Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lotsa Lotsa Lasagna

All my children and husband love my lasagna. It's been a staple and/or treat for 31 years around the Stowers household. I got the recipe on a trip to Atlanta to see my brother Rusty's family in the summer of 1980.Ross and Sara were infants. Clay was one year old. I believe it was the fourth of July as I remember my sister-in-law, Stacy, and brother-in-law, Sid, running the the Peachtree Road Race. Yes, Stacy was just a few, maybe 6, weeks postpartum and I thought she was crazy and we would find her inner parts on the road somewhere, but being the medical novice that I was, I was wrong. She and Sid finished the race very well.

If you've ever been around the Ross clan around feeding time, you know that's like the feeding of the 5000. We do love to eat. Stacy served many great things that weekend. Having a personal aversion to running I spent a lot of time copying her recipes. I remember specifically her Greek Braid Bread, Praline Cheesecake, All-American Coffee Cake and Baked Lasagna. The prior two recipes were used by me only a couple of times over the years. (My husband was not a particular fan of whole wheat bread nor pecans.) However, the latter became staples in our household.

Whenever I asked my son, Ross, what he would like for dinner he would answer with two specific requests; pot roast or LASAGNA (imagine it said really fast and loud). Of course, those two things, his favorites, take quite a bit of time to prepare properly, so I would usually have to ask for something else.

Ross and his family are coming for a visit before heading back to Italy and I thought I would prepare a few things for the freezer to minimize some of my kitchen time while they are here. One being said lasagna. So, after going to the hairdresser on Wednesday of this week, I stopped in at my local HEB, my favorite grocery store, to purchase the needed ingredients. I love HEB and their store brand products are really equal to any name brand in most cases; especially if used as an ingredient in a baked item. So, amongst all the other needed products, I picked up 3 24-oz cartons of HEB Small Curd Cottage Cheese to use in the 3 lasagnas I was preparing. My plan was to make them Thursday, including a small one for Mark and my dinner, and freeze the remainder.

Thursday came and after lunch I worked about 3 hours preparing the recipe. It looked good if not perfect. Into the freezer they went. After working so, I popped the small dish in the oven, and I retired to my den to watch a little local news, something I rarely do. (I don't like the news, but that's another post.) Imagine my horror and shock when sweet Dominique Sachse announced a recall of HEB cottage cheese and sour cream. It was a purely preventative step HEB was taking, but you were to return any product to HEB for a full refund. WHAT?????

I immediately called customer service at HEB headquarters. It was after 5, so they were closed for the day. If it has been a germ or bug, or something, I would have dismissed it, being they were baked, but what if it was someone's FINGER or something? I called my local store. The manager, Mike, was very nice about it, but said he could not recommend me salvaging the lasagnas and that he would let me come to the store, reshop all the ingredients, including the ones I had used from my pantry. Wow. That was great, but still, the time and the precious LASAGNA!!!! It hurt to throw it in the garbage. I know there are people who go through garbage daily to have something to eat. Oh, my. My inner humanitarian HATED that. But throw it away, I did.

I spent my Friday afternoon as a repeat of Thursday and now there are 3 beautiful lasagnas in the freezer waiting the arrival of my family.

I also followed the advice of several, including Stacy, when I wrote a nice, but firm letter to HEB requesting compensation for my time, the electricity, gas and other resources used to remake the dishes. We'll see what they do about that.

Since the beginning of the debacle involving the tainted cottage cheese, I've had several requests for this recipe.. I've tweaked it a little over the years, but it's basically the same.

brown 1 1/2 pounds of good quality ground beef (I do this in the microwave in 6 minutes using my Pampered Chef Batter Bowl with lid. Contact Sara Foster for more info on that. I also use the PC Mix & Chop to get a perfect texture in the beef.)d

drain fat


1 clove garlic minced (I use a little more)

1 1/2 Tablespoons parsley

1 Tablespoon basil

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1-lb can of diced tomatoes

2 6-oz tomato paste

Mix well and let simmer for at least 30 minutes

Cottage Cheese Mixture

3 cups of cream style small curd cottage cheese

2 Tablespoons parsley flakes

2 beaten eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Stir well

Prepare a 13X9 baking dish with pam or similar product

I use the no-boil or oven ready lasagna noodles. They work great.



1/2 cottage cheese mixture

cover this completely with slices of mozzarella cheese (It will take 3/4 to one pound for entire recipe)

1/2 of the meat mixture

Repeat: pasta, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and meat

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting.

I like this because the cheese doesn't burn or get tough on top. If I'm going to all this trouble (and for me, make the considerable mess), I always at least double or triple the recipe and put the extras in the freezer. It works great. If you allow it to thaw, you bake it the same way. If it's still frozen, reduce the heat to 350, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the middle is hot.

Enjoy. I know we'll savor every bite of ours!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Organizational March Madness!

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to know my sister-in-law, Stacy, you are missing a treat. She has the ultimate gift of hospitality coupled with organizational skills matching no other. I have an area of my countertop I call "my useless corner" because it is tucked in the corner between the fridge and dishwasher. The designers of my kitchen thought the "drawers" that are 4.5" wide adjacent to one another on the corner would be of some use. NOT. They aren't even wide enough for a potholder or dishtowel. The fridge space is not open, but a wooden "box" so the side next to the corner is dark and difficult to maneuver around although the space is 18" wide by the depth of the bottom cabinets. (Picture will be following) On their visit during mom's birthday last month, I asked her to help me come up with an efficient use of this space. I reminded her that I was serious on the visit this past weekend. She laughed and said she had been thinking of some solutions and was waiting for me to bring it up again.The "useless" corner that started it all!

I am organizationally challenged. I can do the basics, but sometimes look at things in a jumble and cannot picture a way to make sense of it. It has gotten better since we moved and shed ourselves of some 30+ years of accumulations, but still there are myriad places I need to work on. Stacy can look at it and instantly come up with a great plan! I gave her carte blanche to go at my area. She said that really I had so much space in lots of areas in my kitchen and pantry and laundry room, but I wasn't putting it to its best use. After her girls and grandchildren left, she sent me to a nap, her energy kicked in and she started to work. (I know she worked so much easier without my sentimentality and inefficiency in her way.) She single-handedly organized the following areas of my home in one afternoon and one morning: my pantry is now sleek and so functional. That in and of itself is a marvelous feat. She totally reconfigured my laundry room and its cabinets and repurposed so many of my storage spaces that I now have what she calls "white space" waiting for more items. One of our proudest "green" solutions in the laundry room was to take a newly discovered bicycle storage hook from the garage and put it opposite the dryer for me to hang shirts or other things on hangers or to dry. She organized the area under my kitchen sink. It wasn't really that full, but she purposed it so that I have all my cleaning supplies, trash can liners, and even an area for my cutting boards to be stored vertically there. She repositioned some of my drawers for efficiency and usefulness. She took a "coat closet" which has never held a coat since we've lived here and turned it into a pantry annex for my small electric appliances (ones I don't use everyday such as crock pot, waffle maker, seal-a-meal, electric skillet, etc.) and tupperware. The great thing is it is adjacent to my kitchen and very handy. I had been using it for my vacuum and broom, etc. but so much of it was space being wasted.

Laundry shelves with "white space" picture 1.

More laundry cabinets "White space" #2.

Repurposed bicycle rack. It will fold up and away when not in use. Don't worry, it's high enough I won't hit my head on it! She thinks of everything!

Pantry all clean!

The best part of it is the servant's heart she displayed while working, tinkering and problem solving. She would giggle with delight when a plan came together. Such as getting a little help from the men in the house to demo a shelf out of one of those skinny cabinets so I would have a vertical place for my cookie sheets and baking stones or researching the internet for the perfect Rubbermaid turntable for a certain set of supplies. Her pleasure in a job well done and thought out was infectious!

I can't thank her enough for sharing this gift with me. She did mention that she did it for fun and not a business, so don't call her. We have a relationship that goes back to the earliest days of high school and included her being in my wedding where she and my brother became reacquainted after, as my daddy would say, she had "all growed up." The rest is family history.

Thank you, Sister Friend!
Under the sink. Cleaning supplies in the tub on the left. It's white so you can see what's in there. On the right, we have a repurposed pot lid holder for my cutting boards, a tray and longer aluminum foil, waxed and parchment paper.

The new place for cookie sheets and baking stones.

The drawer under the oven that used to hold the cookie sheets, etc. Now for iron skillets, etc. that used to be on top of the fridge in the laundry room.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflections on a Psalm

This morning as the doves are calling to one another,the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and I'm on my back patio reading this Psalm, I just had to share it.

8 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

7 all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

It speaks for itself in so many ways, so I won't say much. Our majestic Lord put us on this earth to enjoy it's beauty, majesty, His fun imagination evidenced in creation, from microscopic organisms to the blue whales that roam our seas, to the infectious smile of my grandson, to the freckles on my chocolate lab's nose or the pink blossoms of the azaleas in the front yard, it was all created for us by a most imaginative God.

Thank you is not enough for all these sweet evidences of your love for me, but it is all I have. Thank you, Jesus.