Manuka's Place

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...how naked are your branches

Here I sit, December twenty-sixth (I'm a poet and I didn't know it) deciding how to describe Christmas 2007. Let's begin with the fact that this is a stinkin' busy time of the year for us Church workers. In the last three days we have had seven services, of which I participated in all seven. This included an 11 PM service on the 24th followed by a 10 AM service the 25th with some Santa duties in between. I was plumb tuckerd out! It has been nice to be able to relax today. The girls and I have just been hanging out and playing with new Christmas toys while the women folk are at the mall (I shudder at the thought). Give me preschoolers any day over the mall on the 26th of December! Saturday found me at the grocery store hunting for all the ingredients for two Christmas dinners. We had Christmas on Sunday with Jill's sisters family and I tried a new recipe for lasagna. Let's just say it was AWESOME. I really don't want to give away my secret but I stumbled upon a great website that has some scrumptious recipes. If you have some time check out www.thepioneerwomancooks.com. You will not be sorry although your waistline might. Here is the recipe for her lasagna. Don't laugh at the ingredients because when they all come together it is a party in your mouth:

1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean’s bulk)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 14.5 oz cans whole tomatoes
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
2 T dried parsley flakes
2 T dried basil
1 t salt
10-oz package of lasagna noodles (the wavy kind) (boil adding ½ t salt and 1 T olive oil to water) al dente

Mix together:
3 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 beaten eggs
½ cup Kraft Parmesan cheese
2 T dried parsley flakes
1 tsp salt

1 lb sliced mozzarella cheese

In a skillet, combine 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 pound hot breakfast sausage, and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Cook until brown. Drain off about half the fat (or more, to taste).

After that, add two 14.5-oz cans of whole tomatoes, two 6-oz cans of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons dried basil and 1 teaspoon salt.

Mix together thoroughly and simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, boil a 10-oz package of lasagna noodles. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water, as well as 1 tablespoon olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Cook the noodles “al dente” so they’ll still have quite a bite to them. When they’re finished cooking, drain, rinse with cool water, and lay the noodles flat on a sheet of aluminum foil. That way, they’ll be easier to handle later.

While the meat mixture and noodles are cooking, mix 3 cups lowfat cottage cheese in a bowl with 2 beaten eggs. To the cottage cheese, add 1/2 cup Kraft Parmesan Cheese. 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix together well.

Now, go ahead and build your assembly line: meat mixture, 1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese mixture, and cooked lasagna noodles. Lay four cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan, overlapping as you go. Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the noodles. Then lay 1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese slices on top of the cottage cheese mixture. This particular brand of cheese was cut very thin, so I had to double up the slices to make 1/2 pound. Don’t let this throw you off—some brands are cut thicker, and would only require a single layer of slices. NOTE: I prefer sliced mozzarella, but you can certainly use grated mozzarella if necessary. With the spoon, make a line through the middle of the meat mixture so you’ll distribute it evenly. Spread a little less than half of the meat mixture over the mozzarella cheese slices until it’s evenly distributed. Repeat and finish with meat mixture.
Top with a pretty generous layer of good ole Kraft grated parm.

Now pop it in a 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. (Alternately, you could cover and freeze it, unbaked, at this point or cover and refrigerate, unbaked, for up to two days before baking.)


This dish was a hit that is for sure. Then on yesterday I made my grandpa's famous Muscacholi. It is super good too!!! Here is the recipe for that one:

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
3 slices chopped bacon
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1 onion chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
2 6 oz can tomato paste
1 12 oz can Italian style peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaf
3 Cups grated mozzarella
1 cup grated chedder
Parmesan Cheese
One box of muscacholi, cook according to directions for "al dente" (don't overcook)

Cook bacon in large frying pan. Drain fat, add half the onion and garlic to the same pan and cook till you can see through them. Add the ground beef and pork and brown. Drain fat, and scoop meat into a large pot. Add remaining onion and mushrooms along with red wine to frying pan and saute. While sauteing, use a potato masher and break up the browned meat into small pieces. Add mushrooms and onions to meat. Add tomatoes, one can of tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add 1/2 cup of water if you feel the sauce is too thick (even more if needed). Simmer for one hour. Add other can of tomato paste, stir and check your seasonings. Let simmer for 15 more minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Cook pasta according to directions but do not overcook! Pour sauce over cooked muscacholi and add 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, stir well. Put in a 350 degree oven for 45 min. Add last cup of mozzarella, one cup of chedder and some parmesan and sprinkle it over the top and put it back in the oven until the cheese is all melty (YUM!).

I cook my sauce the day before and put it in the fridge. I think it tastes better that way. Here is a picture of the finished product (note: I doubled the recipe this year).


So with full bellies and happy but noisy children Christmas was going quite well...then there is the tree.... Remember the tree from the post from a few weeks ago? Well this tree with the nest was not the best at staying hydrated. We had noticed quite a few needles dropping the past week or so and about four days ago we noticed that they were falling at an alarming rate. So much so that we were sweeping up every few hours. It became progressively worse and by Christmas Eve there were some definite bald spots on the tree. It was looking pretty bad. We all started cracking up when we would hear the avalanche of pine needles every few minutes fall upon the presents below. By last night quite a bit of the top of the tree was bare and then I decided to see just how dry the tree was. One touch to a branch and it released its entire load of needles as easy as new fallen snow. I was intrigued and with some help from some friends we shook the tree a bit and the following pictures will describe much better than words will:



So the tree is naked and has been relegated to the street, but of course we saved the nest and put it with all the ornaments for next year. All in all it was a great day with family and friends as well as good food and drink. I pray that you all had a blessed day as well!

Well I hope you have enjoyed this edition of cooking and Christmas trees, until next time.....

2 Comments:

  • That tree is memorable... in person and photographically... it's hard to forget how dead it really is. :-)

    By Blogger Joshua is me., At 9:12 PM  

  • HI-Larious....i love that the crazy bird home has been rescued....and that the tree is now preserved in photography being naked. it's like tree porn...i wonder what the mail order tree will be like next year...how do you top this one?

    By Blogger Lindsey, At 11:03 PM  

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