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One of the best ways to save money in this town is to eat at home. With so many great and unique restaurants just walking distance from home, it is easy to end up spending all your money (and calories for that matter) eating out!  Don’t worry too much though, there are a lot of great deals to be had and I do intend to devote part of this blog to sharing some of these great dining out experiences with you. However, I also intend to share with you some of my favorite homemade recipes and  this weekend I made some of the BEST soup I have ever made.  It needs to be shared!

Before coming together with the cheesy yum!

I am going to say this right now, this recipe and probably every other one I share came from somewhere else.  I have fun looking through cookbooks and online recipes to find new things to try. I am by no means a master chef nor do I pretend to be! I LOVE foodgawker!!  If you do not have this app on your phone already or the website set as a favorite on your computer, you must do this now! I’m not joking…DO IT!

I found this recipe while “gawking” one afternoon and it sounded right up my ally. I enjoy a good bowl of soup now and then, but until recently I thought I only liked Chicken Noodle Soup.  (If you know me at all, you know that I have been a picky eater my whole life! I’m getting better though, don’t judge me!) When I came across this lasagna soup recipe I thought, “Hey, I like lasagna. There’s no reason I wouldn’t like it as a soup!”  Not to mention the AMAZING amount of cheese in the recipe! So I tried it.  The first time I made it, it came out as more of a pasta. Not enough broth and too much pasta.  It was still tasty, but the second time it was PERFECT!  Cheesy, yummy bliss!  The best part is that it is great left over! I had it for lunch for 2 days after making it! 🙂  Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe (with my adjustments, I cook with what I have!):

for the soup:

2 tsp. olive oil

1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage  (I used a chicken and cheese sausage, yum!)

3 c. chopped onions  (This sounded like a lot of onion to me, so I just used about 1 cup)

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes  (One packet of peppers left over from pizza delivery!)

2 T. tomato paste  (I didn’t have any tomato paste, so I used a small can of tomato sauce)

1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes  (Yea, I skipped this ingredient! I don’t have that kind of stuff in the house!)

2 bay leaves  (Didn’t have any of these either, but we didn’t miss them)

6 c. chicken stock   (I added an extra 2 cups of stock)

8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta  (Use whatever pasta you have!  I used some whole wheat shells)

1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cheesy yum: (OMG! This is the best part!)

8 oz. ricotta

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. salt pinch of freshly ground pepper

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth. You may even want to consider cooking the noodles separately, and then adding some to individual bowls before ladling the soup over them. This would be an especially smart move if you are anticipating any leftovers. Right before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Servings:  8

Source: http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/2011/03/24/lasagna-soup/ adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, as seen in the February-April 2011 edition of At Home with Kowalski’s magazine

One of the blessings (or curses, depending on how I am feeling on any given day) of being an actress in LA is that you never know where your day is going to take you.  Not only is acting unpredictable but I work more than one job in which I am “on-call”.  There is never any guarantee that what you have planned for any particular day will actually come to pass.  You may think you have an ordinary day in store, but there is almost always a surprise, an interruption, or a disappointment on the horizon.  We take “living in the moment” very seriously… and quite literally.  This can be very annoying to the people around us who like to make plans and schedule events and mark things on calendars!  (Let’s not even get started on what a mess this can make of the holidays!)  It is not that we are inherently flaky or indecisive; it is simply that we, literally, never know what might come up.

Today, I went to work, barely awake and functioning, at 7:30am.  In my mind, I knew what stretched out in front of me.  I would arrive at work, were I substitute teach, at exactly 8:00am.  Not a minute early, but maybe a minute late.  I would walk into the math room that I have been temporarily calling my own to find the sleepy eyes of a handful of students waiting for guidance on their homework.  I would spend the whole day tutoring and teaching math, with an hour long lunch break where I would eat my sack lunch of leftovers.  I would come home to my puppy at 4:30pm, take her for a walk, make some dinner (my favorite pasta salad), and maybe hit the gym afterwards.  I had it all worked out!

Cue the 12:51pm phone call from my agent.  I have an audition today? At 5:45pm? Perfect.  This sends me spiraling into a complicated problem-solving scenario in which I need to finish work at 4:00pm, rush home from Sylmar to “fix my face” (because Lord knows I do not go to work “audition-ready” on a regular basis), change my clothes, take a look at my audition sides, grab that stupid headshot and resume (yes, I know I should have extras in my car, but I don’t!), and probably take my dog out to pee before I hit the road to Valley Village.  I hope my car still has gas!!

Of course, everything worked out fine.  I made it to my audition, on-time and looking sharp, well…except when my coat got caught in the chair as I stood to head into the room…but other than that, everything was great!  I still made my pasta salad for dinner, just a little bit later than I originally planned (someday I will share my super easy recipe, if you can even call it a recipe).  Oh, and I didn’t make it to the gym…ok, I still had time to go to the gym but I just didn’t want to!  I was tired!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be flexible!  I have to be.  I can’t do what I do and not be flexible.  I work multiple jobs just to support my career!  Plans change, things come up, life moves on, and everything usually works out in spite of it all.  It reminds me of that saying, “If you want to make God laugh…Tell Him Your Plans!”

Oh yea, and don’t get mad at me if I cancel our date or we never do get a chance to schedule that drink!  I’m working on it! 😉

My alarm went off this morning at 6:45am.  The reason why I had to be up at such an UNGODLY hour on a Saturday is another aspect of my life which I will talk about some other time.  But when that alarm started honking and I reached over to hit the snooze button, as I always do, I heard the sound of rain coming down outside my window.  Not just a little bit of rain but A LOT of rain!  Of course, being the California girl that I am, my first thought was, “Oh great! There go ALL my plans for the day!”

With a hot English breakfast tea in my hand, I was on the road and headed to work by 7:15am.  (Seriously?! This should not happen…EVER!)  You can see by this timeline how little time I give myself in the morning to get ready in order to maximize my sleeping time.  I coasted at a mild 55mph on the freeway, both hands on the wheel, certain that at any moment I would skid out of control and end up stuck in the rain on the side of the freeway.  I drove past an accident on the other side of the freeway, where I saw what looked like the remnants of a car fire and another car completely turned over on its roof.  That’s reassuring!  The whole city of Sylmar seemed to be flooded and I drove through intersections of water saying silent prayers that I would make it to the other side.

Hard to believe that just a few hours later, the sun was shining on yet another beautiful Hollywood afternoon.  If not for the damp sidewalks and streets, one would never have guessed how the day had started.  By 1:30pm, Nina and I were headed up the trail to the Hollywood sign and I was already breaking a sweat under my Cal Poly Pomona sweatshirt (the irony is not lost on me here).  My sunglasses were steaming up as Nina ran through puddles and played in the mud.  I didn’t mind the dirty playtime because I knew she was getting a bath when we got home.  When we reached the top, we sat for a moment to enjoy the view and the cool breeze.

This is the best way to enjoy a rainy day!

The Hollywood Sign

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