Out of the box Lasagna

Another recipe from the Real Simple maga-book. I’ve actually been thinking about this one in the back of my head but it hadn’t been quite the right night for it.

Until tonight. I had a bunch of errands to run so I got home about an hour later than usual but still before Chris. He’d done some light grocery shopping earlier in the day but we didn’t have a ton of fresh stuff on hand. What we did have was some things that needed using up, ASAP.

The original recipe called for frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained. I do have spinach in the freezer but decided to go a different route.

1/2 onion, roughly chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 package ravioli (frozen or thawed)- I used a chicken ravioli, medium sized from Sam’s Club
1 jar pasta sauce (organic basil, may I suggest)
1 8oz package shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup 3-cheese mix with parmesan
Garlic seasoning
oregano, fresh


Preheat oven to 350

While oven is heating, saute onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat with some garlic seasoning. Cook until onions are lightly golden. Near end of cooking time, stir in fresh oregano or other fresh herbs of your choosing.

In a 9×13 baking dish, layer 1/3 of pasta sauce in the bottom then half the raviolis. Top with more sauce, half of mozzarella cheese and onions/mushroom mixture. Add second layer of raviolis and finish with last of sauce, remainder of mozzarella and the 3-cheese mix.

Bake, covered with foil, for 25 mintues. Remove foil and continue to bake another 10 minutes or until cheese turns golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven. Ideally, let set for 10 minutes to allow cheese to set up.

Served with mixed green salad.

No picture – C’mon you know what lasagna looks like! It was way too gloomy to try for nice natural light pictures anyhow. And we were hungry.
Super super easy. Next time I hope to do both the added mushrooms/onions and the spinach.

Potatoes Au Gratin & Bacon

Over the weekend, Chris and I stopped at a small farm stand and picked up some fresh basil, zucchini and a bag of red skin potatoes. The bag is probably about 5 pounds worth, mostly very small potatoes. I am envisioning some kind of steamed potatoes with a mustardy dressing for the really small ones.

For the bigger ones, I envisioned potatoes baked with cheese so that is just what I made, borrowing heavily from this recipe at Eating Out Loud.

potatoes up close


1 pound Red potatoes thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1/2 Onion thinly sliced
3 slices Bacon
1/2 cup Parmesan grated
2 sprigs Rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Gratin Sauce

2/3 cup Colby-monterrey jack blend shredded
1 1/2 cups Milk
2 tablespoons Flour
1 tablespoon Butter


Pre-heat oven to 400°.

In small sauce pan, melt butter. Add flour and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute. Whisk in milk until thickened. Stir in cheese, allow to melt then remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat olive oil in medium saute pan. Cook onions until golden-brown then remove from pan.

Add bacon slices to pan, cook until cooked through but not crispy. Remove bacon, drain and slice in to 1 inch pieces.

Layer 1/2 of potoates in a gratin or casserole dish. Sprinkle carmelized onions over potatoes than add second layer of potates. Pour gratin sauce over then top with parmesan cheese, and 1 teaspoon rosemary (finely chopped). Sprinkle bacon over top.

Insert 1 sprig of rosemary, cut in half, along edge of pan. Place dish in oven, bake for 35 minutes.

potates au gratin with baconChris seemed to like it.

Turkey Day Recipes: Green Bean (Casserole)

Chris asked me to make this.  Up until the day before Thanksgiving, I thought it was the traditional green bean casserole. Admittedly, I didn’t know what was in that except beans, some kind of mushroom soup and those fried onion things.

As it turns out, his requested dish, recipe provided by mom, is not green bean casserole but Christmas Green Beans. And here is the recipe:


3 cans green beans
8 oz sour cream
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp pepper


  • Put beans in a greased 2 qt casserole dish (8x)
  • Saute onion in butter in saute pan
  • Add flour, sugar, pepper and sour cream to onions; stir til boils
  • Remove from heat and pour over beans
  • Cover beans with swiss cheese
  • Bake 20-25 minutes at 350°, until cheese is melted and turning golden brown

Pork n’ Potatoes

Inspiration recipe: Baked Pork Chops at All Recipes.


2 Thick cut boneless pork chops
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt & pepper
garlic seasoning
1/4 cup flour
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tblsp butter, divided
1/8 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 400°.  Put the flour on one plate and the bread crumbs on another.  Place a bowl with the beaten egg in the middle of the two places.

To prepare the pork chops, season with salt, pepper and garlic seasoning.  Dredge in flour then egg then dip in bread crumbs.  Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pork chops to the pan, turning once, until the bread crumbs are browned (about 5-7 minutes total).

Transfer the pork chops to a baking dish, cover with foil and place in the oven.  Cook 15-20 minutes or until pork chops reach internal temperature of 155°. Remove from oven and let rest about five minutes before serving.

Add 1/2 tbsp butter to the pan you browned the pork in then add the mushrooms. Saute mushrooms for 5-7 minutes then add chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer until the pork is done. While the pork is resting, stir in the cream and 1/2 tbsp butter to thicken the sauce.


Temperature: The inspiration recipe used a temperature of 350. I used 400 because I was making Sweet Potato Fries (frozen) and that was the required oven setting.  350 is probably a better temperature as I really needed to watch the pork to avoid overcooking (not totally successful, good thing that sauce was creamy!).

Served with the aforementioned sweet potato fries and some mixed rice (Uncle Ben’s fast cook).


Sitting around eating some amazingly good cinnamon raisin bread from Great Harvest (the one on W. Saginaw) this morning, Chris starting ranting about how he’s wanted some Hot Dish all week and he’s going to make it right now. Hot dish? What on earth on you talking about?

He was (and probably still is) stunned that I’d never heard of this apparently ubiquitous Midwestern dish. As it turns out, he doesn’t actually know how to make it either so a short phone call to the family yielded not one but two recipes that qualify as Hot Dish.

One uses wild rice and mushrooms which I would have preferred to make but he really wanted the other, a tomato sauce and ground meat one.

So here it is, Aunt Harriet’s HotDish with some changes:


The recipe as given: My changes:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef/chuck 1.25 ground turkey, 92% lean
1/2 tub cream cheese, softened 1/2 tub cream cheese, softened
4-5 bunches scallions 2 bunches scallions
2 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup 1 18oz package Campbell’s select tomato soup with basil & garlic
1 package wide egg noodles about 1/3 package extra wide egg noodles (Yoders)
Corn Flakes Corn Flakes
Splash of Worcestershire A little more than a splash
1/2 yellow onion finely chopped, 2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
smoked parpika, oregano
parmesan cheese


The directions from Aunt Harriet were pretty easy: brown the meat, drain then season with salt and pepper plus a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix meat with the tomato soup, green onions (which should be microwaved 3 minutes first), noodles and cream cheese in a casserole dish. Microwave 6 minutes then top with corn flakes and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. There was something about mixing sliced almonds in too but I missed that part of the conversation and Chris didn’t want them anyway.

Okay, My Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook as directed. The Yoder noodles take 20 minutes so I did the rest of the work while they cooked.

Saute yellow onion and garlic over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After 5 minutes, add ground meat to the pan, cook until fully browned. Near the end of the cooking, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Next time I’ll double that. If necessary, drain the fat (not needed for 92% lean turkey).

While meat is cooking, slice green onions then microwave on high 2-3 minutes. Mix meat, green onions, tomato soup and softened cream cheese together with 1 teaspoon oregano and an 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Pour in to casserole pan, stir in drained noodles and sprinkle Worcestershire sauce over pan, maybe a tablespoon worth.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil and cover top with corn flakes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 10 more minutes. If you’d like to brown the corn flakes, you can turn the broil on briefly but watch carefully, they burn quick!

Notes & History:

Now that I’ve made this dish and Chris has been lapping it up (3 servings already), I figured I’d try to find out what a Hot Dish is or rather Hotdish.  Lo and behold, it has its own entry on Wikipedia!

Hotdish is any of a variety of casserole dishes popular in the Midwest of the United States and especially in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northern regions of Iowa.

It consists of a starch and a protein (meat and/or a vegetable) mixed together with a binding ingredient (most often canned soup or a sauce) and a topping.

Notice that Michigan is not on that list. And that Minnesota is, which is where Chris’s parents grew up. Interestingly, northern Iowa is also listed. My dad is from North Iowa so maybe he’s heard of Hotdish. We certainly had our share of casseroles while visiting grandma and all my aunts out in Iowa but I can’t recall ever hearing this term before.

Basically, its Hamburger Helper from scratch. Besides boosting the paprika a bit next time, I think I might try topping it with potato chips or sliced almonds next time. I’m not a big fan of corn flakes and their high fructose corn syrup.

Later this week, I’ll do the wild rice and mushroom one. We’ve already decided to modernize that one a bit by using fresh mushrooms instead of a can of ‘shrooms. It used to drive me crazy that my Iowa relatives relied so heavily on canned vegetables especially corn. No wonder people think the Midwest is boring: canned food, crazy jello/whipped cream “salads” and underseasoned foods cooked to death.

A couple of examples of Midwest cuisine I don’t really ‘get’:

  • Stuffing, at grandma’s house was usually called dressing. I guess because it didn’t actually get stuffed in the bird. This stuffing/dressing, made with bread cubes, had become a formless mush of soggy bread that reminded me of paste with about the same flavor profile. Where is the sage and rosemary? Or the pieces of walnut and celery? Maybe some cranberries or mushrooms thrown in?
  • Any dessert made from a jello mixed with a can of fruit and whipped cream. Or some combination of those three. Which is not to say that some of them aren’t tasty (a certain oreo cookie one comes to mind) but a funeral dinner I attended offered not one, not two but three versions of this salad dessert. Plus potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni salad- gotta love mayo!
  • Corn casserole, eaten at the height of sweet corn season. In Iowa! Land of corn and pigs! I do like corn casserole when its not overly sweet. But I still recall a July visit with the family that involved a barbecue. I suggested we get some fresh corn and boil it up to go with our burgers and chicken. And my aunts were at a loss as to why one would want fresh corn when there are 4 cans of creamed corn in the pantry. (I remember this trip so well because I made a Honey Mustard-Soy marinade for the chicken that everyone was greatly impressed by. I made it with packets of Honey Mustard from McDonald’s and Soy Sauce from a Chinese take-out. I was in 9th grade.)
  • Clam Soup made with milk, pepper and canned clams. I still give props to an ex-boyfriend of mine after he willingly and with beautifully acted gusto, shared a pot of this delicacy with my 80 year old grandmother. My mean dad sat there and watched the whole thing while graciously declining, after having been subjected to the stuff once too often I guess.

There is one foodstuff in my Iowa memory bank that may be Midwestern and may not be too healthy but really was delicious: Grandma’s biscuits. More like a roll than a biscuit, they were made for jam and honey or butter or Thanksgiving turkey leftovers or Sloppy Joes (more accurately referred to as Maid-Rites, while in Iowa). Or, probably best, fresh from the oven.