Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lazy Lasagna

I remember the first time I had lasagna.  It was down in Southern Indiana, visiting my Aunt Glenda. It was the most scrumptious comfort food I could ever imagine.  When I first became and adult and discovered a "Lazy" version, it was PERFECT!  I've tweaked it over the years to suit my kids' taste, and while it's certainly not gourmet, we rarely have leftovers.

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp oregano
1 large (32 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
16 oz cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese
8 oz sour cream
1/2 C grated Parmesan
1 box lasagna noodles, uncooked
2 C shredded cheese
3/4 C water

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly spray pan and saute garlic and onion until tender.  Add ground beef and oregano and cook until browned.  (Can also use garlic and onion powder if preferred.)  Drain fat and add spaghetti sauce, stirring to heat through.  In small mixing bowl combine cottage cheese, sour cream and Parmesan; set aside.  Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Spoon 1 1/2 C meat sauce into bottom of pan, spreading evenly.  Layer with uncooked lasagna noodles, adding broken pieces to ends if needed.  Spread half the cottage cheese mixture over noodles, followed by half the remaining meat sauce and 1 C shredded cheese.  Repeat with 2nd layer.  Using spatula, create space between lasagna noodles and edges of pan.  Pour the water around the edges of pan.  Cover tightly with foil and bake 50-60 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 15=20 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

For Sunday dinner, I assemble this the night before, cover with foil and refrigerate.  Then I stick it in the oven as soon as I am home from church.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

I love these fresh out of the oven... It's almost worth burning my tongue over!  They are sooo good and make your kitchen smell sooo sweet and they are sooo easy to make!  I found this same basic recipe on a couple of different Internet sites each with a variation here or there.

These make pretty simple gifts with a big bang when added to small mason jars and tied off with holiday ribbon.  I love giving these as hostess gifts.  The only problem I have is one batch is never enough.  :)

1/3 C brown sugar
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt (I used my sea salt grinders and it worked great)
pinch cayenne pepper (some used 1/4 tsp smoked paprika instead)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 lb nuts (whole almonds, walnut or pecan halves, etc)
1 large egg white, room temperature
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In mixing bowl combine sugars. salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, working out any lumps with a fork if needed; set aside.  In small mixing bowl, beat egg white with water until frothy (not stiff).  With rubber spatula, fold in nuts and turn to coat evenly.  Add coated nuts to bowl of dry mixture and continue turning with rubber spatula until candy-coating is evenly disbursed.  Spread evenly onto prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool, breaking apart pieces as necessary.  Store in airtight container.

Monkey Bread

This gooey delicious version of cinnamon sticky buns are sooooo sinfully sweet I don't even care about the calories!  (Good thing I only make this once a year!)   It's called Monkey Bread because you pull it apart with your fingers - like a monkey would!  :)

Tip:  I put my bag of frozen dinner rolls in the refrigerator the night before to thaw.  Around here, Rhodes Rolls are the best, but there are a number of good store brands that work just as well.  To find Rhodes Rolls in your area click {{HERE}}.

1 C chopped pecans
24 frozen dinner rolls, thawed
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 C) butter
1 C brown sugar

Spray inside of bundt pan with cooking spray and cover the bottom with nuts.  In bowl mix together cinnamon and sugar.  Cut rolls in half, and re-shape into balls if necessary.  Roll each dough ball into cinnamon-sugar mixture coating well and then layering in bundt pan.  Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and let rise until about double in size or at least until even with the top of the bundt pan.  In saucepan over medium heat, mix together butter and brown sugar and cook until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Pour over rolls in pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Invert onto serving plate.  Let cool sightly.

Quick-Method Variation:  No time to let dough rise?  You can substitute the dinner rolls with 3 cans of refrigerated biscuits.  Cut each biscuit in half and form into ball and proceed with recipe above, omitting the "let rise".

Butterscotch Bubbleloaf Variation:  Omit the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Instead, roll each dough ball into Butterscotch or Vanilla Cook&Serve (not Instant!) dry pudding mix (small box).  Sprinkle remaining mix over rolls, cover and let rise and continue as above.

No-Bake Cookies

These are my favorite cookies and they always seem to disappear pretty fast around my house.  The hardest part is exerting patience while waiting for the cookies to set up.

1/2 C milk
1 stick (1/2 C) butter
1/2 C cocoa powder
2 C sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C peanut butter
pinch salt
3 C uncooked oatmeal

PREP:  Line empty counter space or table with parchment paper - enough for 4 dozen cookies.  Measure out vanilla, peanut butter, and oatmeal and set aside. Have salt shaker on hand.

In heavy saucepan add milk, butter, cocoa and sugar over MED-HIGH heat.  Stir occasionally. Bring to boil and then continue to cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, peanut butter, salt and oats.  Drop by tablespoon onto waxed or parchment paper. Let cool completely (20-30 minutes).  Store in airtight container.  Makes 3-4 dozen.

Note: The larger the cookies, the longer they take to set-up.  Patience in the key!