Security Taste Test

Security serves many functions here—keeping canines and kitties away from the property along with their people, alerting us to visitors and UPS delivery people (yes, each bark is unique and I now know how to differentiate), welcoming visitors enthusiastically so they feel, well, welcome, walking her person twice a day to keep him fit and helping him keep up with the neighborhood events, and of course taste tests of our food. 

And hers.

This morning as TMWLH was filling up the bin where we store her, ahemmm…..”dog food”…….she did a taste test just to ensure it was to her liking.

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And asked, “Why are you taking my photograph?  You’re strange!”

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image  Yes, fill up the food bowl, she instructed her Pet Person.  This will do…………

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Well of course her name is on her place setting.  You don’t think we’re cave people, do you?

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Before 11 a.m.

If you arise and get busy, you can make this in a crock pot by 11 and have it for lunch because it only takes 3 hours—IN THE CROCK POT!

This is an adaptable recipe (see link at bottom)—tweak it as you see fit.  Taste after it’s cooked and add whatever flavors you’d like to adjust.  (Some ideas below.)

Pork Sirloin Roast with an Oriental Taste

1 pork sirloin roast (mine was about 2 lbs.)

    Rub all over:  Salt/pepper/onion powder/garlic powder your roast and brown in a pan on the stove—use a bit of olive oil.

Place in crock pot. 

Make the sauce:

(You could make this up the night before, brown your roast the night before, and simply remove both from the refrigerator in the morning, place in crock pot and you’d be way ahead of the game so to speak!)

Approximately:  1/4 cup peanut butter, about 1 Tbsp. each of garlic (chopped), ginger (chopped), 2 Tbsp. (or more) chili paste, 1/4 cup tomato paste.  Note the changes I made to this—it was dependent upon what was in the pantry and fridge!  No hard-and-fast rules.  Trying for the “Asian flavor” in this roast.

Yes, Weeders.  I cheated.  I bought the garlic, ginger and chili peppers (which is what I used instead of chili paste) in tubes.  Already chopped/ground up.  You just squeeze out the portion you need. 

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2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce, 3 Tbsp. sugar of some sort (I used Splenda).  Whisk or put in food processor and blend well.  If you have an emersion blender, use that—but I don’t.  The food processor works fine.  Taste it!  If it doesn’t taste sweet enough (mine didn’t), add some more sweetener of some sort—try to get the sweet/tangy flavor balance—to suit you.  If you want it a bit hotter, then by all means consider hot sauce as an ingredient in this. 

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Add 3 Tbsp. vegetable broth or chicken broth.*  Pour over roast and cook on low for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

*I had a couple of problems with this recipe:

1.  I had to open a can of vegetable broth.  What to do with the rest of it—I only needed 3 Tablespoons!  This is what I did:

image  Freeze in ice cube trays; once frozen, remove and place in plastic bag, labeled.  You’ve got about 1 Tbsp. per cube.

2.  I didn’t have any tomato sauce OPEN.  Again, only needed a little bit—so I mixed a little under 1/4 cup tomato paste (the kind that comes in a tube because I had it open and it’d been lurking around in the fridge for a few months—says it lasts almost forever, but I still want to use it up) with some white vinegar to make  1/4 cup. 

By 11 a.m., cooked in a crock pot on LOW,  this was done:

image  I sliced it up a little and put it in a smaller Pyrex pan to cool, then refrigerated.  The pork pieces above have some sauce on them.  The rest of the sauce looks like this:

image  Refrigerate also.

Here are some ideas to serve:

1.  Shred pork, cut carrots into match-stick-thin slivers, add some finely chopped green onions, (and whatever else you’d like in your wrap), place in lettuce leaves and wrap.

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Above:  thinly sliced peppers, chopped garlic and some broccoli.

2.  Cook rice and serve with pork slices, sauce, and a fruit medley such as chopped Mangos, Avocado, Red pepper and lime juice with honey.  (I had some of this leftover from another meal.  The tangy sweetness of that combination worked wonderfully with the Asian pork flavor.)

image  I had broccoli so I added that with carrots, onion cut very thin, slivers of peppers, and garlic and cooked lightly in olive oil.

3.  Make the same mixture as #1 above, serve in tortillas.  To this you might want to add some shredded lettuce.

4.  You can add peanuts to the mixture if you like—and adapt to your own taste. 

image  leftover peanuts were put in the stir fry.  This gives it a nice crunch. 

Chili pepper sauce, hot sauce, honey, lime juice, soy sauce, chopped onion, chopped peppers, tiny carrot match sticks, water chestnuts (slivered or chopped) would add texture, color and flavor to this recipe.  You might try dried fruit such as dried apricots in your wraps, too.  Oh!  And if you save packets of Oriental sauces from take-out diners (I do!), don’t forget them.  They can add additional kick to this mixture.

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5.  Make stir-fry with Asian Vegetables and add shredded pork at the last minute. 

image  Sautéed mushrooms—I added some to the stir-fry mixture.  (True confessions:  I had them, they needed to be used!  They will be added to other dishes, too—soups, casseroles, etc.  What isn’t used with dinner will be frozen for later.)

The extra sauce will add flavor if desired.

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Rice and stir fry mixed together, topped with pork slices,  I seasoned with mango juice, lime juice, a little French White Wine vinegar, sugar (the sauce I’d made a day before).  I had some brown bread with raisins (the kind you buy in the can) and sliced it up. 

Filling, good-for-you, economical and easy to fix.  Plus you have leftovers for another meal.

I found this recipe (link below), but adapted it to ingredients I had on hand.  She has some great photos of the preparation process on her website.

http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2012/03/slow-cooker-recipe-for-pork-sirloin.html

 

 

 

Ideas!

“Yeah, yeah……you’re full of ‘em” Jabber sarcastically mumbled.

Yes, am.  Ma’m.  So there.

Here are a couple:

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Get a couple of decorative bottles—these are from you-know-where—and fill one with liquid dish soap and the other white vinegar.  Place a stopper in each one so that they pour slowly.  Advantages to this:  you use less dish soap and the white vinegar is handy for cleaning/disinfecting things in the kitchen.  Plus, they’re pretty.

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Above is a canister filled with baking soda.  Baking soda and white vinegar are exceptional cleaning products and I like to have them next to the sink for use.  Will save you bundles of moohla on more expensive (and sometimes less safe) cleaning products. 

Oh yes.  You can use them to cook, too……….

(Well, of course the canister came from a yard sale.  Whatdidya’think?  Use the scoop–enclosed in the large baking soda container you buy at the store–in the canister.)

“Never mind that.  What’s for breakfast?” Jabber demanded.

Sandwiches.

Isn’t it funny that we think getting a sandwich from a fast food place perfectly acceptable, but seldom think to make a sandwich at home for breakfast? 

Why not?

Especially when you may have some things which need to be used up in the fridge.  It’s Sunday.  I like to have a nice breakfast/brunch on Sunday and I have more time to cook/invent.

Here is what I had:  leftover deli ham slices, leftover cheese (in this case, I sliced up some from a cheese log, almonds and all), French bread, one hard roll, two jars of strawberry preserves with about 3 TBS left in each jar.  I assembled the sandwiches, heated up the skillet and made:

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French bread, ham slices, cheese, strawberry jam sandwiches, fried in a bit of butter and topped with powdered sugar.

Serve whatever jam might be left on the side if you wish.  If you want a Monte Cristo sandwich, dip the sandwich in beaten egg and then fry in the pan.

TMWLH gobbled them up.  Security gobbled up what was left when we were finished. 

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Cook over low heat and allow the cheese to melt and the French bread to toast nicely.  You can use whatever bread and jams you have on hand and you might try substituting turkey or chicken breast slices or combining with ham slices.  Use any type of cheese you have which would make a good combination.

This is also good for lunch or supper. 

Now, I’m out of ideas.  So I have to go find some more.

Hey, wait a minute!  HOW ABOUT YOU GIVING ME SOME!

 

Of Mice and Men (or from soup to nuts)

“Put that DOWN!” Jabber yelled at me.  She was referring to the piece of cheese I was about to consume and call dinner.

“Put it down and make some soup.  You’ve got the stuff an’ ‘sides, TMWLH is hungry too and he won’t settle for a piece of cheese!  What da’ya’ think you are, anyway, some kind of meeses?”

I think she meant ‘mouse.’  Meanwhile, Security was lurking about underfoot hoping that I would share the cheese with her.  She is definitely not some type of meese.  As you know. 

Right. 

So I made soup.  You know, the usual kind I do when I’ve got some leftover stuff in the fridge that needs using up, (don’t you?  This works well with leftover chicken, too, or sans meat, add some beans), along with some cans of vegetables and whatever.  Vegetable beef soup today. 

Really?  You want a RECIPE?  I don’t have a recipe.  It’s called “put it in the pot” soup.  Okay? 

Oh my.  Alright!  Here are the ingredients:

Leftover beef and some juices from a roast along with carrots and onions, a can of mixed vegetables, some leftover rice from the other night, a can of corn, and a can of spicy tomatoes, a can of beef broth, some water to rinse out each can as I emptied ingredients into a big pot on the stove………………

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some green onions (I cut off the ‘bad’ parts—the rest is perfectly edible); out of the freezer: a bit of frozen cabbage and some frozen chopped celery.  Add some seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, some frozen parsley (from the summer—frozen in water in ice cube trays and stored in a freezer bag), that sort of thing.  Pretty soon, you’ve got a whole big container of SOUP.  And it’s delish!  Much better than a piece of cheese, for heaven’s sake!

Oh.  And the cheese?  Well, I shredded it and put it in the bottom of the bowls before adding the soup—

image a hearty soup for a cold winter night.

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(Yes, yes, I had the rolls in the freezer, too.)

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TMWLH reported he thought the soup tasted ‘good for him’—he’s been suffering from a cold the past week.  You can tell from the ‘homey’ pictures above that I was not very fancy with my dinner table setting tonight.  Can’t be fancy all the time, now, can we?

See!  “Of Mice and Men!”……….. hey hey hey—aren’t I witty? 

What’s that? 

Oh yes.  You want to know about the nuts…………the second part of the title of the blog post, referring to “from soup to nuts”…clever, huh?

Okay.  I’m not.  Clever.

No.  I am not referring to myself when I refer to nuts.  Although I’m certain some people do.  I digress………

I did shell some nuts today.  Pecans to be persact.

Painter Bob came by with what TMWLH referred to as a ‘pecan pie kit.’  I twasn’t home as I was out at Toys R Us locating a princess gift for Great Granddaughter’s birthday party.  That is an entire OTHER story which I’ll not share at the moment.  Suffice it to observe that an 111 year old great grandmother searching through the wonders of a ginormous toy store she has not visited for decades was quite the experience.  (Is everything made of plastic today?)

Hmmmmmmmmm  Yep.  Pecans in a bag.  To be shelled.image  Pecan Pie Kit.

So, yes, that’s what I’ve been doing some this afternoon.  Shelling pecans.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Kind of fun, actually, since I haven’t actually shelled pecans for many years, or any nuts for that matter.  Boy, aren’t I spoiled though! 

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I have a lot more to shell, but it’s a relaxing project and we’ll enjoy the pecans!  Thank you kindly, Bob!

If It’s January, it must be time for..

I know!  I know!” Jabber jumped up and down with excitement because SHE knew the answer, “It’s time for Bob.  The Painter!  The Remodeler!”

Yes, ‘tis.  Being the ‘off season’ for painters, Bob has some time to repair/replace/update/remodel some things around here for me.  It’s always a lot of fun because Bob is an interesting guy and has lots of new ideas for the house.   And does a lot of very helpful things here, too.

My maintenance plan for the house is to do something each year to keep it at least semi-up-to-date.  While a complete new shower might be on my ‘wish’ list, it’s not in the budget for this year….next best thing was this:

He replaced our old shower head, so now we have–

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This year, in the spring or summer, we’re on Bob’s list of houses to be painted.  It’s been fully 11 years since he last painted the trim, windows, soffits, and so on outside and we are due for a new paint job.  That IS in the budget, but other bigger projects will have to wait.

But there are still a few things he was asked to do–now that he does have some time to do them–and he obliged!  (I wonder why sometimes after I locked him in the Princess Closet a couple years ago, but he seems to have forgiven me that.)

(“He does not know you plan to lock him in the downstairs bathroom, does he?” Jabber inquired…but I’m ignoring her.  I mean what does SHE know about what I plan to do anyway?  Jabbers can be so annoying!)

The next project involved moving some can ceiling light fixtures.   Previously the light was behind me when I stood at the counters in the craft room and therefore a shadow was cast on whatever project was there.  Now, they are above the counters and I can see what I’m working on.

This required climbing into the Christmas attic—the one he ‘liberated’ a couple years ago.  Then he had to climb over the upper deck level of the Christmas attic to get to the lights.  He is a good climber!

What?  What do you mean by that?

Well, of COURSE I have a lot of attic space.  I store Christmas up there!  No, not ALL the trees—just some of them.  The rest are in the Forest in the basement. 

Yes—what a silly question!–of course there are other things stored in the attic. 

It isn’t FULL yet, (I’m working on it) so I am perfectly confident I can acquire all sorts of treasures this year at sales and store them, too.  I mean, a girl’s got to have her storage space, doesn’t she? 

And lights to see her craft projects. Here is a photo of one of one of the repositioned light:

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He had to patch the previous holes and after several coats of mud and sanding, he’ll repaint the ceiling so it won’t show.

What did you ask?  Am I spoiled?

Well, yes.  I know I am spoiled.  So?  I mean, at 111, if you can’t be spoiled by then, what’s the point?

And, he’s building a new railing for the craft room as well.  Last year, I missed my step and fell off the upper level of the craft room.   It’s not a long drop, but if one is not expecting it, it’s a shock. 

image  Here is the step

I was unhurt, but we thought it smart to put in a railing so that I won’t be prone to step off the upper level where there is no second step.  The railing forces me to go around to where the step is.

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The spindles are generic—and upper family room railing is the same.  When this is installed (it’s only a short length) they will be almost identical to what exists.

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Bob, above, setting the end piece for the railing.

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“There’s Bob!  He looks so happy!” Jabberwocky commented.  (I am not so sure he’s exactly happy, what with the climbing up and down and all around in the attic!)

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Below, the railing is complete, but Bob will paint and varnish it.

I won’t be inadvertently stepping off the top and missing the step now!

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“Well, that’s one way to keep you corralled,” Jabber mumbled.  “It looks sort of like a jail rail, doesn’t it?  Maybe I could put YOU in jail……”  Be quiet Jabber!

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But wait!  There will be MORE! to do…….downstairs in the ‘guest’ bathroom.  I’ll show you some more pictures tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Bob plans to make his escape and go home this evening, but I’ll have his saw and tools here as ransom for his return.

Kidding.  He always finishes his work and does it expertly.  Thanks, Bob! 

 

Pasta Dinner Party

The Brocanting Brigade not only thrift shops, but also cooks very well. 

Last night, we gathered with spouses, to celebrate the beginning of a new year and our special friendships which have blossomed over the past few years.  And to eat.  Which is, of course, our favorite thing to do.  Unless we are brocanting.

Here are some photos:

Sosew made the cutest gifts for everyone.  I’d received mine when she came to our open house, but now all the Brocanters have one!

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Vanna, above, recently returned from Hawaii, with her ‘night light’—a wine bottle with the label “Little Black Dress.”  Perfect for Vanna who really IS our ‘fashionista’!  And SHE brought us all coffee from Hawaii!

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Cupcake who had a bottle called “Cupcake”….what else!

 

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Girlfriend with her ‘night light’.  The bottle says, “LUCKY DUCK” and she is!

And for me, Sosew brought a FULL bottle of “Menage a Trois”!  She gave me one which she’d made into a ‘night light’ but now I have one to drink.  How thoughtful is that?!

Sadly, Thumper could not be with us last night as her mother was in hospital.  We missed her and her hubby.

Before everyone arrived, the table was set—trying for a semi-Italian look using thrift-found dishes and other objects.

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And a small wine bar set up near the table:

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A table scarf was placed in the center of the white table cloth.  On top, some candles in purple and red, a few small ceramic chickens and decorative balls embellished it.  The green napkins were

a.  what I had (9) available, and b.  a nice contrast to the burgundy/purple and red accents. 

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These fun appetizer plates were set on top of white plates.

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And here is the beautiful (and delish!) antipasto plate made by Cupcake.

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Before we ate dinner (and we were nibbling on the antipasto), Vanna assembled the fresh spinach/pecans/feta cheese/strawberry salad with poppy seed dressing.

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Sosew and the other ladies chatted for a while:

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Girlfriend, above on right.  Maybe we should rename her “Lucky Ducky”!  What do you think?

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The men chatted at the kitchen peninsula.  Sosew’s hubby helped make the ‘night lights.’  He drank the wine.  We are so very grateful!

Below is Girlfriend’s hubby who acted as our Master of Ceremonies after dinner when we played a very fun game called Apples to Apples.   We decided he could work at Las Vegas if he wanted to!

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image  TMWLH and Vanna’s hubby

Here is a photo of one of the beautiful home made rolls from Sosew.  She also made a unique herb bread.

image  Tasty and pretty!

Girlfriend made the most dramatic Cassada (spelling?) Trifle—it was not only pretty to look at, it was devoured by everyone.  I neglected to get a photo and my apologies for that.  The trifle had a special cake, fruit and I am not sure what else.  Very very tasty and rich.

We had a wonderful time together.  What a fun evening, what a delicious meal.  Oh, and I forgot to post a picture of the Baked Ziti, so I took one of the leftover casserole in the fridge just now—here it is:

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Baked Ziti

This is a baked pasta recipe which will feed about 10 people.  Please read through the ingredient list and the entire recipe before beginning.  (That goes for Jabberwockies too!)

Here are the ingredients:
1 pound ziti

8 oz. whole milk mozzarella (low moisture)  (Buy the type which has no water in the enclosed mozzarella.)

1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded

(It’s winter and I don’t have any basil growing at home, so I purchased a container of it at the store.  Wash, take off most of the stems, and then use a sharp knife to chop it up.)

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1 28 oz. can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes

5 cloves garlic, diced or sliced

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2 T olive oil

2 T Italian Herbs

2 T dried Basil

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1 lb. small curd cottage cheese  Place in a bowl and to this you should add:

1/2 cup Parmesan 

2 eggs–lightly beaten and

salt and pepper to your taste.

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Measure out, in their own separate bowls:

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 T garlic powder

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2 T sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup whipping cream

*I purchased SHREDDED Parmesan cheese in a 6 oz. container (actually I purchased about 3 containers thinking that I’d need 8 ounces for a cupful at least and maybe more!).  Keep in mind that this is NOT a cup of Parmesan.  In fact, one container, when I ladled it out into a measuring cup,  yielded almost 2 cups.  The recipe does not say which type of Parmesan cheese but since some of it is sprinkled on top of the finished casserole prior to baking, this type seemed good to me and tasted good in the recipe.)

1.Prepare ziti according to package directions. I added a bit of salt and olive oil as it boiled.  Drain pasta and keep in colander — do not wash pot.

I made two batches of this recipe and with the first batch, some noodles did stick to the pot.  Prior to making the cream sauce, I added some olive oil and let it sit for a bit before scraping off the stuck pieces of ziti.  With the second batch, I was more careful to stir the ziti as it boiled.  Be sure to add olive oil and a bit of salt and stir while it boils!  That’s the key to not having it stick to the bottom of the pot.

While you are boiling the ziti, get the colander ready so you can drain it.  Be sure to stir the ziti often.  Prepare the rest of the recipe so you can rather quickly get the ziti casserole prepared once the ziti is cooked.

 
2. Mix cottage cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, salt and pepper, garlic powder and eggs in medium bowl and set aside.

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I mixed with a fork.

3. Cut mozzarella into small cubes and set aside.

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4. In large separate frying-type pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir, cooking for 2-3 minutes till fragrant but not brown. Add sauce and tomatoes and herbs (dried basil and Italian herbs). Cook sauce for 8-10 minutes over medium heat, until sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in basil and sugar.

5. Place ziti pot (leave the cooked pasta in the colander!) back on stove over medium-high heat burner. Stir cornstarch into cream (dry into wet ingredient, and I do this in a measuring cup first, then pour into the pot)

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and stir in pot until cream boils.   At this point, I add the cottage cheese mixture to the pot.  Mix it well and then cook for 2-3 minutes.  (The original recipe omitted instructions on when to add the cottage cheese mixture, but this does seem to work well.  The eggs getting semi-cooked and the mixture thickens and is creamy and coats the ziti pasta well when added.)

Add pasta and stir until pasta is well coated. Add one cup of the tomato sauce and one half of the mozzarella cheese cubes.  Mix well again and pour pasta mixture into a well-greased large casserole pan. Pour remaining sauce over pasta and smooth over pasta with spatula. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over tomato sauce.

6. Spray aluminum foil with cooking spray and place that foil over pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake 20 minutes more.   It should be bubbly hot when you take it out of the oven.

KEEPS FOR ONE WEEK IN REFRIGERATOR — JUST REHEAT IN MICROWAVE.

Now, HAVE A DINNER PARTY!  Which we did.  Last night.  Pictures to follow!

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“Wait, wait wait!!! a minute here!” Jabberwocky stopped me just as I was about to post this.

“What’s the difference in penne pasta and ziti pasta?  They look the same to me in the package!”

Oh.  That.  Well, actually, there isn’t a great deal of difference, but since you asked, I looked it up.  This gives you the answer:

1. On appearance, ziti has a slightly larger diameter and smooth surfaces, while penne has a smaller diameter and ridged surfaces.
2. Ziti has its ends cut straight, while penne has diagonally cut ends (cut at an angle).
3. Ziti is almost always baked, whereas penne can either be baked or cooked.
http://www.differencebetween.net/object/comparisons-of-food-items/difference-between-ziti-and-penne/

“Oh.  Okay!  I read that ziti is often used for wedding reception  food in Italy.  I guess it is party food after all!” and Jabber went to get some leftover baked ziti from the fridge in the kitchen.

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