I woke up not feeling the greatest but figured since I had planned for today to do the brunt of the work, I'd better suck it up and get started.
I started off the morning with the ingredients for the Baked Ziti. Of course, I didn't have Ziti pasta. I had Bowtie pasta in the pantry and that's what I used. So I guess you would call this a Pasta Bake. Anyway, I like to sneak in some healthy foods into our meals when I can. So here's what I do with spaghetti and this Pasta Bake. (I'm really glad my hubby doesn't read my blog or he might never eat our spaghetti again!)
Secret #1 - Pureed Spinach
I purchased some of the Green Giant boxed spinach and thawed it out. I cut the bag in half and used half in this recipe and saved the other half for the Chicken Alfredo Florentine. Next I poured the spinach into my Magic Bullet (I love this thing. My Momma gave it to us a couple of years ago and it's wonderful!) I added a little extra water to help it swirl and puree.
Then I poured the pureed spinach into the browned ground beef. It doesn't look very appetizing but the point is that it's healthy. We're able to add a little extra iron and vitamins into our diet this way.
Now you see it...
...and now you don't.
I love how the spaghetti sauce turns a rusty red when it mixes with the spinach. And the best part? He (my hubby) or your children will never know it's in there! (As a side note, make sure you clean up the kitchen and get rid of all the evidence pointing to the spinach. You don't want to get caught, do you?)
Secret #2 - Fennel Seed
I love watching the Food Network. I remember one of the chefs (can't recall which one) was talking about how adding Fennel Seed to ground meat and it takes on an Italian Sausage sort of flavor. Italian Sausage normally costs about $2.99 for a 16 oz package (that's $2.99 per pound in case you were thrown by the ounces). Sometimes you can get ground meat on sale, whether it's beef, pork, chicken or turkey, for around $.99 to $1.50 per pound. Add a teaspoon of crushed Fennel Seed while the meat is browning and you've got yourself some tasty "Italian Sausage" flavored meat at half the cost. If you like the Hot Italian Sausage, just add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat.
My husband bought this bottle of Fennel Seed at Kroger for $3.79. It will likely last me a long time. The fragrance is amazingly similar to that of Italian Sausage.
My Coupon Queen, Donna, texted me over the weekend to let me know she found some ground beef reduced at Kroger. I asked her to pick me up 2 rolls if they had enough, and she did. It was about to go out of date, so I needed to brown it up and get it into the freezer. I decided to brown up one of the 3 pound rolls for tacos and what-not throughout the month. But for the other one, I decided to mix up Mini Meatloaves. And oh my goodness, they smelled wonderful when they were baking! Here's how I make our meatloaf:
3 lb roll ground beef
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 teaspoons yellow mustard
3 tablespoons A1 sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
In a large bowl, add everything but the ground beef. Mix it thoroughly. Add the ground beef and lightly mix it. You don't want to overwork the meat or you'll end up with hard-as-bricks meatloaves. Divide the meat into 4 sections and then halve those to shape 8 mini meatloaves. (You could totally shape this into 2 loaves and bake them off but I really like shorter cooking times. I'm a really impatient person.) Bake them at 350-375 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes. (I have to confess I didn't time these. I kept an eye on them and then checked the temperature with my instant read thermometer for 160 degrees.) I took them out of the oven and removed them from all that yucky grease.
Serve them hot with the Meatloaf Glaze (recipe below). Or to freeze them for future meals, let them cool on a wire rack and then package them into a freezer food storage bag. I mixed up the meatloaf glaze and poured it into a separate bag and put it inside the larger bag holding the meatloaves.
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard
Mix everything in a small bowl and pour over hot meatloaf. Yummy!
Normally we make meatloaf using ground turkey and I add very finely chopped spinach (masquerading as chopped parsley, of course!). Tupperware makes (or made, I've had it for a long time) a tube pan for the microwave. I nuke our turkey meatloaf in the microwave for about 12-14 minutes and it's perfect every time. I do not nuke the ground beef as there is usually a lot of nasty grease that comes out and that's really messy.
I also made the Chicken Alfredo Florentine Casserole today. I used this recipe and only tweaked it a little.
Chicken Alfredo Florentine Casserole
16 oz box pasta (I used Penne, it's what I had in the pantry)
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 tablespoons flour
17 ounces evaporated milk (12 oz can + 5 oz can)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups cooked chicken, cubed (about 2 breasts)
1/2 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Prepare the pasta according to package directions. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Continuing to whisk, slowly add the milk. Add the seasonings and cheese. Mixing well, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken and spinach and stir well. Drain the pasta and add it to the cheese mixture. Divide the mixture into two (2) one gallon freezer food storage bags.
When you are ready to serve, thaw in the fridge overnight. Pour the thawed casserole into an 8x8 casserole dish, top with bread crumbs and extra Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
So you might have noticed I have two smaller baggies marked "Chicken Pasta Bake". Yes, I spoil my husband and since I know he will NOT eat spinach in it's original form, I took a little of the mixture out of the pot before adding the spinach so he can eat with us.
I finished up the afternoon with 18 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and a loaf of Orange Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread. I used the Pumpkin Muffin recipe to make the Sweet Potato Bread. I substituted mashed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin and frozen chopped cranberries for the chocolate chips. The Sweet Potato Bread is delicious. I decided to add fresh orange zest at the last minute and am so glad I did. I think I'll add chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter next time just for little extra crunch value.
Sorry this is such a long post, but I figured it would be easier to make one post rather than a bunch of smaller ones.
Tomorrow, I'm going to work on the pizza dough and the yeast rolls.
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