Monthly Archives: July 2008

Lasagna on a Roll!

This morning I turned over a new leaf and decided it was time to be more active. I’m the least athletic person in the world, but it’s time to start working exercise into my daily routine. I’m starting off slow, with brisk walks, but hope to work up to jogging in the next few weeks. In an effort to break us from some of our other habits, I’ve completely eliminated regular pop from the house and I’m switching exclusively to whole wheat pasta. I know, I know…big deal, right? But baby steps…it’s all about baby steps. I’m hoping little things will add up to big results.

I’ve been craving lasagna lately, but I’m always hesitant to make a whole pan because we can’t ever seem to get through it all…even from the freezer. So I decided to search out a lasagna roll recipe. When I came upon this one from Ellie Kreiger, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to put my whole wheat pasta kick to work! I LOVED this recipe. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if I should just go vegetarian because I always seem to enjoy my meatless meals just as much, if not more so, than meals with meat. Eric was lukewarm on this one, but I had a feeling he might feel that way. He missed the meat. All in all, I’m just pleased I was able to get a few extra veggies down his throat. Between the mushroom and spinach in this recipe and the marinara, he ate more veggies in one sitting than he has in the past month! LOL! Sneaky, sneaky!

PORTOBELLO LASAGNA ROLLUPS (Recipe Source: Ellie Krieger)

*Excuse my craptastic photo…storm clouds rolled in and stole all my natural light!*


  • 12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups your favorite marinara (I use this one)
  • 1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 ounces grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 2/3 cup)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook the noodles al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain them well and spread them out onto aluminum foil or waxed paper to prevent them from sticking.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, egg, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few turns of pepper, and nutmeg. (I also added about 1/4 cup of grated parm in the filling.)
  4. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto a lasagna noodle. Top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture, roll the noodle and place it into the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles. Spread the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with grated cheeses, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.



Filed under pasta, veggies

Marinara Sauce – The World’s Most Perfect Food

I’ve tried several marinara recipes now but I keep coming back to this one from Giada. The extra veggies give it a really nice flavor and texture. I hate how jarred sauces are super smooth…like tomato soup almost. I want to bite and chew on something in my sauce. If I wanted soup, I’d make soup!  I’m weird like that, I guess. HA!

I almost always double this recipe when I make it so I have plenty for my freezer stash. When I double, I do NOT double the amount of olive oil to cook the veggies, it’s way too oily. I also add a couple other things that suit our tastes. Changes in italics!

MARINARA SAUCE (Recipe Source: Giada DeLaurentiis)


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (4) small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 (1) teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 (1) teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (4) (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Erin likes her marinara spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves


  1. In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

**Note**: You can also put the sauce in a slow cooker and let it cook on low for however long you want! The longer the better!


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Filed under sauces

Going Bananas!

Eric and I went out of town for the 4th to visit his family. We came back yesterday afternoon and much to my delight, I had a whole bunch of overripe bananas just begging to become banana bread! I never get so excited to see spoiled food as I do when my bananas start to go south! 🙂

I love banana bread. It’s so simple, but the flavor is fantastic. Toast it up a bit, add a bit of butter and you’ve got one hearty yummy breakfast. I’m looking forward to digging into this all week long! This is my go-to recipe….perfect for weeknight baking when you don’t want to spend the entire night in the kitchen. I add a splash of vanilla and a little cinnamon to punch up the flavor. My changes are in italics.



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt (and cinnamon). In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs, vanilla and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.


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Filed under bread, fruit

Li’l Country Cakes: The Story of a Mini-Bakery

Eric has started referring to my time off as the “Summer of Erin.” That’s a nod to Seinfeld when George loses his job at the Yankees and spends the summer doing absolutely nothing until he slips on the party invitation and hurts his legs. HA! Well, I don’t plan to injure myself on stationary supplies, but basically, he’s encouraging me to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do but never had time for before.

So, I’ve decided to take on a summer project. Something fun and creative. I purchased a small two-room dollhouse kit that I am going to build and decorate as my own little bake shop called…Li’l Country Cakes! I had a dollhouse as a kid and I just loved it. It’s amazing all the stuff that’s out there in miniature world! I’ve already started shopping for my goodies! But, first things first…gotta build it!

Many pieces and a big ole mess in our empty guest room!

Day 1: Erin vs. the Hot Glue Gun.I admit that my heart sank when I read the instructions it said to construct the house with hot glue. I was all set to use wood glue. I bought a nifty glue pen and everything. Dang! I HATE hot glue. I always burn myself. Did I burn myself this time around? YES! HA! But after about 2 hours of work I had the beginnings of a house!

Day 2: Painting Day! I’m doing the outside in a pretty pastel pinky/peach color that reminded me of the gerber daisies I had in my wedding bouquet. Inside, I painted the walls white (for now).

Next up: building the window seat and putting in the the floors and trim!

Stayed tuned for more! 🙂

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Filed under Just for Fun

Peanut Butter Perfection

As evident from the post below where I am hugging my fridge, it’s high time I think about laying OFF the ice cream for a while. Yeah…not looking quite so slim and trim these days so I’m going to try to resit the urge to pull out the ice cream maker every week in an effort to save my waistline.

It was Eric’s turn to choose a flavor again and decided he wanted a peanut butter/chocolate combination. No complaints from me…as peanut butter and chocolate is pretty much the best combo in the world! We decided on Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip ice cream.

Now, I’ve made three ice cream recipes so far and each of them have been a custard-style with eggs that is cooked on the stovetop before chilling. I noticed the batter to be especially thick this time around as I was getting ready to freeze it. It may have been the added peanut butter to the already thicker custard. At any rate, I just had a feeling that the finish product would have a different texture than my other batches.

For me, there is a point where ice cream because TOO rich and creamy. Not that it doesn’t taste good, of course, but it takes on a texture that I just don’t like as much. Chewy, almost. Or gummy. Oh, I don’t know how to explain it! HA! If you’ve had ice cream from an Oberweis store (Chicago area chain), it’s similar to that. The butter fat content is so high, that it has no iciness at all. Personally, I like a little iciness…but that’s just me. This recipe just about crossed that creaminess threshold for me. Next time I make a peanut butter ice cream, I think I would like to try a Philidelphia-style recipe (no eggs) and see if that helps. The flavor is very yummy though!

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM(Recipe source: The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein)


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips


In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slow beat the hot milk into the eggs and sugar. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stire constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove from the heat and beat in the peanut butter. Pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl. Allow the peanut butter custard to cool slightly. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the instructions. Add chocolate chips when ice cream is semi-frozen. Allow the machine to mix in the chips. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least two hours.




Filed under chocolate, ice cream, peanut butter