Easy “Baked Spanish Penne”

I have this great recipe, Spanish lasagna, that uses artichoke hearts and black olives for the filling. As I am mad for those two ingredients, not to mention pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese, it’s a favorite,  a “treat” dish that I make once in awhile (since Ricotta & artichoke hearts can be a bit pricey). I also occasionally make Baked Ziti or Baked Penne, so, since I didn’t have any lasagna noodles, I got the idea to make a combo of the two dishes. Here’s the ingredients.


That’s a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. I only used half of the 2 lb Ricotta (it was on sale and larger sizes are generally cheaper per pound anyway). That’s 6 slices of Mozzarella pictured but you could also use shredded. The artichoke hearts in the jar were marinated; you could use unmarinated, typically sold in cans, but using the jarred marinated type meant I didn’t have to add any additional seasonings (I am ALL about shortcuts). This is a large jar; you could also use two small 6 oz ones which are more readily available in stores.

I boiled and drained a 1 lb box of Penne.


Trust me that there’s a pound of Penne somewhere in there


Next I rinsed and broke up the black olives. The easy way to break them up is by hand, plus it’s knd of fun.


My best, or one of my best kitchen tricks, is mixing things in the sink. It’s easier on the arms  and any slopping goes in the sink.  Here is the tomato sauce with black olives and drained artichokes added to a medium size bowl. I didn’t use quite all the artichokes since I wanted to save a few for salads.


I used clean kitchen scissors to cut up the artichoke hearts right in the bowl.


In a large 4 qt bowl I put the cooked Penne and then the sauce mixture, topped by a pound of Ricotta and broken up pieces of Mozzarella.


I then mixed it all up. (It kind of turns pink, do not be alarmed!) I added no extra seasonings except fresh ground pepper. As I mentioned, marinated artichoke hearts come with seasoning and the cheese and tomato sauce both contain salt.


I then spread the mixture into a 9×13 pan. It was risky making a huge pan of an experimental recipe but I gambled that I’d like this. On top I drizzled a bit of olive oil and sprinkled on a modest amount of shredded Parmesan.


I topped it with a loose sheet of foil.


I baked the dish about 35 minutes at 325°.  Basically you want to heat it through – since there is no egg added there’s no worry about undercooking.


Was it good? Hell yes it was good! In order to not wolf it all down in a matter of days and to have the pleasure of spreading ny treat out over time, I habitually freeze lasagne portions.  That worked now too. The easy way is to slice portions and freeze them on a cookie sheet. After they’re frozen you just wrap them in individual portions.



So here’s how my “Kinda, Sorta New Year’s Resolutions” are going

I didn’t expect to weigh in on my “Kinda, Sorta New Year’s Resolutions” this soon but I’ve made progress and I feel like writing about it. These ” resolutions ” tie in with a renewed effort on focusing where I put my attention. I became more conscious about how much of my attention and mental energy I was permitting to go to less-than-worthy sources. I said it felt like my life was this huge ship whose direction needed slight correcting. I felt the creaking and heaving of the effort. Here’s what I’m thinking. The older you are and/or the longer you’ve been doing things certain ways, the more it takes to change course. So even if the changes you might wish to undertake aren’t HUGE or even a PARTICULARLY BIG DEAL – as is the case with me – it still takes more effort to get things going (as with even a slight turn on a big, ole ship).

Let me jump in on my specific goals. In 2018 I want to read 20 books, make 10 visits to our local lake, and make 10 new recipes. None of these are monumental but they were all things I considered worthwhile that I was not doing or not doing much. (Yet I seemed to have time for less worthy endeavors or things that just weren’t terribly satisfying.) There is something motivating about getting to make a new entry of my goals list.

I’ve made 13 new recipes! Standouts include Jessica Seinfeld’s Potato, Cauliflower, and Carrot cream soup and Easy, healthy Walnut, Date, Coconut Treats. Not-so-successful recipes were an oatmeal whole wheat bread and gumbo (I never realized gumbo was okra and tomatoes – I love both okra and tomatoes, how could it miss? It missed.) I feel more excited about cooking again, putting in the time and effort to make new things, not just “sure things.”

This year I’ve cut back on cheese – there are actual days when I eat no cheese – and kicked up my vegetable eating. I had to rethink vegetables, to prioritize them, because although I eat HUGE salads and like certain vegetables A LOT, normally they aren’t the first thing I think of and they definitely haven’t been my emphasis.

I’ve visited the local lake six times already. To be honest, my community has added a clothing dropoff box adjacent to the lake area so I’ve used the opportunity to drop off clothes I no longer want as an incentive to head to the lake. Once there, I walk around and such. Accomplishing a small task in the deal makes it easier for me to plan to go there.

Books. I have read six books. My pace here isn’t stellar though because two of the books were short. Also, I have started but not finished three books – I made myself a deal that I wouldn’t force myself to read anything. I got halfway through both Chris Kyle’s American Sniper and Stephen King’s The Dead Zone before quitting. I just didn’t want to devote more time to either. I also started Alice Sebold’s Almost Moon (having really liked The Lovely Bones and Lucky) but realized I’d either started it or read it before and wasn’t so wild about it.

I feel almost ashamed by how far “behind” I let myself get reading-wise. I have much catching up to do but the real point is I am making reading more of a priority again, recouping my ability to sit down and stay put with a book. They aren’t all going to be great but I know by keeping at it, I’ll find ones that are.

So not only have I made a point to do these good things, I’ve cut back on things I felt wasted my time or made me feel not right. There are a couple TV shows I have not watched at all this year, shows that weren’t really adding much to my life. I also stopped reading a community Facebook page, one that often aggravated me with the content and regular vitriol by some of its partipants. I checked back in this week and among the more normal posts – lost cats, community events, etc – was a lengthy “conversation” on hot-button topics that got ugly. I felt myself getting upset. I guess maybe I needed confirmation that staying away is best for me. See, my fear is I’ll miss out (FOMO) on something important. What that “something” is I don’t really know. The reality is my life has gone on, been better even, since staying away. I remind myself I had a life before social media.

I started doing crossword puzzles again this winter, another thing I used to do. As my attention became scattery from time spent online, I found I lacked the stick-to-it-ness required to do a puzzle. It would get hard and I’d quit. I began making myself stick with it and get more done. The more I did the sharper I felt. I found this little book of 88 puzzles at Dollar Tree. I love it! They are all written by different puzzle makers. They challenge me but don’t make me feel like I’m way out of my depth.

When I get a clue answer I feel a little endorphin surge, especially those I struggled with or took awhile to guess. I find that I have a broader body of knowledge than I (consciously) realize and at the same time the puzzles force me to accesss different ways of thinking. My initial thoughts aren’t always right and I need to approach the clue from a different angle. For examples: the answer to the clue House calls? was “votes”, Back biter? was ” molar”, Singer who’s an actress was “Lori”, my mind went a number of places before it went the right way. I need this kind of intellectual challenge; my life doesn’t automatically provide it.

I have not yet checked out The New York Times puzzles which I understand are considered the best. I watched a DVD of Wordplay, the 2006 documentary on the Times puzzle and its followers, who have an annual competition, and it did make me curious. I always figured I’d find their puzzles kind of dry and boring but maybe I’m wrong.

From 2015-2017 I lost a lot of my energy to an ongoing problem in my life. I spent a lot of energy fighting it and, for a time, trying to get the people who SHOULD help, to actually help. I had a sea change in attitude starting last summer. In a way, I gave up, which doesn’t necessarily seem like the ideal or right course, but it has helped me. Instead I am focusing on those actions and responses within my control. I stopped focusing so much on the problem and as I’ve been saying, started putting my energy back into me. It is too easy for me at to get overly caught up in problems, be they mine or someone else’s. I totally get that there is a choice in this and I can choose otherwise. The ship is turning.

NOTE: Please forgive a delay in responding to comments; I do want to hear them!

Short Thought 201

There are people I have sympathy for who also irritate me. I think this feeling should be called empannoyance. Let’s use it in a sentence! “I feel bad that she’s sick but she’s being so demanding. She’s empannoying me.” Or: “They’re a small, struggling business that I’d like to help but it’s so empannoying that their customer service stinks.”

Mini pizzas

I make pizza for myself just about very week. I posted “Grandma’s pizza”, a new deep-dish one I tried, about two weeks ago. That was from a recipe but I was experimenting when I decided to try making these mni pizzas.

I make my own dough with a mix of whole wheat and white flours (slightly more whole wheat) and it is SO GOOD if I may say so. Maybe sometime I’ll try to post instructions but the thing is, I’ve made hundreds – no hyperbole – of pizza doughs and some of what I do might be lost in writing. But we’ll see! I sure wish there was a magic way to give you a sample to eat through the internet.

Anyway… I made my dough (you could buy dough if you don’t want to make it) and after it had risen I divided it into 6 portions on a cookie sheet. Note the spankin’  new, shiny, baking sheet; the other week I treated myself to this “Master Chef” brand sheet ($6 from Ross). So far I like it.


Using my fingers I spread each one out thinly.


Usually if I open a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes for something, in this case a big pot of beans, vegetables, and rice I made earlier in the week, I leave a little behind for a pizza. I never buy pizza sauce from the store; it’s too full of junk including salt and sugar. I prefer the flavor of straight tomatoes (ALSO I don’t get super thirsty since my pizza doesn’t have all that dehydrating salt the way restaurant and takeout pizza does).

To the doughs I added a bit of canned crushed tomatoes, a tiny bit more than one square slice of mozzarella cheese divided among the circles, (I add cheese conservatively and not that I’ve ever been to Italy but I understand they go easy on it there too) ,  a lot of dried Basil, and drizzles of olive oil.


I baked them around 12 minutes at around (the oven gauge doesn’t work right) 425°.




SO GOOD!!! Two of these & a bowl of soup or a big salad, you got a meal


NOTE: I’ve been posting a lot this past week because I’ve had unfettered internet access – in case you wondered. I’ve very much enjoyed it but this pace won’t last – in case you wondered again.