Monday, March 03, 2014

Nif's Easy Lasagna (no boiling necessary)

You will need:
1 lb ground beef
3 cups (30-oz jar or can) spaghetti sauce
1-1/2 cups water
2 cups mozzarella cheese 
     (use 1 cup in Cheese Mixture (below), use 1 cup to top off lasagna)
1 8-oz package lasagna

Cheese Mixture:
15-oz container ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees

In large saucepan, brown meat; drain. 
Add spaghetti sauce and water; simmer about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, stir together ingredients for Cheese Mixture.

Pour about 1-1/3 C sauce o the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish. 
Arrange 3 UNCOOKED lasagna noodles lengthwise over sauce. 
Cover with about 1-1/3 sauce. 
Spread one-half Cheese Mixture over sauce. 
Repeat with layer of lasagna, sauce, and Cheese Mixture.
Top with layer of lasagna and remaining sauce. 
Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes.
Remove foil and bake additional 15 minutes.

Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Easy Pasta Recipe

Today we had a beautiful day in Birmingham! Check out these temperatures!

My girls played volleyball in Huntsville this weekend, and I stayed in town to attend TEDxBirmingham yesterday. This morning I went for a run (in a short-sleeved t-shirt), then I've been cleaning and cooking to get ready for the week. 

I baked a chicken casserole, made Easy Pasta Salad, cooked lasagna (recipe posted tomorrow) and healthy chicken enchiladas, and baked 3-ingredient chocolate muffins.

I want to share the Easy Pasta Salad with you, because it IS so easy, and it can serve as a base for other salads. This basic recipe is the one my oldest daughter loves to take to school for lunch, so I don't usually add much to it.

I use
1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes
1 container of crumbled feta cheese
1 box bowtie pasta
Italian dressing (approximately 1/4 - 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

While the pasta is cooking (directions on box), I cut the tomatoes in half and add them and the feta to a large bowl. Once the pasta is done, I pour the pasta into a colander and run cold water over the pasta to cool it. Then I add the pasta to the bowl, pour on Italian dressing, add salt and pepper and mix together.

Easy peasy.

Here are some ways you can take it from the girl next door to a beauty pageant queen:

  • Add sliced pepperoni and shredded mozzarella
  • Add chopped, cooked chicken and sweet peas
  • Add baby spinach leaves, artichoke hearts, and chopped red bell pepper
  • Add a can of corn, chopped, cooked chicken, and swap the Italian dressing for Ranch dressing
How about you? How would you personalize your pasta salad? 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas to Cure Snow Day Blues

Monday afternoon I left work knowing that there was a prediction of snow and ice coming in Tuesday morning. School on Tuesday got cancelled, then with another threat of bad weather, school was cancelled today. The weather forecasters said that snow would start around 4pm, but no snow showed up until about 6:00 this evening. At that point, Hubs and I started watching a movie. 

About an hour and half later, our daughter came down the stairs, looked out the window, and said, "It's snowing! Everything's covered!" We thought she was joking, but when we looked outside, everything was blanketed in snow.

That's the view from our front porch at about 7:30 tonight. I couldn't believe it. Everything was so beautiful!

I think all the kids in the neighborhood were out making snowballs and snow angels, riding sleds, and building snowmen.

After missing school 3 days this week (school's out tomorrow, too) and four the week before last, I'm ready for some warmer weather. I spent this afternoon looking through the Houzz website, and I thought I'd share some of my favorites here.

I think Fire Pits are great, especially when the seasons are changing. I'm ready for our season to change to SPRING! How's the weather where you are? Do you have a fire pit to chase away winter blues?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ordinary January Days

I'm a summer girl. I like living in the South where we have 4 seasons, but by now I'm ready for warm weather again. 

Here's the forecast for the next few days:

I'm so not into that.

And I'm not into finishing my laundry room project. It's cold in the basement, and Hubs & I been busy with our youngest daughter's birthday weekend and our daughters' club volleyball seasons beginning.

I have done a lot of running this month, though. I joined a challenge with my Twitter friends to run 500 miles in 2014. My friend Karen and I have run a few 6-mile runs and I ran in a local race (10 miles!) - my first in a long time.

So, looking back on January... can't you see why I'm ready for warm weather? :)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Keeping it Real {Laundry Room Makeover}

Today I'm keepin' it real. While I'm waiting on the caulk to dry, I thought I'd sneak upstairs and have another cup of coffee and post some pictures of my progress on the laundry room makeover. To be real, it's not really a room, but just a space. 

Don't judge. 

The baseboards matched the wall color. I guess you would call the color "peanut butter." Why I thought that would be a good color all those years ago, I have no idea. Even though the wall color in the basement changed, I didn't change the baseboards or back wall in this space because there are curtains that close off the space when we have guests over. (I was probably busy caulking my front hallway or my guest bathroom, too!)

Anywho... I started this blog to help with accountability. To make me start and finish home projects and to record my progress. That means sharing the good, bad, and ugly.  Right now, it's pretty ugly down there. 

I'll be heading out soon to meet a friend for lunch, then I'll be back to start painting this afternoon. Meanwhile, I've got Six Sisters' Hearty Beef Stew in the crockpot for an easy dinner on this cold day.

What projects do you have going on in 2014?

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Pinterest-Inspired Healthy Breakfast Bowl

With 2013 winding down and the new year around the corner, I thought I'd share a new healthy snack/breakfast with you. Many of my friends are making it a goal to be healthy in 2014, and lots of friends on twitter are participating in #500in2014, where we run 500 miles by the end of the year!

I discovered this snack/breakfast idea on Pinterest, and it's from Caitlin over at I pinned it a while ago, but it's just been recently that I tried it. One of the reasons I tried it is because I started using an app on my iPhone called My Fitness Pal, which tracks everything I eat during the day as well as my exercise. I am loving the app (and hating at the same time!) because it is motivating me to search for healthy snacks and meals. 

I entered the bowl into the app so that I could see how many calories are in the meal. Seeing the breakdown on the app lets me know that I need to go down to only 1 dark chocolate square. I can leave it out all together, but I like the mild flavor, and dark chocolate has many health benefits. While the walnuts add a lot of calories, there is research that shows that walnuts are good for brain functioning. Actually, the walnuts, blueberries, and oats are all "superfoods." The Greek yogurt ups the protein in the meal, and the banana gives good flavor as well as potassium. 

While the fat content is high, I'm okay with it because I know that it's my highest-ranking meal of the day for fats, and I would rather have it first thing in the morning rather than later in the day. 

My favorite feature of the app is that it has a bar code scanner where you can scan labels to enter your food. I was able to scan the barcode from the yogurt, walnuts, oats, and chocolate. Easy peasy!

If you try this or have other combination ideas, I'd love to hear from you! 

Best wishes for a healthy you in the new year!


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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Traditions and the Best Grits Breakfast Casserole Ever {recipe}

We have a peculiar special tradition in our family, and I think it must be a Southern thing. Since I can remember, every year on Christmas Eve and Christ Day, we try to be the first one to say "Christmas Eve Gift!" or "Christmas Gift!" to each other.

My dad always said that if you "got" the other person, he or she was supposed to give you a gift. (No gifts are ever exchanged, just braggin' rights for a year!)

I still have fond memories of my grandmother calling each year and trying to "get" us. It was even more fun when we were together on those special days. We would wake up and try to be the first with our gleeful shouts of "Christmas Eve Gift!" or "Christmas Gift!"

This tradition has resulted in phone calls just past midnight to "catch" my mom or dad in their sleep only to hear an enthusiastic "Christmas Eve Gift!" at the other end of the line, or having my kids to answer the phone so that I can pick up another line and shout out the words before anyone notices I'm on the line. 

In our 21 years of marriage, my husband has "gotten" me one time, and I love passing on the tradition to my girls. My daughters spend the night with my parents the night before Christmas Eve, and this year when I woke up on the morning of Christmas Eve I noticed my youngest daughter had called me at 12:03am and left a voicemail. It could only mean one thing, and of course I didn't listen to it! :)

After some Googling, I've found that there are other families with the "Christmas Eve Gift" tradition (although I've only known two other people outside of my extended family with this tradition.) Here's a link with A LOT of families with the tradition.

Another tradition is the Grits Breakfast Casserole that I make for Christmas morning. I love being able to make it ahead of time, pull it out Christmas morning and let it warm in the oven while we open gifts. 

The recipe is from the Laurel Hill Plantation Bed & Breakfast near Charleston, South Carolina. I printed it from the 1st Traveler's Choice Virtual Cookbook in November 2000, and have made it every year but one since then.

2 lbs bulk sausage
1 cup raw grits, cooked
2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 eggs
1-1/2 C milk
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper to taste

Brown and drain sausage and crumble in bottom of 9 x 13-inch greased casserole dish. Cook grits according to package directions (stiff is better than runny.) Add butter and cheese to cooked grits. Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together and add to the slightly cooled grits mixture. Pour over sausage in the casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

What Christmas traditions do you celebrate at your home?

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