Cheesy Meat Lasagna

I seem to be posting a lot of comfort food dishes lately! But hey, that’s what the winter season is for, right? Besides, lasagna is a great dish – it is fairly simple to do, is super filling, and usually creates plenty of leftovers! This 40 Minute Quick and Easy Cheesy Meat Lasagna from The Slow Roasted Italian did not disappoint me (or my husband) at all!

It involved hot Italian chicken sausage (which was kind of hard for me to find…not sure if that’s normal or not), which was really good! I have never used chicken sausage before, I don’t think, and definitely not for a lasagna. But it added a great flavour to it.
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Additionally, I did not leave the tomatoes as-is, but I blended them first. Normally when I see recipes with canned tomatoes, I substitute tomato sauce (which usually changes the texture/consistency a bit), but I’ve recently started using the canned tomatoes, but it’s more work (and more clean up), so I’m not sure if I will keep doing that, but we’ll see. I have also noticed that using canned tomatoes is REALLY bland, and far more bland than using tomato sauce. Does anyone else notice that, or is it just me, cuz I am new to using canned tomatoes?

By the way, I apologize for the pictures…it is hard to take a quality lasagna picture with just a cell phone camera. But you get the idea!
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Cheesy Meat Lasagna

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
-1.5lbs hot Italian chicken sausage
-2 (14.5oz) cans Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
-1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
-2tbsp tomato paste
-1 egg
-1 (16oz) container part skim ricotta cheese
-1/2tsp fresh ground pepper
-1/2tsp kosher salt
-3/4cu grated parmesan cheese, divided
-lasagna noodles
-8oz Italian cheese blend, divided

Directions:
-Preheat oven to oven to 425°F.
-Prepare lasagna noodles according to package direction, then set aside.
-In a large skillet over medium high-heat, brown the sausage. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
-Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 4 ounces shredded cheese and egg, and mix until well blended.
-Spread a small amount of meat sauce onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish (mine’s square, so it makes less). Top with a layers of noodles, half the ricotta cheese mixture, and some more of the sauce. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles then cover with sauce and sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Spread remaining shredded cheese over the top, and cover with foil.
-Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake further, uncovered, 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan

Who loves chicken parm?  ME!!  I DO!!  Ok, sorry to start off sounding so dorky, haha.  But I really, really do love chicken parm.  In any and all forms.  Even odd but delicious ones like these chicken parmesan meatballs and also the chicken parmesan meatball soup I made awhile back.  YUMMM.  It really is not that hard to make, but what is a way to make it even easier?  The crock pot!  Thanks to Stephanie O’Dea’s “chicken parmesan crock pot recipe” over at A Year of Slow Cooking, I was able to do just that!
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I must admit that it is not my absolute favourite version of chicken parm.  It is hard to do breaded chicken in the crockpot, obviously, and it worked a little, and was still tasty, but not quite that classic chicken parm feel that I just cannot get enough of.  It also tasted a bit on the salty side, and I’m not quite sure why, as I didn’t add any “different” or salty ingredients…
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I was a bit wary of putting cheese in the crockpot for 8 hours, because I’ve heard mixed opinions of it sometimes getting rubbery, or sometimes being fine.  As you can see in the pictures, I did put a little cheese on it in the crock pot, and then added more at the end.  Nice to come home to dinner *almost* ready! (just had to boil some pasta).
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Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

serves

Ingredients:
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
-1/2cu bread crumbs
-1/4cu shredded parmesan cheese
-1/2tsp Italian Seasoning (you can make your own mix using this recipe, or just be like me and use Herbes de Provence, haha)
-1/4tsp black pepper
-1/4tsp kosher salt (I omitted this, yet it was still pretty salty, as I mentioned above)
-1tbsp olive oil
-1 beaten egg
-sliced mozzarella cheese (I used shredded)
-1 (26-ounce bottle) favorite jarred marinara sauce (or homemade, if ya wanna get fancy)

Directions:
-Spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom and sides of your crockpot.
-In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with a fork, and in another separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the seasoning and parmesan cheese.
-Dip each chicken breast into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings.
-Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock, then layer the mozzarella on top.
-Cover the chicken with entire jar of marinara sauce
-Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. If your chicken is still frozen, it will take longer (I cooked mine on low for about 8 hours)
-Serve with your favorite pasta.

Buffalo Chicken Soup

So I know many people have been all about Instagram for quite some time (months? years? I have no idea how long it’s been around…) but I just jumped on the bandwagon a few weeks ago because, well, I wanted to look at nail pictures.  My amazing friend Kim is a consultant for Jamberry Nails (click on her name to go to the link!), which is a company that sells nail wraps/decals.  They are AMAZING!  Therefore, my latest obsession has been staying up late, searching for pictures on Instagram of the wraps on people’s nails.  Yes, this is my life.  In any case, last night, not only did I make a delicious dinner, but I also did my first full “Jamicure”!  I find myself staring constantly at my nails (which reminds me of when I first got engaged, and my eyes were glued to my left hand).  Don’t judge me. 😉
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Like I just mentioned above, I also made an amazing and yummy and incredible and delicious and slightly spicy dinner.  This Buffalo Chicken Soup recipe was posted Running to the Kitchen’s blog by the girl that runs Bake Your Day.  I want to make sure both bloggers get props, because it was soooooo delicious.

I made a few slight changes, but not much.  First, I omitted the cilantro.  Don’t get me wrong – I *love* cilantro.  But it didn’t seem worth it to buy it, just to use a few tablespoons, and I don’t have anything else on the meal plan involving it.  I used to grow it, but it’s gone now.  Sigh.  Second, I used about one cup of wing sauce instead of 2/3 cup, because that’s how much was left in my bottle, and I didn’t want to just leave a few drops in the bottom.
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The soup was actually pretty thin, which was surprising.  I mean, it does call for quite a bit of chicken broth (I use the buillion cubes that I get for SUPER CHEAP from Costco), but for some reason I thought the wing sauce and simmering would let it thicken up a bit.  It didn’t.  Even today, the next day, it is still very thin.  My husband was a bit surprised at dinnertime, because he thought it would have been a thicker soup.  I’m sure it’d be ok to add milk or cream, but some adjusting would need to take place to make sure it still has the same feel.

I could have eaten (slurped?) the whole pot.  No joke.
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Buffalo Chicken Soup

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-1/2cu uncooked orzo pasta
-2tsp olive oil
-1/4cu yellow onion, chopped (I used 1/2cu)
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-2 medium carrots, peeled, and cut into half moons
-2 teaspoons ranch dressing seasoning mix (on the original blog, there was supposed to be a link to a recipe, but there wasn’t, so I just “winged” it, and used garlic powder, onion powder, and some chives, which was a loose adaptation of Gimme Some Oven’s ranch seasoning mix)
-3tbsp cilantro, divided
-32oz chicken broth
-2/3 or 1cu Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce (mine was store brand, haha, it’s cheaper!)
-4oz cheddar cheese, grated
-4oz parmesan cheese, grated
-2cu cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I just baked 2 chicken breasts at 375 for 30ish minutes, until cooked through – any method works, though)
-1/4cu green onions, chopped and divided
-1/4cu blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
-Cook orzo according to package directions until about half way done. Drain and set aside.
-Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Sauté yellow onion, garlic and half of the green onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until the onions are opaque and fragrant.
-Add carrots, ranch mix and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Stir to combine and sauté until the carrots begin to soften (side note, I added my carrots after this, because I like them more on the “crisp-tender” side).
-Add chicken broth, buffalo sauce, cheddar, parmesan and shredded chicken. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or longer.
-Bring the soup to a boil, add the underdone orzo and stir frequently until orzo is done.
-Serve with sliced green onions, additional cilantro and blue cheese crumbles.

Spaghetti Squash with Spaghetti Sauce

I have been meaning to try out spaghetti squash for over a year now.  My friend Alysha and I were discussing it recently and it turned out she had been intending to try it also.  We decided to get together last weekend to join efforts…this was actually a HUGE deal for her, as she is one of the pickiest eaters ever (by her own admission!)…and honestly, I have never been a huge fan of other squash.
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We were both a little nervous.  We also had no idea what we were doing.  I googled a lot of recipes and ways to prepare it and it seemed that roasting it was the most popular and reportedly tastiest method.  We merged this Dashing Dish microwaved spaghetti squash recipe with this Martha Stewart roasted spaghetti squash recipe, and adapted our own version from there.
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IT WAS SO GOOD!  I think we were both a little surprised at how much we enjoyed the final product.  It was a bit on the crunchy side, which I actually really liked.  Alysha observed that the slight sweetness from the squash made the sauce a bit sweeter, also.  Also: one squash will yield a TON of “spaghetti.”  We each ate large portions that night, and it created about 4-6 leftover servings.
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It was also really fascinating how it really does look like spaghetti!  I realize it’s called “spaghetti squash” for a reason, but was still neat to see how it literally came out in spaghetti-like strands when we scraped each half with a fork.  I have been told if you want to do a quicker version, you can simply nuke it for 6-10 minutes and it will be ready.
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The spaghetti sauce is a recipe that Alysha got from her mother-in-law and is now her and her husband’s go-to sauce – and it’s really obvious as to why.  It was delicious!!

Bottom line: if you are wary of trying out spaghetti squash – don’t be!  If a squash-disliker and a picky eater ended up loving it, then it must be a keeper! 😉
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Spaghetti Sauce

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1lb ground beef
-1/2 an onion, diced
-2tbsp minced garlic
-salt and pepper, to taste
-a couple shakes of basil
-a couple shakes of oregano
-one shake of rosemary
-one shake of thyme
(note: there are no specifications for precise amounts – do it to your taste and what seems right for you)
-one small can of tomato paste
-one medium can of tomato sauce
-one large can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings (blend it ahead of time if you don’t like chunky tomatoes, like the two of us!)

Directions:
-In a frying pan, brown the meat with the onion, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper.
-Once browned, drain the grease and add to the crock pot, along with the spices, tomato paste, one can of water (in the paste can), sauce, and diced tomatoes with the juice. Mix together.
-Cover and cook on low for as long as you like (about 8 hours at the most).
-This can be done on the stove top, as well.
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 Spaghetti Squash

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-one spaghetti squash (mine was about 4lbs)
-olive oil
-dash of garlic powder or salt

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-Puncture the squash a few times with a fork or knife.
-Microwave the squash for about 5-6 minutes, then cut it in half (it will be nearly impossible to cut if you don’t microwave it first). Scoop out the seeds and any gunk that you can see.
-Line a baking dish with parchment paper or foil (or just put it directly on, if you prefer) and set the squash in, face up. Using a basting brush, spread some olive oil on each side, and sprinkle some garlic over it.
-Roast it in the oven for about 30 minutes. It should be easily punctured with a fork.
-Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash to create spaghetti-like strands. You can keep scraping until you get down to the skin!

One-Pan Chicken Parmesan

TGIF!!!!!  Who’s with me??  Seriously, I have been so tired lately and I am ready for the weekend!  It also helps that I am attending not one, but two, barbecues this weekend.  I can’t wait. 😉
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Sometimes, though, you need a break from grilling, and when you do, there are dishes like this yummy One-Pan Chicken Parmesan by No. 2 Pencil to fall back on!  This was a nice, comfort food-esque dish, that was sort of like baked ziti, only in chicken parm form.  And we all know how much I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE chicken parm! 
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For me, this turned into more of a two-pan chicken parm because, well, I’m not always as prepared as I should be.  I didn’t have any chicken broth (which is almost a crime, since it’s one of those essentials that you should always have!), so I ended up adjusting the recipe and boiled the pasta separately in water, then added back to the rest of the dish.  I did that, because without the broth, there was not enough liquid in the “one pan” to cook the noodles, and I didn’t want to water it down with…well…water.  I also used tomato sauce instead of canned tomatoes, cuz I’m just that kind of person.  Also, I used dried parsley for garnish, not fresh.  Still pretty, and tasty!
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One-Pan Chicken Parmesan

serves about 4

Ingredients:
-4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided (I think I used less – I try to not overdo it with the oil!)
-2 cloves of garlic, diced
-1/2 of a medium onion, diced
-1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (uncooked, diced into bite-size pieces)
-1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (or just use tomato sauce)
-1 8oz can of tomato sauce
-1 14.5oz can of low-sodium chicken broth
-1/2lb of uncooked rotini pasta, about 2 1/2 cups
-2cu freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2cu freshly shredded parmesan cheese
-1cu Panko bread crumbs
-kosher salt and pepper
-flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:
-In a deep saute pan, saute onions and olive oil until onions start to soften.
-Season chicken with small amount of salt and pepper, increase pan heat to medium/med-high, and brown the chicken.
-Lower the heat and add garlic to pan. Continue cooking 1-2 minutes more.
-Use kitchen shears to break up canned tomatoes in the can, then add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth and pasta to pan. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat.
Cook covered for around 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.
-Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, only if necessary, then stir in mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
-In a small bowl, combine panko bread crumbs with 2 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle bread crumbs over pasta and heat under broiler until bread crumbs are crispy and golden, 1-2 minutes.
-Garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley.

Impromptu Chicken Alfredo

So…here is another dish that I cannot find the recipe for.  I really thought that I had pinned it to my “What’s For Dinner” Pinterest board…but I did not.  I made this a few weeks ago using ingredients I had at home.  It involved skim milk, parmesan cheese, flour, and some spices.  Oh…and pasta, of course.  The result: it was delicious!  I am sure you can find almost any recipe online (or in your head) that will do the trick.

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Lots of yummy food

This is what I call a “cop out” post.  I was on a decent posting streak, then stopped for a bit again.  Today I am not posting a recipe (too busy and too lazy for that…though I know those two statements contradict themselves).  So instead, I will post some pictures of some yummy dishes I’ve eaten lately that I didn’t cook!

My mother-in-law’s spaghetti.  YUM.  She has made it for us before, but I liked it the best this time.  She made it while she was staying with us for a week, and we even had leftovers in the fridge and freezer.  They’re long gone now. 😉  I think she thinned out the tomatoes a bit more than in the past, so it was not chunky (which I hate, haha).  SO GOOD.  And don’t even get me started on the meatballs…
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My mama’s homemade chili.  She had us over for dinner while my mother-in-law was in town, and made this, at my request.  Her chili is fantastic.  Her split pea soup is even better, but my husband is weird and doesn’t like peas.  Also, homemade split pea soup (ham hock and all) is a bit more work.

Side note: Because I’m just “that person,” I looked up the origins of chili and got some really good information from wikipedia.  I know there are far more reputable resources than wikipedia, but hey, it works in a pinch! 😉

 
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Steak!  I am typically not a steak fan, but also while my mother-in-law was in town, she bought us steak to grill.  We didn’t have time to marinade it or do anything really fancy, so we grabbed our McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning from the spice cabinet and sprinkled both sides of each steak with it.  I have to admit that I like McCormick Grill Mates Barbecue Seasoning better (I’ve only used it once, on chicken, but it literally tasted like the chicken was covered in barbecue sauce).  Despite that, the Montreal Steak Seasoning worked wonderfully and it took no time at all! Also, we have 3-4 steaks left in our freezer to cook (bulk sales are my BFF).
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What have you been cooking lately?  I’d love to know!