Meal Planning Monday – Lasagna Pasta

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Pasta is delicious. I mean, can you get much better than a carb in some sauce and then smothered in cheese? Multiple kinds of cheese! It’s so, so amazing.

Lasagna is my favorite kind of pasta. I bet you can guess why. Because it has 3 kind of cheese in it. (In our case,) cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.  Normally, recipes for lasagna have you use ricotta cheese. My mom has always used cottage cheese and I am never satisfied with ricotta cheese. Which is precisely why you won’t ever see me ordering lasagna at restaurants.  They just don’t make it correctly! Haha…

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The first few times I wanted to make lasagna on my own, I called my mom to ask her for her recipe. To which she responded, “recipe?” She never wrote it down. She just threw some stuff together. So she rattled off what she put together and gave me her blessing. I am fairly certain I still called her 2-3 times during the cooking process, and 90% of the time she was not able to give me a solid answer.

So, armed with my mom’s “recipe,” I was expected to create her recipe.

Does that make sense?

I don’t think so either.

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I did eventually get it all written down, but mine never turned out like hers. It always turned out like soup. Even if I used precooked noodles, noodles that don’t need to be cooked, whatever. It didn’t work. So I set out to try some other form of lasagna pasta because I could just toss it all into a pan and it was much easier.

Boy was I right.

Ingredients:

1 box (1 pound) mostacolli pasta
1 pounds ground beef
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese to top

Directions:
1. In a large pot, start cooking the pasta according to the box’s directions.
2. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef while breaking it up into small pieces.
3. Drain the meat (if needed) and add back to the skillet.
4. Add a cup of sauce and heat the sauce and meat over low heat until warmed through.
5. Add your drained, cooked pasta and stir until they are all combined.
6. Add cottage cheese and mix on low heat.
7. Stir for about 1 minute.
8. Add shredded mozzarella cheese until it is all melted.
9. Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

 

Get the printable version here. lp1

Halloween Treats Round Up

As I’ve said lots of times before, I am not a baker. I do love, however, to pin things on Pinterest that look delicious, with the complete knowledge that they will never get made in my house. Unless someone is coming over or we’re going to someone else’s house.

I wanted to make my own Halloween treats but was so overwhelmed with the different levels of ability. Something would look so simple, I would click on it, only to realize it wasn’t so simple.

So, I did the work for you and rounded up 5 easy Halloween Treats.

Photo courtesy of justataste.com
Photo courtesy of justataste.com

Halloween Candy Bark via Just A Taste
Candy bark is so crazy easy and you can add anything to it. All you need for this recipe is 3 cups bittersweet chocolate and 2 cups assorted candies. She used candy corn, Kit Kats, candy eyeballs she found at her grocery store, peanut butter cups, & m&m’s. She also has a few other recipes linked in that post. Check them all out!

Photo courtesy of sallysbakingaddiction.com
Photo courtesy of sallysbakingaddiction.com

Candy Corn Pretzel Hugs via Sally’s Baking Addiction
Candy corn is a favorite in our house and so are chocolate covered pretzels. Put them together. Boom. Done.

Photo courtesy of cupcakediaries.com
Photo courtesy of cupcakediaries.com

Halloween Chex Treat via Cupcake Diaries
Another super simple recipe that mixes salty and sweet flavors. All you need for this one is a few snacks and a sweet sugar sauce to bring it all together.

Photo courtesy of twosisterscrafting.com
Photo courtesy of twosisterscrafting.com

Halloween Candy Corn Popcorn via Two Sister’s Crafting
Here is another recipe that blends sweet and salty. That dang candy corn makes an appearance again! Popcorn, salt, butter, candy corn, marshmallows and m&m’s.

Photo courtesy of chelseasmessyapron.com
Photo courtesy of chelseasmessyapron.com

4 Ingredient Halloween Treats (eyeballs!) via Chelsea’s Messy Apron
Peanut butter cups make another appearance in this simple eyeball recipe. Grouped together with cream cheese frosting, black gel and chewy Lifesavers, they are crazy easy (of course) and really tasty.

Let me know in the comments if you made any of these and how they turned out! Happy Halloween!

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Meal Planning Monday – Pizza Dip

My least favorite thing about not having an out of the house job is definitely the lack of food choices for snack and lunch. When I worked, I could walk into the giant kitchen and be surprised with the delicious snacks I could have (especially while I was pregnant.) Now, all I have is the lame stuff I buy. When I worked, I could walk across the street and grab a sub sandwich, or around the corner to McDonald’s. Now that requires me to put 2 kids in car seats and we all know how much of a hassle that can be.
I love food.
So one day I was craving something with cheese (shocking, I know). I had some bagel chips and rummaged through the fridge to find something for a dip.
Ohhhh myyyyy goodness. Jackpot.
Cream cheese, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. DONE AND DONE.
I give you, pizza dip.

 

Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
3/4 cup pizza or pasta sauce (adjust according to taste)*
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
*If you want to add “toppings,” add them to the sauce layer. Cooked crumbled sausage, chopped pepperoni, small chopped veggies, etc
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spray a square baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar, basil, garlic and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese until well combined.
4. Spread the cream cheese mixture into the grease baking dish evenly (I use my hands for this part).
5. Spoon your sauce on evenly over the cream cheese.
6. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining mozzarella (1 cup) and the parmesan cheese.
7. Cover the sauce mixture with the mozzarella / parmesan cheese mixture.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes; until cheese is bubbly.
9. Serve with crackers, bagel chips, tortilla chips, whatever.
This is served best warm, but it’s also ok from the fridge. But it’s best warm. Trust me.
Looking for more snack ideas?

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday – Egg and Hashbrown Cups

As I’ve mentioned before, Reagan is a piggy. She will eat anything you put in front of her. I have never seen her refuse something. Unless I try to serve it to her on a spoon. Then she stares at me like I am trying to serve her moldy fruit. And shakes her head.

I took to my recipe group to find some more breakfast ideas because I don’t eat breakfast. I was getting sick of giving her yogurt bites and puffs. She loved them, but I felt like a crap mom for giving her only those 2 things. And her brother only eats microwave turkey sausage. He’ll ask for yogurt but doesn’t touch it. It’s infuriating.

So after a few suggestions, I decided to try my hand at egg cups.

Muffin tins are God’s gift to the culinary world. I am obsessed with cooking things in them. Oatmeal, meatloaf, corn bread when I make chili, sauces…the list goes on. It’s easy, cooks faster and so nice to freeze leftovers. So I did the eggs in the cups. And wouldn’t ya know?! Even I eat breakfast now!

Ok, I did once.

But that’s good for me! I would love to tell you that both of my kids love these but that would be lying. And I am not a liar. Dylan tried it, said it was “delicious, mommy!” But then never ate them again.

Story of my LIFE.


Ingredients:
2 cups cubed potatoes
10 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup diced ham
Directions:
1. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350.
3. In a large bowl, combine 10 eggs and water.
4. Beat until mixed.
5. Add potatoes, ham and cheese.
6. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
7. Pour evenly into 12 muffin cups.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until eggs are set.
9. If you are freezing them, wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for 90 seconds.

Get the printable recipe here.

Looking for more breakfast ideas? Check them out here!

Meal Planning Monday – Spinach Artichoke Pasta

Spinach artichoke is one of my favorite savory flavor combos. Even though it is loaded with parmesan cheese, it makes me feel so healthy because it is also loaded with spinach. That’s ok, right?

I was craving this delicious-for-you combo one day and had everything but the artichoke hearts. So off to the store I went with 3 kids in tow for a can of artichoke hearts. Weird.

Dan is not a huge fan of artichoke so he said this had too many artichokes. But honestly, if there’s one artichoke, he says it’s too much artichoke. I disagree. But I will pretty much eat anything edible.

I added some cooked chicken breasts (shrimp would be good, too) to it as well to make sure it was nice and filling for Dan. If I try to serve him something without meat, he looks at me like I have 8 eyeballs. Unless it’s during Lent on a Friday. Then he just looks at me like I told him his childhood dog just died. Like it’s the worst thing ever.


Ingredients:
1 lb pasta
2-3 cups cooked seasoned chicken (cubed, diced, or shredded)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed
1 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (plus extra for topping)
1/3 cup grated parmesan 
Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a large skillet or pot, mix together hot pasta, cream cheese and milk.
3. Once the cream cheese is melted, add mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
4. Mix until all combined.
5. Add spinach.
6. Add chicken (if desired) and artichoke hearts.
7. Stir all together until well combined.
  

You can download and print the recipe here for your own records 🙂

Grocery list and meal planning printable

In my Facebook recipe group, I post every Sunday (read: try to post every Sunday) what our meals are going to be for the week. I have found that planning each week makes us spend less money on groceries (because there are no last minute grocery trips for “a few things” to make this random recipe). It also makes it so that we go out to eat a lot less, which saves us a ton of money – we were going out to eat at least twice a week. It was a bad, bad habit. I never cooked on the weekends it felt like.

When I post my meal plan for the week, people will comment on how organized (ha!) it is or say “how do you do it? I could never do it!” And the truth is, YES YOU CAN. If I can, you can. I decided to break it down for everyone and tell you HOW I do it. Plus, I’ll give you some FREE printables. You can print new ones each week, you can print one and laminate it or put it in a sheet protector and then use a dry erase marker..whatever you prefer.

*Note: I only plan dinners. Breakfasts and lunches are a free for all. But I put all three on here for anyone that does all 3.*

In the beginning of the month, I sit down with my phone and look through Pinterest and my Facebook group to gather some meal ideas. I also have an excel spreadsheet (nerd, I know) with all of our favorites. It has the name of the recipe and the link. I print it out and then I have it on hand. I am in the process of switching over to pencil and paper recipes books. I come up with about 20 (I throw in our regulars each month – frozen pizza, leftovers once a week, hot dogs, mac and cheese, frozen meals I made in bulk the previous month, we go out to eat for dinner once a month, etc) different meal ideas and list them out. Then, from here, I pick and choose each Sunday which ones I want for that week. Again, I do leftovers every Thursday or Friday, and a “regular” meal once a week so I really am only coming up with 5 meals a week.

I keep that list on my fridge and each Sunday when I plan something from it, I tick it off of my list.

I take the monthly list that I made and make my grocery list from there. I try to pick and choose meals based off of what I already have in the house so that I am not overbuying.

Then I go through our necessities and see if we are in need of those – coffee, milk, eggs, cheese, creamer, lunch meat, Goldfish, etc. I add those to my list and it’s off to the store!

I also created a “freezer list” for you. When I make some meals, I double the batch and freeze what we don’t eat to save it for future meals. Chili, taco pasta, meatballs, pulled pork, etc. (You see what I did there?! 😉 )Our freezer where we keep the meals is in the basement. So I like to have a list of what’s going on in there.

Here are the printables…(Click on them, then save, then open and print) 🙂

So, while this isn’t groundbreaking, I hope it can inspire at least one person to start meal planning in their family! It sounds overwhelming but it really isn’t. Would I ever lead you in the wrong direction?! Please comment if you have any questions!

 

Meal Planning Monday – Three Ingredient Mint Chocolate Milk Shake

I love ice cream. Actually, “love” may be an understatement. I have an obsession.

When I was in middle school, I used to eat ice cream for breakfast. My parents had already left for work when I was getting up and getting ready for school. I would scoop out some ice cream and saddle up on the couch and watch TRL (that’s “Total Request Live”) on rerun from the night before or the countdown for rap and R&B..the name is escaping me but I distinctly remember Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady” making multiple appearances.

Anyway, one of my favorite ice creams was always mint chocolate chip. I stopped eating it when my step dad introduced me to Moose Tracks, but craved the mint when I was pregnant with Dylan. It was the only time I had a “I must have this, please go get it for me” craving. I am pretty sure I made Dan go get it for me at 9pm one night, while he was watching one of his favorite shows. Thank God for DVR.

When we were on vacation with my in-laws, someone came home from the grocery store with Oreo thins. What?! Why?! I took this as a challenge, naturally, and created a mint chocolate chip milkshake. It is crazy easy and you can customize it to your liking.

You can use any Oreo you’d like! I love how there are pretty little green flecks throughout the milkshake. This was so delicious!

Here is the recipe!

Meal Planning Monday – Samoa Rice Krispie Treats

Question: Do you love Samoa Girl Scout cookies?

Answer: Yes.

 


These are to die for. I am obsessed with them. I am also very proud of myself for “baking” and not using chocolate and peanut butter together. It’s literally all I bake for desserts. And for that, I apologize. I think I have though. I have a tendency to over-apologize.


Anyway, I HATE making Rice Krispie Treats. And by “hate,” I mean I made them once in high school and as I was stirring up the marshmallow stuff and the Rice Krispies, I said “ef this. Never again.” So I always shied (shyed?) away from them. But one of my favorite desserts is Scotcheroos (peanut butter Rice Krispie Treat with a layer of chocolate under it) but I never wanted to make them.

Fast forward to 2016. Let’s do this. (Click here for the printable version of this recipe, or click on the image of it below! I am moving up in the world!)

 

Ingredients:
Chocolate Layer:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
Rice Krispie Treats
5 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon milk
10 oz bag of mini marshmallows
Caramel Topping:
20 soft caramel candies
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups toasted coconut (separated into 1 cup and 1/2 cups)
 

 

Directions:
1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Take 1 cup of chocolate chips and place them into a microwave safe bowl with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Microwave in 20-30 second increments and stir each time until melted.
3. Pour the melted chocolate into the baking dish.
4. Measure out 5 cups of crispy rice cereal into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
5. In a large pot, melt 1/4 cup of butter. Add 1/4 tsp salt. Once melted, add 1 tablespoon of milk and 10 oz of mini marshmallows.
6. Mix together until the marshmallows are completely melted.
7. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the bowl with the crispy rice cereal. Mix until completely combined.
8. Dump the rice crispy treat mixture onto the chocolate. Take a piece of parchment paper and press it down into the chocolate.
9. Melt your caramels in the microwave with 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup of the toasted coconut (toast it in a 300 degree oven in 5 minute increments—stir after each one—until toasted).
10. Pour the caramel / coconut mixture over the rice krispie treats and spread out with a bent icing knife.
11. Top with the rest of the coconut.
12. Melt 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil. Pour it into a Ziploc bag being supported in a glass and snip the bottom corner. Drizzle chocolate over the caramel. **NOTE: I love chocolate and I thought the amount of chocolate was perfect. My husband is not a fan of a lot of chocolate and he said there was too much. So adjust as necessary
.**
13. Chill for at least 2 hours.

 



I made these on a Tuesday for our road trip that started the following Friday. They all didn’t make it to Friday.

Happy cooking!

 

Meal Planning Monday – Homemade Chex Mix

We love to snack in our house. We have a morning snack and an afternoon snack in addition to breakfast (sometimes), lunch and dinner. But I’m very careful about actually buying snacks because we would eat them within 2 days. I eat Goldfish daily. I eat them while I’m making dinner. It’s a horrible, horrible addiction.

When we had our Memorial Day party, we bought Chex Mix. Well we didn’t eat all of them so we were left with a bag of Chex Mix! We took it to the pool and then ate it for a snack the next day. And then they were gone.

I remembered seeing homemade Chex Mix on Pinterest a while ago and kept meaning to make it. So after inhaling the real thing, I took back to Pinterest to try it out. But I changed it up a little bit and used some of our favorite salty snacks: Bugles, pretzels, bagel chips and peanuts. I made it in the crock pot, because, easy.

We threw it into a container from The Dollar Tree and it was one of our snacks for the car ride for vacation.

Dylan actually really, really loves it.

I got the seasoning mix from Gimmie Some Oven, but I added one more thing, of course. (Download the printable version here, or click on it down below.)


Ingredients:
1 4.7oz bag of plain Bugles
1 cup unsalted peanuts
1 7.2oz bag plain bagel chips, crushed
1/2 bag of pretzels (6 oz total)
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) melted butter
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Directions:
1. Pour all snacks into a crock pot.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter.
3. Add seasoned salt, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk until combined.
4. Pour over snacks in crock pot.
5. Sprinkle cheese over mixture and mix until well combined.
6. Let cook on low for 3 hours—stirring every hour.
7. Lay snack out on parchment paper on the counter until it has reached room temperature.
8. Store in an air tight container.
**You can use any snack combination you like! Make sure to stir so the mixture does not burn.**
I used unsalted peanuts because you are adding so much more salt with every other snack and with the seasoned salt. It is the BEST combination, and the Parmesan cheese gives it that extra little kick. This will definitely be repeated in our house. 


 

Meal Planning Monday – Turkey (Broccoli – shhhh!) Meatballs

 
Right now, Reagan is in the stage of “I will eat anything, please don’t stop feeding me.” Instead of signaling to us with cute, quiet sign language like her brother when she wants more or is done, she screeches like a damn pterodactyl. It is deafening. And the screeches sound the same, so we have to guess if she’s telling us to keep it coming, or cut her off. 9 times out of 10 it’s “keep it coming.”

Dylan, on the other hand, gives us a run for our money at dinner time. If we’re having mac and cheese, he’ll eat. But I’m not making mac and cheese every night. So we generally struggle. I finally decided just to give him his dinner, listen to him complain, and then tell him “this is what’s for dinner. You do not have to eat it, but you do have to sit with us while we eat.” And that’s the end of it. The frustrating thing is, if we can get him to try it (usually with bribes), he likes it, but won’t try anymore. We have to bribe him with fruit. But most of the time we just let him be.

Because of his hate for dinner, I can hardly get veggies into him. In his line up of food that he loves is meatballs. So I tweaked some recipes I found of meatballs and came up with these. He could eat them 10 at a time. And of course, Reagan likes them too. So it’s a win / win.

Honestly, you can use any veggie puree you would like. Just be careful with the amount of water you add because you don’t want them to be too wet. If that’s the case, just add more cheese or breadcrumbs. 

Ingredients:
*1 cup of broccoli puree
*1 pound ground turkey
*3/4 cup plain bread crumbs (you can also use Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
*3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
*2 teaspoons (about 4 cloves) of chopped garlic
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350.
*Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Roll into golf ball sized meatballs (mine made 30)

 

*Now, you can brown them first, but turkey is pretty soft, so this may be difficult. You have to be very careful. They’re delicate!
*If you plan to brown them, just heat a skillet over medium high with some extra virgin olive oil and brown each side for about 5 minutes.
*Place them on a foil lined pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

You can season them up more, but I find if they’re too seasoned, Dylan won’t eat them. Reagan will eat anything you put in front of her, so she’s not the issue.

We like to serve ours with rice (topped with parm cheese), mashed potatoes or the old fashioned way – with red sauce and pasta! It is a great way to sneak some veggies into your little ones’ diets.