Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Lasagna

I thought this was great! I made it just like I would have made a 'regular' lasagna but instead of beef I used mushrooms and I added some spinach in with the ricotta. I only prepared this in an 8"x8" pan because I knew there was a chance my husband wouldn't like it. (He ate it but it wasn't his favorite, I knew going in that he didn't like ricotta or cooked spinach.)

What you will need:

No boil lasagna noodles
1 jar of your favorite sauce
1/2 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 pounds mushrooms, use your favorite (I used button and cremini)
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves or garlic, minced
2 cups mozzarella, shredded

Clean and chop the mushrooms, (I did half fine and the other in larger pieces) sauté with the olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning. While the mushrooms cook, mix the spinach with the ricotta and Parmesan. Set aside.
Start layering. Put sauce on the bottom, layer the noodles followed by the ricotta mix, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese then more sauce. Continue until the pan is full. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 min. Until hot and bubbly.

This can easily be made ahead, you will just need to lengthen the cook time slightly.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Balloon Birthday Cake

My son just turned two, he has been really into the movie UP and balloons in general. We were even characters from the movie for Halloween, I was Kevin and my son was Russell. But anyway on to the birthday...

I have been thinking about his cake for a while, last year I made sesame street cupcakes. I thought awhile trying to figure out what would make good balloons, cake pops ended up being the answer. This was my first time making them and I need to work on my covering skills. This was also my first time using fondant to cover a cake, it was a little harder than I thought it would be, it was my arm work out for the day!

Well because of time I "cheated" and used box mix for the cake. I used yellow and chocolate, even though my son only wanted chocolate. He also helped me make the cakes. I made two 9" round cakes (one in each flavor) and the rest of the cake we put in a 13"x9" pan, which my son decided to make marbled. The 13"x9" was used for the cake pops (directions follow). Once cooled I layered the 9" round cakes with a layer of white frosting between, I then covered the cake with more white frosting (tinted blue). I bought pre-made fondant, it was by Wilson and is ready to roll. I had blue and green that was never used from last year, and I bought new white. I rolled out and covered the cake with the white and then added "jungle grass" in green around the cake. It didn't turn out quite like I pictured in my head, I guess that is what happens when you try new things with a time constraint.

Cake Pops:
One 13"x9" sheet cake
About 2 cups of icing
Melting chocolate (I used Wilson brand)
Lollipop sticks
Styrofoam block

In a large bowl crumble the cake and add the icing. Mix well, I used my hands. Shape the mixture and place on a sheet pan lined with wax paper. Place in the refrigerator to harden, you could also put in the freezer if you have less time. Once the cake is firm, melt the chocolate (use directions on the bag). Dip the stick in the chocolate then carefully insert it into the cake. Cover the cake with the chocolate, by dipping or using a spoon. Stick it in a styrofoam block to dry. Repeat until all cake is used, I made about 2 dozen.  The amount will depend on the size you make the pop.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adventures in Training #1- Preview/Background

This past year I have been on a quest to lose weight and get healthier. While on this quest I have made a point to run two 5k's. Now if anyone knows me, I have spent the last 30 years of my life doing everything possible NOT to run. When I played sports (which wasn't much) I was playing defense in soccer or first base in softball. I got motivated by the fact I lost weight after my son was born, mostly due to breast feeding I'm sure, but I never went back to my pre-baby weight. I decided that that was the motivation I need to keep losing. At my heaviest I was 210 and wearing a size 18, no woman ever wants to be in the 200's, but now I am 172 and in a size 12/14. I'm sharing this because I'm proud of what I have accomplished! Trust me I wouldn't usually share my weight, no woman ever really would.

The reason I am deciding to write this blog, which will be a series (I hope), is because I have signed up for my first triathlon. A triathlon! This is something I will need and want to train for and not just wait until two weeks before and say "oh know I better do something". So I am going to try to keep a log or journal of my 'adventures' if you will. Now, I probably won't start really training until the spring but wanted to put it out there. I do feel I need to at least do something so spring won't be too much of a shock. The race is August 19th so I have time. I also will be doing this with my sister which is super exciting!

One hope by doing this is that it will help keep me motivated to reach my goal weight (150). Mixing up swimming, running & biking should also help. But right now my main focus is to find somewhere to swim. There is the Y or local colleges but like everything schedule and moreso price will be a factor. My hope is the Y because there is one near my house and near work. I would like to be able to swim at lunch so I can still have family time when I get home. In reality I would love to do it before work but because Nic goes in to work so early that isn't possible since I have Thomas. I am also starting to think about all the other things I need.  Luckily I have a GREAT support system and friends that are willing to let me use their road bike, (mine is a heavy hybrid).  But, I still need to get a swimsuit (and all the swimming accessories), a bike helmet and I would like to get a trisuit.  (So if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas or my birthday, wink, wink.)

(this post will also be blogged on my MyFitnessPal blog, so if you are a member you call also read it there or friend me.  My user name is choy1280)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade Applesauce & the Joy of Canning

Last Saturday my family and I went to Shaw Orchards to have our pictures taken, (by Gracie Jane Photography) and after we we finished walking around we went in the store. Gracie was telling me about the orchard's 'seconds' so I decided to buy some.

The 'seconds' are basically apple that just aren't as pretty as the rest, maybe have a bruise, but are perfect for making applesauce or butter. So when we got back home I decided to make applesauce. Because I didn't want to stand by the stove all day while the apples broke down I decided to make it in my slow cooker, which made it super simple. All you need is:

-about a dozen apples, peeled cored and cut into large chunks
-1/3 cup of sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp all spice

Put every thing in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 3-4 hours. Checking at the 3 hour mark for softness. I use a potato masher to mash the apples because we like chunky applesauce. If you like a smoother consistency, work in batches and purée in a food processor or blender.

Now, my adventures in canning. Well it wasn't really too much of an adventure, it was quite easy actually. This was my first time, but it won't be my last!

Keeping the applesauce on warm, I prepared my jars. I simmered the jars and lids in water to sterilize them. Once that was finished, I filled the jars leaving 1/2". (I looked on www.freshpreserving.com for times.) I then placed the lids on, finger tight and placed in boiling water for 20 minutes. Then let then cool and check the seal 24 hours later to make sure the seals were good. Easy peasy!

This was my first ever canning experience and I was pleasantly surprised, I was expecting it to take longer for some reason.  But come summer I hope to be a canning fool.