Meat Lovers Pasta Bake

Do you like meat? And easy recipes? And recipes that can be made with leftovers and ingredients you have on hand?

If you answered yes, then you’re going to absolutely love this meat lovers pasta bake. If you answered no to the meat question, stick around… you can make this dish with veggies instead. But the meat part? Oh-so-good.

If you have pasta, cheese, diced tomatoes, and some leftover meat (pretty much any kind will work), then you’ve got dinner. Bonus points if you have pasta-friendly veggies like mushrooms and onions.

Start with a can of diced tomatoes. You earn some bonus credit if they’re Italian seasoned, but just use what’s in your pantry, or dice up some garden tomatoes. If they’re canned, don’t drain them. Just pour 1/3 of the can in the bottom of your casserole dish.

Now, make a pot of pasta. I use an entire box of Barilla Rotini, but you use whatever pasta you have. I like the rotini for this dish because it holds up nicely, but so does literally any other pasta you have. Drain it, and put half of it on top of your tomatoes.

Now it’s time to get creative. Throw some meat on there. We like to make this dish a couple of days after pizza or calzone night because there’s always leftover meats. For this time around, we used sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but you can use anything you have in your fridge. Chicken? Yes. Ham? Totally. Sausage? Do it. We only had a little bit of each meat, but you can pile it as high as you’d like or add as little as you want. Make sure your meat is already cooked or that you cook it beforehand. If you’re using leftover pizza toppings, it should all be cooked, but if you’re pulling it out of your freezer, you’ll want to cook it yourself. Once you’ve layered on your meats, add any veggies you’d like. We had leftover mushrooms and onions from pizza night, but put whatever you like on a pizza in this dish. If you like eggplant and pineapple, go for it. If you prefer onions and bell pepper, try that. Want to go veg-free like my dad? Sure. That works, too. This is the most customize-able pasta dish ever.

Top that with a layer of cheese, then a layer of tomatoes, then pasta, meat, and veggies. Finish with one more layer of tomatoes and another layer of cheese.

Cooking for one? Make a little bit in a small baking dish. Cooking for 50? Make multiple pans. This recipe stretches or downsizes. I use a 3 quart baking dish for my family of 5, but seriously, this meal is so flexible. Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty. I used mozzarella and parmesan from Crystal Farms on mine, but use whatever Italian style cheeses you have (or try cheddar, or whatever you want). I’m telling you, this is a ridiculously easy to customize meal. It’s perfect for any family.

Once it’s all melty, dig in and serve. Because of the layers, almost any scoop you take will have a little bit of everything! Yum.

I highly recommend serving this pasta with the Garlic Knots that I shared recently on my Facebook page. You can find them by going to “albums” and you’ll see the recipe!

Do you love easy meals? Try my chicken bacon ranch pasta bake, southwest chicken and rice, or crockpot cashew chicken!

What’s your go-to meal to use up leftovers?



Perfect Pizza Crust and How To Make A Homemade Pizza Lunchable Your Kids Will Love

Pizza Lunchables were arguably the coolest Lunchable when I was growing up. Anytime we’d have a field trip and I got to pick out a Lunchable, I always went straight for the pepperoni pizza variety. I mean, what wasn’t to love about that crust, and being able to top your own yummy pizza on a field trip? It was just so fun as a kid!

So when I was thinking of great options for lunches this summer, I knew pizza Lunchables would rank really high on my list… but then I really knew that I wanted to put a little more effort into a homemade meal. I just knew that there was no way I had the energy to make lunch and dinner every day from scratch. So, I started toying around with pizza crusts that could be made in advance and then frozen or refrigerated until I needed it.

After trial and error, I finally ended up with a pizza crust that tasted just as good pre-cooked and frozen/refrigerated as it did when it was made into a pizza right away.


9 CopyCat Lunchable Recipes to Help You Save, Plus the Good, Better, and Best of Convenient Kid’s Lunch Ideas!

Growing up, Lunchables meant one thing: Field Trips. All of the cool kids got Lunchables, myself included– I had a cool mom. Being a stay at home mom with a stay at home kid now, I have a LOT of lunches to plan, and between blogging full time, spending time playing with the kiddo, and trying to keep it all organized, of course I turned to Lunchables to try to save a few minutes of time. After all, they’re convenient and they come in these handy little packages with little clean-up and are quick to grab from the fridge.

But then I started realizing how much I was spending buying Lunchables, and further, I started realizing that they weren’t that great and balanced, either. So, I started deciding to set aside a little extra time each week to pre-plan my son and I’s meals and snacks, Lunchables style, with all of the convenience and fun, but less of the price tag. And the best part? I could work hard to make them a little more balanced, too.

Today, I’m sharing 9 great Lunchables swaps that will save money, as well as some ideas on how to improve your Lunchable swaps to make them a healthier, more balanced choice for your kiddos! For the original swap, I kept it as close to the original Lunchable as possible and listed the brand I used so you can see how those savings add up!


Mississippi Mud Potatoes

Bacon? Check. Cheese? Check. Tons of flavor? Absolutely. See, these are the easiest potatoes I think I’ve ever made, and they’re a hit with everyone. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese and bacon?

One of the many recipes that came from the family recipe box, this handwritten recipe with an unknown source simply stated “They’re named for the famous river because they’re LONG on taste and MIGHTY good!” Well, they didn’t disappoint, anyway!

Start with some ingredients you may already have– 8 to 10 cups of potatoes, diced, 1 cup of Mayonnaise (the real deal, not salad dressing), about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, a 16 ounce block of cheddar, diced, 1/2 a cup of green onions, chopped, and a package of bacon. You can add half a cup of olives if you’d like to, but why ruin perfectly good potatoes? (Unless you’re an olive fan, in which case, you probably don’t see that as ruining them).

Start by slicing your bacon into pieces. Don’t look at me with that shocked face that I get every time someone sees me do this… you can TOTALLY bacon your bits instead of bitting your bacon. This method gets a lot less grease on your hands because there’s no tearing it up post-fry… if you do the cutting first, your bacon will be in perfect bite sized bits when you’re done. I promise. Just trust me– cutting bacon is NOT bacon blasphemy, no matter what anyone tells you.

Put that in a pan and cook it, trying not to eat too much bacon as the smell fills the air. Seriously, bacon is so hard to resist. That’s why there is bacon everything. While the bacon cooks, start peeling and dicing your potatoes, dicing your cheese, and chopping your green onions.

Delicious! Finish getting your other ingredients chopped and ready.

Place your potatoes in a 9×13 pan.

Spoon the mayonnaise onto the potatoes evenly. This will make stirring them easier. The mayo will add flavor, plus it will help those potatoes get extra tender.

Stir the potatoes to combine evenly with the mayonnaise.

Stir in the diced green onions and cheese. Make sure that there is some intermixed with the potatoes, with more topping the potatoes.

Sprinkle that generously with bacon. If you’re going to add some olives, now is the time to do that, as well.

Bake for an hour and a half, or until the potatoes are tender, in a 325 degree oven.

Enjoy that bubbly, cheesy, bacon-y side dish. You could even add in some hamburger meat or chicken and make it a main dish, if you wanted to.

This is so easy and a great thing to take to a potluck or perfect for Easter Dinner this year!

Top 5 Ways To Eat Rev Wraps

Ever since Rev Wraps from Hormel started appearing in stores in July, I’ve been addicted. It didn’t take long to get my son and brother hooked on them, too, and with so many varieties, you didn’t eat the same variety twice very often. It was perfect for on-the-go. But since trying our first Rev Wrap in July, we’ve been finding out that they’re really convenient to munch on in a lot of different settings and situations. I’m going to share with you my top five ways to eat a Rev Wrap, starting with….

5. As a Carry-On Snack

I have been traveling NON-STOP this summer. First, to Alabama for my annual beach vacation, then to Chicago for BlogHer, and finally, to New Jersey over the weekend for Duncan Hines. It has been go-go-go, and I seem to always be skipping meals when I fly. Since planes have slowly stopped offering on-board snacks, and I just never seem to have any that have enough protein to keep my headaches at bay, I usually just feel blah by the time I land. However, lately, I’ve been packing a Rev wrap. It takes up like, no space, in my carry-on, nesting next to my books, notebook, and hand sanitizer as a super convenient plane snack. It also works great for a long drive.

4. On the Way To Practice

I had to stop Jeffrey on the way to practice the other day and snap this photo… Rev Wraps are a staple for him when it comes to practice. With at least 15 grams of protein in each wrap, they’re definitely providing real energy for a long soccer practice, and it really helps him stay right on top of his game on the field when it comes down to crunch time. He feels satisfied and refueled, and it’s so portable that he can just toss it in his bag as he goes. I’ve even caught him with a Rev wrap while on his longboard, while practicing headers in the backyard, and while darting off to a friend’s house.

3. In our Picnic Basket

An occasional picnic, whether it’s at the park or on the floor of the living room, is always so much fun with Zach! It always ends in a fit of giggles. Rev Wraps are an easy thing to pack alongside our fruit, veggies, and hummus dip, and I know that they’re only around 300 calories per wrap, so I can feel okay with eating one as part of a balanced lunch, especially considering the amount of protein I’m scoring to keep up with a busy little guy on the playground!

2. A Sleepover or Afternoon Snack Tray

A lot of times, our house is packed with teens who are just hanging out. Whether it’s a group of exchange students stopping by to say “hey” or all of Jeffrey’s friends coming over for video games or jumping on the trampoline in the back, Rev wraps are an easy afternoon snack or movie night snack to keep on hand. For afternoons, it’s perfect for everyone to just grab their favorite, and for sleepovers and movie nights, they’re perfect for pairing with fruits, veggies, and a favorite sweet snack mix for everyone to share!

1. As a one-handed snack when you’re busy working

Whether Jeffrey is working on the car, or I’m typing a blog post or balancing a camera, Rev Wraps are a perfect one-handed snack to enjoy when you just don’t have two hands. They’re convenient and simple, and I’m not kidding when we all seem to grab one when we need something we can eat while we’re getting some hardcore work done. I love that you only really need one hand to eat them once they’re open, because I don’t always have two hands available. Sure, it’d be nice if God gave me one more hand, but he didn’t. So, I need something that is pretty hands-free.

If you really think about it, as a whole, we really need more snacks that are packed with protein and will help kids get through a day. 83% of teens are now a part of at least 1 extra curricular activity. Jeffrey is in Improv classes AND competitive soccer. 90% of those teens participate in their extracurricular activity on a weekly basis, but many, like Jeffrey, participate in their extracurriculars more than once per week.

More and more teens and adults are looking for a snack that will provide them with energy that lasts, rather than just a “quick fix” for their snack. The protein that this snack provides is a huge benefit in creating that sustainable energy that will last through an entire practice or act as part of a balanced lunch or breakfast.

Plus, I’m not even kidding, they’re really, really, good. I personally love the Pepperoni Pizza and Meat Lovers Pizza varieties. Jeffrey also loves the Meat Loves Pizza and the Ham and Cheese. Zach thinks that Ham and Cheese rocks his socks, too. There is something for everyone, though, including turkey, ham, and pizza-inspired varieties. And, at $1.99-$2.39, they’re really a reasonably priced option for snacking.

I also love to add a little bit to them by unwrapping them and pairing them with lettuce, diced tomato, and a little bit of ranch or mayo for a more filling wrap. They’re perfect after a few seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese, or straight out of the fridge.

I really do believe in Rev Wraps as a wholesome, well rounded, protein-rich snack that I can trust for my son and my brother. And I also love to grab one for myself on occasion. You can find them in stores in the lunchmeat section, near other ready-made lunch options.



Disclosure: I have received compensation in the form of free product from Hormel for this post; however, all opinions above are my own.