Apr 2014
Tuscan Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce

Life as I know it is about to change, forever. My due date is rapidly approaching, and soon our family of two will become a family of three. To say my nesting instincts have kicked in is an understatement. I have lists upon lists (ok, spreadsheets – go ahead, call me a nerd) of things to buy, things to do, and things to prepare. One thing I did not want to have to worry about is what to cook for dinner, so I spent a long, rainy Saturday a few weeks ago preparing a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand. I also stocked up my pantry with quick and easy meal ideas and basic pantry supplies for things like spaghetti, mac-and-cheese, etc. Basically anything that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

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When I was asked to try out the new Progressive Recipe Starters, I figured they would be perfect for my new role as a busy new mom. You have the benefit of a homecooked meal, but with a little help to get to get it on the table faster. The Recipe Starters are available in 5 different flavors, and can literally be used to create hundreds of recipes. The most impressive thing to me? Despite being a processed food, I can actually pronounce and recognize almost all the ingredients.Progresso Recipe Starters

Tuscan Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package Progressive Recipes Starters in Creamy Roasted Garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded in 4 thin pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 8 ounces fettuccine or linguine

Directions

  1. Begin by butterflying the chicken and then pounding them in 4 thin cutlets. Season with salt, pepper and oregano, then cook in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken until cooked through, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook your pasta as directed on the box.
  3. Reduce the heat to low-medium, add the diced peppers and spinach and cook until the peppers are soft, and the spinach is wilted. Add the creamy garlic sauce and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, then serve your chicken over the pasta, and topped with the creamy garlic sauce.
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Compensation was provided by General Mills via Federated Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of General Mills.

For more easy dinner ideas, visit http://progresso.com/Products/Recipe-Starters

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Apr 2014
Organizing the Kitchen: The Spice Drawer

Spice Drawer Organization

One of my goals for 2014 is to get my kitchen more organized. We’ve lived in our house for just over a year now, but I still feel like I don’t have the kitchen exactly how I wanted. I have cupboards that are still half-empty, while other drawers and cupboards are overloaded. First up on the list – my spice drawer.

I knew I wanted my spices close to the stove, and I knew I wanted them in a drawer as opposed to a cupboard. Frankly, because I’m short, and I didn’t want to be climbing onto the counter when I couldn’t reach the cumin on the top shelf.

I cleaned out my spice drawer and made a list of the all the spices that I keep on hand. Then, I ordered tins from container. I chose a metal tin with a clear, twist off lid, so I could easily see the color of the spice in the drawer. (Plus all the colors of spices look pretty!)

Here are the tins I ordered.

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I bought some clear address labels, and printed off the labels from my computer. You could easily just label them with a sharpie, but I tend to be a little OCD, and I like the uniformity of the printed labels.

Simply cut the labels to size, stick them on your tins, and fill your tin with the appropriate spices. I tend to stick the spices I use more often in the front, and the less commonly used spices in the back, but you could arrange them however you wanted – alphabetical, by the colors of the rainbow – whatever floats your boat.

See the difference! Gotta love a beautiful spice drawer!Spice DrawerHere is a list of spices I keep on hand:
Allspice
Basil
Cajun seasoning
Cayenne Pepper
Cloves
Cinnamon
Chili Powder
Coriander
Cumin
Dill Weed
Garlic powder
Ginger
Ground Mustard
Herbes de Provence
Lemon Pepper
Nutmeg
Onion powder
Oregano
Paprika
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Spice
Red Pepper Flakes
Sesame Seeds
Seasoned Spice
Steak seasoning
Sugar*
Taco Seasoning
Whole Peppercorns

*Yes, I know sugar is not a spice, but I like keep a small container in my spice drawer so I don’t have to lug out my big jar of sugar for a pinch of sugar.

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Feb 2014
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast (3)No need to check your calendar. I know it’s not November, but I couldn’t wait until next fall to share this turkey recipe with you. I for one, think turkey should be enjoyed year round, instead of once or twice a year, and one of my favorite ways to make it is in a crockpot.

I had never had turkey made in a crockpot until a few years ago, when my grandmother-in-law made it for Thanksgiving. It was the most tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone turkey that I’ve ever had. Plus, it doesn’t take up precious space in the oven, which leaves more room for important things like rolls and stuffing. Genius.

When I came across this recipe for crockpot turkey, I knew I had to try it. By going through the additional step of sautéing some celery and onions at the beginning, you’re left you some flavorful stock at the end, which makes a ridiculously easy gravy. Seriously, all you have to is strain whats left at the bottom of the crockpot, then heat it until its thickened, and you’re left with brown, flavorful gravy.

Ideally, you’ll need an oval crockpot in order to fit a turkey breast. If you can’t get the lid to fit tightly, just cover the crockpot with foil – I promise, it will work fine. Also, be careful when adding additional salt. I always use low-sodium chicken broth, but even so, it can be salty. I like to add salt and pepper at the end after my gravy and turkey is cooked, to ensure it doesn’t get too salty.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups no-salt added or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 pound bone-in skin-on turkey breast
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large, nonstick skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are lightly browned.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until the flour coating the veggies turns golden brown. Stir in 1 cup of the broth, smoothing out any lumps that develop as it cooks. Stir in the remaining broth and water. Add the thyme and bay leaves.
  3. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Season the turkey breast all over with salt and pepper, then place the turkey in the slow cooker, breast side down. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees. (If your lid won't find, just cover the top of the slow cooker with foil.)
  4. Carefully transfer the turkey breast to a cutting board (or 9X13-inch pan to catch any juices), tent with foil and let rest while preparing the gravy.
  5. Strain the liquid in the slow cooker into a saucepan. Let it settle for 5 minutes or so and then skim the fat from the surface. Bring the gravy to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until it is slightly thickened. It won't be as thick as traditional gravy but will be silky and slightly thick. If you'd like it thicker, simply whisk together a slurry of cornstarch and cold water (a tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of water) and stir the slurry into the gravy, simmering for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Season the gravy with any additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  7. Carve the turkey and serve with the warm gravy.
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Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

 

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Feb 2014
30 Minute Dinner Rolls

30 minute dinner rolls

I typically like to make something a little more involved for Sunday dinners. You know, a delicately layered lasagna, a roast that slow cooks in the oven for hours, or homemade spaghetti sauce that simmers on the stove top all day. Lately though, between working a ton of hours at the hospital, and starting to round the corner into the third trimester of pregnancy, the only thing appealing for a Sunday afternoon is my couch and control of the remote control. Last Sunday I decided to throw a turkey in the crockpot for an impressive dinner that required little to no fuss or muss. (Don’t worry, the recipe is coming!) My husband agreed to make the mashed potatoes, but of course we needed some sort of fresh bread to go with dinner. I procrastinated all day, until finally with just 30 minutes left on the crockpot, I knew I needed to get something going if we were going to have bread on the table. A quick google session, and voila!, 30 minute dinner rolls were in the oven.

My usual dinner rolls require 2 sessions of rising, while these quickly rise in about 15 minutes. They come out more dense than a regular roll, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. They are soft and tender, and perfect for a meal where you want bread fast, and don’t have the time for the usual investment that yeast rolls require. If you want to make them more similar to my favorite honey yeast rolls, just brush the top lightly with honey to give them some extra sweetness.

30 Minute Dinner Rolls

Yield: 12 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 eggs
  • 3½ cups flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, oil, yeast, and sugar. Allow mixture to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. With a dough hook, mix in salt and eggs and 2 of the cups flour until combined. Add remaining flour ½ cup at a time.
  4. Shape dough into 12 balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Place rolls in a greased 9×13 pan or baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until tops are golden brown.
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Source: Real Mom Kitchen

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Jan 2014
Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}

Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}

I am so not a morning person. I wish I was. I envy people who can get up at the crack of dawn, run 5 miles, fold a few loads of laundry, clear their e-mail inbox and make a gourmet breakfast for their family – all before 7 am. For me, I carefully calculate exactly how many times I can hit the snooze alarm before I really need to get up, and then it turns into a mad dash around the house to get out the door on time.

Usually, this results in me skipping breakfast, which makes me a tad grumpy when 10am rolls around. I needed something nutritious and filling that I could eat on my way out the door, and would keep me full until lunchtime. Something that could be made ahead of time, and simply warmed up in the microwave as I finish getting dressed.

These burritos are incredibly versatile, and you can change the fillings to your own liking. I made homemade breakfast potatoes, but in the effort of saving time, feel free to use a bag of frozen hash browns. I used bacon, because that’s what I had on hand, but feel free to use breakfast sausage, or omit them all together for a vegetarian option. You can change up the cheese, throw in additional veggies, or even add hot sauce or salsa for an extra kick. Take an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon to fill your freezer with these burritos, and you’ll never have to skip breakfast again.

Breakfast Burritos {Freezable}

Ingredients

  • 5 russet potatoes, or 1 bag of frozen hash browns
  • 1 medium sized onion, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, minced (any color)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage or bacon
  • 12 whole eggs
  • 2 cups pepper jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 flour tortillas (burrito sized)

Directions

  1. First begin by prepping your potatoes. Boil your potatoes whole until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain the water, then dice the potatoes into small cubes. (If you want to save time and effort, just use a bag of frozen hash browns). Add the potatoes, olive oil, onion and diced bell peppers into a sauté pan, and cooked until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Into the same pan, add your breakfast sausage or bacon and cook until browned. If using bacon, remove from the pan and dice finely. Add to the potato/pepper mixture, then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper, and whisk until well combined. Pour into the pan, and scramble over medium heat until cooked through.
  4. To assemble your tortillas, start with room-temperature tortillas. (If they are too cold, they can tear easily.) Add roughly 3/4 cup of the potato/meat mixture, top with eggs, then with additional pepper jack cheese.
  5. Fold opposing sides of the burrito up, then roll tightly.
  6. If freezing, wrap each tortilla in foil, then store in a freezer bag. To warm up a frozen burrito, remove from the foil and wrap in a paper towel. Use the defrost setting on your microwave and cook for 3-5 minutes until thawed, then warm in the microwave for another 30-60 seconds until heated through. Alternatively, you can defrost a burrito in the refrigerator overnight, then warm in the microwave in the morning.
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Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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Jan 2014
Meatball Pepperoni Hoagies

Meatball Pepperoni Hoagies

My husband and I only grew up about 90 miles from each other, but sometimes I think we grew up worlds apart. For example, that thing that you use to clean your floors? He calls it a sweeper. I call it a vacuum. When I go grocery shopping, I use a shopping cart, he uses a buggy. And when I make a sandwich on a thick, crusty roll, I call it a sub, while he calls it a hoagie.

Nevertheless, no matter what you call them, these sandwiches are the bomb.com. (Is that even cool anymore to say?) The key is to make your own sub rolls out of pizza dough. Sure, you can use store-bought rolls, but nothing beats the smell of fresh bread in the oven. Toast those suckers up, and top them with meatballs, sauce, cheese and pepperoni and you’ll go nuts over these subs, err hoagies.

If you want to save yourself some time and effort, go ahead and use frozen meatballs. I won’t tell anyone.

Pepperoni Meatball Hoagie

Meatball Pepperoni Hoagies

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups pizza sauce - homemade or store bought
  • 1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 16 slices pepperoni
  • 4 hot dog or hoagie rolls (or make your own with pizza dough)

Directions

  1. If you are making your own hoagie rolls, take pizza dough and divide into 4 pieces. Shape into logs, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to raise for 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes until browned. Set aside.
  2. To make the meatballs, heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Combine the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and ground beef together in a large bowl. Form into small meatballs and place into hot pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side until browned. Reduce heat and stir in pizza sauce with the meatballs. Add 1/2 cup of water if necessary, to thin the sauce. Cover to keep warm until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
  3. To make the sandwiches, preheat your broiler to high. Slice the hoagie rolls, spread with butter and place under the broiler until lightly toasted. Top with 4 meatballs, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices. Place under the broiler for another minute until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.
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Source: Lauren’s Latest

 

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Jan 2014
Chocolate Carrot Cake

Chocolate Carrot Cake

Chocolate and carrots aren’t two ingredients that you’d necessarily think would go together, but whip them together into a cake, and you have the most moist, tender chocolate cake that you’ve ever tasted. I never thought a chocolate carrot cake would be good, until a coworker brought it in for one of the doctors that was leaving. My normally health conscious, never eats dessert, co-worker scarfed down three huge pieces. It’s that good. The carrots help keep the cake incredibly moist, while the chocolate cream cheese frosting makes it sweet, but not too sweet.

Chocolate Carrot Cake

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 3 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Line two 9-in. round baking pans with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the carrots, sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into carrot mixture until blended.
  2. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  3. To make the frosting, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, cocoa and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Place bottom layer on a serving plate; top with half of the frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layer. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate chips.
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Source: Taste of Home

 

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Dec 2013
Best Recipes of 2013

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Whew! Hard to believe another Christmas season is over, and a new year is upon is. Reflecting back on this past year, it was a great year, but certainly a busy year.  We bought a house in April, a week later adopted our puppy, and then spent the rest of the year working, traveling, and working on various house projects. It was a whirlwind of a year, but all in all it was a great year.

A lot of good food was made in 2013, however, the best thing I made in 2013 won’t arrive until later in 2014. That’s right, we’re having a baby! Brad and I are blessed to be expecting our first child in May, and we could not be more excited! We had our anatomy scan last week, and Baby M is growing perfectly, and is either a boy OR a girl. We’ll have to wait until May to find out. :)

So, needless to say 2013 was pretty great, but I have a feeling 2014 will top it. I’m hoping that despite being gigantically pregnant and learning to survive with a newborn, I can continue to bring y’all some great recipes. Until then, here are some of the most popular recipes that I made in 2013. 

Brownie Batter Dip
Brownie Batter Dip

Chocolate Oreo Lasagna
Chocolate Oreo Lasagna 076

BBQ Beer Can Chicken

BBQ Beer Can Chicken

Slow Cooked Tri Tips & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes

Slow Cooked Tri Tips & Gravy 021 (800x800)

DIY Frozen Lemonade – 3 Ways

Frozen Lemonade 3

Classic Four Cheese Lasagna

Classic Four Cheese Lasagna

Spice Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

Beef Tenderloin

Monster Cookies

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BBQ Stuffed Baked Potatoes

BBQ Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

 

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Dec 2013
Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Pizza Rolls

Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Pizza Rolls

Less than 10 days til Christmas! Who’s all done with their shopping, baking and wrapping?? If you are, feel free to leave this post because you are no longer welcome here. Ok, just kidding, but seriously, I am impressed. I haven’t even sent out Christmas cards yet, and at this point I’m not sure I’m going to. Partly because it would require me to make myself presentable, set up the tri-pod, and attempt to get a halfway decent picture of my husband and myself. Or, I suppose I could send out a card with just a picture of my cat and dog on it. Would that be lame?

Speaking of my cat-child, that girl is just loving our Christmas tree. She thinks its her personal jungle gym. Every night, we hear the tree in our dining room shaking, ornament bouncing off the hardwood floors, and then it’s a race between us and the dog to see who will pick up the ornament first. There we find Tess, 3/4 of the way up the tree just lounging in the branches, batting at ornaments. It’s a good thing she is cute. TessGetting back on topic here, I made this edible Christmas tree out of pizza rolls last weekend for a Christmas party, and let me tell you, you’ll impress you guests with very minimal effort. Plus, its pizza dough stuffed with cheese and pepperoni, so what’s not to love? I like to dip the pizza balls in pizza sauce, but if you’re one of those people that dips everything in ranch, feel free to serve it alongside that as well. Delicious, easy and quick. Perfect for those like me with a mile-long to do list before next week!

Christmas Tree Pull-Apart Pizza Rolls

Serving Size: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1/2 batch of pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
  • 24 slices of pepperoni
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Parsley, minced
  • Pizza sauce or ranch dressing, for dipping

Directions

  1. Divide the pizza dough into 24 equal balls. Gently flatten each ball and press a piece of pepperoni and a piece of cheese into the dough. Wrap the dough around the pepperoni and cheese, pinching it together to create a seal. Gently roll the dough into a ball, and placed on a greased cookie sheet or a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Continue stuffing each ball of dough with cheese and pepperoni, then arrange into the shape of a tree, reserving two balls for the trunk of the tree. Leave about 1/2 inch of space between each ball.
  3. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow to raise for 1/2 hour. Then brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle with parsley.
  4. To bake, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Serve with pizza sauce or ranch dressing for dipping.
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Source: Stick a Fork In It original recipe

 

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Dec 2013
Classic Four Cheese Lasagna

Lasagna

You’ve heard of engagement chicken, right? Theory behind it is, make this chicken recipe, and you’ll get any guy to fall in love with you and soon have a ring on your finger. Chicken is great, but for my husband? I won him over with my lasagna.

I still remember the first time I brought him to my hometown to meet my parents when we were freshmen in college, almost 8 year ago. (Holy cow!) Living in a dorm at the time, I never had the opportunity to cook for him beyond the usual college fare of ramen and Easy-Mac. I knew it had to be something impressive and delicious, and coming from an Italian family, lasagna was the only answer.

Lasagna

I grew up learning to make lasagna from my grandmother, who would often make huge roasting pans full of lasagna at the holidays. I consulted her for her “recipe”, which consisted of random notes of “a little of this, a little of that”. Over the years of making this lasagna recipe, I’ve adapted it to make it my own, and it still is one of my husband’s favorite meals. Perfect for Sunday dinner, or make it ahead of time and heat it up for a non-fuss weeknight meal. Pair it with a salad and a loaf of garlic bread, and you’ll have a hearty dinner, plus plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.

Classic Four Cheese Lasagna

Serving Size: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground hot sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounce) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 16 ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 pound provolone cheese, sliced
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine the ground beef, sausage, and garlic over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through. Drain the fat from the pan, then add the tomato sauce , tomatoes paste, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, and then simmer for about 30 minutes while you work on other steps.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and parsley. Set aside
  4. Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water, cook until al dente. (About 10 minutes)
  5. To assemble, pour about 1/2 cup of sauce along the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles into the bottom of the pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the ricotta cheese mixture onto the noodles, spread evenly. Cover the ricotta with a layer of provolone cheese slices, and then spoon a little less than half of the sauce/meat mixture on top of the cheeses. Repeat, ending with a top layer of noodles. Spread the remaining sauce on top of the noodles, then top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  6. To bake immediately, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover with foil, bake for 20-30 minutes, remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and slightly browned.
  7. You can also make this ahead of time and keep refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to baking, or can be frozen. To bake after freezing, allow it to defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours prior to baking.
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Source: Stick a Fork In It original recipe

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