Friday, November 30, 2012

November Re-Make Re-Cap

We enjoyed quite a few of our favorite dishes this month, and just typing up this post right now is making me hungry for so many of these things. I guess that's because they're some of our favorites, huh? :)

These Cajun ranch chicken sandwiches are definitely near the top of my list of favorite sandwiches, ever. I just love the way the ranch cools down the spicy Cajun-seasoned chicken. Add in some bacon for smokiness and some tangy Swiss cheese, and these sandwiches are just perfect.

I actually made this chicken parmesan pasta three times this month. This is a meal that my family acutally asks for by name (the boys call it "chicken nugget pasta"), and it's so delicious and simple that I'm happy to comply with this request as often as they make it.

Out of all the different types of burgers I've made (and there are a lot!), I'm pretty sure these Marsala burgers are my favorite. They're so decadent and flavorful. I didn't add the onion when I made them this time, and I really didn't miss it. I was too busy moaning over the deliciousness of those boozy mushrooms and that smoky melted cheese.

Speaking of deliciousness, that's what these Southwestern BBQ shredded chicken sandwiches are in a nutshell. Gah, I just love them, and they're so beautiful to look at too.

I guess this was a month of sandwiches for us, huh? We love these Cuban sandwiches, and since the pork cooks ahead of time, they're a perfect meal for a busy weeknight. I used our leftover pork for the shredded pork po' boys I shared earlier this week.

I made a giant batch of these candy bar cookies to get rid of a bunch of the boys' Halloween candy. What I love about these cookies is that they're so adaptable; you can use whatever mix-ins you like. I also love how crispy they are. I'm a big fan of crispy cookies. Actually, I'm just a big fan of cookies in general.

Surprise! Another sandwich! These pulled chicken Suiza sandwiches are like a Mexican version of a traditional shredded chicken sandwich. Even the boys love these.

Taco rice is one of our favorite dinners ever. I could seriously eat this stuff three times a week and never, ever get sick of it.

I made these pesto chicken crescent pockets for the second time this month, and they went over so well with my family that I'm pretty sure they'll be a montly occurrence from now on. 

As I do every year for Thanksgiving, this year I made my mom's sweet potato casserole. Everyone loves this dish, and there are never leftovers -- much to Joe's chagrin, since it's one of his favorite things in the world to eat and he only gets it once a year.

I was craving roast beef last week, so I put this roast beef with mushroom gravy on our menu. I used the leftovers for -- you guessed it -- another version of a po' boy! (The verdict: both the shredded pork and roast beef versions were delicious, but the pork was slightly better.)

My boys are starting to enjoy soup more, so I've been taking advantage of that as much as possible and making it more often. I made this cream cheese potato soup for dinner last night, and they loved it. It had been a while since I'd made it, so I'd completely forgotten how absolutely delicious it is. I served it with bacon grilled cheese sandwiches, because Will insisted that bacon be part of our meal in some way. He's a good boy. I'm so proud.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shredded Pork Po' Boys

Lately, I am just absolutely obsessed with Cajun flavors. I tend to go through phases like this with certain ingredients. Crescent rolls and pesto are good examples of some of my past phases; currently, it's cajun seasoning. I've been putting it on everything, and I'm constantly dreaming up new ways to use it.

I'm also always trying to find new ways to use leftovers so they don't go to waste. Now that my husband is no longer working third shift (hallelujah!), he doesn't eat a big dinner-type meal in the mornings like he used to -- which means that our leftovers have a tendency to just sit there. When I found myself with some leftover shredded pork recently, I spent some time brainstorming what to do with it, and this is what I came up with. A juicy, delicious shredded pork po' boy, smothered in remoulade sauce. This sandwich is fan.freaking.tastic. It's so fantastic, in fact, that we ate it two nights in a row.

I'm listing the shredded pork recipe I used below. I made the pork for another recipe so the seasonings are pretty basic, but if you want to make it specifically for these sandwiches you could add some Cajun seasoning to the meat.

Shredded Pork Po' Boys

For the pork:

1 2-pound pork shoulder or butt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

For the remoulade:

1 cup mayonnaise
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped pickles
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons hot sauce

For serving:

4 hoagie rolls, split and toasted
Shredded lettuce
Sliced tomatoes

1. To make the pork, combine garlic, pepper, oregano or marjoram, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Rub pork with this mixture and refrigerate overnight. Cook in a Crock pot on low for 8 hours.

2. To make the sauce, blend mayonnaise, scallions, pickle, hot sauce and Cajun seasoning in food processor or blender. Cover and chill until serving.

3. To assemble the sandwiches, arrange pork on the bottom of a hoagie roll. Top with shredded lettuce, tomato, a generous drizzle of remoulade, and the roll top. Devour.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Two-Bean and Rice Burritos

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Ours was really lovely this year -- lots of quality family time, gorgeous weather, and absolutely delicious food. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for so many reasons, and as I get older I just get more and more thankful for all of the blessings in my life.

I have allowed myself four days of gluttony (Thanksgiving, followed by football food, followed by a massive comfort food Sunday dinner), so it's time to get back on track with eating more balanced meals. I've planned a lighter menu for us this week, as well as some outdoor activities to burn some energy (as long as it's not too cold).

I thought it would be the perfect day to share these burritos with you, because they're lighter than your average burrito. They're ready in the time it takes the rice to cook, so they're perfect for a weeknight, and they're absolutely delicious. The ingredients are humble, but in this recipe they truly do come together to make one outstanding, healthy dinner. 

Two-Bean and Rice Burritos
adapted from Annie's Eats (rice recipe is mine)

For the rice:

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

For the bean filling:

2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons salsa

For serving:

6 9- or 10-inch flour tortillas, warmed
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Sour cream

1. To make the rice, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds. Add rice and stir until coated, fragrant, and lightly toasted. Add chicken stock and cilantro. Bring to a boil and reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked. Let stand 5 minutes off heat, then fluff with a fork. Add lime juice, remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper.

2. To make the bean filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin, salt and cayenne; stir, cooking just until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the beans and the stock to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the salsa and mash the mixture with a spoon or fork.

3. Spoon about a third of a cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla. Top each serving with a spoonful of the rice, a pinch of shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream. Roll the tortillas up tightly, burrito style, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey Cupcakes

If you search for "turkey cupcakes" on Google Images or Pinterest, believe me: You will get a lot of results. You will get lots and lots of results. When faced with the prospect of making a dessert for Andrew's Thanksgiving feast at preschool, I knew I wanted to make cupcakes that looked like turkeys, so I turned to Pinterest and found, unsurprisingly, tons of options. First I thought I'd make turkey dinner cupcakes, using chewy caramels shaped like turkeys, but I could see that getting tedious very quickly. I'm not the most patient or artistic person, so I could just imagine how my turkeys would look.

I ultimately drew my inspiration from lots of the pins I saw and made my own version, and I couldn't be more pleased with how they turned out. They were so cute, and the kids just loved them. By all accounts, they were a huge hit and quite delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you have wonderful, peaceful days with your families and friends.

Turkey Cupcakes
cupcakes inspired by various pins on Pinterest; frosting from Savory Sweet Life

For the cupcakes:

1 box chocolate or devil's food cake mix
Water, oil, and eggs called for on the box
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting:

1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy cream

For the decorations:

Yellow and red colored sugar
Chow mein noodles
Vanilla wafers
White decorating frosting
Miniature chocolate chips
Orange and yellow Dots candies

1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven as directed on box and line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners. Combine cake mix with water, oil, eggs, and vanilla and stir until completely combined. Bake according to the directions on the box, usually about 18 to 20 minutes.

2. To make the frosting, cream the butter for a couple of minutes until smooth. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional cream 1 tablespoon at a time. Frost the cooled cupcakes.

3. Place a dollop of the chocolate frosting on the front of each cupcake (this is where the "head" of the turkey will rest). Combine red and yellow sugars and sprinkle over the cupcakes. Stick chow mein noodles in the back of each cupcake for the feathers.

4. To make the faces, add dots of white frosting on the vanilla wafers to make the eyes. Use a miniature chocolate chip for each pupil. Using a rolling pin, roll Dots out into relatively thin layers and use a paring knife to cut them into beak shapes. Secure the beaks with a dot of white frosting. Place the heads on the cupcakes and gently press down to ensure that they're secure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Quinoa Stuffing

My cooking club met for our November get-together over the weekend, and it was such a wonderful time, as usual. The wine and the laughter flowed, and we enjoyed a truly delicious meal. This month's theme was Thanksgiving, but not just any Thanksgiving dish; we had to make a new twist on a classic. We had harissa green beans, loaded mashed potato casserole, and salted caramel mascarpone pumpkin cheesecake (OMG), among other delicious dishes. My contribution was this quinoa stuffing, which was universally enjoyed.

I'm a huge fan of stuffing; in fact, I think it's probably my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. And I have to be honest: This particular stuffing would never replace the traditional, all-bread version of stuffing on my Thanksgiving table. But that doesn't mean it wasn't absolutely delicious. It's prepared just like you'd make a traditional stuffing, but quinoa is added to it before baking. The recipe can easily be adapted to make it vegetarian or even completely vegan. The quinoa gives the stuffing a great texture and a nutritional boost that means you can feel good about eating it. And on a holiday when practically everyone overeats on all kinds of fattening yumminess, feeling good about eating even one aspect of the meal is no small thing!

Quinoa Stuffing
adapted from

1 cup quinoa
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 slices dried (or lightly toasted) bread, cubed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1. In a medium saucepan, simmer quinoa in 2 1/4 cups chicken stock with bay leaves until done, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and discard, and set the quinoa aside.

2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.

3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, celery, garlic, thyme sprigs, sage, and salt and pepper. Add white wine and simmer until reduced. Discard thyme sprigs.

4. Reduce heat to low and add cubed bread and nuts, stirring to combine well. Add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time until bread is well moistened. Add reserved quinoa and gently toss to combine well.

5. Transfer to prepared casserole dish and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Gnocchi

First of all, thank you all so much for your sweet comments on my last post! You guys are just the best. It's been so much fun sharing recipes with you and getting to know so many of you over the past four-and-a-half years. I have no intentions of stopping now, so get ready for the next thousand recipes! :)

My family loves gnocchi. We have a go-to recipe that I make often and that we all absolutely love, but every once in a while I get the itch to do something different. Recently that itch led me to combine gnocchi with bacon, cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar and broccoli to make a meal reminiscent of a loaded baked potato. And it was very, very good. It was fantastic, actually. It was a creamy, cheesy delight. The next time you're looking for something different to do with gnocchi, I highly, highly recommend you give this recipe a try!

Loaded Baked Potato Gnocchi

2 packages vaccuum-packed gnocchi (about 16 ounces each)
10 strips of bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
4 green onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups chopped broccoli, steamed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.

2. While the gnocchi is cooking, cook the bacon over medium heat in a large skillet until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain and discard most of the bacon drippings.

3. Over medium heat, add the butter to the same skillet and let it melt. Add the green onions and saute until they're just softened, a couple of minutes. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream until the cream cheese is fully incorporated and the mixture is bubbling. Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and let it melt. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little bit of milk. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, taste for seasonsing and add half of the bacon, the broccoli, and the gnocchi and stir to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with remaining cup of cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling. Sprinkle each serving with the reserved bacon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Celebrating 1000 Posts with Oreo Overload Cheesecake Cupcakes

This is my 1000th post. I'm sitting here in shock as I type this, because I just can't believe that I've reached this milestone. It took me four and a half years, but I did it! I don't share fancy recipes, my photos are only mediocre, and I don't have a grand following or a cookbook deal, but still. This space is mine, and I'm incredibly proud of what it's become. It still gives me a thrill when someone takes the time to comment on one of my posts or to pin a recipe on Pinterest, and I just want to thank each and every one of you who visits me here. Thank you so much for caring about what I'm cooking, and for sharing in a hobby that has come to mean so much to me!

A momentous occasion such as this calls for a momentous dessert, does it not? And these cupcakes are nothing if not momentous. I made them for a co-worker's birthday. I've become the cupcake lady at work, and when I asked this co-worker what type of cupcake he wanted, he told me "something dark chocolate-y, cheesecake-y, and Oreo-y." Done, done, and done. I knew these cupcakes were going to be fantastic the moment this idea popped into my head.

Basically, you take a dark chocolate cupcake (that starts from a boxed mix; see above re: the fact that I'm not fancy, plus I just think boxed cake mixes work best for cupcakes because they're so darn difficult to screw up), stuff it with Oreo cheesecake filling, and top it with chocolate Oreo cream cheese frosting. To up the Oreo flavor even more, I used the special edition cookies and creme Oreos. The result is a sweet, creamy cupcake that more than one person said are the best cupcakes I've ever made.

Oreo Overload Cheesecake Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 box dark chocolate cake mix
Water, oil, and eggs called for on the box
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cheesecake filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Oreo cookies, crushed

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup Oreo cookies, crushed

1. To make the cupcakes, combine cake mix, water, oil, eggs, cocoa powder, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

2. To make the cheesecake filling, use a handmixer to mix together the cream cheese and the sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until completely combined. Gently stir in crushed Oreo cookies.

3. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Add a tablespoon of the cupcake batter to each liner and top with a tablespoon of the cheesecake filling. Use the remaining cupcake batter to fill the muffin cups to 2/3 full. Bake according to the directions on the box and cool completely before frosting.

4. To make the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer. Add vanilla, powdered sugar and cocoa powder, adding more powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency. Gently stir in crushed Oreos. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and frost the cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Scalloped Sweet Potato Stacks

I first tried these scalloped sweet potato stacks at my cooking club's monthly meet-up in August. Our theme was Southern food, and one of my friends brought these since sweet potatoes are so synonymous with the South. They were so delicious that I proceeded to eat more of them than I care to admit, and I couldn't get them out of my head after that. I finally had to ask her for the recipe so I could make them myself.

Sweet potatoes are often paired with sweet ingredients, which is undoubtedly a delicious way to eat them, but I really love them when they're savory as well. In this recipe, sliced sweet potatoes are paired with cheese, garlic, thyme and cream and baked in individual portions in a muffin tin for a simple yet sophisticated side dish. They're endlessly adaptable with whatever cheeses and herbs you like (I used mozzarella for some, and cheddar for some), and they just taste fantastic. They'd be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table -- or just to your dinner table on any day of the year.

Scalloped Sweet Potato Stacks
adapted from A Bountiful Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided 
1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese, divided
2/3 cup heavy cream 
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer half of sweet potatoes in a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan. Sprinkle with a light layer of salt. Then sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme and 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining sweet potatoes. (Potatoes should come slightly above the rim of each cup.)

2. Microwave cream, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme for 1 minute. Pour cream mixture into muffin cups (about 1 tablespoon per cup).

3. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.

4. Let stand 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around rim of each cup, and lift potato stacks from cups using a spoon or thin spatula. Transfer to a serving platter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice Bake

People, can we get a HALLELUJAH that the election is finally over? Can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief? Ahhhh. No matter who you voted for, I think we're all happy that we'll no longer be subjected to the phone calls, mailings, and television and radio ads. I am ready to move on with my life, that's for sure.

My son's preschool class also voted on Tuesday, but they voted in a food election: spaghetti vs. macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese won by a 3 to 1 margin. I hear that mac and cheese had an irresistible platform: a promise to always be creamy, cheesy, comforting and delicious. I don't think spaghetti stood a chance.

If mac and cheese went up against this rice, though? Well, the results might have been very different. Not only is this casserole creamy, cheesy, comforting, and delicious, it's also ranch-y and loaded with bacon. It's simple to make and innovative, too, with the rice cooking directly in the cheese sauce (the rice absorbs the sauce's flavor and thickens it, so there's no need for cream soups in this recipe). It's adaptable, and would be delicious with pimientos and/or broccoli stirred in. It would be very, very hard to beat, in any type of election or at dinner time. Our whole family loved it, especially Andrew, who ate two huge helpings. Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice for President! Stay tuned for 2016.

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice Bake

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 1/2 cups milk
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 cup sour cream
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions until translucent and softened. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook and stir for 30 seconds.

3. Add flour and mix well for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is bubbling. Stir stock, milk, and ranch seasoning into flour mixture.Turn heat to medium high and add one cup cheese and continue to whisk as mixture comes to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Add rice and lower heat to medium low. Cook until the rice absorbs most of the liquid and is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, then stir in the chicken and bacon.

5. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch casserole. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the rice. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Quesadillas

I often wonder if there's a limit to the number of things one can make jalapeno popper-style. I'd like to think there isn't, because I just love the combination so much. I know it hasn't been very long since I shared the jalapeno popper wontons with you, but we enjoyed these quesadillas so much that I just couldn't wait to share them.

These quesadillas couldn't be simpler, and they pack all the flavor of a traditional jalapeno popper: bacon, cream cheese, jalapenos, cheddar cheese. I added chicken to make them more filling. In this version, minced fresh jalapenos are mixed directly into the cream cheese. If you're one of those people who's bothered by crunchy peppers, please feel free to use canned jalapenos instead, or to saute the fresh ones for a couple of minutes first. These were a huge hit with my family, and they're definitely on the "make again soon" list.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Quesadillas

4 strips bacon
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
4 flour tortillas

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain.

2. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add to the same skillet you used for the bacon and cook until both sides are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a couple of minutes, then dice it into small pieces.

3. Mix together the cream cheese and the jalapenos. Spread the mixture evenly over the flour tortillas. Top half of each tortilla with a strip of bacon, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, and some of the chicken. Fold the top of the tortilla over the filling and press together gently.

4. Cook the quesadillas in batches in a skillet coated with cooking spray until both sides are browned. Cut into slices and serve.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Baked Spaghetti Lasagna

This recipe has been all over Pinterest and the blogosphere recently, and I just have to add my own voice to all of the others that are saying: IT IS FREAKING DELICIOUS. This is a seriously, seriously good dinner. I'm always looking for fun new twists on lasagna since it's one of Joe's favorite dinners, and making it for him the traditional way is an all-day affair. This baked spaghetti tastes exactly like lasagna, with much less fuss.

Now, be forewarned: this recipe makes a ton of food. Yes, it contains 2 pounds of cheese and 1.5 pounds of pasta. I made the recipe as-is, and not only did we have enough for two separate dinners, we also had enough for lunches for all four of us for at least a week. It makes a lot. It can be easily halved if you're only cooking for a couple of people or if you don't like leftovers.

My personal favorite part of lasagna is the ricotta filling, and this recipe has that and then some. The noodles are mixed up with a ridiculously creamy mixture of ricotta, sour cream, half and half, and mozzarella -- and because I have to be me, I threw some cream cheese in there too. The mixture is poured into a casserole dish (a very large casserole dish) and baked, then each serving is topped with a scoop of meaty pasta sauce. It's stupid how good this is. Just stupid.

Baked Spaghetti Lasagna
adapted from Plain Chicken

1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) spaghetti
8 cups (32 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup half and half, milk, or heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Italian sausage
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Salt and pepper, and any other seasonings, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.

2. In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, sour cream, cream cheese, half-and-half, mozzarella, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, pepper, and half of the parmesan cheese. Add spaghetti and toss until well coated.

3. Pour the spaghetti mixture into a 9 x 13 pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Top spaghetti with remaining parmesan cheese. Cover dish aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.

4. While the pasta is baking, prepare the meat sauce. Melt the butter in a large skillet; add onion and sausage and saute until the meat is cooked thorugh and the onion is translucent. Add spaghetti sauce, adjust for seasoning, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

5. Remove the pasta from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut the pasta into squares and top each serving with the meat sauce.