Cooking for a Crowd: Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti is a great recipe for a crowd of people, pasta is affordable and a favorite for a lot of people.  You can also make this gluten free by using gluten free pasta.  You may have to use another type of pasta, and this dish would still be delicious (however, I don’t recommend spaghetti for this dish).

Baked Ziti Food

The ingredients: Pasta Sauce, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Ziti and Bread (for the side).  You won’t need the Parmesan for the recipe but people may want to sprinkle it on the top.  Getting two garlic bread loafs from the store will be sufficient for 30 people.  You can cook them below pasta for the last 10 minutes of cooking.  They will be done 5-10 minutes after the pasta.

Cook the pasta, reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the pasta water for the sauce.  Put the pasta in a large catering tray.

The Noodles

Make the sauce.  Add the reserved pasta water, marinara sauce, ricotta cheese and 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, mix  as the cheese melts.  Keep stirring to avoid the cheese burning on the bottom of the pot.

Ziti Sauce

When the sauce is warm throughout, pour it on top of the pasta.  Mix the sauce in with the pasta, making sure that all the pasta is completely covered (even the pasta on the very bottom).  This step may be a bit messy, but it is needed. 

Add the Sauce

Sprinkle the rest of the Mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta.

Cheese on Top

Cover with foil. Put in the oven for 40 minutes, uncovering the pasta for the last 10 minutes.

The Finished Ziti

Serve with iceberg lettuce and some garlic bread.

The Full Plate of Dinner

 

Baked Ziti for 30
Serves 30
Delicious pasta with a ton of cheese and sauce.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. Large Metal Disposable Catering Tray
  2. 3 pounds Ziti Pasta
  3. 32 ounces Ricotta Cheese
  4. Large Can of Marinara Sauce (6lbs 9 oz)
  5. 1 and 1/2 Cup Reserved Pasta Water
  6. 8 Cups (2lbs) Mozzarella Cheese, divided
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook all the pasta, reserve 1 and 1/2 cup pasta water
  3. Put the pasta water, marinara sauce, ricotta cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese in a large saucepan. Cook until all the cheese is melted.
  4. Combine the pasta and the sauce in a large catering tray.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining six cups of mozzarella cheese over the pasta.
  6. Cover with foil.
  7. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover the pasta, cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Adapted from Kraft
Adapted from Kraft
The Insignificant Details http://theinsignificantdetails.com/

Baked Ziti 

Dear Little One

Dear Little One,

Today was your due date.  If you were anything like your brother, we may have met you a week ago.  I have been so worried about March 28th since I found out that I was losing you in August.  I was so unsure how I would feel, what would be going through my brain and how I would process that I don’t have you in my arms right now. 

One of my favorite sayings for moms of miscarriage is “I will hold you in my heart until I can hold you in heaven.” Thinking about that makes me feel that I can breathe.  I will get to meet you some day. That is huge.  

I wish more than anything that I had you in my arms right now, I wish that there were sleepless nights, snuggles, a meeting of you and your brother captured by lots of cameras, I even wish for the hard things, labor, diapers, spit up, I wish that I had it all right now.  But, unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be.  God had a different plan for you and for me.  I won’t ever know why this was His plan for us, but I am trusting him. I have missed you everyday since I lost you.  

Love, Mommy

Our Miraculous God Thing News

The story that you are about to read is an amazing thing that God has done in our family’s life.  We have been blown away.  God is working in the details. Here is the story, which is jam packed full of all the insignificant details that God weaved together to write this amazing story. 

We have known for around a year that we would have to move out of our house somewhere between February 15th and March 15th.  Ryan is working full time and so we decided that I would look for places and we would then visit them together.  I have been anxious about this for about a year.  We work in ministry so we can’t afford much rent and we have been getting a sweet deal since we have been married in an amazing house.  We knew that we would be downsizing and that we would be paying more in rent to live, no matter where we moved, so it has been stressful thinking about it all.  

Over the years since we have married, I have realized that owning a house is not something that we would ever be able to do, we just don’t make enough money to be able to save for a down payment.  With the move coming, we thought about buying, but it was unrealistic.  

God was also working on my heart.  In December, He was whispering to me to view this change as a good thing, that He was making all things new and I needed to be positive about the upcoming change. 

I wanted to expand my search for housing and posted online in January that we were looking for a place, hoping to broaden my search and hoping a friend would know of something.  I got a couple of good leads, but then it quieted down.  A couple of days later I received an email from a professor at Eternity.  He and his family were moving to South Africa as missionaries and they were wondering if we would be interested in renting their house.  It fit our budget and our perimeters, so we scheduled a meeting with them a few days later on a Sunday. 

On the way to the meeting, Ryan mentioned that he needed to take this house tour seriously. We got there and found a cute little three bedroom, one bath house. We toured the house not sure if it would be a fit for us.  At the end of the meeting we all sat down on the couch and talked.  As we were talking, they mentioned that they would be willing to sell the house.  Then they threw out a couple of numbers for what they would want for the house, they didn’t want to make a profit, but wanted to get out of the house what they owned on it.  Both numbers felt within reach, but Ryan was on the other side of the couch and we were just listening.  They then shared that they were not quite funded to move to South Africa.  We left their house and got in the car.  My mind was racing thinking that we could buy the house. I don’t know if Ryan or I said it first, but we were both thinking it.  We didn’t know if it would be a good fit for a rental, but we would love to buy it.  

Ryan sent an email that night asking what they would want to sell the house for.  They emailed us back with a number that was mentioned the night before.  The number was much below market value for the house.  Ryan wrote him back and said that he would be better getting a realtor and selling it because it was worth more, and asked what they would need to sell the house for them to be fully funded.  They wrote us back, upping the original price to a price which was still within reach for our budget and below market value for the house. 

Ryan told him that we would like to buy the house if we could get the loan to buy the house.  On Monday and Tuesday, we met and talked with the people in our life that help us make decisions, our parents, the men that the Lord has placed over us at church and a dear friend who knows the area and pros and cons of houses here.  Resoundingly, we heard yes.  You should do this.  They counseled us that if we could get a loan to get it for the entire amount we need to give them the full amount they were asking for.  This is what Christians should do, help each other out.  They are helping us by selling us a house for below market value and we are helping them by giving them the amount that they need to get out on the mission field. 

We still weren’t sure about the loan, but we were given the name of a man who has helped some of the Eternity staff buy houses.  He helps out Christians because he is a Christian and wants to be a blessing.  Ryan worked hard to get together all the needed paperwork on Wednesday.  He asked us to meet on Thursday morning at 6:30am.  He encouraged us so much and helped us understand the process.  He said that a loan was doable and that he would start processing the paperwork but that we needed a contract with them saying that we were buying the house.  We got home and emailed the homeowner, letting him know that we were funded and going to buy the house.  He emailed us back with a big, “Praise God!”

On that Thursday morning, I was struck by all that God has done in four days.  I sat and cried in my husband’s arms (at Disneyland, of course, oh the irony) proclaiming all that God has done for us.  We have been in a season of sadness and quietness from God.  So many sad things have happened in our lives since being married and we just would pray that the season would be over soon, and then another sad thing would happen.  That, matched with the overwhelming feeling that God was being quiet in our lives, was so rough, but true to what God was whispering to me back in December, He is making all things new.  There are still sad things all around us, that overwhelm us both at times, but in the midst of the sadness, God gave us a gift, a place that we could call our own, a miracle house, that couldn’t be done without his doing.  He gave us joy and happiness in the midst of the sadness and he answered a desire of our hearts in a huge way.

So, today, after about a month and a half of being under contract for the house, we finally closed.  Something that I never thought in a million years that we would do.  God has led us in every step.  We have been blessed beyond our wildest imaginations.  We own our own little house in a city that we love.  You can expect a blog tour soon. 

 Ephesians 3:20-21

 

Our New House

 

I will be posting more pictures as the house gets in order.  There are a lot of projects that we have been working on.  I am excited to show you more. 

Cooking for a Crowd Tips and Tricks

Crowd Tips and Tricks

I have been cooking for between 20-30 college students once a week for two and a half years.  I have learned a lot during this time.  I will be publishing recipes for some of the meals that I have made through the years.  During this time, I was either pregnant or had a baby or infant, so the recipes don’t take too much work typically, and they are always cost effective.  

So many people need to cook for a lot of people for various reasons, church potlucks or picnics, baby showers, bridal showers or big football games.  Over the years I have learned some tricks that can help anyone that is cooking for a crowd. These aren’t necessarily gourmet meals, but they feed hungry college students well. They also use real ingredients. Here are my top six tips and tricks (I started with only five and then thought of a sixth).

1.  Smaller plates.  I only buy 8 and 1/2 inch plates when I am cooking for a crowd. No matter the size of the plate, people fill it up.  If you buy bigger plates,  people will take more food and you may run out of food (a huge fear of mine).  If you buy the 8 and 1/2 inch plates, they are still big enough for people to get full from one plate full, but not to run out of food.  Everyone knows when they come to my house to keep your plate if you want more (as mentioned above I mostly feed college guys who don’t cook much).  For the most part, there are always seconds available to those who want it. 

2. Big metal catering trays.  I use disposable ones.  If you are cooking for more than 20 people, you can fit a huge amount of food (enough to feed 30) in those huge trays.  You can find them at Smart and Final and Party City if you have them in your city.  If you are cooking for 20 or less, you can use two 9×13 pyrex baking dishes.  That will be plenty of food. 

3.  Iceberg lettuce for salad.  Now, this wouldn’t be good for a baby shower or bridal shower necessarily (where nicer food is typically used) but for a church event, football game or feeding college students, this is a cheap and great way to feed people.  For $1.99 at Costco or Smart and Final you can get a 3lb bag which is more than enough for 30 people when serving a main dish.  

4.  Filling side.  I always tried to have a side of bread or rice to compliment the main dish and the salad.  This way people will be more full as they are eating.  My three favorites are corn bread, white rice and garlic bread from the store (with all the tasty, fattening garlic butter on them, it is just delicious).  

5. Crock Pots.  I have two crock pots, this has helped me immeasurably as I cook.  I can have the sides cooking in the crock pots when the main dish is on the stove or in the oven.  I have also cooked the main dish in crock pots (especially when it is hot outside) so that the house doesn’t get too hot.  As long as you are organized enough to get it started early enough, a crock pot or two is super helpful. 

6.  A griddle.  If you are making breakfast for a crowd (pancakes or french toast) a griddle is the best option.  It stays the same exact temperature and you end up with the same colored pancakes throughout the entire cooking process unlike on a stove where the temperature changes so often. They will be the same color the entire time you cook.  I also use this for sandwiches when I do grilled cheese for a crowd, the sandwiches turn out perfectly for the entire cooking time.  

So, those are my tips and tricks.  I hope that they help you as you start cooking for 20-30 people.  All the recipes that I post can also be used for smaller portions or family dinners, you may just have to do some math.   

Battle of the Breakfast Casserole Results: The Savory Winners

Battle of the Breakfast Casseroles Banner

 

The savory recipes are ones that I make often.  Every third week I need to bring a casserole to my mom’s group at church and so I always pick one of these.  

My Favorite: Overnight Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

Overnight Sausage Egg and Cheese Breakfast

 

I think that my favorite part of this casserole is the base of the English Muffins, it is so easy to use the muffins and they are usually pretty inexpensive.  You can switch out the sausage, for bacon or the italian breakfast sausage with great results.  Also, this casserole isn’t as bready as other casseroles.

A close second to:  Overnight Croissant Breakfast Casserole

Croissant Casserole

This one was so close to getting first place, but I don’t usually have access to croissants, and I do have access to English Muffins, otherwise, this would have gotten first place.  I LOVED the flakiness of this casserole.  It felt so light and fluffy and the ham used was so good.  This would be perfect for Christmas morning.  You must try this, now, go and get the ingredients and make it tonight for tomorrow morning. I don’t think that you will be sad about it. 

 

Battle of the Breakfast Casserole Results: The Sweet Winners

Battle of the Breakfast Casseroles Banner

 

So, after preparing all of these different breakfast casseroles, I will tell you my favorite sweet recipes and why I love them.  Each of them were different and I 

BEST SWEET RECIPE:

Overnight Fluffy Coffee Cake

Fluffy Overnight Coffee Cake

I make this all of the time.  I love this recipe.  I actually make it without letting it set overnight, I make it, put the topping on it and then stick it in the oven.  I make this for my mom’s group that I go to and it seems to be well liked by everyone.  It is so easy and it makes your house smell delicious.  My husband is always sad when I don’t leave him a piece because the house smells so good.  

My second place sweet: Overnight Cinnamon Baked French Toast

Baked French Toast Casserole

This is just another favorite and is so delicious with just some butter and syrup.  This is just a great casserole, it is buttery and cinnamony and delicious. 

HONORABLE MENTION: The blueberry syrup from the Blueberry French Toast recipe.  This syrup is to die for.  Let me just tell you, this syrup on waffles is amazing, with blueberries in each waffle crevice, it makes a normal waffle so tasty.  

Overnight Sausage and Egg Casserole with Green Chilies

Sausage and Chilies

This was the last recipe that I tried for my Battle of the Breakfast Casseroles.  I follow the blog “Our Best Bites” and this was a recipe that they had on their blog.  It was very good, not too spicy (my hubby can’t handle spice) but it did have a nice little kick. This recipe was cheesy which I liked.  

I liked that you made this one with plain white bread, it worked and while it wasn’t as think as the other casseroles that I have made, it was still very tasty.  I would recommend this for a shower or MOPS, it is nice and easy and will be gobbled up.  After you cook it, you are supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes.  The casserole will collapse as it cools, but don’t worry, it is supposed to do that.  It will still taste amazing.  

Breakfast Casserole with Green Chilies

 

Overnight Sausage Casserole with Green Chilies
Serves 10
Easy Casserole made with plain white bread and chilies.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 6-8 Slices White Bread
  2. 1/4 C Softened Butter
  3. 4 C Grated Cheese
  4. 12 oz Turkey Sausage, browned and drained
  5. 1 4 oz Can Green Chiles
  6. 6 Eggs
  7. 2 C Milk
  8. 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  9. 1/2 tsp Paprika
  10. 1 tsp Oregano
  11. 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  12. 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  13. 1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
Instructions
  1. Remove the crusts from your bread and lightly butter one side.
  2. Place bread butter side down in a 9×13 baking dish. You will want to cover the entire pan with bread.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the bread.
  4. Spread the cooked sausage on top of the bread.
  5. Put the drained can of green chilies on top of the sausage.
  6. In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk eggs.
  7. Add milk and then seasonings and whisk to combine well.
  8. Pour it over the casserole.
  9. Cover well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  10. In the morning, get the casserole out of the refrigerator.
  11. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  12. Bake (uncovered) for 50-60 minutes.
  13. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving it.
Adapted from Our Best Bites
Adapted from Our Best Bites
The Insignificant Details http://theinsignificantdetails.com/
Sausage and Chili Casserole

Overnight Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Blueberry  French Toast Casserole

This recipe was very good. The students loved it. I would recommend taking some of the crust off of the bread for the top layer. The real star of this dish though, in my opinion, is the syrup. It is so delicious. It was my first time making syrup and I have made it multiple times since I first made this dish. This syrup is especially good with waffles.

That said, if you like cream cheese, you will love this casserole. I am not a huge fan of cream cheese, so in general, this wasn’t really my favorite casserole, but if you like the richness of cream cheese, you will love this. It is sweet, and the blueberries pop when you eat them.
 Blueberry French Toast

Overnight Blueberry French Toast Casserole
Serves 10
A sweet and savory blueberry french toast casserole with a delectable homemade blueberry syrup.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. FRENCH TOAST
  2. 1 loaf of french bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (you can leave some of the crust off)
  3. 12 oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
  4. 1½ cups frozen blueberries
  5. 12 eggs, beaten
  6. 2 cups milk
  7. 1 lemon
  8. ⅓ cup maple syrup
  9. BLUEBERRY SYRUP
  10. 1 cup white sugar
  11. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  12. 1½ cups water
  13. 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
For the french toast
  1. Cube your bread.
  2. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. Layer half of the bread cubes in the pan and top with all of the cream cheese and 2 cups of blueberries.
  4. Top with remaining bread.
  5. Zest and juice the lemon.
  6. In a bowl, stir together the eggs, milk and maple syrup until well mixed.
  7. Add the lemon zest and half of the lemon juice.
  8. Pour over the bread cubes.
  9. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  10. Remove the casserole from the fridge about 60 minutes before baking.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  12. Bake covered 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.
For the Syrup (note, it can be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop)
  1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, cornstarch, water and remaining lemon juice.
  2. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly and let bubble 1 minute.
  3. Add remaining 2 cups of frozen blueberries, reduce heat, and let simmer 10 minutes.
Adapted from Spend with Pennies
The Insignificant Details http://theinsignificantdetails.com/
Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Overnight Breakfast Casserole with Stove Top Stuffing

Stove Top Stuffing Casserole
So out of all of the recipes that I picked for the Battle of the Breakfast Casseroles, this one intrigued me the most.  What would it be like?  Would it hold up?  Would people be able to taste the Stove Top?  I was so curious.  

This recipe was so easy, it took around five minutes to put together.  You can change the flavor by changing the turkey sausage to hot italian sausage, or changing the flavor of the Stove Top Stuffing.  Overall, this recipe tastes more like sausage than the Stove Top, so altering your type of sausage would make the biggest difference. 

Stove Top Closeup

Throughout this breakfast, I asked the students if they could guess the secret ingredient. None of them guessed that the secret ingredient was Stove Top Stuffing. This casserole did cook nice and tasted good, however, it did not heat up well the next day. I would recommend using this recipe when you know that the whole thing will be eaten in one sitting, as it wasn’t good the second day. 

Overnight Breakfast Casserole with Stove Top Stuffing
Serves 10
A typical overnight breakfast casserole with a secret ingredient of Stove Top Stuffing. No one will guess the secret ingredient.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1lb Turkey Sausage, cooked and drained
  2. 1tbsp Butter
  3. 1 Box Savory Herb Stove Top Stuffing
  4. 2 cups shredded cheese
  5. 8 eggs
  6. 3 cups milk
Instructions
  1. Cook and drain the turkey sausage and set aside.
  2. Spray the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  3. Dump in the stuffing mix into the pan.
  4. Layer on cheese and sausage.
  5. Mix eggs and milk.
  6. Pour egg mixture over the top, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for one hour.
Adapted from The Involuntary Housewife
The Insignificant Details http://theinsignificantdetails.com/
Stove Top Casserole

Overnight Sausage, Pepper and Onion Breakfast Casserole

Sausage Pepper Onion Casserole

This recipe was chocked full of flavor.  It had delicious peppers, onions and flavorful ground sausage.  I made it for my husband’s class.  My favorite quote from a student was, “I don’t even like peppers, but they are so good in this casserole.”  If I can make someone like green peppers (even in just one dish) I have succeeded.   

I used a half loaf of Old Country Italian Bread that I found at my local supermarket.  You could also use regular white bread (six pieces).  The Italian bread made it a bit more hearty, but the white bread would make it is bit fluffier and less bready.  Both are good choices, it is up to you what you would like.  If you have all the ingredients and regular bread, use that.  You won’t be disappointed.  

Overnight Sausage, Pepper and Onion Casserole
Serves 10
Flavorful casserole with ground sausage, peppers and onions.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Loaf Italian Country Bread or 6 slices white bread
  2. 1 lb. ground sausage, cooked & drained
  3. 1/4 c. green pepper, chopped
  4. 1 onion, chopped
  5. 1 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  6. 6 eggs
  7. 2 c. milk
  8. 1 tsp. salt
  9. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Spray 9x13 pan with oil.
  2. Tear apart bread into little pieces, place in the bottom of the pan
  3. Add cooked sausage, green pepper, onion and cheese.
  4. Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper, pour over casserole.
  5. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Adapted from Old World Garden Farms
The Insignificant Details http://theinsignificantdetails.com/
Sausage Pepper and Onion Casserole