Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lasagna Soup

It's the first day of fall and here in west central Illinois it definitely feels like it!  It was 42 degrees when I woke up this morning and only supposed to be in the low 60s I think.  The sun is shining but it's a blustery day Piglet!  I've resisted turning the heat on yet, but it's getting harder!  If I can hold out a couple more days, temps are supposed to get back into the 70s again soon.  In the meantime, I'll just wear sweatshirts and curl up with my favorite blankie in the evenings. :)
Another way to warm up my family is a hot bowl of soup.  My last post, 10 Things I Love About Fall, really should have included a #11:  soups!  I am always looking forward to fall so I can start cooking soups again.  Spinach Bisque, Gilson Corn Chowder, Chili...  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!  This Lasagna Soup recipe is one that I have been making for years and is a family favorite.  I cut it out of a magazine about 10 or 12 years ago.  I'm not positive, but I think it was from Taste of Home.  It is so easy and tastes so delicious.  It also makes great leftovers.

Lasagna Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 C chopped onion
1 box Hamburger Helper Lasagna dinner mix
5 C water
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes - undrained
1 (14 oz) can whole kernel corn - undrained
2 Tbl grated Parmesan cheese
1 small zucchini - chopped into small chunks

In a large soup pot, cook beef and onion over medium heat until well done.  Drain.  Return to pot.  Add contents of lasagna dinner sauce mix (NOT noodles), water, tomatoes, corn, and Parmesan cheese.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add lasagna noodles and zucchini.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until noodles are done.  Serve immediately.  Yields 10 servings (2 1/2 quarts). 

Doesn't it look delicious????

I generally use about 2 pounds of ground beef though because we like meat in our house.  I always serve it with garlic bread and I like to sprinkle more grated Parmesan on top of mine.  If you already have the beef precooked and in the freezer, this is really a quick meal.  I just thawed the meat and dumped everything in the pot to cook.  It takes me about 30 minutes to make. 

Give it a try on your next soup day!

~ Dawn

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 Things I Love About Fall!

I haven't done a List of 10 post lately.  Since I mentioned in my last post about how much I love fall, and it officially starts in 2 days,  I thought I'd create a list of 10 reasons for loving pictures. 

1.  Beautiful fall colors

2.  Roasting marshmallows, and hot dogs, and just sitting outside with a fire.

3.  Thanksgiving

4.  Carving Jack-O-Lanterns

5.  Apples.  Apple pie.  Apple crisp.  Apple cobbler.  Applesauce.  Apple cider.

6.  Mums in all their colors

7.  Harvest.  My husband probably disagrees with this one since it means working long hours 7 days a week, but there's just a feeling you get when you live on a farm during harvest time.  Love it!

8.  Pumpkins.  Pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin cake.  Pumpkin fudge. Pumpkin bread.

9.  Sweaters!!!!!!  I love it when I can finally start wearing my heavier weight sweaters!
10.  Fall decorating.  I did take this picture :)  This is sitting in the front of my house. 

However, I wish my fall decorating looked like this:

Well, there are my top 10 reasons for loving fall.  Seriously, what is there NOT to love about this season?????  It's my favorite season, followed by summer, then winter, and spring is in last place for me.  I know.  Everyone loves spring.  I don't.  It's cold, rainy, windy, and nasty most of the time until about May.  I like the "feeling" of spring...everything's growing, the air is fresh, yadda, yadda, yadda.  You can keep the rest of it though. 

What do you love about fall? 



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Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall is Here!

The calendar may say there are a few days of summer left, but as far as I'm concerned, it's fall!  The weather has cooled off, my house is decorated inside and out, harvest is in full swing all around, and I made a delicious batch of crock pot applesauce.  The weather was beautiful here in the heart of the midwest all weekend and I was able to get a lot of work done outside. 

The front of my house looked so pretty at the beginning of the summer with all the blooming plants.  However, the extreme heat and drought really took a toll later on.  I watered regularly but the plants still looked a little scraggly. 

Now, it's covered in beautiful fall colors!

Fall is without a doubt my favorite season!  I love everything about it, except for hubby having to work long hours. :(  It is a little hard to put many decorations outside though because the wind can be pretty fierce out here.  I spend a lot of time straightening the corn up after a windy day.  I've had corn, straw, and pumpkins outside every year since I can remember though. 
One other thing I love about fall?  Apples!  As you know by now, I'm not a baker. However, I do like to make a couple of apple dishes (like crisp or cobbler) each fall.  This year, I saw a recipe for Crock Pot Applesauce on Pinterest and thought I'd give it a try.  It looked simple.  Here's the recipe as it appears on the website:
Crock Pot Applesacue
8 medium apples (Use a combination of Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, etc.) (I filled the crockpot, using about 20 small apples)
1 strip of lemon peel - use a vegetable peeler
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 inch cinnamon stick
5 tsp light brown sugar (unpacked) - or agave
1.  Peel, core and chop the apples.
2.  Add the sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and cinnamon stick.
3.  Set crock pot to low and cook for 6 hours. Stir apples occasionally, apples will slowly become a delicious applesauce. Remove cinnamon stick and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth or if you prefer a chunky sauce, leave sauce intact. (I used a whisk, which gave the sauce a nice chunky consistency.)
4.  Can and process as you would other recipes or keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
I followed the recipe pretty closely with only a couple of additions.  I used a combination of Johnathan, Fuji, and Gala apples.  The combination gave the appleasauce a nice flavor. 
I also added a couple more teaspoons of brown sugar than called for because I like it sweeter.  I used dark brown sugar (didn't have light brown) and it was fine.  That probably made the applesauce a little darker in color, but I don't think it affected the taste. 
Ready to cook:
Looks delicious already!  This is after cooking for about 4 hours.  I stirred it every hour or so.  

After cooking for about 6 hours, I took out the lemon peel and cinnamon stick and added about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.  Next, I mashed it with a potato masher.  This worked very well since we like chunky applesauce.  The added cinnamon also made the applesauce a little darker.  It kind of looks liks salsa in the picture below!  I assure you though, it's applesauce. :)  Lance and I both think it was pretty delicious.  Next time, I will only add about 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon though.  

Another fall favorite around here is soup!  I love soups of all kinds!  My next blog post will be a family favorite:  Lasagna Soup. Mmmmmmmm......

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Easy Banana Bread

Well, it has bananas in it and it smells like banana bread, but I didn't actually taste the banana too much.  It was good, but I would call it more of an easy chocolate chip cake.  I got this from Artsy Fartsy Mama (love that name! LOL!)  It was easy!  Here's the recipe:

Easy Banana Bread

Yellow Cake Mix
2 Eggs
3-4 Overripe Bananas
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips, nuts, etc.
Smash bananas in a large bowl then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Batter will fill 2 small loaf pans or one large loaf pan. Make sure to spray pans well with nonstick cooking spray and a little bit of flour.
Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes (bake longer if using larger loaf pan)
I used 3 small bananas, put it in a 9 inch loaf pan and baked for about 40 minutes.  Maybe I should've used 4 bananas for more banana flavor.  I also used about 1 cup of chocolate chips which was a good amount, and NO NUTS!  I hate nuts in baked goods!  
It sunk in the middle for some reason.  Who knows!  Again, I'm not a baker! 
Stop the presses!  This just in:  Kelin just ate a slice and I asked him if he tasted banana and he said yes.  Maybe my taste buds are off. :)  Either way, it was a pretty tasty quick dessert and a way to use up those too ripe to eat bananas.  I generally have chocolate chips and a cake mix on hand so this could be made for last minute guests as well. 
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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hawaiian Fluff

So I don't post for a week, and now do two in one night!  I'm on a roll!  If you read my last post, you already know that I took two desserts to a cookout last weekend.  I took That Dessert Stuff and Hawaiian Fluff.  Both are very good and even though they have a similar "fluff", they taste very different.  My sister-in-law, Lesa, gave me this recipe but I wrote it down so sloppily that I couldn't totally understand my own instructions. LOL!  So I just kind of improvised and here's what I came up with....

Hawaiian Fluff

2 (3.4 oz) pkg. Instant Banana Pudding (can also use vanilla, cheesecake, or other favorite)
2 Cups Milk
2 (20 oz) Cans Pineapple Tidbits
2 (15 oz) Mandarin Oranges
1 (8 oz) Cool Whip (thawed)
1 Cup Shredded Coconut (optional)

I put the cans of fruit in the refrigerator to chill beforehand.  Remove fruit from fridge, open, and drain well. 
Mix the 2 pudding mixes and milk with a wire whisk until thickened.  Fold in thawed Cool Whip. 
Fold in all 4 cans of fruit and coconut.  Chill until ready to serve.
This makes a large amount so make it for a crowd or cut recipe in half. 


I took a quick picture at the cookout because I didn't get any during the making of the dessert.  There's not much to see anyway.  You just mix it all up in a bowl and done. 

It's so light and fluffy!  I like the coconut, but some people don't so you can omit it if you don't like it.  If you like it "fruitier", you might want to either add more fruit, or cut down on the fluff.  How's that for technical cooking talk? :)


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That Dessert Stuff

It's been a whole week since my last post!  I think that's the longest I've gone since I started this blog last spring. :(  It's just been an unusually busy start to the school year.  Just when I think it's slowing down, it gets busy again. 
We were able to take a time out during the Labor Day holiday weekend and spend the day with family.  My son was home from college and I got to see some of my favorite people.

My two handsome sons, Kenny and Kelin, my niece, and Kenny's girlfriend, Demi (she actually belongs with guy in orange - not sure why she wasn't standing by him :))

We had a family picnic at my dad's and I brought a couple of yummy desserts.  This post will be devoted to That Dessert Stuff.  Yes, that's what it's called.  It got its name much like our Taco Crap dish son didn't know what to call it and one day requestd "that dessert stuff you make."  The name stuck and now it's officially known as That Dessert Stuff.  I have to give a shout out to a friend and former coworker Donna M. for this crazy easy, yet delicious dessert!  It whips up in no time at all, is not too rich, and is always a hit. 

That Dessert Stuff

1 box Honey Graham Crackers
2 (3.4 oz) pkg. Instant French Vanilla Pudding
2 Cups Milk
1 (8 oz) Cool Whip - thawed
1 Can Milk Chocolate Frosting

Mix 2 pkgs. pudding with milk with a hand mixer (or a whisk also works) on low until thickened.  Fold in thawed Cool Whip. 
Cover bottom of 9x13 pan with whole graham crackers.  Pour pudding mixture over crackers and spread evenly.  Add another layer of graham crackers on pudding mixture.
Melt frosting in microwave (in the can) for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Spread over graham crackers.  Regrigerate until frosting hardens (about 30 - 60 minutes). 

It's really that easy!

Graham cracker layer

Mix pudding and milk until thick.

Fold in Cool Whip.

Spread on crackers.

Add another cracker layer

Spreak chocolate frosting on top.


I forgot to take a good picture of the final product so this one was a quick one at the cookout.  You can also see some of the Hawaiian Fluff behind it (that will be in my next post!).  This is such an easy dessert.  I always get requests for the recipe when I take it somewhere.  It's also not very rich so you can enjoy a good sized piece! :)  Give it a try for your next cookout.  I guarantee you'll get rave reviews!


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