We’re over halfway through the Challenge, folks. Honestly? Today was the best I’ve felt so far. Maybe it was because I got to see Mike. Maybe it’s because I realized that we probably have enough food for the week. Either way, I’m going to go to bed happy and a little less worried tonight.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for spinach tofu lasagna rolls. Yes, tofu. Keep reading. Mike had the lasagna rolls during Day 3 of the Challenge. I asked him what he thought of the tofu and he just stared blankly at me… “what tofu?”
Apparently he thought it was just (really bad) ricotta! Well, surprise – there is no ricotta in this, either! I subbed in low fat cottage cheese (easier on the wallet and on the waistline) and mixed in plenty of good-for-you spinach.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, and set aside on a large baking sheet to dry out slightly.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds. Add tofu and spinach and cook, stirring, until spinach wilts, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in cottage cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. To make the lasagna rolls, place about 1/4 cup mixture on a noodle and spread across the entire noodle. Roll up and place the roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and filling.
Spoon remaining sauce over top of the lasagna rolls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.
Day two is done. For me, it was just as weird as the first day. I wasn’t feeling 100% like myself due to the obnoxious cold I get hit with. Here’s what I ended up eating:
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: peanut noodles with shredded chicken and veggies
Snack: cottage cheese
Dinner: peanut noodles with shredded chicken and veggies
To drink: crazy amounts of peppermint tea sweetened with a bit of agave, water with lemon
So let’s move on to what I’ve been eating the past few days: peanut butter noodles with chicken and veggies!
This dish was crazy easy and it’s super customizable. I used bell pepper and carrots as my veg in this dish, but just about anything you have on hand will work. Feel free add more soy sauce, if desired. I only used 2 teaspoons because I ran out and didn’t budget for it in my SNAP Challenge budget. The most time-consuming part was cutting all the dang carrots up. I didn’t have my mandoline or grater with me, but I highly suggest you use one to make prep a little easier. Alternately, just chop the carrots up. A little less pretty, but just as tasty.
Another bonus? The noodles taste stellar hot or cold. I opted to eat mine mostly hot since it made my throat feel better, but you just follow your heart (stomach? taste buds?) and do as you wish!
Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken and Vegetables
2/3 cup natural creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sriracha, more or less to taste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Place chicken in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until no longer pink in the middle and internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 12 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred with two forks.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 2/3 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, garlic, and ginger. Whisk in 2/3 cup of hot pasta water to thin sauce. Taste, and add more soy sauce and sriracha if desired.
Toss pasta, bell peppers, and carrots with peanut sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Char siu, or Chinese BBQ roast pork, brings back really fond memories for me. I remember seeing huge slabs of roast pork hanging from windows in restaurants or at grocery stores. I remember stuffing my face full of buns filled with the sweet-salty succulent pork.
I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome this pork smelled as it was roasting away in the oven. I might go so far as to say that it beat any cookie, cake, or pie smell that I’ve ever created in my kitchen. Seriously. It was that good.
I think I spent the majority of the cook time staring all googly-eyed into the little oven window, watching this pork cook up into what I can only describe as heavenly. If you’re looking for a little happiness in your life, you’re in luck. I’m bringing it to you in the form of some Chinese roast pork.
This little piggy… turned out awesome. Stay tuned for part two when this little piggy gets turned into some char siu bao (Chinese roast pork buns). Yeehaw!
Cut pork into 3-inch thick strips lengthwise. Place pork into a large zip-top bag and set aside.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined. Remove 1/2 cup of the marinade into a container. Cover and refrigerate for later use.
Pour the remaining marinade into the zip-top bag. Make sure pork is evenly coated with the marinade. Squeeze excess air out of the bag and seal it. Place bag into a baking dish and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours).
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with foil and place a metal baking rack on top. Remove pork from marinade, letting excess marinade drip off. Place pork on rack, making sure the pieces don’t touch. Bake the pork for 20 – 25 minutes on each side, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Baste pork with half of the reserved marinade. Move the oven rack to the top third and turn the broiler on. Return the pork to the oven and cook for a few minutes on each side or until the pork is slightly charred.
I have a secret: I made this dish months ago. Back when spring was barely showing its face in Wisconsin. I took one bite of the salad and knew that this was going to be absolutely perfect for summer. The salad was delicious back in the spring when it was made from not-quite-in-season veggies. Now that it’s summer, I urge you to take advantage of the delicious, local veggies at a farmers’ market near you. I walk through the Appleton or Madison market every week and the bountiful produce makes my day. I can’t eat this salad right now (it doesn’t fit into my diet quiet yet), but I can dream about it. I’m hoping that my food issues get sorted out before the summer is over so I can take advantage of the fresh veggies from the market and in my garden.
Mediterranean Chopped Salad
1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 small red onion minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 romaine heart, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Ground black pepper
Place cucumber and tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and gently toss to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, onion, and parsley; toss to combine and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Add romaine and feta and toss until ingredients are evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste before serving.
I can’t really remember how (or why) I started making biscotti. But for as long as I can recall, my mom has always requested biscotti as her gift for just about everything – birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas… Thanksgiving?
I usually make some sort of chocolate biscotti, but this time I opted for something new – pistachios + dried cherries. How did it turn out? Amazing. Better than any of the chocolate-based biscotti I’ve ever made or tasted. Better than any biscotti I’ve ever had, period. I’m dreaming of the day that I can make these again – I’m hoping to get my hands on some delicious Door County cherries!
Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, orange zest, lemon zest, vanilla extract and almond extract. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and beat on low speed until dough is crumbly and just combined, about 1 minute. Knead dough with your hands for another minute until dough comes together. Fold in cherries and pistachios.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Dust hands with flour and shape each piece of dough into a 16-inch long log. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet and use your palm to flatten into a 2-inch wide strip.
Bake until biscotti is lightly browned and set, about 30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.
Turn oven down to 250°F. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board and slice diagonally into 2/3-inch thick slices*. Arrange pieces, cut side down, on prepared baking sheets.
Bake biscotti for 20 minutes. Flip biscotti and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until cookies are crisp. Carefully transfer cookies cooling rack and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight container until ready to serve.
*Most recipes call for cutting biscotti with a serrated knife, but I’ve had better luck with my super-sharp Santoku. Do as you wish!
I still remember when I made this dish – I had invited my mom over for dinner after she found out I was making mussels. I figured that since she fed them to us a couple weeks ago, it was my turn to host. She declined since they had some guests. Turns out, I am dang happy that she didn’t end up coming over (does that make me a bad daughter?). Mike and I devoured this entire dish by ourselves and were wishing we had more. We couldn’t get enough of how flavorful the curry ale sauce was. Seriously out of this world. Next time, I’m going to whip up a triple batch and force my mom to join us.
Curried Mussels in White Ale
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 large fresh lemongrass stalk, bottom two-thirds of the bulb smashed and chopped
2/3 cup Shaoxing wine
15 ounce can low fat coconut milk
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, plus 1/4 cup chopped
2 12-ounce bottles Belgian white ale
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded; toss any that do not close tightly when tapped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
crusty bread for serving
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add curry paste, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the Shaoxing wine, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce and basil leaves. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl; discard the solids.
Rinse the saucepan out and then bring the ale to a boil over high heat. Add the mussels, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to four bowls, discarding any that are not open.
Add the red curry sauce to the ale and bring to a boil. Let cook for 1 minute and spoon over the mussels. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped Thai basil and cilantro and serve.
It’s been quite a few days and I still smell campfire everywhere I go. I finally realized that it wasn’t my skin, hair, or clothing. The smell has somehow permeated into my glasses. I’ve soaked and scrubbed them, but to no avail. I love campfires, but this is a little much! I guess from now on I’ll have to camp sans-glasses. Essentially blind. I may end up just falling into the campfire…
When you’re camping, the fewer dishes to wash, the better. Seriously. Mike and I are so determined to keep our dirty dishes to a minimum that we ate straight out of the pan instead of dirtying two plates 🙂 This one-pan meal takes minutes to throw together and minutes to clean up. If you don’t have a fire to cook over, try baking this in the oven!
(Please forgive me for the photo – turns out that Me + Camera – Light – Tripod = Disaster)
One Pan Sausage Skillet Dinner
serves 4 – 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 large red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound baby carrots
1/2 pound mushrooms, halved (quartered if large)
12 ounce package of chicken sausage (I used Johnsonville’s Chipotle & Jack sausage)
4 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, chicken broth, or water
shredded cheddar cheese, optional
Coat a large cast iron skillet with olive oil. Arrange potatoes on bottom in an even layer. Spread onions, garlic, carrots and mushrooms evenly on top. Arrange sausage over the vegetables.
In a small bowl, mix together beef bouillon, onion powder, garlic powder, dried minced onion, and black pepper. Sprinkle spices and soy sauce over the sausage and vegetables. Cover the skillet tightly with heavy-duty foil and cook over a fire for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until potatoes and carrots or tender and sausage is cooked through. Sprinkle with cheese, cover and return to fire for an additional 1 – 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Long ago, in my college years, I loved drinking gin (and got the nickname Ginni). Now, I’m loving whiskey. Whiskey sours, whiskey Cokes and most recently I’ve been diggin’ it with some root beer. You know the saying “don’t cook with alcohol you won’t drink?” Well, I prefer Kessler in my drinks (flame away, people), but I used Bulleit in these cinnamon rolls.
I used my cinnamon roll dough (but used dairy ingredients compared to non-dairy) as the starting point and made three batches of caramel before I finally got it right.
These bourbon-glazed cinnamon rolls are a decadent morning pick-me-up. Some people like coffee in the morning. Some people like tea. Everybody likes boozy cinnamon rolls. So, go into your kitchen, whip up a batch of these bad boys, and present them to someone who has a case of the morning grumpies.
Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Glaze makes 12 cinnamon rolls
for the dough:
3/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
for the filling:
4 cups diced crisp, tart apples (3 – 4 apples) – I used a combination of gala and granny smith
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup 1% milk, warmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (I used Bulleit)
2 teaspoons 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
to make the dough:
Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Add in butter and vanilla and stir until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, combine yeast with warm water in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until mixture is foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt.
Whisk egg into the milk mixture until well combined. Pour milk and yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until dough forms a sticky ball. Add in remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading well after each addition, until dough turns smooth and soft but still slightly sticky. The amount of flour you use will vary, but I usually use about 3 1/4 cups.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball and place in bowl, turning to coat in oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
to make the filling:
Place apples in a pan over medium heat and cook until softened, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Next, prepare the caramel. Place granulated sugar in an even layer in a large pot over medium heat. Let cook, undisturbed, until sugar just starts to melt. Then, start stirring occasionally until sugar turns golden brown. Remove pot from heat and slowly (and carefully!) stir in warmed milk. Stir until well combined. If sugar hardens, don’t fret! Return the pot to the burner and cook slowly over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the hardened sugar melts. This could take 15 minutes or longer. Continue to cook until caramel reaches desired consistency. Stir in salt and remove from heat to let cool.
Stir 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce in with the cooked apples and set aside. Reserve the remainder of the caramel to drizzle over the cooked cinnamon rolls.
Combine brown sugar with the cinnamon and set aside.
to assemble the cinnamon rolls:
Lightly flour your work surface. Turn dough out onto floured surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll dough out into a 20×13-inch rectangle. Spread butter onto the surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar and spread apple mixture evenly onto the surface, making sure to get it all the way to the edges.
Starting at the long end closest to you, tightly roll the cinnamon roll up. Gently pinch the end to seal and turn the roll seam-side down. Cut into 12 even pieces. Place rolls cut-side down into a lightly greased 9×12-inch baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.. Remove plastic wrap from the cinnamon rolls and bake in preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool slightly before icing so they have a chance to soak up the caramel and cinnamon sugar.
While the rolls are cooling, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, bourbon, milk, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Drizzle glaze and caramel over the cinnamon rolls and serve.
Spring is here. With spring, comes spring cleaning. Most people clean out their closets and rid the house of dust bunnies. Why don’t ya take it one step further and clean up your lunchtime routine? Stop running to the closest fast food joint and prep this at home the night before instead. Your body will thank you.
I love quinoa for its amazing health benefits. It has protein, fiber, and iron, plus lots of vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and help it repair itself. It’s naturally gluten free and it is one of the few plant foods that is considered a complete protein. As an added bonus, the texture is really, really cool. It can be a bit on the pricier side when you compare it to other grains like pasta, bread, and rice, but it’s worth the cost. (Hint: I like getting it from Costco. They come in huge bags for a good price and it lasts forever.) Asparagus is also packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. How could you not love a veggie that is a cancer-fightin’, health-improvin’ machine?
This quinoa bowl is packed with goodness and is so easy to throw together. It’s ready in under 30 minutes and it’s good warm, cold or at room temp. What more could you ask for?
Quinoa Power Bowls serves 4
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
olive oil spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 ½ – 2 inch pieces
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 – 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 large lemon, juiced
8 cups spring mix (lettuce or other salad base of choice works, too)
4 ounces feta cheese
1/2 cup almonds
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the dish. Spray a large pan with olive oil. Add garlic and onion and saute for 1 – 2 minutes, or until onion softens. Add asparagus, bell pepper, and garbanzo beans and cook until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 3 – 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over the vegetables. Toss to combine.
To serve, divide the spring mix between four bowls. Fluff quinoa with a fork and place on top of greens. Top with vegetables, feta, and almonds.
So, remember that amazing (and easy!!) pineapple salsa I posted a couple weeks ago? It’s not only good on chips, with pretzel thins, or plain by the spoonful… it’s delicious on marinated chicken, too! I’m loving all the pineapple that’s on sale right now and this dish is super easy to prepare. Prep and marinate the chicken the night before and then you have dinner on the table in 30 minutes the next day!
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups hot cooked brown rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups fresh pineapple salsa
Whisk together pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade. Place chicken in a shallow dish and pour the remaining marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, turning halfway through.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Discard marinade and place chicken into prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake chicken for 30 – 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F. Pour reserved 1/4 cup marinade over chicken.
Combine brown rice and cilantro in a bowl. Serve chicken with brown rice and pineapple salsa.