Friday, December 30, 2011

Recipe of The Week: Michael Symon's 4-Meat Lasagna

Last week while I was waiting on the Sears guy to show up, some TV show called The Chew came on while I was cleaning house.  I had never seen it before but since it has Clinton Kelley from TLC's What Not to Wear I decided to stay tuned.  I have always wanted to go on What Not To Wear!  Sure, it might be a bit embarassing but I could put the $5,000 Visa card to good use and I'm sure I could pick up a few new tips :-)

Anyhow, I'm glad I stayed tuned.  One of the other co-hosts is Michael Symon...he happens to be one of Food Network's Iron Chefs.  He was making a lasagna that his mom makes every Christmas.  Of course, it looked super easy...but that's how all made-on-tv-screen foods are!  Because the ingredient list had a particularly intriguing ingredient, I decided we would try his Mom's lasagna.

His "secret" ingredient is neckbones.  Yes, neckbones.  You could not pay me enough to eat a neckbone...or a hamhock...or anything of the sorts.  But I do know they lend great flavor to dishes and Justin is Southern enough that he'll eat the h-e-double hockey sticks out of neckbones!  The only reason I considered the recipe is because you REMOVE the neckbones once the sauce is finished simmering :-)

If your house likes lasagna, you have to try this!  As it uses 4 different meats, be prepared for an increase in your grocery bill.  And make sure you have plenty of time set aside to be in your kitchen--the meat simmers for 2 hours and then you bake everything for another hour!  But hey, it's worth it.  Justin is a self-proclaimed food critic and declared this lasagna as earning a 10-out-of-10! 

Image Courtesy of The Chew

Michael Symon's Mom's Lasagna
½ cup olive oil
1 onion
4 garlic cloves (minced)
Kosher salt
1 pound pork neck bones
1 pound veal
1 pound beef
1 pound spicy Italian sausage (loose or removed from the casing)
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chopped peeled tomatoes or 1 - 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with their juice (we used the canned tomatoes)
3 bay leaves
1 pound dried lasagna noodles (Michael advised against using non-boil noodles)
2 pounds whole-milk ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 large eggs
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese (grated)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a three-finger pinch of salt and sweat them until they are translucent about 2 minutes. Add the neck bones and brown them, about 5 minutes.
2.  Add the ground veal, beef and sausage, season with another healthy pinch of salt, and continue cooking until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine, tomatoes and their juice and the bay leaves, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, making sure to get all of the browned bits into the sauce.
3.  Season the sauce with salt and simmer for 2 hours over medium heat (you may want to lower the heat if the sauce is dissipating too quickly). Remove the bay leaves and neck bones and let cool--make SURE you thoroughly check the meat for the itty-bitty pieces of bone that will fall off the large neckbones. Skim any fat that rises to the surface.
4.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so tha it tastes seasoned and allow the water to return to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente. Drain well and set aside.
5.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, parsley, basil, oregano and eggs with a pinch of salt. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6.  In a lasagna pan-9 x 13 inches is optimal – ladle about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom. Arrange a layer of noodles on this followed by a layer of sauce and then some ricotta mixture, smoothing it with a spatula to the edges. Repeat the process until the pan is full. Finish with a final layer of noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
7.  Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The George Foreman Grill--Who Still Uses Them?!

Once upon a time, Prince Justin had a little white George Foreman grill.  If he wasn't deep fat-frying his food, he cooked with his Foreman.  Then came along Princess Bria and she could not stand the George Foreman grills.  They were a pain to clean and the food always came out dry...eventually, Prince Justin and Princess Bria decided to move into their own castle and ooops, the Foreman grill didn't make the journey.  Prince Justin was devastated and claimed he didn't know how to cook without his Foreman.  Queen Bria was convinced it was the best decision she had ever made!  *Note: Princess Bria was crowned Queen Bria once Prince Justin was nice enough to give her reign over the daily castle operations.  Prince Justin was never promoted to King.  Because, that's just how us woman are.

Fast-forward several years later--the fairytale is over and Bria has discovered that Justin DOES know how to cook...he only prefers to cook if it's something he likes, such as porkchops or hamburgers off of the Foreman.

Oh, but wait.  I never said he started cooking...because all this time, we have still been without a Foreman.  Therefore, Justin is still very selective about what and when he will cook.

As is real-life, sometimes you do things that you would never have to do in a fairy-tale.  Like...let your husband buy another Foreman grill from the grocery store for $20...

I kid you not, Dillon's had just one grill left as of last night and Justin HAD to buy it.  And why Dillon's had it marked down to $20 is beyond me!  Wait, I know--it was probably $20 because do people still even use Foreman grills?!  However, I told him that if he wanted to use his Christmas money on it AND promise to cook supper more often, I was okay with it.

We'll see how this goes.  Something tells me Justin will actually use his Foreman...which means he probably will be more eager to actually help with cooking supper...which means I will probably have my fair share of dry meals off of the Foreman.  But hey, if it gives me a break from doing most of the evening cooking, it is probably worth the $20 and then some!

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Twas The Night Before Christmas and All Through Our House...

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Yeah, RIGHT!

Both Justin and I were off work today so it was time to get some things done around the house!

Rather than hanging the stockings by the chimney with care, we replaced our living room ceiling fan and kitchen ceiling fixture.  They were LONG overdue for an update!

Here is the ceiling fan that came with the house--it is quite, well, ugly.

 And it just threw off the feel of the entire living room!

After making sure we had all the pieces and putting on some comfy work clothes...

We have a much improved ceiling fan!!!

And then we moved into the kitchen...and yup, another ugly light fixture!  We had put off dealing with the kitchen light because when we tried to change out the fixtures in the guest bedroom this summer, we discovered the wiring had been done incorrectly.  After numerous trips to the hardware store, LOTS of internet research and calling in the professionals, the light fixture was hung one week later.

However, we lucked out and all the wiring was correct!  It's not the most unique fixture but hey, I scored two of the "nipples" (as my brother calls them) for $10 and it looks better than what we had :-)

The lighting was one of the last updates to our kitchen.  After new paint, new window treatments (I love the bold print), shelving, tile tattoos, etc, the space feels a little more put together.  While I'm posting pictures, I might as well show you the progress thus far!

This is what the nook under our counter looked like earlier this summer:

And this is what it looks like now!  I wanted to use two boards to create three shelves, but they would have been pretty short shelves and thus nearly impossible to reach anything in the back.  Once again, it's better than it was!

For $50, we were able to change up the appearance of our backsplash with our tile tattoos.  Because of the age of our house, we were faced with a $500 fee just for having lead-based paints somewhere in the walls.  Then it would have been nearly an additional $1,000 to install new tile.  Ummmm, no thanks.  I think $50 sounds much better!

And finally, after craning our necks all day, we sat down to supper.  Thai Cashew Chicken with Sriracha Crab Rangoon!  Unfortunately, Justin can't stand nuts in his food so we really had No-Cashew Cashew Chicken.  Regardless, it was delicious.  Maybe, I'll try posting the recipe one of these days.  Until then, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I Learned at School (This Semester)

1.  Time really does fly!  How is the semester almost over?!  It should still be September, maybe even October, but definitely not late December.

2.  I'm getting "old."  Some of the songs played at Middle School dances will knock the socks off of ya--that is, if you are still "young" enough to know what the songs are referencing.  Such songs would NEVER have been allowed when I was their age!

3.  Always wear comfortable shoes!  Not because I stand on my feet all day--but for the unannounced drills that send you hiking a mile in each direction to the nearest Community Center because there has been a hypothetical "bomb" explode in the school.

4.  When the students call you the "hot teacher," trust me, it's far from a compliment.  Anything that is not 60-years old and wearing a plaid jumper tends to fall into the "hot" category!

5.  After 3.5 semesters, I have yet to become a morning person.  I would much rather be waking up at 7:20 am than walking through the office door!

6.  A little tough love and drawing of boundaries goes a long way.  Some of the kids I dreaded the most ended up being the most engaged and lovable of all the students by the semester's end!

7.  It's a small world.  So many of my students have been served by our CASA program and/or come from incredibly challenging backgrounds that could easily have sent them through our office.  Looking at the kiddos, you would never know what life is like for them away from school.  But it's a heartwarming moment when the kids stop me in the hall just to talk or tell me how things are going at home!

8.  I still don't like being touched.  Or hugged.  6th Graders LOVE to hug.  Even 7th Graders will still hug me.  Eeeeeeek!  At least my 8th Graders want nothing to do with touching me.

9.  It is AMAZING what you learn/hear when eating lunch with the kids.  Oh, and it's more fun eating at the boys' table--the girls are too gossipy and catty!

10.  No matter how old you are (or who you are), getting sent to the Principal's Office is still scary as h-e-double hockey sticks!  And then making a kid CRY in the Principal's Office because you asked them to explain what they did during class?!  It sucks.  Especially when they're usually a pretty good kid.  But then you worry if you did "okay" asking your questions in front of the Principal.  And then you wonder if the kid is going to hate you for life.  And get the point! 

11.  If you ever want the kids to be on their best behavior, just show up with a Police Officer in tow!

And finally:
#12.  Having a Snow Day the second-to-last day before a shortened Christmas Break ROCKS!  It makes showing up at 7:20 am tomorrow morning a little bit easier ;-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decking the Halls...and Our Walls!

During the past few weeks, we have been busy decking the halls--and decking our interior walls! 

First on the agenda was decking the halls for Christmas!  I had purchased an amazing Pine-&-Poinsettia adorned swag to go above the front door and a coordinating old-fashioned street lamp to go by the door.  I was anxiously awaiting holiday decorating because it was going to look FABULOUS!  Then just two days later, all the Halloween decorations in our neighborhood went missing so I promptly returned the street lamp and swag to Hobby Lobby.  I should have known better than to sit out anything "loose" because the following story will prove my point:  When K-State kicked back into session this past August, a professor up the street from us had a tree stolen out of her front yard.  Yes, a tree!  It wasn't sawed off, or knocked off...using only their arms, the kids literally removed it from the ground and took off with it.  Anyhow, their antics made me realize I would have to become super creative with my outdoor decorations!

After some thinking, I decided that hanging wreaths on our windows might be the perfect solution.  After all, the potential thieves would have to enter our fence and I don't see that happening.  When Hobby Lobby had their wreaths marked down to $5, I picked up a dozen of them and talked Justin into helping me hang them one evening after work.  Honestly, I think I picked the coldest (and darkest) evening of the month to hang them.  Luckily, Justin was a good sport and went along with it.  However, my fingers were frozen solid and we called it a night before we could put the bows put on.  Finally, last weekend, I managed to tie the bows on the wreaths--I think the addition of the bows proved to be the much-needed finishing touch!

Our porch still needs some work.  I need to pick up more garland at the After-Christmas sales so I have enough to drape it on the railings next year...the straightness of this year's garland drives me nuts!  I also want a tall, skinny tree to go by the front door but I can't figure out how to tastefully secure it to the porch.  But in the meantime, I hope this little arrangement will bring a burst of color to our drab porch!  I picked up all the supplies at Jo-Ann's for a little bit of nothing and it came together pretty quickly.  The red things (whatever they're supposed to be) are super-glittery and look awesome when the sunlight hits them!

Last Saturday morning, we finally installed a hood over our stove.  The hood had been sitting in our basement for almost a year!  Last winter, we decided we were going to overhaul our kitchen and for whatever reason, we went ahead and bought the hood.  Needless to say, the overhaul didn't happen and I was finally tired of the hood collecting dust in our basement.

This is what the "stove area" of our kitchen looked like when we bought the house about 21 months ago:

And this is what it looks like now!  New stove, new flooring, new wall paint, running of additional wiring (can't see that part!) and the stainless steel hood.

It didn't dawn on us until we went to hang the hood, but the cabinets on that wall are all super deep.  Upper cabinets are generally 12" deep--but these cabinets measured 24" deep...meaning a previous owner hung "lower" cabinets as "upper" cabinets...???  Don't get me wrong--the extra cabinet depth allows for tons of storage space.  However, we realized that if we hung the hood flush with the front of the cabinets, the front of the hood would have stuck out far enough that we could not easily see nor reach the back burners.  If either one of us were shorter, it wouldn't have been such an issue.  Thus, we ended up installing the hood flush with the back of the cabinetry and thankfully, it doesn't look too out of place.

The last project on our agenda involved the long wall in our living room.  After  ayear of looking and months of saving up, I ordered some wall art that looked gorgeous in the catalog. After hanging the first set, I broke down and bought a laser level--it made the second set MUCH easier to hang!  I don't want to sound like a Negative Nancy, but the collage was not worth the money--the frames aren't square and don't lie flat, causing them to look a little uneven on the walls.  But hey, it was the best find for the amount of money I was able to spend, so I'll just live with them!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recipe of the Week--Korean Beef Tacos

Each week, in an attempt to avoid becoming "bored" with our meals, we try to make a new recipe.  Sometimes we luck out and sometimes, well--it leaves something to be desired.

This week's experiment was Shredded Korean Beef Tacos by Stephanie O'Dea at  If you have never been to her site, you're missing out!!!  ALL of her recipes are for the slow cooker, which is a dream come true for us.

Anyhow, the Korean Beef Tacos turned out uh-mazing.  When the Food Network's food trucks came through town this past Spring, I was dying to eat from the Korilla (Korean) BBQ truck.  But the lines were insane and I was too lazy to fight the crowds.  Personally, I would like to think these tacos are just as good--if not better--than Korilla's tacos.  They're super simple and holy schnikes--the combination of the meat with the slaw in a tortilla was like a party in my mouth!

Korean Beef Tacos by Stephanie O'Dea

Shredded Korean Beef Tacos
3-4 lb. beef roast (I used a trimmed chuck roast)
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. soy sauce 
1 head garlic peeled, cloves intact (I used a couple spoons of pre-chopped garlic)
1/2 onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated (I used a huge spoonful of jarred ginger)
2 T. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 T. sesame oil
1 whole jalapeno, diced (be careful! use gloves!)

Use a 6-quart slow cooker.  Throw everything in however you'd like (I put the meat in first and then dump everything else on top).  Cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat has fully shredded--- you can help it out by cutting the meat into pieces an hour or so before serving time. Serve in soft corn or flour tortillas with shredded cabbage salad and white or brown rice.

Asian Slaw
1 bag shredded coleslaw
1 T. sesame oil
2 T. soy sauce
4 T. seasoned rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
sugar to taste

Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately (it gets too wilty if you make it early in the day).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Big Reveal--Our Christmas Tree Urn!

As promised in my LAST POST, here is the "big reveal" of the Christmas tree urn that I made!  I ended up using Justin's phone to take the pictures so please bear with me.

From the front...

From the side...

Close-up of the base...

Compared to last year, our Christmas tree has much more of the "wow" factor that I was looking for.  It's still not the "department store" level of decorated tree that I've been striving for, but it's getting closer.  In fact, using the "urn" also gave us a couple extra inches of much-needed height.  Because this house has high ceilings, the tree looks unproportionally short compared to the rest of the space.  The oversized angel doesn't help make it look any taller, but I like my black Angel.  She's pretty...and it was quite amusing to walk around the mostly-white store with my black Angel in hand!  But anyhow, maybe I'll be able to track down a taller--and more realistic--tree during the after Christmas sales.  Regardless, I think the urn still turned out pretty well!