Friday, March 29, 2013

Faith-filled Friday

Hey crushers,

This week has been rough on everyone, myself included. I'm pretty sure I only know two people who had a banner week, and that's because they are new mommies. Then again, I'm sure that the new baby glow gets a little dimmed during middle-of-the-night feedings and moments of, "Am I doing this right?" Anyway, as crummy as this week has been for many people, I'm reminded of last week's sermon at church when we listened to the passages telling the story of Jesus' passion leading up to and through Good Friday.

No one has ever had a worse day than that. Being beaten, betrayed, crucified under the weight of the sins of the whole world? Yeah, my worries are minuscule compared to any one minute of the day that Jesus had on Good Friday (Matthew 27). Nothing compares to the pain and suffering that Jesus did for every person past, present and future in the entire world.

You know what else doesn't match up? His love for us. I might love things and people, but to be crucified and forsaken and killed for the very people that nailed you to a cross? I couldn't do it. Good thing that God loved us all so much that he did. (John 3:16)

When I taught Sunday School, no matter what the question was, the answer always seemed to be Jesus. The little 3- and 4-year-olds were very matter of fact about it, too. When a little boy shared that his baby brother was in Heaven, another little boy said, "That's OK. Jesus died and rose so we get to go to Heaven and see your baby brother. That's Easter." How simple and beautiful that grace-filled explanation is!

So, I encourage all of you to take a moment today, even if you're having a bad day, and remember the (understatement) bad day that Jesus had so that we would never have to go through that. Instead, we get to look toward the joy and hope that his resurrection on Easter brings us. Because he loves us that incomprehensibly much.

This blog post wouldn't be true to it's mission of sharing another kind of love, food love, if I didn't add a sweet recipe to the sweet message of being redeemed. I hope you get to celebrate with all your family this holiday and enjoy time with them around a wonderful meal. If you're having ham as the main part of your meal, here's my favorite sweet glaze: sweet mustard glaze.

Sweet Mustard Glaze for Holiday Ham
2-3 cups orange juice (depending on how big the ham is)
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey

Heat all the ingredients in a sauce pan and mix well. Pour over the ham in the last hour-45 minutes of baking. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baked Meatballs and Spaghetti

Good morning Crushers!

As promised, here is the recipe for baked meatballs. You could use these on a sandwich with a little melted cheese and green peppers, as an appetizer with some BBQ sauce, or with spaghetti noodles like we did on Sunday night. They were so easy to make and it made for delicious leftovers to take to lunch the next day!

This is going to be a short post because I know you'll definitely want to run out and make these! No time to waste reading when you could be enjoying these, right?

Baked Meatballs
1 lb ground beef, thawed (you could use ground pork, turkey, chicken or a combination)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned ones since that was in the pantry)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I used a garlic press)
1 tbsp milk (optional)
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (I ran out mid teaspoon, so I gave it an oomph with some oregano, but wished I had parsley)
Salt and Pepper - just a dash of each, but no more than 1/8 tsp.
Optional add ins: spinach, finely diced mushrooms, finely diced onions - I added these to the sauce instead of the meatballs.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and have the following items on hand: a baking sheet, a cooking/cooling rack, canola oil spray (or your favorite kind) and a large bowl.

Mix Everything except the meat in a large bowl so it has the consistency of a paste. If you did use the milk, it'll be a bit creamier than if you didn't.

I have no idea why there is a halo-ish light in the bowl.
It's either a reflection or the ingredients are ready for meatball heaven.
Before you get your hands all dirty, set the rack on the baking sheet and give it a quick layer of cooking spray. All of the grease from the meat will drip off on to the baking sheet. If you REALLY hate cleaning up grease, you could line it with aluminum foil, too. Then you just toss it out when it's cooled.

Break up the ground beef into crumbles. As you know, I'm a big fan of using ground beef that is at least 80/20. Anything less than 80 is too greasy! Back to the crumbles, add them into the mixture and make sure that it all gets well mixed so that you don't have lumps of bread crumbs in your meatballs. In order to make sure that everything was really squished together, I just took off my rings and used my hands. It feels squishy, but it's really the easiest way to do it. Form the mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs and place on the rack. They will shrink a bit, so don't worry if they are too close to each other.

Ready for the oven!
After you've washed your hands, put the meatballs in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until they're no longer pink. The internal temperature should be at least 160. Remove from the rack and place on paper towels to get rid of any remaining grease, but there won't be much!

Fresh from the oven, these meatballs are just waiting for a sandwich or some pasta!
Like I said before, there are many ways to serve up meatballs in sandwiches, with pasta or just alone with a dipping sauce (if you make them with pork or chicken, try it with a nice sweet and sour sauce - SO GOOD!). We went with traditional spaghetti noodles and a jar of pasta sauce that I added lots of veggies to to ramp up the vitamins! I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Where's my fork?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 3

Good morning Crushers!

Welcome to this week's virtual running date. Grab your sneakers and at least two layers of clothes because it's still snowing! I can't believe it, but I think it's because my brain is all "Hey weather, it's Holy Week. Little kids don't want to hunt for Easter Eggs in the snow." My rational self remembers that this is Wisconsin and it can snow at anytime for any reason.

If we were running together this week, I might be a little frazzled. My weekend was packed with volunteering for the Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation on Friday, going to a family wedding shower and then having dinner with friends on Saturday, and then brunch with my husband's family on Sunday. It was crazy, but we still managed to sneak a 4-mile run in on Saturday.

This week is going to be crazy again. Joining Christians all over the world, we will be participating in many Holy Week services. For those of you who are not sure what Holy Week is, here is a brief description:
Holy Week is the last week of the season of Lent from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter) including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. During this time, Christians commemorate major events including the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey with palms strewn on the ground before him (Palm Sunday), the institution of The Lord's Supper or Communion (Maundy Thursday), and Jesus' betrayal, trial(s), crucifixion and death. Many, but not all, Christians may also celebrate Holy Saturday or Saturday Vigil. The brand new week is begun with Easter which celebrates Jesus' resurrection.
It's not all Easter eggs, bunnies, ham dinners and lamb shaped butter. Yes, we will have a big party with Steve's extended family on Saturday and then my extended family on Sunday, but we are also a part of almost every service this week with choir. We'll be busy! How about you? Are you celebrating this week?

It is going to be hard to keep up with running this week with all of our obligations to be here or there, but that's the nice thing about running: the road will be there when you can get there. Flexibility is a necessary part of training for a race. You can move around some of your runs. Just so long as you keep running you'll be fine! I'm not saying you should skip two weeks and then run 10 miles. That could hurt.

Speaking of flexibility, if we were running together today, I would tell you about this beginner yoga routine that I found online. Anyway, the series includes just a few moves, but it feels really good after a long run. Added bonus: I can reach my toes, and almost reach past them to the floor. Whoo! I haven't been that flexible since I was a high school cheerleader.

If we were running together today, I would share this new product I found thanks to my friend Hannah. It's a wonderful lotion that as tea tree oil and peppermint oil. This company, Earth Therapeutics, makes a whole line of products for happy skin and happy feet. Not only do those things promote circulation to make achy muscles feel better, but it just plain smells awesome! I love it!

How about you? What would we talk about if you were my running buddy today?

Coming soon: baked meatballs

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Non-Kitchen Crush: Crafty people

Hey crushers,

I'm always inspired by crafty people who can build/sew/stencil/paint/stamp and all sorts of things. Not every project turns out the way it's supposed to, but I always wanted to know how something worked so I gave it a good try anyway. When I was little, I was so inspired by reading all of the "Little House" books, I begged my mom to teach me to sew. As a home economics teacher, my mom is a whiz in everything crafty, and we whipped up a lovely little dress. It was adorable!

I still love to sew and many friends have asked me to hem pants for them or fix buttons, rips and tears. I even made a quilt for my nephew when he was born. I'm not sure how much he used it, but I hope his mom and dad enjoyed it!
The back side is a fuzzy chenille and the white patches
that say "I love Mommy" and "I love Daddy" are flannel for some interesting texture differences.

Close-up of a corner of the blanket
I've made a few stenciled key/necklace hangers for friends lately, but I've really been enjoying decorating the house for the holidays and seasons. As you saw before with our Christmas tree and the St. Patrick's Day wreath, I have been going to town on these crafts! Here is the wreath I made for Spring inspired by one of my very crafty co-workers (who's sister-in-law happened to inspire the slow cooker breakfast bake for tailgating).
The vine wreath should be familiar!
I took off the St. Patrick's Day shamrocks and added rosettes.

Here is an up-close look at the rosettes.
The white/green/blue fabric was leftover from the quilt above!
 In order to keep reusing the wreath, I tied some strips of fabric on the wreath and then secured the rosettes with safety pins. They hang nicely and they're so bright and cheerful! This will be on our door for a while until Memorial Day comes around. Then I've got another one planned!

What do you do to decorate for the seasons?
Have any other ideas for me to try?
Want to more crafts or just get back to food?

Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Hey Crushers,

My favorite part of reading cookbooks, cooking websites and cooking blogs is when I see a recipe that triggers a meal. The even better part is when I realize that I have the ingredients in my house to make the dish or at least something inspired by the recipe I just read.

I can't remember where I read about spinach and cheese filled chicken, but I did remember to buy spinach and chicken last week, so there's half the kitchen battle, right? Plus, they were both on sale, so it was a win-win situation! Other ingredients that I just happened to have on hand were bread crumbs and feta cheese from last week's Greek Chicken Burgers. I made a few batches of 1, 2, 3 Lasagna using half of the bag of spinach as veggie change-up, but there were about two handfuls left in the bag and that was plenty! Although this recipe sounded fancy when I read it, I was surprised that what I actually did was kind of easy. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts
3 chicken boneless, skinless breasts
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1/2 medium to large onion
1-2 tsp Greek seasoning (I used the Wildtree kind, but I know Penzey's sells it too)
1 egg
2/3 cup bread crumbs (mine had some Italian seasoning in it, but I don't think that matters too much)

What to have on hand:
Cooking spray, a 13 x 9 pan or dish, two bowls, a really sharp knife and a food processor if you have one.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the two cheeses, onion, Greek seasoning and the fresh spinach in the food processor. Use the pulse button about 10 -15 times or until the mixture is just chunky. If you chop it up too much, all the liquid from the onion and spinach releases and you have a cheesy green soup that's too runny to use. Set it aside while you slice up the chicken. If you don't have a food processor, I bet you could use a blender or just chop it up really fine.
See how it's still a little chunky? That's the consistency that you want.
Tip: Before you slice the chicken and get your hands all covered in raw chicken, set out two bowls. Beat the egg in one bowl and pour the bread crumbs in the other. You should also spray the baking dish with a light layer of cooking spray. This way you can just work from the chicken to the egg wash to the crumbs to the pan without needing to say, "Oh crap, I forgot such-and-such..."
Ok, let's go back to the chicken. Take that sharp knife I told you about and cut each chicken breast in half  the long way. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but you still want two meaty/thick pieces, but you are just cutting them in two big strips. If that doesn't make sense, let me know in the comments. Anyway, once you've got them cut in half, you need to make a slit in the side of the now-halved chicken breast so that it makes a little chicken pocket.
Yes, I know that sounds gross or dirty or whatever, but just go with it
Once you have all of those sliced up, it's time to stuff the chicken. Take a large spoonful of the spinach mixture and stuff the chicken. You can pack the spinach in pretty firmly, but don't over stuff it or it will fall out when you dip it in the egg wash. I held the chicken closed over the spinach and dipped it in both the egg wash and crumbs and then placed it in the pan.
Tip: You might have some crumbs left, so feel free to sprinkle those over the chicken since you'll be baking it right away. Whatever you do, don't save the crumbs or the egg to reuse for another dish. It is contaminated with raw chicken and no one wants salmonella bread crumbs. Ew. Throw it out!
They hold together pretty well, but if you need to, you could always stick a toothpick through the chicken to hold it. Repeat with all of the sliced chicken halves.

Six chicken breast halves ready for the oven!
Bake the chicken for at least 30 minutes. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 and for the juices to run clear. Since the juices will be slightly green from the spinach, you won't hurt the dish by baking it for 35-40 minutes. It'll be fine.

If you have left over spinach and cheese mixture, feel free to pop that in the microwave and heat it up as a topping for the chicken or mix it in some rice like we did. Delicious!

Monday, March 18, 2013

VIrtual Running Date No. 2

Good morning Crushers!

It's time to lace up your running shoes (or slippers - I don't know where you're reading this), make sure you have enough layers on (it's snowing again), and head out the door for a virtual jog with me!

As you know, Steve and I are training for a half marathon. I feel like I've been a little slower than normal and I don't know if that's from dodging potholes, puddles and ice or if I'm just actually slower than last summer. An easy way for me to pick up the pace is to do a race of some kind to help stay motivated and to get an official race time. Using Map My Run on my phone is all well and good, but a timed race always seems to help me get a move on!

We signed up to run the Lucky Leprechaun 7K to benefit the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc.) The MACC Fund is dedicated to childhood cancer and related blood disorder research. It's an amazing organization that I'm glad to say I helped, even if I did get a race, a t-shirt and a green beer out of the deal. Anyway, back to running...
This is the post-race picture.
I did not run with green beads on - they handed them to you at the finish line.

This race was really well done for it's inaugural race. Thanks to great sponsors including my favorite running store, Performance Running Outfitters, the course was challenging (with one large hill) and scenic, the t-shirts are cute, the post-race celebration was well done, the website and course director were helpful and the chip-timing is always nice to have. The only thing I didn't like was that a) my shoe came untied, but they can't help that and b) parts of the course were very narrow, so I felt like I had to keep my elbows really close to my body otherwise I'd knock someone over.

On the plus side, we both felt really good about our race times. Steve finished in 42:51 and I finished in 46:55. A 7K race is equal to about 4.35 miles, so that was about a 10-11 minute mile pace for me. I would like to say that stopping to tie my shoe cost me a whole minute, but in reality it was probably only like 30 seconds. Oh well!

In addition to running a half marathon and traveling to Australia, I would tell you about how we're trying to sell our house while we ran. We are hoping that with a home and garden show going on at the local Expo Center, people will be inspired by what they saw and our cute little house to buy it. Or at least walk through it. Please! We aren't exactly in a hurry to move, but it would be nice to be settled in a new house by the time Steve starts teaching school next year.

He is great at painting, so it would be nice for him to paint without me in the way (I spill) over summer. Plus, he could have windows open in the nice weather! No one likes to be in a stuffy room without ventilation when painting. Or maybe you do; I don't know.

Remember how I told you about the charity dinner auction on our last virtual running date? I promised to report back on the meal. The dinner food was very good, but it was the passed appetizers that were a really fun addition to the NYC-themed event. Mini reuben sandwiches, mini New York style hot dogs, Buffalo chicken tarts with a sprig of celery and pretzels on a stick with cheese were all very fun! They even had skewers with a bit of New York strip steak and red skin potatoes. Delightful! Unfortunately, the dessert was kind of disappointing. Each of us was served a shot-glass sized portion of "New York Cheesecake" that tasted more like a no-bake cheesecake with a dusting of graham cracker bits and a black and white cookie. The cookie was better than the cheesecake!

If we were running together, I might also tell you about this fabulous book that I read called "Nothing Daunted" by Dorothy Wickenden. It's a story of how two society girls from the East Coast headed to teach children in a rural mountain school in 1916. Not only was I caught up in the bravery of these two women to just head out to tackle a challenge, but I was also amazed by how hard kids worked to get to school. Some of them skied for miles in raggedy clothes just to go to school. When I look at teenagers at the mall complaining about their smart phone or at some of the sassy kids from the inner-city school where Steve teaches, I think, "I don't know if you would ever go to those lengths to learn." What passion these kids and families had for learning!

What are you reading? Have you done any races? What would you tell me if we were running buddies? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leftover Night: Baked Potato Edition

Good morning Crushers!

This blog entry is completely inspired my you, my readers! As I've mentioned in the past, I've been asked what to do with leftovers and then my sister asked me about a dinner that she was planning for her friends. The two ideas combined to Leftover Night: Baked Potato Edition!
Potato is ready!

On the Christmas after we got engaged, Steve's grandma, who can sew ANYTHING, gave me a baked potato mitt for making potatoes in the microwave. It's so handy if you just want one or two potatoes and you don't have the time to bake them in the oven. Just wash and dry the potato, wrap it in a paper towel and then pop it in the bag. You can microwave up to 3 potatoes at a time and it only takes about 7-9 minutes. It's magic.

Last night, Steve and I had designated as leftover night since I had choir practice and a shopping date with my cousin, and he had card night with the guys. We needed a quick, healthy dinner and we needed space in our fridge!

Toppings  anyone?
Here are the leftovers that we had: pork sausage crumbles, diced onions, and cheese leftover from Monday's homemade pizza; two chicken burger patties from Sunday's Greek Chicken Burgers with Feta, peas; asparagus and rice from Tuesday night. While rice doesn't make a great potato topping (starch on starch? no), it will make great fried rice at later date.

Steve went with a potato covered in cheese, onion and then kept most of the toppings on the side since they didn't want to sit on the potato! I topped mine with some of the sausage crumbles, onion, peas and little cheese. FYI - the peas did not want to stay on the potato with the rest of the toppings, so that photo was taken in haste before they all rolled away! We both ate the asparagus on the side. Hot, filling, and we have more space in our fridge again! Whoo hoo!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Updated: Going Green (For St. Patrick's Day!)

Good morning Crushers!

Other than Christmastime, I don't decorate our house much for the holidays. The only things I do are set out seasonal kitchen towels, a new front door decoration and update the decorations on top of our TV stand or the coffee table. When the snow is gone, we put out some decorations in the yard and I definitely have planters full of flowers on the front steps to welcome you.

Aren't they cute?
Last night I was feeling kind of "over" my winter decorations, so I thought I'd hit the Dollar Store to see what I could find to "Spring" up the living room. I knew we had a blank vine wreath in our basement, so my goal was to find items that would be removable so I could use this one wreath all year round!

But first, we needed to make dinner!

Chicken legs, rice and asparagus was on the menu. Steve took the chicken that I had prepped at my Wildtree Freezer Meal class and baked that on a greased cookie sheet. Basically, it's chicken pieces (you could use any part of the chicken you like) that marinated in a freezer bag with garlic and herb seasoning and grapeseed oil. While that was baking (45 minutes total at 350 degrees - or until the inside temperature reaches 165 degrees), I made some rice (according to the bag).

Actually, what I did was put the chicken in the oven and set it for 30 minutes. Then we went to go work out in the basement doing some "boot camp" exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, ab work, running in place, and some moves with hand weights. I should have added burpees, but I hate those, so I didn't. Don't judge. Focusing back to the meal, when the timer went off, I stopped the workout and went upstairs to start the rice. When that was going, I reset the timer for both the chicken and the rice to keep cooking for another 15 minutes.

It was time to prep the asparagus! Normally, I just wash the stalks, trim off any woody ends and put them in a pan with a little water, lemon juice (and/or a splash of white wine).
Tip: You can tell how much of the end to cut off by bending the non-pointy end. If it won't snap off, you need to try and snap more of it off. Usually, it's about an inch that breaks off.
However, I have been reading a number of recipes for oven roasted asparagus, so I decided to try that.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus
As many stalks of asparagus that will fit on a baking sheet without over lapping (about 20)
1 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan, Romano or a blend of Italian cheeses
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. After washing and trimming the stalks, place them on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle the oil and lemon juice over the stalks. Roll the stalks around like logs rolling down a hill to coat them. Pop then in the oven for about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus and bake for another 2-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly. Serve with your favorite chicken and rice dish! (just kidding on that last part.

Delicious! I just need to work on my food photography...
OK, back to the decorations! Like I said, I went to the Dollar Store to see what I could find and there were these cute foam shamrock cut outs and some shiny shamrock garland. Whoo hoo! I also found a whole bunch of Easter eggs for decorating as soon as we're done with St. Patrick's Day (you know, in just a few days...).

Here is the final product:

Don't you feel all welcome now?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 1

Did you ever hear the phrase "Don't reinvent the wheel"? Or how about "steal from success; learn from mistakes"? Well, one of my favorite bloggers, Jenna, over at Eat.Live.Run. does a post series called "Virtual Coffee Date". While that seem more accessible to many readers, I have also heard the words "plagiarism" and "busted". Instead, I'm going with "inspired by" and doing a virtual running date.

I've had a few friends in the past ask me what I do while I run. Well, first I run. My feet know what to do. My brain is just in charge of keeping tabs on the feet and scanning my surroundings for dangers like ferocious looking animals, creepers, potholes, deep puddles, ice, etc. Sometimes, I have my iPod (R) with me, but more often than not I run without music. If I'm with people, I'd rather talk to them.

GASP?! Talking? How do you do that when I can barely breathe while running?! Hint: Talking (or singing) while running helps you keep the right pace so you don't get side cramps or pass out or get injured from going too fast. When I took a boot camp class, our instructor would also ask us question to gauge how hard we were pushing ourselves and if she needed to go all Jillian on us and start yelling (aka encouraging). Here was her scale (for just one mile):
1-3. You are not sweating. You are not out of breath at all. You have just told me your life story. You're probably walking or standing still.
4-6. You are sweating a bit. You can still keep up a conversation. Your sentences are short, but you're moving well.
7-8. You are sweating a lot. You can speak in short bursts.You are probably running too fast, but OK for short distances. This would be good for some interval sprints.
9-10. You are really sweaty. You can only say one syllable words. You are running too fast for a long distance. You might be running too fast for a short distance. You should probably slow down unless you're a sprinter.
11+ You are REALLY sweaty or you are possibly crying. You might be cussing out the trainer, but you can only communicate in grunts. You have either no idea how to use a treadmill or you have stopped and are now just laying on the floor.

I like to hover around a 6. It's a good level for keeping a steady pace over a long distance. If I'm running with a newbie (Hi Hannah!) I stick around 4 with walking intervals. If I'm not with anyone, I will talk to myself occasionally or say something like the "Pledge of Allegiance" to check my pace.

If I were running with you (and here's where the virtual running date kicks in after a too-long explanation), here is what we would talk about:

Safety first! Watch the ice. Oh sorry! Was that a puddle? How wet is your shoe? Chilly, right? Sorry about that. I stepped in a what I thought was just wet ground yesterday, but no, it was a huge mud puddle.

So how's your job going? Mine might be sending me out of the country in May. I'm going to Australia for sure in June for our conference. Yup, I'm headed to Australia. I can't wait to see the gorgeous land downunder, and try all sorts of new foods. I have tried vegamite before, and let me tell you, it's salty. REALLY salty. I felt like I was eating solid soy sauce on a cracker. It needs something, but I don't know what. Less salt? On the plus side, it is packed with B vitamins of all kinds. If you know of any sights to see or foods to try, let me know! Right now, Kuranda and the Great Barrier Reef are on my agenda as well as touring Sydney Harbor and the Zoo.

Have any big plans for the weekend? We are going to a NYC-themed dinner auction to raise funds for a new school attached to Steve's church. Their school is getting too small and outdated for the needs of their students. Yes, I said Steve's church. He is Catholic and I'm Lutheran, but we're making it work. We trade off weekends for whose church to go to so no one misses opportunities for taking communion and participating in choir. He sings, and I play handbells. No, it's not like playing "Eye of the Tiger" on handbells in "The New Girl", although that would be awesome. Instead, we play worship music like "How Majestic is Your Name." It's awesome and difficult. FYI - you can actually click that link and hear what song we'll be playing on Sunday.

Speaking of the dinner auction, I will report back on all the awesome food we're going to eat. I heard a rumor of mini reuben sandwiches and black and white cookies!

Tried any new foods lately? We tried whole wheat gnocchi with red sauce and veggies for dinner last night and it was weird. Normally, gnocchi are these little pillows of pasta goodness, but this was weird. Sometimes you just need the regular old flour and potatoes (or butternut squash). Ugh.

How about you? What would you tell me?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resolution Check Up

Hey Crushers,

When I was a Y member, I thought I was a "regular". For 10 months out of the year, it was no problem to find a treadmill, room in the Zumba classes or your own lane for swimming laps. Then January hits and you have to go to the gym at crazy times just to have elbow room! Fortunately, around March you start getting your space back. While I definitely want everyone to live a happy and healthy life, I don't want to have to stalk a treadmill like a lion stalks a zebra.

Anyway, I thought I would revisit my post on my own New Year's Resolutions to make sure that I wasn't a March wimp-out.
  1. Run the Green Bay Cellcom Half Marathon. I can't say I completed this yet because the race isn't until May, but Steve and I have been pretty good about our training. We have logged over 75 miles of training time. Whoo hoo!
  2. Learn to make more breads. I literally just got back from the grocery where I bought flour for rye bread. I'm not kidding. I have made a TON of white bread, cinnamon raisin bread and even wheat bread. Boo-yah!
  3. Make more Asian-inspired dishes. I made dukbokki and stir fry. Some are hits and some are misses. It happens.
  4. Learn how to make pasta. Yeah, this hasn't happened yet.
  5. Beat my 5K PR. Since I haven't actually signed up for a 5K in a while, I guess I'll have to measure this one later. I am signed up for a 7K for later this month. I'll report back.
  6. Do 50 push ups in a row. I'm at 21. Thankfully, there's a lot of year left!
  7. Learn how to lay tile/flooring. Instead of replacing ALL of our floor, we are going to repair the part that is being funky. We are *gasp* selling our house, so the realtor advised us to repair it instead of replacing the floor since our home price is affected by a lot of surrounding foreclosed homes. Not only is this sad because people are losing their homes and that is truly tragic, but it makes a ripple effect through the entire economics of a neighborhood.
How are you doing with your resolutions? Making progress? Need motivation to get back in gear? Let me know!

Friday, March 1, 2013

1, 2, 3, Lasagna!

Hey Crushers,

Although I was always a very good student and probably would have made a great math teacher, I never really liked math. Long division? No thanks. Dividing fractions? Ah... no. I don't care what equals x or how long the side of that isosceles triangle is. No one does. No one.

It wasn't until junior year of high school that I started realizing that math can be fun. In my advanced physics class, we learned how to figure out the specific heat of macaroni and cheese. That's cool! You can use math to figure out the velocity of a roller coaster? Lead me to the nearest amusement park. Still, those aren't terribly useful things in every day life unless you are a foods scientist or designing coasters (both of which would be awesome careers).

However, if you ask me how to figure out the final price for a dress that was originally $80 that is now on yellow dot clearance for 60% off  and you can take an additional 50% off with a coupon, I can do that in my head faster than you can find the nearest fitting room. (FYI - That's a $16 dress, and I saw it first.) Sale is my favorite four letter word.

Fractions, percentages and even geometry (hello, crafting) are useful everyday mathematics. However, there is no better way to use math than in cooking. You need it to figure out how many people you're going to feed, how to double, triple or halve a recipe, and how long to cook it for (specific heat not necessary).

When I have a group to serve, I like to go with easy, "big" recipes like a roast, family-style pasta or barbecue. This weekend is the 9th Annual Girls' Weekend for a group of friends from college. We've graduated from cramming a bunch of girls in two plain hotel rooms with delivery pizza and lots of indoor waterpark time to renting a large-ish condo, cooking our own meals and doing some outlet mall shopping. I'm in charge of the main dish for dinner, so I'm going to share a recipe that is so easy, you can do if you can count to three and still make a delicious meal for a crowd.

1, 2, 3 Lasagna!
Serves 8-12 (depending on how big the servings are)
1 pound of ground beef or turkey (thawed)
1 cup of diced onion (about one medium to large onion)
1 jar of marinara sauce
1 16 oz tub of ricotta cheese (small curd cottage cheese works too)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (if you can, buy a wedge and grate it yourself - great nutty richness!)
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning (I like to use Penzey's pasta sprinkle)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (2-3 tsps of minced garlic in a jar works too) 
4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
10 lasagna noodles (3 layers of 3 noodles, plus a "fixer" noodle)
Optional: as many other diced veggies as you want! I included zucchini and peppers. I would have included mushrooms if I had them. You can also add in some red wine, but since two of the ladies are soon-to-be-mommies, I am leaving the alcohol out.

You are going to need four containers ready: 1 big bowl for mixing, 1 large skillet, 1 large pot, 1 13 x 9 inch baking dish (lightly greased).

In the large pot, get water boiling and cook the pasta according to the directions. After you have that started, start browning the meat in the skillet and break it up in small bits. It's easier to spread later. I had ground turkey on hand, so that's what I made this time. When it is about half-way done, toss in your veggies and garlic to cook with the meat so they get a bit soft. (This is where you could throw some wine in if you choose.)
Brightly colored veggies = lots of vitamins and nutrients!
If you add zucchini or spinach, make sure and let it cook out some of the moisture.

In the big bowl, mix the ricotta (or cottage) cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese and the Italian seasoning together while the meat is browning and water is boiling. This will be the glue that holds it all together.

When the meat is done browning, pour in the jar of marinara. Yes, I will learn how to make my own at some point. Until then, I like to be a good consumer! That should heat through by the time the pasta is done boiling. Please be careful when you drain the pasta. This was the first time EVER that I didn't rip a noodle or two. If you are going to be baking this right away, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

It's time to start counting to three!

Step 1, put 1/3 of the meat sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and spread it out evenly.

Usually I save that last noodle to patch up where I ripped other noodles.
Instead, I just layered it in since I didn't rip any other noodles. Miracle!
Step 2, put three lasagna noodles on top of the meat side by side to cover the sauce. Step 3: put 1/3 of the cheese on top of the noodles and spread out.

Tip: Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture on each noodle and spread across length-wise.
It's much easier to spread that way than the short way.
Put about a cup of the mozzarella cheese on top of this cheese. Repeat the meat, noodle, cheese layers 2 more times (total of three layers). Make sure you have plenty of mozzarella cheese for the top.

If you are going to be baking this now, cover the top of the dish with aluminum foil, but tent it up a bit so it doesn't stick to the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 10 minutes (total cook time 50 minutes) so the cheese gets a little golden brown. If you're going to be baking this later like I will, cover and put in your fridge or freezer.


My friend Rachel is a wonderful baker and cook. She makes the best flourless chocolate cake in the world. She is also a whiz with a sewing machine. For a Christmas present this year, she made me a baking dish carrier complete with matching pot holders to keep your hot foods hot and cold foods cold. So cute!

I'll be using this adorable dish carrier to take my lasagna to Girls' Weekend. If you would like one of you own, please visit Rachel's facebook page: