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 – 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!