Archive | April, 2014

#BetterGoodThings- Marathon Lasagna Rolls

28 Apr #BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

#BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

 

Yikes!  The disorganization of my mind is spilling directly over onto the blog.

Guess what day it isn’t?

It isn’t the third Thursday of the month.  That’s the day that Better Good Things is supposed to grace the headlines on the blog, but this month that day rolled by long ago in what was a haze of Boston Marathon prep for me (and STAAR test madness for Evin).  Just to be clear- that didn’t mean that I didn’t create and share this recipe with my family in time for my deadline… it just meant I forget about y’all.

*hangs head in shame and looks up with endearingly sad puppy-dog eyes*

I am sorry.  I’m the blogging equivalent of your super flakey friend this month.

You know the friend who always makes really ambitious, elaborate plans with you to go on a fabulous girls’ trip in the not-too-distant future and then becomes vaguely busy the closer the date grows?  Yeah.  That one.  (Which reminds me- I think I might be slightly committed to trips to both the Amalfi Coast and Vegas that I need to start side stepping out of pretty soon… because I’m totally busy… with things.)

For April, Evin and I chose to “better up” lasagna- a beloved favorite in many a kitchen- which launched us into a great philosophical debate.  Are we “easying up” healthy things or “healthying up” easy things when we are engaged in our “bettering?”  And really, how do you define healthy?  And what is actually considered easy?

Too many questions.

Honestly, who knows!  I love that we went with Better Good Things in place of Healthier or Easier because it just means that we can make it whatever the heck we need it to be that month.  Whenever we want for that matter as we’ve so proved a good 10+ days late.

As luck would have it, this month better means both healthier and easier in my book.  I created lasagna rolls that make portioning easy (hooray!) and that cut back on the fat while upping the protein ante with cottage cheese in place of obscene amounts of ricotta and mozz as well as bison in the place of beef.  It’s pretty amazing, it packs well for lunch, and it can be frozen in the pre-bake stage for later use.

To make matters even better on my end, this became the only non-bland pre-race meal my husband could stand in the week leading up to Boston so we have dubbed them Marathon Lasagna Rolls.  They will definitely keep their place on our pre-race menu from here on out!

Looking for Evin’s lasagna take?  Standardized testing for elementary students really sucks, so she hasn’t gotten around to it because cheering her son through an unnecessarily stressful testing situation is way more important than getting creative with lasagna noodles.  Everyone say a prayer, light a candle, or rake your Zen garden for The Boy over at Food Good Laundry Bad as he braves the testing gauntlet!  When she’s got hers up I’ll update and share the link.

 

*UPDATED*  Evin rocked this month with Slow Cooker Lasagna which she claims is “not a recipe.”  Part recipe, part how-to, it’s 100% genius and definitely an idea that I’m glad to have in my arsenal for busy days!

 

#BetterGoodThings: Marathon Lasagna Rolls- a healthier and easier lasagna with bison and cottage cheese

Gimme a break- Rolled up pasta isn’t inherently gorgeous… but it is really yummy!

Marathon Lasagna Rolls

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 12-15 lasagna noodles
  • 10 oz ricotta
  • 2/3 cup small curd cottage cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 jar organic marinara
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions: Heat 1 tbs of oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and cloves until soft and fragrant.  Add the bison to the pan.  Over medium/medium-high heat, break up bison into large pieces.  Add spices and cook through, breaking up into small pieces as you cook.  Season with additional salt and pepper as desired while browning meat.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add lasagna noodles, along with a dollop of olive oil, and boil for about 6 minutes.  Drain.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, cottage cheese, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and the ground bison mixture.

Grease a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil.

Working with one lasagna noodle at a time, lay out each noodle and spread with a generous 2 tbs of filling.  Roll up and place in baking dish.  Once baking dish is full, top lasagna rolls with sauce and cover with foil.

Bake at 400 for 30 min.

To freeze in individual portions: Follow the recipe directions through assembly but instead of preparing it in a 9×13 baking dish, spread them out on a cookie sheet to flash freeze them. Once they are mostly frozen (30 minutes to 1 hour), place them into freezer bags and freeze. When serving, place your preferred number of frozen lasagna rolls in a baking dish and top with sauce. Put foil over baking dish and bake at 350 for 60 minutes, or until heated through. The time will vary based on number of rolls.

Crispy Farro Bars

16 Apr Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

Yesterday evening as I was at the pharmacy picking up prescriptions I just may have purchased four Cadbury Eggs and two Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (vile I know… DON’T JUDGE ME!).  The pharmacist smiled, “Preparing for Sunday?”  I hung my head sheepishly.  I can’t and wont give Baby Bird chemical storm candy… but for me? Ugh… okay…

So they weren’t a tiny Easter stash for my child, they were for a full grown adult who knows better.

“I’ve got a toddler with hives… so they’re actually all for me.  Tonight.  Like, in the car,” I confessed, trying to shrink and disappear- digging in my purse for my sunglasses and any other suitable disguise items in case I ran into anyone on my way to the car (or as I sat in my car  binge eating candy eggs).

In lieu of judgement, he offered an earnest suggestion.  “Try making rice crispy treats!,” he said. “This started out as a rotten day.  I’ve had three rice crispy treat and somehow everything seems better!”

It didn’t prevent me from the impending Easter candy massacre, but is was a very sweet sentiment.

And I totally get it, because rice crispy treats are amazing!  Most of use grew up with them, they are inexpensive to make (even when subbing in the organic, non-GMO version of everything), and they will completely dominate a bake sale fundraiser.

Despite it’s lack of real nutritional value, the purist (organic, non-GMO) version of the rice crispy treat will always exist in my kitchen.  I’m an American.  I live in the South.  There will always be a place for it.

In our house, the humble rice crispy treat has also given birth to an elevated offspring- the crispy farrro bar!

It keeps its lineage’s simple gooey, square shaped goodness but gains depth and complexity thanks to the puffed farro and the addition of rich and slightly salty chocolate hazelnut butter.  I urge you to stay away from Nutella in this instance- eat it with a spoon and I wont judge you should you choose (remember the Easter candy debacle above) but it contains its fair share of unnecessary ingredients- including soy- which give it an unnatural smoothness and slightly mask the true flavors that make this bars a stand out.  Amidst the melty marshmallows, you want this fella to scream rich chocolate, sweet hazelnut, and malty farro.

And these will still clean up at a bake sale- even if, every once and awhile, you have to describe them as being “like eating a rice crispy treat with Nutella.”

And just like that, I have treat envy.  The pharmacist was right- I should have left the chocolate eggs and gone home to make some more crispy farro bars!

Far better than rice crispy treats... Crispy Farro Bars

 

Crispy Farro Bars

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 12-15 oz marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
  • 4- 4 1/2 cups puffed farro cereal, unsweetened

Directions: Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper

In a medium saucepan, heat butter and marshmallows over medium low heat until marshmallows are melted.  Stir in hazelnut butter until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in farro cereal.

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and press down evenly with oiled hands (Careful- it’s hot!) or with another sheet of parchment.

Allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

Let’s Eat All the Carbs!- Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

15 Apr Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

So… when I last left y’all (a short five days ago, none the less) we were on the nutrition plan of champions in this household bearing down on Boston Marathon and leaving nothing to chance- or lack of micronutrient consumption.  To hell with “if the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything” we said.  We’re going to burn the best of the best in this house!

Until The Hubs got norovirus (which, apparently, is the stomach virus of champions) and created a bonded association between quinoa and nausea. Now the only thing that sound appealing to him is ultra-refined carbs.  Ugh!

I’ll admit that this is tough for me.  When he injured his achilles and we decided it made sense for him to healthfully and safely drop some extra race weight I invested myself into the task with gusto.  It meant extra market trips, extra late nights prepping meals and snacks, and extra adorable/neurotic texts about dining decisions.  It meant sometimes prepare separate meals for he and Baby Bird.  And it meant tossing out all our standard taper menus I’ve become familiar with to recreate the wheel.  When he steps on the scale and is on track for the race weight we’ve been targeting, I feel like it’s a win in my column.

So tossing it all out and saying ‘Totally, eat all the refined carbs you want!’ seems pretty cray at this point.  There are SEVEN. DAYS. TO. GO!

Would a cold pressed, green juice IV line be an unreasonable thing to invent?

Admittedly, eating refined carbs is far better than eating nothing- the only other alternative for my poor patient who turns pale at even a mention of kale right now- and so my kitchen has become an artisanal bakery with hyper-obsessive portion control.  That is… until I DNF out of a half marathon, down a quarter of a bottle of Cab, discover a cherry chocolate bock in the outdoor fridge and need a more sensible way to finish it off…

Then it’s “Forget it, y’all!  Let’s eat ALL THE CARBS!” time in the most awesome way possible.

Like… seriously awesome.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

No, wait…

When life gives you 3/4ths a bottle of Cabernet, a lonely bottle of chocolate cherry bock beer, and the thumbs up on ripping into a new bag of all-purpose flour- make boozy jam and bread!

Cherry Chocolate Bock beer is in its heyday during winter months, but a cherry wheat (or even cherry chocolate stout if you’re feeling bold) would work just as well.  Spread your warm bread with a simple, good-quality chevre, slather with jam and enjoy.  You might even momentarily forget about your DNF, your stomach virus, or the A race you have looming on the horizon.

Carb blinders are sometimes a good thing.

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cherry Cabernet Jam

 

Cherry Chocolate Bock Bread with Cabernet Jam

Bread:

  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Cherry Chocolate Bock + 1/4 cup water, heated to 120 degrees F
  • 1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
  • olive oil
  • coarse sanding sugar

Jam:

  • 3 cups of Cabernet
  • 2 cups frozen cherries, thawed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin
  • 4-6 cups of sugar

To make Jam: If you will be canning in a water bath, prepare jars. (This makes 2 16 oz jars + some additional for immediate use)

Add cherries and all but 1/2 cup Cabernet to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, slowly adding sugar cup by cu and stirring to dissolve (amount of sugar depends on your preference for sweetness).  Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until cherries are softened and wine has begun to reduce slightly.

Add the liquid pectin and remaining half cup of wine and stir throughly to disperse pectin. Skim off any foam and continue to cook over medium heat until jam mixture will coat the back of a metal spoon of mixture spooned onto a chilled plate will firm up and gel on the surface.

Ladle hot jam mixture into prepared jars and waterbath can (15 minutes at sea level) or store in fridge for 3-4 weeks.

To make bread: In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, and cherries.  Add the liquids and knead the bread until it forms an elastic ball.

Oil a large bowl with olive oil.  Form dough into a ball and place in the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise undisturbed for an hour until doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Gently deflate dough.  Reform into a ball and place on baking sheet to rise once again undisturbed until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Gently slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife, taking care not to deflate it.  Brush top of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake bread for about 35 minutes until brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

9 Apr Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

As I recently filled you in, I’m on a mission right now to keep The Hubs feeling full while watching his race weight as we continue the countdown to Boston.  This task is far more difficult than one might expect; on one hand he is the most relentlessly driven, self-disciplined person I’ve ever met, yet on the other- as soon as it’s territory he doesn’t have to dominate (read: any and all of the choices on the food he consumes)- he very willingly relinquishes all control.  Don’t read into this as a complaint, I take great pride in the fact that such a capable, intelligent person would entrust his diet to me fully.  It does mean that I have a very important job.

It also mean that my phone features a constant feed of questions about what he can and cant eat.  Which is pretty adorable:

text collage

A donut? Are you serious?

See… adorable.

In order to keep Mr. Adorable away from the donuts on the road to Boston, I try to send a variety of tasty, wholesome snacks along each day to help keep him feeling satisfied.  Granola is the absolute easiest option since it can be consumed a variety of ways- dry as trail mix, sprinkled over yogurt or cottage cheese, layered over sliced bananas and fruit, or in a bowl with alt-milk and a spoon.

For me, granola is one of those foods it makes me sick to think of purchasing because the store bought versions are A) infuriatingly expensive in comparison to their raw ingredients and prep effort level, B) normally contain lots of unnecessary salt and refined sugar, and C) are always lacking just a little something that would make it exactly what you wanted… but that you could easily make at home in the perfect, custom manner.

Chances are, you have the basic raw ingredients hanging out in your pantry just waiting to be used.  See what I mean:

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1/2-3/4 cup nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup seeds
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit (coarsely chopped if using apples or apricots)
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt or kelp flakes
  • 4-6 tbs of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbs of coconut oil

From there you can get fancy with a pinch of this or a dash of that, but in the end it’s really all the same.  It ends up being a great way to use up odds and ends in the pantry- which is far more eco-friendly and budget conscious than buying store bought.

Granola making (and consuming) rarely looks the same way twice in this household, but I do have a favorite framework I like to work around that includes lots of fabulous seeds and other little nuggets of scrumptious goodness.  Give it a go in your kitchen, but don’t be afraid to change it up to your liking.  And- MOST IMPORTANTLY- don’t turn it into something that necessitates a trip to the grocery store… use up what you’ve got in that pantry.

Unless, of course, you aren’t yet someone who stocks oats, seeds, and grade B maple syrup. In that case, get thee to the market PRONTO!

 

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola with oats, salba, chia, pepitas, and flax

Homemade Oat and Seed Granola

  • 2 cups whole rolled oats
  • generous 1/2 cup raw almond, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 2 tbs salba
  • 2 tbs black chia seeds
  • 2 tbs quinoa (raw)
  • 2 tbs golden flax seeds
  • 2 tbs shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 tsp kelp flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbs grade B maple syrup
  • 2 tsp local honey
  • 2 tbs coconut oil, melted
  • slash of vanilla extract
  • splash of almond extract
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using a silicone spatula, toss well to incorporate.  Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, toss, and return to bake for 10-15 minutes more.

Allow to cool completely on baking pan before serving of storing.

*Frequency of tossing during cooking as well as length of cooling time will affect the size of your granola clusters.  If you like chunkier granola, toss less and allow to cool completely undisturbed.

Will keep in airtight container for about 2 weeks in fridge.

#FirstontheFirst- Stuffed Naan with Candied Red Onion

1 Apr #FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Last month’s First on the First (lobster wellington, anyone?!) gave my wallet fits.  And while his month wasn’t a budget buster, it provided challenges of a different kind.  We’re tackling naan which is 1) made with refined white flour, and 2) something I make with some frequency.  Let me expand…

If you are even an infrequent reader you’ve probably gathered that we aren’t a gluten free (or flour free) household at this point, so the “refined white flour” challenge might be slightly confusing.  The Hubs is currently battling an achilles injury less than a month away from Boston Marathon, so we are being very careful about his diet and ensuring that he not put on weight during this change in activity level.  So white flour/white sugar are no-no’s for him right now.  Given his lack of self control when it comes to home-baked goods, it also means it’s a big fat no-no in our kitchen if he is at home.

#FirstontheFirst- Homemade Naan

The thing is, I really didn’t want to explore naan baking with alt-flours.  It just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.  So I needed to bake naan in our house when The Hubs was gone but there was someone other than just me and Baby Bird around to eat it.

The other problem that presented, however, was that good ol’ white flour naan wouldn’t be a real First on the First for me since it’s a pretty common menu item in our house.  Tikka masala, Indian slaw, and garlic naan fresh off the griddle stand as a pretty satisfying meal around these parts so trying something new would mean moving beyond my beloved basic garlic naan, brushed with butter and topped with parsley.

Since I wasn’t going to waiver on the flour type, I decided to make a stuffed naan… during a playdate so someone would be around to help with the consumption issue.  I originally wanted to stuff it with ground lamb, candied red onions, currants, and cilantro… but our playdate guests were vegetarians so the lamb had to go.  I also decided that I wanted to bake it in the oven instead of on the stovetop grill as usual because it seemed like a safer option with extra sets of tiny hands roaming about.

The mix of daytime guests and vegetarian stuffing ended up being the right mix, because there wasn’t a tray full of baked goods poised to taunt The Hubs when he returned from work.  And the filling was darn good!

When push comes to shove, my preference will still be the standard garlic naan grilled hot and fluffy on the stovetop- somewhere between oven-baking and stuffing the texture changes just a bit- but this was a nice, substantial treat to now have in my repertoire.

#FirstontheFirst- Naan stuffed with candied red onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro

Naan Stuffed with Candied Red Onions, Currants, Garlic and Cilantro

  • half a red onion, minced
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs local honey
  • 2 tbs + 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • salt

Directions:  Place a pizza stone in oven.  Preheat oven to 550 degrees F (convection).

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt 3 tbs of butter.  Add onions and saute until beginning to soften.  Add vinegar, honey, and 2 tbs sugar.  Over low heat, cook for about15 minutes until syrup is thick and condensed and resembles a chunky jam.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbs of butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and remaining sugar. Pour egg mixture into the flour and stir to combine.  Pour half of the warm water into the flour mixture, using a spatula to combine.  Add the melted butter and mix again to combine.  Using your hands to knead within the bowl, slowly add the remaining water until the dough becomes well incorporated but not sticky.

Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

In a clean bowl, combine candied onions, currants, garlic, and cilantro leaves.  Stir to combine.

Melt remaining butter.

Divide dough into 4 portions.

Working with the first portion of dough, roll out slightly into a circle on parchment paper.  Place 1/4 of the filling mixture into the center, allowing at least a 1/2 inch boarder around the outside.  Dampen the edges of the dough with water and pinch together in the center to seal as though you are drawing up a purse.

Invert the dough, seal side down, and roll out once again to flatten gently.  Brush top with butter and place directly on pizza stone for 4-6 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough portions.

 

These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month: