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I received a text message from an officer Sunday night asking for my lasagna recipe. The officer's birthday was the following day and her husband was making her birthday dinner. Asking for a recipe is the ultimate compliment for any cook, and an extra special compliment that my lasagna was birthday dinner-worthy.   

It took a little doing to pull the entire recipe together because the sauce recipe is in one place and the filling is in another. Not to mention explaining the the 'building' of lasagna...well, that in itself is a big production. 

I don't have good picture of the lasagna on a plate, but I will next month and I will update this post.  

The sauce recipe is the Pioneer Woman's recipe (from the Food Network) and it makes a bunch! As written, it will make (3) 13x9" pans of  lasagna, or one large chafing tin (pictured below), but since it is somewhat time-consuming to make, I go ahead and make it as written, and then I can enjoy it during the week with spaghetti or freeze it.
SPAGHETTI SAUCE
Click here for the original Pioneer Woman's recipe 

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds Ground Beef or Ground Round (I Used Ground Round)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole large Yellow Onion, Diced 
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced  
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 cup White Wine OR Low Sodium Beef Broth if you prefer (I used the beef broth since I'm cooking for the Po-Po)
  • 2 cans 28 Ounce Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 Oz. Size) Crushed Tomatoes  (14 oz cans are sometimes hard to find so you might have to buy 3 28 oz cans (instead of 2) and only use half of the 3rd can
  • 1 can (small, 4-ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 1 jar good store-bought Marinara Sauce (I used Ragu Traditional, but you use your favorite)
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar (I used a little more than 2 tablespoons - it's tart)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
Instructions
Pioneer Woman's step-by-step photos and instructions, click here.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until totally browned. Remove meat from pot with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. Set aside.  

Discard any grease in pot, but do not clean the pot. Drizzle in olive oil. When it is heated, throw in the diced onion and diced bell pepper. Stir it around for 1-1/2 minutes, then add the garlic. Stir and cook for an additional minute. *Note: dicing the onion, green pepper, and garlic the night before is a huge time-saver.

Pour in the wine (or beef broth) and allow it to bubble up and reduce for about 1-1/2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and marinara sauce. Stir to combine, then add oregano, thyme, sugar, and salt. Stir, then add cooked ground beef and stir to combine. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 

LASAGNA FILLING AND LAYERING

40 years ago, the Mueller's Lasagna Noodle box had a recipe on the box called 'Classic Lasagna' and it was made with Cottage Cheese (not Ricotta). Being newly married at the time and an inexperienced cook, I followed the recipe as written and have been making it with Cottage Cheese ever since. If your preference is Ricotta, use that instead and I'm sure it will be delicious! 

This filling is for one (1) 13x9" pan of lasagna:
1 16 oz  Breakstone's Small Curd 4% Milkfat Cottage Cheese (or Ricotta)
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese (be careful not to use low fat -- it won't melt right)
1/2 cup Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
* Buy 2 packages of Mozzarella so you have two full cups left over to sprinkle on top (see below).

In a large mixing bowl add 2 cups (16 oz) cottage cheese (or ricotta), 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix well.  
After the sauce is ready, spray the bottom of the lasagna pan with spray PAM.
  • Spread one cup of meat sauce to the bottom of the lasagna pan.
  • Add three COOKED lasagna noodles lengthwise on top of sauce. Spread about 1/3 of cheese    mix on top of noodles. I do little even scoops, then try to spread it the best you can. Top with meat sauce (it's more than a cup - maybe 1-1/2 cups?) You want to make sure the noodles are covered well each time, but not so much you lose the filling.
  • Repeat layers twice -- noodles - cheese mixture - sauce.
  • After the last layer of cheese and sauce, add your last layer of noodles and top with meat sauce.  Make sure the ends are covered well with sauce so they don't burn.
  • Cover lasagna with tin foil and bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. Take a peek at 50 minutes and see how it looks. If it looks really hot, remove foil and spread 1-2 cups of mozzarella on top and return to oven until melted and golden.
Photos from my October 27th dinner for CMPD Metro Division:


As you can see, I haven't mastered the 'panoramic' photo feature on my phone.




Every officer signed this card that night with their own little message. I didn't include all the special comments in this photo. 
 

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Spaghetti night at AHOP was earlier this month.

I have made lasagna several times in the past year, but it has been a while since I made spaghetti. I love my lasagna (and my friends love it too), but it was a welcome change not doing the whole 'production' that lasagna brings. And anyone who has made lasagna knows what I'm talking about it. And when I make it, it's like x 4!  

11 officers stopped by that night. 

When the first officer arrived, he took a picture of the food and sent a text message out to a few officers on his shift. One reply came back almost immediately. It said '17', which means 'en route'. The second officer hugged me when he arrived and said it 'made his day' when the message went out that I was cooking dinner, and that's always nice to hear. 

Another officer was fixing his plate when a call came in on his ear piece and he said 'I gotta go'! So I quickly got a To-Go box and threw all of his food in there and he was on his way (the life of a police officer). 

Several officers came that night who had never been to my home before. I love it when an officer comes for the first time. I think they're taken aback at how comfortable they feel right from the get-go....or at least I think they do. I try to make it their 'safe place' -- no photos (except for the food); no strangers; and they can enjoy a hot meal at a table and conversation with the other officers. 

The last three officers left at 10:20 pm. I loaded the dishwasher with as many dishes as it would hold, soaked the dishes that wouldn't fit, and the old girl went to bed! 

I love doing this so much!   ♥

- - - - - - - - - 
                                                                          
My spaghetti sauce recipe is a modified version of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond (the Food Network). The recipe below is with my modifications, for example -- I only added one large onion instead of two; and only one green pepper instead of two. I know not everyone cares for onions and/or green peppers, so I try to take this into consideration when I'm cooking for others.

And an FYI...I use this sauce when making lasagna. One pot makes three (3) 13x9 inch lasagna pans.

Please be sure to review the complete unmodified version of this recipe by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  Click HERE!

Spaghetti Sauce 
Servings:  18 servings
IMPORTANT: This recipe can easily be halved!

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds Ground Beef or Ground Round (I Used Ground Round)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole large Yellow Onion, Diced 
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced  
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 cup White Wine OR Low Sodium Beef Broth if you prefer (I used the beef broth since I was cooking for the Po-Po)
  • 2 cans 28 Ounce Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 Oz. Size) Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 can (small, 4-ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 1 jar good store-bought Marinara Sauce (I used Ragu Traditional, but you use your favorite)
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar (I used a little more than 2 tablespoons -- it was tart)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 2 pounds Spaghetti, Cooked Al Dente And Tossed With Olive Oil

Instructions
(Read Ree Drummond's instructions. She has step-by-step photos and instructions. click HERE.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until totally browned. Remove meat from pot with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. Set aside.  

Discard any grease in pot, but do not clean the pot. Drizzle in olive oil. When it is heated, throw in the diced onion and diced bell pepper. Stir it around for 1-1/2 minutes, then add the garlic. Stir and cook for an additional minute. *Note: dicing the onion, green pepper, and garlic the night before is a huge time-saver.

Pour in the wine (or beef broth) and allow it to bubble up and reduce for about 1-1/2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and marinara sauce. Stir to combine, then add oregano, thyme, sugar, and salt. Stir, then add cooked ground beef and stir to combine. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add a little water or more beef broth if it needs more liquid.

Before serving, drizzle olive oil on the cooked/drained spaghetti noodles and toss. Serve with a nice salad and a big piece of garlic bread. 




This before and after picture is a terrific testimonial of how terrific The Pioneer Woman's spaghetti sauce recipe is!





 





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I met two long-time friends for lunch today. One friend I get together with every couple of months, and the other I haven't seen in at least 15 years - maybe more. We all used to attend the same church at one time. Lunch was at a BBQ restaurant that has to-die-for macaroni and cheese. I really enjoyed the visit.

I don't think either friend has had my cream puffs before, so last night I whipped up a small batch of 18. I gave each friend a polka-dot box of 5 cream puffs. The waitress managed to lift one from each box with her sweet personality and kindness, and she was willing to forfeit her tip for another. What? Now, that's a pretty good review right there! Anyway, that left 8 cream puffs. 

I ate one as soon as I got home. So now we're down to 7 cream puffs. 

I texted three officers to see if they were working hoping I could pass off a box to them. One officer was off, one was off but on call, and one was home sick w/ strep throat. 

I had to go to the grocery store for a few things and pass a shopping center along the way that almost always has an off-duty officer in the middle of the parking lot, so on a whim, I fixed another polka-dot box and took it with me, and I was right. 

The officer rolled down his window as I pulled up and I introduced myself. I told him I was a volunteer w/ CMPD. I gave him my name and told him I was also The Cream Puff Lady. He was very nice. He smiled and said he was just finishing his dinner and he would love a cream puff. He seemed pleased to finally get to try one, and that always makes me happy. He said 'maybe another officer will pass by and I can share with them'. I said 'I hope so', and with that, I told him to have a good night. 


The two puffs diminished to one, and now there is none.  :)

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I've been thinkin' again.

When I found myself at a career crossroads in 2016, I had already promised a cream puff drop to the nice officers in the CMPD North Division. So two days after losing my job, I kept my promise and delivered two boxes of cream puffs.

It was nice walking in there, not rushed for a change. In a conversation with the nice lieutenant, I told him what happened and that I was enjoying my time off. With a cream puff in-hand, it didn't take the lieutenant long to say...."Miss Ann, I think you should start selling your cream puffs. You're sitting on a GOLD MINE!"

As lovely as that thought it is - and I think about it a lot - the regulations are very strict. For example....some people bake cakes at home and sell them for profit, but it's not that easy for my cream puffs.

According to the Dept. of Agriculture (weird that this would fall under their department), I cannot make cream puffs at home (for profit) and the first two reasons that nixed it for me were:
  1. I have a pet. No pets allowed inside the home if you're making food for profit. At least that's the rule for NC.
  2. The puffs must be refrigerated.
I'm sure there are many more reasons, but these were the first two road blocks.    

I haven't closed the door on this dream completely. I checked into renting a professional kitchen. The idea sounds easy enough, but it's expensive and the puff filling needs to chill over night which means I would need a refrigerator (with a lock). I would have to leave the filling there in a strange, unattended refrigerator. That creates a whole other problem and, well, that's just not going to happen. I would need a locked refrigerator.

My other idea was to turn my garage into a kitchen. Now wouldn't that be amazing! It would be pet-free. No doubt an expensive investment just to make cream puffs.

My friends tell me all the time....'you need to open a bakery', which inspired this post. Not so much a bakery, because I want to concentrate on what I do well and what my friends behind the badge like most....and that's make my Cream Puffs.  

What I envision is a mobile truck/trailer, bee-bopping around the city of Charlotte selling only cream puffs and coffee, and soft drinks. With retro signage that screams "The Cream Puff Lady!" 

Here are a few ideas that keep my dream alive.

'La CREPERIE de MARIONE' -- this adorable food camper resides in Barcelona. Click here.





1962 SANTE FE VINTAGE CAMPER converted into a super cute mobile food truck -- click here.

I love this, although the window doesn't seem very secure. Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about safety first!


I would need about 3 of these refrigerators.  :)

MARGUERITE du PRE is a cute little yogurt truck, somewhere in France.  Click here.


SWEET LUCIE'S ORGANIC ICE CREAM resides in Mar Vista, CA. This 1959 International Harvester Metro was a functioning ice cream truck for over 30 years in Los Angeles, CA. It was in a serious state of repair when Sweet Lucie's acquired in 2009. After a four year restoration, it was brought back to it's original glory. Super cute, eh? I love the white-wall tires and the red rims. Click here.

Love the white wall tires and red rims.

COMBI COFFEE in Porto, Portugal


CAROLINAS in Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil (a sweet shop)


PINTEREST


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A story popped up in my Twitter feed the other day that took me by surprise. 

Did you know that the New York Yankees -- yes, the baseball team -- quietly sends flowers to the families and police departments of fallen officers killed in the line of duty?

Well, I never knew that. 

‘With Our Deepest Sympathy, 
From the New York Yankees’

The original story can be found here, written by David Waldstein, writer for The New York Times. 

As David Waldstein wrote..."For the past three years, the Yankees have been quietly sending flowers to the families and police departments of slain law enforcement officers across the country." 
 
I can't recall a kinder gesture.





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Officers Andy Nobles and John Burnette
With National Police Week just around the corner, I have been working on the final edits to this year's memorial video. I turned to Google searching for a better resolution photo of Officer Burnette, one of 39 fallen officers being remembered next week for their service and sacrifice. I found the photo I was looking for and so much more.

What I found was a wonderful moving film by Kathryn Frye that shows the young officers, Andy Nobles and John Burnette, full of life, walking their beat in the Adam 2 District, and enjoying the interaction with the community. The film talks about their enthusiasm on the job and their desire to want to make a difference.

It was the very first time, albeit on film, I had seen of any of the fallen officers alive. What an honor it would be to shake their hand and say thank you -- an honor that will never come.

That fateful night -- Tuesday, October 5, 1993

"Officers John Burnette and Andy Nobles responded to what appeared to be a routine call the night of Tuesday, October 5, 1993.

Someone had reported a suspicious vehicle and persons at Boulevard Homes, a public housing complex that was part of the officers’ Adam Two Patrol District. But when the officers arrived and started talking to a suspect, he ran. Nobles and Burnette chased the suspect into a nearby wooded area. A few minutes later, shots rang out. Nobles, 26, and Burnette, 25, were each shot in the head. 

When they were pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center, the recently consolidated Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recorded its first slaying of an officer. It was also the first time in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County history that two officers died in a single incident.
The deaths sparked public outrage. Thousands attended their funerals. Radio and television programs bristled with calls from citizens demanding that something be done about the growing violent crime problems. Memorial services were held, and monuments dedicated. Since the officers died, the very streets where they lost their lives have been named after them." ~ CMPD memorial page

"John and Andy"....a glimpse into the lives of two of CMPD's finest. 

John and Andy - YouTube

~ ~
Photo/Film Credits
  • "John and Andy" is a production of the North Carolina Center for Educational Films, by Kathryn Frye, in association with the GOV Channel.
  • WBTV-Channel 3
  • WCNC-TV Channel 36

                                                                                      ♥
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