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Monday, January 26, 2015

SRC Recipe: Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I love finding new recipes. Yes, sometimes I stick with tried and true and sometimes can get into a rut, but being a part of The Secret Recipe Club helps me get out of said rut, at least once a month. I love receiving a different blog each month, browsing through, reading about the blog author and then going through her many, many recipes to choose one to make for my reveal day. I have been in Group D for a few years and in March will move to a different group. Looking forward to new recipes and new blogs to check out. 


This month I was assigned the blog Fried Ice and Donut Holes. What a great name! Melissa is the blogs author and she is a teacher who loves cooking and baking. The name of her blog came from a story she shares about her grandpa. He would tell them if they didn't behave they'd be having Fried Ice and Donut Holes (AKA nothing). Check out her blog and read more about her and her awesome recipes. 

I had pinned one recipe but then every time I went back to find more recipes I couldn't open them...not sure what the problem was with my computer. Thankfully, the one recipe I pinned was one I really wanted to make so I stuck with that one. Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls were calling my name. I have always wanted to try lasagna rolls but for some really dumb reason I thought it would be too complicated. Uh, yah, NOT! They were so easy. Add in all the other ingredients and it was a sure winner! I love that portion control is easy with these..make just enough for each person to have two, maybe three rolls. I will be making these more often. 

I did a few things different with the sauce when it came to mixing it up.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SPINACH LASAGNA ROLLS

For the Sauce:

1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the squash and cook until soft. Drain squash reserving one cup of the water. Set aside. In a skillet over med-low heat, add olive oil, shallots and garlic. Sautee until soft and golden about 4-5 minutes. At this point I placed the squash, shallots and garlic in my food processor (I don't have an immersion blender). Turn processor on and add water until you have the consistency you desire...I wanted a more saucy consistency so I used the whole cup. I should have added more salt and pepper so we did that afterwards on top of the finished product. Ladle 1/2 cup or so to the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
For the Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles, cooked (I made a few more)
10 oz. of frozen spinach (I used fresh chopped fine)
15 oz. of ricotta
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
3 oz. italian cheese blend or just mozzarella
In a large bowl combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg and salt and pepper. *NOTE: If you use frozen spinach you will need to thaw and squeeze out all liquid. Lay the lasagna noodles on a flat service, making sure they are dry (I patted mine dry with a paper towel). Spread about 1/3 c. of mixture on each lasagna roll. Carefully roll the noodle up and lay seam side down in your 9 x 13 pan. Continue with remaining noodles. Spoon remainder of sauce on top of noodles, then top each roll with cheese (I put a slice of mozzarella on each one). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Devour!
Check out other great recipes from other bloggers.  


Blogger:

With Joy UNquenchable,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A New Year and a Pot Roast Recipe

It's hard to believe that another year has gone by. 2014 was quite the year. Many changes, challenges, tears and transitions, but also much joy, fun and great times. It was year tested much of what I've said I've believed. I am looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store. I've never been a fan of resolutions, but a fan of evaluating things I'd like to do differently in the New year.

A friend of mine posted this in Regards to her feelings about the phrase "Happy New Year":



"I've never really liked the phrase "Happy New Year". It feels like a lot of pressure to think of the whole year coming up. So, in light of this, I wish you all many happy moments in each day. Really happy ones, filled with hope, with love, with thankfulness."


I love that! Another quote I really liked from the book "Improvised: How to create the life you really want":



"Life isn't a choreographed performance. It's an improvisation. If we are only performing for the applause, we've missed th whole purpose of living"


My heart is to go in to the New Year with intentionality, purpose and the ability to improvise so that I can fully enjoy all that life brings my way!! To see the happy moments in each day so that each day doesn't become mundane!

I'm looking forward to all that is ahead...and there is a lot! The biggest is that my oldest daughter is now engaged! AAAck...when did I become old enough to have a daughter getting married? I'll blog more on that another time, probably several times. I have a few things in mind to blog about this year and hopefully I'll get back on the bandwagon of blogging. Yes, I'm rattling on. 

A few weeks ago I was craving roast. It's not something I buy often because it can be a bit spendy, especially if I am looking for something that is organic, or as close to it as possible. However, the craving overtook me, I bit the bullet, and purchased two roasts at Safeway by Open Nature. My thought in buying two was that we'd have a meal one night and the rest could be used for sandwiches, etc..when money is tight I try to buy cuts of meat that can stretch over several meals, plus I wasn't really sure how much would be enough.

When my hubby and I first got married we would often go to the home of an old family friend (hubby's side) for lunch on Sundays and the wife would always make roast. It was the most tender, amazing roast I had ever had. I was so excited the day I decided to try to make one. But that excitement was quickly dashed when we sat down to eat and it was tough. No falling apart, melt in your mouth roast that day. It was a long time before I tried to make a roast again. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I've made a roast in the last 20+ years of marriage.
 The key I did learn was it's a SLOW process. These things can't be rushed! The end result it so worth it. This time I used a few processes. I started it out in the crockpot, but finished it off in the oven. Let's get on with the goodness. Now, I can't remember what kind of roast I bought...yah, sorry. It was Open Nature so there weren't a lot of options, I just picked two that looked good.


Ingredients:

Roast 
Whole garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thick
Pepper
Salt
Garlic Powder
Thyme
Oil
Onions, cut in large pieces
carrots, peeled and cut in large pieces
Potatoes, peeled and halved

Instructions:

1. Cut slits in to roast and stuff with garlic cloves, push down as far as possible. Sprinkle both sides with all seasonings.  
2. In a dutch oven or large pan, drizzle a fair amount of oil and turn on med. high. when hot place roast in pan and brown on each side. Set aside.

3. Place roast in crockpot along with vegetables. Cook on low 6 hours or till done to your desired tenderness. Check vegetables periodically to keep them from getting too tender. If placing in a roaster or dutch oven, place roast and onions in pan. Place in a pre-heated 325 degree oven and cook for 2-3 hours depending on size of roast...add potatoes and carrots about 45 minutes to an hour before you think roast will be done. 
4. In the same pan that you browned the roast in, add some of the pan drippings. Turn on medium to medium high to release the yummy pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add 1 c. water and a beef bouillon cube along with more pan drippings if needed. In a separate bowl, add a tablespoon or two of flour with some broth or milk. Add a little of the hot liquid to it and stir together till thickened. 

Honestly, it's a timing game, but if you check after a few hours and it starts to fall apart, then it's good. YUM. 



With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, December 19, 2014

Recipe: Meatball Stroganoff

 Stroganoff was something my mom made a lot of...it was fairly inexpensive, filling and not to mention one of our favorite meals. She made it several different ways, but I think one of my favorites was "meatball stroganoff". Small meatballs drenched in yummy sauce...can't go wrong there!

I decided yesterday to re-create this oh so common comfort food. I started out by getting rid of the canned cream of mushroom and making my own, based on this recipe that I used for my homemade green bean casserole, minus the parmesan cheese, but that actually would have been really good. It turned out so good. Served with some roasted asparagus and broccoli and it was a perfect mid-week meal.


Meatball Stroganoff

Meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
3-4 Tbs. bread crumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
salt if you want
1/2-1 tsp. parsley

Mushroom Sauce:

2 Tbs. olive oil
8oz. mushrooms (I used the basic mushroom but you could be creative and use whatever)
3/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. milk
2 c. half and half
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbs. chicken bouillon
1 1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
4 1/2 tbs. butter
8 1/2 tbs. flour
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. soy sauce
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (I used dried)

Additional ingredients:

1/2-1 c. sour cream 
1 Tbs. worcestershire sauce (to taste)
2-3 Tbs. ketchup (optional...my mom never used this but a friend did and it does taste good)

Combine meatball ingredients. Roll in to small balls, maybe 1/2-1" diameter. Here is a great tip for cooking meatballs. No matter what the size, once rolled, place in muffin tins (I have a large mini muffin tin and used that for my small meatballs for this recipe). Place them in a 350 degree oven and cook till done (depends on size of meatballs), but probably anywhere from 15-30 minutes. 

While the meatballs cook, prepare your cream of mushroom soup.

1. Add olive oil to the pan along with the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and a pinch of the pepper. Cook until mushrooms are brown. Remove from pan and set aside. 

2. In a separate pan, combine milk, half and half, remaining pepper, remaining salt, garlic, bouillon and italian seasoning. Whisk gently to combine. Heat to a gentle simmer. 

3. Using your original pan, add butter and melt. Gently stir in flour and stir for 30 seconds or so, then begin slowly adding back in the hot milk, stirring constantly (I like to use a flat whisk when I do this). Continue to whisk being sure to get all the lumps out. Allow to simmer and thicken for another few minutes. Turn off heat.

4. Add back in the reserved mushrooms, grated parmesan cheese, soy sauce, nutmeg and thyme. Stir well. Place soup in a blender container and blend till smooth (or leave a little chunky if you'd like).

 Obviously you can use canned soup but the homemade is just so much richer and "healthier" because you know the ingredients that are in it.

Now that you have that all done, cook your noodles. I used mini-bow tie pasta. In a large pan combine 2 c. of the cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Add in the pasta and meatballs and stir to combine. Heat through and serve. 
If it seemed a little dry, I just added more soup. Add extra seasoning if needed. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, December 5, 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Wood Beverage Coasters

Do you remember when you first heard the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? I actually think I heard it on a kids show when my girls were little. But over the years in some degree or another I have tried to adapt this motto, not always successfully, but I have tried to be more aware of using what I have, reusing items and not wasting. Pinterest has been a wonderful resource for learning how to do this, since I'm not always overly creative if left to my own ideas. I usually need something visual to inspire me.

A little while back I saw some coasters on Pinterest that were made with round pieces of a tree limb. I remember thinking, "what a great idea". A few weeks after I, myself pinned the idea, a huge branch fell onto the driveway of the lady I work for. As I stood out there cutting it up (with a hand saw), I decided to save one of the thicker branches that seemed about the right size for a coaster with the intention of attempting this Pinterest idea, because we all know that some Pinterest ideas end up as failures.
My hubby was nice enough to cut it with one of his saws (probably because it sat on our porch for so long since I hadn't gotten around to cutting it myself) and brought me in a stack of 22 wood rounds. Now, I did mess up on one thing, in that I left them stacked in the house for several days, not thinking that maybe they were damp and might need to dry out. It was several days before I realized this and I think they started to get spotty, but I decided to use them anyways. It took several days for them to dry out once I had laid them out over my heating vents.

I decided it would be kind of neat to stencil them as well as stain them. We had stencils, we had paints, we had brushes, so all I needed to buy was a small can of clear varnish, which cost about $7.00 and sandpaper, which was another $7.00 but will last awhile. Not too shabby. We might have actually had sandpaper at home and some varnish, I just couldn't remember so I just bought some. 



Once I felt like they had dried out, I sanded them a bit with a coarse paper, then again with a fine grit paper. DO NOT sand the sides. Mine had moss on them and I left it there for character. 
The stencils I had were self sticking ones which was great since this kept the stencil from moving. 
  • Place stencil in center of wood being sure it is well adhered.

  • Using either a sponge brush or a regular artists paint brush lightly brush on your paint. 
  • Allow to set for a few minutes before removing stencil. I may not have let mine sit long enough because my edges of the words weren't very "sharp".




  • Once the stencils were done and dried, I applied the varnish.
  • Using a sponge brush or a regular paint brush, apply one coat at a time, letting it dry completely in between. I let them dry a day in between each one.
  • Mine took 3-4 coats of varnish.  



NOTES: 

  • I wish the rings would have stood out more like the ones in the website picture. 
  • I would have let the stencils sit a bit longer before removing them in hopes that the lines would have been cleaner.

I'll keep some for us and give some as gifts to others. What a fun way to recycle especially from nature. To me, homemade gifts are some of the best I can receive, and if they're made using items from around the home or found at garage sales, even better. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup and Keeping Up Traditions

I love traditions, but I also realize that not all traditions  need to be nor can realistically be carried on. We get older, get married, and more traditions are introduced in to our lives, we have children and want to create our own traditions. It's not possible to keep every tradition going. That's when it becomes important to pick and choose which ones will work for your family and which ones had the most meaning to you personally. Sometimes we do things because "well, we've always done this in our family". But if we're honest with ourselves, we don't enjoy it. Why stress yourself or others out by carrying on something for the sake of tradition when it means nothing but irritation to you.

As the holidays approach, take time to re-think the things you do for the sake of tradition. Be willing to adjust your expectations so that it is a time of peace and not chaos, hustling to get everything in and do everything on the list in a certain amount of time. Keep the things that mean the most, get rid of the things that don't. Do something new and different. 

This year I'm in to "simple". Life has been a bit "un-normal" lately and adjusting to a "new normal" has been tricky. I decided that I needed to simplify things. I simplified decorations, got a smaller tree (less money and less decorations). I let go of expectations and just decided to go with the flow. I didn't even put out any fall decor. 


Growing up our family was full of traditions. My moms side of the family is Italian, my dads side Slavic and for awhile growing up in Ohio (we moved to the Northwest when I was in 4th grade), family was all around and traditions abounded (moreso on my moms side than my dads simply because the relationships were closer on that side of the family). When we moved to the Washington we brought some of those traditions with us and others we left behind. Some we tweaked to fit our family's needs. When we lived in Ohio we would visit grandparents on Christmas Eve (on my moms side of the family that meant EVERYONE visited grandparents and the house was full to capacity and included some relative dressed up like Santa). Once we moved to Washington we made a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve, often a gift that one of the grandparents had sent in the mail. My mom used to make Oyster Stew every Christmas Eve, but when I got married, my hubby didn't care for it, so I switched it up to making Clam Chowder. My sister and I, up until I was married and moved out used to sleep in each other's room on Christmas Eve and were not allowed to come out until my dad had his coffee and his cigarette. 

Once we had our own kids we began some of our own traditions. Every Christmas Eve we used to drive around and look at Christmas lights then come home and eat clam chowder served in bread bowls. Christmas morning I make Cinnamon rolls for breakfast. A few years ago (wish I had thought of it sooner) I started buying my girls ornaments and when they move out on their own, they will have a collection of ornaments to take. My mom used to buy them ornaments every year when they were little, so they'll take those along too. There are certain cookies we make each year. I also make caramel corn, and my youngest makes fudge. 

Take time to create meaningful traditions with your family, and if your kids grow up and don't carry them on, be okay with that. 

Are you sitting there wondering where the stinkin' recipe is? Okay, okay, I'll get to that now. A TRADITION in our family was the making of Italian Wedding Soup. It was served at many events in our family. Contrary to the name, it's origin did not come because it was served at weddings, but the name was "minestra maritata" which means "married soup", meaning the ingredients meld beautifully together. Here's a site that talks about it. There are many versions of this soup but there is one common thing....it bursts with amazing flavor. 

A few weeks ago I wasn't sure what to make for dinner. I had ground beef and I knew I had veggies, and for whatever reason, Wedding Soup came to my mind, so I got on my phone, called my grandma (Ma as she is known to us) to find out what the ingredients were and set off on a fun and reminiscent journey. 
I used my grandma's tips, a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis and from an old Italian cookbook a friend gave me years ago. From those three sources I was rewarded with a super yummy soup. 

I remember my mom telling a story of how her Nana DiLuciano had a large table in her basement (I think) and she would have the grand kids roll the meat in to tiny, perfect meatballs, and if they weren't the perfect size and shape she would smash them with her hand and they would have to start over. 

Ingredients:

Meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 slice bread grated finely
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese
Parsley

Soup:
8 c. chicken broth (I was out so I used water with chicken bouillon)
1/2 onion chopped (more if you like onion)
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
a couple good handfuls of escarole, spinach or kale
some form of pasta, if desired. I used mini bowtie pasta
1 egg
1 Tbs. parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. Combine all meatball ingredients. Form small meatballs, anywhere from 1/4"-1/2" in diameter and set aside on a plate.
2. Combine all soup ingredients except spinach, noodles, egg and parmesan cheese. Bring to a low boil. Drop meatballs in to soup simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. 
3. Add spinach and pasta (or whatever green you chose).

4. In a separate bowl, combine egg and parmesan cheese. Stir the soup in a circular motion, slowly drizzling the egg mixture into the moving broth. Using a fork, continue to stir to cause thin strands of egg mixture to form. 

5. Season soup with additional salt and pepper if needed. 
I don't typically measure  my seasonings unless I'm using a recipe and it specifies...I normally go by taste so feel free to play around with the amounts.  
So as you approach the holiday's, stop to think about the traditions you have. If you don't have any, I encourage you to come up with a few, enlist the help of your family to do so. 

With Joy UNquenchable,

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