One of my favorite Christmas gifts I received was the new book written by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. She has a cooking show on the Food Network, has written many cookbooks, and has a line of baking and cookware. I have her other books, but this one was a little different. The book contains short stories about her life, rearing children, and living in the middle of nowhere on a cattle ranch. I love to read, but don’t often have the time between cooking, writing, and teaching school. I always seem to feel that sitting down for hours reading a book is taking away from my other duties.
This book was different. I started reading on Christmas night after everyone had left our Christmas celebration that Steve and I hosted. I finished it the next day, waking up early with a cup of coffee and anxiously reading more of her wonderful stories. Many of her stories hit home with me. Especially the ones when she took her children to college and left them to come back to a very different home – been there, done that, but that is an entire article in itself.
Some of my favorite stories had to do with her in-laws, her father-in-law in particular. I began to reminisce about my own father-in-law, Henry Forrest Flemming. He passed away 13 years ago. He was a man who loved his friends and family. After a Christmas holiday of seeing all of his family members and dear friends, he went to sleep on a Saturday night and did not wake up. God was merciful in taking such a fine man without suffering as people often do.
Henry Forrest never introduced me as his daughter-in-law. I was another one of his daughters. He never missed any events that his children were involved in and that continued when each of his grandchildren were born. He did confess to me one time that he really preferred ball games over dance and piano recitals, but I needed to keep that to myself.
One year he invented a special holiday called “Daughter-in-Law Day”. At different times, he took each of us to spend the day together. He arranged a babysitter for our children and off we would go to spend the day together. He always picked the destination, the day’s activity, lunch, and then he would take us shopping for clothes.
I am thankful for many things in my life. One is the wonderful family I am fortunate to be a part of. Another at the very top of my list is my husband’s parents and their rearing of the man I love. Henry Forrest was a wonderful role model for a son to live a life of seeing his father as a good man, husband, father, and friend.
One of the funniest things I ever heard him say came at the end of a Sunday afternoon when all five of his children and their spouses plus his ten grandchildren had been there for the day. It was wild – especially with grandchildren ranging from the ages of about 3 – 10. We were all getting ready to leave and it was taking forever. He said, “If y'all are going to go, just please go!” He said there is no prettier sight in the world than taillights when y'all leave the driveway!
Today I have a salad and lasagna recipe that came from The Pioneer Woman. They make a great meal with an addition of warm, crusty French bread. I often serve this for Christmas night supper. Doing the whole turkey and dressing thing so soon after Thanksgiving makes my head hurt. I hope you will give them a try. Thanks for reading.
MARINATED CHERRY TOMATO SALAD
1 pint red grape tomatoes
1 pint yellow grape tomatoes
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 heaping Tbsp. jarred pesto
¼ tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper
1 head Iceberg lettuce, cut into chunks
Halve the tomatoes and add them to a large zipper bag along with the onions. Add the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, pesto, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper. Seal the bag, getting all the air out. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve – at least 4 hours. Place the lettuce in a large bowl and pour the tomato mixture over; toss and serve.
*The original recipe calls for the chunks of Iceberg lettuce. I often serve with Romaine or a variety of different types of lettuce.
THE BEST LASAGNA EVER
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground sausage (hot or mild)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 oz.) cans whole tomatoes
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. dried basil
2 ½ tsp. salt
3 cups cottage cheese
2 whole eggs, beaten
½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (10 oz.) pkg. lasagna noodles
1 lb. sliced Mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic; cook over medium heat until browned. Drain some of the fat; add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons dried parsley, basil and I teaspoon of salt. Simmer for about 45 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon of salt; stir well and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add ½ tsp. salt and the olive oil to the boiling water and boil noodles until “al dente” (not overly cooked) and drain.
To Assemble: Arrange 4 cooked noodles in the bottom of a large baking dish, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture and spread evenly. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese; spoon a little more than half of the meat sauce over the top. Repeat layers ending with meat sauce; sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan cheese.
You may freeze at this point, refrigerate up to 2 days, or bake immediately at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is hot and bubbly.
*This is well worth the trouble!