Monday, July 25, 2016

Easy Crockpot Lasagna

It's that time of year where things are just starting to get ripe in the garden, but not enough at once to do much more than enjoy a BLT or two. In a few short weeks I'll be up to my elbows in tomatoes, but until then I grab what is ripe and dice them to add to whatever dinners I can. This past Saturday that dinner was a crock pot lasagna recipe I came up with to serve our guests on a HOT and steamy evening when I didn't want to have the oven on or spend too much time in the kitchen cooking. We had some leftover chopped green peppers, onion, and jaune flamme tomatoes from the homemade relish I made for hotdogs/brats the night before so I added those to the sauce. I have been cooking long enough to eyeball ingredient amounts, but when I first started cooking or if I'm looking up a new recipe I definitely want a solid starting point so never fear - the following recipe has exact amounts if that's how you roll.

There are a lot of crock pot lasagna recipes out there so how do you know which one to choose? If you are like me, you scroll through the ingredients for things you already have in the kitchen or aren't too expensive to grab at the store. You also want to know if it has a lot of flavor and IF YOUR KIDS WOULD EAT IT,  right?  I have a picky eater who hates veggies, but they cook down so much in the crockpot that he didn't notice them.

As far as flavor goes, this recipe calls for HOT pork sausage. I didn't even have to add a single spice to the crockpot because I picked a spaghetti sauce with a lot of flavor and spicy sausage.  To be safe, add a couple tablesppones of Italian seasoning and pick the best sauce you can afford.  I loved the Prego Roasted Garlic Parmesan kind.

Easy No Cook Noodle Crock Pot Lasagna Recipe

1 lb hot pork sausage (or hamburger with 2T of Italian seasoning added)
1 1/2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
chopped veggies of your choice (can omit, but is a great way to add nutritional value!)
8 lasagna noodles (no need to pre cook)
2 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Brown meat and drain. Stir in sauce and veggies.

Add a portion of the sauce to the bottom of your crock pot then top with two layers of noodles broken as needed to cover meat/sauce/veggies.

sprinkle a portion cheese on top.

Repeat until you run out of ingredients, but be sure to end with cheese on top.

It can be helpful to drizzle a little sauce from the 1/2 of jar remaining around the edges of the crockpot to help keep the noodles from drying out.

Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Keep an eye on it! This is NOT your cook all day while you are at work kind of crockpot meal.

Serves 6.


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Monday, July 11, 2016

Farm Party - Elsa's 3rd birthday

The themes we choose for birthday parties rarely fall in the 'typical' category and I enjoy the challenge! When Elsa turned three we were still waiting to close on our new house so we had to put off her party for a few weeks. Finally the second weekend in August of 2014 we were able to throw her a Farm Party. We had moved into the house ten days prior. I still had red checkered tablecloths from PapaBear's surprise 40th Camping Party a few years ago and we already had a good collection of bandanas as well. Add in PapaBear's vintage tractors from his childhood and mason jars filled with flowers from our garden and we were good to go!

Once I get started on a theme though....look out. I had so many ideas! Pudding cups for mud puddles, egg candy to put in the eggs for an egg hunt, making homemade ice cream, and don't even get me started on the other food ideas. I'll get to those in a minute.

First I made signs for the different stations around our yard using 4x6 photos I made in photoshop that I mounted on cardstock and stapled them to stakes around the yard at each station. A ducky pond, a sheep crossing sign (raisinettes sprinkled on the sidewalk), hay wagon rides, a petting zoo (stuffed animals on a blanket in the shade for the babies), a photo booth, clothes pin drop, and an egg hunt kept the kids plenty busy but didn't require much prep work on my end.

 I have the best helpers, but for the most part nothing needed to be facilitated - that can be exhausting and doesn't really allow for visiting with other guests. It also can get dicey if you have games with winners and losers. The goal is for the kids to have FUN and not compete with each other.

I got cupcakes toppers off of Amazon and stuck them in cupcakes from Costco (green frosting as grass for the cows & sheep and brown frosting for mud for the pigs & chickens).

Elsa blew out candles in a pie sampler instead of a cake. Yum!

You can never have enough sweets at a birthday party so we made some ice cream too.

We counteracted the sugar with a bunch of picnic fare.

We were still absorbing the idea that we still get to live where we have a huge yard. After living in a 200 acre regional park we weren't expecting anything close to that when we left.

We actually have MORE apple trees here than we did in the park.

Every year for Elsa's birthday I print out the month photo shoot images to display at her party. It is a lot of work to make sure these pictures get taken but this series is so special to me! The mini bandana bunting is actually a 4x6 photo that I made in photoshop using photographs of bandanas.

This crew of cousins had so much fun!

Happy birthday my pig tailed THREE year old!!!!

Other birthday party themes that have made the blog:
Elsa's 1st birthday - Rainbow Theme
Julia's 5th birthday - Castle Theme
Sam's 7th birthday - Knight Theme
Julia's 4th & Sam's 6th birthday - Snake Theme
Sam's 8th birthday - Poolside Pirate Theme

Not on the blog yet:
Julia's Hello Kitty Party
Julia's Fairy Party
Elsa's Brown Bear Brown Bear Party
Elsa's Fairy Party
Elsa's Bird Party
Julia and Sam's Birthday Brinner Party

I've got some catching up to do it seems!


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Beginner Knit Hat Pattern

I've been asked so many times if there is a pattern for the hats I make,  but I was too busy filling Christmas orders...