Lasagna Soup

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of recipes for lasagna soup. I don’t know if this is a new concept or not, but after looking at a recipe and realizing how easy it was (and not really knowing for sure what I wanted to make for dinner…), I decided to give it a go.

Now this is the kind of dish that makes my hubby happy. He loves tomato sauces and the comfort of lasagna. The boys are not too keen on chunks of tomato in their food (which drives me nuts because I use tomatoes a lot!) so even though they like the taste they spend half the meal digging around the tomatoes.

This soup tasted just like lasagna. It was really good. I served it with a simple salad tossed with Italian dressing and some homemade garlic parmesan toasts from some ciabatta rolls I sliced. A simple and delicious meal that came together in 45 minutes.

Lasagna Soup

1 lb ground turkey

1 tsp EVOO

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp thyme

1 T brown sugar

4 cups chicken broth

2 cans diced tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 tsp basil

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp parsley

1/2 tsp salt

7 whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken up

2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup asiago cheese, grated

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Into a soup pot put the ground turkey, onion, garlic, and EVOO. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, crumbling the meat until browned and the onions are translucent.

2. Add the thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, brown sugar, tomatoes and sauce, the broth, and the salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Break up the lasagna noodles into large chunks and add to the soup, letting them simmer until tender; about 10 minutes.

4. Add the parmesan and asiago cheeses. *You can just do 1 cup of parmesan. Stir it good and allow a few minutes for the cheese to melt.

5. Remove the pot from the stove. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.

Sorry, the pictures are not so great because it was raining cats and dogs so I couldn’t go outside.

Herb and Butter Baked Shrimp

This was so easy and delicious! It makes for a great meal any night of the week, even for guests. The only thing that was rather time-consuming was the de-veining and the de-pooping, which I highly recommend you do any time you eat shrimp at home. Seriously.

I served this meal with some leftover rice and roasted green beans from the farmers market.* Slurp!

Herb and Butter Baked Shrimp

 lb shrimp, peeled, de-veinend de-pooped (sort of butterflied)

1 stick butter, melted

1 lemon, sliced (or 1 T lemon juice)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 T basil

1 T oregano

salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Make sure the shrimp is cleaned and patted dry.

2. Melt the butter and then combine with lemon juice and wine. If using lemon slices, combine just the butter and wine.

3. Pour into prepared jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and arrange  lemon slices in the butter.

4. Place shrimp in a single layer over the butter and lemon. Sprinkle over the seasonings.

5. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Lentil and Pasta Soup

I’ve wanted to do something with lentils for quite some time. I don’t have any experience with them other than eating what someone else has prepared, so this soup was a good introduction. Lentils only take about 20-30 minutes to soften up, so you can literally make this meal from start to finish in just over 30 minutes. This is a very tasty soup to make on a weeknight when you want a warm, filling meal that doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare. Make sure you adjust the heat to your taste via the red pepper flakes.

Oh, and FYI: Number One (Mr. Picky himself) loved this soup! :)

Lentil and Pasta Soup

1 T EVOO

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

6 oz tomato paste

6 cups chicken broth, divided

1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese, plus extra for serving

8 oz orecchiette or other small pasta

1 cup lentils (or 2-14 oz cans, drained)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp thyme

1. Rinse lentils well and bring to boil in about 6 cups water. Allow to simmer with lid askew for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Discard extra water.

2. In a large skillet, heat EVOO and add onion, garlic, and red pepper. Cook on medium heat until onions are soft. Stir in 3 tbsp (3 oz) of the tomato paste and a splash of broth. Cook for a few minutes. Stir in 1 cup broth and the rest of the paste. Cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Cook pasta according to directions; drain. You can reserve a bit of the pasta water and add it to the soup if you like.

4. Add salt and thyme to the tomato and onion mixture. Either in skillet or soup pot, combine the tomato mixture with the lentils and the remaining broth. Stir in the grated cheese and allow to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and add seasonings as needed.

5. To serve, portion some pasta into a bowl and ladle the soup over. Grate some extra cheese on top.

Serve with crusty bread or crackers :)

Dessert? Why, yes, you can!

One of my favorite sites is Men’s Health. This site is full of great info on staying healthy and eating right (and what not to eat) and the best part is it applies to all people- not just men. So here is a list of 10 restaurant desserts than you can occasionally indulge in, each for under 400 calories. I think you’ll be surprised at what you see. I know I was.

I highlighted my top picks :) There are some things I’m not likely to eat no matter the calorie and fat content, such as Dairy Queen ice cream or Dunkin Donuts. So now you can have your cake and eat it, too!

#10: FRUIT DESSERT

Arby’s Cherry Turnover

390 calories 13 g fat (6 g saturated) 40 g sugars

#9: BROWNIE

Applebee’s Brownie Bite

360 calories 17 g fat (9 g saturated) 49 g carbohydrates

#8: ICE CREAM

Dairy Queen Banana Sundae (medium)

330 calories 10 g fat (6 g saturated) 42 g sugars

#7: PASTRY

Macaroni Grill Quattro Cannoli

320 calories 27 g fat (5 g saturated) 45 g carbohydrates

#6: CHEESECAKE

Jack in the Box NY Style Cheesecake

310 calories 17 g fat (9 g saturated) 22 g sugars

#5: PIE

Burger King Hershey’s Sundae Pie

300 calories 18 g fat (12 g saturated) 22 g sugars

#4: DOUGHNUT

Dunkin’ Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donut

270 calories 15 g fat (7 g saturated) 13 g sugars

#3: CHOCOLATE CAKE

Olive Garden Dark Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse & Caramel Cream Dolcini

270 calories 18 g fat (8 g saturated) 25 g carbohydrates

#2: CAKE

PF Chang’s Red Velvet Cake Mini

210 calories 10 g fat (3.5 g saturated) 26 g carbohydrates

#1: COOKIE

McDonald’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

160 calories 8 g fat (3.5 g saturated) 15 g sugars

Ultimate Baked Beans

Not too long ago my family and I attended a block party where the menu was traditional hotdogs and hamburgers. Among the array of potato chips and brownies was also a very interesting baked beans dish. Although it was served as a side to the main course, this easily could be a meal in itself. I was curious and fascinated at the same time because I’d never seen baked beans quite like this. So I asked the person who’d prepared  them how he made it, and then I tweaked it a bit and made it for dinner. You can double or triple this recipe to your heart’s content, but for my family of four I made it as follows.

Ultimate Baked Beans

1 lb ground turkey or chicken

1 tsp EVOO (not necessary if you’re using ground beef)

1 (20 oz) can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 pkg (8 oz) sliced mushrooms

4 slices turkey bacon

1 T brown sugar

1 tsp ground mustard*

1/2 tsp white pepper

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add EVOO, onions and ground meat. Begin to crumble the meat as it cooks and then add peppers and mushrooms. I would recommend chopping up the mushrooms. Cook until meat is browned, onions are translucent, and veggies are soft.

2. In another skillet cook the bacon and then allow a few minutes to cool before chopping.

3. In a large bowl combine beans, brown sugar, mustard, and white pepper. *You can use regular yellow mustard, or any type that you prefer. I just happen to love ground mustard.

4. Add the meat mixture and the bacon to the beans and combine well.

5. Bake, uncovered, at 350* for 1 hour.

Enjoy! You will be surprised how great this is :)

Shredded Beef & Black Bean Quesadillas

Quesadillas have quickly become one of my staple go-to meals. Rarely do I not have something that wouldn’t make a decent quesadilla, and usually the main ingredients come from leftovers. These particular quesadillas were made up from leftover pot roast, a (BPA-free) can of black beans, and shredded cheddar cheese. Serve with a salad or skillet veggies and some salsa on the side and you’ve got a meal that the kids will love.

Shredded Beef &Black Bean Quesadillas

leftover pot roast, shredded

1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained

4 oz. chopped spinach (1/2 block)

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 flour tortillas (whole wheat works good)

cooking spray

*I use a Foreman Grill but you could just as easily use a skillet or the toaster oven.

Heat up the grill or skillet, spray it with the cooking spray and lay a tortilla down for a few seconds to get it pliable and soft. Spoon in your ingredients and fold the tortilla over. If using a skillet make sure you flip the quesadilla so both sides get crisped.

Other Sides and Toppings:

vidalia or red onion

garlic

green pepper

black olives

avocado/guacamole

pinto beans

chicken

turkey bacon

ranch dressing

*Leave out the meat, load up with veggies such as roasted red pepper, zucchini, and onions and have a vegetarian meal :)

Chicken Schnitzel with Spaetzle

Well, I finally made it! I think I’ve put this on the last 4 monthly menus. It’s not because this is a difficult recipe to make, quite the contrary, but life has a way of getting in the way and so I’ve not been able to make this meal before now.

Spaetzle is a yummy pasta alternative. Small and firm, it goes great with a little butter, salt & pepper, and as a side to schnitzel.

Schnitzel, of course, is merely a way of cooking. Commonly made of pork or chicken, the thin cutlets are pounded to a 1/4-inch thickness and then dredged in flour, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, and then lightly pan-fried. Salt and pepper are definitely in order as they are the prime seasoning agents.

Schnitzel Recipe

3 slices day-old wheat bread*, torn

1/2 cup flour (1/2 unbleached, 1/2 whole wheat)

salt & pepper

2 eggs

3/4 cup EVOO

4 chicken breasts, butterflied (if necessary) and cut into cutlets

1. Using a food processor, pulse the bread until finely ground. *You can use panko in place of the bread crumbs, or use a combination of both. The bread crumbs give this dish a more authentic flavor so I would suggest combining the panko or leaving it out all together this time. Place in a shallow bowl.

2. Season the flour with salt and pepper and place in a second shallow bowl.

3. Whisk eggs with 1 tsp EVOO and place in a third shallow bowl.

4. Place the chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound into 1/4-inch thick cutlets. Dredge each cutlet in the flour; dip into the egg and then coat with the bread crumbs. Place on a wire rack or non-stickable surface.

5. Heat remaining EVOO in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the cutlets to the hot oil and cook, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Spaetzle

I used a boxed spaetzle. I hope you didn’t think I was going to make those from scratch! I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment yet :) The spaetzle came from Harris Teeter, though I’ve heard some stores carry a frozen version. I’ve yet to find that, but the boxed kind is not  bad. I’ve used it twice now; once for this and another time for my Chicken Spaetzle Soup. The key is to make it with chicken broth if you can and then stir in a few pats of butter before serving.

Polka Dot Pumpkins

Each year I buy different kinds of pumpkins to decorate my front porch or steps or what have you. In our last house we had great big steps that led up to the door and a small flower garden in front of the porch, so I took mini pumpkins and gourds of all sizes and colors and created a small pumpkin patch. Sorry I don’t have any pictures to share though. This picture below is a simple stack I did this year.

In years past I’ve done the cliché bale of hay in the yard (I still think this looks good if done right), decorated with pumpkins and Mums and even a scarecrow or something cute. And I often get great decorating ideas from magazines, my favorite of which is Better Homes and Gardens.

Now I’m not a real big DIY person. Mainly because I just lack the skills and when I do a DIY craft it usually looks cheesy like I’ve done it myself. But about 7 years ago I found a super cute way to dress up moon pumpkins and it was really easy. It has become one of my favorite and standard decorating ideas and I’m sharing it with you today.

What you’ll need are at least three different colored pumpkins and an apple corer, and possibly a hammer to help get the corer through tougher pumpkin skin. Make as many holes as you want, but take care not to mess up your dots. Also make sure that you’ve made the same number of holes in each pumpkin and then divide the dots evenly between each pumpkin, filling up the holes as you go.

The ones I did this year are fairly simple, each with only about 6 dots, but you could do as many as you like- the entire pumpkin if you want. But remember that these pumpkins will rot much faster, especially if the weather is still pretty warm, which it is here in NC.

Cute, right?! :)

Mexican Coffee

We love coffee in this house. In fact, hubby is a big Coffee SNOB. So when our friend Yvonne served us some awesome Mexican coffee at her dinner party, we were not disappointed! I’m not even going to go on and on about this because you are going to want to make this. Like. Right. NOW. (Seriously, you should.)

Mexican Coffee

2/3 cup course ground coffee (2 large rounds)

1 quart water

1 cinnamon stick

1 (3-inch) orange peel

3/4 cup brown sugar

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat add coffee rounds and water, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and orange peel.

2. Stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Cook for 5 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, for 5 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer into cups.

4. Serve with orange slices and some whipped cream.

Serves 4

Recipe by Yvonne

Apricot and Tequila Glazed Turkey

We’re nearly at the end of our Mexican Meal mini-series and it’s been so very tasty. Today’s recipe by Yvonne is the main course, and although I posted the Banana Quesadilla dessert first (last Friday) we are going to finish out the meal tomorrow with some amazing, delicious Mexican Coffee.

This dish can be substituted with a chicken, of course, especially if you’re not trying to eat off of leftover turkey meat for the rest of the week, plus it will also cut your cooking time down considerably. A 6 pound chicken, for example, should only take about an hour and a half, which would be plenty of time to get the other elements of the meal prepped and cooked.

This recipe has many steps so you’re definitely going to want to be well prepared at the beginning. Also you will probably want to tweak bits of this recipe to fit your own needs and cooking style, so use this as a base guideline.

Apricot and Tequila Glazed Turkey

1 (14 lb) Turkey

3-3/4 cups chicken broth

2 T Tequila

1/3 cup Apricot preserves

2 cloves garlic

Poultry Injector

1 (14 oz) can green chiles

4 T unsalted butter, melted

salt & ground pepper

2 tsp oregano

1. Preheat oven to 425*.

2. Place chiles and 2 cups of broth into a bowl and set aside.

3. Mix 3/4 cup of broth, melted butter, and tequila in another bowl. Use the injector to inject this mixture into the legs and breast.

4. Place turkey on rack, tuck wings and tie legs. Place any giblets in the pan.

5. Put chiles with liquid in the blender with the apricot preserves, oregano, and garlic; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Use 1 cup of chili puree on top of the turkey and work it between the wings, saving the rest for later. Season the bird generously with salt and pepper.

7. Add the last cup of broth to the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast 45 minutes at 425*, then reduce temperature to 350*. Baste every 20 minutes for the next 2 hours. (At the end of cooking time the bird should register internally at 180*)

8. Transfer the turkey to a plate and set aside. Strain juices in a large, heavy pan, discarding the solids and as much of the fat as you can.

9. Add the rest of the chili puree and boil for about 10 minutes, until thickened.

10. Slice the turkey meat and spoon the chile puree gravy over each serving.

Serve with Pico de Gallo, Refried Beans with Sausage, and Mexican Rice for a great Mexican meal!