Better Than Lasagna Casserole

For about 6 years of my life, I worked for domestic violence agencies. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing women who are life long friends. I was also blessed to meet so many amazing survivors. I was lucky enough that they allowed me to help them share their stories with other to help people better understand the issue of domestic violence. For about a year of my life, I also volunteered with women who were domestic violence survivors that were incarcerated. You may not know that 89% of women who are incarcerated for substance abuse issues have also experienced domestic violence. I still think about these women – especially in times like this. As we are all quarantined at home, how many women (and yes, some men) and children are scared for their lives? May you continue to support your local domestic violence shelters as your budgets allow. Their critical services will be used significantly in the weeks and months ahead.

IMG_1004Although I didn’t have the opportunity to work with SAFEHOME Chef Sarah, I have had the pleasure of working with many incredible chefs at SAFEHOME and Hope House. Trust me, their work is so much harder that it seems. They have to prepare two meals everyday, plus also help prepare food ahead for the weekend staff to heat up between answering the hotline and assisting shelter residents. Our chef was out for a while once and some of us offered to take turns cooking. Just making a casserole, salad, and dessert for 39 people was quite the undertaking.

SAFEHOME shared this recipe on their Instagram page recently. It doesn’t feed 39 people but it does make one hearty dish. May you enjoy this easier than lasagna recipe.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Kansas City metro-wide crisis hotline at 816-HOTLINE. The phone number is answered 24 hours a day by trained professionals who can help you safety plan and access resources to help keep you safe.

Better Than Lasagna Casserole by SAFEHOME Chef Sarah
IMG_10054 c. cooked egg noddles (8 oz. dry)
1/3 c. minced onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. diced green pepper (optional)
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp. oregano, dry
1 c. cottage cheese
1 tsp. basil, dry
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp/ garlic, granulated
8 oz. sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Cook noddles. Cook onion and ground beef. Mix together tomato sauce, ground beef mixture, garlic, basil, and oregano. Mix together cheeses. Spray a 2 quart baking dish. Put half the noodles on bottom. Top with cheese mixture. Place remaining noddles in dish. Top with meat mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Notes:

  • I did not use the peppers.
  • I did not refrigerate it before baking.
  • You can use any kind of pasta – broken spaghetti, rotini, or elbow macaroni. 
  • I would have liked a little more sauce. I think maybe using a 24 oz. would have allowed me to put a little on the bottom of the dish or over the cheese.
  • I added fresh basil and oregano to this recipe from my indoor herb garden. 

Italian Quesadilla

One of the things Jeremiah and I really enjoy doing is wine tasting. We like to go on little day trips as well as while we are on vacation. A few of our favorite places are Somerset Ridge (just past the Louisburg Cider Mill on the Miami County Wine Trail), Van Till Winery and Family Farm (great wood-fired pizzas on the weekends just outside of Excelsior Springs), and Windy Wine Company (east of St. Joseph off Hwy 36). Another little winery in downtown Weston actually got us to join their wine club.

IMG_0247The first winery Jeremiah and I visited together was Pirtle Winery – located in a historic church just off Main Street. Downtown Weston has lots of great shops. I love the community food pantry and charming kitty cat outside the photography shop. This little town really isn’t any bigger than where I grew up but really developed tourism around wine tasting, local food, unique shops, and B&B stays. Once a quarter, the Weston Wine Company host their monthly book club…aka an excuse to drink wine and pick-up your free bottle. In August, the book featured was “What to Eat with What You Drink.” You don’t need to buy or even read the book, they give you the Cliff IMG_0295Notes version during the event. Since the book was about pairings, they had matched each of their wines with a recipe. One of our favorites was the Italian Quesadilla served with a semi-sweet red (Radiant Cut Wine). At the winery, they sell a pepperoni cheese. I told Jeremiah that I thought we should buy a block and use it with fresh basil. Jeremiah says that kicked it up a bit. This is our take on this non-traditional quesadilla.

Italian Quesadilla by Weston Wine Company (modified by Amber Bourek Slater)
IMG_03191 lb. ground Italian sausage (we used Scimeca’s turkey sausage)
1 apple (red preferred)
Fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese (or pepperoni cheese if you can find it)
Flour tortilla shells (we like high fiber Mission shells)

Dice the apple. Cook the ground sausage and apple. Cover half a tortilla shell with sausage mixture, basil, and cheeses. Fold over. Cook on medium for 3 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 1 ½ minutes (or until golden brown).

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Over the years, I’ve made several roasts. My sister is an oven fan but I prefer it to be made in the Crock-pot. I love the tender meat that comes from making it in the Crock-pot. This is my favorite French Dip recipe. You know what they say, “When you find a good recipe, stop.” This is flavorful but also keeps your meat juicy. I’d recommend adding a little melted provolone to the top of this sandwich and you’ll love it even more.

FullSizeRender (1)Italian Beef Sandwiches by Jan Kent (Quick Cooking January/February 2004)
1 beef sirloin roast
1 can beef broth
1 can beer (or one additional can of beef broth)
1 c. water
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregeno 
1 tsp. dried basil

Place roast in the Crock-pot. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over roast. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I recently decide to purchase and cook a spaghetti squash for the first time. I had tried a recipe at work that was pretty good and had a few others on Pinterest I wanted to cook. I thought I had heard Rachael Ray once say to put it in the microwave for a few minutes to make it softer so you cut it. I ended up cooking it that way because it was way faster. I’ll share with you two ways to cook this recipe. Using spaghetti squash in place of pasta is better for you. I think one half of a squash has only 40 calories. Plus, you get lots of natural vegetable vitamins.

You will be amazed just how much of this vegetable you can scrap out. A YouTube video I found also said they can last for 3-4 weeks on your counter before cooking too.

Spaghetti SquashSpaghetti Squash Lasagna Bowls from Pinterest
2 small spaghetti squash, cut in half and seeded
1 T. oil

1 lb. of ground turkey
1 T. oil
1 onion, diced
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste (optional)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. paprika
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 T. basil

1 c. low fat cottage cheese
1 T. basil
1 c. mozzarella

Bake squash face down for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Meanwhile, cook your sauce. Fluff the inside of the squash. Stuff with cottage cheese and basil, then sauce, and top with shredded cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used a heart healthy jar sauce to save time. I also used ground beef instead of ground turkey.
  • I cut ten slits in the squash and placed in a microwave dish. It was probably about 2 lb. so I cooked it for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. I left it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting open and de-seeding. I cut the ends off making it easier to slice open.
  • Since the shell was too soft, I scraped out one side of the squash and placed in a baking dish and topped with ingredients. Then, I broiled it for three minutes.

Mouth Watering Good

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, it looked so good. I decided to cook it on a day I was off from work. Stupidly, it hadn’t occurred to me just how many hours it takes to thaw a loaf of frozen bread. Luckily for me, I saw a quick thaw method on the back of the package that worked wonders. Did you know if you preheat your oven to 200 degrees, shut it off, than put a pan of boil water on the rack below your dough it thaws in about an hour?

Another cool trick I learned was to place the dough on parchment paper and cover with saran wrap before rolling the dough with a rolling pin. It really prevents half your dough sticking to the rolling pin.

This recipe is so good – it’s like combining your spaghetti and garlic bread together with gooey, melted cheese. Your favorite will leave the table stuffed after just one slice.

Spaghetti BreadSpaghetti Bread
1 loaf of bread, thawed to room temperature
6 oz. spaghetti, cooked
1 c. marinara sauce
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1 egg white
Parmesan cheese
Parsley flakes

Roll out dough to 12 x 16 inches and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Mix together spaghetti and sauce. Spread down center of dough. Top with cheese. Cut outside of dough 1 1/2 inches apart with 1/2 inch of filling. Braid bread crossing left to right til everything is covered. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Notes:

  • I added fresh basil and 1/2 lb. of ground beef to my recipe. You could easily change your recipe by using wheat bread dough, choosing a different flavor of spaghetti sauce, or added additional ingredients (mushrooms, garlic, oregano, sausage, etc.)
  • I thought it was a little full but it baked out OK. The next time I make it, I might do 4-5 oz. of spaghetti though since I added other ingredients.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

My grandparents are both diabetic. As they are getting older, they tend to eat out for every meal they actually eat. That means less paying attention to ingredients and skipping meals. While home for the holidays, I decided to do a little baking for them. To be quite honest, I bit off more than I could chew. I had dozens of recipes I thought I could make in a day – soups, casseroles, entrees, and desserts using veggies. In about 10 hours time, I made 13 entrees, 4 side dishes, and 3 snacks.

My Grandpa loves salsa so I decided to make him fresh salsa with some homemade tortilla chips. My thought process was to pick a low-fat, high fiber, and whole grain tortilla I could bake. I cooked these up and my Grandpa loved them. I hope you like them too.

Homemade Tortilla Chips Homemade Tortilla Chips by Simple & Delicious
Six – 10 inch flour tortillas
3 T. melted butter (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper

Brush mixture on both sides of tortillas. Use cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-9 minutes. Chips will crisp a little bit when they cool.

Notes:

  • I used scissors to cut into triangle shapes (a pizza cutter would also work). I only coated one side and I thought it was still good.
  • I used Wildtree Fiesta Salsa Mix for the salsa. Wildtree is certified organic – meaning you can read all the names of the ingredients on the side of the bottle and know what they are. 1/4 c. of the mix combined with a can of low sodium diced tomatoes in a food processor makes a great salsa. Just refrigerate for two hours before serving. One of the dried ingredients though is peppers so if you want a milder salsa don’t use as much mix.

Top 10

I was thinking about a recipe the other day that was one of my best. I thought I would share with all of you – the best of the best. Below are my top 10 in no particular order.

spaghetti1. Grandma Reith’s Spaghetti Sauce – I lied, this is probably my favorite recipe.
2. Mom’s Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes – This is the best cheesy potato recipe and I’ve sampled quiet a few.
3. Concord Lutheran Church Cookbook Meatballs – These go great with the potato recipe.
4. Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa Con Queso – This recipe has a nice little kick.
5. Chocolate Crinkles – My mother made these when I was a kid but I love my recipe even more. These are probably my signature item.
6. Grilled Shrimp & Basil Orzo Pasta – Fresh basil and feta cheese nicely accent this dish.
7. Canyon Chicken – Chicken, ranch, cheese, and bacon. You can’t go wrong this recipe.
8. Lasagna Twist Around – Reminds me of my Grandma Reith Spaghetti Sauce.
9. Aunt Linda’s Slushies – I’ve made and drank a number of drinks over the years. This is my absolute favorite.
10. Cheesy Potato Soup – It’s as close as you can get to the O’Charley’s soup. I miss that restaurant so much.

Fresh Basil

Usually, I have some sort about a special memory about the recipe I am providing. Today’s recipe doesn’t really have a great story. A few months ago, I made this amazing Basil Orzo Pasta with Shrimp at Social Suppers. I think part of the reason I loved this dish was because it had fresh basil – my favorite spice. I was telling the women at Social Suppers how it was one of my favorite dishes. They were telling me how they might start making it without the shrimp as one of their side dishes. What a great idea.

For today’s recipe, I am including two separate recipes. The first one is what I remember being in the Basil Orzo dish. (So my vegetarian friends can enjoy this lovely side.) I am also combining it with a recipe for Basil Shrimp I got from Taste of Home. I think both recipes compliment each other nicely.

Basil Orzo

1 small package of Orzo pasta (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
Fresh basil, chopped (I found it in the produce section of the grocery store)
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1 small container of feta cheese

I cooked the recommendations for three serving of orzo pasta according to instructions. After draining water, I poured pasta into a small glass bowl. I added maybe half the can of tomatoes, probably 1/3 of the package of fresh basil, and a handful or two of feta. Stir together. Then, I sprinkled the top of the dish with feta. Cover with foil and put in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20-25 minutes to warm cold ingredients/melt cheese in this dish.

 Tomato Basil Marinade for Shrimp

1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. tomato sauce
2 T. minced fresh basil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 # uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a Ziploc baggie, combine the first six ingredients; add shrimp. Seal bag, shake, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drain and discard marinade. Thread onto six metal and soaked wooden skewers. Grill, covered, over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until shrimp turns pink.

Notes:

  • This recipe is for six servings. Cut in half if you are combining the dishes.
  • I have also served this shrimp on top of Thai Jasmine rice (the type of rice they serve in Indian restaurants). Again, you can find this type of rice in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s.
  • As in previous posts, I would encourage you to check out Social Suppers. This is a variation on their dish so their recipe tastes a little bit different. The original recipe is in my top three favorite dishes I have made there so please check them out. I recreated this just because it only makes it into their normal rotation once or twice a year.