Monday, November 26, 2012

Season of Happy Thanks- Nutty Buddy Blessing Bars

What a weekend! Normally on this day, four days past one of my favorite holidays I would be sitting and telling you of all of the good memories and good food we had and recipes we made and trees we trimmed and good times we had. But, this was not that kind of year, at least, not in that way. This was our year to be with my family. For any of you married or part of a family you know all about splitting the holidays and sharing your time equally. This year was the year to "be with my family" since we were with my family during Christmas last year. Since I have been working much more these days we decided to do something we have never done before since it was just going to be our family and my parents. With permission from my mom I called my favorite restaurant and reserved us a spot at my favorite chain restaurant, Maggiano's. I have been telling my parents about Maggiano's for years, about their cream sauce that makes you want to shrink up to the size of a marshmallow so that you can bathe in the Romano cream sauce bouncing from one fluffy chicken and spinach filled manicotti to another, and the 7" high dark chocolate ganache coated cake, so rich and dense it must be followed with a shot of dark coffee. I made these reservations in September and had been dreaming about what their version of turkey and stuffing would taste like and about the pecan streusel topped pumpkin cheesecake. 
Then the storm hit. 
I woke up abruptly on Thanksgiving day to the end of a vividly wild and terrifying dream, the kind that you wake up and say a prayer of thankfulness because it was not real. The kind that has you on the edge of your bed and your stomach in I thought, until I realized that it was the stomach bug taking over my body. My parents sat and stirred not knowing what to do then finally packed up their bags, took the boys to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, cancelled our reservations and headed home. I stayed in bed for the better part of 22 hours waiting for the alien who had taken over my insides to leave.
The next day while still trying to recover from the violence that had occurred the day before the salesman threw his back out. He became immediately immobile which meant that I needed to quickly put on my nurse hat to begin taking care of him. My plans for black Friday store hopping and cookie baking quickly flew out the door. Then on Sunday when I was finally starting to feel normal again I decided to take some of our left over Christmas decoration boxes downstairs and missed the last two steps which ended with me twisting my ankle in an unhealthy position and my body being thrown on the ground in such a fashion that I am still feeling the aftermath 24 hours later. I let out loud screams and ugly cries, the kind that scared my children the floor above me and ruffled my hair. This is not what I wanted. This is not the plan I had for the day. I just wanted to rest and finish tree trimming and make cocoa and cookies and sing Christmas carols. But that is what I wanted. 
I just finished re-reading my favorite book in the world and in the back she has a chapter called, "Happy Thanksgiving". She says, "even though I did the meal part of Thanksgiving twice, I never did the thanks part, the part where you stop and think about the year, and think about what you're thankful for, or what you've been given, or the gratitude you feel toward the people you love and to God for his good gifts". Whoa. 
It's not about me. It's not about what I wanted. I think that this weekend, in all of this craziness, is just what I needed. My plans of mile high lasagna and middle of the night shopping madness were not what I needed. My "thanksgiving" dinner consisting of saltines and flat ginger ale followed by Phenergan were not what I wanted. What I needed was a good kick in the pants to force me to sit and be still, and that's what I got. I needed to be thankful for my parent’s health that they can make the trip. To be thankful for dear friends who rushed over a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner when they found out about all that was going on. To be thankful for a house I can decorate with meaningless stuff and for children who will hear my cries of pain and come over to wipe my tears away and offer kisses to help my boo boo's go away. Thank you God! Please let me ever be mindful of your goodness. In my daily devotional book for today it states, "Instead of trying to be in control, you relax and make me (God) the center of your life. This is the way I created you to live, and it is a way of Joy." 
So, today as I write to you with one ankle tightly wrapped up and a heart that is striving to make peace with the events of the week I share with you the only homemade item that came out of my kitchen from the past 72 hours. I had promised my muffins we would make cookies all weekend. One thing led to another and since I am so strong headed I knew that I had to do this in order to sleep soundly last night. After resting for hours yesterday and keeping my foot on so much ice that my toes were blue I decided to hobble to the kitchen, clear away a section of counter space and make a batch of sweets with my babies. This recipe couldn't be easier or more delicious. It tastes just like the Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Bars. Being with my babies for a few minutes letting them each take turns with smashing the cereal and stirring the pot was the blessing I needed to end this weekend. That and a prayer for true Thanksgiving to our wonderful and merciful Savior who was, and is, and is to come! 

Nutty Buddy Blessing Bars

2 cups crushed Cap'n Crunch Cereal- crushed (you want some chunks so don't kill it all!)
1 stick of salted butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Combine all of the above in a small bowl and stir by hand. Spread into a 9" round pie pan and throw in the fridge. 
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in-between, until it is melted. I usually need three, 30 second rounds. Once melted, spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer and return to the fridge until it is set. 
Cut in thin wedges to serve. 

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rollin', Rollin, Rollin- Lasagna Rolls

Yes friend, it's been a while but thanks for coming by. Pull up a chair and let's just pick up where we left off like we always do.
These days I am trying to survive. The busyness of life that has me pulled in a million directions keeps me on my toes trying to maintain my schedules and meeting and orders and kids and events and all of the day to day blessings that are pouring in my door. Since I am working out of my house three days a week I have really had to adjust my menu planning schedule to allow me to still feed my kids at home and not opt out for the easy and expensive take out meals every day. I have started trying to prepare larger meals so that I can freeze part of it for another meal. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of meals that are based around the kids favorite cereal, but I try my hardest to give them something of substance and in a variety of colors.
One of my favorite quick fix meals are lasagna rolls. They have all of the yumminess of my mom's lasagna but don't require all of the layering and planning (in my humble opinion). I also like these because you can fill them with anything from sausage, hamburger meat or grilled chicken or you can just fill them with fresh sauteed or roasted veggies like spinach, roasted squash, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. This sausage spinach version is what we have the most around this neck of the woods. One of my muffins scoops out the creamy filling eating only the noodle while the other does the complete it makes everyone happy in one form or another. These are great to make for when you have company or when you are needing to impress. Don't be scared by these instructions! Just put on your big girl britches and go for it!  

Lasagna Rolls (This version is sausage and spinach)

12-14 curly edged lasagna noodles
Throw these in some heavily salted boiling water and cook until they are al dente or soft but still have a bite to them. Rinse them with cold water until they have come to room temp and just let them hang until your stuffing is done.

1 lb Italian sweet sausage (can use hamburger meet, 2 cups diced roasted chicken, 1 cup diced pepperoni slices, or 2 cups chopped meatballs)
Cook your sausage on medium heat in a skillet with 2 Tbsp of olive oil added and constantly crumble with a wooden spoon or potato masher until it is browned and is a fine crumble.(Use this same method for ground beef but add in 2 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp garlic salt )
*If you want to do a veggie version you will use 2 cups of your veggie of choice. Cut the veggies into a small dice size and saute in 2 Tbsp of olive oil adding in the 2 tsp of Italian Seasoning and 1/2 tsp garlic salt until the veggies are soft.

Cream Filling
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese *reserve 1/4 cup for the topping)
2 cups mozzarella (I have also used white Cheddar and provolone) *reserve 3/4 cup for the topping
1 egg
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh spinach (or if you want to go with an all spinach version the squeeze the juice out of a 10oz frozen chopped spinach box and add it in)

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Add in the cooked and crumbled sausage.

2-24 oz Jar canned spaghetti sauce (preferably garlic and herb and the cheap stuff is fine!)
I typically make two different pans of this and freeze one for later. If you are cooking this all at once you will fill up a jam packed 9x13 but if you have an 11x15 that works best.

Ladle in 1/2-3/4 cup of sauce on the bottom of your pan and spread it around to where it evenly coats the entire bottom.

Take your cold lasagna noodles out of the water and lay them out on your counter in long strips. I like to do this all in once step so I don't get my hands gunky.  Spread about 3 Tbsp of mixture evenly on top of each noodle until you have used up all of your filling. I typically get 12 but you could get up to 14, but don't be too skimpy with filling. Start from the bottom of one noodle and roll that baby up and place it in the sauce seam side down. Repeat until you have rolled all of the noodles.

Next, ladle the sauce over all of the noodles. You might not use up both jars but you want to be sure you have plenty of sauce on the top of the rolls or you will get a super crunchy noodle, and no one likes that.

Next, spread your remaining cheese across the top. If you are going to freeze a batch, spray the foil with Pam before covering and putting in the freezer. If you are baking right away, lightly tent the pan with foil for the first part of baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, removing the foil after 25 minutes. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving so things can settle and calm back down before you dig in.
Enjoy Y'all!