Chase Fireflies


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Classic Baked Ziti

baked ziti

If you’re looking for a new dish to add to your menu, this one should be it.  Cheesy, comforting, perfect.  I’m slightly addicted to this stuff, which is why I’ve made it a lot

The great thing is that you can probably get two complete dishes out of this, which makes  the time it takes worthwhile.  I usually make it with garlic bread and something green… steamed broccoli or green beans.  The heaping amount of green on my plate cancels out all of the cheese, cream, and pasta.  Plus, the colors make  me smile.  

The frozen dish is just as good as the first one.  And there’s nothing better than popping the frozen sidekick in the oven when the only thing you’re set to accomplish is getting out of bed. 

Anyway, here’s the recipe (Adapted from MyKitchenCafe)

1 pound 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ziti or other similar pasta (like penne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or substitute whole milk but increase the amount of cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes)
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

Transfer mixture to a 9X13-inch baking dish (or two round glass dishes)  and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

*Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to about 1 hour. If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.


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Peanut Butter Cup Secrets (Favorite Christmas Cookie Ever)

These cookies are incredible – worth every extra step on the treadmill.  They are also super easy and quick for kids to make (even really little people.)  Our kids had a blast opening the wrappers, dumping ingredients, and rolling balls with the dough.  It kept them quite busy and there were no casualties to speak of. 

The same could not be said for these no-bake Santa Cookies and these Traditional Sugar Cookies.  Both recipes were great for our 4 year old, but a nightmare for the 2 year old Little Man.  We had a burned finger in the white melted chocolate, sprinkles all over the house (oh what a 2 year old boy will do!), and crying over the length of the cookie making process. 

Peanut Butter Cup Secrets Recipe:
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
45 peanut butter cups

Glaze: 
1 tsp shortening
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp peanut butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease cookie sheet.  Combine shortening, brown sugar, sugar, and peanut butter in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed until well blended.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Mix into creamed mixture at low speed until blended. 

Form rounded teaspoonfuls of dough around each peanut butter cup.  Enclose entirely.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until just browned.  Remove immediately to a wire rack.

For glaze:  Combing shortening, chocolate chips, and peanut butter in microwave.  Microwave at 50%.  Stir after 1 minute and repeat until smooth.  Dip cookie tops in glaze. 

Got any favorite Christmas Cookies of your own?  Any suggestions for Christmas Cookies that kids can make (without drama)? 

If you’re still looking for a last minute Christmas Cookie recipe, head to What Megan’s Making for her 12 Days of Christmas series.  She’s also got some great recipes up for Christmas morning breakfast, including Gingerbread pancakes.  They look so good!