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Last night I made veggie lasagna, and it was amazing!! Definitely the best lasagna I’ve ever made. I’ve always preferred veggie lasagna to meat lasagna (perhaps as a result of growing up vegetarian), and this one was wonderful– loaded with spinach, mushrooms, and red pepper, with lots of delicious cheese. I used this recipe for veggie lasagna from Allrecipes, but I adapted it a bit (using some of the suggestions in the comments on the recipe). Here’s my version:
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- about 12 crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large bunch spinach
- about 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cans basil-garlic flavored diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 of an 8-oz. box of lasagna noodles
- 15 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
- about 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- about 1/2 cup fresh grated mozzarella cheese
To make the sauce: saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning. When the vegetables are tender, add the 2 cans of diced tomatoes (undrained), and the brown sugar. Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes.
To prepare the spinach: steam the spinach over boiling water until it’s lightly cooked (but not overcooked).
To prepare the cheese: In a large bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with the parmesan cheese, and add 1 tsp. Italian seasoning.
To prepare the lasagna noodles: bring a pot of salted water to boiling, and add the noodles. Cook only for a few minutes, until the noodles are starting to become soft and pliable, but aren’t yet fully cooked. Drain.
In a 9×6 casserole dish, layer the sauce, noodles, spinach, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese, until it’s all used up, ending with a layer of sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, and then let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
We got our weekly CSA box yesterday! I’m always so excited when it shows up at our door; it’s always fun to run out there and get it, then open it up to see what’s inside! It’s like Christmas! Sometimes we get one or two items that are different from what was posted on the webpage, due to the availability, etc. This week we got beets instead of carrots! Normally I’m not all that excited about beets, but it made me happy this time, because it means we’re definitely starting to get into the fall season. I love the fall fruits and veggies– kale, butternut squash, chard, apples… yum!
This week we have: apples, grapes, pears, kale, potatoes, spinach, beets (and beet greens!), cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, radishes, baby lettuce, and green beans.
I’ve been craving salisbury steak recently, so I put it on my meal plan for this week. I’d meant to make it on Thursday, but I decided to switch it with Monday’s planned meal (the slow cooker macaroni and cheese), since I decided a slow cooker meal would be better for today, when I’ll be busy in the afternoon. I ended up using ground buffalo instead of ground beef for the salisbury steak, and it was really delicious! I’d also forgotten to buy either brown gravy mix, beef stock, or onion soup mix, so I had to improvise a little bit for the gravy. But, it turned out great!
- ground buffalo (I used about 3/4 pound)
- 1 piece of white bread, torn into small pieces
- 1 egg
- about 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- about 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- lots of crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups chicken (or beef or mushroom) broth
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
In a large bowl, mix together the ground buffalo, bread pieces, egg, 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard, salt and pepper, and a few of the mushroom and onion pieces. Shape into patties. In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and then add the rest of the mushrooms and onions. Saute for abotu 2 minutes, and then add the patties. Let them cook for a minute while you prepare the gravy. Whisk the flour and Worcestershire sauce into the broth, and then add to the skillet. Let it all simmer; the gravy will cook down and thicken. Turn the patties, and move them occasionally to prevent sticking. Cool until the ground buffalo is completely cooked.
I served this with green beans and potato pierogis. For the pierogis, I used leftover wonton wrappers from the mushroom-tofu dumplings I made last week. I used instant mashed potato as the filling, and boiled the pierogis for about 4 minutes. They were great!
On weekends, I like to try to use up any leftovers in our fridge, and any staple items we have in the pantry, before I go grocery shopping for the next week. Last night’s dinner was delicious– and it used up several leftovers! I was proud of myself! I had some leftover firm tofu in the fridge, from some mushroom-tofu wontons I made last week, and I also had some kale and rapini from last week’s CSA box that had to be used up. I also had half a bottle of BBQ sauce left over from a BBQ chicken dish I made a week ago. So, I threw it all together and it turned out quite well! We had BBQ tofu, kale and rapini sauteed in toasted sesame oil and olive oil, and rice. An easy (and incidentally vegan) weekend evening dinner! (The BBQ sauce contained no anchovies, and was completely vegan.) The tofu was delicious, and it was the easiest thing to make: just cover with the BBQ sauce, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Surprisingly, Emmett (who normally eats his greens before touching anything else on his plate!) went wild over the tofu, and couldn’t get enough of it! That was really cute; I guess I’ll be making BBQ tofu again sometime soon!
My life feels really hectic right now, with my full-time graduate course load on top of my music work, as well as being a full-time/stay-at-home mom. I take care of Emmett during the day, trying to squeeze in some housework or homework while he takes a nap, and then I teach lessons and do homework in the evenings when Scott is home from work. On weekends I do more homework, teach lessons, and occasionally play gigs. So, I’m finding that I’m becoming more and more organized in my meal planning each week, out of necessity. Having a weekly meal plan takes away some of the stress from my day, so that I don’t have to worry about what I’ll make for supper. It also makes my grocery shopping more organized. And, maybe it’s the librarian in me, but it’s actually really fun to be super organized!
My routine now is to do my meal planning on Saturday, and do the grocery shopping either on Saturday or Sunday. We subscribe to a CSA, and they post the contents for next week’s box on their website on Friday. When I start to look at what meals to plan for the week, I look at what we’ll be getting in our CSA box, and also look at my calendar and the weather for the upcoming week, to see if there are any special things I need to pay attention to. (Such as, if I’ll be really busy one afternoon, I can plan to make something in the slow cooker that day, or if it’s going to be a really cold/rainy day, I might plan to make a soup.) I generally only plan out the dinners I want to make; I just do whatever I feel like for breakfast, and usually eat leftovers for lunch. I also make a list of what foods we have in the fridge and pantry, and try to make sure to use a lot of the things that we already have on hand, so that we won’t have to buy as many groceries. Also, if there are veggies that are left over from last week’s CSA box, I plan to use them on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, before our next box arrives.
Another consideration I have right now, is that I’m pregnant, and occasionally I have cravings for particular foods! Of course, the cravings may happen randomly (like waking up at 3am one night, craving M&M cookies!!), but in my meal planning I try to take into account what foods I think I’ll probably want to eat (such as comfort foods, casseroles, soups, etc.), as well as thinking about having a healthy, balanced, nutritious meal plan.
During the week, I often end up switching around my meal plan, making something on one day that I’d planned for another day, or making something different altogether on the spur of the moment. But, just having the structure of having a plan (even if I feel free to alter it later) just makes things easier and less stressful.
Anyways, here is my current meal plan for this week:
Week of Oct. 17:
- Sunday: BBQ tofu, sauteed greens, and rice
- Monday: slow cooker macaroni and cheese, and salad
- Tuesday: vegetable-beef soup, and biscuits
- Wednesday: veggie lasagna with kale and spinach, and salad
- Thursday: pierogis, salisbury steak, and green beans
- Friday: chicken paprikash with egg noodles, and salad
I took this spinach dip to our church fellowship hour this morning. I’d never tried this recipe before, but it turned out great! I made it last night, so that it would have time to cool overnight in the refrigerator. I used this recipe for spinach-parmesan dip, and it was great! The only changes I made were to double or triple the recipe (I didn’t measure, just added what felt like the right amounts!), and I added 1/2 finely chopped leek to the garlic and spinach.
Today is a chilly, rainy day, so it felt like the perfect day for having chili for lunch. I threw this together with what I had in the pantry/fridge, and it was delicious! I used leftover chicken from a roast chicken I made the other day, but you could use leftover rotisserie chicken, or cook some chicken before adding it to the soup.
Black Bean Chicken Chili
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles, not drained
- about 1/2 to 3/4 cup leftover chicken, broken into bite-sized pieces or shredded
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (use more or less, to taste)
- sour cream and cheddar cheese for garnishing
Heat the beans and the tomatoes in a medium pan, and add the chicken, salt, pepper, cumin, and water. Right before it boils, turn it off and remove from heat. Stir in the cilantro, and some cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!
I’m finally returning to my blog!! Lots to share. I had a busy summer of reading, knitting, and taking care of my baby (well, toddler now!). I finished more knitting projects than I’d thought I would be able to do: one baby blanket, one baby sweater vest, two baby hats, two sets of baby booties, and two Android phone cozies. I didn’t have much time for my blog, and one of the main reasons was because– I’m pregnant!! During the first trimester, I find that my relationship with food changes dramatically. Namely, I can’t stand to write about food, or take pictures of food: I just want to eat!! I’ve had lots of pregnancy cravings so far, although none of them are terribly outlandish. I’ve mainly been craving Southern homestyle cooking, real comfort food, whether it’s healthy or not. I’ve been craving chicken casseroles made with cream of broccoli soup, and other foods such as grits, chicken and dumplings, and basically anything Southern. My biggest food craving is North Carolina seafood: fresh popcorn shrimp, fried fish, hushpuppies, cole slaw…. but unfortunately I live in California, and making it at home is just not the same! I wish I could be eating at a restaurant at the Outer Banks right now… yum… but I digress!
Anyways, I’m nearly through with my first trimester, and I think my morning sickness and exhaustion are finally coming to an end! I’ve also started my fall semester now (I’m working on a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science), so along with getting back into my regular routine, I’m hoping to start keeping up with my blog again.
We’ve started getting our weekly CSA box again (we took a break for the past two months), and we have a surplus of tomatoes from last week’s and this week’s boxes. I remembered seeing one episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he made a homemade spaghetti sauce with lots of pureed fresh vegetables, and so I thought this would be a great way to use up all these tomatoes! I didn’t follow any recipe, I just used what I had, and it turned out great!
Here’s how I made it:
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- about 1 container of cherry tomatoes, all sliced in half
- about 2 huge heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- about 3 or 4 slicing tomatoes, sliced
- 2 small zucchini, sliced
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 red pepper, sliced
- 1 small sweet yellow pepper, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
- about 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- about 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- dash of pepper
- about 4 Tbsp. olive oil
Basically, I just dumped all the veggies in a large pan, with the olive oil and seasonings, and simmered on medium-high heat for about 25 minutes. I would’ve kept it simmering longer, until the veggies were softer (the carrot and zucchini were cooked, but still a little firm), but at that point Emmett was getting fussy and hungry. So, I decided to just puree everything in the blender, adjusted the seasonings (added more salt), and mixed it with cooked spaghetti noodles. (And yes, I like cheddar cheese with my spaghetti!) It was delicious!
Today has been a very successful day; it’s been great! This morning we had Emmett’s appointment with the dietician, and it went wonderfully! I’ve been keeping a food log for Emmett for the past month, and so we were able to discuss his eating habits, and what he eats over the course of a typical week. I felt completely gratified, and vindicated, because she said that we are doing everything just right! She said that we are feeding him wonderful food choices, with lots of variety at every meal, and she said she is very impressed with how well he eats. She said that his food log was practically perfect– she said she wished she could show this to other parents! That really made me feel happy! As I’ve written before, Emmett is on the very lowest end of the weight range for his age, but I’m convinced that it’s part genetics (small babies run in my family) and partly due to his very active lifestyle; he’s always running around and playing. He eats very well, and it was wonderful to hear the dietician confirm that!!
She did give us a few suggestions– she said we could try to add a little more fat and calories to each meal, to try to sneak some extra fat into him. She suggested drizzling all of his vegetables with either olive oil or salad dressing, and mixing up his fruit with full-fat cottage cheese. And she said to keep feeding him avocado and nut butters (two of his favorite snack foods), since they’re high in healthy fats.
So that was a success!!!
Then, this afternoon I finally finished knitting the baby blanket for my new baby nephew!!! I’ve already started on the baby shoes I’m knitting for him, and I’m halfway through the first one.
Then, for supper tonight I made a roast chicken, using Jamie Oliver’s recipe. I stuffed the chicken with fresh rosemary and oregano, and half of a lemon. It was SOO delicious!!! I seriously have been craving roast chicken the last several days, and as soon as it was ready I served it up and started eating– and then remembered to take a picture. It was sooo good!!
I served the chicken with Jamie’s gravy, cheddar biscuits with gravy, and peas. I think I want to start making a roast chicken every week or so. It’s amazing how easy it is to make roast chicken– it seems like such an impressive dish, but it really is very easy. You basically just prep it, put it in the oven, and it’s ready after an hour and 20 minutes! And the house smells fantastic while the chicken is cooking; I can still smell rosemary and lemon. It’s also pretty affordable. Our grocery store sells frozen whole chickens (organic, free range, sustainably farmed), and they’re very reasonably priced. I think I got this one (one of the smaller ones) for about $9.50. What an affordable price for a whole chicken!
Anyways, now I’m going to go watch tv and keep knitting those baby shoes!