Monthly Meal Plan 2: Lasagna Roll-Ups

Let me start by saying, these were soooo yummy!!! I will definitely be making these again!!

Now, I’ll be honest though, they were very tedious to prep. So save them for the days you have some time on your hands to really enjoy the cooking process.

I got my inspiration for this dish from these lasagna roll-ups
I saw on Pinterest, but I wanted meat and red sauce so the following recipe and process is my own creation.

I wanted layers of flavor, so rather than combining everything in one pan, I broke it up into separate steps. And, oh what a difference it made!!! I did, however, use the same pan for each step to save myself the headache of a kitchen full of pots and pans to clean.

The presentation of these lasagna roll-ups is beautiful, but the flavor is really where it’s at!! If you want to save yourself a little bit of time, when you’re ready to assemble (step 8 below), you can simply layer everything like a traditional lasagna. If you really want to get crazy, cook a different type of pasta such as farfalle (Bowtie), penne, or even linguini, and mix everything in a large bowl.

So here we go.
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Ingredients:
-1 box lasagna noodles
-Ground turkey
-Romano cheese (I always have a block on hand because I’m Sicilian, and that’s just what we do. Not having Romano cheese in my house is like not having water)
-8 oz Mozzarella cheese
-large bundle of fresh spinach
-28oz can crushed tomatoes
-8-10 white Cap mushrooms (sliced)
-1/2 yellow onion (chopped small)
-1 clove garlic (minced)
-2-4 oz wine
-olive oil
Small Pinch thyme (a little thyme goes a long way)
-1 1/2 teas garlic powder (separated)
-1 1/2 teas onion powder (separated)
-1/4 teas oregano
-Kosher salt

Step 1:
Cook lasagna noodles in salted boiling water “until they’re done” as my husband likes to say. Approximately 10-12 minutes. Lay out on flat surface and drizzle with olive oil so they don’t stick.

Step 2:
Sautéed spinach in 1-2 tbs olive oil, add pinch of kosher salt, remove from heat and set aside.

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Step 3:
Add more olive oil to pan. Sauté the onion until softened, add a pinch of kosher salt, add garlic, and white cap mushrooms. Remove from pan and set aside.
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Step 4:
Deglaze pan with your choice of wine. I used a buttery, oaky Chardonnay, but a red wine would work great too; just do not use anything sweet! Use that bottle in the fridge that’s been open a few days and is better to cook with than drink. The yummy flavor mixed with the wine is called the fond. Set aside because you’ll be using it in a minute. (Make sure nothing is left in the pan that can burn.)

Step 5:
Add 1-2 tbs olive oil to pan. Add meat, 1 teas garlic powder, 1 teas onion powder, heavy pinch of kosher salt, oregano, and thyme. Mix together and let brown. Add fond and finish cooking meat.
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Step 6:
Deglaze pan again.

Step 7:
Add can of tomatoes and fond to pan. Season with remaining garlic powder and onion powder.
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Step 8:
Assemble ingredients on noodles as follows: sauce, spinach, mushrooms, meat, cheese.

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Step 9:
Delicately roll20140803-215414.jpg
Step 10:
Place in oiled baking dish and top with sauce and more cheese. 20140803-220411.jpg

Step 11:
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes

Step 12:
Top with freshly grated Romano cheese and serve.

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Enjoy!

Tomorrow is shopping day. Here is this weeks menu:
1. Feta Burgers
2. Chicken and veggies
3. Baked Potato soup in bread bowls
4. Avocado Pasta Salad
5. Stromboli

Stay tuned for recipes, prices and grocery list.

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The Traveling Toddler: Adventures with The Little Man

“You probably shouldn’t put your drink there,” I warned him, “He will grab it!” “Oh that’s ok.” He assures me.

Have you ever traveled with a baby? A toddler? If so, you know that even a couple-hour car ride can mean a peaceful nap, but any longer and you better be prepared to read, sing, feed, change a diaper, read, sing, feed, change a diaper at any given time.

We weren’t driving this trip either; we were flying. That’s not even the best part; our flight tickets are standby. So if anything can go haywire, it probably will, and I not only must improvise at any moment to entertain the little man, but I also get an audience of spectators.

Nothing better than a free, last minute, random, spur of the moment, all-day travel excursion alone with a toddler. Anything for Grandma!

Did I really attempt to fly unassisted with a 13 month old?

Yes, yes I am a little crazy! This trip is giving “flying by the seat of your pants” new meaning.

The ultra- planner in me started packing at the beginning of the week. We were leaving the 80 degree sunny Southern California on our way to 24 degrees and snowy Idaho. As if remembering all the extra gadgets and books wasn’t enough, I needed to pack triple the clothes so my poor little munchkin wouldn’t freeze.

I wake up extra early on Saturday morning so I can load the car and finish all the details before driving to the airport, and of all mornings the little man wakes up early. He pretty much wakes up between 7:30-7:45 every morning, but its mornings like this (or Sundays when we need to be to church on time) that he decides to change things up. This day he woke up extra early: 6am sharp!! Time for Daddy duty!

We get in the car a few minutes early to my surprise so I decide we should grab a quick bite to eat. We order. We get our food, but wait…they’re running behind of course. We pull into the drive-thru overflow parking space A couple minutes later, they bring out the rest of our order. We’re on our way.

About 30 seconds into our drive, I notice we are going a different way than usual, but since its my husband’s neighborhood he grew up in I hesitate to say anything. Men always know the best way, right?!
I’ working on this self-control issue I have, so I decided to put cold water on the boiling curiosity.

Finally I ask gently, ” Why did you decide to go this way…” I’m trying, really I am! He explains how he didn’t want to turn left to cross traffic…” We were supposed to actually turn right, but I accept the answer.

Fighting my control-freak nature, trying not to get frustrated, I start eating really fast, feeding the munchkin, and shuffling through by bag nervously. Finally, about five minutes later we’re now driving south west and the airport is north east, I can’t help myself:

“Ok, I don’t mean to question you,” I interrogate ask calmly, “but why are we going this way? Ontario Airport is off the 60 freeway, since when do we go this way to get to the 60?”

“Ontario? You said nothing about Ontario!” He answers, “We always fly out of Long Beach!”

He quickly turns around and we try to “laugh” it off, after all we did leave a little early. I’ll be gone over a week; now is not the time to argue over something so silly.

He turns and says, “I’m ready for my sausage biscuit now” as I look down at the empty wrapper in my lap, chewing the last bite in my mouth, I guiltily realize that I was in such a hurry I ate his sandwich instead of mine.

“Oops! I still have the McMuffin… (insert scrunchy face)”

He is so bummed! “I don’t want the English muffin, I was really looking forward to the biscuit.”

I_really_feel_terrible, but I look at the time and we’re now 30 minutes behind schedule. I rudely tell him to stop acting like a child and we can’t stop to get him another one. Wow! That turned bad really quickly. Insert foot in mouth!

I apologize.

We arrive safely at the airport. We unload my two suitcases, one carry-on, my diaper bag/personal item, stroller, carseat, and a munchkin. We kiss and say good-bye. I check in.

After a long wait through the security line it’s finally our turn. I hate this part! Since the first time I traveled alone, at 15 years old, I get randomly searched every time I fly somewhere. No surprise, they pull me aside wipe my hands to test for unnamed “residue” and sure enough the alarm goes off. They take us to a private room. I unstrap Daniel from my carrier and place him in the carseat. I get pat down. All clear! This is why I don’t eat fast food! The only thing on my hands from that morning was the food I ate, and it was so greasy it set off the security alarms; disgusting!

Now, it’s waiting time. I went to the desk to find out how full the flight was and they told me there was one seat left, but I was seventh on the standby list. The sweet ladies asked why they didn’t put me on the flight that left 30 minutes prior? I kindly said I wasn’t sure, but inside was screaming, “If they didn’t make me get searched from head to toe for 30 minutes maybe I would’ve made it here sooner!!” It wasn’t looking promising, but we decided to pray instead of worry. Regardless of my negative human internal dialogue, I was confident we would get on because I know how cool God works, but He does tell us to ask Him to intervene, so I did.

An hour later I hear my name called. We got a ticket. “Thank you Jesus that in spite of my horrible attitude and desire to control everyone else when I can’t even control myself, you allowed me to get on this flight so I can go see my mom.”

We board the plane trying not to hit people in the head with my bags as we squeeze through the tiny aisle to find we we’re given a middle seat; at least we got on!!

Fortunately to my right was a nice lady, who I quickly learned was a mother of two teenage girls, and to my left was a young guy in college.

We take off with ease. The little man does great through the take-off and is just hanging out by my feet reading books and exploring everything around him. It’s now time for the lovely flight attendants to bring beverages and snacks. The lady next to me and I decline, knowing they would get knocked all over us by my little investigator, but the guy next to me orders his ginger ale.

“You probably shouldn’t put your drink there,” I warned him, “He will grab it!” “Oh thats ok.” He assures me.

Within seconds there’s soda all over the poor guys lap…I felt so bad, but…I warned him!

Breathe! We arrive at our first destination, Seattle, get lunch, change planes, and a quick hour flight later head to baggage claim in Boise and are greeted by my mom “Grandma Linda.”

Let the vacation begin! The anticipation of a relaxing week did not disappoint! We had such a great time! I hadn’t seen most of my mom’s side of my family in almost five years. It was so refreshing to catch up after so long. We watched football, played in the snow, ate good food with good company, saw life-size ice sculptures, fireworks as good as Disneyland, and so much more.

We finished our trip with a quick stop through Northern California to see my sisters and nieces and aimed home early the next morning.

I am so refreshed!

On the flight back the little man passed out in my lap and I started to read Dr. Kevin Leman’s “Stopping Stress before It Stops You”. How fitting! So far I’ve learned (paraphrased), life doesn’t give us stress, it gives us pressures, and whether we handle the pressure appropriately or not will determine if we have stress.

This information would have been helpful prior to the beginning of my trip, but now that I’m rejuvenated and have a clear head, I’m excited to learn different tools to apply in this next season life is taking us into. The first tool is having the right perspective. Onward I read…

Until my Munchkin’s next nap time: I encourage you to evaluate your perspective. I hope you’re able to step back and look at your circumstances, better than I did, and choose to breathe through them and smile, instead of getting easily frustrated. I encourage you to rid the negative self-talk, and rather than running from life’s disheveled circumstances, laugh and embrace the crazy!

What are some of your crazy travel stories? Any advice for a mom that will always be on the go?

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BBQ Chicken Sandwhich

I’ll make this short and sweet, for all of you drooling over the picture already.

Don’t be deceived by the chicken and cabbage that this is healthy…it’s not…but it sure is delicious!!

I’ve made these sandwiches a few times and i’ve tweaked the recipe a little each time; this was my favorite.

I come from a huge Sicilian family. We cook expecting company, going back for not just seconds, but thirds (otherwise Nana thinks either you didn’t like it or you’re on a diet and need “meat on your bones”), and leftovers.

Serves 10-12
Ingredients for Chicken:
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/4 Cup Montreal’s Steak Seasoning
1 bottle Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Spicy Brown Mustard

Ingredients for Coleslaw:Top Secret KFC Coleslaw Recipe

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels

2. Apply generous amount of seasoning to both sides

3. Put in Crockpot and add all other ingredients

4. Set Crockpot on low or 8-hour setting (go make Coleslaw; it needs time to sit and soak up flavor before serving!!)

5. After 2 hours check if its cooked through; if it is, put checked on cutting board and shred with 2 forks

6. Add back to Crockpot for 2 hours or until ready to serve

7.Toast bread:Ten minutes before serving, put rolls in a 375 degree oven to toast. I used fresh baked Artisan bread from Costco. I’ve made this before and used a French loaf and also cheese rolls. The Artisan bread has been my favorite!

8. Put a healthy serving of coleslaw on bread, scoop chicken on top, grab a few napkins, Enjoy!!

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Until my munchkin’s next nap time: breathe and enjoy the flavor of yummy food! Smile while your cooking; it changes the way it tastes, I promise! Go for a walk. This time of year is filled with really good hearty foods and amazing desserts, but there’s also beautiful fall leaves and cool, crisp mornings. Walk a little more so you don’t feel so guilty about all of the deliciousness.

Control Freaks Anonymous

Hi, my name is Danielle! “hi, Danielle!” and I’ve been a Control Freak for 27 years.

Yes, thats right. I celebrate my 27th birthday this weekend, and given my 10 month old’s ability to assert his will, I know I blessed my Mom with this control issue from birth. Thanks for putting up with me, Mom.

Have you ever found yourself so frustrated at someone, and as you thought about the details you got more and more frustrated realizing the person has done nothing wrong, and you’re just a control freak?!?!

Okay, maybe it’s just me…maybe not.

There’s something about leaving my munchkin in someone else’s hands that makes me feel like I’m the only one who knows what he needs during the day.

This is ridiculous!! When I’m gone he’s with one of three people: his Dad, his Grandma (mil), or a close family friend from church. Each of whom he adores! My issue has nothing to do with competence, it’s simply, I’m Mom and “Momma knows best!” Right?

I swear to everyone that my munchkin is not on a set “schedule”, “I let him tell me what he needs.” Yet I find myself writing minute details, down to activity suggestions for specific times during the day, that I pray will be followed. I’ll come home and want a play-by-play, and as I listen, secretly I’m stirring inside wishing I could’ve done the day differently. Wondering how the rest of the evening will play out since I wasn’t here with him.

I know that every day is a new day with him. Every day does change. When it’s just the two of us, I do follow his lead and don’t force time constraints on him. However, I know consistency is crucial for babies, so I try to keep certain things routine like story time, walks, errands or park days, bath time, etc.

I’m embarrassed even as I write these sad facts. Please Moms out there, tell me I’m not the only one!

As I drove to work, I pondered who I could call and vent my frustration without sounding like an idiot. Then I realized I hadn’t done my daily reading. I open up my app at a stoplight, and read the following from She Reads Truth- Daniel (my son’s name…ironic?) By: You Version:

“What am I clenching in my fist that I refuse to see as His [God’s]? What is it that I long so desperately to build, to control, to call MINE?

Epiphany: Gasp!! My child!

Can this really be? Am I that much of a control freak that I’m not trusting God with His very own creation. My Baby, My munchkin, My miracle. I feel so foolish. Yet just as I’m about to beat myself up, I remember Grace.

I realize that just as I have to guide and redirect my munchkin’s steps to protect him, God does the same with me. When is it that we assume our learning is over? No matter how old, Daniel will always be my baby; I will always be God’s child.

I am on a journey and need to let go! I am not in control. You’d think I’d know this after being “redirected” as much as I have been in my life.

As hard as this lesson has been, and as much as I’m still frustrated over Daniel not eating as much as I feed him, I need to get over it! Or GOI (pronounced \’gōi\ or goy) as my husband and I say frequently with sarcasm (I think it sounds nicer, thank you very much). Oh…my..gosh I really do have an issue, don’t I? Now is when I just need to laugh.

Well, until my munchkin’s next nap: thanks for letting me share my heart with you! I hope my tough life lessons or “redirections” will help you find peace or guidance in your circumstances, even if it is just to laugh at my ridiculousness.

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On a side note, my mom and best friend, who I call my sister, are coming to celebrate with me this weekend. Keep an eye out for fun stories and pictures from our girl’s weekend.

More JUICE!!!!

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2 Gala apples
1 Granny Smith apple
4 peaches
1 cantaloupe
3 beets (no peel)
1 lemon (with rind)
-after juicing stir or blend:
1/2 teaspoon of chia seeds
1 banana

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4 Granny Smith Apples
4 Pears
4 kiwi (with skin)
4 celery stems
1 bunch kale
1 cucumber
1/2 watermelon
-after juicing stir in:
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds

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Juicing-good for you and your wallet

There’s this constant buzz about not everyone having access to affordable, healthy food. Well, bologna!!! All of this was under $30 and mostly organic. You can’t tell me that Sprouts grocery store in Whittier,Ca is not accessible, well except maybe the small parking lot.

Smile, Eat healthy! No excuses! Look at all of those beautiful colors. I’ll post recipes after I decide what I’m mixing today.

Until my munchkin’s next nap: I gotta hurry 🙂

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Juicing- For the Health of It

Juicing: you either love it or think its a rediculous dieting fad and refuse to get on the bandwagon- if you have tried it, you wonder why you didn’t start sooner. This mom-on-the-go has figured out how to make it work in her crazy schedule, and I’m here to give you some pointers so it’s not as intimidating.

Yes, the juicer is a pain to clean! Yes, you have to actually grocery shop! Yes, you have to plan your meals more than 5 minutes before you eat! BUT, here’s the thing, you have more energy than ever before and rarely need added caffeine. Unless of course you have a 7 month old who sometimes decides to wake up every 2 hours at night and then be up for the day a few hours earlier than normal,then, by all means, you’ll need that cup of coffee like I did this morning. Otherwise, you can replace that morning coffee and afternoon pick me up with juice and be set for the day. Just think about it, they didn’t have Starbucks, Monster, or 5-hour Energy shots at the beginning of time– not even a couple hundred years ago, for that matter.

Maybe they didn’t have fancy juicers either, but they certainly ate a lot better than we do, with fast food and processed easy-fix meals at our disposal.

Juice For the Health of It was the name of a juice bar around the corner from the house I grew up in. That was almost 20 years ago, so the is not a new concept, it just took me this long to finally catch the vision.

I started juicing before I got pregnant. Unfortunately, the smell or even thought of fruits and vegetables sent me running for the nearest toilet because of my “all-day” sickness. Now that we have a son important life decisions start coming up like life insurance and Wills, and I want to make sure I’m doing my part to stay healthy and teach him good eating habits as well. So here I am, about a year and a half later, excited to get back at it. I’m only two weeks in, and feeling fantastic!

For those skeptics out there afraid of starving, like I was, you don’t have to replace meals in order to juice. That’s such a misconception. You can use it that way, or you can cleanse, or even fast, or you can do what I do and just add it into your regular routine. Juicing basically takes all the important nutrients in fruits and vegetables, gets rid of the seeds, skin, and other fibers that are difficult for your body to digest, and gives your bloodstream a quick boost of all the vitamins and benefits they have to offer. This doesn’t mean eliminating these in whole form completely; your body does need some of those fibers. It is much more difficult to eat enough produce in a day to get the amount of nutrients your body needs than it is to just drink juice.

I like to drink a nice cold glass in the morning to kick start my metabolism for the day. I drink a tall glass of water right after and about 30 minutes later eat breakfast. Half way into my day when I get the lull, I drink another glass to get me over the hump.

If you’re already juicing and want to see some of my latest favorites, scroll to the bottom, otherwise before you start juicing you’ll need some of the basics to set you up for success.

1. A good juicer- find one in your price range obviously, but I’m loving our Breville! There’s hardly any prep; unless its pineapple or something with a hard rind like watermelon: just wash, cut small enough to fit into the machine, let the magic happen. Ok, sorry for the cheese.
2. Get airtight storage containers. Nutrients begin to evaporate after about 15 minutes of open air. I bought a two-pack of 20 ounce containers for under $20 at Costco. I make one veggie/”green” and one fruit, and they last me and my husband almost the whole week.
3. Find the most affordable local resource for fresh produce. I like Sprouts or this other local market near by because we really don’t have a good farmers market near where we live. You don’t have to buy organic, although I’m all for it, don’t let that limit you.
4. Start juicing! There’s no rocket science to it. Anything goes. If it looks good, try it. Ask friends for recipes. Look online. I have a book I use called The Everything Juicing Book that goes as detailed as listing all the nutritional values of each produce item and what diseases/ailments each targets (i.e. watermelon decreases water retention, bell peppers help lower cholesterol, folic acid helps relieve stress and anxiety, etc.). Just start!
5. Smile: it makes everything more enjoyable.

Until my munchkin’s next nap, I leave you with this quote I heard this weekend that I absolutely loved: “Happiness is about the journey, not the destination”. Enjoy each moment, don’t keep wishing for what’s next. If you have kids, make this something you do together instead of just buying the sugar-packed apple juice or the “sugar free” option loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Teach them what the fruits and vegetables are by using their senses: what colors do they see, shapes, etc? What do they smell like? Get your roommates involved or other friends and family members. Share your successes. Have fun!

Below are the juices I made last week and yesterday. What are some of your favorite recipes? I could use some more ideas!

1/2 large Watermelon
1/2 Cucumber
5 Celery stalks
3 Green apples

1 Pineapple
1 Gala apple
2 Pears
5 Carrots

1 Cantaloupe
1 Pineapple
3 Gala apple
5 Carrots

1 Cucumber
1 Celery stalk
1 bunch Kale
1 inch Ginger
1 Lemon
5 Green apple
(Sometimes I add spinach)

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