Thursday, December 11, 2014

Million Dollar Pasta

Do you love lasagna but dread taking the time to fix it? Here is a really quick pasta dish that makes a pretty close substitute. I have seen a zillion repostings of "Million Dollar Spaghetti" the past week and decided to give this a try. Andy said he'd rather eat this instead of lasagna. The recipe online was lacking in measurements, so I have included what I used.

You know me, I'm going to use what is in my pantry first even if I have to tweak the recipe a little. I chose to use penne pasta instead of spaghetti. I'll use it again since it's easier to eat.

The only thing I'll do differently next time is remember to add the Italian spices to the cheese. I had a doctor's appointment earlier that day and she told me she'd like to see me lose five pounds a year for the next four years so by the time I turn 55, I'll have lost twenty pounds. I'd like to see that myself. We will have to wait and see. I guess I was relating that conversation to Andy when I was mixing the cheese and forgot the spice. Guess what? It still tasted really good!

1 lb. box penne pasta or spaghetti
1 lb. ground beef (or ground Italian sausage)
1 small onion, chopped 
1 jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Garlic salt and Italian spices to taste
2 cup bag shredded Mozzarella cheese
Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Cook pasta per directions on the box, drain and set to the side.
  2. Brown ground beef with chopped onion. Season with a little garlic salt. Drain grease and add jar of spaghetti sauce. Turn on low and let simmer.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese together until smooth. Add some Italian spices to taste.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
Spread half the pasta and cover with the cheese and Italian seasoning mixture.

Top with remaining pasta and cover with the meat/sauce mix.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
Remove from oven. Top with Parmesan and shredded Mozzarella cheese.
 Bake uncovered until cheese is melted.
Serve with garlic bread and a salad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

Can you believe it's already time to celebrate Thanksgiving again? Where has this year gone? As always, we stay busy, busy, busy. When I stop and give thanks for all the things I have been blessed with, I'm amazed at  how long the list is. It seems like everyone wants more and more when they're younger. As I've aged, I want to deal with less and less. Keep it simple and life is so much better!

I really look forward to spending time with the kids and grand kids on Thursday. With everyone going a million directions; it's rare for us to all find a time that works for everyone to gather. This year we have decided on a good ol' traditional menu...nothing fancy. Andy will be smoking a couple of turkey breasts this year. After the one we fixed at our Labor Day get together disappeared so quickly; we thought we'd veer a little from normal. I'm sure I'll throw in a few extra goodies, but here's the plan as of today.

Grisham Family 2014 Thanksgiving Menu
Smoked Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Carrots
Cranberry Sauce
Yeast Rolls

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Andy's Homemade Breakfast Sausage

We are still in the testing phase of making our own homemade breakfast sausage. The taste has always been good, it's perfecting the texture and fat/meat ratio that we are still working on. Our first go-around, the grinding blade was too big and the meat was coarser and a little tough. We still have a little tweaking to go, but overall, we are pretty pleased with this batch. Our conclusion is we need to mix in a little more fat the next time. The sausage patties are so lean you almost have to add a little extra oil when cooking. We are using a Chard #12 500 watt Heavy Duty Meat Grinder and it does an excellent job.We tried our hand at stuffing Italian sausage links. I'm not ready to go into all of that as we did good; but have to experiment some more.
Andy deboned five Boston Butts.
He then cut the chunks of pork into smaller, chunks that would fit in the meat grinder chute easily.

Grind, grind, grind.
We ended up with a total of 52 lbs. of sausage. We mixed up 31 lbs. of Fiesta, 9 lbs. of Old Plantation and another 11 lbs. of Italian sausage (using The Spice House's Italian Sausage Seasoning). 
There are two sausage seasoning flavors we both like. The first being Fiesta's Extra Fancy Pan Sausage Seasoning.We mixed two tablespoons per pound of pork and it's perfect.
Legg's Old Plantation has a different flavor, but it's equally as good. A little of this goes a long way. All it takes is two teaspoons per pound.
In 1 lb. portions, add half the required seasonings and mix well.
Mix in the second half of the spices. Blend well.
For casseroles and meatballs, we weighed and formed 1 lb rolls and vacuumed sealed them. Andy also patted out hundreds of sausage patties. Line a freezer safe container with waxed paper, layer the patties and let freeze overnight. The next day they will be ready to vacuum seal.