Spinach Lasagna

I feel like I should preface this post by saying Zack and I do not like cooked spinach.  Give it to us raw in a salad?  That sounds delicious.  Cook it into any food, especially one of our favorite Italian dishes, lasagna?  NO WAY, no how.

BUT – one day Demeter (see Birthday Cake) and I went to the dining hall on our college’s campus for dinner.  They had spinach ravioli.  Demeter was getting some, so I decided to be brave and get a little, too.  It was incredible.  Not goopy and gross like all other cooked spinach that I’ve ever had.  The flavor actually complimented the Italian flavors really well.

As fate would have it, the next day I saw a recipe for spinach lasagna.  After some gentle coaxing, I got Zack to agree to try it if I made it (I promised him I would make him a grilled ham and cheese sandwich if he didn’t like it).  It was even better than the ravioli! Even Zack liked it! Although, he did say that he would like it even more if I used slightly less spinach next time.  10 ounces is kind of a lot for such a small thing of lasagna.

It should also be cooked a bit longer than 30 minutes, because the cheese wasn’t completely melted after 30 minutes.

I wish I had written down the name of the sauce that I used, because it was amazing.  It only had 4 ingredients and was completely natural.  I got it at TJ Maxx, a type of discount store, so I may never see it again.  😦 Since it only had 4 ingredients, the garlic was kind of overpowering, but not going to lie, I kind of loved it.

Looking at these pictures really makes me want another big plate of this right now.  I like it as much as regular lasagna which is saying a whole heck of a lot!

Today I am taking a cooking class with my mom called “Edible Christmas Gifts” and I cannot wait!  I will let everyone know how it goes.

Spinach Lasagna

– 4 oz cream cheese

– 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

– 1 1/2 c mozzarella cheese, divided

– 2 c spaghetti sauce

– ~10 lasagna noodles, cooked

– 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

Mix cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Set aside.  Make a layer of noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish.  Spread spinach mixture on top of noodles.  Layer another layer of noodles on top and cover with spaghetti sauce and 1/2 c mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Italian Chicken Pasta Skillet

This was DELICIOUS.  I think I was an Italian in a previous life, because I cannot get enough Italian food, but this one was to die for.

I gave up cooking the next night so that I could have another heaping plate of this stuff and believe me, that is unheard of.  I really don’t know what exactly made this dish so delicious, but I wanted to eat the entire skillet full.

Zack really liked it, too, thankfully because I can guarantee that we will be having it again.

I’m so thankful to have a guy like him – he’s always so open to trying all the foods that I throw at him everyday.  Even if he thinks something doesn’t sound good, he will still try it.  He is such a good sport.  I’m a lucky girl.

Italian Chicken Pasta Skillet

– 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

– 1 green pepper, chopped

– 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges

– 1 jar (26 oz) spaghetti sauce

– 2 cups pasta, cooked, drained

– 1 pkg (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook and stir chicken in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium heat 5 minutes.  Add vegetables, cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done and vegetables are crisp tender.

Add sauce and pasta; cook until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 1 cup cheese; top with remaining cheese.  Cover; let stand 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

For a spicier dish, add 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper with the spaghetti sauce.

Deep Dish Pizza Casserole

Ah, yes.  Another delicious pizza recipe.  This one is made like a casserole for an interesting twist.

I don’t know if Zack and I like pizza because we’re young, if it’s a phase that we will grow out of, or if it’s just because it is SO good.  Regardless, I am going to keep making it as often as possible in as many different ways as possible.  We are that addicted.

This pizza was pretty good.  It was a nice change from the standard pizza, but it isn’t going to become our go-to pizza recipe.  It’s easy to make and not really that time consuming – a great weeknight dinner.

This makes A LOT of pizza.  I bet Zack and I didn’t even eat 1/4 of it.  The crust is so thick that you get full really quick, so if it’s just you one or two other people, I’d probably recommend cutting the recipe in half (unless you really like leftovers!).

My granny grew those jalapenos in her garden.  Homegrown produce is the best.  Knowing that it isn’t covered in pesticides or sprayed with chemicals to make it stay fresh longer makes it taste so much better.

Here’s Zack’s pepperoni-clad piece.  This pizza was really messy.  It immediately fell apart when we took it out of the dish (by fell apart, I mean all the toppings slid off!).  Oops.  We just slid it all back on there and ta-da, good as new.
My delicious jalapeno-topped piece.  I am so hooked on jalapenos lately.  I’ve been putting them on almost everything.

Deep Dish Pizza Casserole

– 1 lb ground turkey

– 1 jar (15 oz) chunky Italian style tomato sauce

– cooking spray

– 1 pizza dough (homemade, store bought, or canned)

– 1 1/2 c shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

– various pizza toppings

Cook meat over medium-high heat until browned, stirring until it crumbles.  Drain.  Add tomato sauce and cook until heated.  Coat 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Unroll pizza crust dough.  Press in bottom and halfway up sides of baking dish.  Top with meat mixture.  Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.  Top with cheese and toppings and bake 5 more minutes until golden brown and cheese melts.

Mini Pizza Snacks

Mmmmm, mini pizzas made in the microwave that take 5 minutes?  Count me in.

My mom used to make these for me all the time.  They are the easiest lunch ever.  Plus, they aren’t TOO awfully bad for you since they’re made on an English muffin.

These would also be good for a snack during football games…it is football season after all 🙂

These were obviously Zack’s (note the pepperonis).  Mine would have mushrooms, green peppers, jalapenos, maybe a little onion…) Yum, I’m making myself want some right now.

I wouldn’t know from experience, but I bet these would be great for a group of kids at a slumber party/birthday party/whatever.  Each kid could customize their own pizzas and you’d be the coolest host ever 😉

Mini Pizza Snacks

– 2 English muffins, split and toasted

– 1/4 to 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce

– 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

– oregano

– various toppings (ie pepperonis, green peppers, onion, etc.)

Arrange muffins on a microwave safe plate and top with sauce. Top with cheese and toppings.  Season with oregano.

Heat 1-2 minutes on Power Level 7 until cheese is melted, turning once.

Easy Parmesan Knots

I am a big fan of making things from scratch.  I love the satisfaction of spending time making something and then getting to enjoy it (especially when others are enjoying it with me).

However, sometimes there just isn’t time to make everything homemade.

These Parmesan Knots are the answer to that.

They are just canned biscuits with seasonings and butter.  Simple sounding, but delicious tasting.

I made these with Fettuccine Alfredo the other night.  Zack LOVED them!

Up close view of the buttery, cheesy, yummy-ness.

Pasta dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo are relatively quick dinners, so the easiness of these fit well with those type of dinners.

Easy Parmesan Knots

– 1 tube (12 oz) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (from the green can)

– 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

– 1 teaspoon dried oregano

– 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Roll each biscuit into a 12-inch rope and tie into a knot; tuck ends under.  Place 2-inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; brush the warm knots with the mixture.

Fettuccine Alfredo…a little healthier

Italian food has my heart.  I could eat some form of it everyday.  Fettuccine Alfredo is yummy, but I’m more of a tomato sauce type of gal.  However, to switch things up, I decided to make this.

Zack loves Italian food, too, but he does not prefer noodle dishes.  Surprisingly, he liked this one.

By using evaporated fat free milk instead of whipping cream and reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, you cut the fat of regular Fettuccine Alfredo in half.  That sounded perfect to me.

I found this recipe in a Betty Crocker cookbook, so I knew it had to be good.  I think Betty Crocker is completely fool-proof.  When I get on a big baking/cooking spree, my mom calls me Betty.

Like I said, this recipe was good, but I think I will stick to tomato sauce Italian dishes for a while.  This will definitely be my go-to recipe when I am looking for a change, though.

It was really quick and easy.

I served it with some really simple Parmesan Knots (as can be seen in the picture below), but I will feature those in a different post.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Prep: 10 minutes.  Total time: 25 minutes.  6 servings.

– 8 oz uncooked fettuccine

– 1/2 cup butter

– 1/2 cup evaporated fat free milk

– 3/4 cup freshly shredded reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

– chopped fresh parsley

In a large sauce pot, cook fettuccine as directed on package.

While fettuccine is cooking, in a 2-quart saucepan, heat butter and milk over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted.  Stir in cheese, salt and pepper.

Drain fettuccine; return to sauce pot.  Pour sauce over warm fettuccine; stir until fettuccine is well coated.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Whole Wheat Pita Meat Lover’s Pizza

Zack and I, like nearly every other Americans, LOVE pizza.  I’m always looking for new ways to make it, because it is that good.  I really liked the idea for this recipe, because 1) they are cute, individual pizzas and 2) they are on whole wheat pitas which are healthier (and crunchier!) than just regular pizza crusts.

My favorite kind of pizza is either plain cheese or one with lots of veggies, but I decided to give this one a try, because Zack loves meat pizza.  As you can see, even the loads of turkey in the sauce wasn’t enough for him – he still added pepperonis to his!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this or not before, but I do not eat beef or pork.  That’s why all of my recipes use ground turkey instead of ground beef.

Here’s my delicious pita pizza.  I actually ate two of them.  They were that good.  Next time I make these, I think I will add some oregano to them along with the thyme.  That would really add to the flavor.

Here’s Zack’s extra meat pizza.  Yummy if you like pepperonis!

Whole Wheat Pita Meat Lover’s Pizza

Prep: 10 minutes.  Cook: 50 minutes.  Yield: 8 6-inch pizzas.

– 2 tsp. canola oil

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs. total) cored and chopped

– 1 tbsp. tomato paste

– 1 jar tomato sauce (~22 oz)

– 1 lb. ground turkey

– 2 tsp. chopped thyme

– salt and pepper

– 4 6-inch whole wheat pitas

– 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with foil.  Mist foil with cooking spray.

Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until tender, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute one minute longer.  Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste.  Cook, stirring often, until thick and pulpy – about 10 minutes.  Add turkey and cook, stirring often and breaking up large clumps with a spoon, until most of the liquid has evaporated – 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Using a serrated knife, cut each pita in half horizontally.  Place rounds, cut side up, on baking sheets.  Divide turkey mixture among rounds (~ 1/2 cup each).  Divide jar of sauce among the rounds and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan, if desired.  Bake until cheese has melted and pizzas are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.

I highly recommend trying these!


Homemade Lasagna with Homemade Marinara Sauce

For my 20th birthday this past August, Mom said she would make me whatever food I wanted.  I thought for a while and decided on homemade lasagna.  My mom is an amazing cook and it turned out incredible.  She gave me the recipe, but I had not gotten around to trying it out until last night.

I have also had a recipe for homemade marinara sauce since I first got into cooking.  It seemed pretty labor intensive and I doubted my abilities to make sauce like a true Italian, so I had been putting it off.

Yesterday, Zack and I did not have any plans, so we decided to try out these recipes.  It’s a good thing we didn’t have plans, because it took all evening to make this.  We didn’t get to eat dinner until 7:30 which is extremely late for us.  We eat really early, because Zack goes to bed around 8 so he can get up for work.

The recipe that Mom gave me included a recipe for homemade sauce, so I sort of combined the one that I already had and the one included in what she gave me.  In the recipe I include, I will just give the one that I used, because I know it works well.

Allow yourself a lot of time to make this, once again.  It takes FOREVER to cut up all the ingredients for the sauce (and then the sauce has to cook for 2 hours and the actual lasagna cooks for about an hour).

In the sauce we used whole tomatoes that we peeled and seeded ourselves.  Zack helped in chopping up everything.  He declared that he will not be peeling and seeding tomatoes ever again.  It was definitely a HUGE pain and I don’t know if I will do it again either.  I asked Mom and she said she used entirely canned tomato sauce in her homemade sauce recipe, so in the future I think that’s what I will do, too.

I also made some Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread to go with the lasagna, but I will talk about that in a different entry.

World’s Best Lasagna

For the lasagna:

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

12 oven ready lasagna noodles

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

¾ lb mozzarella cheese, sliced

homemade marinara sauce:

2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced

2 tablespoon olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon basil

½ tablespoon oregano

½ tablespoon fennel seeds

½ cup red wine

18-19  smallish fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded

28 oz can tomato sauce

6 oz can tomato paste

1 lb sweet turkey sausage

¾ lb ground turkey

salt and pepper to taste

Make the sauce:

Brown turkey sausage and ground turkey in a skillet. Drain and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil. Add the onions and cook slowly on medium heat until they start to carmalize. They should be evenly brown and soft. Cooking them this way brings out the natural sweetness in the onions.

Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the ½ cup of red wine and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, their juice, canned sauce, tomato paste, sausage, and ground turkey and stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer and cook on low, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble, spread 1½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon 1½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil; to prevent sticking, spray foil with cooking spray.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

The title of the recipe is correct.  It is SO good!

I hope you enjoy 🙂

Grilled Pizza

I love pizza.  Well, honestly, who doesn’t love pizza?  I also love anything grilled, so when I saw a recipe for grilled pizza, I knew I had to try it.

It was really easy to do and the pizza was incredible!

The top picture is Zack’s pizza.  He made his stuffed crust.  The bottom picture is mine.  Both pizzas used whole wheat dough.


Grilled Pizza

– pizza dough (you can get bags of whole wheat dough in the refrigerated section of Wal-Mart)

– pizza sauce

– toppings (we used cheese and pepperoni, but you can use anything…jalapenos, onions, sausage, etc.)

– olive oil

– aluminum foil

– tongs

– spatula

– pizza pan

1. Turn your grill on high and let it get good and hot, about 15 minutes.

2. Get 4 pieces of aluminum foil (big enough to cover a cookie sheet). Brush each piece of foil (on one side only) with olive oil.

3. Cut your dough into a couple of pieces and roll it out. You want to make individual pizzas instead of trying to make one great big one.

4. Place one dough onto an oiled sheet of foil. Use brush or fingers to oil the top of the dough. Place next piece of foil, oiled side facing up, on top of that dough. Keep stacking.

5. Make sure that all of your toppings and utensils are ready.

6. Grab one piece of foil with dough. Turn all burners down to medium, open grill and invert dough onto grill, peel off piece of foil. Close the lid and leave it closed for 2 minutes.

7. After two minutes, open the grill and check to see if they are grill marks on your pizza. If not, leave on a minute or so longer.

8. Next, remove dough from grill and place it on pizza pan, grill marks up. Close the grill.

9. Add your sauce and toppings to dough.

10. Turn the middle burners off and left and right burners back up to high. This creates a hot environment but allows you to cook on indirect heat.

11. Open grill and carefully slide your pizza back onto grill on center rack, where burners are off. Close the lid and let cook 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and toppings are done.

12. Repeat all steps for remaining pizzas.

Since these pictures were taken, we’ve made grilled pizza again.  This time we used pizza dough mix (the kind that you just add water to) and it was still really good.  I just like the idea of whole-wheat ingredients.