Monday, May 9, 2016

Meaty Lasagna

This lasagna recipe is relatively easy, although it takes about 30 minutes of prep time and then an hour to cook. It makes enough for a dozen people, or it makes great leftovers if you don't eat it all at once. It's super cheesy. My family loves it, including my little girls. I like it meaty, but you can leave out the meat and have a vegetarian lasagna as well.

1 pound ground beef
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
6-7 cups spaghetti sauce
1 24oz carton cottage cheese
1 egg
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box (16 oz) lasagna noodles

Brown the ground beef with the minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Drain off the grease.

Mix the browned beef with the spaghetti sauce. I use Ragu meat-flavored sauce, but you can use whatever is your favorite.

In a separate bowl, mix the cottage cheese with the egg. The egg helps the cottage cheese to congeal during cooking and can be left out if you prefer.

Place a 9x13 baking pan or lasagna pan on the counter and arrange all your ingredients so they’re easy to reach. You should have 4 things to layer:
  • Meat and sauce mixture
  • Cottage cheese and egg mixture
  • Shredded mozarella cheese
  • Lasagna noodles

Start by putting a thin layer of the meat and sauce on the bottom of the pan. You want just enough to coat the bottom. This is mostly to keep the noodles from sticking.

Then, add a layer of lasagna noodles. I usually use the oven-ready kind, but it doesn’t really matter. You don’t even have to cook them first as they will cook in the oven. You may have to break them or overlap them slightly to make them fit properly in the pan.

Cover the noodles with more meat and sauce – about 1/3 of what you have left in the bowl. The liquid in the spaghetti sauce is going to be absorbed by the dry noodles as they cook, so you always want the sauce next to the noodles.

Next, you add the cottage cheese mixture – about 1/2 of the total amount.

Next, layer on about 2 cups of the mozarella cheese, or about 1/3 of your total mozarella.

Place a layer of noodles on top of the cheese and repeat the layering, adding meat and sauce (1/2 of the remaining), then cottage cheese (the rest of what you have), then mozarella again (about 2 cups). Top with more noodles and the last of the meat and sauce.

Here are all the layers you will have by the end:

  • Meat and sauce (a thin layer on the bottom)
  • Lasagna noodles 
  • Meat and sauce
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Meat and sauce
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Meat and sauce
  • Mozarella (on top) 

Notice that you will have 4 layers of meat and sauce, 3 layers of noodles, 3 layers of mozzarella, and 2 layers of cottage cheese all together.

Layer all of these except the top layer of mozarella cheese. This will pretty nearly fill a 9x13x2 pan. You may have a few noodles or noodle pieces left over and you should have about 2 cups of mozarella left for the top, but you should use up all the other ingredients. This is where you stop for now. The top will be covered with the last of the mozarella cheese, but you want to add it after it bakes awhile.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil. Cover the top with the remaining 2 cups of mozarella cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and starting to brown.

You may want to let it cool for 5 minutes or so after taking it out of the oven and before cutting it as this helps it firm up a little. Otherwise, it's very gooey with all that melted cheese and sauce.

Note: If you want to add the cheese during the layering step and just remove the foil for the last 15 minutes, you can do that. But I usually find that the cheese sticks to the foil (because the pan is so full) and taking off the foil thus removes some of the cheese. It’s better to add the last cheese layer after removing the foil, in my opinion.

For a great side, you can make some cheesy garlic Italian bread. Just cut a loaf of French or Italian bread into slices about 1 inch thick and lay them on a cookie sheet. Spread the top with garlic butter and sprinkle with a little Italian seasoning. 

Add a little mozarella cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese melts, then lightly broil for a minute or two until the cheese browns.

The lasagna and cheesy bread can be served with a salad or cooked carrots as a second side. Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Do Humans Own Themselves?

A recent article by Walter Williams, the well-known conservative economist, provides an important opportunity for illustrating and explaining the basis for inalienable rights. I usually agree with Walter Williams, but not this time. He does have some good reasoning, but his underlying premise is deeply flawed.

Williams argues in his article that humans have self-ownership - that they own themselves. He then makes several arguments that flow from this premise. Unfortunately, so many people have forgotten the true basis for inalienable rights and thus don't even recognize the terrible flaw in this thinking.

The proper viewpoint is that humans are owned by their Creator - God. Thus, murder is definitely a matter of destroying someone else's property, as Williams points out, but it is destroying God's property.

If we own ourselves, then suicide (assisted or otherwise) should be legal. We obviously can't provide criminal penalties to someone who killed himself, but we do stop people from committing suicide, and we do penalize those who help others commit suicide. That makes sense if committing suicide is an act of destroying God's property and thus wrong. It does not make sense to make suicide and euthanasia illegal and try to prevent people from committing suicide if people own themselves.

The idea that a person owns himself is also behind much of the pro-abortion position. The idea seems to be that the woman owns herself and can decide what to do with her body, but the child in the womb can't own himself because he has no concept of ownership - no personhood - and thus is either owned by no one (meaning killing him causes no crime) or is owned by the mother (meaning she can do with him what she pleases). On the other hand, if all human beings are property of God, murder of the unborn - whether committed by the mother or someone else - is a crime against God and violates His right to that child's life.

Williams is correct that if humans own themselves, they should be able to sell their organs. But this idea of selling one's body parts, before or after death, introduces a big can of worms and a lot of ethical problems. The root of the problem, however, is the starting premise. People don't own themselves, and thus have no right to sell their organs. They are God's property, and thus to place a price on their parts and sell them is to usurp God's ownership and sell what does not belong to them. The current ban on buying and selling human body parts is the correct one, though we have apparently forgotten the basis for it.

While animal and plant life does belong to mankind (because God gave them to us), the ownership of humans is retained by God and only He can rightfully transfer or give up those rights. We humans have no ability to give up or transfer certain rights (such as the rights to life or liberty), which is what it means to have inalienable rights. If I own myself, then I can give up that right of ownership to another (slavery), sell my body parts, or kill myself. My rights to life and liberty (along with all other rights which come from these) would be alienable rather than inalienable.

It is because humans belong to God that we have truly inalienable rights, which is really just our perspective of God's ownership of us. We can't give up or transfer those rights because they aren't actually retained by us. The premise that humans own themselves is contradictory to the concept of inalienable rights. Both can't be true. The idea of self-ownership is very popular today and sounds good on the surface, but actually creates a cancerous thinking that destroys the concept of inalienable rights and with it the basis for our entire form of government and many of the protections that we have put in place to guard those inalienable rights.


For more information on inalienable rights, read my 5-part series:

Part 1: What are Inalienable Rights?
Part 2: The Source of Inalienable Rights
Part 3: Liberty in Society and Government
Part 4: Government by Consent of the Governed
Part 5: Some Common Misconceptions

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why Can't God Just Forgive Everyone?

A question that some skeptics ask about Christianity is why God doesn’t just forgive everyone. Why couldn’t He just let it go? Why did Jesus have to come and die? Why require people to ask forgiveness and follow Christ in order to be saved from eternal punishment? Is God just making up arbitrary rules and having us jump through pointless hoops to get forgiveness?

It’s important that we Christians have an answer for this, because it’s a foundational matter. Here is my reasoning on the topic.

A God that simply "forgives" everything that people do has no standards and cannot be said to be good, or even a moral authority. Because God, as the Creator, is indeed a moral authority, it is impossible for Him to have no standards, and thus He must punish evil, not ignore or "forgive" it as standard policy.

Also, forgiving evil without requiring anything is no different from accepting evil. And acceptance of evil is evil itself. God's character does not allow Him to accept evil. God is inherently good and does not change, thus He cannot accept evil. Because God cannot accept evil, sin inherently and unavoidably separates mankind from God.

Full forgiveness includes reconciliation and thus cannot be one way. God forgiving someone's sins without them seeking forgiveness and restoration would not result in reconciliation. They would remain enemies of God. God wants us to be reconciled to Him, and thus requires our actions in seeking forgiveness so that full reconciliation can occur.

Providing forgiveness that does not involve reconciliation would encourage people to remain enemies of God instead of reconciling with Him. Since we were made to be in right relationship with God, a relationship with God is the highest good for us. Providing automatic forgiveness would actually encourage that which is not for our good. It would not be loving of God to encourage us not to seek relationship with Him when that relationship is our highest good.

Because God is both just and loving, He wishes to extend mercy to those He loves and be reconciled to them. But these two attributes – justice and love – are both integral parts of God's character and cannot be satisfied alone. The solution to man’s sin and separation from God had to involve both justice and mercy. The debt had to be paid, not merely ignored, for justice to be satisfied. And yet if the debt were to be paid by the one who owed it, it would result in their separation from God forever, denying God the relationship He desires with them and that is for the person's good. Thus, there had to be a substitute who could pay the debt on behalf of each person.

Not just any substitute will do, however. The sin was against an infinite God, which requires infinite payment. And thus only God Himself could pay the debt. Yet the sinner was human, and being a substitute for a human requires being a human also. The debt had to be paid by one who could actually represent mankind because he was one of them. Also, only someone sinless could pay the debt, because if he had sin of his own, his payment would only cover his own sin. For a substitution to work then, the substitute had to be a sinless man who was also infinite.

Only God in human flesh could pay the infinite debt for mortal man and satisfy both justice and mercy. And yet to partake in the plan of substitution, each person must opt in by willingly choosing to seek forgiveness so that full restoration can occur with God and relationship can be restored between them. There is no other way.