Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vegetable Lasagna - the No Boil way

Are you turkeyed out yet? Maybe just a little? Here is a convenient one-pan-meal that you can easily make for $10 or less.

I came across a recipe for "No Boil" Lasagna several years ago and since then I have not boiled one lasagna noodle. It's the best way to make lasagna and cuts the prep time in half if not more. You do not need to buy special noodles since the key is to have a little extra liquid in the mixture as well as sealing the pan tightly in foil to allow the steam to build and cook the noodles.

This is a veggie version that Hubby and I cobbled together over the years - we love it because it has a lighter feeling than a meat lasagna and the leftovers are delicious! You can use any combination of vegetables you have on hand - fresh or frozen. When we made this last week we only had onion and mushrooms and it still tasted great.

I submitted the recipe to Recipezaar so you can see it there, or I have included it below.

Noelle's No Boil Vegetable Lasagna - $8

8 lasagna noodles (1/2 of a 1 lb package) $2
1 (15 ounce) container small curd low fat cottage cheese $3
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese $1
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen broccoli (thawed and drained)
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce, any flavor (read the label on your jar for ounces - many are 24 oz; if so add a little more water)
2 cups (8oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese $2

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine cottage cheese, Parmesan, eggs and basil; mix well.

Heat olive oil over medium heat; saute garlic and onions for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rest of vegetables and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add veggies into the cottage cheese mixture and mix well.

Spread 1 c of pasta sauce in bottom of a 13x9" baking dish and spread evenly. Layer with half each: uncooked lasagna noodles, cottage cheese mixture, remaining pasta sauce and mozzarella.

Repeat layering.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour.

Uncover; bake an additional 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

An especially appropriate quote for Thanksgiving, don't you think?

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

—Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day founder

Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Ever Giveaway

UPDATE: As of Dec 2 the shoes are clean! Congrats to theredqueen who guessed Dec 1 and was the closest guess we had. Your prize will be coming shortly!

This is what I came home to last weekend after Hubby and my little guy where doing yard work. Both of their shoes tossed outside along the driveway. Can you guess what is on them?? Come on, take a guess............

Nope, not mud. It's worse, much worse.

It's dog poop.

The good news is that the shoes have made it from the driveway to the back deck. The bad news is they are still in their less-than-dignified condition four days later.

Here is the giveway part - how many days do you think it will take Hubby to clean BOTH pairs of shoes and return them to the inside of the house? Count days starting from November 15, the day the poop incident occured.

Winner gets.... something yet to be determined but it will be a worthwhile little prize - possibly a handknit item from yours truly. One entry per person please :-)

So get to posting your guesses!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Giving Thanks to Mother Earth

Thanksgiving is coming - time to pull out the nice dishes, silverware and linens, right? How about taking a minute to make a few changes in some of your preparation in order to be a little more gentle to our environment?

Just in case you do actually have flatware that needs to be polished and will be serving coffee with the pumpkin pie check out these tips from my Living Green: 365 ways to make a Difference Page-A-Day Calendar (email edition)

"Want to shine up the silverware for Thanksgiving without resorting to the petrochemicals in silver polish? Just boil a few strips of aluminum foil in a pan with baking soda and put the tableware in the simmering water. Presto—off comes the tarnish. Dry thoroughly and buff to a high gloss"

Speaking of aluminium foil...

"Holiday cooking seems to spawn a lot of used aluminum foil. It may not have occurred to you, but it can be recycled, just like beverage cans. Check with your local recycling authority. Most want it rinsed off first."

And for those of you that brew your own coffee:

"Dioxin is among the chemicals that go into making bleached coffee filters; a study from Ohio’s Wright State University shows that the chemical leaches into the coffee. Buy widely available unbleached filters, or sidestep paper altogether by going for cloth or gold-plated metal filters."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


“A clear stream, a long horizon, a forest wilderness and open sky—these are man’s most ancient possessions. In a modern society, they are his most priceless.”

—Lyndon B. Johnson

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Domestic Diva

This was one of those really busy but refreshingly domestic weekends. A weekend full of time in the kitchen like I used to have BEFORE having children. Ironically now that I have a bigger family that could actually benefit from my love of cooking I don't have nearly as much time to actually do it. However, this weekend I was able to make a big batch of apple butter, bake a pie pumpkin and freeze the puree to use in our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and whip up some homemade soup. Hubby wanted Chicken and Dumplings but I wanted to try and avoid using any canned soups and the recipe he loved so much uses 2 cans of cream of chicken soup in the recipe. Instead I cobbled together my own version which isn't so much stew-like but is a soup - not creamy but still yummy! And it qualifies as one of my "Meals for $10 or Less" - especially so since I snagged a 6 lb Perdue whole chicken on sale for 99 cents/lb. In reality after you buy the chicken you should have most of the ingredients on hand to make this healthy, hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soup.
Homemade Chicken and Dumplings Soup - $8.98

1 whole chicken - appx 3 lbs ($6)
2-3 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
3-4 celery ribs washed and cut into chunks - use the leaves if you have them $1
1 lb carrots (divided) washed; half cut into rough chunks, half cut into bite-sized pieces - 79 cents
1 large onion, peeled and quartered - 69 cents
2 medium red potatoes washed and diced into bite-sized pieces - 50 cents
Additional veggies to taste (optional)
Chicken bouillon cubes (optional)
  • Rinse the chicken; reserve the giblets for another use. Place chicken in a large stockpot or Dutch oven; cover with water adding the sea salt and other spices, rough cut carrots, celery and onion. Bring to a boil and then simmer until chicken is cooked through. When tender, remove chicken to a platter and allow to cool . Remove meat from bones and set aside.
  • At this point I like to let the broth cool so the fat will gel and you can skim it off with a large spoon (or if it's cold outside do what I did and put it on your deck for an hour or so). After skimming the excess fat start to warm the broth up again. When it's warm strain the broth to remove the whole spices and cooked veggies; discard these and return broth to the pot. Taste it - if it tastes weak I cheat and add chicken bouillon cubes until I get the full chicken soup flavor I am looking for. If the chicken flavor is good then adjust seasonings to taste and add the bite-sized pieces of carrot and potato and as much cooked chicken as you like. I usually also add frozen peas; tonight I added frozen green beans and frozen corn because I had them on hand. Return the soup to a gentle boil. In the meanwhile make the dumplings.
Dumplings - these are rolled dumplings which taste like homemade noodles (not to be confused with a biscuit or drop dumpling which has a cakier texture like a biscuit).

2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 c hot chicken broth
1 egg
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Make a well and pour in 1 c of hot chicken broth, mixing first with a fork then with your fingers. Add the egg and mix well. Add additional flour as needed until the dough is workable.
  • Knead the dough for a few seconds on a floured board. Separate the dough into 4 or 5 parts; roll each section into a thin roll. Cut into 1" - 2" pieces and drop dumplings into the boiling soup. Stir and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Test carrots and potatoes for tenderness and serve.

Working backwards in my cooking spree, yesterday we decided to make a dent in the 1/2 bushel of apples we picked at the orchard last month, so we made Apple Butter. It's a fun recipe to make with kids if you have a crank-style apple peeler.

My daughter quickly took over the job of peeling while my little guy was happy to watch and eat apples.
We used a recipe similiar to the one we made earlier this year - it turned out dee-licious and since it cooks all day in the crock pot you get the additional benefit of having your whole house smell like apples and cinnamon. I love putting it on toast; the only thing that would have been better is if I had been able to squeeze in making a loaf of homemade bread in my domestic delirium.
Surprisingly my girl and I had a little down-time too, probably during one of Hubby's 4 trips back to Home Depot.
We discovered that we both enjoy Oreos with milk. She even likes to dunk them which I find especially cute. Yes, that's my girl.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Falling... part II

Another fall tradition is the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival - a fun, small-town fest that I have been going to on and off for almost 20 years. (Yes, that hulk you see above is made entirely of pumpkins!)

The original draw for me, as a young single person, was getting outside, eating some roasted corn or other festival goodies and looking at all the original ideas the pumpkin carving/decoration contest participants had some up with.

There is a theme every year - I think this year it was "Pumpkintopia" but don't quote me on that. The entries are all separated by age but I'm always impressed by the level of creativity and effort that everyone puts into their pumpkins.

Then, after I had children the parade was just as big a draw...

My daughter made a new friend and 45 minutes later they were holding hands and walking to the parade. I love seeing how easy it can be for kids to get along like this - an hour earlier they hadn't even met and now they were pals walking hand-in-hand!

Settling in for the parade - apples in hand (picked two weeks earlier) and life was good. It was cold and very windy - notice the layers, hats and gloves - but the kids didn't mind. They had no recollection that two weeks earlier, in the apple orchard, they were wearing shorts and had red cheeks not from the cold but from the sunny and a-little-bit-humid October day.

Everyone loves a parade! My little guy didn't want to leave even though his hands were turning purple.

The car ride home was blissfully quiet - always the sign of a very good day...


You know it's fall when we head up to Wisconsin to go apple picking. You couldn't tell weatherwise but it was mid-October when we went. Last year it was terribly hot and humid - it felt like the middle of August, not October.

This year it was better - still not the cool, crisp fall-like weather but a bright, happy day nonetheless. The trees were bursting with apples high ...

... and even low enough that a 21-month-old could pick his own.

It's always a fun time - the whole apple picking activity says "Yay, it's Fall!" even if the weather is warm enough for shorts. There are hay bales, cider doughnuts, turning leaves, a tractor-drawn hayride to the orchard and who could resist climbing on the ladders even if you have a Daddy on hand to lift you into the trees...

Oh, and the apples! Nothing tastier than a fresh apple that you picked off a tree with your own two little hands.