Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno

I've never been much of a menu planner.
You know those people that make out their dinner menu plan for the week, month, year!
How do they do it? 

With an active, working teenager and professor/coach husband, I never know who is going to be home for dinner, so I usually just wing it.  The down side of winging it is running to the grocery store after work - which I hate and the expense.  So my goal for next month is to be one of those menu planners!  If you are one of those organized people, I would love to hear how you do it!  I need help!

As part of my plan, I have been going through my recipe collection and thinking about the dishes I already prepare that my family enjoys.  Pasta al Forno is one of those dishes.  It's easy to make and only takes 15 minutes to bake in the oven.  Pair it with salad and garlic bread and dinner is served!  This one is definitely going to be part of my plan :)

I use Barilla Plus penne pasta when making this dish. 
I prefer whole wheat, but my picky teenager does not. 
I can sneak in the Barilla Plus and she never notices :)

Cheesy, bubbly goodness!


Tomato and Mozzarella
Pasta al Forno
adapted from Annie's Eats
Serves 4

1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 - 14 oz. can Italian Style diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning or Oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups penne pasta (dry)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly ground parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a skillet.  Add the minced garlic and cook over medium heat for about a minute.
Add tomatoes and italian seasoning and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta.  Toss pasta with sauce.
Place half of the pasta in an 8x8 bake dish, sprayed with olive oil.  Cover with half of the parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  Top with remaining pasta, then parmesan and mozzarella.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Note - this dish can easily be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Strawberries are so inexpensive right now, so why not make some jam so you can enjoy them all winter?

Freezer jam is easy, peasy to make and is delish over ice cream, pancakes or even pound cake.
Let's make some!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

4 cups crushed strawberries (2 lbs. before crushing)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1.59 oz. package Ball Instant Fruit Pectin (or 5 T if you have the 4.7 oz. jar)
5 -  8 oz. Jelly Jars (I used 10 - 4 oz. jars)

Wash and cut the stems off about 2 lbs. of strawberries.
In small batches, crush them in a bowl with a potato masher or fork until you have 4 cups of crushed berries.
Stir sugar and pectin in a bowl.
Add crushed fruit.  Stir 3 minutes.
Ladle jam into clean jars and twist on lids. Leave them on the counter 30 minutes to thicken.
Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to one year.

I found the adorable labels here if you want to give jam as gifts to your friends or neighbors :)

Linking To:
Creation Corner
Thirty Handmade Days
Fireflies and Jellybeans
Simply Designing
Tatertots and Jello

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vacation and Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

Sorry I haven't posted lately, but I took a little blogging break while on vacation. 
We just returned from Disney World and our favorite vacation spot, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.
We love, love, love Hilton Head Island!

These refillable mugs are one of my favorite things about vacationing at Walt Disney Resorts - all the
Diet Coke I can drink :)

My daughter's boyfriend, Ryan, went with us.  He had never been to Florida, so it was fun showing him around.  We stayed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort for five days and then spent the last three at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.  The weather was beautiful - nice and hot!

Thought I would share a couple of pics from our vacation and then share another yummy zucchini
recipe.  Enjoy :)

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used Soft White Wheat)
1 cup All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup applesauce or canola oil (I use applesauce)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine brown sugar, zucchini, applesauce and vanilla is a medium size bowl and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  I use a medium size ice cream scoop to drop the dough onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes.  Makes 14 large cookies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bars

Want to see where my fresh garden veggies come from?

My parent's fabulous garden!

I am so lucky that Mom and Dad plant all of those yummy veggies and they are more than happy to share.

Onions, tomatoes, green beans, peas, corn, broccoli, green peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and zucchini - Yum!!

Zucchini is one of my favs, so I dice it up and freeze it so I have it all winter too :)
It's wonderful in soup and muffins when the temperatures start to get cold.

I made these zucchini chocolate chip bars from the first zucchini of the season and they were quite tasty.
I used 1/2 cup fresh ground whole wheat flour when I made these, but you can just use 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour if you prefer.  Hope you like them too!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bars

2 cups zucchini, grated (I leave the peel on)
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar.
Add eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and then the zucchini.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into your bake dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Linking To: