Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lightened Up Lasagna Soup

Lightened Up Lasagna Soup
I will never tire of this soup. In fact, I think I've eaten it for the past five days and I am still lovin' it!
I made Lasagna Soup a long while back after seeing it on a blog called My Bizzy Kitchen.  I think even when I made it the first time, I did my own spin on the recipe, using leftover bits of this and that from my kitchen cupboards or refrigerator.  The original recipe I tried called for Italian pork sausage, canned tomatoes (I think), and broken up pieces of pasta. This time around, I used Italian seasoned ground turkey, jarred pasta sause, and whole grain pasta.  I am trying to light up the recipe a bit.
Lasagna Soup

For the soup:
1 jar (24 ounces) jarred tomato pasta sauce (I used Bertolli Organic Traditional Tomato & Basil)
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 can (14.5 ounce size) chicken broth
1 package Jennie-O Italian Seasoned ground turkey
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf (optional)
a few pinches of granulated sugar
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
salt to taste
6 to 8 ounces of dried pasta (I used Barilla brand whole grain rotini pasta)

For the "cheesy goodness" which is what TOTALLY makes the soup amazingly wonderful:
7 to 8 ounces ricotta cheese (I used a low fat/part skim, Friggo brand)
2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I used KRAFT brand)
a generous pinch of salt
a few grinds of black pepper.

In a soup pot, cook and crumble the ground turkey until cooked through.  Drain if needed/desired. Add in the remainder of the SOUP ingredients except for the pasta.  Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and allow to gently simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  I used whole grain rotini pasta, but you can use any pasta you have on hand, even broken up lasagna or spaghetti noodles.  Medium sized pasta such as rotini, ditalini (small tubes), small bow ties, medium shells, etc. are good.  Think bite sized pasta.  Drain the pasta and spread out on a cookie tray or platter to cool.  If desired, drizzle a little olive oil on the pasta to keep it from sticking together. I skipped this to save on calories.

In a small bowl, make up the "cheesy goodness".  Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; stir well with a fork to combine.
Check soup for seasoning; add in a bit more salt, pepper, and/or granulated sugar if needed.

To serve, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the "cheesy goodness" in a soup bowl.  Add in some of the  cooked pasta and cover with hot soup. Stir in the cheesy goodness and enjoy!

I stored my soup, pasta, and cheesy goodness in the refrigerator in separate containers to keep the pasta from absorbing all of the soup liquid.  I added the cheesy goodness and pasta to each individual portion of warmed up soup. 
This recipe makes five very big servings. Next time, I will portion this up into six servings.


We find the Bertolli sauce at Sam's Club in a three-pack and it's much cheaper than in the grocery store.

We find the Barilla Pasta and a lot of Jenni-O products at Kroger (City Market).

I hope you give this recipe a try.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Quick Bread: Honey (Agave) Oat Quick Bread with Yogurt

Honey (Agave) Oat Quick Bread with Yogurt
My mother-in-law saw this bread on a blog and sent me the link, thinking I might like it. The recipe called for yogurt so it was a great use for some of my homemade yogurt. 
Since I have been eating my yogurt with berries, granola, and honey, I did not want to use up ALL of my honey in this bread.  Instead, I used some agave nectar in the place of the honey.  Also, I was nearly out of milk.  In place of the 3/4 cup of milk, I added 3/4 cup of water to the wet ingredients and I added 3 tablespoons of buttermilk powder to the dry ingredients. The bread turned out nicely despite my alterations.  I wasn't wanting to run to the store just to try out this recipe.  I should try the recipe sometime with milk and honey as written.  My bread was a little on the crumbly side, but was moist and tasty and had a nice texture.   
Here is the original recipe from (See link HERE)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, or quick-cooking (not instant) oats, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour, or white whole-wheat flour (see Tip)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 8 ounces (scant 1 cup) nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup clover honey, or other mild honey
  • 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat milk 

  1. Position rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°F. Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch (or similar size) loaf pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon oats in the pan. Tip the pan back and forth to coat the sides and bottom with oats.
  2. Thoroughly stir together whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using a fork, beat the remaining 1 cup oats, yogurt, egg, oil and honey in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in milk. Gently stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture just until thoroughly incorporated but not over mixed (excess mixing can cause toughening). Immediately scrape the batter into the pan, spreading evenly to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon oats over the top.
  3. Bake the loaf until well browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. (It’s normal for the top to crack.) Let stand in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a table knife around and under the loaf to loosen it and turn it out onto the rack. Let cool until barely warm, about 45 minutes.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Comfort Food on a Cold Snowy Day: Tuna Noodle Casserole with Mixed Veggies

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Mixed Veggies
I just don't think to make Tuna Noodle Casserole. My family would never eat it so I haven't given it much thought over the years. When I stop and think about it, I THINK the last time I made Tuna Noodle Casserole was probably the late '80s or the very beginning of 1990.  I don't ordinarily keep track of things like that, I just remember I was living in a boarding house as I was finishing up college when I last made Tuna Noodle Casserole.  I am pretty sure I put cream of "something" soup in it and I remember it being so-so.
I've mentioned before that I am often inspired to make recipes I see when I am scrolling through Facebook on my phone.  The past two weekends, I've stumbled across recipes for Tuna Noodle Casserole and it was just sounding good given the crazy, crazy snowy weather we've had this past week.

I love the shadows our pergola is making in the snow in our back yard.

This is our back yard this week.  Just a week ago, we had a picnic under the pergola.

I would have sworn this recipe was on the Cooking Light Facebook page, but when I clicked on the recipe, it linked to a recipe on and the recipe is from Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I guess I felt compelled to make this since it seemed to be a somewhat lightened up version of comfort food and also because it sounded perfect after our snowy walk with the doggies today. 
I modified the recipe to use things I had on hand: ditalini tube-shaped pasta instead of egg noodles, frozen mixed veggies instead of peas and carrots, low fat milk instead of skim, and butter instead of olive oil.  I used the last of a tub of cream cheese we had in the fridge from the last time we had bagels a few weeks back and I even used up the diced up onion in the fridge from the last time we had tacos.  We don't often have potato chips in the house, but today we did... so I topped the casserole with crushed up chips. I love that this great big casserole used up so many things I had on hand!

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Mixed Veggies
Inspired by the recipe found HERE.
8 ounces pasta (I used small tube pasta called ditalini)    
2 tablespoons butter    
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion         
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 3/4 cups 1% low fat milk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened    
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (next time I might even add more)   
1/4 teaspoon salt (next time I'd add a bit more)   
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, green beans)
1/4  cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked    
about 1/2 cup crushed up potato chips for topping (I used Wavy Lays Potato Chips)
Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cook mixed veggies in the microwave according to package directions; drain and set aside.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and cooked until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick. Stir in cream cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, Parmesan cheese, mixed veggies and tuna. Spoon mixture into a shallow broiler-safe 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray (I used a glass Pyrex 8"x8"x2" dish; top with crushed up potato chips.

5.   Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until bubbly.  If desired, broil until potato chips begin to brown.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Blueberry Muffins (Another recipe using yogurt)

Blueberry Muffins with Yogurt
A recipe from the Pioneer Woman: "Ellen's Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins"

In the past few posts, I've chatted about making yogurt at home and I've tried out a handful of recipes using yogurt. I made yogurt three weeks in a row and I did not do a good job eating the last batch.  I had spent a bundle on fresh blueberries to make yogurt parfaits. So I had blueberries and yogurt in the fridge, both about to go bad.  I did a Google search for blueberry muffins using yogurt and came across this great looking recipe on the Pioneer Woman's blog.  I am a big fan of her recipes and her show.  

I loved that I had all the ingredients on hand to make these muffins. 
The recipe can be found on the Pioneer Woman's blog HERE.

The Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins from

3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch of salt
Dash of Nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt
2 cups fresh blueberries
Vanilla Extract
Softened Butter, for muffin tins (I used paper and foil liners in the muffin tins)
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees (I baked my muffins at 350 degrees).

In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of 10.

Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.

Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top. (Brown sugar can be used instead.)

Bake 20 to 25 minutes (mine were done at about 17 minutes) and allow to cool completely.

So far, my husband has tasted tested these and he said they are really good!

I think I got 21 muffins out of this batter.  I used foil and paper cupcake liners in my muffin pans and baked my muffins at a lower temperature for a shorter period of time.  I just know my muffin pans and my oven, and I also live above 5,000 feet in elevation.  I need to invest in an ice cream scoop so I can scoop my muffins and cupcakes more evenly.  This batter is just really thick and gorgeous. It might be a great basic muffin batter recipe which can easily be adapted to other varieties.  I might give that a try sometime.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hobo Burger Packets

Hobo Burger Foil Packs

I am inspired to try a lot of new recipes based on posts I see on Facebook. This is a Paula Deen recipe. The recipe calls for carrots and my family does not like cooked carrots so I simply left them out. 

I have already made this recipe three times in the past two months. The first time, I baked the foil packs right away. We had them for dinner with some servings left over of course. 

The second time I made the recipe, it occurred to me I could make up the packets ahead of time and put them in refrigerator uncooked. I had to work the next day so I left the cooking instructions for my husband. He preheated the oven and dinner was ready shortly after I got my home.  

My teenager is on the go and comes home after dinner some evenings. He can reheat the contents of one packet in the microwave in about 2 1/2 minutes. 

We've all decided we especially like this dish with some blue cheese crumbles sprinkled on top just before serving. 
This recipe is definitely a KEEPER!  I don't use red potatoes very often; I love them in this recipe. 



  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (I used as lean as I could get)
  • 1/2 cup butter crackers, crumbled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 medium red potatoes, thinly sliced (I used more)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, thinly sliced (I used less)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds (I omitted)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (I used McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning) 


Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix together beef, cracker crumbs, egg, garlic, Worcestershire, cheese, salt and pepper.
Step 2
Pat the mixture into 4-6 (6-inch) patties. Place each patty onto 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, enough to cover and close.
Step 3
Add potatoes, onion, and carrots to the same bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper (or McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning), tossing to combine.
Step 4
Top each patty with an equal portion of the vegetable mixture then seal each packet tightly. Place on a sheet tray and bake for 40 minutes, until the burger is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A quick post: Another GREAT Use for Homemade Yogurt

Super Bowl Nachos!  

Use homemade yogurt in place of sour cream. 

I am watching the Super Bowl... for the commercials. I hurried home to make nachos for the family!

Hope you had a great weekend. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with Yogurt

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
So last week I told you about how I made homemade yogurt HERE.
Then I made some terrific brownies with some of the yogurt and you can see that HERE. Brought the brownies to work and the coworkers loved them, too.  So moist and tender with a really nice texture. I am really glad I added walnuts to the brownies.

I made lots of delicious yogurt parfaits all week long with the homemade yogurt, homemade Pumpkin Spice Granola (which you can see HERE), and honey, strawberries, and blueberries.  Since I had made the Pumpkin Spice Granola, I had canned pumpkin sitting in the refrigerator.  I hate to admit that there have been a number of times I have made Pumpkin Spice Granola and thrown out the rest of the can of pumpkin puree since I never got to it.  Not good!

I did a little Google Search and I found a muffin recipe which called for pumpkin and... you guessed it... more yogurt!  I love these muffins. They don't really taste like pumpkin and you really don't taste the pumpkin pie spices.  The batter makes a really moist, slightly sweet muffin with a terrific dense texture.  They bake up beautifully.  I keep thinking this would be a really good basic muffin batter recipe and you could doctor it up any way you like... blueberries, walnuts and cranberries, grated carrot, walnuts, and raisins...
So next time you find yourself opening up a can of pumpkin and you have about a cup of leftover pumpkin puree, think of making these muffins. 

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (link HERE)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (I omitted)
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used agave nectar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive or coconut oil (I used Wesson sunflower oil)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt (I used my homemade yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used 1% lowfat milk)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (I used foil muffin liners and lightly misted them with PAM non-stick cooking spray). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
  2. Add pumpkin, honey, egg, oil, vanilla, yogurt and milk to a blender. Blend on high for 1 minute or until well combined, smooth and creamy. (Alternatively you can mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl.) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Divide batter evenly into muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached (mine were perfect at 20 minutes). Cool muffins for 5 minutes then remove and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Muffins are best served warm (I ate them at room temperature and they were still great)!