12.31.2019

The Easiest Baked Ziti Recipe Ever

Updated: 2019

When you are a busy mom, you need to find recipes that are quick and easy.

You cannot get any easier than the baked ziti recipe that I use for my family. I served it this year for my family's post-Christmas lunch. The recipe can easily be doubled, and you can also add meatballs or ground beef to it. 

Depending on your time and preferences, you can make your own sauce or use a store-bought pasta sauce.  I tend to go for the latter.

baked ziti
Baked Ziti
The original recipe came from a friend of mine when my son was a baby. This month, he turned 14, so this recipe has been used for many years.  When I first ate this dish, I thought it was delicious. My gut told me that this delicious baked ziti recipe had to be complicated and time-consuming. 

When I asked her for the recipe, she laughed and said, “It’s just noodles, jarred sauce, and some spices if I remember to put it in the bowl when mixing.”

She really didn’t have a recipe other than what she told me, so I went with her concept and created our version.

It’s a great dish to serve, and you will not have to slave in the kitchen. I coined the recipe the easiest baked ziti ever, and it really is easy.  You can use whole wheat pasta, protein pasta, or any pasta you wish to use. 

The Easiest Baked Ziti Ever

Ingredients:
16 oz. ziti pasta
A large container of ricotta cheese ---use at least 12 to 16 ounces. Use more if you need it. 
2 cups of parmesan cheese
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
45 ounces of spaghetti sauce (store-bought or homemade)
½ tsp of basil
½ tsp of oregano
½ tsp of garlic

Cook ziti as directed.  Mix four cups of sauce with ricotta cheese (save some sauce for later use) in a large bowl.  Add spices. Add 1 and ½ cups of each cheese to cheese/sauce mixture.  Add baked ziti to bowl.  Mix together and spread in a casserole dish.  Spread remaining sauce on top of ziti.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover with tinfoil. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

*This can be refrigerated before baking, but increase your cooking time to ensure that the dish gets hot.

Baked ziti: Easy casserole for a crowd: Pasta, Cheese and Sauce #pastarecipes


I wish you all a great new year.


My thanks to DentalHQ,  who NC-based business who specializes in making your dental membership plan better. My blog sponsors keep me at my desk writing editorial content like this post and OutaboutNC.

12.24.2019

8 Items You Should Purchase Because You Need Them in Your Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links and other affiliate links that are no extra cost to the consumer to purchase.

I do not write a lot of gift guides on the blog because of the way I see it, I am not an expert in gift-giving.  But, I do consider myself an expert in buying items for myself. As we end December, here are some products that you may want to buy for yourself after you get your Christmas money.  Some of these items are already in my home. And while we are confessing, some of these items are sitting in my stocking as we speak, waiting for me to be surprised on Christmas Day.


8 Items You Should Purchase in 2020


No more bad hair days!  Now that Liza is on a cheer team, we spend a lot of time with other people. You can learn a lot from other moms. I was introduced to this Ion Steam Pro Straightening Brush Iron while at a competition early on in the cheer season. Liza begged for it, so I bought it for her birthday. Guess who uses it more than her?  It's fabulous, and I highly recommend it.

The meat-shredding utensil. I have both a slow cooker and an instant pot. I prefer the slow cooker over the instant pot when it comes to meats. The instant pot is not as immediate as its name suggests, so I get my timing wrong a lot (meaning it takes me a lot longer to cook something in the instant pot than I realize ), and dinner ends up being way later than I hoped. Being a southerner, I use a lot of recipes that say "shred the meat."  I suck at shredding meat, but this bear paws shredder claws will turn you into a meat shredding pro. In 2020, I will share a southwestern beef recipe from one of my favorite NC cookbooks.

The tool for creamy soups! It's no secret that I love soup. I also like creamy soups, but I do not make those soups often because I do not own a hand blender to turn the soups creamy.  I have decided that 2020 will be my year for creamy soups for every season.

No more fuzzy sweaters or coats! The other day I looked in my closet and realized that some of my shirts are not looking its best. I had my photo taken with celebrity chef Vivian Howard at an event, and my mom commented on my sweater having lint balls. Jack made fun of my coat that I wore out this week, saying it was covered in lint. I have come to realize that I do not have the proper equipment to take care of these clothes. Oprah has a favorite fabric shave that is pricey, but I think I'm going to get this fabric shaver/lint remover for under $15. The reviews are stellar, and the price is right.

Hot water in an instant. A few years ago, I purchased an electric tea kettle. I love it.  My brand is Capresso, but now they've come up with designs that look beautiful on countertops and for half the price. I love the blue and white design of this electric tea kettle.  Electric tea kettles are great for hot chocolate, too.

Food Huggers are a lifesaver. I adore food huggers. I use them for my dog's canned food, but I feel as if I need more in my life. They also have food huggers for an avocado now. I do not own one of those, but I need one. If you do not have a food hugger and if you have a pet that eats canned food, then you need this now.

Sustainable Olive Oil Mister. One of my family members will receive an olive oil mister by Misto for the holidays. I saw it and was impressed. I want one, too.

His and Hers Electric Toothbrushes: Several years ago, my dentist's office recommended an electric toothbrush because I have receding gums.  I was told that an electric toothbrush would help keep them from receding more because when we brush our teeth, we are guilty of brushing too hard. This Fairywell dual electric toothbrush travel set in pink and black are perfect for those family members you know who are taking out all of their aggression on their teeth when they brush.

My thanks to Moore Family Dentistry, a Garner, NC Family Dentist for being a December blog sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing and outaboutNC. 

12.18.2019

A Classic Southern Sweet Potato Souffle Recipe from Historic Beaufort, N.C.

updated: 2019

If you are looking for an easy, southern holiday side, then I have the perfect recipe for you. It's not that different than a casserole, but the recipe calls it a "souffle."  It will work great for any time of the year, but it screams the holidays and will be fabulous for your holiday meal.

Sweet Potato Souffle dish that is perfect for the holidays. #Holidays #SideDishes #SweetPotatoes

This is a classic southern sweet potato souffle recipe from Beaufort, North Carolina. It's listed in the St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cookbook that has had three printings through the years with the last one being in 2004. I think I bought it that year. I used to go down to the historic house tour every year before kids and strollers entered our lives. I could probably start the tradition again, and the kids stay with their granddad. They are old enough now. Beaufort is a great town to tour in North Carolina and is here a travel guide I wrote a few years ago for the area. 

Beautiful, historic Beaufort, N.C.

Beaufort, N.C is North Carolina's third oldest town. Its' historic district is charming, and the St. Paul's Episcopal Church sits on Ann Street. It's a picturesque church and just what you would expect from a building constructed in 1857. 

This is a classic, traditional recipe that can be used for years.  I have just one warning. It has lots of sugar, but it's tasty. 

North Carolina is a top producing Sweet Potato state


Sweet Potato Souffle Recipe from Historic Beaufort, N.C. 

Ingredients:

3 cups of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes ( I baked mine in the oven for a few hours. Peeled them then mashed them easily for this recipe)
1 cup sugar ( I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/4 cup butter, melted 
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk

Mix these ingredients until well blended and pour into a baking dish.

Sweet Potato Souffle Topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix brown sugar, butter, flour, and nuts. Sprinkle on sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato Souffle with Pecan Topping


A Travel Guide to Historic Beaufort, N.C.



My thanks to Dr. Gabriel J. Rich, III, DDS, a Wilmington, NC Dentist with Riverside Dental Arts for being a December blog sponsor. Riverside Dental Arts is a comprehensive general dentistry practice for all ages. My blog sponsors keep me at my desk writing and OutaboutNC. 

12.01.2019

#HomeTours: The Entertaining Home in Raleigh, NC: House Stalkers Episode 3

Four episodes of my House Stalkers show is now out on YouTube. Have you caught any of them yet?  Each show has a personality of its own. Episode 3, which features The Entertaining House, located in downtown Raleigh, was a favorite of mine.  First off, it was staged, and that makes for a stunning home tour. Second, this builder is unique. It has true custom-features, which differs when you are looking at a model home like we did in Episode one of our shows.  

This new Raleigh home was listed for $564,900. The house was a new construction built by Moss Construction and Design in Raleigh's Washington Heights neighborhood, which is less than a mile away from downtown Raleigh's main streets.

This home was under 2,000 square feet but had a great open floor plan with an expansive back porch.  This is why we dubbed it "The Entertaining House" for our episode title. Heather,  my co-host and local realtor with Choice Residential Real Estate, absolutely loves modern. It's her favorite style of home, so she was immediately smitten. I had to be won over to come to the "modern-side" as she calls it because I love English cottage, Charleston, and Tudor styles more.

The modern home with 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths was beautiful.  It impressed me so much. The home's location is in a southwest pocket of downtown Raleigh that is going up in price rapidly as revitalization in the area continues.

back porch of modern home. Great for entertaining


You can view our entire episode below and be sure to subscribe to my channel.


 


The real estate listing was by Isabel Moss. We also toured one of Moss's listings in the Downtown Raleigh bungalow episode.  The large, spacious windows with natural light was a big plus for this home as well as its open floor plan. It lived a lot bigger than just over 1800 square feet.

bedroom with large windows


The kitchen was a stunner with black cabinet and cafe appliances. Be sure to check out the entire episode and see if I turned to the modern side of life. The home was built by Moss Construction and Design of Raleigh. They are specializing in construction in these areas going through revitalization.



living room of modern home


OutaboutNC Local Restaurant: Falafel and Co on Brookside Drive 

House Stalking always makes us hungry.  For lunch, we chose a charming Mediterranean market and cafe called Falafel and Co in the Mordecai area of Downtown Raleigh.  It's a market, wine bar, coffee shop, and counter-service restaurant. The food is delicious.

Falafel and Co in Raleigh, NC

Stalk you later. Episodes One through Four of The House Stalkers are now on YouTube at
YouTube.com/LeighPowellHines

I would appreciate a watch and a subscribe to help me get into the YouTube Partner program. You need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. I am beginning to wonder if I will see those numbers in my lifetime.

Back porch of modern home in Raleigh, NC


You can also join our Facebook community where we stalk active listing.  If you are a realtor, I also have a special realtor marketing group for you.

My thanks to Lovein Ribman, Houston Mechanics Lien Lawyer, for being a December Blog Sponsor.  Lovein Ribman is the leader in Construction Law. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing editorial content and OutaboutNC.

11.12.2019

North Carolina Is a Top Southern State for a Road Trip

Post updated in 2019

I've said for a long time that North Carolina has a lot going for it. We have the mountains, the coast, vineyards, golf courses, history, delicious food, and diverse culture. We well maintained highways with well-equipped rest areas. In my opinion, North Carolina has some of the best rest areas in the U.S.  There are areas for dogs to walk, ample parking for cars and recreational vehicles (RVs).

In 2019, WalletHub named North Carolina as the best state for a summer road trip, up from the 4th place spot in 2017.  With road warriors in mind, WalletHub compared the 50 U.S. states based on 33 key metrics to find the most fun, scenic, and wallet-friendly road-trip destinations — plus those that’ll have travelers pulling a quick U-turn.  Each year, we get more restaurants, more attractions, and more people wanting to move to this southern state with Carolina blue skies. 
Source: WalletHub

North Carolina is divided into regions. North Carolinians refer to these regions as the mountains, the piedmont, and the coastal plains. The terrain is different all over the state. We have over 70 public airports. If flying in on an International flight, then Charlotte, N.C, or  Raleigh, N.C. are your best bets for cities to arrive into with the least amount of connecting flights. You can rent a car, or look for an RV rental in North Carolina to use for your road trip.

U.S map


Arriving in Charlotte, known as North Carolina's Queen City, will put you closer to our mountains and piedmont regions. From Charlotte, you about two hours from Asheville, N.C. and the scenic Biltmore Estate. Charlotte has a great amusement park called Carowinds, a professional sports team, NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum and an outdoor rafting center.  It's also close to the quaint town of Salisbury, NC, where the popular drink Cheerwine was invented.

Arriving at  Raleigh-Durham-International airport will bring you closer to our coastal regions and Piedmont. From Raleigh, you can get to Wilmington, N.C. in two hours, the Southern Outer Banks in three hours, the Brunswick beaches in three hours, and the Outer Banks in three and half hours. The towns of Greensboro and Winston-Salem are just over an hour away.  Kitty Hawk is known as the place where the Wright Brothers were first in flight.

Love to relax around vineyards and enjoy wine? Then you may want to visit the Greensboro-Winston-Salem area and visit the Yadkin Valley area vineyards. It's the only area in North Carolina where the soil can grow grapes comparable tho those found on the West Coast and in Europe. This area is producing some award-winning wines.

Love Craft Beer? North Carolina ranks high in craft beer production. You can go just about anywhere in our state and find a local brewery. Asheville, N.C, Charlotte, and the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill areas have the most breweries in a concentrated area, but you will find breweries throughout the state these days.

North Carolina Local Beer Taps


Are you a fan of the PBS show, "A Chef's Life?" then take a road trip to Kinston, N.C. and dine at Vivian Howard's restaurant, "A Chef and A Farmer.".  Reservations are a must, and if you want to go a weekend night, you need to make those reservations several months in advance.

Love history? We have historic sites in almost every town in North Carolina. Raleigh is our state capital.  New Bern, N.C. houses Tryon Place, the former NC Governor's Palace when we were a colony. New Bern is also the site of where the drink Pepsi was created. The waterfront towns of Edenton and Beaufort had pirates walk the streets. We have battlefield sites, and even a museum devoted to actress Ava Gardner, who was born in the North Carolina town of Smithfield.

If you are a golfer, you may want to visit our Sandhills region in Southern Pines, where some may say there are more golf courses than people.  That's not really true, but this terrain is filled with sand, pine trees, and is home to a PGA golf course. Southern Pines is located about 30 minutes from NC Zoo in Asheboro, N.C.  This area is also known for its beautiful pottery in Seagrove, NC.

Ideas for a scenic road trip through North Carolina are endless. I love the mountain town of Blowing Rock, where you can walk across the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through our North Carolina mountains. You can hop on it near Asheville, N.C, and take it into the Boone area. The Indian reservation, Cherokee, N.C. takes you to the Smoky Mountain National Park. In Franklin, N.C., you can take a scenic rail ride on the Smoky Mountain Railroad.

Map  of North Carolina _Great State to Road Trip

I am not a travel agent, but I know North Carolina well. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Visit my OutaboutNC social community to see where locals like to go, and you can also follow my own Instagram account.

Request your map from NC DOT and start your adventure. Read the places to visit articles on NC Tripping.com and enjoy exploring. VisitNC has a list of accommodations. There are over 300 campgrounds in the state, so we certainly have something for every traveler, adventure style, and budget.  If you are thinking of moving to North Carolina, be sure to watch my YouTube show, The House Stalkers. 


Happy road tripping!


RV on scenic road


My thanks to RVshare for being a November HineSightBlog.com sponsor. To search for the perfect RV for your North Carolina, visit RV rental, North Carolina.  My sponsors keep me at my desk writing editorial content, #OutaboutNC and house stalking on YouTube. 

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