Okay, first up, HAPPY THURSDAY! It’s almost Friiiiday!

Second, my blog will not exist from this coming Sunday night until the following Tuesday morning. So if you’re anticipating needing that Smoky Margarita recipe on Monday afternoon, get it now!

Do what I do, take a iPhone picture of the recipe ingredients and then try to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do with them later.

It makes for a fun game. Sometimes it ends horribly but hey, you win some, you lose some.

I’ll remind you guys again tomorrow just in case.

And finally, macaroni salad!

hate macaroni salad. My husband is obsessed with the grocery store deli kind that doesn’t taste like anything. Like, it doesn’t even taste like pasta. It’s just nothing.

Or at least I think so.

But I made this macaroni salad last summer for the first time and I think I’ve made it 10 times since then. It’s become our go-to side dish for anything grilled. It’s super flavorful and I love the big chunks of ham and cheese. Give it awhile to sit though or it will just taste like pasta coated in mayonnaise. Once it hangs out in the fridge for awhile though? The best macaroni salad ever! And the only one you’ll catch me eating.

Macaroni Salad

Ingredients

1 pound small pasta (macaroni, shells, rotini, etc.)
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
ground black pepper
1 cup ham steak, cut into small cubes
1 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed

Instructions

  1. Prepare macaroni to al dente according to package directions. After macaroni is cooked, drain and rinse in cold water. Once macaroni has cooled down, drain well.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl toss macaroni with ham, cheese, and peas.
  4. Fold in mayonnaise mixture until pasta is well coated.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight.
  6. If the salad seems a little dry after setting up overnight, add some milk a little bit at a time until salad becomes nice and creamy again.
http://fakeginger.com/2014/06/26/macaroni-salad/

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I’ve really been failing at dinner since my husband deployed. My seven year old actually asked me why I never cook anymore.

To which I said, “What are you talking about? I made 6 kinds of ice cream last week!”

Apparently ice cream does not count as real cooking.

I go through this whenever my husband is gone. When he’s here, I know that whatever I cook, it’ll get eaten. When it’s just me and the boys, we always have leftovers for days and then I still end up trashing stuff. And that’s really frustrating to me. We end up doing sandwiches and Cheetos for dinner just about every night.

So I made this pasta for dinner to prove to the kid that I actually still know how to cook. It was a HUGE hit. I don’t go for cottage cheese in pasta dishes usually but no one really noticed it in this. It melted and got super creamy. And I have been eating nothing but ground turkey for months so actual ground beef?

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But that is besides the point.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 (15 ounce) can Tomato sauce
1 (8 ounce) can Tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces Egg Noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain grease if necessary and return to pan; add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper to skillet. Stir mixture and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, boil egg noodles in a large pot of water until al dente. Drain water. Set noodles aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together sour cream and cottage cheese. Gentle stir in cooked egg noodles. Sprinkle with a little black pepper and gently stir until noodles are coated. Stir in green onions.
  4. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Layer half the noodles in the bottom of the pan, spread out evenly. Spread half of the meat mixture over the noodles, sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat layers again, with remaining noodles, the rest of the meat mixture and then ending with the cheese.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
http://fakeginger.com/2014/06/17/sour-cream-noodle-bake/

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I had the most disappointing Pinterest fail this week.

It was a breadstick recipe to go with this pasta and I swear, it was one of the first things I ever pinned. So for years, whenever I’ve gone digging through my Pinterest bread board for inspiration, I saw those breadsticks and thought “THOSE LOOK SO GOOD! But they aren’t right for this week.”

So when I finally decided that it was time for those breadsticks, I was more than a little excited about them.

And they were awful.

Years! Years of looking at these stupid breadsticks and then they just fail me like that.

So send me twisty, Parmesan-y breadstick recipes. Please. I need some really awesome breadsticks in my life.

This Chicken Parmesan Baked Pasta saved the day though. I’m not usually a pasta fan unless it’s super spicy, has bacon, or is topped with a fried egg but this one really blew my mind. It’s so simple and has so few ingredients but somehow, I loved it.

My kids really enjoyed it too. Not one of them complained about the chunks of tomato which is unheard of around here!

Chicken Parmesan Baked Pasta

Ingredients

1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water
1 – 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces pasta
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses.
  3. Set an oven-safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, the water, 1 cup of the chicken broth, and the pasta to the pan, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a vigorous simmer, then cover the pan and continue simmering (you may need to reduce the heat slightly) until the pasta is tender, about 16-18 minutes. Stir the pasta frequently as it cooks.
  4. Once tender, remove the cover and stir in 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the pepper, and the chicken. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. If the mixture seems dry, mix in as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth as needed to loosen it up. Sprinkle the top evenly with the mozzarella cheese and the remaining Parmesan cheese.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and bubbles around the edges. Garnish with the basil before serving.
http://fakeginger.com/2014/05/22/chicken-parmesan-baked-pasta/

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This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Cooking Light and Real Simple, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #FreshandFab http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

I think this is my favorite time of year for food. I know I always get ridiculously excited for pumpkin in the fall but I think the vibrant berries and abundance of veggies in the stores right now get the win from me.

I have been making salads of pretty much just kale all winter so it makes my day to have a big salad full of color and fresh produce. I just feel better – body and mind – when my diet is full of fruits and veggies.

So last week I was bored and looking for a time waster and ended up driving to the big (Super) Target on the other side of town. Do you ever do that? Go to a different Target because they might have something different and better? It’s one of my favorite hobbies.

But I picked up a copy of the April 2014 issues of both Real Simple and Cooking Light. Real Simple because my house could use a good cleaning and the cover says it can help. Cooking Light because it’s just my all-time favorite food magazine.

And right now, you get a $5 Target gift card when you buy both! So hurry because it’s only while supplies last.

This Linguine with Garlicky Kale and White Beans comes from Cooking Light. This is what I love about Cooking Light. Pasta would usually be on my “no go” list this time of year but they do it in a way that makes it feel light and fresh and doesn’t ruin my diet!

Anything with kale just calls my name and beans are among my top 10 favorites foods. So this was a definite winner. I had it 4 separate times over the weekend and I’m still not tired of it. I’m really starting to dig “sauceless” pastas – the garlic really stood out in this dish and made the kale that much better.

It’s completely vegetarian and it’s light but still fills you up. I will definitely be making this one again.

Linguine with Garlicky Kale and White Beans

4 servings

Serving Size: about 1 3/4 cups

from Cooking Light, April 2014

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked linguine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup water
1 (8-ounce) package prechopped kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. When garlic begins to sizzle, add 1/2 cup water and kale; cover and cook 5 minutes or until kale is tender, stirring occa­sionally. Add beans, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and salt; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid to pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over pasta. Serve immediately.
http://fakeginger.com/2014/03/24/linguine-garlicky-kale-white-beans/

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Lasagna is one of those meals that you really can’t beat. It seems like everyone loves it and it doesn’t require a whole lot of fancy ingredients or complicated steps.

Today I’m bringing you a twist on the classic. Ragú asked me to turn lasagna into a New Tra-Dish with a fun spin. Since I love lasagna so much, I wanted to make it easier and faster to prepare while keeping the taste pretty close to the original.

I’m sure you guys know that lasagna is kind of a labor of love. You have to make the sauce which can take hours depending on your recipe, cook the meat, boil the noodles, and then layer, layer, layer.

In my version, you use the Ragú Old World Style® Traditional Sauce - which, if you didn’t know, has 11 juicy tomatoes in each jar – and frozen meatballs to cut down the recipe prep by more than half! I love using Ragú in recipes like this because it has than authenic Italian taste that I love and really tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove all day.

Everyone in my house loved this recipe! I think all kids love meatballs so of course mine went nuts when they realized there were meatballs in the lasagna. The whole dish took me about 15 minutes prep thanks to Ragú, the meatballs, and the no-boil noodles. This makes it a perfect weeknight meal!

For more easy and delicious Ragú recipes, head over to their Facebook page and then stop by the Ragú Better and Better Sweepstakes for a chance to win great authentic Italian themed prize packs, including the grand prize of a trip to Italy for 4!

Easy Cheesy Meatball Lasagna

15 ounce container ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
12 ounce package frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed and cut in half
2 24-ounce jars Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce
1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, beat together ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper until everything is combined. Set aside.

To assemble, spread about 1 cup of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce onto bottom of a 9×13” casserole dish. Top with lasagna noodles in a single layer. Spread ⅓ of the ricotta mixture on the noodles. Spread 1/3 of the halved meatballs out on the noodles. Sprinkle with ⅓ of the mozzarella cheese. Top with ⅓ of the remaining sauce. Continue this pattern until you use all the ingredients. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and the cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older.  Ends 5/6/14.  To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, alternate method of entry, and prize descriptions, visit www.RaguSweeps.com.  Void where prohibited.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Ragú®. The opinions and text are all mine.

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