Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Photography Series

I don't really do so called "resolutions",  goals are easier to achieve, allow for steps forward, and lessons learned. There is no option for failure.

There are things that I am very excited to make improvements on this year!  One of my 2012 goals will be to make a conscience effort to improve and broaden my photography skills.  I was inspired by Alex Beadon photography's site and her 365 project.

One of the reasons I started this blog in November 2011 was to challenge myself to grow and inspire more creativity in my life (more of my goals are on my About Me). One specific goal was to grow as a photographer.  I think moments are "easy" to capture, but I think any photographer would agree telling a story is more of a challenge. I think a picture can make the viewer ask what happened before, why is that, what will happen next.  So, with these pictures, I hope to also grow as a storyteller.

Some photos will be included under the tab Photography. Updates within posts will have the tag Photography.

Have an awesome and blessed New Year!

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* Quotes are linked to my Pinterest board titled "Be Inspired" via repins .

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lasagna without Ricotta Cheese

My lasagna recipe is a fav that has evolved over time. This recipe is so easy I should make it more often.  The short cuts I've found have helped simplify the recipe.

One of the challenges opportunities I have found in our family is that not everyone is a ricotta fan. And, I don't like lasagna based on cottage cheese (Ew-w-w!). So, I have made this recipe without either. It's cheesy homey goodness!  

This post is my first attempt at food photography, so you'll find me experimenting with the camera. It's been interesting and fun!


Lasagna With Italian Meat Sauce without Ricotta Cheese

Prep: 15 min.; Cook: 1 hr., 45 min.

Ingredients - Lasagna
1 (16-ounce) package dried precooked lasagna noodles
6 cup s(12 ounces) shredded Italian three-blend cheese*
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Parsley (about 1 cup fresh)
4 egg whites
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
6 cups “Italian Meat Sauce” 

Prepare noodles per package.

To keep the noodles moist, layer the noodles on a baking sheet with a wet paper towel between each layer.  Cover the top layer with wet paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Stir together ingredients through pepper and set aside.

Spread 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce in dish.
Arrange 3 noodles over meat sauce.
Top with half of cheese mixture and 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce and more noodles.

Top with remaining cheese mixture and 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce.
Arrange 3 noodles over sauce and top with remaining 1 1/2 cups Italian Meat Sauce.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, at 350° for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes. 

* Notes
  • If I don't have enough cheese, I have used a Colby & Monterrey Jack blend. It's been a good substitute.
  • When spooning sauce over the noodles, it is important to cover the noodles completely with the sauce. Otherwise, the noodles will dry and be crunchy.

This post was linked up here!...

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

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Italian Meat Sauce Recipe

Italian Meat Sauce
This sauce makes about 14 cups, but only 6 cups are needed for the lasagna. Freeze extra sauce in zip-top plastic freezer bags, and use later for another meal. 
Ingredients - Sauce
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
1 pound mild italian sausage
2 large onions, chopped
2 medium-size green bell peppers, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 (26-ounce) jarred pasta sauce (I used a jar of Newman's Own Tomato & Basil and a jar of Newman's Own Marinara)
About ½ cup red wine (leftover from a prior meal is perfect)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp rosemary
4 tbsp oregano
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp red pepper (I used dried Thai chili peppers that we grew in the garden over the summer)

Add olive oil to a large saute pan.
Cook ground beef and sausage until meat crumbles and is no longer pink.. Drain well.

Pour sauce into a large dutch oven over medium heat.
Put red wine into pasta jars and shake. Add to sauce.

Using the saute pan that the meat was cooked in, lightly saute onion, peppers, and garlic until a very light brown (Just enough to bring out the favors).
Add meat in batches to sauce .
Add remaining vegetables to sauce.
Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Yield: Makes about 14 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

One of our family's traditions each year is adding the kids' handprints to our Christmas tree skirt.

I started this tradition in 2001 when my children were small.  It shows their growth and has evolved into a timeline for my family.   Each year's handprints have an "ornament" that shows the year. My remarriage in 2009 brought with it a blended family, so this skirt shows the addition of my two step-daughters.
Everyday a la Mode ~ Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

Growing hands and an expanding family has produced a very full tree skirt, so this year each I needed to add an extended border around the outside of the original skirt. Our handprints for 2011 will be added to the new white boarder section.

Now, there is a lot of space for hands that are continuing to grow (I hope my step-daughter's don't keep growing. Wow, does she already has big hands!). I can also see it someday having the handprints of our grandchildren (but not for a very, very, very long time.)

Everyday a la Mode ~ Handprint Christmas Tree Skirt

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recycled Paper Bead Christmas Ornaments

This paper bead project is a great "recycling" project that turned out adorable!

My daughter's Girl Scout troop needed a holiday-related project that would correspond with their upcoming caroling event.

I choose a recycling / craft project for the troop after being inspired by  "{New-New} blog's recycling project" that resulted in beads made from paper. Pretty nifty idea! And, since it's a Girl Scout project, I can whip out my virtual soapbox and remind the girls of the importance of recycling. (I keep my soapbox in a virtual backpack so I can lecture my kids at any given time.)

I had planned to do a dry run of this project to see how long it would take and to see if the project was too difficult for the girls to do some of the bead molding. It turned out to be more labor intensive and time consuming than I had planned, so I scrapped the dry run idea and made the beads outside of the the troop meetings.
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