Lasagna for Two

Lasagna is delicious, but it can be expensive and then there's lots of leftovers. It reheats great, but what if you don't really want to eat 12 servings of lasagna.

I wanted to make just enough for my husband and me. I bring him dinner on most Wednesday nights at work, and this is perfect to make and take. Also, I usually have all of these ingredients when I make pizza or spaghetti.


No boil noodles are great. My sauce is this easy arrabiata, so it has kick. I only had about 1 cup left. Perfect for two. I cooked a small amount of ground turkey with Italian sausage seasoning. I like provolone as well as mozzarella. And I make it all in a bread loaf pan.

Usually I would mix my meat and sauce in a bowl, but why make a new dish.

I mixed 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 t Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

I grated 2 ounces each of provolone and mozzarella and tossed it right on the cutting board with a little more Parmesan.

All it takes is three noodles, and I snap 1/3 of the length off each to fit in my pan. Waste not, the pieces equal a fourth noodle.

After spraying the loaf pan I add 1/4 of the sauce.

Then a noodle and cottage cheese mix then grated cheese then sauce.

Repeat for three layers. (Noodle, cottage, cheese, sauce, noodle, cottage, cheese, sauce, noodle)

Top with the last of the sauce and more grated cheese. Spray some foil so it will come off the cheese. Tightly wrap the pan.

Place it in a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes. Rotate it half way if you think if it.

After 30 minutes remove the foil. Bake or broil for 15 minutes or until the top cheese is melted and a little browned. Watch it! Don't burn it. And just like kids, every oven is different.

Remove it to cool and let it rest. Please please rest your lasagna. It is more likely to cut if you let it cool down. Leftover lasagna is the proof.

Cut in half and serve!

Just the Recipe…

Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 c marinara or pasta sauce
  • 4 oz cooked ground meat (preferably with Italian seasoning)
  • 1 c cottage cheese, or ricotta, or sour cream. It really does work too.
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/2 t Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz grated cheese, mozzarella and provolone, or whatever you like
  • 3 no boil lasagna noodles, 1/3 snapped off and reserved
  • Non stick spray

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray.
  • Mix meat and sauce, set aside.
  • Mix cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 c Parmesan, and Italian seasoning, set aside.
  • Grate cheese and toss with remaining 1/4 c Parmesan. Set aside.
  • Spread 1/4 c sauce in pan. *Place one snapped noodle on top. Spread 1/3 cottage cheese mixture then 1/4 grated cheese then 1/4 c sauce. Repeat twice from *
  • Top with final noodle or the combined 3 snapped noodle, last 1/4 c sauce and 1/4 of the grated cheese. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non stick spray. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking.
  • Remove foil carefully and broil on high for 5-10 minutes, or continue baking for 15, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Check often.
  • Remove and let rest on a cooking rack for 15 minutes. Cut and serve.

Ode to a Funnel

I feel like the funnel, more than any other simple tool, embodies “manageable mess.” A funnel’s mission is to take a larger amount of anything and put it in a smaller, compact, or just more fitting space and to do all that with less work and less mess than manually spooning. 

Canning seems to be on the rise. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like canning is cool again. Mason jars are everywhere and now grocery stores are carrying canning accessories and ingredients in a bigger way than years’ past. Side effect of the Great Recession?  

I have seen these canning funnels in many places, but I bought mine at Menards. I think it was around $2. I use it daily. I shake salad dressing in small jars, and I store leftovers in glass jars more often. 


I wondered if it could solve a problem for me. My kids’ water bottles’ opening is small enough that my ice dispenser misses 9 times out of ten. 


My funnel doesn’t fit into the narrow mouth, but fits fairly snug over the top. Now the ice goes around and down. Like a great basketball shot. 



Funnels are the best, and this may be the best funnel. 
Happy mess managing!

Caramelizing Onions (Slice, Cry, Stir, Stir, Stir)

Aldi had 3 lb bags of vidalia onions for 79 cents. I bought three and caramelized 2 1/2 of them. 

This is my work station…

I use a mandolin, but I’ve done it with a knife too. I’ve done it with a food processor, but I like my slices more controlled than it makes them. 

This is my bowl full of peels for the compost pile…


This is my face in agony…


It was awful. I lit candles. I chewed gum.  Like three pieces. That helped a little. 

I filled a pot…


I divided the pot…


All it takes is about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and tons of onions and some salt. I used kosher. And time. Like an hour… after you slice them all. 

Cook stirring frequently on medium high until they’re soft and starting to brown. (About 20 minutes)


Reduce heat to medium. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to each batch and stir almost continuously for 30-40 minutes (yep) until onions reduce to a jam like consistency (and your face has an onion facial.)


After this point I was able to put it in one pot to get dark. An enameled Dutch oven promotes browning better than nonstick and a light pan helps you judge color better than a dark pan. 

Jam like…



Made 3 cups. That’s a lot of work for such a tiny yield, but this keeps in a fridge a long time. 


I use my onions on hot dogs and sausages. 

I add a good amount to broth for instant French onion soup. I stir it into my mixture for quiche for the BEST quiche you’ve ever had. 

How about you?  What’s a labor intensive recipe you make that’s totally worth it?

Long Lasting

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. 


The last gallon of milk I bought was dated today. So nice of my milk to celebrate with us… by going bad?  Oh well, our marriage is not “Best before” today. It’s going to get better and worse. That’s a vow. 

The 10 year traditional gift is tin/aluminum. The modern gift is diamond jewelry. Seriously!  That’s a big price difference. My dad was theorizing that 10 years is not what it used to be when it comes to a lasting marriage. He said it seemed way more of a milestone now in our divorce prone world. 

I recently visited with a couple about to celebrate 50 years. I asked them if they’ve outlived all of their wedding gifts. She told me stories of a glass bowl set of many colors. She said a few broke and one red one is now white from being washed in a dishwasher.  (There’s some symbolism in there if you scratch the surface, I’m sure.) The gift they still use and has lasted is a hot/cold chafing dish. 

As much as it is frustrating when something we use all the time breaks, I think, well, our marriage has lasted longer than…

Our coffee pot (I’ve broken three, no four!). Our toaster. All of our non stick pans (if their coating is gone, you’re supposed to replace it.) A blender. A microwave. A dryer. Two DVD players and two Blu Ray players. 

We’ve lasted through several world events. Three presidential elections. Three summer Olympic Games.  We survived several life events, including some of the big stressors. Having kids, check check. Moving, check. Changing jobs, check. Illness, check check. 

It’s fun to take inventory like this. What has your marriage outlasted? 

What is keeping up with you?  Our electric tea kettle still works.  Thanks Grandma and Annette. Our red cloth napkins have made the journey with us too. Thanks Tarrah. 

Unloading vs. Loading

Loading the dishwasher is enjoyable, maybe especially for those of us who went years without one, because of the challenge to arrange things in the best way to get clean and to stuff it to the max.  I’ll rearrange it over and over as I fill it just to get it all in there.  If there’s something just won’t fit, I may leave it for the next load rather than handwash it.  I’m that person.  Lazy?  Yeah, that shoe fits.

Unloading is another matter.

It shouldn’t be.  The dishes are clean, the work has been done, but somehow I feel less enthusiastic about putting it all away.  Laundry can be like that, (love to wash; hate to fold?) but once I got efficient about my folding and putting away I do it expeditiously.  Woo!  Making word-of-the-day proud.

So, I’ve been working on a system to make unloading the dishwasher, which is a chore, less of a chore.  I amuse myself that I’ve found what goads my laziness or at least my procrastination to do something about the full-clean dishwasher.  It’s the back-tracking that bugs me.  I don’t like opening this cabinet to put this dish in, then a different cabinet to put away that dish, then lo and behold there’s another dish to go in the previous cabinet.  As exercise though, I’m sure it increases my steps.

When you move houses, it’s most efficient to load a large moving truck with everything, drive it to your location and unload it even if you’re moving down the block.  I need to pile the dishes once, in a single location, and then put them away.  Is that why loading the dishwasher is easier as most dirty dishes are in a single location, already in the sink or on the counter?  I’m making it a habit to unload the entire dishwasher in drip-efficient order onto the nearest clean counter, then moving a whole stack to their destination.  No more two plates at a time.

First, I need to unload the sink-side drain of all dishes that were drying from the previous dishwasher load and anything that had to be washed by hand.  I need the drain empty so I can air-dry this current load.

IMG_7082

My silverware is on the door itself, not everyone’s is.  This is my step one, but if yours is on the bottom rack I would suggest making this your first unload in the bottom rack.  I try to load my silverware heads up to get clean and to be able to put them away without having to turn them.  I can do it in one trip with loaded fistfuls.   Anything else in the silverware holder that is not silverware then gets put away or put in the drying rack.

Then the bottom rack.  Why?  Because the top rack often contains plastics which retain water drops.  If you pull out the top rack, that water will drip on the bottom dry dishes.  (When this happens you can hear my disappointed “NOOOOOO!” from space.  Seriously, it’s just water, but it feels like failure.)  I have been unloading the bottom rack entirely and stacking the plates, bowls, etc into groups to be put away.  Just like unloading a laundry basket into piles by a garment’s destination.

Then I unload the top rack, which is mostly wet and goes straight into the sink-side drain to finish air drying, but the dry items join the queue on the counter.  Finally, I close the dishwasher and put everything on the counter away in the fewest trips possible.   Or sometimes I load it anew from the dirty dish piles on the counter and in the sink, and then close it and then put dishes away.  Truth.

If this seems like waaaay too much thought put in to unloading a dishwasher, you’re absolutely right.  Over-thinking it… also a shoe sized “Maria.”  Maybe simply being grateful to have clean dishes I get to put away is enough to get the job done.  Finish strong friends!!

Bowl Backboard 

We planned our spring break getaway with enough time for me to prepare some road snacks. 

I made no bake cookies. This is my favorite recipe. Love that it gives you the number of seconds to let your liquid be at a rolling boil. So exact. Actually we ate the first batch and I had to make more. These are perfect when you crave chocolate and salt while driving. Plus the oatmeal helps things move instead of what long car rides usually do to all of us. 

We brought other snacks and drinks, so I knew we’d need a cooler. This time I thought ahead and stocked up on ice in advance so we wouldn’t have to make a stop to buy a bag. I emptied my ice maker into freezer bags as it filled up. 

Kinda hard to dump this much ice in a small opening. When I’m filling a ziplock with liquid contents or something that wants to shift I try to fit the bag into a bowl or glass and fold back the lip.

I was trying to think of a way to make a homemade funnel and I thought of my flexi cutting board. This one was a welcome gift in the mail when we bought our house, but I know a lot of people have these. 

Fold and insert. 

Now I have a backboard to pour into. 

Sorry for a blurry picture. This was hard to do with one hand so I could snap this shot.



One down. I filled two more bags this way storing them in the freezer until travel time, then replaced the ice maker to fill up. Plenty of ice for the cooler. Mission accomplished and I got a new multitasking kitchen gadget in the process. 

Making Caroline Ingalls Proud

I’ve started reading the Little House series to my 6 year old.  We’re now in Farmer Boy and she loves them as much as I did as a kid.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura mentions her mom’s weekly housekeeping schedule.

img_6731

It includes a washing day (I do a load of laundry pretty much every day, but I don’t have to fill a washtub with creek water), an ironing day (no thanks!), a mending day (this one I should incorporate), a day to churn, a day to rest, and a baking day.  Baking day sounded awesome, so I’ve declared Tuesday as baking day!  The most delicious day of the week.

When the flour, etc. is already out making multiple baked items is less of a chore.  My husband feels the same way about frying things.  “The oil is hot, what else should we deep fry…”

My freezer needs to have space to store for baking day.  I learned by listening to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast that baked items go stale at the same rate if you store on the counter or if you stir in the fridge.  What preserves freshness best is the freezer, as long as you wrap things properly.  Most things need two layers of plastic wrap and a freezer bag or aluminum foil.  Sliced frozen bread is great to go straight into the toaster.  A lot of bread will thaw on the counter from frozen in 30 minutes to an hour.  Then I noticed my microwave has a bread defrost button.  Does everyone know about this frozen bread thing but me?!

The first baking day I made a pie and froze it and also New York bagels, biscuits and blueberry muffins.  I wrapped the cooled muffins individually (after being short a couple) in two layers of plastic wrap then into a freezer bag .  Defrosting them in the microwave means every morning we could have warm blueberry muffins.  The next week I made ultimate cinnamon buns, double chocolate banana bread, baked ham and jalapeno empanadas, and more bagels (because we ate them all).  Last week I only made chocolate croissants.  These take the entirety of your baking day with all the resting in the fridge they need.  Worth it.  Oh so worth it.

Or course Ma didn’t often have the luxury of chocolate and white sugar and berries out of season and, and, and…  She and all those like her were wonder women at making things work.  But I think she’d be proud to know she influenced one modern-age woman to bake crazy delicious things for her family and friends on a designated day I SO look forward to.  And I get to bring my husband home from work with a text like this…

img_6737How about you?  Would a designated day encourage you to bake from scratch?  Do you store baked goods in the freezer and you’ve been sitting on this trick without telling me?!