Category Archives: Recipes

Lasagna – A Hybrid of Classic & Spinach

I made lasagna tonight. I wanted to make spinach lasagna but Tracy is more of a fan of meat based lasagnas so I decided to compromise and combine two recipes I found:

Classic Lasagna

and

Simple Spinach Lasagna

I made the cheese mixture from the spinach lasagna recipe (ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, egg, garlic powder, salt) plus added oregano like the classic lasagna recipe called for. I also mixed some of the spinach with marinara, as described in the spinach lasagna recipe.

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I made the meat sauce from the classic lasagna recipe, but used a little less than a pound since spinach would be taking up some of the room in the lasagna. I was happy to include onion, as I was skeptical the spinach lasagna recipe would have enough flavor since it does not mention onion.

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Once all the parts were ready, I assembled the lasagna, starting with the marinara/spinach mixture. I questioned the logic of using spinach as a bottom layer but it held together just fine.

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From this point I followed the classic lasagna recipe, as I really liked how she lists the layers in a clear visual format at the end of the recipe.

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I even purchased “good” mozzarella that I got sliced at the deli counter. Before making this I didn’t realize it melts better than pre-shredded mozzarella.

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Then I put it in the oven for 35 minutes covered in foil, and 20 uncovered.

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It was so good. I have to say, the meat added a dimension of flavor that really complimented the spinach well. Plus, it wasn’t so much meat that I was grossed out.

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The best part is it made two dinners, five lunches, and at least four more dinners to be enjoyed later (once removed from the freezer).

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Sunday Food Prep

I went to Costco yesterday.

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I love Costco. I wasn’t sure how much a household of two would benefit from buying in bulk, but it turns out buying large quantities of the stuff you use all the time is great. This is especially true if you take the time to plan for the week ahead and freeze what you know you can’t use fast enough. That’s what I did today.

I began the day by starting this Chicken Wild Rice Soup in the crockpot. Eight hours later, it looked like this.

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It was a lot prettier before I removed a bunch to put in smaller containers for lunches.

This soup is one of the best soups I’ve ever made, probably because there’s a whole stick of butter in it. I tend to like recipes involving whole sticks of butter. I rarely cook things this rich, but occasionally I think the extra calories are worth the flavor you get.

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I dedicate that photo to my college roommate Michelle, who could never stand people drinking soup out of mugs. Don’t worry, Michelle, I used a spoon.

While the soup was crocking away I washed and blanched the majority of the asparagus, green beans, and kale/swiss chard/spinach blend. (Even I can’t eat 1.5 pounds of leaves in a week.)

Blanching is new to me, but when I googled “how do I freeze green beans?” the consensus seemed to be blanching them first is how you make sure the color and nutrients are locked in. So blanch I did.

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Post blanching. So many green beans. And there were more that I put directly in the fridge.

The idea behind blanching is you cook the veggies at a very high temp (boiling water) for a few minutes, then immediately immerse the veggies in very cold water (I used ice water) so the cooking process comes to an abrupt halt. Then you dry them and freeze them for cooking another time.

I’d resisted blanching in the past because it seemed like a real pain in the ass, but it’s not so bad if you’re doing a lot of veggies. I came up with a little assembly line.

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I froze the kale/swiss chard/spinach mix in ice cube trays. The main reason I did this was to use them in smoothies, but I may also try to cook them. I don’t see why they’d cook any differently than frozen blocks of spinach.

While I was working with the kale I had the green beans in the freezer on a rack (I did the asparagus first–not pictured).

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They weren’t totally frozen, but I’m hoping they were frozen enough to prevent the green beans from melding together in their bags. I used a straw to suck out extra air. Cheap vacuum sealer!

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Then I gathered all the bags together before putting them in larger freezer bags in the freezer.

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Finally, I made salads with what was left of the kale mix.

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Between the soup and salads, plus Greek yogurt, blackberries, and apples I already had, my lunches (and by lunch I mean extended eating from 10am-4pm) are set for the week.

Cranberry Blueberry Pie

I’ve been in the mood to make pie lately. Making pie is not a thing I do; I made a couple apple pies several years ago and haven’t made any pies since (at least the kind that require baking). But I do like to eat pie, and I like to bake when it’s cold, so that fact it’s in the 20s lately made this the perfect time to reintroduce myself to baking pie.

I considered making apple pie (we have a lot of apples) but since I’ve already done that I searched for a recipe that uses cranberries, something else we have. We also have a giant bag of frozen blueberries from Costco, so I logged on to Pinterest and searched for cranberry blueberry pie.

I found this Cranberry Blueberry Pie recipe.

I’d already pinned this crust recipe, so that’s the one I followed for this pie.

By the way, if you want to follow me on Pinterest, or just see all the things I’ve pinned (mostly recipes) click here.

On to the pie!

I made the crust this morning and it seemed easy enough. Two bowls of ingredients; mix. I used a combination of shortening and butter because the crust recipe said I could.

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Then I balled it up. I froze two of the balls and refrigerated the other two for use later.

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As you can see in the photo, we have a bit of a tervis tumbler addiction.

Then I made the filling.

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Pie filling is pretty simple to make. Besides the berries and sugar, I combined cornstarch and cinnamon sticks.

By the way, I went to three Schnuck’s today before I found cinnamon sticks. The first one had zero brands of cinnamon sticks in stock and the second had a $6 brand and this one on sale, which I assume is the reason for the run on cinnamon sticks.

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The final Schnuck’s was also out of the sale brand but offered a store brand which was only $1.99, so all my trips were worth it. (Fortunately there’s three Schnuck’s within about five miles of us so it wasn’t that crazy to go from Schnuck’s to Schnuck’s to Schnuck’s.)

Anyway, so here’s all that stuff in a pan.

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And while it was cooling.

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Then we went to a Christmas party and I continued carbing up for the races I’m not currently running. (But will I ever have a nice base of carbs when I do run again!)

Later I continued the pie assembly with my least favorite part, rolling the dough and arranging it in the pan. I didn’t take any photos of this part; it was all I could do to get the dough rolled big enough without it breaking. Dough is not the best medium. And making a lattice out of dough–are you kidding me? I’ve never done that before and the recipe gave no tips so I winged it. I quickly discovered you have to place the pieces where you want them the first time because berry liquid is messy. I think I made it work.

Into the oven! Parts of the dough fell off while it baked. The recipe says to put a pan on the rack below the pie so I assume this is normal.

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And yeah, somehow most of the pieces that fell missed the pan. I picked them up before it set off the smoke alarm.

The crust seemed to be browning quickly so I made a foil tent about forty minutes in to slow that process.

After sixty minutes the liquid was bubbling so I took it out and let it cool.

Voila!

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Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Muffins

I made the best muffins tonight.

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I got a bag of cranberries from our produce co-op Wednesday. I wasn’t sure what to do with them but knew I needed to act quickly or I’d likely be throwing them away four weeks from now. Pinterest to the rescue!

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Muffins

I doubled the recipe because this seemed like a lot of work (mixing ingredients up and stirring, so much effort!) for just four muffins.

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And I used slightly more dark chocolate than the recipe called for because dark chocolate is delicious.

I always have trouble with recipes that say you should combine ingredients but not over mix. How much is too much? The butter didn’t seem to be combining enough so I kept stirring and resorted to using my hands to break it down further without stirring the rest too much. Finally I decided the butter would melt anyway so I just tried to distribute the chunks evenly in each muffin tin and stuck them in the oven for 20 minutes.

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I don’t know how to bake using muffin tins and not make a gigantic mess. And I’d wiped down the sides before sticking it in the oven!

The mess was worth it because the muffins turned out perfectly. Apparently I did just the right amount of mixing.

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Italian Meatloaf & Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

I’ve been a vegetarian a few times in my life; the rest of the time I’m just a really picky meat eater. I still go through phases where meat disgusts me but occasionally I completely change course and crave something super meaty.

Tonight it was Italian Meatloaf.

With a small kitchen things can get cramped quickly but I made it work. The Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider was my (delicious) sous chef.

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Puréed carrot. I love recipes where you can pack extra vegetables into them without making it taste like a salad.

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This probably isn’t a normal meatloaf pan, but it worked.

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The recipe called for turkey bacon on top. I’ll eat turkey bacon but I don’t think it tastes nearly as good as regular bacon. Since the loaf was made of low fat turkey, I figured the calories saved there justified regular bacon on top.

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Fifty minutes later:

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Meatloaf isn’t the the most photogenic food, but it sure is tasty.

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I served it with Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes.

You may notice in the photo that the potatoes have some texture issues; they’re thin and gluey. This is probably due in part to the fact I used my immersion blender on them.

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But I did some googling and it turns out the gluey consistency may be due to the fact that I added the butter and milk at the same time. That’s what the recipe said to do but I may have had better results had I added the butter, thoroughly mixed, then added the warm milk. And I accidentally added the cheese at the same time too; that was supposed to be last. Oops.

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Oh well, lesson learned. They still tasted good.

The whole meal was incredibly filling and is currently coating my stomach like a warm blanket. Comfort food at its best.