Slow Cooker Lasagna

This recipe takes 15-20 minutes TOPS to prep & get going. You can even do it the day before, throw it all in the crock pot, refrigerate & take out/turn on the next day when you’re ready for it. Simple, Simple, Simple and so delicious!

My only issue with this recipe is that the lasagna is only as big as your crock pot. For me, that means it’s not guest friendly as my crock pot is only big enough to feed the 5 members in my family (with a few leftovers). Other than that, it’s a great, quick hot meal that takes very little time.

*Note: You can turn this into a Vegetarian Lasagna by using grilled eggplant vs. the sausage.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
53 ounces of your favorite tomato sauce (more or less, depending on how saucy you like your lasagna)
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
15 uncooked lasagna noodles

In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender & sausage is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes; drain.

Stir in tomato sauce, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, ricotta and Parmesan cheese. (Refrigerate remaining mozzarella cheese while lasagna cooks.)

Cover bottom of crock pot with sauce. Not a lot, just enough to cover.

Spoon 1/4 of the sausage mixture on top of sauce; top with 5 noodles, broken into pieces to fit. Spread with half of the cheese mixture.

Repeat two more times with Sauce, 1/4 of the sausage mixture, 5 noodles & cheese mixture. *Note: sauce will dry out during cooking time. Make sure you add enough to your liking.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 4 to 6 hours or until noodles are tender.

Sprinkle top of lasagna with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover and let stand about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Cut into pieces & serve.

*Tip: Don’t know what to do with left over Ricotta? Make a dip! Add ricotta with a little milk, garlic, onion, dried dill and salt & pepper. Mix all together to desired consistency. Serve with carrots & celery.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Betty Crocker

Advertisements

Lemony Scones with Dried Cherries & Apricots

I cannot begin to explain how much I LOVE these scones!!!

They are moist & flaky & not overly sweet. You can clearly taste the lemon zest and dried fruit. The lemony glaze gives it the perfect amount of sweetness.

In my opinion, they are superior to anything you’ve ever tasted at your local coffee shop. Trust me when I tell you “You’ll never look at a scone the same way after tasting these!”


Lemony Scones with Dried Cherries & Apricots

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled & cut into small cubes
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, divided
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped (substitute with any dried fruit)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (substitute with any dried fruit)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. & Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside.

In a bowl (Stand Mixer is the easiest), stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix in butter & mix to resemble coarse crumbs; set aside.

In a separate bowl, stir together sour cream, egg, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest; add to flour mixture.

Combine just until moistened. Stir in chopped apricots, cherries & walnuts until just combine. Drop sticky dough onto baking sheet. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly on rack.

2. For glaze, stir together powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel. Stir in enough lemon juice until glaze drizzles off of spoon easily; drizzle glaze over top of scones.

Makes approx. 16 to 18 scones depending on size

Recipe Source: Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Baked Oatmeal

My good friend Christina, shared this recipe with me a few years back & it is YUMMY-LICOUS!!! It’s like eating an oatmeal cookie for breakfast. Who can complain about that? Well, maybe those who don’t like oatmeal can complain 🙂

In our household, this stuff never last long enough for leftovers. It is an absolute MUST for me to double this recipe.

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.

Combine the milk, applesauce, butter, and egg.

Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well. Pour oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray (9″x11″ if you doubled the recipe).

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: Friend Christina F. and Cooking Light

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

A few years back I was in search of simple crock pot recipes. I just had my 2nd child and, by all means, had no time to cook! Utilizing my crock pot more often seemed to be a good option.

I was also going through a Semi-Homemade by Sandra Lee phase. Her trademark 70/30 philosophy combines 70% ready-made products with 30% fresh ingredients, which I’m convinced is how most people cook these days.

This recipe is by far my “go to” meal on a cool winter day. Actually, with this insane California weather, I’ve actually made this on some of those cool summer days we have been having. All is all, it is simple, delicious and worth sharing!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

1 store-bought roasted chicken
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
4-5 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth (you can add more if you like.)
2 (10.75-ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
2 teaspoon fines herbs*
Salt and pepper
2 cups egg noodles, cooked (more if you like)

Remove the skin from the chicken and shred the meat from the bone. Put the chicken into a slow cooker along with the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir in 4 cans of broth, mushroom soup, and fines herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours.

When the soup is finished, stir in cooked egg noodles. You can add more broth now if you like. Adjust seasonings and serve.

*Note: Fines herbs are a classic blend of herbs that usually consists of chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon. Fines Herbs can be found pre-blended in the spice section of the grocery store.

Recipe Source: Semi-Homemade Cooking by Sandra Lee

Granola

The search for a great Granola recipe is ON!

I’ve tried a few recipes & so far not impressed! BUT… my friend Jenny just sent me a version of this one & it’s pretty good. Thanks Jenny!

Homemade Granola

3 cups rolled oats
2 cups of nuts – I used sliced almonds & chopped walnuts (I suggest 2 different types of nuts. Any combo will work. Chop or leave whole. All depends on what you prefer)
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Coconut oil (can substitute with vegetable oil)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and coconut.

In a medium saucepan combine brown sugar, coconut oil and salt and heat over medium heat until sugar is melted. Sugar & oil will not combine 100%, at least mine did not. This is ok though! Just make sure sugar has melted and is no longer grainy.

Combine both mixtures by slowly pouring the liquid over the oatmeal mixture and stirring well. If sugar & oil clump up, put everything back in the pan & heat over med-low heat. Stir constantly until oat mixture is well coated with sugar mixture.
* Note: Leaving oat/sugar mixture unattended in hot pan will cause it to burn or get overly toasted, which will have a displeasing taste.

Spread mixture out evenly onto a 11X17-inch rimmed baking sheets.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until golden, checking often to ensure it is not too golden and/or burnt. Remove from the oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

Optional Topping Additions
I enjoy pumpkin seeds & dried cherries, but you can add anything you like. Your options are endless!

Add your toppings when you are ready to eat your Homemade Granola. Putting dried fruit into the airtight containers with the granola may cause it to become less crunchy.

*Note: Next time, I think I will use less shredded coconut as this recipe is a bit sweet. The original recipe called for maple syrup vs. brown sugar (or a combo of both), which I may try. I’ll post the results.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Friend Jenny and Mels Kitchen Cafe
Photo:
By Jen Grove

Homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer

I have known/met a few people who are Vegetarian, Vegan, 100% Organic and/or Raw eaters, etc, etc… but I myself have not become one of them. Not yet at least 🙂

However, I am overly freaked out about feeding my family, or myself, something that has been covered in pesticides or packed full of artificial chemicals to extend it’s shelf life.

By all means, I am no expert on what you should or should not eat, but I do know there are countless products on the market that are packed full of ingredients that are unknown to me. Most of which I can’t even pronounce. My beloved coffee creamer is one of them.

So I decided to try and make my own. I mean really… how hard could it be?

French Vanilla Creamer

    1 cup 2% milk (That is what I had on hand. You can use whole milk. I think I’ll try it with non-fat next time. I’ll post the results)
    1 cup heavy whipping cream
    4 Tbsp pure maple syrup (I was 1 Tbsp short so I added 1 Tbsp on honey)
    1 Tbsp vanilla extract

    Whisk together all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until milk & cream are warmed (few minutes only, do not let it boil).

    Remove pan from heat, cover & let it sit for 30 minutes.

    Pour creamer into a glass bottle or plastic as shown in the picture. Should last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

    Recipe Source: Deliciously Organic

Strawberry Shortcake Tea Party Birthday

Sydney’s Strawberry Shortcake Tea Party last month was overflowing with cuteness!

We had all of the little girls dress up in their “Berry Fancy” Dresses and it was too cute to watch them all twirl & drink “tea” from their flower cups. So much fun to be a little girl!

Invitation:
For the invitations, I used Red & white card stock, green gingham design craft paper, green ribbon, white artificial flower, 1 paper brad, and a red jewel. All found at your local craft store.

To make the strawberry shape, I just searched online for one I liked, enlarged it to the size I wanted, then cut out a template. The template was then used to trace the strawberry shape on the red & white card stock.

The “stem” (aka green gingham paper) was just a free form shape I drew. The top of the stem is longer so I could fold it behind and have a clean edge on the top.

Put the Red Strawberry cutout on top of the White, put the stem on top of the Red & fold behind the white. I then used a hole punch to punch a hold in the upper right corner of all 3 papers & added a paper brad to hold everything together.

From there, I looped the green ribbon & hot glued it on top of the brad, followed by the white flower & red jewel.

The invitation wording was printed on regular white printer paper & glued on top of white Strawberry shaped paper.

Decoration & Food:
The table was the main decorating canvas this time around.

Red Table Cloth, Flowers, bowls of jelly beans, and Flower tea cups (which were their favors) were all set out on the table. Homemade pinwheels stood in clear vases with dried black beans.

To make your own pinwheels, simply pick out any kind of decorative scrapbook paper. Cut 2 pieces in any size square. Your paper must be SQUARE for this to work! Glue the 2 pieces of paper together so each decorative side faces outwards.

From there, fold 1 corner diagonally making a triangle. Unfold & do it again the opposite way (see picture below). Cut along folded lines 3/4 of the way up (DO NOT cut all the way to the middle). Punch a hole in the center & on the same side of each square corner.

Put a paper brad in each of the corner holes, then pull up and insert into center hole. Fasten brad, glue to a stick & there you go! You now have your very own Homemade Pinwheel.

PB&J and cheese tea sandwiches, big red strawberries, grapes & popcorn were served for lunch. Alongside, strawberry milk in their adorable flower tea cups.

Note: Adorable Flower Teacups were purchased on Amazon.

Cupcakes:
This year opted to not do a big themed cake as I had zero ideas on what to do. So cupcakes with a Strawberry twist was the way to go.

I used a vanilla & Lemon boxed cake mix. Made both according to the directions on the box. I normally replace the oil with applesauce for a moister cake.

Once cupcakes were baked & cooled, I cup a cone hole in the top so I could fill it with the most AMAZING Strawberry filling ever, Strawberry Gelée.

Now for the icing! I used store bought cream cheese icing, added some of my homemade Strawberry jam & mixed until I got the perfect shade of pink. Pipe icing onto cupcakes, added sliced strawberries to the top of the Vanilla cupcakes & a yellow jellybean to the Lemon cupcakes.

They were so YUMMY! My neighbor who rarely eats sweets inhaled one in record time. The best compliment if you ask me 🙂

Strawberry Gelée

For my daughters Strawberry Shortcake Tea Party Birthday, I found the most AMAZING strawberry filling for cupcakes. This stuff is beyond amazing.

Strawberry Gelée

Ingredients:

1 cup strawberry puree
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup diced, fresh strawberries

Directions:

Heat puree and sugar in a small saucepan just until it begins to bubble, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat.

Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add fruit puree mixture to the bowl and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Stir in diced strawberries and chill until set.

Recipe Source: Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy

Ladybug Picnic

When our sweet Sydney had her 3rd birthday, we decided to have a Ladybug Picnic at the Beach. This was the first time we did a birthday party outside of our home & boy was this a challenge. The amount of stuff required for a family of 5 to hit the beach is enormous! Not to mention all the stuff required for a birthday party. Birthday Party stuff + Family of 5 beach stuff = way more than I or my husband can carry! Luckily, we had the help of my husbands family!!!

The ladybug theme was really easy! Bonus was that the beach was randomly swarmed by ladybugs that day. Everywhere you looked, you could find a ladybug on the sand. Very Cool!

Invitation:
To make the ladybug invitation, I used black construction paper for the body & head, red card stock for the wings, wiggly eyes & a paper brad to attach it all. These invites were all hand delivered so I could make them bigger & not worry about having to fit them into an envelope.

Cake:
The cake didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned but still cute & Sydney still loved it 🙂

I used a boxed cake mix (again, I hope to make my cakes from scratch after I take my pastry class), filled a rounded bowl (for the ladybug body) 1/2 way & baked. I filled another smaller rounded bowl (for the ladybug head) 1/2 way & baked.

Once baked & cooled, I placed both cakes into the freezer for about 30 min. This makes the cake easier to ice and handle & it wont fall apart in your hands.

To decorate, I used red fondant for the body, black icing for the head, oreo cookies for the spots, red licorice for the antennas, and mini marshmallows for the eyes. The original plan for the mouth didn’t work out so we had to use the mini marshmallows.

Star Wars meets Harry Potter Birthday

My oldest son, Jackson, was OBSESSED with Star Wars right before his 6th Birthday. Naturally, we picked a Star Wars theme for his party, which was at a local jumpy house place. But of course, his obsession changed to Harry Potter a week before his party. This shouldn’t have surprised me as he does this every year.

Since his party was a week away & the invitations were already sent with a Star Wars theme, we decided to stick with it. Did you actually think I was going to switch up the weeks & weeks of planning I had already done? Ok, some you may have thought I would. But I Did Not!

Invitation:
The invitation was done on a Design software I have on my home computer, then uploaded to Zazzle and printed on a Customizable Photo Puzzle. Each guest was given a puzzle invite which they had to put together to “decode” the message.

*Invite wording courtesy of Personal Party Invites

Star Wars Cookiecake:
Since the party was at a local jumpy house place, I did not have to do any decorations. We opted for the Pajama Movie package , where the kids jumped for an hour then watch a movie for an hour (Star Wars Clone Wars).

We decided to make Cookiecakes (Cookie that looks like a cupcake) vs. a large messy cake. With the help of my sister in-law, Nancy, we rolled out different colors of fondant, used a biscuit cutter to make a circle that would fit on top our cookiecakes, and used Food Markers for the details.

For the actual cookiecake, we used pre-made Pilsbury cookie dough and stuffed them into a greased cupcake pan. Bake as normal & VOILA…you now have Cookiecakes!

Add any type of icing to act as the “glue” and place the finished Star Wars Fondant heads on top. These were so much fun to make & Jackson LOVED them!

Harry Potter Ice Cream:
Now how does Harry Potter play into all of this? Jackson’s party was on a weekend but his actual birthday was on a Thursday where we celebrated at his favorite local diner with family. Since his new obsession was now Harry Potter, I was compelled to come up with something quick. After much thought and searching for inspiration & ideas online, a Harry Potter Owl was created.

A simple scoop of ice cream from the restaurant was ordered. My other sister in-law, Melisa, helped me add coconut for the feathers, yellow M&M for the beak, chocolate pretzel cut into 2 circles for the eyes, chocolate chips for the center of the eye, sliced almonds for the top feathers, and a chocolate wafer cut in half for the wings.

Super cute + Super Yummy = Super Happy Birthday Boy!