Taking the Training Wheels Off

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that I am a recipe follower. As someone who never really cooked until just a few years ago, I rely heavily on recipes and follow them to a T. I rarely deviate from what the recipe says, simply because I am not confident in my cooking skills. That being said, I’ve been trying my best to try altering recipes to practice.

Recently, Michael was out of town and I decided I wanted to try my hand hand creating my own recipe from scratch–no recipe following here. This is that meal.

Lisa's Florentine Casserole

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Category: Cooking, Dinner, Easy meals, food, Food update, harvesting veggies, Low Calorie Recipes, pasta, recipes, salads, Vegetable Garden, veggies

Servings: 6


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni pasta
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup onions, sauteed
  • minced garlic
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • onion powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • Basil


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. 2. Cook pasta al dente.
  3. 3. Saute the onions, zucchini and garlic in a skillet. I used Grapeseed Oil.
  4. 4. Mix all the ingredients in a big boil to coat with the sauce.
  5. 5. Pour into greased pan, top with some shredded cheese, and bake 20-30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Lisa's Florentine Casserole


Amount Per Serving
Calories 280
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0
Saturated Fat 0
Trans Fat
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 0
Total Carbohydrate 0
Dietary Fiber 0
Vitamin A Vitamin C
Calcium Iron

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


I chose to do a casserole type dish because I knew it would be pretty hard to screw up and I wanted to use some of the frozen shredded zucchini from last summer’s garden. I defrosted the zucchini (I’d shredded and frozen 2 cups individually packed and put in the freezer for later use) and tried to get as much of the liquid out of it. It was pretty soupy.

I cooked the pasta until it was al dente, drained the water and then mixed the following ingredients in a large bowl: pasta, pasta sauce, onions, zucchini. I added some of the shredded cheese into the bowl and then the spices.

Note: I used 3 cloves of garlic and minced it. I did not add enough! Next time, I will add more garlic. I defrosted one cup of frozen peas and added that to the mixture.

I topped the casserole with some of the leftover shredded cheese and then baked it.

While dinner was baking, I cleaned up the disastrous kitchen and made myself a small baby spinach salad to go with dinner. I also calculated the calories according to a website I use pretty frequently. I am skeptical about the calorie results, but that’s what the website said.

A dish with a bunch of pasta and cheese is less than 300 calories? Hmmm…I don’t know about that! (What do you guys think?)

The casserole was bubbling, the cheese was melted and the sides were looking a little crispy so I took it out.

The verdict: it was tasty but needed a lot more garlic, or a spice of some kind. Or both. It was a tad bland, but it wasn’t bad. I love the gooey cheese and the flavor of the vegetables in it.

I am not delusional in that I know this recipe is nothing special or difficult! But it was my first stab at creating something of my own completely from scratch. And it was a success!

QUESTION: Do you ever create your own recipes? Tips?

12 Responses

  1. I’m mostly not a recipe follower but what I do when I’m making something new is look at recipes that are similar to get basic ideas of what to do, and then make up my own. So, on Wednesday I made chicken pot pie for dinner, and I looked at probably a dozen recipes for things to get an idea of about how much chicken to use, and how much flour the roux needed, and then made the pie by winging it. Gives me a blueprint so that I don’t discover I needed more chicken or the gravy’s too thin after I’m done cooking!
    kalin recently posted..Recovery

    1. See, I should adopt your method and try that for creating my own recipes. Seeing a few different versions and taking bits and pieces from them to create my own might be the perfect way for me to learn. How did your pot pie work? Sounds delicious.

  2. I only follow baking recipes. For everything else I don’t think I am able to follow a recipe. I usually end up tinkering with the ingredients. Frequently I do what Kalin does and get a general idea but sometimes I just make up stuff. Now that I’m thinking about it, I even mess with baking recipes too but usually it’s things like substituting applesauce for oil and adding other flavors.

    My husband is a recipe follower. The bad thing about not following recipes is that you can’t make the same thing twice, which is why after making chili that tasted really good I went back and wrote down what I had done πŸ™‚

    1. Yes–with baking I found it crucial to measure.

      My aunt cooks like that, where she just throws things together and it’s always amazing!!! But when I ask her for a recipe to recreate it on my own, she can’t.

  3. I also sorta get a general idea like Kalin if I’m not following a recipe exactly to get a ballpark. When I saw your recipe, I could tell the oven temp was too high right away. Not that it doesn’t work, except that you don’t need it that high, and it could dry out at that temp. Many casseroles only broil for a few minutes if the ingredients are already cooked, and others heat the oven to about 350. That’s awesome you’re experimenting more, and I’m glad it turned out ok. I’ve only had one recipe that turned out completely inedible (Spicy Chicken – I was trying to recreate a recipe I’d had on NW 23rd), and Chris ate it anyway. πŸ™‚

    Happy Cinco de Mayo – I think we’re heading to Departure tomorrow night if you want to come out with us. EMail me.

    1. Your spicy chicken disasters sounds like a funny story. Good job Chris still eating it!

      My casserole was rather soupy with the sauce so the oven temp actually worked great. It wasn’t crispy or dried out at all. And I’ve been eating the leftovers for lunch all week.

  4. Mmm! That sounds good! I get bored following recipes, so I tend to read them and then kind of wing it from there.

    I agree too that nutritional info doesn’t look right- for the most part, 2 oz of uncooked pasta (which is about a cup) is around 220 calories. Then again, how many servings is that divided up into?
    Deb recently posted..Basic Cheesecake Cupcakes

      1. The nutrition might be pretty close then if its six servings. I read labels of everything I use and then add it all up myself, but that can take forever!

        Trust me, I have had some total failures that I wouldn’t even eat to keep my pride intact! And my bf is kind of picky, so sometimes even though I love something, he might hate it. When I bought some cookbooks recently, I asked him to go through and write down 5 recipes out of each one that he wanted to try. I did the same thing. Some of them were the same, amazingly. Then I sat down and worked out a menu plan for dinners for several weeks. Its been almost 3 weeks, and we’ve mostly stuck to the plan. The overall plan is to try 2 to 3 new dishes a week, and eat “just add meat & water/milk” meals no more than twice a week.

        The broader goal here is to come up with 100 things that we both really enjoy so we can have a wide selection of menus without any complaints. πŸ™‚
        Deb recently posted..Basic Cheesecake Cupcakes

  5. I ballpark recipes all the time because there is usually some ingredient that I don’t have or don’t like to use that I want to fiddle with. Or I want to change the macros like giving it more protein.

    I often just calculate the calories myself using the nutritional labels on my ingredients (or looking up fresh stuff). I don’t fully trust the online calculators and can find them to be wonky. The error might come in with the pasta. Is it 2 cups of cooked pasta or dry pasta – huge difference.
    Lori recently posted..What’s Blooming today!

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