Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexican Breakfast Burritos

For our Meatless Monday meal tonight, we had mexican breakfast burritos from Jersey Girl Cooks. These were so great! Very easy, quick, and so tasty! A definite keeper! Kevin and I both really liked them. Carson was about to go to bed, so he didn't get to try any. I totally forgot to take a picture in my haste to eat quickly and then put Carson to bed. Jersey Girl Cooks has a picture if you really want to see what they turn out looking like, though. I added a few things - some diced red bell pepper, some sliced avocado, and a little guacamole. Soooo yummy!!

Mexican Breakfast Burritos

1 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 jalapeno, cored and minced (I just used half a can of the mild diced green chiles)
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (I used about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup salsa (I used almost 1/2 cup)
1 cup egg beaters (or 4 eggs)
1/2 cup shredded low fat Mexican blend cheese (I only used about 1/4 cup)
2 whole wheat tortillas (8 inch)
light sour cream and salsa for serving (and avocado and guacamole)

In a large non stick frying pan, heat oil to medium heat. Add onions and jalapenos (and bell pepper). Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions turn golden. Add beans and salsa and heat until warm. Add egg beaters and cook until firm while stirring occasionally. Top with cheese and put lid on pan until cheese is melted. Heat tortillas in microwave for 10 to 15 seconds or until warm. Add egg mixture and roll up, making sure to tuck sides in. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicken with Smashed Broc-o-tatoes & Gouda Gravy

Tonight I tried out a recipe from my Rachael Ray Yum-O cookbook for chicken with smashed broc-o-tatoes and gouda gravy. I had some broccoli and some gouda cheese to use up, so this sounded perfect. It was so good! Kevin and I both really liked it. Carson ate some, but he's not a fan of mashed potatoes. I had to disguise some with yogurt to get him to eat a good amount of the potatoes. I love Rachael Ray's smashed potato concoctions - always lots of veggies in the potatoes, which to me is so very good! I made a half-recipe for the chicken and a whole recipe for the potatoes so that I have some for lunches this week. This is definitely a keeper, although the gouda gravy isn't entirely necessary, so I'll probably skip that next time.

No-Thyme Quick Chicken with Smashed Broc-o-tatoes and Gouda Gravy

4 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 6-oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (I used dried)
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1 head of broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock (I used homemade/canned)
1 1/2 cups milk or half-and-half (I used 1/2%)
1 1/2 cups shredded gouda cheese (I used smoked gouda)

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, salt the water, reduce heat a bit, and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Heads up: about half-way through, you will add the broccoli, so be sure the pot is large enough.

Season the chicken with thyme, salt, and pepper. Heat the EVOO in a skillet and cook the chicken for about 6 minutes on each side.

Add the broccoli to the potatoes and cook for about 6 minutes.

Heat the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour into the melted butter and cook for 1 minute. Then whisk in the stock and 1-cup of the milk. Thick for 2-3 minutes, season the sauce with salt and pepper, then stir in cheese for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Drain the broccoli and potatoes and return to the hot pot to dry out a bit. Mash the broccoli and potatoes together, using the remaining milk to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Meal Plans & Goals Progress

Its hard to believe we're already looking at the last week of February. I'm not entirely complaining, though - I'm ready for spring and summer!! :) Although today is a pretty nice day, so we'll probably take Carson out to play in the snow this afternoon at some point.

I have a feeling its going to be a long week this week. I have a full five-day work-week filled with lots of meetings and deadlines and a day-trip to Windsor, Ontario for a symposium. Kevin's week sounds like it'll be a busy one, too, with a few late nights. Though I really hope they don't run as late as some did last week. Thursday was the worst - he didn't get home till midnight. Worked till 11pm. So anyway, I'm sure meals will get switched around this week, too, but here's what I'm thinking right now...

Sunday ~ chicken with gouda gravy and smashed brocco-tatoes
Meatless Monday ~ mexican breakfast burritos
Tuesday ~ tilapia with roasted corn, roasted asparagus
Wednesday ~ chili in the crockpot
Thursday ~ probably another really late night for Kevin, so probably just leftover chili
Friday ~ if I get home in time (going to Windsor all day for work and its possible I may not get to pick Carson up till 6pm - but I'm hoping we end earlier than planned) honey balsamic lamb chops (never had them a couple weeks ago) with roasted asparagus, otherwise, probably just lobster ravioli with roasted asparagus
Saturday ~ maybe something with salmon if it looks good at the store, otherwise maybe a pork roast... or maybe going out to eat with Ben and Kati depending on how things turn out this week.

As far as exercising this week, I'm planning to do a cardio video this afternoon/evening at some point. I'm hoping to be able to get some good walks in this week. Possibly a pilates workout after Carson goes to bed one evening, but more than likely I probably won't have the time for another video workout till next weekend. This past week I did fairly well. No cardio on Friday like I'd hoped, but I did get one walk in on Wednesday and two walks in on Thursday - even with the super cold blowing wind. :)

Fast, Creamy Chicken Stew with Parsleyed Dumplings

For dinner last night, we had a fast, creamy chicken stew with parsleyed dumplings. I got the recipe from my New Whole Grains Cookbook. I had planned to do this on Friday, but we ended up going out to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings for Kevin's birthday on Friday night instead, so I made it last night. This was so easy and GOOD! I loved it! Kevin loved the stew part, but wasn't crazy about the dumplings. He'd never had any soups with dumplings before, and decided he doesn't like them. I thought they were awesome! Definitely something I'll make again - just probably with less or no dumplings for Kevin. The EVOO, onion, carrot, stock, spices, flour, egg, and yogurt were organic.

Fast Creamy Chicken Stew with Parsleyed Dumplings

For the soup:
3 teaspoons EVOO
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjarom
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen peas or edamame
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the dumplings:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup minced fresh parsley (I just used dried)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
6 Tablespoons yogurt or buttermilk, plus more if needed

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil and saute the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until softened. Scrape them to the side and add the chicken. Sear the chicken chunks, undisturbed, over medium-high heat for a minute, then stir. When the chicken is browned all over, add the stock, thyme, marjoram, and cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until desired thickness. Add the peas, salt, and pepper. Keep simmering over low heat.

For the dumplings, mix all ingredients and quickly mix. It should be a soft dough, not a stiff dough. Add more yogurt if stiff. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons full into the simmering stew. Turn the heat up to medium-high, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Uncover, cut one of the dumplings in half. If it is still doughy, replace the cover and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until done.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels

I also made up a batch of homemade whole wheat soft pretzels today. I found the recipe on Heavenly Homemakers quite a while ago and have had this recipe printed in my files ever since to try them out. My SIL Mary made them at the beginning of the month and they turned out really well, so I figured it was about time I try them out. I figured they'd be a great snack or part of a meal for Carson - not to mention Kevin and I, too. They are sooooo good!! Carson and I shared one right out of the oven - we both loved it! You can view the Heavenly Homemakers blog for picture-by-picture steps of everything. I simplified by using my KitchenAid mixer to mix and knead the dough - what a time saver that is! I made a full batch and got 18 pretzels out of it. I've kept a few out to eat fresh and have frozen the bulk of them for later. These are pretty much entirely organic, too. Everything but the yeast and salt are organic.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels

1 cup very warm water
2 Tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
4 teaspoons salt
8 cups whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, mix water, yeast and 2 teaspoons honey. Stir this together and kind of mush the yeast around. Let this sit for a few minutes while you do the next step.

Melt a stick of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup honey, salt and milk. Heat this to 120 degrees.

Pour milk mixture into yeast mixture and stir. Stir in 8 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time (add more if you need it). (This is when the KitchenAid comes in handy b/c that is a lot of flour!)

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Plop it into a bowl, cover it and let it rise for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Pull it out of the bowl and knead it a few times to get the air out. Pull a ball of dough, about the size of your fist off and get ready to make your very first pretzel! Roll it into a long snake. Then make a loop with the ends overlapping. Then twist the ends again. Then pick up the ends and pull them down to the bottom. Then it should look like a pretzel. And if it doesn’t, just undo it and try again. After you shape each pretzel, put them on a cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan. Right when you take the pretzels out of the oven, slather them with butter (I just used butter spray). Lay it on thick. Don’t hold back. Then sprinkle salt over them.

Whole Grain Waffles

For lunch today, I made up a batch of whole grain waffle mix and then made some spelt buttermilk waffles. These recipes come from my Whole Grains for Busy People cookbook. Its the same concept as the whole grain pancakes I made a few weeks ago - make up a large batch of the waffle mix to keep in the fridge, then you're ready to mix up a batch of waffles when you want them. These were so very good! All three of us really enjoyed them. They have a little crunch from the cornmeal (I used a larger grind) and sweetness from the honey. So good! I made a double batch of the waffles and froze some. I ended up with 12 waffles total and I froze 8 of them. They will be nice to have on hand to just pop in the toaster for a quick breakfast. The flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, egg, milk, and honey are organic.

Whole Grain Waffle Mix

3 cups spelt flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional (I added it)

Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Shake gently to combine. Label and date the bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 months. Shake gently to aerate the bag before each use.

Spelt Buttermilk Waffles

1 large egg
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
3 Tablespoons safflower or canola oil (I used canola)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 cup Whole Grain Waffle Mix
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 2 Tablespoons minced crystallized ginger, or 3 Tablespoons dried currants, all optional (I didn't add any of these)
butter or oil, for greasing the waffle iron
maple syrup, fruit preserves, or honey for serving

Lightly beat the eggs. Blend in the buttermilk, oil, and honey. Stir in the waffle mix and any additional ingredients. Do not over-mix.

Heat the waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. Spray with butter or oil to prevent sticking. Add enough batter to cover the lower grid by half to two-thirds. Bake until crisp, about 4-5 minutes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Three-Cheese Broccolini Turnovers

For our Meatless Monday dinner last night, I tried out a Rachael Ray recipe for Three-Cheese Broccolini Turnovers. I had saved the recipe a while back after seeing it in the weekly meal planner widget in my sidebar. These were so good! Kevin and I both loved them. Carson had already eaten, so he only tried a bite of the filling, but really seemed to like them, too. They weren't too difficult to make - although I've decided I really don't like working with phyllo dough, it frustrates me. We had these with some romaine salads. I made a half-recipe of the filling and still ended up with six decently-sized turnovers. I was good after having one, Kevin ate three. And we have two left for lunches this week.

Three-Cheese Broccolini Turnovers

2 bunches Broccolini, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 large onion, finely chopped (I omitted this)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound unsalted mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes (I just used the shredded stuff)
16 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup store-bought marinara sauce, warmed (I used some of my home-canned seasoned tomato sauce)

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the Broccolini and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. (I skipped the onion step) Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the ricotta, parmesan, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in the Broccolini and mozzarella.

Lay 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface and brush with olive oil. Repeat with 3 more sheets. Halve the phyllo stack lengthwise. Spoon 3/4 cup Broccolini mixture onto 1 stack, near a short end. Fold the right corner diagonally over the filling to make a triangle; continue folding diagonally until you reach the other end. Place the turnover on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling to make 8 turnovers.

Bake the turnovers until golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the marinara sauce.

Crockpot Corn Risotto

Last night I made some corn risotto from A Year of Crockpotting. I didn't really make it to have with our dinner, more for Kevin's lunches this week since he loved the sweet pea risotto I made a few weeks ago. We did taste it with our dinners last night, though. It was really good. Kevin likes it more than I do, but he likes creamed corn and it does kind of have a creamed corn flavor... with a little spice from the cayenne. Its not something I'd make often, like the sweet pea risotto would be, but its something to keep on file still, I think.

Crockpot Corn Risotto

1 1/4 cup arborio rice
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 tsp onion flakes
4 chopped cloves of garlic
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
package of frozen corn (16 oz)
1 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on taste

to add later:
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used fat free half and half)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

I used my 4 quart crockpot - this really was the perfect size.

Put the tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of the crockpot, and swirl the rice and the onion flakes in it.

Chop the garlic and add, along with the salt and cayenne pepper. Add the frozen corn and the broth. Stir well. Drop in a pat of butter.

Cover and cook on high for about 2 hours, checking every 45 minutes or so. This is done when the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender.

Unplug, and add the cream and parmesan cheese. Cover for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts completely.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

I tried out a new recipe from AllRecipes for Florentine Artichoke Dip for Carson's party. I normally use the recipe posted on Olive Garden's website, but figured I'd try a new one this time. I'm glad I did, because I like this one way better! Yum! It was good! Very simple, too.

Florentine Artichoke Dip

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach - thawed, drained and squeezed dry
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip Light)
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat neuchatel)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
(I also added about 1/4 cup shredded 2% mozzarella to the top)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 7x11 inch baking dish. (I just used a pie plate)

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Mix in the artichoke hearts, spinach and Parmesan cheese. Season with garlic and lemon juice. Spread evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, and let the dish bake uncovered for 5 more minutes, or until the surface is lightly browned. (Mine took longer to brown, probably like 10 minutes)

Meal Plans & Goals Progress

The birthday party was a success. I think Carson had a lot of fun, even if a little overwhelmed at times. It was great to see everyone, but I always wish I'd had more time to visit with everyone. Next time I'm hiring a party service. :) I'm glad the party is over and that things went relatively smoothly. Now, we're on to a new week. I'm hoping to do some extras this week, being that I'm off on Monday for the President's Day holiday and then again on Friday for my flex day. I'd like to try making some whole wheat pretzels. I think Carson will enjoy them as snacks and I'd like to make up a huge batch to freeze. I might also do up some whole wheat waffles - a large batch to freeze. But we'll see how the days go - relaxing and just playing with Carson sound just too good right now. :)

Sunday ~ baked pork chops (didn't do them last week), roasted veggies, romaine salad
Meatless Monday ~ broccolini turnovers, crockpot corn risotto (didn't do it last week), romaine salad
Tuesday ~ leftovers from Saturday
Wednesday ~ marinated chicken breasts, baked potatoes, romaine salad
Thursday ~ whole grain pancakes with blueberry syrup
Friday ~ chicken and dumplings soup
Saturday ~ we'll be celebrating Kevin's mom's birthday by having dinner at P.F. Chang's in East Lansing

In terms of my progress towards my getting healthy/exercise goal. I didn't do too well last week. I did get in quite a few walks - one on Monday, three on Tuesday, two on Wednesday; but I didn't do any pilates or cardio. Just too busy in the evenings with getting random things done before the party. This week I'll do better. I'm planning to do a cardio workout today - I think I'll try my new workout video - Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred. And I'm planning to do pilates tomorrow while I'm off. Hopefully I'll get some walks in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Although, Tuesday is doubtful since I'll be at a meeting at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday will be very busy, but hopefully I can squeeze at least one walk in. And Thursday I'm hoping for two walks. Then hopefully another cardio on Friday.

As far as my pop-drinking... I have not had any pop in the evening all week. Well, with the exception of yesterday during the birthday party. And I did not have a morning pop three days of the week. Still haven't cut back on my afternoon pop, though. Its a good start for the first week, though. I'm going to try cutting out the morning pops all week this week.

I'm planning a major stock-up shopping trip to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market on Tuesday afternoon on my way back from Detroit. I need to go through my pantry to see what we could use in the next month or so.

Homemade French Salad Dressing

I tried out another recipe from RecipeZaar for french salad dressing yesterday, too. This stuff was awesome! Everyone loved it and many asked for the recipe. This will be a definite staple for our refrigerator from now on, which I'm very excited about... one more thing to make from scratch and cut out HFCS and other junk (assuming you don't use normal ketchup)! I'll have to work on trying to make it a little healthier (cutting back on some oil, maybe?), though. French salad dressing is Kevin's favorite, so he is quite happy about this. Now if I could only find a recipe that tastes just like Hidden Valley Ranch... I'd be set with my favorite. I like other salad dressings, though, too, so that's ok.

Homemade French Salad Dressing

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 cup ketchup
1/2-3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2-1 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste or use 1-2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon white salt (I used 2 teaspoons minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, optional or to taste
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise, optional, add in only for a creamy-style French dressing (I did not add this)

In a large food processor blend all ingredients together until smooth (starting with 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and 1/2 cup sugar and add in more to taste after mixing.

Do not attempt to make this in a small 4-cup blender or you will have the dressing all over your counter!

Mix in the mayonnaise (if using) for a creamy-style French dressing.

Place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Homemade Italian Salad Dressing

I decided to make up some homemade salad dressings for Carson's birthday party. The first was Italian. I found the recipe on RecipeZaar I'm not really a fan of italian salad dressing, but from the taste I had, it tasted like the store-bought stuff does. And the few people that had it on their salads at the party said it was good. I have quite a bit leftover (I tripled the recipe), so I'll probably use it to marinate some chicken breasts this week or next.

Italian Salad Dressing

3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bottle. Shake to blend. Makes about 1 cup.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Call me crazy...

But I ordered more vegetable seeds... yeah, I know, I'm a little out of control here. I am just super excited to have a huge garden this year and have come up with some more veggies I really want to grow. I figure, what's a few more?? :) Here's what I've ordered now... this order came from Johnny's Seeds.

Brussels Sprouts - Oliver
Okra - Cajun Delight
Pac Choi - Mei Qing Choi
Parsnips - Javelin
Summer Squash - Magda... its a middle-eastern variety that sounds and looks yummy
Winter Squash - a smaller size Butternut squash that is supposed to produce way more fruits than did the variety I grew last year
Yukina Savoy - its a green, similar to spinach, but its supposed to be even better tasting (no bitterness)

You'll notice there are some duplicates from what I've already ordered. I had to order more parsnips since the variety I'd chosen before are out-of-stock. So if I didn't order more, I wouldn't have parsnips this year... that there would be a travesty! I ordered another variety of okra so that I could see the difference between the two varieties. I love okra, so I know we'll be able to use it up - plus I'm sure I'll have some extra seeds to share if anyone (Mary?) wanted to try a plant or two. And I decided to try out the smaller sized butternut squash to see if it really will yield more than my plants did last year. Plus, butternut squash stores so well, if I store it properly it should last till next February/early-March.

So yes, more veggies, more work for me, but also more benefit to our little family of three. Not to mention, I'm actually hoping for bumper crops of many things so that I can donate them to the less-fortunate and maybe trade with friends/family for different varieties to try some new ones.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Last night I made some spanakopita - or greek spinach pie. I love this stuff! Kevin and Carson both really liked it, too, although Kevin wasn't too enthusiastic about it when I told him what we were having. He's had spanakopita in restaurants before and hasn't cared too much for it. I've ordered it many times in restaurants and have had my boss, Connie's, homemade spanakopita - which is the recipe I based mine on last night. Connie didn't really give me a recipe, more of a method. You can pretty much alter the quanitities of the ingredients to your liking - some people like more spinach and some people like more cheese. I love them both. You can also use fresh or frozen spinach. I used fresh since that's what I had.


1 roll phyllo dough, thawed
spinach, fresh or frozen, drained of all excess water (I used about 3 large bags of fresh spinach, steamed down and drained)
feta cheese
ricotta cheese (about equal parts of both feta and ricotta - with a little more feta than ricotta)
sauteed diced onion
garlic powder
1 stick butter, melted

Begin by mixing together the spinach, cheese, onion, and spices in a bowl. Use however much of the spices that you like - be sure you taste the mixture. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to get the flavors incorporated.

Then begin brushing each piece of phyllo dough with melted butter. After brushing each piece, place it in a casserole or pie dish. You won't be able to just place the phylly centered in the dish, you have to stagger it on every layer, leaving enough hanging off the edge to use to wrap up the spinach filling and cover completely on top.

Once you have your phyllo all buttered and stagger-layered, pour the spinach mixture into the dough. Wrap up the edges of the overhanging phyllo over top of the spinach mixture, covering completely. Brush the top with butter.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna

Last night, I tried a recipe that I found on RecipeZaar for Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. This was soooo good! All three of us really liked it. Carson just LOVED it - he wouldn't stop eating! It takes some prep work, but it was totally worth it. And the directions seem really long, but its really very simple if you're used to making lasagnas. I've never made a lasagna with just the white bechamel sauce - I usually use tomato sauce, but have done some lasagnas using both sauces. I ended up making a full pan - which I'm glad I did now! I froze some for some quick dinners/lunches in the future, plus have dinner for another night the week, a lunch for Kevin, and have dinners for Carson for the rest of the week. I used organic pasta, mushrooms, onion, garlic, broth, milk.

I'll update with a picture later in the week.

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

7 tablespoons butter, divided
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onion (I just used 1 yellow onion to substitute for the green onion and shallot)
1/4 cup minced shallot
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed,squeezed dry (I used fresh steamed spinach)
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream (I just used 2% milk)
1/3 cup dry white vermouth (I just added more broth)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 lb jarlsberg cheese or provolone cheese or havarti cheese, shredded (I used provolone)
1/4 lb smoked gouda cheese, shredded
1/4 cup half-and-half (I just used 2% milk)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions; drain, rinse immediately with cold water and then drain again; toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add the green onions, shallots, and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add the drained, chopped spinach, white pepper, and salt, stir well and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer the mushroom/spinach mixture to a bowl and set aside (do not rinse out this pan - we're going to use it again in the upcoming steps).

Over medium heat melt the remaining butter in the previously-used saucepan; add the flour and cook, stirring constantly to keep it from browning.

Gradually add the chicken or vegetable broth, cream, and vermouth; cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes.

As soon as sauce begins to boil, remove it from the heat and season with thyme and basil.

Combine the shredded cheeses together until well mixed.

Butter, oil, or lightly spray the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Pour the half-and-half into the bottom of the baking pan.

Lay 4 cooked noodles in a single layer in the pan.

Layer with 1/3 each of the mushroom/spinach mixture and shredded cheeses, then coat with 1/3 of the sauce.

Repeat the process twice, ending with the sauce.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan (if using).

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake 20 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Meal Plans & Goals Progress

I've got a busy week ahead here. My little baby boy will be turning ONE on Friday! I can't even believe it. I think I might cry. Literally. We're having his birthday party on Saturday with family and close friends, so lots of preparations this week for the party. I made the lasagnas a few weeks back, so I'll just have to thaw them on Friday to bake on Saturday. I'll be able to prep the spinach-artichoke dip ahead of time, and the salad, too. So it'll just be a lot of baking - the dip, the lasagnas, and the garlic bread - on Saturday. I think I'll really be loving my double oven with all the baking! :) I had wanted to do homemade ice cream for the party, but I think I'm going to just have to break down and buy some. I think its just too much with everything else going on. Oh well.

Last week, Meijer had organic mushrooms on sale again, so I stocked up. I'll be doing another batch of canned sliced 'shrooms this afternoon. And I'll be using some in a spinach and mushroom lasagna today, too. I don't necessarily fancy having lasagna twice in one week, but I've been wanting to try this recipe for awhile now and figured I'd better do it now with all these fresh mushrooms on hand.

Sunday ~ spinach and mushroom lasagna, salad
Meatless Monday ~ spanakopita, greek salad
Tuesday ~ leftover lasagna and/or spanakopita
Wednesday ~ chicken tortilla soup from the freezer, homemade artisan bread leftovers again
Thursday ~ honey balsamic lamb chops, roasted potatoes and veggies pizza at my parents' house
Friday ~ baked all-natural pork chops, crockpot corn risotto, salad leftover pizza for Kevin, veggie "fried" rice for Sara
Saturday ~ Carson's Birthday Party! Spinach-artichoke dip, potato chips and french onion dip, meat lasagna, veggie lasagna, salad, garlic bread/sticks, cake, ice cream.

So last week, I began working on my getting healthy/exercising goal. I was able to fit in one Pilates and one Tae-Bo video workout during the week. And I managed to get a 15-minute walk in on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I'm going to hope for the same this week. I also am trying to cut back on the amount of pop that I drink. Sara Ross and I figured out that if I were to cut out pop entirely - and replace it with water - that I could potentially lose 50-60 pounds in one year... without changing anything else. That is just insane! I know that pop is my biggest downfall and its going to be tough to cut it out, but I'm working on it. I'm not buying pop to keep at home anymore - except for the special occasions (Carson's birthday) and every once in a while. And I'm working on cutting out the pop I normally have in the morning (kind of like my coffee). Then I'm just left with my big fountain Coke during the day. I'll slowly cut back on that, too. But I think that one will be the hardest for me to drop. So we'll see how it goes this week.

Julie's Soup a.k.a. Pasta e Fagioli Soup

On Friday, I made a soup recipe from my SIL, Julie. It is a very good soup. Its very thick, and is kind of a cross between a soup, a chili, and a goulash. Its very similar to a Pasta e Fagioli soup, but I just have it labeled Julie's Soup in my recipe book. Its very easy to throw together - especially in the crockpot! I used organic onion, carrot, celery, garlic, kidney beans, great northern beans, pasta. I made some baguettes with my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough. The bread does just intensify its flavor after a few days - soooo good! Definitely will be a regular thing from now on.

Julie's Soup

1 pound ground beef (I used lamb)
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup carrot, sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, with liquid
1 15-ounce can great northern beans, with liquid
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can V8 juice
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound pasta (I used ditalini)

Brown the ground beef, drain off fat. Add all raw vegetables, saute 10 minutes. Add everything else, except pasta. Simmer at least 15 minutes.

Boil pasta. Add last, or spoon soup over noodles.

(I just browned the meat and dumped everything into my crockpot. Adding the pasta just before serving.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sweet Pea Risotto Gratin

When I saw this recipe for sweet pea risotto gratin posted in Rachael Ray's weekly menu planner (in my sidebar), I knew I had to make it. I didn't really expect it to be this week, but with the lack of substantial leftovers on Monday, I had the perfect opportunity to make it last night. I've been wanting to make some risotto for awhile now and this one was perfect because I had all of the ingredients in my pantry or freezer. I picked up some organic arborio rice in the bulk bins at Whole Foods Market a couple of months ago and it has just been sitting in my pantry ever since. Arborio rice isn't a whole grain, but its still a type of grain that I've never tried. So I was anxious to see how this would taste. It was AWESOME! Kevin and I both really loved it. Another keeper! I expected some complaints from Kevin, having had two meatless meals in a row, but he only had good things to say about this meal. Score! I only made half a recipe, as the original is for 4-6 servings, but Kevin was wishing I'd have made the whole recipe. This dish did take a little more active time that I usually like on a weeknight, but it was still a quick meal - about a half-hour. Just requires a lot of stirring, so you can't go far from the stovetop. The peas, chicken broth, butter, onion, and rice were organic.

Sweet Pea Risotto Gratin

One 10-ounce package frozen baby peas, thawed
6 cups chicken broth
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound arborio rice (this equals about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs

Puree half of the peas in a food processor and set aside with the whole peas.

In a saucepan, heat the chicken broth and keep warm. Grease a 2-quart casserole and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains with butter. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth to the rice, lower the heat slightly and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth in 1/2 cup increments, letting the rice absorb the liquid (about 3 minutes) after each addition, and stirring almost constantly, until the rice is cooked, 20 to 25 minutes. The finished rice will be creamy but still firm to the bite.

A few minutes before the risotto is done, stir in the pureed and whole peas. Turn on the broiler.

Remove the cooked rice from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese and the bread crumbs together. Transfer the risotto to the prepared casserole dish and top with the bread crumb mixture. Place the dish under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat source and broil for about 2 minutes, or until the top is golden. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Baked Potato Soup

Last night I tried out another Rachael Ray recipe for baked potato soup. YUM! This was really good! Kevin and I both really liked it a lot. I was expecting Kevin to have some reservations about it since it was pureed, but he really liked it. This is a definite keeper. Very easy, very quick, very tasty! It tasted just like a loaded baked potato. I've made several different potato soups in the past, but I really think this is probably one of the best ones... not to mention its definitely the most healthy potato soup recipe I've made. This is a really filling soup, too. I was so stuffed after finishing my bowl. Kevin ate a huge bowl, plus a little more, so we don't have much leftover at all. So I'll be making something different tonight now... meal plans are updated below... I ended up choosing another meatless meal.

We had this with some of my artisan bread. Which, by the way, was SO INCREDIBLY GOOD! We'll see how it goes, but I really think that my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook will end up being my best investment yet! I can't wait to try out some other recipes! I'm going to make some baguettes on Friday to go with our soup and I'm going to try some sandwich bread probably on Sunday.

Baked Potato Soup

2 large baking potatoes—peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 cups milk (I used organic 1%)
Salt and pepper
1/2 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and green portions thinly sliced separately (I only used 3 scallions)
4 slices bacon (I left this out - not only was this our meatless meal, but I don't like bacon... Kevin probably would have enjoyed it though)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2% cheese and I didn't use nearly this much)
1/4 cup sour cream (I used light and I didn't use nearly this much... just a small dollup on each bowl)

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, 2 cups milk and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the cauliflower and scallion whites, cover and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup milk, then puree the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

Microwave the bacon at high power until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes; crumble. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and top with the shredded cheese, sour cream, crumbled bacon and scallion greens.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Artisan Bread

As I mentioned in my post below, I recently bought the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day after reading lots of raves and reviews about it. The idea is quite intriguing. You mix up a big batch of dough that will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You just pull off portions of the dough to make your bread whenever you want it. It sounds too easy, doesn't it?

So last night, I made up my first batch of artisan bread dough. I just did the basic dough, I believe its called Boule or something like that, as that is what the authors recommend starting out with. I've decided I probably shouldn't post the actual recipe for the dough since I haven't found a place yet that has posted them - so I don't want to be the first and end up getting myself in trouble or something. But I'll explain the methods. The dough was so easy to whip up. Basically some warm water, yeast, salt, and flour. No proofing of the yeast. Mix it till its just mixed through. No kneading is necessary. Then you let it rise for a couple of hours, then throw the dough in the refrigerator. You can make your first loaf right then and there, but the authors recommend using chilled dough for your first try, so that is what I did.

This morning, I got up and tore off a piece of dough. You are supposed to put it on a pizza peel then slide it onto a baking stone when you put it in the oven, but I just used a baking sheet since I've never had a pizza peel and I no longer having my baking stone (was tired of moving with it, it was so heavy and I rarely used it, so I threw it out before we moved into our house). I sprinkled a little cornmeal on my baking sheet, quickly shaped the dough, and plopped it onto the sheet to let it rise for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I was getting ready for work. After rising 40 minutes, into the oven it went to bake for 30 minutes with a pan of water for steam to help give the bread that nice, crispy artisan crust.

The bread is now sitting at home, cooling. The authors recommend letting it cool completely before slicing into the bread. So tonight we'll taste it - I can't wait. The house smelled so good this morning. I just love the smell of fresh-baked bread! And this was so easy, that I can see myself making bread in the mornings before work quite often now - one more way to avoid lots of HFCS and processed junk in store bought bread... and its way quicker than using my bread machine (which I'll still use, for sure, but it'll be great to be able to do all different kinds of breads now!).