Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Oblivious Billionaire and Bake Ziti

Here's an excerpt from the Oblivious Billionaire and a recipe for Baked Ziti.

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped 
1 pound lean ground beef 
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce 
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 ½ cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Step 1
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.

 Step 2
In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.

 Step 3
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

 Step 4
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.


If Charlie was surprised to see Chloe following him into the cabin carrying bags of groceries, she had the grace not to show it.
“I bought enough to invite the Palmers as well,” Zach offered as an explanation as he set down the groceries. “Where’s Heath?”
Charlie put her finger to her lips and pointed at the sofa where the baby lay curled into a blanket, his thumb still in his mouth.
Zach wondered if Charlie’s babies would look like Heath and the thought hit him like a blow to the gut which took him completely by surprise. He fussed over the bags of groceries to hide his feelings that he didn’t have time to diagnose.
“My Grandma Alfonsie was half Italian.” Zach pulled out a box of pasta, a container of Ricotta cheese, six tomatoes, a bushel of mushrooms and a sprig of fresh basil.
“This is not a Wonder Weight recipe, I take it,” Charlie said.
“And I’m making a chocolate cake with Oreo frosting,” Chloe announced and she proudly pulled out a box of Betty Baker’s fudge cake mix, a can of pre-made frosting, and a box of Oreos. “Also, not a Wonder Weight recipe.” Chloe wrinkled her nose at Zach as if sharing a joke. “I think women who are constantly dieting are so boring.”
“But health conscious,” Zach said, noticing how Chloe’s words had made Charlie’s back stiffen.
“Did you buy any vegetables?” Charlie asked.
“Who needs vegetables?” Chloe poked out her tongue.
“I do,” Zach said. “Grandma’s baked ziti wouldn’t be the same without the green beans in brown butter sauce.”
Charlie looked as if she wanted to kiss him, which is exactly the look Zach was going for.
“Do you want me to make the beans?” Charlie asked.
“Sure,” Zach said. “Chloe, why don’t you go and invite Mr. and Mrs. Palmer?”
“But the cake? Shouldn’t I get started on it right away?”
“The blender would wake the baby,” Zach told her.
Chloe looked as if she wanted to argue, but after a moment of battling indecision, she shrugged and went out the door, closing it harder than she needed to.
“Do you think she was trying to wake Heath?” Charlie asked, staring at the door.
“I don’t know what she was trying to do,” Zach said, although, he had his suspicions.
“Oh, I think I know,” Charlie said with a laugh.
She bumped him with her hip. “Don’t play na├»ve. It doesn’t suit you.”
“How do you know what suits me?”
She reached around him and pulled something out of a drawer. Shaking out an apron that looked like a giant red lobster, she held it up in front of him. “This suits you.” She put it on him and tied the strings behind his back. “There,” she announced. “You look Mainely.”
“It’s an old family joke. This apron is the one my grandpa wears when he cooks. Your grandmother is from Italy, mine is from New England.” She glanced at the package of Oreos. “I wonder if Chloe is from Candy Land.”
“So sweet she makes my teeth hurt.”
“Maybe to you,” Charlie muttered under her breath.
“You don’t like Chloe?” Zach asked.
“It doesn’t matter what I like,” Charlie said.
“I’m guessing Dr. Palmer isn’t going to think much of her after this weekend.”
“Why would you think that?”
Zach bit his lip trying to decide what to say. Should he tell Charlie that Chloe tried to kiss him once at the pond and then again at the grocery store?
“She came onto you, didn’t she?” Charlie asked. “You have to tell Christian!”
Why? Because then Palmer would drop Chloe and possibly try and pick up Charlie? The thought made him ill. Charlie was way too good for Palmer. Why couldn’t she see that?
“He needs to figure it out for himself,” Zach told her.
“Why is she here? If she doesn’t like him, why did she come?” Charlie began to snip at the beans one at a time.
He thought about telling Charlie that a woman like her would never understand a woman like Chloe. But then he decided he would much rather show Charlie how to cut up the beans than discuss Chloe.
“Here,” he said. “Let me show you how it’s done.” He positioned himself behind her, brought his arms around her and placed his hand hers.
“What? Your grandma has a secret way of bean cutting?”
“Yeah, doesn’t yours?” He lined up the beans in rows and edged closer to breathe in Charlie’s warm scent. With his hand over hers, he showed her how to trim the beans with just a couple strokes. “See?”
If he kissed her neck, what would she do?

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