Pay It Forward

When we moved to South Carolina several months back, we had several interesting experiences with people as we settled in.

On one hand we had a neighbor who spray painted the property lines so my roses would not even hang over, and on the other we had a stay-at-home mom of three little boys who made homemade bread and brought it to welcome us to the neighborhood.

 

The latter was such a wonderful feeling that truly eased my mind over this big decision we had made in our lives!  Knowing how I felt (five and half hours away from all family, trying to figure out where I belonged), when one of Audley’s co-workers moved his family down from Philly, I knew I needed to pay forward the kindness extended to us.

What does every family need when moving into a new home?

Supper!

I decided to fix a lasagna with salad (including dressing) and bread to carry over fully prepared so all they had to do was take a break from unpacking and enjoy supper together.

I love this lasagna recipe that I inherited from my mother.  She made it when I was growing up and it has always been a hit with my own children.

Savory Lasagna

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage, ground
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 6 oz. cans tomato paste
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 16 oz. cup of skim cottage cheese
1 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 Tablespoon basil
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 box lasagna noodles
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare your lasagna noodles according to package directions and drain.  At the same time, combine the ground beef and Italian sausage in a skillet with the garlic and salt.  Brown the meat, drain it, and pour in a mixing bowl.  Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and oregano to the cooked meats and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and eggs.

Using a 9×13 pan, spread about 3/4 cups of the meat and tomato mixture across the bottom of the pan (this will help keep the noodles from sticking to the pan).  It doesn’t have to cover the whole pan, just give a base.

Add a layer of noodles on top of the meat, another layer of the meat mixture and a layer of the cottage cheese mixture.  Repeat the process a second time.  After you have put the last of your cottage cheese on, add one more layer of noodles (you will have three divisions of noodles total, two of the filling), then top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees about 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

This is a great recipe for preparing in advance and freezing, or just cooking later in the day.  If you do either of these, (thawing out the lasagna first in the refrigerator works best) cook about 45 minutes (possibly longer) in order for it to heat through.  I have never cooked it frozen, but I would say close to an hour and a half (covered with foil).
Just check on it as it is cooking!!


TIPS FOR PREPARING SUPPER FOR A NEW NEIGHBOR:

**Make it easy.  Chose a filling one pan meal like lasagna, spaghetti pie or a casserole.

**Pick something that is popular with most everyone in the general public.  Deciding to experiment on the neighbors is probably not a good idea!

**Carry everything over in pans/bowls that can be trashed.  Someone who has just moved in has enough to organize without having to wash dishes as well.

**Unless you are helping unpack or clean your new neighbor’s house, don’t hang around expecting an invite to supper.  Seriously, if you fixed your favorite dish to carry over, fix extras to share with your own family and let your neighbors enjoy a peaceful supper.  Being a mooch the first time you meet them will make a bigger impression than the food you carried over.  There will be plenty of time to get to know them in the upcoming weeks!

** Carry a little welcome gift.  Leave them your phone numbers so that they have at least one person to contact for questions and help.

When I carried supper over, I also carried a little welcome basket.  Since they have moved to the South from the Philly area, I decided to give them a Southern welcome by gifting Mason jars and sweet tea.

I also included chocolate chip cookies (with the South Carolina Palmetto) for their children.

It brought quite a laugh which is a great way to break the ice!

Linking up with Foodie Friday this week;  drop in at Designs By Gollum for more savory treats!

 

On the Go!

After an amazing little vacation, it is so wonderful to have our family all together again under one roof! Momma’s truly need to take the time to reconnect with themselves.   My spirit and energies are restored, and just in time for six solid days of youth group activities that began on Sunday night in our home!

I absolutely love opening my door to host teenagers.  They truly bring so much life and healthy appetites happiness into our space.  This week our youth group is taking part in a week of service.  Having everyone over was a great kick-off for the big week that is planned.   I am chaperoning every day as visits are made to local nursing homes, homeless shelters, and children homes as well as working in a community garden, food pantry, washing cars and babysitting for free.

Just part of our group who worked at a community garden on Monday.

 

Suppertime around our house will be simple and light fare as we will be eating on the run, and most meals will only be enjoyed by Audley and I as the kids will be eating with the youth group.  After a week of dining out (and not always healthy choices), I am focused on getting back to the business of health and fitness this week.  Swimming and walking the beach is quite good for you, but I discovered that I really missed the gym!
One of my favorite on the go meals is a hearty pasta salad.  I know the idea of a pasta salad doesn’t sound so healthy, but this one is just delish!  Made with fresh spinach & mushrooms it could stand alone as a meal, but grill chicken breast to serve as an accompaniment, and you have a complete meal-on-the-go!
The best part is that you can serve it up warm (Audley’s preference) or you can enjoy it later, cold (the kids love it this way).
Spinach Pasta Salad
6 ounces dried wagon-wheel pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet red onion, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
3-4 cups fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
Cook pasta according to your taste.  Drain well and place in a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, in another skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the red onion, mushrooms, and garlic, sautéing until fragrant.

Stir in the basil and pepper.  Add the spinach an cook until it is just wilted.

Gently combine the mixture with the cooked pasta.

Drizzle with red wine vinegar or juice from 1/2 a lemon to taste.

 

**You can add just a teaspoon of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to each individual serving for added flavor.
 
This recipe should serve four.
With a rested mind, I have so many things running through my little brain to share this week!  Topping the list?  A little hole in the wall restaurant in Weeki Wachee, Florida that would make anyone forget their diet for a day!

I can’t wait to tell you about it!!Linking up with Foodie Friday (a bit early), but I have a busy week!

 

Simple Shrimp Pasta

One week into our move, and we are out of boxes.  Closets are organized, shelves are arranged, most all of our pictures are hanging on the walls, and more importantly, I have a fully functioning kitchen which makes for one very happy momma.
While the dishes are on the shelves my pantry is rather bare as we tried to use most everything before we moved.  While picking up a few groceries at Publix, I discovered shrimp on sale for $6.99 and picked up a pound to use for supper one evening.  Instead of just cooking them to peel and eat, they made for a delicious addition to fettuccine for our Saturday evening meal.

{It was an easy supper to put on the table after a busy day.}

 

First, I boiled the shrimp until pink in salted water; about five minutes.  I also added a couple of whole garlic cloves to the water for additional flavor.  When your shrimp are cooked through, be sure to immerse in cold water immediately to stop the cooking process.  Over-cooked shrimp are tough and chew like rubber; not flavorful at all.
Peel and set aside.

**You can also used peel and eat shrimp that has already been cooked to use, which would have supper on the table even faster.**

 

{Here is an ingredient list for the pasta sauce}:
 
1 pint heavy cream/whipping cream
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon chopped, dried basil
1/2 teaspoon chopped, dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chopped, dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt (or more to fit your taste)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped, fresh mushrooms
1 pound cooked & peeled shrimp
 
**You can use fresh herbs (just double the amount). I just didn’t have them on hand.**
 

 

In a saucepan, combine the cream, butter, salt and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom.  Add the mushrooms about five minutes into the cooking process. Simmer about 10- 15 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese, then add the shrimp.  Continue to simmer just long enough for the shrimp to heat through; about a minute or two.
Toss with pasta of your choice that is cooked to your preferred taste.  We used fettuccine.
{If you like a thicker sauce that “sticks” to the pasta, whisk in more Parmesan cheese.}
We served our creamy shrimp pasta with a crisp, green salad and crusty baguettes.
 {Simple and delicious.}
This would also make an elegant dinner for company.

Fusilli Pasta w/ Italian Cheese

Sometimes I just get tired of food.  I don’t mean tired of eating, but I get so frustrated trying to come up with something different that pleases all of the palates in our home.  Nothing sounds good no matter how many times I open and close the refrigerator through out the day trying to decide what to fix for supper.
This has definitely been the scenario around here the last two weeks.  It’s too hot for a five dish meal and a pot roast is just too heavy, but who wants to stand out at the grill and cook chicken breast when the heat index is 110?!
Looks so refreshing doesn’t it?!
Sometimes I let everyone fend for themselves (sandwiches anyone?), but more often than not I pull out a cookbook, experimenting on the family with something new.
Audley is on the road this week so I decided to try a little experimenting with the kiddos, after unsuccessfully trying to menu plan.  Since it was just the kids and I, pasta seemed to to be the logical choice for a main (and only) course.  We save the pasta experiments for when Audley is gone since that man-of-mine doesn’t like pasta.
{He just doesn’t know what he is missing.}

Staying with Audley’s grandparents so much this summer has allowed me to catch up on some of my favorite magazines.  From Country Living to Food & Wine I have a stockpile of recipe inspiration just waiting for the right mood!

My kids love mac and cheese (I’ll have to let MacKenzie share her favorite recipe with you sometime), so I thought a variation of that would make them happy.  I couldn’t find this original fusilli pasta recipe, or remember where it came from. In fact, I may have just dreamed this little number up from reading so many magazines.  These ingredients just have been blazed on my brain from somewhere, and I just had to go with it.

{Don’t you just love it when that happens?}

Fusilli w/ Italian Cheese

1 pound bag of fusilli pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup garlic infused olive oil
3 ounces proscuitto
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

While you are preparing your pasta according to package directions, brown the Proscuitto in a tablespoon of olive oil, to crisp up.

{This took less than five minutes, maybe even three.)

Meanwhile, combine the Parmesan and Romano cheese in a large serving bowl with the oil, basil, and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup cold water and stir well to combine.

Reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and immediately add to the bowl with the cheese mixture, tossing to combine.  Add a little of the cooking liquid to make the pasta creamier and toss again, with the proscuitto.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, using a little extra grated cheese and basil leaves for a garnish.

 

I suppose the kiddos were fine with this little experiment as no one got sick or passed out, and Bradley laid claim to the leftovers for his lunch.  The girls said it was kind of like macaroni and cheese, but really rich.

{Score one for Mom!}

There are two additions I would make to the recipe.  First I would add some sauteed fresh baby bella’s to toss in with the pasta and secondly, I would add freshly chopped green onion.  Don’t cook it, just sprinkle a little on top like a garnish!

What do you do one those days when nothing sounds good?  Is it sandwiches for the fam or do you get creative?