I have been enjoying cooking for my family.
And my family has also been enjoying me cooking for them.
Number 4 said to me, “Mom, you have been making some really good food, and I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate it.”
That little acknowledgment meant A LOT to me.
We haven’t been snacking very much.
We eat breakfast every weekday at 8.
Lunch is at noon.
Dinner is usually around six, although I haven’t been as regimented with the dinner times as I have with the breakfast and lunch times.
I’ll give the kids some kind of snack most days around 3:30/4:00. This is pretty much the only snack they have each day.
I think I’ve been really influenced by Little House On The Prairie.
I have the entire series on DVD (a Christmas gift from my parents a couple years ago), and the kids are all really enjoying watching it.
Well, all but one.
The teenage boy doesn’t watch it with us.
But every night, Numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 watch it with me.
In fact, last night Number 5 came skipping into the kitchen around 7 pm saying, “It’s almost time for my favorite part of the daaaaaay!”
We watch it every night after dinner.
One constant scenario throughout the series is that Caroline is always cooking.
Caroline is a fucking rock star, honestly.
Charles is made out to be the backbone of the family, but it’s Caroline who holds down the fort.
She’s portrayed as gentle and patient and kind and mild mannered, but really she’s a badass.
Anyway, they sit down for breakfast and dinner every night.
You don’t see them eating lunch so much because the kids are often at school.
Another thing you don’t often see them doing is eating snacks all day long. The kids aren’t scavenging through the cabinets 24/7, eating Caroline out of house and home.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I don’t think snacking was really a thing back then.
But also, snacking wasn’t a thing because people sat down for meals and really fueled their bodies so they didn’t need to eat every two hours.
With seven people at home and two teenagers who eat A LOT, we can power through food pretty quickly.
And snack foods go extremely quickly.
And that pisses me off because it’s really just a bunch of money flushed down the toilet. All those snack foods are garbage.
At a time like this when I am trying to limit the number of trips to the grocery store and when money has become tighter than usual overnight and unexpectedly, I can’t have five kids rummaging through the fridge and the cabinets all day long.
Otherwise we’d be out of food in a couple days.
So I haven’t really been buying many snacks.
Instead, I’ve been really good about feeding the kids three sit down meals.
Just like my idol, Caroline Ingalls.
Sometimes we have lunchy stuff for lunch. You know, sandwiches and fruit and the same kind of things they would pack for school.
But more often than not, I’m giving them a pretty substantial meal.
And what I’ve found when I do that is that the kids aren’t hunger two hours later.
When I was a junior in high school I went to France for three weeks as an exchange student.
Lunch was a big meal there. The kids had a two hour break, and they would go home and eat a big meal, and then come back to school.
I’ve been doing the same thing.
Here was one of the favorites from this past week.
I made baked penne.
It was delicious and the kids polished off almost the entire thing at lunch.
I thought I was going to have a bunch left over for later in the week and I only ended up with one little serving left over.
It was really easy to make.
You only need a few ingredients:
- cooked penne
- diced onion
- mozzarella cheese
- cream cheese
- pasta sauce
- Italian seasoning
I had precooked some penne that morning while I was making breakfast.
If the penne is already cooked, all you have to do is sauté the onions and then throw the rest of the ingredients
I sauteed some onions in a cast iron frying pan (you could also do this in a dutch oven or large pot) and then added cream cheese, moZzarella cheese, pasta sauce, and some Italian seasoning and stirred over low heat until all the cheese was melted.
Then I added the cooked penne and let it heat through.
I transferred that into a greased 13×9 baking dish.
Then sprinkled a little more cheese on top.
And then I baked it at 350° for about 20 minutes until the cheese was a nice golden color and everything was heated through.
And that’s it!
I had some leftover cooked penne and I threw this together again very quickly in a dutch oven and just heated it on the stovetop and we had it last night for dinner, too.
I served it with salad and garlic bread and carrots and dip and the kids literally devoured it.
Number 5 and 7 started eating before everyone else.
In their pajamas, which is pretty much the norm here these days.
This is one thing I’m doing to keep the food bill down, limit the snacks, and also limit the trips to the grocery store.
My husband also loved this. It was one of the rare meals that has a 100% approval rating at my house.
If you want an easy and satisfying Meatless Monday meal, here you go.
Or if you want, you can add some ground turkey or beef.
This is going into the rotation for the next couple weeks.
Caroline Ingalls totally would have approved.
This has a 100% approval rating at my house. Perfect for lunch or dinner. A great Meatless Monday meal but also easy to adjust and add in ground beef or chicken or whatever you want!
- 6-7 cups cooked penne
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 32 oz pasta sauce (one large jar)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp Italian seasoning (don't really need this if the sauce has seasonings in it)
- 1 tbs olive oil
Preheat oven to 350° and grease 13x9 baking dish.
Sauté onion over medium heat olive oil. (or whatever oil you want)
When onion is cooked through, stir in pasta sauce, cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoning. Stir until cheese is melted and everything is mixed.
Add in cooked pasta and stir to combine well.
Pour mixture into greased 13x9 pan.
Cover with remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly and delicious.
Let sit for about 10 minutes before eating so you don't burn the sh*t out of your mouth.