I’ve been away from the blog for about a week, as I devoted some extra time to article writing over the last few days. I am debating whether to catch you up in one long blog or split it over several. I think I will highlight the progress and recipes, here; and then do separate posts for the individual recipes.
Last Monday was bread baking day, again, as it will likely be today. We have a fresh skiff of snow on the ground and the warmth of the oven and aroma of fresh bread wafting through the house will at least make us think we are warmer. – lol – I baked four of our favorite whole wheat loaves and we used it through the week for sandwiches, snacking and even put some dry pieces in the freezer for the next time I bake croutons.
Monday night, I had some browned ground beef left from making tacos at lunch and no real plan for supper, so I rummaged through the pantry for complimentary ingredients. I put together a quick casserole we are going to to call Penne Pasta Bake that was a hit with the whole family and only took minutes to prepare. You could make this an extraordinarily pretty dish by baking it in the oven, but I have to confess I made it and heated it through right on the stove top. It was delicious served with tender-crisp string beans and warm homemade bread.
I did have a breakdown last week and deviated from my dairy and produce rules for the challenge. I purchased deli meat for some sandwiches which I have absolutely no excuse for other than I wanted it for company and ice cream which I am really trying to convince myself is dairy. – lol – The point is, I wasn’t 100% faithful to the original plan, but I’m okay with that. We are back on track and have still spent only $146.37 on food items, so far in this challenge. Our average weekly grocery budget (which includes not just food but paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, personal hygiene items, etc.) is $125 – $150. As a guesstimate, I would say we spend about $100 of that on actual food, so for 23 days (or about 3 weeks) into this challenge, I feel like we have done very well. My freezer and pantry are getting a much needed inventory assessment and cleaning and we have saved around $150, so far, over what we would normally spend. There are 7 days left to go and I think this will have turned out to be an awesome experience that shows me I CAN trim the grocery budget even more with some creativity and planning ahead.
The other cooking projects I wanted to share from last week were a meatloaf, which my favorite guy reminded me I had not made for him in a LONG time, bulk cooking dry beans and a happy mistake in developing a recipe for homemade sandwich rolls/hamburger buns/hotdog buns. We also did several repeats and favorite standbys last week like Crockpot Chicken (which was used for a meal with rice and then several burrito lunches), frozen pizzas, roast beef and other dishes I have already shown you.
On to the recipes! Penne Pasta Bake, here, and then I will link you to posts for the meatloaf, bulk-cooked dry beans and homemade buns.
Penne Pasta Bake
- 1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
- 1 lb dry penne pasta, cooked and drained according to package instructions
- (1) 26.5 oz can of spaghetti sauce
- (1) 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
- 1 Tbls. dried Italian Seasoning
- 1 cup Italian cheese blend, shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
After you have cooked and drained your pasta and browned and drained your hamburger this recipe will come together quickly.
Mix all ingredients, except the cheese, in a 4 qt stock pot or dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Once your casserole is hot and ready to serve, sprinkle the Italian cheese over the top, cover with a lid for 2 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve with your favorite salad or veggie side dish. Delicious!
- You could easily spread this in a 9×13 pan, sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake in a 350° for about 30 minutes, if you would prefer. For me, the meat was already browned, so in about 15 minutes, I had this stove to table for a “quick fix” meal.
- If what you have is mozzarella, use that instead of the Italian blend cheeses. Go with what your family likes and you have on hand.
- You could also eliminate the sugar. It is a personal preference that in this small amount, helps to cut the acidity in the tomatoes. I almost always add some to cooked tomato dishes.