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Slow Cooker Lasagna

This is one of my all time favorite slow cooker recipes. I remember when I first saw the words “slow cooker lasagna”, I thought that I must be in some kind of dream.  There was just no way a terribly troublesome dish like lasagna could be made in a slow cooker!  Life would simply be too good to be true.


The original recipe is from Williams Sonoma, which has a great online collection of recipes (the majority of which do not require you to actually have something from Williams Sonoma).  As usual, I’ve adapted this recipe to both my patience and my budget.

The very best thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to cook the noodles!  You heard me right!  No sticky, ripping noodles, that have to be laid out just so!  It’s a miracle of culinary genius!

Disclaimer: So I made this dish on Sunday and thought, you know, I should really put this on my blog.  Which meant I should take pictures.  I took exactly two pictures because I got too wrapped up in my own excitement of the dish that I forgot to take any more.  So I decided not to post the recipe, but then a couple of people asked me about it…and now I’m posting the recipe.  I’m truly a modern wonder in the blog writing world.

Here goes:


This is a horrible picture for a couple reasons: 1) half the ingredients are missing and 2) you can’t identify the ingredients behind the cheese.  Awful.

Here’s the list because I am a terrible photographer:

1 lb ground beef

1 jar of tomato sauce (I like Trader Joe’s Three Cheese sauce)

12 oz of ricotta cheese

2-4 cups of shredded mozzarella (it really depends on your preference.  I put the whole bag on.)

12 dry lasagna noodles (any brand is fine)

1 tbsp dry parsley

1/2 onion chopped

1/2 cup of mushrooms chopped

1 tsp garlic salt


Begin by making a bolognese sauce.  In a large pan, start with the ground beef.  As it cooks and its juices are revealed, add the onions and mushrooms until soft.  Sprinkle with garlic salt.

(Here’s 2 of 2 pictures.  Fabulous)

Add the jar of sauce to the meat mixture and let simmer.

In another bowl, mix ricotta with parsley and a pinch of salt.

Once the sauce had reached a nice heat level and everything is well mixed, layer a small amount on the bottom of the slow cooker insert.

On top of this, layer the uncooked lasagna noodles so that the meat is covered.  Do not be afraid to break and fit pieces like a noddle jigsaw.  It’s going to be just fine.  Trust me.

Once the noodles are in place, spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the top of the noodles.

Now repeat: top ricotta with meat sauce then noodles then ricotta.  Do this until you run out of sauce and ricotta.  You should have about three layers, ending with noodles on the top.  Top the last layer of noodles with sauce and spread out the shredded mozzarella until all of the sauce is covered.

Fix the top of the slow cooker on tightly and cook on low for four hours.

Once it’s done it will be extremely hot so I like to let it sit with the top off for about 20 min before serving.

Eat and enjoy!

You may never want to go back to make lasagna the old fashioned way ever again!



No, not the office supply store or the mega event center in downtown LA.  I’m talking about the staples you keep in your cupboard.

I got to thinking about this yesterday as I was making Sunday night dinner (slow cooker lasagna=yum!).  I literally ran out of olive oil!  Who ever runs out of olive oil?  I usually have one bottle in use and a back up bottle just in case I can’t get to the store before the first one runs out.  I like to plan ahead.  (I also have two dozen rolls of toilet paper in the garage that I discovered last week after purchasing an additional two dozen because apparently I was concerned we might run out before 2013.)  So when I ran out of olive oil yesterday I was somewhat shocked.

How could I have let this happen?  And we were out of milk too??  Worst homemaker of the year award, right here!

Ok, I exaggerate.  But I did feel a little perplexed that I hadn’t foreseen the shortages in my own home.

In fact I’ve been running through a lot of my kitchen staples recently.  I’m sure it’s all tied to the fact that I’m cooking more than ever in an effort to both more health conscious and budget wise.  I’ve run out of things I never even think of like white rice and salsa.

As I was throwing together a quick casserole for the boyfriend to use as lunches this week, I started thinking about the staples I always have on hand.  Some of them make sense (like flour) and others seem a little random (like canned pumpkin).  So aside from the basics (like flour, oil, spices, etc.), here are just a few of the things I always have on hand:


crushed pineapple (in case I need to whip up my carrot cake, this is one of the “secret” ingredients)

frozen corn (I don’t know when I got into this habit, but I always find myself buying frozen corn)

frozen meatballs (you know, just in case some guests stop by and I need to serve an appetizer in under 20 mins)

cannelloni or black beans (I guess because they make a good back up protein to meat, not that this is ever a problem, but just in case)

canned pumpkin (because pumpkin everything is good)

masala sauce (curry is a super easy slow cooker meal that requires little to no thought)

several tubes of biscuits (Connor’s favorite meal is a biscuit with honey. I know, that sounds incredibly nutritious.)

string cheese (I like string cheese but I always forget about it until it’s gone bad and then I’m like “OH NO! We’re out of string cheese! I’ve got to go get more!” then rinse and repeat.)


Maybe these aren’t that bizarre, but they seem slightly odd to me and I’m the one buying them!  And when I’m out of any of these things, I panic slightly as if my cupboard was completely bare, which of course it is not.  But for whatever reason, these items make me feel like my kitchen is complete.  Because you never know when you might have to serve carrot cake and curry on the same day.

World’s Easiest Cinnamon Rolls

Do you ever lay in bed at night thinking of what you would like to make for breakfast?  Do you dream of freshly made croissants and steaming piles of eggs? Do you agonize over how early you’d have to get up to make all that a reality?

No?  Ok, well it’s just me then.

I do this.  I do this nearly every weekend.  Essentially I want to wake up and have a full-time chef hard at work preparing the perfect breakfast in my kitchen (preferably one who will clean up after, too).  Since this is in no way reality, nor will it ever be, I endlessly debate the benefits of losing some precious sleep to rise early and prepare this fabulous breakfast that only the boyfriend and I will enjoy.  Connor will no doubt enjoy something recently frozen, fresh from the toaster.

Usually the desire to sleep wins out over the desire to make something fabulous early in the day.  Usually….

Last weekend as I obsessively searched Pinterest for ways to use my prepackaged crescent rolls that were rapidly approaching expiration, I had a brainstorm!

What if I could make cinnamon rolls from just a few simple items?  Would they actually taste good?  I decided to give it a shot.  It was touch and go there for a while during the actual making of the recipe, but in the end I created


I am not being overly dramatic (ok well maybe a little overly dramatic, but totally appropriate level of excitement).

Oh mama they were tasty!

Here’s the recipe:

two cans of premade crescent rolls

1 stick of butter, melted

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/4 cup of cinnamon

(Please ignore the obvious errors in the above picture.  I don’t know why I thought two sticks of butter would be appropriate for one can of crescent rolls.  I had so much leftover butter I could have dunked each roll into it and then shortly after had a heart attack.  Also I didn’t actually measure the cinnamon, but it looked like 1/4 cup.  Feel free to add more or less.  I happen to really like strong cinnamon flavor, as in I love red hots!  So I can’t actually judge if there was too much cinnamon in the sugar mix.  Use your judgement.)

Ok, this recipe is easy peasy.

Step 1) Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter.  Unroll crescent rolls and place them on a clean work surface.

Step 2) Lay them out side by side like the above picture and pinch the edges together, making one large pastry sheet.

Step 3) Mix sugar and cinnamon into melted butter.  (do not eat!  It is delicious but use it for the cinnamon rolls first, you can have the leftovers.)

Step 4) Smear butter mixture all over the dough.  (I’m sure there’s a better word than smear: paint? coat? lovingly apply?)

Make the mixture as thick or as thin as you like.  I wanted a lot of calories in this dish so I made sure the coat was as thick as possible.

Step 5) Roll dough and slice into rounds.

Side note: I am including this awful picture so you know that I am not perfect.  Cooking is a messy business!  Things seldom go perfectly!  In fact at this point in the process I had serious doubts about the whole endeavor.  This looked terrible.  I hadn’t pinched the dough together enough.  It was getting really squished.  I was positive this whole thing was going to be a failure.  Resigned to seeing it through I continued on.

Step 6) Place rounds in a round, greased cake pan.  Slip them in the oven for 20 min.

Step 7) Pray. Then open the oven.

Sweet Lord!  They look amazing!

Step 8) Whip up a quick white icing and drizzle over top.

Stop drooling, it’s getting everywhere!

Step 9) Eat and enjoy!

Improvised Chicken Parmigiana

Let’s say, just hypothetically, you decide you want baked chicken parmigiana for dinner.  You pick this because it’s an easy recipe and you have all the ingredients on hand.  Or at least you should.  And then let’s say you find out you’re missing a few key ingredients after you’ve already defrosted the chicken breasts.  What should you do?

You do what all great mothers of the world do!  You IMPROVISE!

(I think maybe I should get this word tattooed on me somewhere as it seems to be the driving motto of my life.)

Here is the recipe for baked chicken parmigiana:

2 chicken breasts

2 cups Italian bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce


From that list, here is what I had:

2 chicken breasts

2 eggs

1/2 jar of tomato sauce


Not quite the same!  So I improvised.

Instead of Italian bread crumbs, I had Panko bread crumbs (a Japanese variety of bread crumbs).  I wasn’t too sure about dipping the chicken in eggs before using the Panko bread crumbs, so I just rolled the slightly moist breasts in the Panko and plopped them in the pan with some hot olive oil.

Also because they weren’t Italian bread crumbs, I added some dry Italian seasoning mix in with the Panko before breading the chicken.

Then I browned each side of the breasts a bit before putting them in the dish.  (Oh! Make sure your oven is preheated to 350 degrees.)

Next, instead of having a large pool of sauce for the chicken to rest in, I just spread a little on the bottom of the dish to prevent sticking.

Then I placed the chicken in the dish and covered with the remaining sauce.

Or at least I covered as much as I could.

Now would be the time to typically sprinkle the shredded mozzarella on top of the sauce.  However, I didn’t have any mozzarella!  Or at least I didn’t have any in the traditional sense….

What I did have was Trader Joe’s low-fat mozzarella string cheese.

So I chopped it up!

It may not look perfect now, but I assure you it will melt the same as regular shredded cheese.

All that’s left to do is pop it in the oven!

Oh wait!  I decided at the last-minute to add some dried basil, to help make up for the non-Italian bread crumbs!

Bake for 25 minutes and VOILA!  A lovely dinner….that I forgot to take a picture of.

Ok….I’ll improvise again!

Here’s a picture of Connor:

We were playing with glow sticks in the dark during bath time last night.  We pretended to be insects with glowing antenna and tongues!  It was fun!  It has nothing to do with the dinner but I’m hoping you’ll be enchanted enough by the idea of a glow stick bath to ignore that.  Please?

Boeuf Bourguignon and You Can Too!

Today’s recipe (and one of my favorite all time recipes) is Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon.

Sounds intimidating, no?  (See how very French I am!)

Well, as with all my recipes, I’ve made a few changes.  In fact I’ve simplified it quite a bit.  We should really call it Fancy Beef Stew for all the resemblance it shows to the original recipe.  Oh well!  Hopefully Julia isn’t rolling over in her grave and she’d applaud my ingenuity in adapting the recipe to modern cooking and demands.  That’s right!  She’d be down right proud of me!  I just know it!  Thanks Julia, you’re the best!

If you want the original recipe, you can find it here on Oprah’s website (random, but whatever).

Here’s what my recipe looks like:

You can read that right?  No?  Ok, well here’s my actual recipe:

1 9-10 in. oven proof casserole (like a dutch oven)

5 pieces of bacon, chopped

olive oil

2-3 lbs of stew beef

2 cups of carrots

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 tbsp garlic salt

4 tbsp flour

3 cups of red wine

2 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp thyme

2 crumbled bay leaves

1 bag sliced mushrooms

Step one: pre-heat oven to 350 (this is where things went wrong for me the other day when I set it to 450 instead, doh!)

Start heating up your casserole dish on the stove.  Once it’s nice and warm, add your chopped bacon.

Resist eating bacon, despite it’s deliciousness.  It’s important for the stew and you’ll just have to add more if you eat it all.  So leave it be.  I promise you’ll be getting a mouth full later!

While bacon cooks pat your stew meat dry.

Since I’m an impatient cook, I squeeze the pieces in a paper towel in my hand instead of delicately patting.  Plus the bacon is cooking…The name of the game is time management!  Be quick and efficient!

*A side note on the beef: The meat will be cooking in the casserole for 2.5-3 hrs, so it will be tender regardless of the type you buy.  My advice is to buy the cheapest you can.  Usually the butcher case will have something inexpensive.  If you can get steaks for cheaper than the stew meat, you can easily chunk it into 2 inch pieces.  Seriously, just go with the least expensive.

Ok, next add the now dryer meat to the pot.

Look at that steam rising up!  Oh mama!  It’s starting to smell really good about now.

Move the beef around in the casserole so it gets covered in the bacon fat and browns evenly on each side.  This should only take a couple minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop your carrots and onion. (see how I manage my time?  I’m getting good at this!)

You have two options with the carrots, both of which center around baby carrots because they don’t require peeling.

Option one:  Throw them in whole.  Option two: Chop them up.  It doesn’t matter.

I opted for chopped.  I don’t know why, I just did.

Add your chopped onion and carrots to the meats in the pot.  If there’s nothing left of the bacon fat in the bottom, add olive oil.  Give everything a good stir and let the veggies brown a little bit.

Then, since I like short cuts, I throw the flour on top of the whole mess.  You’re really just supposed to coat the meat in flour, but I really just don’t care.

Give this a good stir and make sure the flour is mixed in.

Now add your 3 cups of wine.  Any red wine will do.  The original recipe tells you to use something like a Chianti.  I used Three-Buck Chuck.  In fact, one bottle of Charles Shaw Merlot is exactly 3 cups!

Now add your 2 cups of chicken stock (or if you want to be even fancier, you can use beef stock!), tomato paste, garlic salt, bay leaves and thyme.

Looking good!

Now the mushrooms are up to you.  Personally, I love mushrooms!  They’re delicious.  I think I could replace the beef in this stew with mushrooms and still be happy.  If you don’t feel the same way though, you can skip the next step.

Add your sliced mushrooms to the stew.

As you know I’m a big fan of anything pre-sliced.  I just dumped this whole bag on top of the stew.  Easy peasy.  And by dumped I of course me I delicately added the mushrooms to the mixture.  (yeah right)

And that’s it!  You’re all done with the active cooking part!

Simply cover the casserole with its lid and place in the oven for 2.5-3 hours.

The original recipe says to place it in the bottom third of your oven.  As you can see my oven is tiny.  I don’t really think it can be divided into thirds by anything other than cookie sheets.  So this goes smack dab in the middle.

Close the oven and go do something else for 3 hours!

Or if you’re me and scatterbrained, 1.5 hours later.  When the oven is emitting smoke open it up, set off fire alarms, fill kitchen with smoke, frighten dogs, yell at child to stay back, startle boyfriend with shrieking.

Thankfully the stew was fine.  I can’t say the same for my casserole dish.  If you ignore the charred sides of my casserole dish, look at the thick sauciness covering the meat and vegetables.  It is too delicious for words!

The time your casserole spends in the oven cooks the alcohol out of the wine and reduces the wine/stock concoction down into a delightful sauce.  It’s so rich and good, you’ll think you’re the world’s best cook (and maybe you are, you just didn’t know it til now!).  Enjoy over mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or simply serve with biscuits or a crusty french loaf.  Oh mama!  It’s so good!

Bon appetit!

Just for my own edification, here is a picture of my oven.

It is older than I am.  It is antiquated with its crazy knobs. I accept that I turned it to 450 instead of 350, but come on!  An easy thing to do in this case.  Don’t be like me, check the temperature before you put the dish in the oven.

Cupcake Bouquets

My youngest sister is the maid of honor for her best friend’s upcoming wedding.  This is the first time she has ever held this duty on her own, being a co-maid of honor in both my and my middle sister’s weddings.  Being in charge by yourself is a much more difficult task, especially when you are a typical broke young person.  Things are always harder on a tight budget!

So she called on her sisters to help out and, you know me, I love a good project!

One of the issues was flowers.  They cost so darn much and last for darn little.  We tried to come up with other options.  To take the place of real flowers we made various paper flowers (which I’ll include in another post).  We used my yarn ball garland (yet again another upcoming post).  But we still needed centerpieces.

Since I was in charge of bringing a dessert, I decided to try to combine the two into one.  I had seen a pin on Pinterest for a cupcake bouquet and thought I’d give it a try.  Fun!

I started with 6 terracotta pots from Lowes, which cost $1.60 each.  I then painted them in alternating bright colors, using acrylic paint.

Acrylic dries pretty fast but you still want to give it a chance to fully dry before putting food near them.  I let them dry overnight.  And voila!


On the morning of the shower I began putting the bouquets together.  I had baked the cupcakes all the day before.  The bride really likes Funfetti, so she got Funfetti cupcakes, straight out of the box.  Obviously you can make this as easy or as complicated as you like.  You can make cupcakes from scratch with homemade frosting!  Or you can do what I did and use box mixes and frosting from can.

Can you tell the difference?  I didn’t think so.

Since I had 6 flower pots, I bought 3 round styrofoam balls and sliced them each in half.  Each half was then placed in a flower pot.  Here is a picture of all my supplies:

You can see I had bamboo stakes out there, but I quickly switched to toothpicks when it was apparent I was making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

Place the toothpicks around the styrofoam in even intervals, angled slightly up.  Place one toothpick in the very top of the ball.

Then gently push your frosted cupcake onto the toothpick. If you’re struggling with getting it on, simply make a small cut in the bottom of the wrapper and slide the cupcake on to the toothpick through that hole.

It’s easiest if you leave the top cupcake for last.

Next begin the decorating stage.  This is both fun and frustrating.  It is the most time consuming but ultimately worth it.

Making marshmallow flowers:

Take your marshmallow and a pair of clean scissors and cut your marshmallow into five even slices.

The boyfriend was watching me in awe so I made him start taking pictures.  Then he volunteered to help cut the marshmallows after seeing how easy it is!  What a guy!

Here are your five slices.  Take them and layer the ends slightly over each other, forming a flower.  The tackiness of the marshmallow should keep them sticking together.  If not, use a bit of frosting as glue (though I doubt you’ll need to).

The natural stickiness of the marshmallow also makes it perfect for decorating sugar.  It will automatically cling to the marshmallow “petals”.  You can see in the photo above that several crystals had clung from leftovers on the paper already before I actually dusted this particular flower.  (Ignore the sesame seeds, I was trying to eat breakfast while doing this.  Not my smartest plan.)  Once you’ve heavily dusted the petals, carefully lift the flower as a whole and place it on to a cupcake, pushing into the frosting to ensure it stays put.

If you have the time or inclination you can decorate the center of these flowers with edible pearls or a dab of yellow frosting to complete the flower look.  I had neither desire or room in my deadline, so what you see is what you get.

Repeat the flower process for each cupcake, alternating sugars as you see fit.

Once each cupcake has a flower, you’ll want to create the “leaves”.  This is very simple and very quick.

Take a piece of green tissue paper and tear it into short strips.

Tear these strips in half again, twisting the joint of each strip to make a spiral.  This in turn will create a look of “leaves” from the paper coming from the spiral.  Next simply tuck these into any open space you see between cupcakes.

Repeat until each flower pot is full.

Your end result should look like this!  Fun, right?

(If you like you can tie a ribbon around each pot.  Have fun with this!  Tie bows or leave them flat.  Paint polka dots, write the names of the bridal party, have guests decorate them or sign them as momentos, whatever you like.)

Here they are as centerpieces:

This project was a lot of fun.  The displays got a lot of attention and many compliments.  I want to assure each reader how easy this was!  I promise you can make these yourselves!  If not, well just email me and I’ll walk you throw it.


36 frosted cupcakes

6 terracota pots

acryclic paints

paint brush

3 styrofoam balls


craft scissors

2 packages of jumbo marshmallows

colored sugar

green tissue paper


a great helper!


Make sure your marshmallows are fluffy and not smushed in the package.  This made cutting the blue flowers very difficult and sticky.

Wash your hands regularly during the marshmallow process as your fingers will get sticky on the tips, making each flower creation harder than the last.

Remove the cupcakes from the bouquets for serving as guests will be hesitant to take them from centerpieces…unless you want to go home with 36 cupcakes, then just leave them.  *If doing this for a child’s party, you probably won’t have this issue, but better to remove them for the sake of the toothpicks.  We don’t want over-zealous children chomping down on pointy wood pieces.

Have fun!  These can be as simple as I made them or as dramatic as you want.  If you need ideas for alternate ways to decorate, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.


Barely Cooking Brisket

As you all know I’m a short cuts kind of a cook.  So when I had a brisket that was going to go bad and about 20 minutes in which to do something with it before my chaotic day took over, here’s what I came up with:

The Barely-Cooking Brisket

When I’m running short on time I always turn to my faithful slow-cooker.  It is simply the best!  I honestly think it’s my favorite kitchen tool.  Slow cooking makes things taste better with half the work.  It was thus a no-brainer to use it for my brisket.

There’s my lovely brisket, some leftover grilled onions from the day before, brown sugar, baby carrots, oregano, garlic salt, and ketchup.

Here’s a more organized list:

3lb brisket trimmed of fat

2 tbsp of oregano

2 tbsp of garlic salt

1 tbsp of brown sugar

1.5 cup of ketchup

1-2 cups of baby carrots

1-2 onions cut into large chunks

2 cups of beef broth

1 cup water

Once you’ve cut up your onion, depending on how much you like onion use one or two, put half of the chunks on the bottom of the slow-cooker and lay the brisket on top.

(You really should trim the fat off of it but since I was in a hurry I didn’t, which meant I had to flip it halfway through cooking.  Don’t be like me.)

Once that’s done, cover the brisket in ketchup (or if you have chili sauce you can use that and not have to use any of the other dry ingredients).

As you can tell I didn’t take the time to actually measure but instead squirted the ketchup from the bottle directly onto the meat! Also my flash came on in this picture.  I’m very good at this whole camera thing.

Next add you oregano and garlic salt (or if you want to be fancy, crush 4-5 cloves of garlic and mince, replace garlic salt with minced garlic and 1 tbsp of salt).

It’s starting to look kinda good! Next add brown sugar, massage ingredients into brisket and cover with remaining onions.

Throw on your baby carrots, as much or as little as you like.  Next add beef broth, if you’ve got it, or chicken broth and water.

Finally set your slow cooker and walk away!

I set mine on low for 7 hours.  This would be a great meal to make if you’re rushing off in the morning!

At long last the meat:

Yum! The boyfriend had to work late so I didn’t get to eat this like a normal meal so I can’t attest to how it turned out with the meat and gravy served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.  I did make a brisket sandwich with some of the gravy drizzled onto the bread, though and it was delicious!