Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bacon Lasagna

This recipe is inspired by one of the hard working paraprofessionals in our school. I cannot say enough about how much I value their work and dedication to the students. So, I felt the need to honor my dear lunch buddy, Meghan. Your Dad's bacon spaghetti ignited the spark for this truly awesome recipe. Hold on to your tablecloth! This is a good one!

I feel like lasagna is one of those recipes everyone needs to know how to make. You can happily feed your family, a large crowd, and entertain with this hearty, Italian comfort dish. To take this lasagna to the next level, I used bacon in place of ground beef or sausage. Yes, bacon! All I can say is it is AMAZING! I happen to love center cut bacon. It is lower in fat, but still has all of the bacon goodness that turkey bacon just can't match. I also added a little spinach. Just to sneak in a little veg.

You will want to prepare this lasagna AHEAD! Yes Mr. A- PREPARE THIS BACON LASAGNA AHEAD OF TIME! (Bold and capitalized just for you) Get it all ready, cover it, and store it in your fridge until you are ready to bake and serve. This will save you time. There is enough liquid to cook the noodles for you without having to boil them ahead of time. Preparing the dish ahead of time also helps your lasagna to not be a runny mess on your plate. Just like I dislike soggy cereal on my leftover cheesy potato casserole, I do not like runny lasagna.

Bacon Lasagna

Nonstick cooking spray
10-12 dried lasagna noodles (I used brown rice noodles to make it gluten free, but regular will work too)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu traditional)
1 cup cooked and crumbled center cut bacon
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of any excess liquid
1 15 oz. container low-fat ricotta cheese
1 15 oz. container low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded 2% mozzarella cheese

Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch or 8-inch by 12-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the bacon and spaghetti sauce. Set aside. In another large bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, cottage cheese, egg, and garlic powder until combined. Ladle and evenly spread 1/2-3/4 cup sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Layer 5-6 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce to form the first layer. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup of the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over the ricotta. Ladle and spread the remaining sauce over the cheese. Repeat noodle and cheese layers with the remaining ingredients. Cover and store in your fridge for up to 2-3 days. When you are ready to bake and serve, let the dish set out at room temperature uncovered while your oven preheats at 375 degrees. When the oven is preheated, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the lasagna. Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Bake uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble in the middle and turn lightly brown. Remove from the oven. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gluten Free Cheesy Potatoes

I'm not sure if I've ever made breakfast for dinner since I've been married to the Bear. Actually, I don't think I've ever made breakfast for dinner at all since I moved out of my parents' house. It's not that I don't like it. I love breakfast. It's just that I don't ever think about it for dinner. Normally I'm thinking about making dinner things. For some odd reason while planning the menu this week, I thought it would be a fun use of leftovers for my cheesy potatoes.

Growing up, my mom and dad called cheesy potatoes "South Pacific Potatoes." I'm not really sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the railroad? When I hear South Pacific, I picture pineapples, soy sauce, and rice. Anyone else at any potluck I've ever been to called them "Party Potatoes" or just plain old "Cheesy Potatoes." Regardless, these potatoes typically are made with a can of condensed soup, cheese, shredded potatoes, butter, and crunched up cereal. They are best consumed the day of making them unless you don't mind soggy cereal the next day. To make my cheesy potatoes gluten free, I took the cereal and condensed soup out of the equation. This allowed me to scale back on the calories too. If you are looking for a different, gluten free version or want to enjoy the leftovers without the soggy cereal, you should give them a try!

Gluten Free Cheesy Potatoes

1 30 oz. bag frozen shredded potatoes or hash brown potatoes
1 16 oz. container fat-free or light sour cream
1 8 oz. brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, sour cream, cream cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, the dried minced onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly into your casserole dish. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese. Cover with a piece of foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble in the middle and brown around the edges. Remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peach & Bourbon Glaze

This year, the Bear and I celebrated Easter at home. We did not travel back to Iowa. I was a little sad about all of this, but we did talk on the phone to our family. I missed seeing the kids on their Easter egg hunt. Maybe next year we will be able to make it back and not miss any of the fun. At least we had this awesome feast to enjoy...

To be honest, I've never made a ham before. This year was not any different. Since even the small hams at the store would have been a little excessive for just two people, the Bear and I settled for these smoked pork chops. They had all the great flavor of ham, but in a smaller portion. The glaze though, the glaze took it over the top. While this might sound like a complicated process, it really was not complicated at all. All you need is a little peach preserves and bourbon. Two ingredients. That's it.

Peach and Bourbon Glaze

1/4 cup peach preserves
1 tablespoon bourbon

In a small dish, whisk the peach preserves and bourbon together. This glaze can be used with poultry, pork, or fish. If you are grilling, simply place your meat of choice on the grill and brush a little of the glaze over the top of the meat. When you are ready to flip and cook the other side, simply brush a little more of the glaze on. A little more once you pull the meat off the grill is great too. You can also use this glaze if you are pan cooking, broiling, or baking your meat. Follow the same process. It is delicious!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Teacher's Lounge Inspired Menu Post

Well, the steak tacos from last night turned out just fine with the exception of me burning the tortillas. They really turned into tostadas/ broken tortilla chips. I got a little preoccupied with enjoying my Friday libations and conversing with the Bear on the patio. Lesson learned. Keep an eye on tortillas when you are heating them up in the oven;). If you are looking to make these lovely tacos yourself, all I did was marinate 1 rib eye steak in 1 tablespoon olive oil mixed with the juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon taco seasoning. I let it all marinate for about 20 minutes before we threw that puppy on the grill. We then grilled the steak for 5 minutes per side, sliced it up thin, and served it over my very crispy tortillas topped with my Cilantro Lime Slaw.

Before I get preoccupied with weekend things such as grocery shopping, laundry, lawn work, and cleaning, I thought I should get the menu posted. I know many of you have a very busy Easter weekend without a lot of spare time. This week's menu post is all inspired by lunch time conversations in the teacher's lounge. While a teacher's lunch may be humble, we really do love food. We just don't have a lot of time to enjoy it. So, we talk about all of the things we'd rather be enjoying during our brief lunch time.

First up for this week is my Easter Sunday meal. I plan to make a traditional ham dinner for the Bear with a bourbon and peach glaze and cheesy potatoes. My principal was pretty proud to tell us all about making cheesy potatoes and I thought that sounded good too. For my meatless Monday meal of the week, I plan to use those cheesy potatoes as a base for a little breakfast for dinner with a side of springtime asparagus. Next up is a meal I'm pretty excited about. One of the paraprofessionals I eat lunch with is always talking about her dad's bacon spaghetti. This conversation comes up whenever spaghetti is on the school lunch menu. I thought this sounded pretty tasty, so my spin on her favorite meal is a bacon lasagna. Finally, to top the week off I plan to make my friend Jenny's sweet Asian glaze for some healthy chicken and veggie kabobs. It should be a fun week of meals that are all inspired by my dear friends at my school. Here is the rundown:

Sunday 4/20            Peach & Bourbon Glazed Ham w/ Cheesy Potatoes & Salad

Monday 4/21           Easy Eggs Over Leftover Cheesy Potatoes & Asparagus

Tuesday 4/22           Leftovers

Wednesday 4/23      Bacon Lasagna w/ Salad

Thursday 4/24          Leftovers

Friday 4/25               Chicken & Veggie Kabobs w/ Sweet Asian Glaze & Snap Peas

A list of most of the items you will need from the grocery store:    

1 small ham or ham steak
1 package center cut  bacon
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on size)
1 bunch asparagus
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 bunch green onions or chives
1 inch knob ginger root
1 bag fresh snap peas
1-2 bags of your favorite salad blend
1 small jar peach preserves
1 container grated Parmesan cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 box GF lasagna noodles
1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes
1 box frozen chopped spinach
Light butter
1 container ricotta cheese
1 container cottage cheese
1 container light or fat free sour cream
1 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
1 bag 2% shredded cheddar
1 bag 2% shredded mozzarella

Pantry items you will need:

Nonstick cooking spray
Brown sugar
Sesame oil
Gluten-free soy sauce
Garlic powder
Dried minced onion

One more quick note, I will be making the lasagna ahead of time. Our curriculum specialist told me he loves the blog, but I really need to make sure if something is make ahead that I capitalize, bold print, and state that it is a make ahead dish. This is not the first time I've heard this. If you see any of my recipes that are make ahead dishes, you will want to make them ahead of time. Otherwise, the no boiling technique will take additional time due to the noodles not absorbing some of the liquid beforehand. I hope you all have a great weekend! Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

GF Meatball Subs

I actually made a very similar recipe about two years ago this exact same time of year. Sometimes you just need a repeat right? This time, however, I took some major short cuts.

Above is the original picture I took almost two years ago. At this point in my blogging career, I think my skills had sharpened significantly. 2012 was my breakthrough blogging year. I had been gluten-free for one year at that point. It is really hard to believe that I've been gluten-free for 3.2 years now. Time really flies!

I'm going to go ahead and suggest the original Slow Cooker Meatballs in Marinara recipe; however here are my suggested shortcuts for this go-around. For starters, I did not use my slow cooker this time. I used the microwave. Second, I used pre-made meatballs instead of making my own. I used chicken, but beef, turkey, or whatever will be fine. If you are gluten-free you already know you will want to read ingredients to make sure there is no gluten if you choose to go this route. I also did not make my own sauce this time either. I used stuff straight out of the jar. Ragu to be exact. Ragu recently took a liking to my blog this winter and has given me a little publicity, so I thought I'd give a shout out. Below you will find my shortcut version.

GF Meatball Subs 

1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen meatballs
4 slices 2% provolone cheese
4 gluten-free submarine rolls (I use Shar brand. If you are not GF, any regular sub roll will do)

Preheat your oven to the low broiler setting. Place the spaghetti sauce and meatballs in a  large, microwavable safe dish. Cover and heat in the microwave for 5 minutes or until the meatballs are no longer frozen and are cooked through. Remove from the microwave. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil. If you are using foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the submarine rolls in half or split down the middle. Top the bread with the meatballs, sauce, and cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese begins to melt and bubble. You will want to keep an eye on things when using the broiler as things can burn very quickly. Remove from the oven and serve.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chickpea & Rice Tomato Soup

While it was a bit chilly today in Kansas City, the afternoon was absolutely gorgeous. I said to one of my colleagues as we were heading to our cars after work that I have absolutely no excuse whatsoever not to get my biscuits out on a run. It's been a couple of weeks. I really haven't run since the Diva Dash, but I forced myself out and it was worth it! Worth every single beautiful mile. I started out feeling like I was dogging it a bit. The bountiful spring scenery kept me going and then I felt my stride get stronger and stronger. I managed to shave off five minutes from the last time I hit the trail. 

Now that I've got my run completed, my stomach is growling for some leftover soup. I cannot wait to dig into this again tonight.

This is not your average tomato soup friends. Not that I find tomato soup boring. I love tomato soup. I really liked straight up condensed Campbell's tomato soup out of the can. Unfortunately, after going gluten-free I discovered it is condensed with a ton of wheat in it. This is disappointing news for the average Midwesterner. Instead of being sad though, I've considered making my own tomato soup an adventure. I'm happy with my adventure. You can make this a simple culinary adventure too if you are looking for something a little healthier. Consider this your twist on traditional tomato soups. Consider it an exploration to try some new, unique spices that you've maybe not tried because you've "never heard of that." Trust me, you might find out you like it.

Here I've taken my traditional tomato soup base- diced onion, 1 clove minced garlic, carrot, and celery sauteed in a little extra virgin olive oil and cooked with chicken broth, 1 can diced tomatoes, and a can of tomato paste- and added a kick. Chickpeas and rice bulk this soup up to make it an entree. Ground cumin, coriander, and garam masala add the unique and spicy twist. Cumin adds a warm, smoky depth. Coriander adds light citrus notes. Garam masala adds more warmth without burning your mouth. I happened to by my garam masala blend at Super Target, but you could also try Whole Foods, Penzy's, or an Asian or Indian market. It is worth adding to your spice cabinet!

Chickpea and Rice Tomato Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow or white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup instant brown rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and chickpeas. Stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer and then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to so you do not scorch the bottom of the pan. Add the rice and the remaining ingredients. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until the rice is soft. This soup can be made ahead and reheated or served immediately with your favorite sides. We enjoyed ours with salad and garlic bread. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cranberry-Jalapeno Mayo

What a fantastic weekend! We did not really do anything too special. Saturday we woke up bright and early to head down to the Grass Pad. If you are looking for a good laugh, you can click on the link which will take you to their website. Here you can watch their commercials. They crack me up! Anyway, we bought some sod to take care of some areas that were hit pretty hard by ol' man winter. We also cleaned up around the yard. Later we spent time on our patio grilling and enjoying libations. It has just been nice to enjoy spring.

Since grilling season is here, I thought I'd share a condiment recipe with you. Over spring break, I ate at Grameracy Tap in Des Moines. I enjoyed a very tasty chicken burger without the bun. Now, I've recreated the dish so I can enjoy it at home.

I used Weight Watchers Chicken Burgers as they are a nice convenience food for the price. Any burger- beef, turkey, or chicken would be just fine if you cannot find the Weight Watchers burgers at your grocery store. The chicken, however, pairs very well with the cranberry-jalapeno kick. If you are looking for a flavor packed condiment to spice up any burger without a ton of calories, I highly suggest this mayo!

Cranberry-Jalapeno Mayo
inspired by Grameracy Tap in Des Moines, IA

1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used Hellman's)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Serve as a condiment for burgers, sweet potato fries, or as a dip for tortilla chips. Enjoy!