Category Archives: food

Plain and Simple French Toast

It wasn’t until I was a grown-up, living on my own in my first apartment, when it occurred to me that people actually use a recipe to make French toast. My mom never used one, and I followed suit, using as many eggs as necessary for the amount of bread I intended to use and whisking in some milk until it looked right. A touch of vanilla, sometimes some cinnamon, and the mixture was ready to go.

The real key to delicious French toast is the bread. You want a delicious French toast? Use some of my mom’s homemade sourdough bread. Can’t get that? Try Trader Joe’s sliced brioche bread. It is fantastic!

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So here’s how I make French toast, perfect for a weekend morning or to liven up a regular ol’ weekday!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, cracked and beaten well
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 or 5 slices of bread
  • Butter, 2 tbsp for skillet and plenty for French toast
  • Maple syrup, powdered sugar or other toppings

Directions

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  2. Whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Stir in vanilla. You can also add in a little cinnamon if you’re so inclined. Sometimes I am!
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, taking care to carefully coat each side of the bread. Allow the excess to drip off before placing each piece on the griddle. Continue with each piece of toast.
  4. Cook in skillet or griddle for about two minutes, then flip. You usually don’t have to cook that side as long.
  5. Serve! I like my French toast plain and simple, with melting butter and warm syrup. But if you want to get fancy with powdered sugar, fruit or however you like it!
  6. Enjoy!

 

If you try this recipe, simple as it is, share about it on social using #UnfinBus!

Skillets are for more than frying: Skillet Apple Pie

One Sunday when I was at my parents’ house during the holidays, my mom made skillet apple pie. She’d seen the recipe in a magazine and decided to try it one day and it had quickly become a family favorite—well, for most of the family. Because I live in Nashville, I hadn’t gotten to try my mom’s take on the skillet apple pie, but I had eaten it in restaurants.

But understand this: homemade (when done right) is so, so, so much better than store-bought or reheated from frozen (which is what a lot of chain restaurants do).

Last week, I bought a bunch of apples, mostly because I ran in to Aldi’s to stock up on some canned goods, the apples were there, it was a good price, and I’d been wanting fried apples. I had a few left over and as I was driving home yesterday decided I’d do something nice for myself and make an apple pie. But were four apples enough?

I decided to call the expert and ask my mom. She said it would probably be OK (though probably a little less than ideal) as long as they weren’t tiny. Then, she reminded me of the cast iron skillet and recipe for skillet apple pie she’d given me (and my sis-in-law) for Christmas.

And the idea was born.

So, I headed to the store to buy pie crust (the recipe calls for pre-made; yes, I know how to make from scratch pie crust!) and made it happen. The result was delicious and a nice way to carve out some peace in a busy week.

With no further ado, let me present the recipe with my adjustments. It’s based off the original Southern Living recipe, which you can find here.

pie2Skillet Apple Pie

4-6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite sized pieces (I think the recipe says wedges, but I don’t like huge chunks.)
1 tsp. cinnamon (give or take, I tend not to measure cinnamon)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 pkg. pie crusts, pre-made
Extra sugar and/or egg whites for topping the crust

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On the stove top, melt the butter in your skillet.

2. Core, peel, and chop the apples. Toss with cinnamon and 3/4 cup sugar and set aside for a bit.

3. Add the packed brown sugar to the skillet and let it melt down into a beautiful brown syrup of deliciousness. I pondered adding just a touch of apple juice to this, but resisted. I still think it would be nice.

4. When the brown sugar has dissolved and the butter is completely melted, remove the skillet from heat. Place one of the pre-made piecrusts on top of the syrup.

5. Pour the apples on top of the bottom crust.

6. Top with the remaining crust and pinch the edges together. Cut 4-5 slits in the top to vent the pie, then brush with egg whites (if so desired) and sprinkle a little sugar over the top crust.

7. Bake in the 350-degree oven for an hour to 1 1/2 hours. The recipe suggested shielding the crust with aluminum foil in the last 10 minutes so that it doesn’t get too brown, but since I didn’t have any, I didn’t do that. My oven only needed right at an hour to get the pie done, so you’ll need to watch the pie and remove it when the top starts getting very brown.

8. Let the pie sit for about 20-30 minutes, if you can. It’s really hot when you first take it out of the oven, especially with that brown sugar syrup, so unless you want to burn the lips off your face, wait a bit. But do enjoy with a little vanilla ice cream! It’s DELICIOUS!!! And EASY!!!!

Summer pasta made easy

A few weekends ago, somewhere between meeting with someone about a bridal shower I’m helping to host and going with said bride for dress fittings, I happened to catch an episode of “The Barefoot Contessa.” Now, I’m not a regular viewer of this show, but I do watch it from time to time. And I’m completely and totally in love with Ina’s kitchen and somehow her voice just kind of puts me at peace. When I do watch an episode, everything she makes always looks so amazing—which means I then get hungry and have to go eat something.

But I digress.

I started paying attention to this episode because Ina and her friend were making salted caramel ice cream. I had just had salted caramel ice cream a few weeks before at a brand new and amazing ice creamery in Nashville called Jeni’s, and was therefore interested to find out how it was probably made. (Too much work for me.)

THEN, Ina started making this pasta. It was beautiful. Simple-sounding. And full of summery goodness. So I just had to try it. This past Saturday, I got my chance.

It. Was. Amazing!

And it sort of revived my love for sharing recipes with you, so here we go.

First off, ingredients:

4 pints cherry tomatoes (this is what Ina’s recipe called for. I used two pints of grape tomatoes and one larger tomato I grew in a pot on my patio. Worked great.)
1/2 olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (which apparently is akin to something like 6 cloves. I personally thought this was a little much and I like garlic. . . )
18 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (the recipe says julienned, but the way to get basil julienned is to cut them chiffonade style. Look it up.)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Pasta of your choice (I used angel hair.)
Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1: Wash and quarter (or chop into small pieces) the tomatoes. Throw them into a bowl. Combine them with the olive oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Stir well. The salt is going to help things break down, so really get it in there.
Pasta is happening later!

Step 2: Cover the bowl of tomato-y goodness with saran wrap or a lid, set it on the counter or kitchen table and walk away. Yep. Walk away. For four hours. Go read a book, clean your house, or watch mindless hours of TV. (If you do the TV thing, I once again suggest the show I’m mildly obsessed with right now: “Covert Affairs.”)

Step 3: About 4 hours later, the tomatoes should have broken down some and the mixture is starting to get a bit soupy. And if you pull back the saran wrap and sniff, it’s going to smell wonderful! Now it’s time to make this meal happen. Boil your pasta of choice until al dente. Then, drain it, using a colander, but don’t rinse it. It needs to stay hot.

Step 4: Add the hot pasta to the bowl with the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add freshly grated or shredded Parmesan and stir well.

Step 5: Serve. Eat. Sigh. It’s just about the world’s easiest pasta and one of the yummiest. If you’re in the mood for something light, tasty, and full of the flavors of the garden, this is it!

Brownies that will change your life (or at least make you feel better): sea salt brownies

I’m not going to lie. I love brownies.

And I think made-from-scratch brownies are easy to overbake, resulting in dry, crumbling chocolate-y squares that just aren’t all that appetizing. I’ve secretely held the belief that from the box brownies are a little better than any made-from-scratch recipe I’ve ever tried.

Then, I ran across this recipe. And I had to try it. Fudgy brownies? I like those! Sea salt? I have that! A salty, sweet combo? I’m willing to try!

So I set about making these brownies and they were truly good. Understand this, though if you want to make them: this recipe is for a fudgy brownie. If you like cake-like brownies and don’t care for a little bit of gooeyness with your brownies, this ISN’T the recipe for you.

But if you do, oh my word, you have to try this!

Here’s how to make them:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The recipe called for lining an 8 inch square pan with two pieces of foil, then greasing the foil or using cooking spray. I did it, because it certainly makes it easier to lift the entire batch of brownies out of the pan.

2. Melt 1 1/2 stick of butter with 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate over low heat on your stovetop. When just melted, remove from heat and stir well to combine. Pour into your mixing bowl and let it sit while you gather the remaining ingredients. (Just an aside, I used Ghirardelli baking chocolate and it was amazing.)


3. Add your sugar (2 cups) to the melted chocolate/butter mixture and mix together with your mixer. Just get that combined, then mix in cocoa (¼ cups plus 2 Tablespoons), eggs (3 whole eggs), and vanilla (1 1/2 teaspoons).

4. When all of that is combined, stir in the flour (1 cup).

5. When the batter is thick and mocha colored, pour it into the prepared pan and smooth the surface using a spatula. Sprinkle the sea salt lightly over the top of the brownies (1/2 teaspoon). Use a butter knife to swirl the salt into the batter, then sprinkle a little extra across the top. Don’t get crazy. No one wants overly salty brownies! Leave the extra salt sitting on top of the brownies.

6. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still a bit soft. If you’re one of those people who uses toothpicks to test the doneness, you want it to come out of the center coated with a little of the batter. I baked mine batch for about 37 minutes and when I make this recipe again, I’ll probably bake them slightly longer, like 40-45 minutes. Cool the brownies at room temperature in the pan for about an hour, then refrigerate just until they are firm. Lift the brownies from the pan and remove foil, cut them into squares, and enjoy. They’re particularly good with ice cream or a big ol’ cold glass of milk.

For the original recipe, go here.

My favorite mistake . . . in the form of chocolate chip cookies

I like cookies.

No, let me rephrase that: I love cookies. I think cookies are special little gifts that brighten my day and help alleviate my stress and sometimes I eat them simply because I know they’ll make me feel better. That’s not necessarily healthy, but that’s the relationship cookies and I have. I LOOOOVVVVVEEEE them!

This Christmas, I was making cookies for friends and stumbled across my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe using my Epicurious app on my iPhone. They’re yummy. The batter is good all by itself. They’re a little bit puffy. They’re amazing fresh from the oven.

And today, I share that recipe with you! This isn’t my recipe, but it’s a good one. Get the original here.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (16 ounces)
1. Melt your butter. You can do it in the microwave or on the stovetop—just whatever floats your boat, blows your skirt up, or some other random and kitchsy cliche.
2. While the butter is melting, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Now here’s my addition to the recipe: stir in about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I like the play of cinnamon against the chocolate. You don’t have to do this, but I think you’ll like it if you do!

3. Beat the melted butter and both sugars together with an electric mixer on high until it’s beginning to look kind of creamy. We’re talking a couple of minutes.

4. Crack one of your eggs into a small dish and beat it with a fork. Add 1 3/4 tablespoons of the beaten egg to the mixture, then add the two remaining eggs. Beat with mixer until creamy. The original recipe says this takes about a minute.
5. Beat in the vanilla.
6. Set your mixer on low and beat in the flour mixture bit by bit. When it begins to form a batter, step back and admire it. Take pictures. This batter is good by itself!

7. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. (I am lazy and use my mixer to do this, even though it does break up the chocolate chips some.)
8. Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, place the dough onto the baking sheet. You may want to flatten the rounds a bit with your hand or a spoon or fork. Bake in an oven you’ve preheated to 375 degrees. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, until there’s a touch of brown on the top.
9. Pour yourself a big ol’ glass of milk and ENJOY!

Souper suppers: spicy sausage and bean soup

Surprise, surprise! I got a cookbook for Christmas. And one of the recipes that sounded really good was for a white bean and sausage soup.

But that recipe in the book called for Hillshire Farms link-type sausages. . . and I sort of have an abhorrence for such things. I really can’t explain it. I’m just not a huge fan! But I thought a nice white bean soup with spicy pork sausage sounded great, so I set about adapting the recipe for my own purposes.

I won’t lie: it wasn’t my favorite soup ever, but it was a nice supper on a cold January day. So if you need a warm up and would like some comforting food, try this one out.

Here’s what you need:
1 lb pork sausage (hot, if you like it)
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp olive oil (give or take)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 (15 oz) cans of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of chopped tomatoes, drained (I didn’t drain mine, oops!)
1 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock

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1. Cook the sausage in a skillet with 1/4 cup of water. Let the sausage cook until it is no longer pink and most of the water has been absorbed. Drain the sausage, then place the cooked sausage in the bottom of your crock pot.

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2. Heat olive oil in the skillet, then add onions and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You just want the onion to start to go translucent and don’t want to burn the garlic.

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3. Add the beans, tomatoes (drained or undrained, according to your taste). Season generously with thyme. Warm through.
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4. Add the bean mixture to the sausage in the crock pot. Give everything a good stir, combining the sausage, beans and tomatoes.

5. Stir in 1 cup of chicken broth.
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6. Season generously (and to taste) with salt, black pepper, and more thyme if you think it needs more, like I did.
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Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. If you’re at home, stir when you can and add seasonings if the broth tastes like it needs it. Because of the large amount of beans in this soup, the broth will thicken a bit. And that’s a very good thing!

6. Enjoy, preferably with a warm wedge of cornbread—at least that’s what I did 🙂

Cookies make everything better: Browned butter goodness

Yesterday was. . . . a mess.

Work was stressful; I had too many meetings and not enough time to work, especially with before Christmas deadlines looming; and I stayed at work late. Then, traffic was a NIGHTMARE!!!!!

But after I got home, took some ibuprofen for the combination sinus/stress headache I had, and ate some food, I was better. At least somewhat so. And I knew of one thing that would make me much better: cookies.

So I set out to make a new recipe I’d been wanting to try since I e-mailed the link to myself last week. I found the recipe on a blog that was featured in WordPress’ Freshly Pressed. That food blogger found the recipe at America’s Test Kitchen (which if you’ve never heard of them or seen one of their cookbooks, get it).

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to make these wonderful little delights, let’s talk a little about browned butter. I think browned butter is a beautiful thing! Basically, all browned butter is is butter, browned. You put your butter into a pan and let it melt and watch it until it turns a nice, dark, caramel-y color.

But, some warnings. I think if you’re going to brown butter, you really need to clarify it. Which isn’t a fun process. You know when you melt butter and it gets all that white foamy stuff on top? If you clarify it, you skim all of that off. And as of yet, I haven’t found exactly the right technique or tool to do that well. But if you’re browning butter, getting all the white scummy stuff out is important. This recipe didn’t say to do that, but I did attempt to get rid of the milk fats as best I could.

Now, on with the show!

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 sticks butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown because it’s all I ever buy!)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk (I used two eggs because I was lazy!)
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven. The recipe says to 375 degrees, but I like to bake cookies at a lower temp for a longer period of time, because they don’t get all crispy. I baked these at 325 for about 15-20 minutes.

2. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl, then set aside.

3. Melt 1 1/4 stick of butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat. You’ll have to skim off that milk fat! When the butter has a golden brown color and a nutty smell (and I smelled mine, because I tell if things are done by smell a lot), remove it from heat and pour it over the remaining butter and let it melt that butter.

4. When the butter is melted, add in the sugars, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.

5. Add in the egg and yolk (or two eggs in my case). Here’s where the original recipe and I diverge and I’m sure the original idea is probably best. But I was tired. Anyway, the recipe says to whisk the batter by hand until smooth, about 30 seconds. Then let it rest for 3 minutes and whisk for 30 seconds again. You repeat this a total of 4 times. I did the resting thing, but I used my KitchenAid stand mixer because I was tired.

6. When you’ve done the whole whisking-resting thing 4 times, add in the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Then, mix in the chocolate chips by hand (which, of course, I didn’t do).

7. Then form the cookies into balls and place on your cookie sheets and bake. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes, or at a lower temp for a bit longer.

8. ENJOY! They may not be the best chocolate chip cookies I ever had, but they’re pretty yummy!

A stolen idea and other confessions

A few days ago, my friend Brandy blogged about her food confessions. Namely the things she likes or doesn’t like that other people might think are gross or weird. And today being today and me needing something light and fun to write about, I thought I’d just steal her idea and run with it.

Think of it as a compliment, Brandy, rather than stealing. . .

Here we go:

• I don’t like most fruit. I won’t eat apples unless they’re peeled and cooked in a pie or a skillet full of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. I don’t like oranges because of the stringy parts. Grapes burst in my mouth, and I don’t like it. Berries do the same thing. Strawberries have seeds. Watermelon is mushy. Don’t mock me for this. It’s not just because I haven’t tried these things since I was little. I honestly do not like them.

• I am in love with those cheese danish things you can get in the bakery section of the grocery store or at—wait for it—a convenience store. I’ve made all kinds of recipes for it and I still like that kind best!

• I really do like Kraft mac and cheese out of the blue box. I don’t know that I like it better than homemade, but homemade baked mac and cheese often gets too dry and the homemade stove top I’ve made is hit or miss.

• My comfort meal is a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk.

• I like to mix mashed potatoes and corn together.

• I hate nutmeg. With a passion.

• I have a thing for casseroles. Especially if they involve any sort of “cream of” soup.

• I don’t like cold cuts much at all. I especially hate ham cold cuts and if you fix me a ham sandwich, I’m probably not going to eat it.

• I don’t like French’s yellow mustard, but I like spicy brown mustards.

 

A question for the masses. . .

Sorry for the lack of “Dispatches” today. It’s just one of those days.

But I do have a question I would like feedback on. I’ve been batting around an idea—right now it’s barely an idea, maybe just an inkling—and I’d love your thoughts on it.

The question:
Would anyone in the Nashville area be interested in purchasing baked goods from me to give as Christmas gifts or part of a gift to friends and coworkers? I haven’t thought it through enough to think about costs, but I have considered the items: pumpkin cream cheese muffins, blueberry muffins, Amish sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and maybe various other cookies. Right now, the money would be used to help me pay off some debts and get some financial things straightened up. In the near future, the money would be used to support ministries like Compassion, the Mocha Club, or mission trips.

Thoughts? Interest?

 

Lazy lasagna (but not really)

I called it lazy because I used jarred sauce, but by no means is this low maintenance lasagna.

No, siree!

But it is good and really really cheesy and yummy and totally worth it and after you have the filling and sauce made, incredibly easy to put together.

Ready for a culinary delight and a hearty meal? Let’s go!

1. Get a big ol’ pot of water boiling and drop in your lasagna noodles. Lasagna noodles are bigger and longer than other pastas, so you may need to break them a little to fit them into the pot. You want you lasagna to be cooked and “noodle-y,” but don’t freak out if it’s not completely cooked entirely through. (You know, it has a bit of resistance when you bite into a cooked noodle.) You’re going to be baking this thing for over an hour with sauces and moisture, so the noodles will get done if they aren’t entirely done when you assemble the lasagna.

2. Brown the meat. I used about 8 oz. of Italian sausage and 1/2 lb of ground beef. Italian sausage can get too greasy and is overpowering in dishes, especially if you’re serving this meal to people you know aren’t huge sausage fans. The ground beef-sausage mixture tones down the spice from the sausage and adds a nice texture and flavor.
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3. When the meat is cooked through (NO PINK!), drain the grease well, and stir in one jar of your favorite storebought sauce or 2 cups or so of a homemade sauce. I don’t often make my own sauce and like several of the storebought ones. I will say this: be careful about jarred sauces. Some are wonderful; others are so acidic and tasteless you’ll wonder what made you buy them. I really like anything from Rao‘s, which is what I used in this case, and I love Trader Joe’s sauces. (Please note that I did NOT spend $17 on the pasta sauce I used for this lasagna. You can buy Rao’s at Publix.) Allow the meat and sauce to simmer over low heat while you prepare the Ricotta filling.
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4. In a medium bowl, add these ingredients:
• 2 15-oz containers of Ricotta cheese
• 1 cup grated/shredded Parmesan
• 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (use your chopper or food processor so that it’s a fine chop)
• 2 large eggs
Mix well and set aside.
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5. At some point, you should remove the lasagna noodles from the boiling water. I dumped mine into a colander so that the hot water drained out and immediately ran the noodles under cold water. That’s important because the cold water stops the noodles from cooking any more and helps them not to get overdone.
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6. Prepare baking dish by spreading a little sauce on the bottom of the empty dish. I opened a second jar of Rao’s and poured a little into the pan because I didn’t want chunks of meat on the bottom.
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7. Layer noodles over the bottom of the pan until it’s covered, about 5 noodles. Spread 1/2 of the Ricotta mixture onto the noodles and sprinkle mozarella cheese to taste over the Ricotta. Cover with meat sauce.
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8. Continue layering in this fashion until you reach the top of your pan. Try to finish with noodles on top so that it’s a smooth top and a sturdier pasta dish. Cover the noodles with remaining meat sauce and any leftover jarred sauce. Top the entire thing with a generous helping of mozarella and Parmesan cheese.
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9. At this point, you can cover the whole thing with foil and stick it in the fridge to cook later or pop it right into the oven. When you do bake it, bake the lasagna at 350-400 degrees (depending on your oven) with the foil on for about 40 minutes. Then, remove the foil and cook at 350 degrees for 40 more minutes. Of course, you may have to give or take a few minutes. Just check up on your lasagna and take it out if it looks like it’s burning. Some browning around the edges is expected and good. Let your lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with salad, green beans, and garlic bread and your family/friends/neighbors/whomever will LOVE you!

Ingredients:
2 jars storebought spaghetti sauce of your choice
1 box lasagna noodles
1/2 lb ground beef
8 oz. Italian sausage
2 cups Mozarella
1 cup Parmesan
2 15-oz containers Ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh spinach
2 eggs