Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daughter's Favorite Lasagna ~ Gluten Free Adjustment Included

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Pictured here in gluten free version ~ served with my
Sauéed Artichoke Hearts and gluten free garlic bread.

2 lbs ground beef
2 cups onion, minced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 -- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 -- 6 oz cans tomato paste
2 -- 6.5 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (I heap the 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley (divided)

12 lasagna noodles - gluten free if necessary
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
3 shakes of salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4-8 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (as desired)
cooking spray

My daughter loves lasagna and this is her favorite lasagna recipe!

* Please note:  If you need this to be a gluten free recipe and are new to this way of cooking, please read this entire post before you even go shopping for best results.

1. In a Dutch oven or large skillet with tall sides, cook ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.  Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, pepper, and 2 Tbsp parsley.  Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

2. If using gluten free lasagna noodles, see my note at the bottom before proceeding. ~ Otherwise... Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8-10 minutes.  Drain noodles and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

3.  In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 3 shakes of salt.

4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5.  To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.  (They will overlap.)  Spread with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture.  Top with 1/3 of the mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.

6.  Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

7.  Cover with foil.  To prevent sticking: spray the underneath side of the foil with cooking spray before placing on top of lasagna.  Place the casserole dish on a cookie sheet to prevent any spillage on the bottom of your oven.

8.  Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.  Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.  Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

* Note about Gluten Free Lasagna Noodles: If using gluten free lasagna noodles, I personally use and recommend DeBoles Rice No Boil Lasagna Noodles. I never liked the no boil before. In fact, I was not happy when I realized as I was preparing my lasagna and discovered that this was no boil, but I was pleasantly surprised. The texture is a bit like whole grain pasta when you first eat it and leftovers are more like regular texture. Either way, I really like it. I am definitely impressed that it is not grainy, sticky, or tough. ~ So, If you are using these, you can completely skip step two!

You will also need to pay attention to your other individual ingredients to make sure that they are all gluten free. Some brands may have hidden gluten in their shredded and/or graded cheeses, seasonings, and canned goods. These particular items are generally rather easy to find gluten free. Just educate yourself. I personally love my "Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping Guide", but you can also just search online to see if an item is gluten free.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Field Trip to the Reno Air Races on September 16, 2011

It was a beautiful day for a homeschooling field trip to the Reno National Championship Air Races.  For the last five years, we have gone on Friday when homeschool groups and schools can get in free. This year there were five homeschooling groups (ours with well over 150 and at least one other with at least 30) plus some public school classes.

My hubby, our son "Buddy", and I were having a great time.  We honestly intended on staying later than we usually do, so we can see a lot more of the actual races that start at about noon. To get in free with our homeschool group, we have to get there by 9am.  We spend that time exploring the Pit (like in the top picture to the left), checking out the vendor area (Buddy's favorite part...), and watching the stunt planes.

While Buddy and I started looking for fellow homeschoolers in the stands area, my hubby picked a great location to hang out and watch all of the stunts and tricks.  He was standing very close to that pole in the video (of the crash you have likely seen many times on the news) for at least an hour.  Right before Buddy and I left him there, I looked up at a plane that was coming straight down towards us while doing a roll.  All of a sudden, I felt and somewhat heard inside of me, "that plane can come straight down here."  It kind of freaked me out, but I just made myself brush it off.

By the time that we all three got back together in the stands, Buddy was starting his campaign to go home.  We had planned to get hooked up with a fellow homeschool family, introduce our hubby's, and sit together.  With an aspie meltdown starting to brew, I decided that this unfortunately was not going to happen.

We went ahead and left a little after 2pm.  In fact, several families in our group started leaving around 2-3pm for a variety of unplanned reasons.  There was even a family we know of that left about 15 minutes before the crash.  A couple of families who fully intended to be there had decided not to attend pretty much at the last minute, also.

As far as I know, there were only two of our families still there when the crash happened just after 4pm.  Both of the moms are close friends of mine. One of them had taken the kiddos out into the vending area while her hubby was still watching in the stands.  While the kiddos and my friend didn't actually see it happen, they were separated from their dad/hubby for a bit and still in the midst of chaos.

My friend who we were supposed to meet up with was also unfortunately still there with her hubby and son.  They were sitting right by a lady who was severely injured and later passed away.  My friend's hubby got a broken bone and they all were bruised a bit and very shaken up.

I have gone through somewhat of a survivor's guilt, even though I sometimes think that I don't really have a right to.  I wasn't actually still there.  So many others have more of a "right" than I do... And yes, I know in my brain that this thinking is not correct, but I honestly have felt this way many times as I have tried to process this.

Questions keep spinning through my head :
  • Why were we gone and safe and her family was still there right in the middle of it all?
  • If I had worked harder at meeting up with them, would they have left with us?  Would they have moved further away from the crash site to sit with us?
  • Would we have still been there if we met up?  Would we have been right in the middle of it all?

It was wonderful and therapeutic talking with her at length a few days later.  Her hubby was able to help a great deal, because he is a first responder and was "right there".  He also had the quickness of mind to tell her to get down and cover their son before the impact.  Would I have thought and moved soon enough?  Or would I have just stood there with my chin dropped?  The main answer we can come up with is that her hubby was needed in this situation and was therefore placed there.

Facebook was SO helpful in the aftermath.  We were able to check in and ask about others.  In just a short time, we were able to find out the whereabouts and conditions of everyone.  Not everyone is on Facebook, but we all started compiling a list of those who attended and tracking them down.  What a relief!

You can click on my pictures to see larger versions.  Please remember all of the victims and their families of this terrible tragedy.  There were at least 11 fatalities and well over 55 injured enough to be taken to a hospital.  For more information about the the crash, you can start here.

Introduction to the String Family Part 2 - Cello, Double Bass, and Harp

Music Adventures

 The cello is larger than the viola and it makes a deep, warm sound.  The cellist sits while playing.  Although, I do not know how to play the cello, it is my favorite instrument to listen to.

This picture is of Yo Yo Ma.  He is my favorite cellist of all time.  You may have seen and heard him at President Obama's Inauguration.

You can listen to and watch Yo Yo Ma playing Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 by Sir Edward Elgar.  (Concerto is pronounced like Con-chair-toe.)  Be sure to watch and listen to all of the other instruments that are accompanying him.  This video also gives you a good look around the entire orchestra as they are playing.

The double bass is the largest instrument in the string family.  The player stands up or sits on a high stool while playing.  Note that the top of the belly of the double bass slopes differently than on the rest of the string instruments we have learned about.

The composer of this next piece of music thought that the double bass sounded a lot like an elephant.  What do you think?

There are some really cute elephant pictures to enjoy on this video. 

I also like to have the students walk around the room like elephants to the music.  They should walk slow and lumbering.

Let's listen to Camille Saint Saëns' Carnival of the Animals.

The harp is one of the oldest instruments in the entire orchestra.  The concert harp is about 6 feet tall.  It has the largest range of all instruments in the orchestra.  (A range is distance between how high of a pitch and how low of a pitch an instrument can go.)  Harpists sit and play with both hands and feet.

I found a great video of a young man playing Boldachev's Toccata on the harp.  He is amazing.

The piano is sometimes considered a string instrument and sometimes a percussion instrument.  It depends on who you ask. I will explain all of this in a later lesson.


If you are new to the Music Adventures Lessons, please click on the graphic below for an introduction and more information.

Introduction to the String Family Part 1 - Violin, Viola, and String Basics

Music Adventures

There are 4 families of instruments: string, brass, woodwind, and percussion.  Today, we will learn about the string family.

All string instruments have strings or wires that are plucked, rubbed, or tapped to make a sound.  A string makes a higher or lower sound (which is called pitch) depending on how fast the string vibrates.  A short, thin, and/or a tight string vibrates fast and has a high pitch.  A long, thick, and/or loose string vibrates slower and has a lower pitch.

The string family is the most important part of an orchestra.

The violin is the smallest instrument in the string family that is used in the orchestra, so it makes the highest pitches.

Now, listen to Johann Sebastian Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D minor (2nd movement).

The viola is like the violin, but it is longer and has a lower sound.

Listen and watch as a gentleman named Scott Slapin plays Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude to the 3rd Partita. This piece was originally written for a violin, but Mr. Slapin is playing the viola.

If you are new to the Music Adventures Lessons, please click on the graphic below for an introduction and more information.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Time Together: Laughter And Reflection - Audio Book Review

All emotions explored!  Definitely recommended!

I loved listening to this audio book written/read by Carol Burnett and look forward to listening to it again and again.

I have had this for quite awhile and never felt like getting into it before, because I had listened to a VERY short bit back when I got it and felt it was quite boring.  I had not listened much past the introduction and it wasn't "funny" (yet) like I had imagined and desired at the time.  I obviously did not give it the chance it totally deserved.

"This Time Together" is like sitting in a room of a handful of friends listening to Carol Burnett chatting about her career, friendships with some fellow legendary stars we all know and love, as well as a few poignant times in her life.   I was laughing most of the time, but also experienced a short time of all-out tears.  It was worth the tears, however, to hear of the beautiful, yet heart-wrenching stories that let you see a bit of Carol Burnett's compassionate personality.

I truly enjoyed listening Carol Burnett as she told her unforgettable stories.  I strongly recommend this book in whatever form you can get your hands on. 

(I personally bought my copy of "This Time Together" at for my MP3 Player.  I was not compensated in anyway for this review, nor was a review even requested.  This review is entirely this blogger's decision and opinions. This post does, however, contain an affiliate link to Amazon. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.)

{This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.}