Take a Taste Tuesday with Meal Planning Mama

Hi! I am Brittany from Meal Planning Mama. I am so excited to share my little part of the internet with you. While I do not have a blog (hopefully in the near future), you can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and on Facebook. I am a teacher, wife, mom, and weekly meal planner. My meal planning adventure started about eight years ago shortly after my husband and I were married. I was not a cook. We went through our first year of marriage with him cooking most meals. However, with his work schedule, it was time for me to learn how to cook! I started out simple, following recipes online, and teaching myself. Finally, I found The Pioneer Woman on Food Network and became addicted. Ree Drummond makes cooking look so delicious and so easy. From that point on, I was the sole chef in the house. Nevertheless, there was still the daily question of, “what are we going to have for dinner?” every night.  I quickly became frustrated with running to the store several times a week, which in the end would cost us more money over a weeks’ time! I read about “meal planning” (probably on Pinterest) and decided to give it a shot. Since then I have read hundreds of blog posts on the best ways to meal plan and have made it my own. There is no one way to meal plan—you have to do what is best for you and your family. Today my family cannot survive without meal planning and to help you out, I post weekly meal plans on my Facebook page. The nice part about my page is that you can scroll through several years of meal planning to find exactly the types of meals you want to make up your weekly dinners.
 
Today I want to share a favorite recipe with you from the woman who helped ignite my cooking passion, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I have made a countless number of Ree’s meals and I can honestly say, I have never had a bad one. A few of our family favorites include baked ziti (see below), sloppy joes, quiche, salsa, beautiful Brussel sprouts, blackberry cobbler, cornbread dressing, and spaghetti sauce (just to name a few…haha!)
 
I make many crockpot meals over the course of a month, so if it does not go in the crockpot then it has to be simple because ain’t nobody got time for that. This baked ziti is super easy! If you have kids, then they can get involved to help (my 4 year old was a grouch on this day), or you can whip it up while they have quiet time or play time. It’s also a great meal to make and freeze for another time or to give to a family.

Ree Drummond’s Baked Ziti

Ingredients:
·         2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
·         3 cloves Garlic, Minced
·         1 whole Large Onion, Diced  *note: I cut up about 3 whole onions at a time and freeze them so  
     when I need onion, I can just grab a bag or handful! I did not use a full onion for this recipe
·         1 pound Italian Sausage
·         1 pound Ground Beef
·         1 can (28 Oz. Size) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
·         2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce *I used marinara sauce
·         2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
·         1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
·         Salt And Pepper, to taste
·         16 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
·         1 tub (15 Oz. Size) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
·         1-1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
·         1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
·         1 whole Egg
·         Fresh Minced Parsley
 
 Instructions:
Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and sauté for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice or marinara, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. *I did not separate—still worked out fine*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine. 

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella. *I just threw it all together in a bowl in poured it into a casserole dish. When your short on time, it happens and still tastes great!

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

(Sprinkle chopped parsley over the pasta before serving!)
 
 Once again, this dish did not disappoint! We had my parents over for dinner and made a salad along with garlic bread to top it off. We also had leftovers for days! I cannot wait to make this again in a few weeks when I am working on some freezer meals for the winter! Follow me along on Facebook @mealplanningmama and on Instagram @mealplanningmamacbus to learn more about meal planning or to find weekly menus!

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