Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy Lasagna, No Cook Noodles

The other day, my daughter called me and told me that she had a dream I died. She was very upset and I told her that if I did, she would be OK because I have my blog and everything she would need to know was on here. She could just look up her favorite recipes or information she wanted to know. Such as, how to refinish something, and there it would be.

She said "You know so much more weird stuff than anyone else. You can't die. Who would I go to for that stuff." I laughed and told her "You would make it through because if God wanted me to go, he would make a way for you to handle it."

She wasn't thrilled with that answer but what could I do? It did get me thinking however as to what recipes the kids like that I hadn't blogged about before. My grandmother died and not one of her kids got her famous cheesy potato recipe. Not wanting that to be the same in my case, I pondered it out. One I thought of was my potato salad so I blogged about that a few days ago. Another was my lasagna. So, I had my oldest pull out all the stuff and I showed her how to make my easy lasagna.


2 boxes lasagna noodles
2 eggs
2 containers ricotta cheese or cottage cheese or one of each.
2-3 containers of spaghetti sauce (I used 1 homemade, 2 cans)
2 lbs hamburger or other meat. I sometimes use chicken
2-4 lbs of mozzarella cheese grated

Optional items

Frozen veggies (I like broccoli)
fresh, dried or canned mushrooms
other types of cheese
canned tomato sauce to thicken sauce if needed

Brown the meat and drain it. Then mix all the veggies and sauces together with the meat. Place a ladle full of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Mix the ricotta/cottage cheese together with the eggs until is is easy to spread.

Place a layer of dried noodles on top of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon on some egg/cheese mixture and spread it evenly over the noodles. Spoon another ladle of sauce over the noodles evenly.

Spread a fine layer of cheese over the sauce. Then repeat the process. Place a layer of noodles, spread cheese/egg, and then sauce and a layer of grated cheese until the whole baking dish is full. I push the layers down as the meat in the sauce makes them stick up some.

If you are baking the lasagna now, pour 1 cup of water into the side of the baking dish. You want to make sure the water is covering the top layer of noodles when you push them down. This is so the noodles will cook as it bakes. Don't add too much water or you will have a noodle lasagna soup. I have drained some off while it is cooking if I added too much.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until done. I don't usually cover my lasagna but if the baking rack is near the top, I will loosely cover it with foil to keep the top from being dark and remove the foil toward the last half of baking.

If you are going to freeze the lasagna or bake it later, I add 1/2 cup of water, cover it with saran wrap and then foil. I write the baking instructions on the top of the foil with a Sharpie so I will know what it is inside. Or, if I have a friend that has a death or baby, I can just grab it out of the freezer, take it over and they can bake it when they need it. I did forget to write "take off the saran wrap and foil before baking" on the top.
I take over the lasagna along with a stick of my frozen cookie dough (see post "the legend of the salty cookie here: ) and some frozen rolls in a bag with the instructions on them and they have a homemade meal ready in the freezer for when they need it.

I usually make some in disposable pans so that there are no dishes to return. I have about 10 baking pans and I will make a large batch at the same time along with some of our other favorites such as chicken enchiladas and broccoli cheese casserole and freeze them all when the freezer gets empty so we can just pull them out and bake them on a busy day.

I'm so blessed that it's been awhile since I had room in my freezer to do that but right now we are using up what is in there so I can post those other recipes soon. The reason the pans at the top of the page are empty or used is because the girls cut into and ate them before I got a photo. They don't last very long. We made three pans that day and they were all gone in a few days.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jewelry Making - Beading Part 2

My third daughter opted to make a necklace as she has blue eyes and liked the blue glass heart beads and the matching bead sets I found. So, the other night, we pulled out the jewelry making supplies and together, we sorted through the containers of beads finding any beads we liked that matched the heart and coordinating beads.

We found lots of different types of beads in similar colors and some were crystals, some were glass beads, some were plastic and then we pulled out the silver look spacers. The bead palette is a wonderful invention. It is felt feeling to the touch and keeps the beads from rolling around and the measurements on it let you know how long the necklace will hang. You can take one of your favorite necklaces and place it on the palette to see how long you like your necklaces to be. Then, cut your thread, string, wire or whatever you are using to thread the bead on to an inch or so longer so you have length to attach the claps.

Once you have pulled out any beads you think you may want to use and place them in the center of the palette, you can start the creative juices flowing. The palette makes it so easy to move things around and really see what you like where. If you are doing dangles from the center, the three lines make it easy to adjust to that and see how the finished product will look.

When I make a necklace, I always create a bracelet and earrings even if the girls don't have their ears pierced yet. That way, we don't have to go back later and "find" all the stuff we used. That also makes me use my beads wisely keeping some for the earrings and a few for the bracelets.

The earrings are easy to make using posts or if you want them fluid and dangly, you can use thin wire or string. You can get most jewelry supplies now at Wal-Mart but a few years ago, it didn't have them. I actually bought all the blue beads at Wal-Mart along with the blue glass heart.

I used stretch nylon cord for her necklace so she could just pull them on rather than having to deal with a latch. I finished them up after she went to bed and stuck them in her room with a note telling her how much I loved her so she would see them when she woke up. She wore them today and found a shirt that matched perfectly. They both brought out her blue eyes and she said she got comments on both at school today.

If you don't want to invest in all the supplies, pick out some beads you like and come visit and we'll have a girls night and enjoy creating together.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making Jewelry - Beading Part 1

As part of our Valentines hunt, I bought the girls each a necklace or the stuff to make one together. I thought I would give them the option. Several opted to make a necklace.

About 7 years ago, I was looking for a fun way to bond with my oldest daughter and also help her be more feminine. She would wear jeans and a t-shirt almost daily.

The thought that came to me was to get her into making jewelry. We went to several stores and craft/beading stores and bought her the works. We bought all the findings and she picked out several types of beads she liked. I would keep my eyes open for interesting beads on sale, used coupons and bought "kits" with many types of beads and checked the second hand stores for beads and old jewelry that could be taken apart and the beads reused.

Several times I found grab bags with all sorts of scrap jewelry in them for $25. I found a 14 Karat real gold bracelet in one and several other times I found other gold and silver items. Sometime the jewelry is great and we like it, other times, if it isn't something we would wear, we take them and let the patients at the local nursing home choose one when we go to sing for them.

Once we acquired all the fixings and beads, we tried several different types of containers to hold them all. We tried bottles, thread containers, bags, other plastic containers, film containers and nothing seemed right. We searched the craft stores for "bead containers" and they were not easy to store, carry or use.

I suggested we look at tackle boxes as they are made for small items and have a spot for the "tools" in them. We found the perfect container. It is made by "Okeechobee Fats" and is a four plastic container, soft sided tackle box. It has pockets on both sides, thick zip baggies that clamp on the lid that are see through so you can keep current projects in them. There are a few other pockets on the front. The bead palette that is used to lay out the beads, fits neatly on top of the four plastic containers and the bag zips up to protect it all and make it easy to carry.

The "tools" for jewelry making fit in one pocket. Most common tools are needle nosed pliers. Needle threaders for small beads, a bead reamer and internal pliers. One other thing I added the other day was little zip baggies that can be bought in the craft section of Wal-Mart or other craft stores. I use them for my homemade suckers but found that the findings and smaller beads were sometimes wondering in the plastic containers so we watched a movie together and organized those items this week.

I think the kit we have is as good as any I have seen or heard of and probably should talk to the good makers of the tackle box and start marketing it for beaders! The other side pocket we use for the larger threads, twine, leather, nylon and other types of cording for jewelry.

That is all for the container and tomorrow I will show how we put together a jewelry set of Necklace, bracelet and earrings rather quickly.

To be continued....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

My youngest daughter told me this week that she wanted to cut her hair. She has had trims in her life but nothing like this. She trusted me to cut her hair which maybe wasn't the best thing because it usually takes me a couple of inches to get everything even.

However, she wanted to either sell her hair or donate it as all her sisters have to "Locks of Love" for making wigs for children without hair. I took pictures of us measuring her hair and she wanted it to be just below her shoulders.

I cut it just below her shoulders. The front hairs when parted on the side, don't quite reach a ponytail so she is hoping it will grow fast as she likes her hair parted on the side.

All in all, she looks adorable and it was a change for her from the usual braids, bun and other ways she wore her long hair. It was done just before our latest photo shoot which made things nice as she wanted to "show off" her new hair. I think it makes her look older. They grow so quickly.

I was thinking back while cutting it and all of my girls cut off their hair in middle school. My hair was cut a little only one time before I was in middle school. I guess we just like long hair in our family. I think it is much easier to pull up than to have to curl it but it is nice to have change once in awhile.

If you have never checked out "Selling hair" online, here is a link to see some crafts they do with the hair and some photos and information on selling hair. Very interesting stuff. Anyone interested in taking up the trade and buying her hair?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Valentines - Photo Shoot - Part 4

I haven't blogged about any photo shoots in quite some time. We haven't been together in almost 2 years. We haven't had all the girls home all together but for a few days over the holidays as some were with their dad. So, this Valentines Day weekend was our first opportunity to get some pictures taken.

The girls didn't really want to do it and suggested we wait until spring break but we all have different days for our vacation so it wouldn't be until summer that we might be together again but since my second daughter is taking summer classes and with the other school activities and visitations, who knows when we will all be together again. I hope it is sooner than later as I miss them when they are gone and we have so much fun together, but, here are some of the results.

It was a cold day and we begged my sister to come and take some pictures for us. There isn't much to use as a background in the winter but we had fun anyway and as I was pulling out some pictures for a project tonight, I couldn't believe how much the younger girls have grown since our last photo shoot.

Thanks to my sister for coming and taking the photos on her Sunday afternoon and freezing for our sake! Love you babe!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Valentines Tadition Part 2

We finally got to do our Valentines treasure hunt tonight. My second daughter came home for the weekend but my youngest two had visitations with their dad until this evening. So, tonight was the night as tomorrow, sweet daughter number 2 is headed back to school which is over 4 hours away.

I hurriedly put together about 13 clues all over the house. Sometimes we go outside but since it was late, dark and cold, we opted for the inside version. We put a clue with a bag of treats or trinkets at every stop. It is fun to have one clue upstairs and one down, then one up. It keeps them running.

Some of our favorite hiding spots are the "washer" we have an antique washing machine on the front porch so they never now which washer, clothes, dishes or antique. We have an antique sewing machine so that gives a few options as I have several machines. We have a stored microwave so the hunt wasn't so easy as they had to go to my daughters stored microwave in the basement to get one of the clues after finding our microwave empty.

It is fun to give hints that go with the clue. I bought them each a pack of their favorite razors and in the bag with those it said, "This is where I would use a razor" or "Where I would shave my legs." The next stop on the hunt was in the shower.

I usually go to the dollar store and buy things they would use anyway but mix it up with Valentines candy they like and toys that they enjoy. Silly Putty is always a favorite. They got paddle balls, silly putty, tattoos, crazy straws, bear figurines, pencils, razors, fingernail polishes, hats, socks, mugs, candy, and a few other little treats and gifts. Really you can use anything. Most of the fun is in the hunt and the tradition.

I heard another cute tradition I will just mention here. The family tied treats onto a piece of red string. They had a name at one end of the string and tied prizes along that string. Then, the next person they did the same but the string ran all over the house crossing over the other people's string but the persons whose name was on that string got the prizes that were tied to the string. It sounds like fun but possibly a tangled nightmare. I did buy some red twine string the other day. Perhaps I will do that next year.

I would love to hear about your Valentine traditions.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Answer to Prom

My daughter and her friend were going to answer their dates to prom together and I will tell you what they wanted to do but we were really busy and her date is just as busy so it didn't work out.

They were going to go to several stores and fast food places around town and have the guys have to sing for pieces to the answer. Songs that relate to what the store sell etc.

We had to opt for another option. I was worried about cost as I am trying to save to send this same daughter on a service mission to Kenya this summer along with a few other camps and activities so spending tons on the answer would be a stretch. I woke and and was thinking about it in the morning and said a prayer how we could answer him in a cute way but keep it inexpensive.

Into my mind came some Valentines Day things I bought at the after the holiday sales a few years ago when my second daughter was starting to date thinking we could use them but she ended up leaving home a year early to attend a School for the Arts in another city so they didn't get used.

After school that day, I pulled out all the items and we had everything we needed to answer him. I had sucker Valentines from "Cars" and several boxes of candy conversation hearts that we sprinkled all over his room. We made a candy trail using all the candy from the front door of his house down to his room.

Once in his room, we had a heart bouncy rubber heart lamp that said "Love" on it. We had a boa lighted feather heart light we put at the head of his bed. Then put balloons on the floor and candy and a stuffed bear on his bed. On the wall, we took down a picture and put up the little magnetic heart frame board and it had magnet little wooden conversation hearts and we put a pink heart on it that said, "I would (heart with "yes" in the center) to go with you."

His family went out for dinner and when they came back he said he was "shocked to see candy lining the way to his room." And, it was fun to have his light off and have lamps lighting up his room.

He is a good friend and she is excited to go with her group of friends. I'll post photos that night. How exciting for her. We are still debating on hair as I like up and she likes down. It's her night so we'll see what she chooses.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Potato Salad with Crab and Apples

Many years ago, I had some older apples that we wouldn't eat. They still tasted good but were starting to wrinkle so the kids wouldn't eat them. I was making potato salad and thought, "I wonder what it would taste like if I put apple chunks in the same size as the potatoes?" So, I took the older apples and used the apple corer to slice it.

I then chopped up the washed apples and put them in my potato salad. Over the years when I would taste something in someones potato salad I liked, I would start adding it to mine.

This is the result. I do have one daughter that doesn't like the crab as much but eats it anyway as the rest is very good.

Five pounds of potatoes peeled or washed (if you want peel)

Approx 1 cup mayo or salad dressing (your choice)

About 3 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard (to taste)

1 cup frozen peas rinsed (to get ice crystals off or they melt and make the salad watery)

1/2 pound package of imitation crab meat thawed and flaked

4 med sized apples cored and chopped. I leave the peal on. I try to add different varieties to give texture and color.

Optional - Onions chopped small or dried if you like that. My girls don't but I do.

If you don't like crab, try real bacon crumbled in it for a nice variation.

Peel, chop and boil potatoes until a fork goes through them easily but don't over boil or you will have mashed potatoes.

Once they are done, I soak them in cold water for about 2 minutes and drain them. I add the other ingredients and stir. I actually like making this ahead of time and letting the potatoes soak in the flavor of the mustard. I think it is better the second day. My kids had second and third helpings of this over some of the other food we had. It was gone by mid day the next day. I like doubling the batch because I know it won't go to waste.

I make this when we go camping. I boil the potatoes and take all the other ingredients in the cooler. We just cut the apples and dump everything else in at the sand dunes and have fresh potato salad. It is easy and good! My favorite kind of recipe!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines Tradition Part 1

Since my girls started middle school and had lockers, I would go on Valentines day and decorate their lockers. They got a new principle and he didn't allow it when my second daughter went so I had to stop.

We got a new principle a few years ago and we were back in business. So, each Valentines day, I take a gift to the school and decorate their lockers. They don't use lockers in high school so it is only while they are in the middle school years that I do it.

We have another tradition for Valentines day but I will blog about that after this weekend when all five of my girls will be home. They wanted to wait to do it until their sister was home from school for the long weekend.

I was really touched as one of my daughters approached my oldest and asked if they could take me to dinner or get me flowers. My oldest came to me and asked which I would like. I suggested that since we usually like my cooking better than eating out most times and I would enjoy flowers but what I would enjoy more is eating my spicy shrimp, asparagus, artichokes and my famous potato salad. Our mouths began to water just at the thought. I also suggested we rent a movie and do a pedicure night.

So, off to the store I went and bought all the items needed. I will blog about my potato salad tomorrow. I wish I had blogged the shrimp but we ate it and I forgot to take pictures. :-( I will have to do that next time.

We enjoyed a yummy family dinner, movie and I even got a pedicure with help from my oldest. How could you top that!?

The year I found a Valentine t-shirt for my daughter that collected Snoopy was a fun one. She uses it as a night shirt.
Until I started blogging, I didn't realize how many family traditions we had that make life fun. We are so blessed. I hope you all had as wonderful a Valentines Day as we did!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

T-Shirt Quilt for Oldest Daughter Part 2

Once the squares are cut, lay them out into a pattern you like. She made the reds into a cross and tried to even out the blacks and other colors with blues on the corners. Half the fun is letting the kids have some say in where the squares go and which shirts to use.

We still have a pile of shirts that were not her first choices and so she asked me to make the "A" quilt showing her how to do it and she wants to learn on the "B" quilt and do the whole thing herself. That way if she made a mistake, she wasn't ruining her favorite shirts but she really wants to do the whole second quilt by herself. I think it will be cute having matching quilts but each is individual and tells a story about her.

Once you have the s
hirt design, sew them into rows making sure you get the front and back shirts in the seam. Surge or zig-zag the edges so they don't come undone. Then, once the rows are done, sew the rows together finishing the quilt top.

For the batting, I used a thinner one because the quilt is a king size, I didn't want it to be heavy. For the back, I used a king size flat sheet I bought new in the bag at a second ha
nd store. It has no seams and was much cheaper than fabric and was a 350 count fabric which will hold up well. She chose black. I have also over the years bought bolts of fabric or larger pieces of fabric to use for these type quilts as I have made several as gifts. It is nice to have larger pieces of fabric on hand but my favorite is still the sheets as they are large with no seam. Make sure to wash the backing with an old piece of white t-shirt to make sure it won't bleed onto the quilt front. It would be sad to get it made only to find that the fabric die is bad and ruined the front of the quilt. I washed the black sheet twice to make sure it wouldn't bleed.

Lay the sheet out. Put the batting on it making sure it is smooth. Place the quilt top on top. Pin the three together before quilting so that it doesn't wrinkle or shift as it is quilted. I recommend placing the pins on the seam line between shirts. I forgot to tell my daughter this and if the pins are large, they can sometimes cause a hole in the shirt.

Cut the sheet to be about 3 inches bigger than the quilt and if you want a padded edge, cut the batting to 1 1/2 inches longer than the quilt. fold the sheet to the batting edge and the fold the whole thing over at the quilt edge making a binding. Pin and sew.

The other way you can do it and is how I did the Pooh qu
ilt, is to put the right side of the backing and the quilt top together and lay the batting on top of them all. Sew all the edges together leaving a foot sized opening at the bottom center to turn it right-side out after. Once it is turned, stitch the opening in the bottom center closed and tie the quilt at the corner of each block to hold it into place, we tied a stitch in the center of each shirt block also. Make sure you get enough fabric from the bottom fabric while tying it that the yarn or string won't pull its way through with a wash.

The shirt at the top as you can see was not as big as the squares needed for other shirts so you can actually cut it up the center back and lay it flat making the square use the side seams and the arms. It may have a few tucks in it when you sew it but it still looks cute. I also used the "hot potato" from the back and zig-zagged it onto the front. This was one of her favorite shirts in high school.

I have the two black pillow cases from the sheet set I used for the backing. I think it will be cute to sew on the pillow cases we made for her birthday party one year where everyone signed them, and the other we made tie-dying one year for her party. That way she will have matching pillow cases to go with her quilts. Fun heirlooms for sure!

Happy Quilting!