Double Wrapped Vegetable Lasagna

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Growing up my father made the VERY BEST vegetable lasagna. It was such a staple in our house that I was genuinely shocked, and already 20 years old, when I found out that traditional lasagna was actually made with meat. My dad still makes the best lasagna and that’s what’s on the menu for Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Since everyone will be enjoying lasagna, I don’t want to miss out so I’m going to be enjoying my own single serving lasagna too. But since I’ve already got a TON to do, I’m going super easy with this lasagna… I’ll assemble it before I leave and then throw it in an oven double wrapped in foil once I get to the cabin.

Ingredients:

  • Oven ready lasagna noodles (mine were spinach flavor hence the green in the picture)
  • Your favorite tomato sauce
  • Zucchini- sliced thinly
  • Big handful of spinach
  • Sweet Potato thinly sliced
  • Feta cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded cheese- I used munster, mozzarella would have been good too

Directions:

  • Soak the lasagna noodles according to the package directions (mine said to soak in warm water for 1 minute)
  • Put a spoonful or two of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan and place one layer of noodles on top – I used a small disposable aluminum pan
  • Chop or rip the spinach and mix with the feta cheese and sour cream ( I mixed it in a ziplock bag… I told you I love this trick!) You could also add some tofu into this mix if you are looking for more protein. Spread the creamy spinach & feta mixture on top of the first layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Add a little sauce on top and add the next layer of lasagna noodles. Put a spoonful or two of sauce and sour cream then add a layer of zucchini with more sauce.
  • Add the last layer of lasagna noodles and some more sauce and shredded cheese. Wrap with foil, and then wrap with a second layer of foil. Then bake in a 350*F pre-heated oven for 45minutes if you like your veg & noodles ‘al dente’ or for 1 hour for softer lasagna.

Alternative… you could thinly slice sweet potatoes for another layer!- Be sure to bake for between 1 and 1 1/2 hours if you do use sweet potatoes to give them a chance to really cook.

I’m not gonna lie, my dad’s lasagna is still better, but at least I have a good enough substitute :)…

*EDIT*

After making it for my pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday night meal, I edited the recipe to include sour cream in the mix… I had some extra after the sour cream cake so I decided it couldn’t hurt. Let me tell you, not only did it not hurt, but it totally took this lasagna from ‘okay enough’ to WOW WOW WOW!!! I’ve still got some sour cream left so you can bet I am going to prepare a few more of these to store in the freezer for another make shift meal 🙂

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Aunt Jill’s Cinnamon Rolls in the CROCK POT!!!

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My aunt Jill has a knack for finding great easy recipes. This cinnamon roll recipe totally won our hearts a few years back and I’ve been super obsessed with them ever since. This year, when researching recipes for Thanksgiving, I came across a cookbook of all sorts of crazy things you can make in a crock pot. It turns out, you can make cinnamon rolls in a crock pot! Who knew! And let me tell you, these things are awesome! They are also going to be the perfect home cooked breakfast over my mini Thanksgiving vacation 🙂

So you can use your favorite cinnamon roll recipe and throw it in your crock pot (lined with parchment paper), or you can join my family and try out my Aunt Jill’s cinnamon rolls 🙂

This recipe includes 2 tips & tricks… 1) I’m making the dry mix before I go and packing it in a ziplock bag, that way when I’m ready to make them, all I have to do is add the wet ingredients and roll them out, which brings me to … 2) Don’t have a rolling pin? Use some parchment paper & a wine bottle to roll it out just as thin as you like!

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And now for the recipe…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 4 TBSP earth balance
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (to add at the end if you like your cinnamon rolls gooey)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Drop of almond milk

Directions:

  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt & baking soda. Add the oil and almond milk and mix until a dough forms.
  • Roll out the dough to make it as long and thin as possible without ripping (about 1/4-1/2 inch).
  • Spread the earth balance evenly across the dough
  • Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle all over the the dough.
  • Roll the dough up long ways so you end up with a long snake, then slice in 1 1/2 inch slices.
  • Line your crock pot with parchment paper and place the cinnamon rolls on top. Cook on the high setting for about an hour and a half. You will likely see steam cover the inner lid of your crock pot. This happens more as the cinnamon buns are almost done. Just use a paper towel to wipe the lid periodically.
  • When the cinnamon rolls are done, you can either mix powdered sugar with a drop of almond milk to make a frosting to drizzle on top, or you can pour some almond milk on top all the rolls to make them nice and gooey, or you can do both!

*If you’d rather go the traditional cooking route, you can also bake these in your oven at 400*F for 15-20 minutes

Enjoy! And if you need more of a step-by-step here are some pictures to help you out 🙂

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After mixing the dough, roll it out… no rolling pin? No problem as long as you have wine 🙂 When I am not in a kosher kitchen, or when I don’t have kosher counter tops, I roll my dough out on a flexible cutting board and use parchment paper as a barrier between the bottle and the dough. This keeps the bottle mostly clean 🙂

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After rolling out the dough, spread the earth balance and sprinkle the cinnamon & brown sugar.

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Roll the dough up length-wise then…

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Slice the rolls and …

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Place in your crock-pot lined with parchment paper and heat on high for 1 1/2 hours

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If your crock pot gets steamy, wipe the lid and let the cinnamon rolls keep on cooking

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When they are done drizzle with frosting/glaze and enjoy! These are great hot, but they are also great cold so really, there is no going wrong here 🙂 Enjoy!

This Year’s Thanksgiving Menu

So I’m crazy. Like, really crazy. On top of my full time job, and all sorts of other commitments, I’m also planning a really outrageous menu for Thanksgiving vacation. This year we’re going to a cabin in Ohio with my father’s side of the family. This means that not only am I preparing for my Thanksgiving dinner, but also for all the meals, snacks, and food gifts for all 5 days of our mini break.

So here is the crazy menu I’m planning… As I add the recipes I’ll link them back up so you can be crazy like me … or you know, choose in moderation 🙂

Wednesday: 6 Hour Car Ride & Dinner with the family

Thursday: The BIG Day

Friday: Erev Shabbos

  • Aunt Jill’s Cinnamon Rolls in the CROCK POT (Seriously AMAZING!!!!!!)- I prepared all the dry ingredients in one ziplock so all I had to do was add the wet ingredients and roll them out!
  • Fancy cheese, wine, jam & crackers
  • Challah, olive dip, pesto, lox, curry chicken soup (from the freezer because, somethings just have to be easy and that soup is seriously just that amazing)

Saturday: Shabbos

  • Leftover cinnamon rolls
  • Salad, meatloaf (from the freezer, because, again, some things just have to be easy), dips, lox etc
  • Motzei Shabbos TACOS
  • Motzei Shabbos… smores – this time with regular paskesz  marshmallows because Trader Joe’s no longer has the kosher ones from this summer! 😦

Sunday: The car ride home

  • Leftovers…
  • Leftovers…
  • Jar salad?

 

So on top of all this… my family does food gifts for channukah and this year I’ve decided to candied pecans & toasted coconut chocolate bark as well as some supper great foodie Shay’s Caramels…

Thanksgiving is Coming…

Thanksgiving is one of my families favorite holidays and each year we alternate between my mother’s side of the family and my father’s side. Since I’ve become Frum, Thanksgiving definitely has some new considerations and every year is a bit different but in the end it is always time well spent with family. So to help you plan for your Thanksgiving feasts this year I’m going to post a whole bunch of stuff I’ve one over the years and then the breakdown for this year. Here goes…

My mother’s parents live in New York and are very familiar with the whole kosher scene. They know all about kosher butchers and separate dishes, not to mention glatt kosher caterers.

One year my grandparents had the whole thing brought in by a local kosher caterer. This was nice because everything was kosher and certified and required minimal work on our part. The only down side was that they were not our recipes and when you don’t work for something (or in this case, cook it yourself), it just isn’t the same.

Another year, I came early and kashered my grandparents oven and stove top. They had a new set of pots and pans and we made the whole thing together. Everything was going really well until about 5 minutes before we ate when someone took the wrong knife, cut a lemon and squeezed it on the green beans in the oven with everything else… It was a frantic phone call to my LOR and I remember I was still able to eat certain foods that had been cooked before, but it was a funny end after a lot of hard work. Another funny part of that year was that I decided to check all the lettuce, you know, for bugs. Well my 13 year old cousin got really in to it and was really excited any time he found a questionable speck. We spent over an hour checking lettuce and in the end there was so much talk about bugs that no one would go near the salad…I guess some things are left better unsaid… whoops!

When we go to my father’s side of the family we have either been in Illinois/Indiana, or more recently in a rented cabin in Ohio. When I would fly to Illinois I was limited in what I could bring on the flight so I remember thinking about what Thanksgiving foods I liked best. It was always the dairy stuff… you know, green bean casserole, candied yams, cheesy potatoes. So one year, thats what I prepared in advance, and I also brought a mini cheesecake from Crown Heights. That year, I was really newly frum, it might have even been my first kosher Thanksgiving… my strongest memory was missing out on turkey, and freaking out when my cousins kept passing the gravy over my plate… That was the last year that I intentionally sat in the middle of the table, now I run for a table end 🙂

In more recent years, we’ve rented a cabin in Ohio, “halfway” away from everyone. Between us and my aunt’s and uncle’s families we all make a list of what we are bringing and then we drive out and cook all together. Kashering is not an option there so I end up having to get creative. Another added complexity is that we are there Wed-Sunday and I stay at the cabin for shabbos. Its a whole bunch of extra meals with more consideration needed… On those Thanksgivings my crockpot is key. In the past I’ve pre-made my food and used the crock pot to re-heat it. Sometimes I make turkey meatballs, green bean casserole, and some sort of sweet potatoes and throw it all in the crock pot to re-heat. I use the leftovers for shabbos and throw in a few extras. Since being in the middle of nowhere in Ohio, with a bunch of self-proclaimed foodies all showing off their food, I always try to bring food that everyone else can have too, but it makes me a bit anxious that I will run out of food for me, so I always go overboard.

But then again, that’s what you do for family. You go overboard, you push beyond your boundaries, you allow yourself to be less comfortable, because you love them, and they love you and at the end of the day, they are the one constant in an ever changing world. To all my family, on both sides, I love you all dearly, and look forward to our Thanksgiving dinners, this year and next.

 

 

Tips & Tricks: Freeze Everything!

Okay… so maybe not everything, but there are many surprising things that you can freeze that make going home that much easier! Keeping a well stocked freezer can make cooking in a non-kosher kitchen a bit easier. If your family is okay with it, keep a few key things in your home freezer. If freezer space is already limited, freeze ingredients before you go home and then use them when you get there. In a suitcase many frozen meats will stay frozen for even 6-7 hours! When I am traveling with frozen meats/other ingredients I also try to pack them with an extra freezer pack just to be sure it will stay food safe when I get home 🙂

 

Here’s the short list of the things that surprised me…

  • Raw dough… think challah dough, cookie dough, pizza dough…skys the limit!
    • Some things to keep in mind:
      • braid challah dough before freezing, when you defrost follow similar directions to store bought frozen challah dough
      • spoon your cookie dough out on a flat tray and freeze overnight. Then you can throw your raw dough in a ziplock bag until you are ready to throw them in the oven… or eat them raw… no judgement
      • Dough in general… be sure to wrap it really well… dough freezes well but it can still get freezer burn so wrap that thing up!
  • Cheese… I wouldn’t recommend freezing all cheeses but, I haven’t met a shredded cheese that doesn’t freeze fantastically. I’ve even frozen fresh mozzarella (I know it ironic)! Freezing cheese is perfect because it can last up to a year… or possibly longer without going bad! This is especially helpful when getting kosher cheese to your family’s house isn’t the easiest, so you can stock up and keep that freezer packed!
  • Meat… this one is pretty obvious but here are some things to keep in mind…
    • Raw meat can only be frozen once… if you bought it frozen, keep it frozen. If you bought it fresh, freeze within 3-4 days for maximum freshness. When you are ready to use it defrost it (or don’t depending on your recipe) and enjoy!
    • Cooked meat… after meat has been cooked you can freeze the extras for easy meals that just need to be heated up. Be sure to wrap it well.. I generally try to eat cooked meats within 3 months
  • Soup! Soups generally freeze well and when you leave it in the fridge overnight, it’s ready to heat up quickly the next day!
  • Extra ingredients that are likely to go bad before you get a chance to use them… Think, ground fresh ginger, garlic, cooking wine, egg whites… you name it!

What not to freeze…

  • Cooked potatoes… I’m sure there are other things that are not good for freezing… but this is all that comes to mind 🙂

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

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There is nothing that makes me happier when the weather gets cool than a good bowl of soup, and truth is, there is really only one kind of soup that I crave and it’s this one.

This soup is savory, sweet, filling, flavorful, yet somewhat light… too many words, but basically it’s fantastic. There are a lot of ingredients, so when I make this soup, I make a lot of it and enjoy the leftovers for days and freeze some for perfect meals whenever the weather gets cool again.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 onion chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 chicken breasts sliced
  • 1 -2 TBSP fresh (or frozen) ground ginger
  • 2 11oz containers of cooking grade coconutmilk- I use So Delicious brand
  • 2 – 3TBSP of your favorite curry powder
  • 2 TBSP date sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 delicata squash (or 1 butternut squash peeled) and cut up
  • 1 cauliflower (checked for bugs)
  • 2 carrots peeled and cut
  • 2 pieces of fresh lemon grass cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro washed and checked for bugs
  • 2 32oz boxes of vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bundle of green onions
  • 3 Limes

 

Directions:

In a big soup pot sautee the onions in your favorite cooking oil (I used olive) and almost immediately add the sliced chicken breast and one carton of coconut milk, curry powder, ginger, and sweetner of your choice. As the chicken cooks, finish preparing the other vegetables and add them to the pot: Wash, cut, and de-seed the delicata squash (the great thing about this squash is you can eat the peel!), check and cut the cauliflower, wash, peel, and cut the carrots, wash, check and rip the cilantro, and cut the two pieces of lemongrass.

Add the 2 boxes of soup stock (Tabachnick is generally easy to find at your local grocery). Heat over medium heat until the squash and carrots are fork tender. To finish the soup off, add some fresh green onions, the juice of 3 limes, and the second carton of coconut milk. Add any additional salt, curry powder, or sweeter to balance out any flavors. Enjoy!

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The Most Amazing Spaghetti Squash I’ve Ever Had

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This was the side dish I made for my mother’s birthday dinner… the main dish recipe is found here. With the end of summer, comes great local fresh squash, and I am all about the local farms around here. Something about the peaceful, rolling hills, super fresh produce… well anyway, I digress… So I came home from the farm with a beautiful spaghetti squash… I planned to make a pesto to go with it, but I kept forgetting to buy basil. I decided to play around a bit and came up with this. It was so good, that I went back to the farm and bought another spaghetti squash!

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 2 TBSP almond butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic – minced/chopped small
  • 1 large onion- chopped
  • Salt
  • Nutritional Yeast (Optional, but will make it taste a bit cheesy!)

Directions:

Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Bake, face down on foil or parchment at 400*F for about 45 minutes (or an hour to an hour and 15 minutes in a pan double wrapped in foil). The squash is ready, when you push down on the outside skin and it sinks a bit.

Let the squash cool, then with a fork, scrape the shell of the squash and set all the “spaghetti” aside. In a fry pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, almond butter, garlic, onion and a good pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent. Mix the “spaghetti” and a pinch of nutritional yeast into the onion mixture in the fry pan and cook for about 5 – 10 minutes.

Enjoy! This one makes great leftovers too! You can keep it in the refrigerator for about a week and re-heat in the frypan 🙂