Crockpot Lasagna

I love a good classic.

A classic novel. {i.e. Pride & Prejudice}

A classic movie. {i.e. Roman Holiday }

And I most definitely love a classic lasagna recipe. {i.e. this one!}

Let’s keep it real though. On top of it being an all-out yummy classic comfort food, lasagna is a busy mom’s secret dinner weapon. It’s such a great option, especially when we’re talking about a crockpot, not oven, version because it’s so easy to throw together and it’s really filling, so a little goes a long way.

Crockpot Lasagna 5

Plus, this recipe usually makes enough for leftovers, which is a bonus because lasagna is one of those foods that almost always tastes even better the next day. Lasagna also keeps well in the freezer, so if you have the carb-resisting strength, you can freeze the extra for another meal. Maybe a lunch or light dinner? It’s safe to say that given the sheer number of lasagna recipes out there, the secret to making great lasagna is finding a recipe with ingredients that you love. For us, the trick comes down to quality meats (that’s right, meats, plural), quality cheeses (again, plural), and a top notch sauce.

 crockpot lasagna 3

Just look at that? Does it get anymore perfect than this, cooked to bubbling perfection? I was always so tired of getting it wrong when I would bake them in the oven. We love a few crispy edges, but not throughout the whole thing! And, then… voila!

Crockpot Lasagna 4

 This is a no-fail recipe that guarantees you won’t end up with hard, crusty noodles or a totally dry dish. Just layer the ingredients in the crockpot, sit back, and relax!

Crockpot Lasagna 2

Three different cheeses simmer right along with delicious ground meats and perfectly herbed pasta sauce in this easy, no fuss, delicious lasagna.

Dinner is serrrved!

Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna

recipe adapted from Creating Through Life

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
29 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese + 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Directions

1. Brown the ground beef and ground sausage. When they’re about half way done add in the garlic and onions. When the meat is browned drain and return to the pan or skillet.
2. Stir the tomato sauce in with the cooked meat.
3. Spread 1/4 of the meat sauce on the bottom of a prepared (sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray) crock-pot.
4. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce, breaking them up to fit better as you go.
5. Combine the 4 cups of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Gently spread it out to form a layer that covers the noodles.
6. Repeat these layers twice.
7. Top with the remaining meat sauce.
8. Cover and cook on low for 4 hrs.
9. Let the lasagna stand in the crock-pot with the lid off for at least 10 minutes. 5 minutes before serving sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.

Do you love these classic Italian flavors? Need some more easy meal inspiration? Check out these other similar recipes.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

Italian Drunken Noodle

4 Sons 'R' Us: Baked Gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato, and mozzarella

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

{One Pot Wonder} Dirty Rice

For years, we bought the box mix and simply added ground beef to it. We were in heaven. It was divine. It tasted great and it was quick. Everything we ever needed or wanted in our dirty rice dinners. Or so I thought. Sometimes I have readers send me links to recipes they think will tickle my fancy or that they want an opinion on before venturing into uncharted territory. THAT’ is how this recipe fell into my lap, err inbox, late last year, and I can’t say thank you enough!

I wanted to share this with you all sooner. I really did. You see, I first made this late last year, and we loved it. But I don’t typically take pictures until the next time I make something. I mean, I’ve gotta make sure it’s son approve and all. So then there was the second time we made this, and all I had was a crappy picture that really didn’t do it justice, and this meal deserved better than that. So I used that as the perfect excuse to make it again. And it seemed that every time I got around to making it again, and again, we were all in so much of a hurry to dig into this dish that the only photo I could get was using the hub’s cell phone! Clearly you can see where our priorities lie. 😉 So this time around, about 9 months later, give or take a month or so, I didn’t tell anyone what was for dinner and wouldn’t let anyone near the kitchen until I’d managed to get at least one decent shot with my camera. Once I snapped it, that was it, the troops were all over it. It was a lot like what I’d imagine feeding a pack of ravenous wolves might be like. [End tangent]

So. Dirty Rice. If you’re from the South, especially the deep south and any ‘bayou’ regions, you’ve probably grown up on the stuff. For those of you not from the deep south, a fun fact about ‘dirty’ rice.  The traditional Cajun dish get it’s name from the white rice it calls for that turns a ‘dirty’ color when cooked with small pieces of chicken livers. Yeah. I didn’t like liver when I was little, and it’s still a no-go now. I know, I know, your palette can change as you age, but I’m not chancing it. No liver for this Mama. I get my rice pleeeenty dirty using good ol’ ground beef. Don’t like beef? Chicken sausage or pork sausage both work great in this meal. If you’ve got one pot, and one 25-minute window of time, you’ve got this amazing dinner that will leave you with only ONE dish to clean. Priceless, right?!

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

recipe adapted from Southern Plate

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 small onion, diced
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 tbsp dried
1-3 tbsp creole seasoning, depending on how spicy you’d like it
5 cups cooked rice
 
Directions
 
1. In a large skillet, heat up the oil, over medium heat.
2. Add the ground beef, celery, pepper, garlic, and onion and cook, breaking up the beef while stirring, until the ground beef is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the parsley and creole seasoning, starting on the low end with 1 tbsp and tasting before leaving it or increasing the amount as desired, stirring to combine.
4. Then stir in the cooked rice, and saute for 5 minutes, or until heated through, over medium heat.
 
 
Like the idea of a one pot meal and a less-mess dinner? Check out these other one pot wonders:
4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken & Rice
Mexican Chicken & Rice (Arroz con Pollo)
4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta
Pizza Pasta
4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Mein
Chicken Lo Mein
 

Sloppy Joe Tacos

Did you ever start to make sloppy joes and halfway through realize you didn’t have hamburger buns on hand? Yep. Totally happened to me you guys. (And, sadly I can’t say this is the first time either. Don’t get the sons started on how many nights we’ve had to have bunless hotdogs and hamburgers.) And so sloppy joe tacos (what??!) it was. I was weary that this would just end up tasting funky, but it didn’t. It is everything you love about a sloppy Joe along with the comfort of taco shells and all the fixins.

Now: calling all napkins!!! Who am I kidding?! Forget the napkins. I just need a hose. Especially with all four sons in the house eating these. For real! Seriously though… they rock. Grab a bib (and a hose) and dig in!

Sloppy Joe Tacos

Sloppy Joe Tacos

1 lb ground beef, or ground turkey
half a medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce

Directions

1. Brown and drain ground beef (or turkey). Place cooked meat back into skillet and saute the onions and pepper until onions begin to turn clear. Add in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and garlic powder. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Line taco shells in a 9×13 pan and evenly divide the meat mixture in the shells. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and place it in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and shells are warm.
Divide lettuce evenly between taco shells.

Stuffed French Bread & Swiss Mushroom Stuffed French Bread

The sons love sub night. We have it at least once a month. They’re always putting their heads together to try and come up with new filling ideas and combos. We love hot or cold subs, but sometimes I just want to have an uber hearty, hot sandwich for my meal. This fit the bill perfectly. Literally, this giant twist on your average sub-sandwich is great. A quick & easy, ready-in-under-30-minutes meal, that’s every inch of sandwich perfection. Crisp on the outside, hearty and tender on the inside. I do love a good crunch to my bread. Both versions taste great, but if you get any ideas feel free to play around with your ingredients. Add in some extra veggies, change up the cheese. Heck, change up the meat. I seriously doubt you can go wrong with stuffed french bread.

Mmm, can’t you just picture it? Smell it?? Go ahead, try it and taste the delicious-ness.

Stuffed French Bread

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Stuffed French Bread

recipe adapted from Life In The Lofthouse

1 loaf french bread
1 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 Tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Directions

1. Slice the french bread in half, lengthwise, so you’re left with two equal pieces. Scoop out the bread in the center of each piece, making two bread ‘boats’. Place the extra bread in a large bowl and tear it into very tiny pieces. Trust me, you want them tiny. Place both halves of  bread onto a large baking sheet and set it aside.
2. In a skillet over medium high heat, brown both the beef and the onion until fully cooked. Strain the grease and return to the skillet. Next, add in the celery and garlic. Cook until the celery is tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the soup, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the meat mix is heated through, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the meat to the bread in the bowl, stirring to combine. Pour mixture into the center of one half of the french bread and spread out evenly. Spread out evenly. Sprinkle the meat mixture with the cheddar cheese. Top with the other half of bread to make it a sandwich.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. When done cooking, let your bread sit for 5 minutes so everything ‘sets’, before slicing and serving. Then, eat up!

Swiss Mushroom Stuffed French Bread

1 loaf french bread

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp diced onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tsp beef bouillon
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp Worcestershire
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Directions

1. Slice the french bread in half, lengthwise, so you’re left with two equal pieces. Scoop out the bread in the center of each piece, making two bread ‘boats’. Place the extra bread in a large bowl and tear it into very tiny pieces. Trust me, you want them tiny. Place both halves of bread onto a large baking sheet and set it aside.
2. In a skillet over medium high heat, brown both the beef and the onion until fully cooked. Strain the grease and return to the skillet. Next, add in the mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the soup, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the meat mix is heated through, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the meat to the bread in the bowl, stirring to combine. Pour mixture into the center of one half of the french bread and spread out evenly. Spread out evenly. Sprinkle the meat mixture with the cheddar cheese. Top with the other half of bread to make it a sandwich.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. When done cooking, let your bread sit for 5 minutes so everything ‘sets’, before slicing and serving. Then, eat up!

The Best Meatballs

Meatball recipes are often challenged by chefs who claim, “Mine are the best!” Even though my meatballs ARE the best ( in my opinion of course), I won’t claim they’re the best in the world.  However, they are the best recipe I’ve ever found and they’re the best for me. Who would have guessed the secret ingredient would be stuffing mix? It gives it all the right flavors and leaves them incredibly moist. Try them for yourself! My Italian father in law makes meatballs, his family recipe, and I’ve watched him since I first got married. They’re good, but there are so many steps and so many ingredients. It’s a lengthy, day long process. Ain’t nobody got time for that, at least not in this house. These are so easy, I can have them mixed, shaped, and baked in well under 30 minutes. Everybody’s got at least 30 minutes at some point in the day, right? After they’re baked throw them in some sauce for delicious spaghetti and meatballs. We love using them to make Crockpot Hawaiian meatballs. They’re totally freezer-friendly, and the sons love taking a few out at lunch time for making meatball subs.

The Best Meatballs

 4 Sons 'R' Us: The Best Meatballs

recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 pkg. (6 oz.) chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 1/4 cups of water
2 eggs

Directions

1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line two baking pans with foil (this makes for no-fuss cleanup later). Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients (I find by hand is best) until fully incorporated.
4. Shape the meat mixture into about 32, 1 1/2 inch, balls (about 1/4 cup meat per ball) and placing them in the prepared pans as you go.
5. Bake the meatballs for 16-18 minutes, or until completely cooked. No pink meat for us.
6. Remove from the oven and, if using immediately, add the meatballs into your recipe. Otherwise allow them to cool completely and follow freezing instructions.

To Freeze

Loosely pack meatballs in zip-locking freezer bags. When freezing, make sure to lay the bags flat so the meatballs freeze individually without sticking/clumping together. They can be stored frozen for up to 3 months. To use, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before hand.

Oven Baked Tacos

As I’m preparing for dinner the other night, I asked Son # 3 to hand me a can of black beans. He proceeds to root around through the canned bean cubby in the pantry.

Son # 3: Mom, why did you buy garbage can peas?!?!
Me: Huh?
Son # 3: (holding up a can with a look of utter disgust) Garbage. Can. Peas. 
Me: Read that again. It says garbanzo beans.
Son # 3: Oh. Well they still sound gross.

You can’t make this stuff up people!

This was a fun new twist on our regular tacos. Usually, when I make tacos I bake the taco shells separately in the oven for 10 minutes so that the shells are crispy. When you add the ground beef and beans to the picture it’s a whole new story. They’re this perfect mix of crunchy and soft in all the right places. If you want to ensure an even crunch over your entire shell surface area, let more of the liquid evaporate out of your meat mixture. I topped my tacos with chopped roma tomatoes, taco sauce, and some lettuce. Sour cream, salsa, & guacamole were served on the side, because those are Mexican must-have for us. And, of course, no Mexican night is complete for us without some yellow rice. Everybody was happy. All tacos were served toasty and everyone’s cheese was melted to perfection before adding the toppings of their choice. Don’t like pre-made hardshell tacos? That’s ok, too. You can easily sub flour, or even corn, tortillas in instead. Who knew oven-baked tacos were the way to go?!

And for those of you with an eagle eye, we can all just ignore the dirty burners. While they stay on the proverbial to-do list, I’ll be honest in saying they only get cleaned twice once a year.

Oven Baked Tacos

4 Sons 'R' Us: Oven Baked Tacos

2 lbs Ground beef, lean
1 head of lettuce
1 onion
1 tomato
1 can re-fried beans, or black beans
1 jar of salsa
6 oz tomato sauce
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
12 taco shells
cheddar cheese
sour cream

Directions

1. Brown ground beef and drain. Return to pan.
2. Add taco seasoning, beans and tomato sauce.
3. Stir to combine and then heat until the flavors have blended.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil.
6. Spoon taco filling into taco shells and stack them side by side in a pan.
7. When shells are filled, top each with shredded cheese and cilantro, if desired.
8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, watching so they do not brown much.
9. Serve and top with remaining ingredients, if desired.

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

Baked Beans. Burgers. Typical cookout staples, right? Once upon a time, I never had any idea that they could be improved upon. Then a little fairy Godmother served these at a get together on a silver platter. Ah-mazing! I savored every bite. It was an intense, but brief affair. The clock struck 12, and just like that they were gone. The magic faded, but even after the party I couldn’t forget about them. It took some tracking down, but I found the maker of the magical beans, and there was no going back. This became a dinner, and cookout staple. Obviously, our family lived happily ever after in the kingdom of Beef & Beans.

Debut this cookout season in style. Be the belle of the ball by bringing these babies.

P.S. I’ve gotta tell ya, that these are great slathered on a hamburger bun too!

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped, about 2 cups
1 pound ground beef
2 15-ounce cans Boston-style baked beans
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
6 slices of your favorite bacon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion; cook about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the beef; cook about 10 minutes or until brown, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beef mixture with the remaining ingredients except the bacon; mix well. Pour beef mixture into the prepared casserole; arrange the bacon slices on top. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake about 45 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Uncover dish and preheat broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crisp.

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

Although it only requires three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), grilled cheese is one of the most popular comfort foods in the world. The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese sandwich, but many cultures have invented their own take on this ‘classic’ dish. In France, people enjoy Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) while in Switzerland it is customary to melt the cheese and toast the bread separately before combining them. The American grilled cheese sandwich emerged in the 1920s when inexpensive cheese and affordable sliced bread became available. It is now a staple in cafés, diners, and school cafeterias across the country.

Despite this noteworthy past, and it’s longevity, today, it’s a sad world for the grilled cheese sandwich. Somewhere along the way it has been demoted from a classic comfort food to the dismal realm of the kid’s menu; thus, making it ‘socially’ off limits to the older-than-15-crowd. And when you’re an adult who just wants some melted cheddar between two buttery, toasty slices of bread…that’s a sad, sad thing. Being that I have the four sons, I jsut don’t care. Social norms be damned. If I want a grilled cheese, I’m having grilled cheese. Even if the waitress looks at me funny when I place an order for not 4, but 5, kid meals.

Still, being that April is ‘grilled cheese month’ and all, and I saw that waitresses’ questioning arched eyebrow,  I thought it was time for a revival. An upgrade, if you will, to make it worthy of a place in the world of socially acceptable adult fare. I know I’ve mentioned this in several posts before. I will never be to old for grilled cheese! At it’s most basic, it’s totally awesome. At it’s fanciest adaptation? It’s still freakin’ awesome!!

This is a far cry from your typical grilled cheese sandwich. Kick things up a notch with the salsa and chiles. If you happen to have a babysitter, enjoy it out on your patio with a margarita to make it REALLY good!

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

recipe adapted from Julie’s Eats & Treats

1 lb ground beef
1 packet taco season
1/2 c. salsa
1/4 cup diced, canned green chilies (optional)
12 slices bread
1 tbsp butter
1 lb Velveeta

Directions

1. Brown ground beef in medium sized skillet. Drain fat. Mix in taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add salsa & green chiles.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Cut Velveeta into 6 pieces.
3. In a large skillet place two pieces of bread, buttered side down. Top each piece of bread with one slice of Velveeta. On top of Velveeta spoon 1/6 of hamburger mixture. Place another piece of bread on top of beef with the buttered side up.
4. Cook over medium heat until bread is golden brown. Flip sandwich and repeat on other side. Repeat until all sandwiches have been made.

Creamy Taco Pasta

Better for you hamburger helper — that’s what we decided this recipe was. Reminiscent of hamburger helper, but without all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Creamy, cheesy, and delicious! If I haven’t sold you on it yet, where can you go wrong with a combination of two family favorites? Tacos & pasta?!  A perfect quick and easy, busy weeknight meal. Be prepared though. Dinner will be silent. Everyone will be too busy eating, or in my case, scarfing down their first helping so they can call dibs on whatever is left in the pot. 

Creamy Taco Pasta

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Taco Pasta

recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 pound ground beef or turkey
8-12 ounces medium pasta shells or other small dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, drained, or 1 cup salsa
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp dried cilantro leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
3. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit if it is still too thin.
4. Toss in the dried cilantro right before serving for some added color and flavor. Serve with a green salad.