Thursday, April 28, 2016

Best Lasagna Recipe


Lasagna is one of my favorite foods. I always grew up thinking it was difficult to make, but when I attempted it on my own, I realized that it's fairly simple to prepare...and so delicious!

Do you usually boil your noodles ahead of time when you make lasagna? I never have, and it always turns out great, so I'm wondering if it's worth it?

Best Lasagna Recipe 
(With Homemade Sauce)

Homemade Meat Sauce:
2 pounds ground sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon basil
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
6 oz can tomato paste
Mushrooms (optional)
1 zucchini, shredded (optional)
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)

Cottage Cheese Mixture:
2 cups cottage cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Brown sausage. Drain, and add to medium-sized sauce pan. Add remaining sauce ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
 

Step 2: Boil 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles (I always skip this step...) In medium-sized bowl, mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and pepper.


Step 3: Now it's time to assemble your lasagna in a 9x13-inch pan. Start with 1/3 of the meat sauce, and follow with 3 noodles.


 Step 4:  Spread 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, and sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese.


Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4. Follow with 3 more noodles and the remainder of the meat sauce.


Step 6: Cover with foil, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes. Let stand before serving. Enjoy!


Best Lasagna Recipe 
(With Homemade Sauce)

Homemade Meat Sauce:
2 pounds ground sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon basil
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
6 oz can tomato paste
Mushrooms (optional)
1 zucchini, shredded (optional)
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)

Cottage Cheese Mixture:
2 cups cottage cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions: 
1. Brown sausage. Drain, and add to medium-sized sauce pan.
2. Add remaining sauce ingredients, and stir to combine.
3. Bring sauce to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Boil 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles (I always skip this step...)
5. In medium-sized bowl, mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and pepper. 
6. Assemble in a 9x13-inch pan. The 10 layers are as follows (from bottom to top):
    1/3 of meat sauce
    3 noodles
    1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
    1/2 of mozzarella cheese
    1/3 of meat sauce
    3 noodles
    1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
    1/2 of mozzarella cheese
    3 noodles
    1/3 of meat sauce
7. Cover with foil, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. 
8. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes. Let stand before serving. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Interview with Singer/Songwriter Sommer Floyd


I had the pleasure of chatting with up-and-coming singer/songwriter Sommer Floyd. Her debut album, "Ray of Light," was recorded at the famed Dark Horse Recording Studio with multi-Dove-award-winning producer Steven V. Taylor and is set to release in May.

Growing up, Sommer had it all. An accomplished athlete and honor roll student, she was the girl everyone wanted to be. In her high school and college years, a string of poor choices--one of which led to the out-of-wedlock conception of her daughter Heidi--left Sommer feeling completely broken.

In the interview below, Sommer shares how she found healing and how she hopes to use her story to reach out to others through music.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Catching Catfish at a Sheep Farm

"That husband of yours sure does like to fish!" That was my mom's response when I told her during a phone call on Friday that we were planning to go fishing twice over the weekend. She was spot on; Mr. Handsome is an avid fisherman, to say the least.

Saturday's fishing trip was very much unsuccessful, but on Sunday evening, we hit the jackpot. We went to a private cat fishpond, located on the property of a man who raises sheep. I think I enjoyed watching the sheep almost as much as I enjoyed fishing.


Sadly, the sheep were afraid of people, so they only came within about 20 feet of us. Mr. Handsome was so engrossed in fishing that he hardly noticed the sheep (see picture below).


We ended up catching a dozen catfish, and we kept four of them. I asked the owner of the farm to pose for picture with me. :)


Saturday, April 23, 2016

'Union Bound' Movie Review


Earlier this week, Mr. Handsome and I made a big bowl of our signature "microwave" popcorn and watched the movie Union Bound. Based on the incredible true story of Joseph Hoover, a Union soldier who escaped from a Confederate prisoner of war camp with the help of slaves, Union Bound opened in theaters across the United States on April 22nd.  

We give this film two thumbs up for its vivid, suspenseful, and historically rich storyline. Rated PG-13, Union Bound features battle scenes and four mild profanities and is not suitable for children. I would encourage parents of young teenagers to watch the movie alongside their kids.

Visit unionboundthemovie.com to find a theater near you, and click here to watch my interview with producer Michael Davis.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#TBT My 2-Year-Old Self

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I'll share a picture with y'all of my two-year-old self wearing a dress that was made by my grandmother in 1948.

If you look closely, you'll notice my crooked bangs, which were the result of the haircut that I attempted to give myself. Did you ever try to give yourself a haircut as a child?



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chicken Recipe #1: Successful!

Thank you to those who responded to my desperate plea for chicken recipes! I've printed them all and plan to try them over the next several weeks. I made the first one last week, and Mr. Handsome enjoyed it. Granted, he did eat it with ranch dressing, but at least he liked it, right?

The recipe, Baked Chicken Breast found on gimmesomeoven.com, was submitted by Melissa. I added a little extra garlic powder and paprika to offset the pepper, but other than that I followed the directions to a tee.

My picture is not nearly as appetizing as the one on the website, so I'll just let you visit gimmesomeoven.com. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think and if you come up with any alterations.

In case you were wondering, this is what I wish my chicken had looked like:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Finally...Cough Syrup That Works!

I have a terrible cough that has lingered for the past three weeks. For the first week, I tried the Walmart version of Delsym Cough Syrup, and it did absolutely nothing.

During the second week, I lived on Ricola Cough Drops, but my dentist husband reminded me that sucking on sugar all day is terrible for one's teeth.

Then at the end of last week, I started taking Tussin DM every four hours, and as long as I keep up with it, my cough stays away! I'm not thrilled with the artificial ingredients that it contains, but I suppose it's better than having constant coughing fits.

Have you ever had a persistent cough? Were you able to find a remedy that worked?


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Loving the Auntie Life!

Eight months before Mr. Handsome proposed, his sister Anne, who was the only sibling married at that time, welcomed her first child, Ana. This gal is currently the only grandchild, and she absolutely loves all the attention.

At 20 months old, Ana knows her colors, can identify almost all the uppercase letters, and can count to 10. Although Mr. Handsome and I aren't able to see her very often, she knows exactly who we are. Last time I Skyped with Anne, my heart nearly melted when my adorable niece exclaimed, "It's Aunt Ellie!"

Well it looks like Ana won't be the only grandchild for long! Anne and her husband are expecting Baby #2 in October. What do you think of their announcement photo? They shared it with our family on Valentine's Day.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Easy & Delicious Sauteed Spinach

Do you enjoy eating spinach? It's okay if the answer is no. The only way I enjoy it is with a homemade salad dressing, and perhaps some sliced strawberries. But sauteed spinach is definitely not my favorite, or should I say it wasn't until tried this delicious new recipe.

Let's be honest, sauteed spinach isn't exactly the most appetizing dish ever, and the flavor is incredibly bland. If you're like me, anytime you find yourself with a helping of this nasty green vegetable on your plate, you eat it as quickly as you possibly can.

Last week, a friend invited us over for dinner, and sauteed spinach was on the menu. Not wanting to be rude, I gave myself a tiny portion and prepared to gulp it down. But when I tasted the first bite, I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious! I even went back for seconds.

So how, you ask, does one prepare this miracle spinach? I'll share the recipe, but don't blink, or you might miss it. It's that easy!

Easy & Delicious Sauteed Spinach 
  • 5 oz raw spinach leaves
  • 4 small garlic cloves
  • 1 chicken bouillon*
  • 1/4 cup water  
*I use 1/2 packet of Trader Joe's chicken broth concentrate instead of a bouillon.
  1. Add ingredients to sauce pan or skillet. 
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. 
  3. Remove from heat, and enjoy.
Serves 2-3

And that's it! Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mourning Horses and Stubborn Camels

Have you ever visited one of those drive-through safaris? I hadn't until a few weeks ago, but I must say that they are quite neat. We saw about a dozen animals that we never knew existed, including a black Hawaiian ewe, an aoudad, a watusi, and a genet. (And no, I don't know how to pronounce any of those...)

The park is also home to plenty of your "everyday" safari creatures, like zebras, camels, llamas, and wildebeests. Some of these animals were quite entertaining.

We spotted this beautiful horse--hats off if you can tell me what breed it is because I would love to know--standing perfectly still and staring at a small stone structure that resembled a gravestone. We joked that it must be mourning the loss of a loved one.


As we were driving out, we snapped a picture of a camel that absolutely refused to let this truck into the park. After a few minutes, one of the park rangers came out and attempted to pull the camel out of the way, but it wouldn't budge!

Finally, a second ranger came over, and the two were able to move the stubborn animal just far enough away so the truck could enter. We just about exploded with laughter while watching this scene unfold!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Live Recording in Nashville

Last week, we had the honor of joining hit songwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty for the live recording of their upcoming album, Facing a Task Unfinished.

Keith Getty invited me to the event when I met with him for an interview back in February. (Click here to watch my interview.) Mr. Handsome and I had no idea what to expect, but we knew it would be a neat experience, so we went. And boy were we glad we did!


The event took place in a well-known Nashville recording studio housed in a beautiful, 100-year-old church, located on the iconic Music Row.

For three hours, Mr. Handsome and I, along with 50 personal friends of the Gettys, sang along as Keith and Kristyn and their band performed a handful of songs off their new album. It was an incredible evening! While we sang, a film crew took footage that will be used in upcoming promo videos.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Michael Davis, Maker of Family-Friendly Movies


Are you on the lookout for family-friendly films? Then you will love this interview with Michael Davis, founder of Uptone Pictures. He discusses movie making and his upcoming Civil War Movie, Union Bound.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Got Chicken?

Happy Saturday morning!

I need some culinary advice. My husband isn't a huge fan of chicken. He much prefers pork or beef, although he will eat Parmesan chicken, fried chicken, chicken wings, and chicken pot pie.

Part of the problem is that I haven't quite figured out the secret to making super chicken moist. And I'm in need of some more good (preferably healthy) chicken recipes. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Birthday Weekend


My husband treated me to a two-day birthday celebration this weekend! On Friday night, we ate dinner at Olive Garden, one of my favorite restaurants. Mr. Handsome isn't a fan of pasta, so that was a sacrifice for him.

On Saturday, we toured The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson's plantation home. That's something I have always wanted to do, but the tickets are a bit pricey ($20 per adult), so we saved that outing for a special occasion. I posted a photo to my Facebook page and will share more pictures soon.

On Saturday evening, we met a group of Mr. Handsome's parents' friends, who were driving through our area, for a last-minute dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Then on Sunday after church, my husband grilled the fish he caught last weekend. We spent the rest of the day hiking.

I wasn't expecting a present, but Mr. Handsome surprised me with a card, a bouquet of roses, one of his paintings (pictured above), and two donuts. It was by far the best birthday I have ever had. :)

Interview with Author Benton Hall


I have another interview to share with you all! If you are familiar with the organization Cru, you will enjoy listening to my conversation with Benton Hall, a long-time Cru team leader from Texas.

In his new book, Tales from the Bike Path, Benton shares a collection of humorous, heartbreaking, and encouraging short stories from his unique, 44-year career as a mentor of students.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Oh How I love Trader Joe's!


We are incredibly blessed to live in an area with a Trader Joe's grocery store. Are you familiar with Trader Joe's?

Trader Joe's has a fabulous selection of natural foods (some organic, some not) without additives, and many of those products are cheaper than their additive-filled counterparts sold at conventional grocery stores.

Every eight to ten weeks, I visit Trader Joe's to stock up on non-perishables, although I often end up finding a number of reasonably priced fruits, vegetables, and frozen/refrigerated items.

Although the store is small and busy, I am usually able to fill my cart in 30 minutes or less. Above is a picture of today's shopping trip. Here's what I bought:

2-4 lb bags Gala apples
1 package hamburger buns
1 package hotdog buns
1 package whole wheat tortillas
1 package unbleached white-wheat flour
1 package unbleached white flour
1 package (makes 12 cups) chicken broth constitute
1 container garlic powder
1 container organic dried oregano
1 container 21-seasoning slaute (haven't tried that before)
1 container sour cream
1 container cottage cheese
1-1/2 gallon container chocolate milk
5 boxes granola bars
2 bags frozen corn
4 containers (4 cups each) organic tomato soup
2 containers (4 cups each) organic beef broth
2-10 lb packages 12-grain crackers
2-2 lb blocks dark chocolate
3-7 lb packages bread crumbs
2 cans black beans
1 package fresh organic mushrooms
3 heads Romaine lettuce
1 package fresh cilantro
2 bulbs fresh garlic 
2 packages 100% beef hotdogs (nitrate-free)
1 package cough crops (for my terrible cough that won't go away)
1 container sugar-free mints

The total cost was $120, which may sound like a lot, but if I had purchased the same items at a conventional grocery store, the price would have been significantly higher.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April Fools'!

Do you observe April Fools' Day? We are quite serious about it. My husband played two pranks on his coworkers, and I pulled one on him.

At the corner of 1st & April
Before leaving for work in the morning, Mr. Handsome called the office manager at the dental practice where he works and told her that he had been in a car wreck and had injured his hand. For most people, an injured hand isn't a big deal, but for a dentist, it's a catastrophe. "I can't get a hold of my wife, and I need a ride to the hospital," Mr Handsome told her. "Can you pick me up at the corner of 1st St and April St?"

There was a pause as the office manager wrote down the location. It was clear that she hadn't gotten the joke. "Make sure to come to the corner of 1st St and April St," my husband repeated. We heard hysterical laughter on the other end of the line, as one of the dental assistants apparently realized that it was an April Fools' prank. They all thought it was hilarious, and my husband was very proud of himself.

You deserve a donut...just kidding
This one was also my husband's idea, but I executed it. I went to a local donut shop and purchased half a dozen donuts and an extra box.


I opened the empty box, wrote "Happy April Fools' Day!" and tossed a few carrots in. I took both boxes over to the dental practice, hiding the box full of donuts in a desk drawer and putting the prank box in the staff break room.


I had work to do, so I couldn't stick around to see their reactions, but my husband told me that we got a couple of his coworkers really good. If you're going to use that prank, be sure to weigh the box down a little bit, as some of the other employees said that they were suspicious of such a light box.

I hit your car...
This is the one I played on my husband. Well I was dropping the donuts off, I put this note on his car windshield. (He parks in a church parking lot.) If you really want to be mean, don't write Happy April Fools' Day on the note, and the victim will be extremely confused as he or she searches for a dent that doesn't exist. I decided not to put my husband through that.



When he came home, he told me that he had known it was an April Fools' joke all along but had not realized it was from me until he read the back. Secretly, I think he just didn't want to admit that I got him good :)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Interview with Josh Enck from Sight & Sound Theatres


Are you familiar with Sight & Sound Theatres? A family business founded in 1976, Sight & Sound has staged 28 unforgettable, larger-than-life productions in its two, 2,000-seat theatres--in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Branson, Missouri.

I recently interviewed Josh Enck, a second generation owner of Sight & Sound who is both the president and chief creative officer. Check out my video interview below: