Thursday, March 24, 2011

Italian Pasta Casserole

I miss Mexico!  I loved how wherever we walked we always saw animals.  I think over half of my 150 pictures were of animals.  They are beautiful and I loved hearing them while we were lying in bed in the morning. 

Iguanas are everywhere sunbathing.

Peacocks were everywhere too.  This one gave us the full show from feathers down to his back view and then he twirled around like he was showing off.

I did not love hearing the Howler Monkeys while I slept.  The first morning I woke up at 3AM having no clue what that noise was outside.  It sounded like a lion roar.  (Not that I have ever heard a lion roar in real life.)  Apparently these little guys (they sound big) come out late at night and early morning.  They don't enjoy our company during the day.  As soon as I realized there were monkeys I made it my mission to see them before our trip came to an end.  Our third day at the resort we got to see them.  We just left our room and were headed to dinner when we heard their howl.  We saw some people gathered around an area taking pictures so I ran over.  Sure enough there were about five up in a tree.  They were crazy, jumping around and pulling off branches.  They looked like they were having a party.  It made my day and trip!

It is hard to see them with the sun in the background, but there are two in this shot. 

I might be small, but I am loud when I jump!

Our first night at dinner (Monkey arm shot (ha ha))

We all went into the town of Playa Del Carmen one night to explore the local environment.  We also wanted some truly authentic food while in Mexico.  There were all sorts of people on the streets providing entertainment.  The first thing we stumbled upon was a man with two spider monkeys.  We were so excited.  The guy wanted you to pay him to take pictures with the monkeys which we were happy to do!  Alex said that was the best experience of his life.  Not sure I would say that, but it was definitely fun!

Look at that big smile!

That monkey was ready to move on to the next person...ME!

I was so afraid it was going to go to the bathroom on my head!

Mary and Mark with the monkeys.  I love Mary's face in this one because she has no clue what is happening on her head.  

Back to food.  This was an easy dish to throw together.  Took a little while to cook, but it is nice because you make your own spaghetti sauce so you know it is fresh.

I used brown rice pasta in this dish and it tasted great.  Way healthier than normal pasta.  Great served with a salad.

Pasta Casserole
Source:  Annie's Eats

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (great bulk buy at Sam's)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain excess fat.  Return to pan.  Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, basil, oregano, salt to taste, and water.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions.  Drain well and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and egg.  Stir until well blended.  Add green onions and stir.

To assemble, spread a very thin layer of sauce on bottom of baking dish.  Next, add half of the pasta.  Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over pasta, then top with half of the remaining sauce.  Repeat with pasta, cream cheese mixture, and remaining sauce.  Spring shredded mozzarella evenly over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and browned. 

Let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

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