Food, Main Meal

Super Yummy Spicy Mexican Lasagna


The first chilly days of fall have arrived! A few days ago I was really in the mood for something spicy. Maybe it was the chill of fall. Maybe it was the change of seasons that prompt my tastebuds to say, “We crave something different!”. Whatever it was, I came across this recipe from for Mexican Quesadilla Casserole. It looked good but I didn’t have corn tortillas. Or some of the other ingredients.

So I improvised this and that and decided to make it a Mexican lasagna instead.

It turned out wonderful. Like pitch-perfect, 100% awesome flavor yet still easy to make perfect. And my husband loved it. So it was a must for me to share 🙂

I do not have a lot of pictures of this one. I’ll just be real…it isn’t always easy to get a picture of my food creations. I’m hungry, my family is hungry. Time is limited. Kid raising takes a lot of energy! But I am learning, I promise. And busier women than I have done more and made it work. I will keep at it.

Anyways. Enough about my blogging aspirations. Sometimes I just have to get real with ya’ll. Sometimes it feels like my blog is a stage. And I’m the performer, manager and back stage crew all combined! Any one else feel that way too?

Haha well anyways here’s the recipe!


Super Yummy Spicy Mexican Lasagna

*Servings: 9+


  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • (2) 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • (1) 15.5oz can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 10oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn (GMO-free, if possible)
  • **2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 8oz shredded cheddar cheese

*This recipe can easily make a 9×9″ pan of lasagna. But there will be leftover filling. It could also be made as a 9×13″ pan, if you stretch it a bit, or as (2) 9×9″ pans (one could be frozen for later!)

**I make my own chili powder and this is the recipe I use.


1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray or lightly grease with oil.

2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add noodles and cook till al dente.

3. Mix the next 9 ingredients together in a medium sized pot. (All but the noodles and cheese.)

4. Cook beef and onion in a large skillet till beef is barely cooked through. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup water, scraping the pan to remove any browned bits.

5. Add beef to the tomato mixture, stir and simmer for 5 or so minutes to combine flavors.

6. Layer the lasagna. Beef mixture, noodles, cheese. More noodles, beef mixture cheese and repeat, if desired. I stopped at 2 layers.

7. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese has melted.


Pricing this recipe proved a bit tricky as I wasn’t sure of the price of certain items. But I can say for sure that this entire recipe makes at least 12 servings for $12 or less.

I used frozen sweet corn that I blanched and froze myself, which turned out to be 46¢ a cup. I also bought a block of cheddar cheese and grated it myself which cut the cost a bit as well.


Food, Main Meal

Easy Rustic Kielbasa and Noodles with Tomato-Onion Sauce


Sunday night I was cooking away in the kitchen. My husband came in and peered into the skillet. He said, “You’re going to have to save some of that for my lunch tomorrow”.

He had an appointment to keep and was eating supper out of the house that day. Meanwhile…yum. Seriously this was so good.

I had an inkling to make a skillet supper using kielbasa. Its a cheap and tasty ingredient. I thought about rice. Nah. How about onions…and tomatoes? Then add some noodles? Yeah that sounded good.

And that’s what happened.


Note: do not do what I did here! Tomatoes and cast iron skillets do not mix. Acid is about the only enemy of the cast iron skillet.


I’m a big fan of rustic, simple food. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overcomplicate things. Get the best ingredients you can and let them do the talking.

The onions carmelized a bit. The tomatoes, combined with the onions turned into a beautiful sauce. Everything together was wonderful. I have found a new favorite kielbasa recipe.


Don’t feel like you have to use egg noodles. I use them because my family loves them and they are cheap.

Other good choices would be rotini, campanelle, farfalle (bow ties) or rigatoni noodles. Whole wheat is better and healthier of course. Which is what we mostly do. Anymore it seems like organic whole wheat noodles aren’t that much more than regular noodles.

I always buy my kielbasa from Aldi because it is currently the only place I can find it cheap and msg-free.


Rustic Kielbasa and Noodles with Fresh Tomato and Onion Sauce

Serves 3-4


  • 8oz Polska Kielbasa (1/2 of a 14oz package), sliced into thin diagonal pieces.
  • 3-5 small tomatoes (I used 3 the first time. 5 made it more saucy), halved and quartered
  • 1 onion, diced
  • A few tbs. extra vigin olive oil
  • 4oz (about 1/4 of a 16oz package) egg noodles
  • s & p


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add egg noodles.
  2. While noodles are cooking, saute onion in about 2 TBS olive oil until just beginning to carmelize. Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add kielbasa and cook until tomatoes break down and the onions are translucent.
  4. Add noodles, stir and serve.



It cost me only $1.94 to make this recipe. Using tomatoes from the garden makes it cheap.

If I doubled this recipe, it would be $3.87.

I shop at Aldi mostly so if you’re curious about prices it was $1.99 for 14oz of Polska Kielbasa, $1.19 for 16oz egg noodles, and $1.49 for 5 onions. Olive oil I purchased at another store for $6.09 for 17oz.



Food, Main Meal

Crockpot Calico Beans


Growing up, there weren’t many family cookouts that felt complete without my Mom’s broccoli cauliflower salad or her calico beans. Just thinking about them brings me back to my Grandma’s house. All of my senses are enveloped and anchored when I enter Grandma’s kitchen.

Memories, comfort and love have always surrounded me there. We all loved seeing Grandma (still do!) but we especially appreciated all the food she and everyone else made for us.

After I was married, I made the transition to cooking a lot more. I had to find my niche. See what recipes work for my family. And even now, its a process.

I’ve recently learned that I can make calico beans in my crock pot. I found an awesome recipe by The Crockin’ Girls that I adapted a bit. It tastes different than my Mom’s recipe. She uses more beans and cooks hers in the oven. It’s thicker that way and richer in flavor. Soooo good!

So yeah it does taste different. But still yummy 🙂 My husband wolfed down his when I first tried the recipe. I said, “I didn’t know you liked calico beans so much!” To which he replied, “It’s the sauce babe. It’s so good!” Suffice to say, he stuffed himself. And L loved it too. She didn’t eat a lot but this is the only way I can get her to eat beans.



Ground beef.


Vinegar, lima beans, brown sugar, pork and beans, organic ketchup and onions.
Add all ingredients to crock pot.
Yummy leftover calico beans I had cold for supper yesterday.



Crockpot Calico Beans

Makes 8+ servings.


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 can lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 cans pork and beans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 pinch s & p


  1. Dice bacon & cook till barely done. Add to crock pot.
  2. Drain bacon grease & cook ground beef. (Optional: cook the onions with the beef.)
  3. Drain fat and add beef to crock pot. Add remaining ingredients.
  4. Cook on low 1 hour, high 3+ hours. **Edit: I realize now it makes more sense to cook for 4+ hours on high, if you are not cooking the onions with the ground beef.

Note: If you cook the beef and onion together, you can cook the calico beans for 4 hours on low. This method would bring the flavor up a notch. I seem to forget every time but either way it works out!


I calculated that it cost me $9.26 to make this recipe. But it makes a lot. Like 2 quarts. So (8) 1 cup servings at $1.15 each. 



Recipe adapted from “Calico Beans”, by The Crockin’ Girls.

Food, Main Meal

Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup


This is a simple supper recipe that I cooked up on Thursday. It turned out surprisingly well. Such is not always the case with my food “experiments”.

And yes, it is hot outside lately. Eat the soup slightly warm with a cold side dish and you have it made. It works.

My family might as well be hobbits. We don’t have hairy feet but we do like to eat a lot. The little ones more so. And we crave simple flavorful food.


I love simple. I love easy. Sometimes I don’t want to share any recipes ’cause I’m like, “Nah. That’s too easy. Not interesting”. But seriously. This one is surprisingly flavorful and good. I say that because the only seasoning is salt and pepper, yet it tastes like there is more.

We all loved it, except for J, who tends to be a trifle finicky. At least he loves raw carrots. (Suprises me greatly.)


Work with what you’ve got. I had potatoes, carrots and onions so I used those. Any root veggies typically blend well. Ground turkey is a good sub for ground beef as well. Use what you’ve got. You might be suprised at how well it turns out.

Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup


  • 2 large white baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (I use Massel 7’s brand)
  • s & p


  1. Boil potatoes (cover with at least 2″ of water).
  2. Add the carrots.
  3. Cook the ground beef with the onion until the onion has softened (slightly translucent). While cooking, season with s & p.
  4. Add beef bouillon cubes to soup pot. Dissolve, then add meat mixture.
  5. Let cook 5-10 minutes, or till reduced and tender to your liking.


Happy cooking with the po-ta-toes!


Food, Main Meal

Homemade Pizza: Part 2

Here’s the second part! The ending of our pizza story.  In part 1, I showed you how to make pizza dough from scratch, without the use of a bread machine. I referenced Erin’s website for the dough recipe. It closely follows the recipe in her $5 Dinner Mom (2009) cookbook with the exception of 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese added in the kneading process.

Here is where we left off.



During part of the hour that it was rising in the oven, I grated my mozzerella cheese. I typically use more than this. I forgot I was using it for pizza later and J and I ate some. Scatterbrained 🙂


Here I have made my pizza sauce and am browning about a 1/2 lb. ground beef with onions and seasonings (italian seasoning, oregano, basil, s&p). The pizza sauce is very easy to make. It is nothing but 2 cans (8oz ea.) of tomato sauce; 1 tsp. each of basil, oregano, italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder; and 2 tsp. of oil. I used canola oil. Olive oil would be a very good choice too. Tomato sauce, seasonings, and a wee bit of oil. That’s it.

Simmering the sauce, cooking the meat & onions.


So incredibly messy. Some like to follow a special technique for transferring the pizza dough to the baking pan. I don’t particularly have one, unless I’ve rolled it very thin. Then I will wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it onto the pan.




Meat & Cheese!

I baked it for about 20 minutes, till the cheese was bubbly and just beginning to brown.


And then…..

I had a few pieces. It was divine!


This pizza turned out really well. It was more of a deep dish pizza. The pieces in this picture were about 2″ thick. This is due to the fact that I made a whole recipe instead of a half and did not pre-bake my crust.

I was distracted and worried, as my son was developing a suspicious cough. Had I made a half recipe and pre-baked the dough, I would have had a wonderful thin crust crunchy pizza. Ah well. It was still plenty delicious! Next time I think I’ll work on some pizza topping variations. Maybe a roasted veggie or a simple pizza margarita.

Easy, right? The sauce isn’t a must, but I do think it tastes better than store bought. It also depends on which store brand you buy. Typically, I will do a plain cheese or a pepperoni and cheese topping but some variety (and some real meat) is sometimes nice.

All together, this recipe cost me: 99¢ (dough) +    84¢ (sauce) +    $3.94 (meat, onions and cheese)  =   $5.77

Last time we ordered pizza at my house it cost us about $10 for a large pepperoni pizza. Prices vary by location but I think I can say with confidence that making your own pizza can save you $$. And even though it’s messy it can still be fun. I look forward to sharing this experience with my son when he gets older. And when I am less worried that he will turn my kitchen into a twirling snow globe of flour.


Food, Main Meal

Homemade Pizza: Part 1-The Dough


Everyone loves it. It can be a lifesaver when that pizza delivery person shows up at your door with that lovely flat cardboard box full of pizza-baked goodness. It’s so nice to have someone else cook sometimes. What woman doesn’t love that? This post is not about bashing take-out. Or convenience food. I wholeheartedly support both. Because cooking meal after meal has a tendency to get old. You would have to be pretty passionate about food in order to not be disheartened about making 3 meals plus snacks every day of your life. A break from being head chef is necessary from time to time.

I’ve bought pizza from 3 or 4  different pizza places in my town. Tried Wal-Mart and Aldi’s brand refridgerated ready-made pizza. Red Baron, DiGorno and Kashi Roasted Vegetable frozen pizza, plus a few other brands. My husband lovesRed Baron’s pepperoni. I’m more of a thin crust person. Love me some thin crust pizza margherita. Mmm. Crispy crust covered in nothing but juicy cherry tomatoes, cheesy blobs of mozzerella and fresh basil leaves=the best! Love it. Wish I had a classic Italian pizza oven so I could flash bake some right now. Delicious.

Anyways. Goes without saying that I have tried a lot of pizzas. And one day I decided that I would like to try my hand at making one myself. The pros? You choose the ingredients. No mysterious ingredients that you don’t know about. Also, your pizza will be cooked in your own kitchen. There’s something satisfying about knowing that you made this meal and that you made it well.

The cons? It takes awhile. But you can make this pizza in stages. After you make the pizza dough, you let it rise for an hour. That’s an hour of doing whatever you want (or whatever else needs done). Then if you’ve had enough, you can throw that pizza dough in the freezer for later.

But…you can also load that pizza with toppings and bake it for supper. Or lunch. Or breakfast. Personally I can’t deny that I’ve occasionally had pizza for breakfast.

So this blog is labeled Part 1 of my Homemade Pizza blog. This recipe is from: you guessed it. The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook. I know, I’m always promoting Dinner Mom recipes. But it’s for a good reason! Everything in that cookbook is easy, nutritious and delicious. I needed an easy recipe for pizza dough and I found it in that book. Bread dough can be a challenging thing to create and if you are making it for the first time, I think it’s important to use an easy recipe.

Erin has a new recipe on her website for pizza dough. Here is the link. I think that Erin is an awesome blogger and this recipe for whole wheat pizza looks really good. But the recipe is for a breadmaker. Which I do not have. Anyone else? No breadmaker is no problem. Just mix and knead the dough by hand. I can see you rolling your eyes! It’s not that hard, I promise. I’ve been making my pizza dough using this method for 3 years and it gets easier every time.

You can find this recipe in The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook, but this link from Erin’s website has the same dough ingredients as the book, with the exception of 2 TBS parmesan cheese that is listed in the book. This recipe is also made using a breadmaker but I will show you how I make my pizza dough by hand.



Here I have a cup of white flour and a cup of lukewarm water together in a bowl. The salt, oil, sugar and yeast are in a smaller bowl off to the side.


100_3893After combining the warm water and the flour, i stirred in the rest of the ingredients. My recipe that I got from Erin’s book didn’t call for italian seasonings to be mixed in at this point.


Then I let it sit for 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes it was slightly spongy, not a whole lot though.


Next I mixed in my remaining flour. I like to use 1 cup of white flour, 1 cup of wheat flour. I have a bowl with 2 TBS Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp italian seasonings in it off to the side, to be mixed in during the kneading process.



I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon as much as I could, but eventually you will have to mix it a bit by hand, pressing the dough pieces together till they form into a ball. I decided to use a wooden cutting board or “bread board” to knead my bread on, instead of my counter. I will have to say that I liked it a lot better.


I put my dough ball on my floured bread board.

This is my least favorite part of the process. It took me 7 1/2 minutes of kneading to get it to the right texture. (Soft baby skin texture, as Erin likes to put it.) To knead the dough, you fold it in half, then press down and push away from you all in one motion.


Step 1: stand your dough ball on one end, then with *both* hands fold it in half.



Step 2: Press the folded dough down with your palm and heel of your hand.


Step 3: Use the heel of your hand to simultaneously roll and flatten the dough. Repeat until the dough is smooth, elastic and has the texture of “soft baby skin”.

After the kneading is done, I add my parmesan cheese and italian seasoning to the dough. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but it does add a lot of flavor to the dough, and compliments the pizza sauce nicely.


I added it a little bit at a time by sprinkling it on the bread board, squishing down the dough on top of it, then kneading it into the dough. In the past I’ve tried to add it all at once and it didn’t work as well for me that way



Now the seasonings are fully incorporated and it is time to let the dough rise. The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook I used said to grease or flour a bowl, then put the dough in and cover it with a towel and let sit in a warm place. I did not like the vagueness of “a warm place”. A lot of places in a kitchen can be warm but how do you know what the optimal dough rising environment is? (Yes, very technical I know.) I can’t remember where exactly I got this tip, but I’ve heard a good place to let your dough rise is in your oven, with a bowl of hot water on the shelf underneath your dough. This method has always worked well for me.


Here the dough is in a greased, slightly icky bowl.


And in the oven, with 2 bowls of hot water, for good measure. After that, you close the oven door and let it rise for an hour while you take a break!


My little cutie fell asleep as I was making the dough. I laid him down for a nap 🙂

This ends Part 1 of my 2-part Homemade Pizza post. Part 2 will follow soon! I will show how I prep my pizza dough for baking and how I made the sauce and toppings. Plus, a picture of the finished pizza before I devoured it. Yum. It was seriously gone in like a 24-hour period. Looking forward to sharing the rest with you 🙂