April 29, 2011

The Search is Over!

What a beautiful day! I have been swooning over pictures from the wedding this morning, and very much looking forward to this weekend. I am photographing my first wedding, and am over the moon excited! Other good things: WE HAVE AN APARTMENT!

After looking at many places, we found one that we both fell in love with and just got word this morning that our offer was accepted. We saw so many different apartments; some needed some serious TLC, some were not in great neighborhoods, and some were rented before we showed up to view them. It's a tough market out there! It is just nice to know that we have a good home to look forward to spending the next couple years, maybe starting a family, and beginning this next stage of our family life together.

I am in such a good mood. Tell me what you love about today. What's good in your life? What are you celebrating?

April 22, 2011

Recipe: Gluten Free Lasagna

As promised, I am very excited to share with you my recipe for Gluten Free Turkey and Baby Spinach Lasagna. This recipe can be adapted however you choose. Sub ground beef in for turkey, or for a veggie lasagna, chop up some zucchini, summer squash, carrots and peas.

Lasagna is one of my favorite things to eat. I have always been more of a salty, carby-goodness comfort food person than a sweets lover (although I do enjoy my sweets), and lasagna is up there for me with clam chowder, mac and cheese, and a nice, hot cheeseburger with fries. I think I just gained 10 pounds typing that sentence. Yes, yes I did.

I am always up for figuring out the gluten free version of our favorite foods from pre-Celiac days, so lasagna was another big one to tackle. It's funny when it comes to certain foods. They bring back certain nostalgic feelings of being little and big family dinners or the local restaurant in town where you always ordered the same exact thing. You have it in your head how it's supposed to taste. You know how that first bite is supposed to make you feel. That's a lot of pressure to live up to! So certain dishes like lasagna, meatloaf, or even Thanksgiving dinner can be daunting. But cooked with love and a little encouragement from my friend here, somehow these meals come together and taste good.

Wally, the Kitchen Gnome
Another lesson in being fearless.

A lot of the meals I make I kind of whip together on the fly. I observed my mom and grandmother's cooking growing up, but let's face it, when there were play rehearsals to go to, Backstreet Boys to have dance parties to, and all the turmoil of being a teenager to deal with, cooking was never really my focus growing up. Heck, it wasn't even really a desire. I enjoyed the occasional afternoon baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies around Christmas, or assisting with making a pan of Kraft macaroni and cheese, but most of my talent in the kitchen involved setting the table. It's no one's fault, meals were just simpler when I was a kid. As an adult, I know that spaghetti is an easy meal that doesn't cost much and can feed an entire family. That's how my parents had to think. We weren't poor, but there were 3 of us kids with busy schedules, a family business that took up a lot of hours, pets, a house, and both my parents worked full time jobs (in addition to the family business, a local fishing store). Dinners had to be simple. A striper that a customer of our store caught that day, fileted and thrown on the grill. Spaghetti. Broiled chicken with corn and green beans. Fancy meals were a special occasion, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Many Sundays were spent at my grandparents house enjoying corned beef and cabbage from the crock pot.

Many days, I love simplicity. Give me a filet of beef or fish, lightly seasoned and grilled with a simple salad and maybe some roasted potatoes. You know I am a crock pot advocate. Any meal where I can throw all the ingredients in a pan and let it cook away into mindnumbing deliciousness is ok by me. So last week, I was having one of those weeks. Work was exhausting and soul sucking, we'd begun the search for a new apartment, and I have been gearing up for my first season of wedding photography. I needed simple. I needed something that would produce leftovers for 2 or 3 days. I needed comfort. So I made lasagna. A beautiful pan of turkey and spinach lasagna that made the house smell divine, and gloriously kept over the next three days.

Turkey and Baby Spinach Lasagna (click here for printable recipe)

Meat Filling
2tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1lb. of lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp of tomato paste
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Basil (fresh or dried flakes)

Cheese Filling
1 large container (32oz?) of ricotta cheese
2 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 handfuls of spinach

2 boxes of DeBoles Gluten Free Rice Lasagna (no boil - oven ready)


Meat filling - Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large skillet on the stove, heat olive oil on medium heat and add garlic and onion. When onion is cooked clear (about 2 minutes, add turkey. Work the turkey with a wooden spoon/utensil, chopping it up to cook into little pieces. Season with salt and pepper. When turkey is cooked through and chopped up in pan, add can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and a generous sprinkling of basil. Mix together and allow liquid from tomatoes to reduce/cook off.

Noodles - Fill a large bowl/kettle with hot water. Submerge lasagna noodles in water and allow to soak for about 5 minutes (until gently pliable).

Cheese filling - Combine ricotta, 1 cup of Parmesan (reserve the other cup for layering), egg, and baby spinach in a large bowl. Mix until completely blended.

Assembly - Lightly grease a large baking dish. Lay one layer of lasagna noodles down (my pan fits 3 noodles across the long way, and one noodle at the end the short way). Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Layer with a thin spread of meat mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and add another layer of noodles. Add layer of cheese filling. Repeat as follows. Noodles, sprinkle parm, meat, sprinkle parm, noodles, cheese, sprinkle parm. Your top layer will be cheese sprinkled with parm. Cover pan with tin foil and place in center of oven. Cook for 30 minutes covered. Remove tin foil and bake 10-15 more minutes until top is lightly browned and bubbly.

Allow to cook slightly before serving. The worst thing in the world is burning your mouth on the first bite of a meal like this and not being able to taste or enjoy the rest of it.

Serve with a simple salad. Depending on serving sizes, this can feed 2 people over a couple days, or anywhere from 6-8 people in one sitting.

Bon apetit!

April 19, 2011

Life is Happening

What a whirlwind couple of weeks it has been! And would you believe me if I told you the next few will be even crazier? I have figured that I do not have a 100% free weekend until the end of May. Starting with Easter and my first weddings to photograph, and a couple weekend gigs here and there, I have a feeling I'll be ready to crash and burn by the time Memorial Day rolls around. Lucky for me, we'll be on vacation that week. I plan on relaxing like it's my job. If I can spend 40 hours in one week not doing anything more than lounging and reading some books and magazines, I'll consider it a successful week.

Now more than ever I am grateful that we are meal planning in advance. I just don't have the time during the day to ponder the evening's meal, and with an hour commute home, the prospect of having to stop for groceries on the way is something I gladly kiss goodbye. Last week we made a pan of lasagna, and that allowed me 2 or 3 nights of not really needing to do much besides prepare a side salad (lasagna recipe coming soon!). Having an hour when I get home to kick back and decompress is like a little slice of heaven, let me tell you! It's also when Loki is most nutty so it's a good time to play with him and wear off the overwhelming amounts of energy that little guy has.

We have also begun the search for a new apartment. The long commutes and a few other factors have driven the desire to live closer to where we work. Gas prices and time spent commuting are huge for us right now. If we could cut the amount of money spent on gas in half I'll be happy. By 75%? Even better! So even more reason to plan ahead on the meals to allow for short notice apartment visits after work or oof, even during lunch!

So, as I have said before, I apologize for the sparseness of posts here lately. I am trying to be a better blogger, but it's increasingly more important to shut off the computer and take even 10 minutes more to play with Loki or read a book (currently working on Water for Elephants).

You should also excuse the fact that I discovered picture-taking apps for my Droid and now the world is my oyster. We'll be heading home to spend Easter weekend with our families, so if you're looking for an easy gluten-free Easter dinner recipe, check out my Mustard Glazed Ham recipe from last year!


April 3, 2011

Meal Planning (Printable Template)

As Sean and I prepare to move this spring/summer, we did the whole "sit down and figure out a real adult budget" and realized that we waste a LOT of money on groceries. I am embarrassed to post how much, so just trust me when I say it's disgusting and we needed to change our ways if we ever want to buy a house.

This morning I threw together a meal planning/grocery list template (clicky link at the bottom of this post) to help us plan out we're going to make each week based on what we already have, and then list what we need to buy. Meal planning serves a couple very important purposes:

1. Less wasted food. We are planning meals based on what we already have in the house, and maximize the groceries we're going to buy.

2. Save Money. Coupon hunting, paying attention to what's on sale in the weekly fliers and stretching food out over several meals will save us lots of $$$ in the long run. Also, we'll save on gas making one grocery run per week together. We also used to make grocery runs separately and not being aware of what the other was buying, ugh, the money wasted...

3. Save Time. I can't tell you how frustrating it is stopping at the grocery store 4 out of 5 days at the end of an already long commute. Instead of getting home by 6, I get home around 6:30 if I'm lucky. Also, it saves time each day emailing recipes back and forth trying to figure out what the heck we're going to have for dinner.

So we successfully planned out our first week of dinners, and then went grocery shopping for the week. Breakfast and lunch are already taken care of (we bring lunch to work) so $75 later, we had everything we need for the week and a menu that has variety and ease that we both want. Here's a snapshot of this week's list:

As you can see, we'll have chicken on Tuesday night, and use the 3rd piece of chicken (chicken breasts always come in packs of 3 - why???) for a risotto on Wednesday. We ended up with turkey sausages to mix into pasta on Thursday since they were on sale, and that'll make enough for leftovers on Friday. I'm rarely in the mood for cooking anything fancy on a Friday night, so leftovers will do just fine. And pizza on Saturday will round out the week nicely. We can top it with whatever is in the fridge and use the rest of the jar of sauce from tonight's pie.

If you'd like to stop wasting time, money, and food, print your own copy of this template by clicking here!