latest issue of Fine Cooking & wonder when I would be able to create in the kitchen again. Nuking a Lean Cuisine doesn't count.
So Saturday, while the kids & hubby were all away, I created.

I measured. I sifted. I whisked. I chopped. I picked a somewhat involved recipe and I enjoyed every step. I made sure to relish the quality time with my Kitchenaid Mixer. I smelled everything. I remembered how much I love the smell of cinnamon. Aaaaah......

And after nearly an hour and a half of preparing & baking time, I had this:

Seems like the cake inflated and swallowed up 3/4 of the streusel on top. Either that, or it was baker's error. No. It was probably the first one. It was everything I'd hoped for. A very tender crumb. {I even processed regular sugar to make it super-fine, for the love of all things baked.} Crunch from the streusel, what little survived. Swirls of slightly chocolately, cinnamony, nutty filling. {Toasting the nuts before making the filling really enhanced their nuttiness.} The best part was that it wasn't cloyingly sweet. No toothaches upon first bite.

It was just what my little inner chef needed.

ATTENTION: No calories were transmitted to your body through our computer screens during the reading of this post. Enjoy without guilt!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Me & My Boy

I still manage to squeak in a few minutes here & there to do something creative. It helps keep me sane & it's cheaper than therapy. Here's my latest creation for Sebastian's scrapbook:

**Journaling: I wondered how a son would fit into a world of Polly Pockets & tu-tus. Would I know how to raise a son? Lots of love, laughter and snuggles later, I realize they aren't so different after all.**

I'm trying to keep things simple. I love my new size {8x8"} and plan on switching all our scrapbooks to that size. I can keep it to one picture & a few embellishments & call it a day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Cupboard Overfloweth!

The world's best mom showed up for a visit yesterday with nearly 12 bags overflowing with groceries! Since she knows I'm not up for cooking from scratch very often, she filled the freezer with nuke-n-eat things like Kid Cuisine, Lean Cuisine, Hot Pockets, Lean Pockets and frozen pizza. Knowing my bent towards trying to stay healthy, she included Kashi GoLean cereal, Kashi oatmeal, WW Progresso Soup, and lean lunch meat. She treated the kids by buying chips, Cheetos, cookies, pop tarts and more....things I rarely ever buy. I was careful to only put a few "special" items in our cupboards, while the rest of the things went downstairs to my storage shelf, lest my little loveys eat all the goodies in a week or less.

Aren't moms the greatest??

Friends are pretty great too. Besides lots of encouragemnt from my nearest & dearest, I received an awesome gift basket not too long along from an uber-wonderful family. Not only did it have an envelope containing about ten {10!!} various gift cards, but the basket was filled with things I love. Lotsa Trader Joe's stuff. Even some TJ's orange chicken {so yummy & good on POINTS}! I was touched not only by the spirit of giving, but at the thought that went into considering the things I really like. I'm inspired to remember this act of kindness the next time I want to give of myself or give an actual gift.

I did manage to get my "Slim Down Sundays" post up on my other blog. I know. It's already Monday, but I'm doin' the best I can.

More soon...

Friday, January 09, 2009


And the things I've learned from it.

You know. The one-person card game.

I play a LOT, since it's on my cell phone & I can play lying down.

I play Vegas-style scoring. It costs $52 to deal a hand.

You get $5 per card you move to the top. Ten cards gets ya $55.

That means you're up 3 bucks.

You don't have to win the game to get ahead.
If you win the game, you'd get $260, but that doesn't always happen. By gaining just a little at a time, it'll take you longer to have a nice chunk of change, but you're still moving forward.

Life is better when played with others. There's a place for solitaire, but I much prefer a lively game with many players.

Better slow & right, than fast & wrong. Sometimes you're flipping through the cards so fast, you make silly mistakes or miss an obvious move that you could've made. If you're going particularly quickly, it could take you a few flips from the stack before you realize the move that's been staring you in the face.

Sometimes you gotta get creative. The solutions aren't always obvious. You might have to move a couple cards here, a couple cards there to unearth a card that you need.

And lastly, it's not over til it's over. You might think there are no moves to be made, with only one flip from the deck left, but that last card might just be the one card that makes winning the game possible.