La La Lasagna

I know what you’re thinking. What is this, a food blog? Well, I guess it is sometimes. This blog is for a little bit of everything, and I’ll get back to school stuff soon. I’m so excited about this lasagna recipe, I just can’t hide it. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know I want to….oh wait. That’s a song. Sorry, I’ll try to focus. I want to share with you all a recipe I found that Vitamin D. declared “the best he’s ever had.” And trust me, compliments like that don’t get doled out willy-nilly around here.

Neither Vitamin D. nor I enjoy ricotta cheese. He doesn’t like cottage cheese either, so finding a lasagna recipe that we both like is difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I haven’t even tried to make lasagna for him because I knew he wouldn’t like it.

Until now.

I looked around for a good ricotta/cottage cheese-free recipe and happened upon this one. And for once I didn’t get it from Pinterest! This is a recipe that this woman’s grandmother used to make. It is so simple. Just 1 lb. ground beef (I used turkey), 32 oz. pasta sauce, 1/4 cup water, 9 or 10 uncooked lasagna noodles, and 3 cups mozzarella cheese. I used slices of fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded cheese it called for. Brown the meat then add the sauce and water. Layer it up (1/2 the meat mixture, 9 noodles, half the cheese, repeat), cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. It was actually so easy I was done with it before I could remember to take a picture, and we were so hungry (and it was SO GOOD) that we had eaten an entire row before I could take a picture. But here are the remains of the lasagna:

Lasagna without ricotta cheese

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I always need a good base recipe before I can go “off book.” This is a good place to start. D. suggested adding veggies next time, I thought I could use more ground turkey, too. And it will be great on those cold fall nights that are coming up.


Hamburger, Hamburger

Confession time: I’m not exactly a whiz in the kitchen. My sister is, but I never really got that gift. I’m not terrible, mind you. I can get the job done. But nothing I make ever truly blows my hair back, you know? And my dad was so great in the kitchen. Sometimes I miss his cooking. He’d cook for his friends or for big events in our town (which in our town was usually something like a Buffalo Bills football game), and he was always head chef for our family holidays and gatherings at our house. He really enjoyed cooking. He once entered the town’s chili cookoff, which he proudly won. That blue ribbon hung on his refrigerator for years (and he requested that we refer to him as the Chili King from then on, which we did not). He rarely used a recipe, and trying to get recipes from him went something like this:

Me: Dad, can you give me the recipe to make your stuffed mushrooms? [Sidebar: my dad’s stuffed mushrooms are infamous in my home town. Seriously. They are that good.]

Dad: I don’t really have a recipe. But they aren’t hard to make.

Me: Ok, can you tell me how to make them?

Dad: Sure. Take the stem off the mushrooms and cut them up. Put in some meat. You can use beef, or sausage, or whatever you want. Sometimes I put in horseradish, too. And whatever spices you want. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Bake them until the cheese is bubbly.

Okay. Can you see what’s wrong with this? Vague ingredients, NO measurements, no oven temperature or time, and way too many options to “do what I want” when I don’t even know where to start. So when I had a hankering the other day for his hamburger soup that I used to love, I knew it was futile to ask around to see if anyone had his recipe. But I did it anyway…just in case. And guess what?

I was right. No recipe. But I did get at least a list of ingredients that he used, so that was a good start. I also found a kajillion hamburger soup recipes online, so I can of smashed them into one recipe and came up with my first attempt at this soup! And it isn’t half bad! I like it enough to eat the leftovers for lunch. Vitamin D liked it enough to eat it- with hot sauce. But we’d definitely make some changes.

Once I perfect it, it will be perfect for the fall and those chilly football Sundays. I’ll definitely be trying it again (my “notes to self” are at the bottom of recipe). So, since I know you are on the edge of your seat, here is the recipe:

Bri’s Hamburger Soup: Version 1


1 lb. ground beef (I used 95% lean beef)

1 can condensed tomato soup

1 can beef consumme

5 beef bouillon cubes

5 cups water

1 can diced tomatoes- undrained

1/2 lb. mini wheel pasta (or any other small pasta, my dad always used orzo I think. I just thought the wheels looked fun :))

1 diced onion

1 diced carrot

1 diced celery stalk (I’ll be honest- I used one of those pre-cut onion/carrot/celery combos).

1 tbs. Worchestire sauce

1 tsp. hamburger seasoning

Garlic powder and salt to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese to top

(Vitamin D. likes garlic a whole bunch so I threw in some minced garlic. Probably about a tablespoon.)

Steps to Deliciousness

1. Brown the beef and drain (I forgot to drain it. Good think I got the lean beef).

2. Boil the water and dissolve the bouillon cubes.

3. Throw everything into the crock pot. Stir. Cook on low 6 hours.

4. Serve it with some cheese on top and devour.

Next time, I’d go without the worchestire and the beef consumme. I’d add more salt and more broth and have a different pasta, something smaller than the wheels, and definitely about half the amount, if even that. Oh, and I’d probably use tomato juice instead of tomato soup (which my dad did, I think). But other than that, it’s a good basic recipe. Since all I have to go on to make my dad’s recipe is memories of him making it when I was little, it’s a far cry from his soup. Actually, it’s not at all like his soup. Still, it’s not bad. And I don’t mind that it has room for improvement.

I guess this is what makes cooking fun for a lot of people, the trial and error of it. Playing around with ingredients and measurements. Finding what works and what doesn’t. So I’m okay with not making my father’s soup, because I’m making my own. I’m kind of proud of that.

PS- Have you gone “off book” and made something without a recipe? Some people love doing this and some people refuse. How comfortable are you in the kitchen?

What a Crock (pot)!

A great big thank you and shout out to my sista! Holla! I had a much-needed relaxing and fun weekend with my sister in Charlottesville. It’s a beautiful town and where they live is so peaceful. It was such a great weekend! Plus, we had a Crock Pot Extravaganza!

Yep. Sista had a brilliant idea of attempting to make frozen crock pot meals. You know, the ones we are seeing all over Pinterest. So she and I each found 4 meals to attempt to make, so that all we have to do is take one out to thaw overnight and throw it in the crock pot in the morning.

I made these 4 recipes (haven’t tasted them yet but I have no doubt they’ll be delish):

1., 2, and 3. Savory Chicken AND Teriyaki Chicken AND Sausage and Peppers from Ring Around the Rosies.

4. Pulled Pork from The Family Kitchen.

Each one of my meals (with the exception of the pulled pork) is separated into two separate bags. Each bag makes enough for a family of 3 with leftovers. I made 30-ish meals for two adults for $88!! I mean, seriously. That’s less than $3 for each meal. Divided by two people, that’s less than $1.50 a piece for each meal (math skils…what? what?) Vitamin D was happy with the inexpensiveness (is that a word?), I was thrilled with how easy it was!

Sista and I make a good team. She takes care of the grunt work. I do the easy parts. It’s a perfect match. So while I labeled bags, mixed dry ingredients, and chopped a few veggies, she chopped and minced garlic and onions, trimmed all the meat, and somehow managed to split a 9 lbs. pork shoulder in half. She’s amazing. And the whole process took about 4 hours…keep in mind that is in Sister Time. You could probably cut that time in half if you don’t stand in the kitchen drinking talking rather than working.

And honestly, if I can do it, you can do it. It’s the easiest thing ever and I’m so glad Sista suggested it. It was great sister-bonding time (and we get far from enough of that these days), but it was super easy, inexpensive, and done in few hours. And this school year will be crazy so all I have to do is pick a meal the night before and it’s done. Perfect!

So here you go: The steps to Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy Crock Pot Meals:

1. Chop your veggies and trim your meat.

Half of my job is complete!

Sista in action. Like her skull band-aid?

2. Label the bags with the date, recipe title, and cooking instructions. Put in your sauces, veggies, dry ingredients, and meat.

One meal, two times. Bags labeled, veggies and sauce added. Ready for the meat!

3. Seal the bags and freeze flat.

All done!

4. Take out a bag to thaw overnight. Throw it in the crock pot in the morning. Devour after a long day at work.

So, you might be saying, “Uh, Bri. There were two of you. No wonder you think it’s so easy!” True, true. However, I’m certain this is a task I could take on myself (not that I’d want to. That was great time with my sister). And the going to grocery store took longer than making one of the meals (Holla, Wegman’s!). Sista and I made 4 different recipes, and we thought that would make things super confusing but it didn’t happen. If you chop and trim everything at the beginning and then take things one recipe at a time it’s a cinch! Oh! And I forgot to mention the MINIMAL CLEAN UP! We had a couple of cutting boards, some knives, and measuring cups to clean up. That was it! You guys, do this! I’m so excited about it!

Good luck! If you try it, let me know how it goes!

PS- Have any of you tried this before? What did you think? Have any great crock pot recipes that freeze well?