Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adventures in Lasagna Baking

After getting a wild hair today I decided to go for it. Go for what you ask? Attempt my hand at a Pioneer Woman's recipe. I was more than a little nervous...these recipes (from what I hear) tend to go one of two ways....FABULOUS FANTASTIC or not fabulous fantastic. I can't say why I decided on the lasagna...after all, I will shamelessly say I've been told I make a mean lasagna (thanks Marsha!)...well actually I make my Mom's lasagna fairly well (thanks for the recipe Mom!). I digress....I have a house of men, and they like why not two options?

I purchased the ingredients, set aside a couple hours to assemble and cook, then tested it out on my men. My husband looked nervously at it, said "I knew this wasn't your recipe, it smelled different. Can I tell you if I don't like it?" Five minutes later he was proclaiming "don't mind me while I eat three pieces." It was a definite winner. Although, when I make it again I'll cut out all the extra salt....definitely doesn't need it. But then again, I'm a fairly low salt if you like your salt, go for the full recipe. Served with homegrown green beans...AWESOME!

Please check out the Pioneer Woman's blog.....your mouth will be watering!

Pioneer Woman's The Best Lasagna.Ever. (with modifications by Jen)

1-½ pound Ground Beef (I used just 1 pound)
1 pound Hot Breakfast Sausage
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes (I used 1 qt. of homecanned tomatoes)
2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
2 Tablespoons Dried Basil
1 teaspoon Salt (omit this)
3 cups Lowfat Cottage Cheese
2 whole Beaten Eggs
½ cups Grated (not Shredded) Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Salt (omit this)
1 pound Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
1 package (10 Ounce) Lasagna Noodles (I used all natural oven ready whole wheat lasagna noodles)
(add 1/2 Teaspoon Salt And 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil To Pasta Water)
Preparation Instructions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain half the fat; less if you’re feeling naughty. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside. Cook lasagna until “al dente” (not overly cooked).
To assemble:Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat mixture over the top.
Repeat, ending with meat mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.
Either freeze, refrigerate for up to two days, or bake immediately: 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until top is hot and bubbly.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stay Home Saturday

If big messes give you the heeby all means LOOK AWAY NOW!!! As part of my Spring Cleaning Frenzy I started with our bedroom today. The boys were headed to a car show, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to deep clean. My husband (otherwise known as Hurricane Levi) isn't big for keeping the blankets neat and tidy. He jokes that I could delicately lift the blankets at night, slide in, sleep in one place without an iota of movement, wake in the morning, again delicately lift the blanket, slide out and nary a soul would know I'd ever slept there. He, on the otherhand, resembles a force of nature while he sleeps...there's nothing "still" about him. God love him.

See that very fancy box against the wall....that's my start on downsizing our closet/drawers. It's headed for Goodwill very soon. Not attractive to look at, nor to trip over every day. There's a pile of ironing under the purple sweater is peaking out of the dresser...oh what a mess.

Now we can have a collective sigh of relief. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh. That's better. I decided to spare you the "in process" cleaning photos. The mattress was toppled from it's perch, I washed everything that would hold still, vaccuumed until there wasn't a fleck of a speck of dust in it, dusted and dusted and dusted. I also replaced one of the side tables with a match from downstairs.

Then I added a little life to the room.....the prehistoric philodendron from our foyer came upstairs for a bit. There's nothing like a little green to make the room feel fresh as ever. This philodendron has been in our family for nearly 40 years!! Do you have plants that have been around forever? My mom has a christmas cactus that belonged to her's approximately 70 years old. Cool, huh?
One room down....10 to go. Oh....I guess that doesn't count the basement rooms....well...
we'll start with the ten. ;-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning...Here I Come!!

Yes, this is how our den looks RIGHT NOW. Ugh. I'm keeping it real people.
I can't take it A.N.Y.M.O.R.E. Winter, dust, clutter...shall I go on? Spring Cleaning (yes it's a proper noun) is about to start at the VanOort homestead. We've been ill....all of us....for about a week now. When you're sick you sit. When you sit you look around. When you look around you notice all the annoying things you didn't notice all winter because you were running through the house at mockspeed trying to get everything done everyday.
Do you know what I noticed? Dust. Clutter. Decor that has been In.The.Same.Place for five years.
It's all going! I have had enough. I'm ready for a spring spruce up!!
Watch out boys, Momma's making a list and checking it twice!
Deep cleaning, decluttering, fresh pillows....HURRAY!!!
We are going to welcome spring with a fresh, clean house!

Am I the only person with shelf OCD? Why are all the books tipped over?
Why is that stack just sitting there without being sorted?
Because it was winter and nobody cared. I CARE NOW!!!

And the steps. The steps that take four unplugs, replugins for the vacuum to reach every spot. (Okay that's an takes two) Do you think that happens in the winter? It doesn't. There are 63 steps in our house...yes I counted. Even the attic stairs are annoying me.
They should be clean, they're not. They.Will. Be.
They need to be painted. They're not. They.Will.Be.
This is what a long Iowa winter does to a stay at home mom...too much time spent inside four walls (four beautiful walls that I am VERY thankful for, mind you).
The list is growing and I'm going to tackle it like a 300 pound linebacker!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Utilitarian Schmulitarian

We live in an old house. That means no second floor first floor laundry....that means BASEMENT laundry. Now I will say we have a nice basement for an old has a concrete floor, is relatively bug and creepy crawly free...and....well that's about how nice it is. We have an inordinate amount of pipes, tubes, conduit, electrical wires, etc protruding from every orifice of the basement (do basements have orifices? I don't know, but it sounds good) The place where all of these tubes/pipes/random ugly things join up for coffee breaks is RIGHT OVER the washer and dryer. Not that pretty to look at frankly.

Enter my crazy idea....which I pulled off alone mind you. I had salvaged a big cork board from the Mechanicsville school (before it was made into a pile of rubble). I paid one dollar for this puppy. I had intended to hang it in our office....but then had this wacky idea. HANG IT ABOVE THE WASHER AND DRYER!!
Hide the utility of the utilitarian space!

I screwed these dealies into the top...I know this isn't the proper use for these dealies, but it's what I had on hand and a woman on a mission is not someone who can be stopped by improper equipment. ;-) (sorry Dad) Then I nailed two big honker nails into the floor joists (ceiling) and looped a big old chain over the whole show and attached it to my hook dealies, adjusting it to the proper position. A.L.O.N.E. It was quite a clown show I'm sure. It was heavy.

Then I got another wack-a-do idea.....I'd gotten these boxes from the ReStore. What are they? Not sure....probably intended to be drawers at some point. They...I say they because I have three more. Fifty cents each...oh yeah. Oh the possibilities. A little ReStore paint (.50)and voila....a nice little box for my laundry detergent and rags!

This is the beautiful after....after a fresh coat of white paint and the addition of a few things that make me smile to look at. Afterall, I'm down there doing laundry in the needed a little cheerier atmosphere. I cut out the Iowa outline from a roadmap (was questioned steeply by my 6 year old....WHY would someone cut up a perfectly good map...boy he's like his dad sometimes ;-) We love Iowa and we love ROADTRIPS!! So it reminds me of that. Some beautiful covers from Queen Martha. Some very funny family photos....I couldn't resist the weiner pic Chell....sorry.

Cricut to the rescue!! The laundry letters are so perky...cut from a preppy wallpaper sample.

Another area out house I'll whip you into shape yet. :-)
Corkboard + paint + little box=$2.00!! (had the hardware on hand)
Linking up to:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Hidey Hole

My little warm and cozy. I miss you...I've been too busy...I want to sit and enjoy you again. I promise I'll be back soon...relaxing, creating, breathing. All your wonderful shelves (thanks Dad) are burgeoning with my creative trinkets...I'll get back to you when I don't have a miserable head cold, a child that coughs ALL NIGHT, and a little one fresh out of double eye surgery. Phew...I'm ready for spring and CALM.
The calm may take a while.
Our oldest was diagnosed with RSV and walking pneumonia today.
Nebulizer and antibiotics here we come.
Feel better soon Marsh Potato.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In The Pocket

Four pocket doors....that's what we got with our house. If I count EACH door individually....two big openings really....but I like to embellish. ;-) I've thought a lot about all the people who have slid these doors open and closed...and for what what seasons...and what little treasures have rolled, slid or been pushed through the openings in the wall. In fact we've laid on our bellies with flashlights trying to peer in. Marbles and dust...that's mostly what we saw. Then there is the wall thickness that emcompasses a pocket door...I think those walls must hold up our WHOLE house. They are thick.
My pocket doors charm me. I can't help it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Family Rules...Sneak Peak

A sneak peak. I'm ACTUALLY working on a project for me me all meeee again!! I know, I'm so selfish. It is definitely more relaxing to do a project on my own timetable....I loved the cafe projects....but those puppies had to be finished in oh....about 2 DAYS!!!
For this project I've jumped on board the "family rules" craze....I'll tell you my favorite one is "hug mom and dad no matter how tall you are." The last few months have definitely shown us that our boys will not be small they grow and grow and grow....inches in months.
Final results coming soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bye Bye Winter

I think it might almost be safe to say.....winter is closing. Slowly but surely it's fading away....
I felt it yesterday as I went for a walk...the sun was so warm on my face.
Not the way the winter sun feels....
the way the spring sun feels.
AND......I'm finally back!! My blogging has suffered, needless to say, but my friends needed my help
and I was happy to do so....the cafe is doing AWESOME!!
Visit soon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Little Bundle of Joy

Had you there for a minute didn't I? The little bundle of joy I so refer to is a green bean bundle! Oh my goodness...this bundle is SOOOO delicious! Made with frozen green beans from my garden it was I can't wait until I have FRESH green beans this you think my kids would mind green bean bundles EVERY NIGHT? That's how good these are.

Now, for the recipe.....because I'm nice like that. ;-)

Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans
3/4 pound fresh green beans
4 bacon strips
3 T. butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. soy sauce

Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked but not crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels.

Drain beans; place about 12 beans on each bacon strip. Wrap bacon around beans and secure with a toothpick. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, garlic salt, and soy sauce; brush over bundles. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Yield 4 servings.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mill Creek Cafe is OPEN!!

This is the incredible AFTER!!!!!!

The Mill Creek Cafe has opened and I cannot express how proud I am of my two friends. These two women have created a place in our community that, beyond the amazing food and atmosphere, gives people a place to gather. Everyone is welcome to join in the comraderie and have a chance to sit and visit with neighbors and friends, as well as welcome travelers passing through our community. If you have not yet had a chance to enjoy the Mill Creek Cafe, RUN! Don't walk. RUN to Clarence and you will not be disappointed. The pie is other worldly, the specials are phenomenal, I could go on forever. LOVE YOU BOTH JAMIE AND MARCIA!!!!

And look at that gorgeous sign...the girl that painted that must be something else. (He he he...just kidding....but I am proud of how it turned out. I was just so honored to be able to help the girls get going.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Vintage" Advertising ala Mill Creek Cafe

I have a new crafty addiction. (That kind is ok...don't call the Intervention folks) I've enjoyed painting signage for a long time....but this kind of painting is SO FUN! I get to beat on it with a hammer...sand off parts with my sanding block...paint a little looser...all in the attempt to make the signs look "old". The Mill Creek Cafe is going to have to have a rotating display of vintage advertisements because I'm on a roll!! Have you seen some of the vintage Santa clipart? OH. MY. GOODNESS. How can I resist, I ask you?
Sorry for the dark was nighttime...and this place has a warm glow ambiance...not the greatest for taking photos, but AWESOME for enjoying some wonderful home cooked food.
Which is your favorite? I have one....but I'm not telling. ;-)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fresh Spring Pillows

My pillows are dressed for spring and looking oh so fresh. I teased here with the pillow potential...then got sidetracked with helping to get the Mill Creek Cafe open....then there were thirty gajillion other things....and now my pillows are back on the radar. There were a few hiccups in the pillow production process, but all is well now. The window seat is once again a very intriguing place for little ones with the fresh pillows. :-)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thrift Store Finds

While I'm indisposed, hunched over my sign painting, I thought I'd share a few of the finds I brought home from a recent trip to two of my FAVORITE places....Goodwill and the ReStore!! I'll share lots of sneak peaks of the Mill Creek Cafe when I return! :-)
I feel like I'm VERY acquainted with my local Goodwill...but who knew...there is a TINY craft section over near the men's clothing! Whole rolls of curling ribbon...bags of pretty sea shells...foam cones...oh my!
Cute little basket that now holds our work gloves near the back door....and six cup muffin tin...did you know there's a whole world that exists around muffin tin snacks? Just look here!

Spring is calling my name...and so did this adorable little watering can....I'm thinking a little pot of pansies in here would be a really nice thing to find in the back entry!

OOPS! Forgot the photos from the ReStore.....we'll save that for next guessed it...more cabinet doors to paint on! :-)

Happy thrifting!

Monday, February 1, 2010

What I've Been Up To

The F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. Mill Creek Cafe is about to open in Clarence and guess who got to use her silly skill set to produce their sign! This is a sneak peak....I'll post again when it is up on the building....that's a whole other post....the before and after of the exterior is a little like my back entry redo....nothing short of a miracle! ;-) And the food....oh the food....SO. GOOD. I've had a sneak taste at that too. ;-) SO, if you're in the Cedar Co, Iowa vicinity....or travel HWY 30 you have to stop and experience the Mill Creek Cafe.

I'll be back soon....five "vintage" advertisements to paint for the walls of the cafe....and a mural....and an open/closed sign....and......

See you soon!
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