My musings…

Archive for July, 2010

Inside Out Lasagna

I made this recipe for Inside Out Lasagna last week.  It turned out delicious.  I did make one mistake, though, and when I copied down the recipe I didn’t write down what to do with the ricotta cheese!  So I ended up stirring it in with the pasta/veggie mixture which melted it and it turned out quite well – just not as pretty as the one in the picture.  Though it wasn’t like any lasagna I’ve ever eaten, Elvis loved it and it’s definitely on my to make again list.  I served it with some chicken breasts, but it’s hearty enough to serve without meat.  Serving it with the meat meant there were probably closer to 6 servings of the pasta dish.

Inside Out Lasagna

From EatingWell


  • 8 ounces whole-wheat rotini or fusilli
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves cloves garlic, sliced
  • 8 ounces sliced white mushrooms (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, spinach and crushed red pepper (if using). Increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring once halfway through, until the spinach is wilted, about 4 minutes.
  4. Toss the sauce with the pasta and divide among 4 bowls. Dollop each serving with 3 tablespoons of ricotta.


Per serving: 364 calories; 9 g fat (3 g sat, 4 g mono); 14 mg cholesterol; 0 g added sugars; 16 g protein; 7 g fiber; 588 mg sodium; 786 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (90% daily value), Vitamin C (50% dv), Folate (25% dv), Potassium (22% dv), Calcium (21% dv), Iron (20% dv).

3 Carbohydrate Serving


mmm mmm mmm! Classic Chicken Parmesan from Emeril’s Kitchen

So my friend from college, Hannah, posted yesterday on Facebook her love for Emeril’s tomato sauce from this recipe.  I didn’t have any ideas for dinner last night and I had most of the ingredients in the house, so I decided I’d give it a shot, too!

If you follow the instructions from start to finish, it’s a very time intensive recipe which includes making the pasta sauce from scratch.  Seeing that beforehand, I decided that I’d just double it right away and freeze half of it for a future occasion.

The recipe is really long and would take up too much space here, so just follow that link above to get to it and I’ll add my comments here.

Tomato sauce (recipe at the bottom of the page where the link is) –  Romanita tomatoes must be something you can only get in Italy, so I used the combination of Roma and grape tomatoes as he suggested – 6 pounds of tomatoes! Yikes! (Remember I’m doubling this.)   Plus 24 cloves of garlic – that’s 2 whole bulbs.  It looked really pretty in the pan before I dumped in the salt and pepper which is why I decided not to take pictures of this venture.  Maybe because I doubled it, none of the water evaporated from the pan…so I dumped the majority in the sink, then put it back in the oven and…more water!  Maybe the tomatoes were super juicy?  Anyway, after well over an hour of cooking, I couldn’t wait any longer or we wouldn’t have had dinner until after 9:30, so I decided to blend it as it was.  And it turned out delicious, though pretty orange in color (it wasn’t just mine – it looks that way on their site, too!)…it tastes great, though!

Essence spice – (recipe two-thirds of way down the page if you follow that link.)  This flavor was kind of buried under 10000 other flavors used in the dish, so I’m not sure it’s 100% necessary.  Since the recipe makes 2/3 of a cup and you only need 2 teaspoons, I have a bunch left over which I’ll try on chicken and maybe some other meats in the future as well.

The chicken – super fast and easy.  I didn’t add any more salt to the chicken before breading because there isn’t any need for it.  Also I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella, so I just used normal mozzarella.  And 1 pound of linguine??? For 4 people?  1 lb = 1 box and 1 box = 8 servings.  I cooked half a box.  I think if I had made the whole box, I wouldn’t have had enough sauce for the whole dish.

The sides – Can’t have a pasta dish without a side salad and garlic bread.  We also had a glass of red wine.  And we sat at the table instead of in the living room for this special meal.

The verdict: Delicious!  I was SOOOO excited for the leftovers in my lunch today.   If time is running short, you can use jarred pasta sauce which would be fairly easy.  Also, I thought it was a little TOO cheesy.  I used a 1/2 lb of mozzarella like the recipe suggested which yielded 2 slices/chicken breast.  I think you could cut it down to 1/4 lb and use only 1 slice per breast and be fine.  It had great flavor, though!  We’ll make this again sometime in the future.

Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Mini Cheesecakes

For Jenna’s wedding, I was in charge of the rehearsal dinner.  Since her in-laws flew in from Kenya, they wouldn’t have the time or the resources to take care of this meal which is traditionally the responsibility of the groom’s family.  I wanted to make something different and I had a coupon for cream cheese, so I decided to make this recipe for Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Cheesecakes.  I, of course, made my own modifications.

First – the calories in these was over 400 calories each and 31 grams of fat which is almost half of the daily recommended intake.  So I bought the reduced calorie, reduced fat versions of all of the ingredients.  I don’t know if it changed the taste of the dessert much, but I thought they tasted delicious and they were gone before the end of the dinner!  In the end they had about 120 calories each and 4 grams of fat – not bad at all.

The other modification I made was making them into cupcake-sized servings which turned out really well.  The swirls weren’t so pronounced, but they still looked pretty.  Because they were smaller, they also took a very short time (like 10 minutes!) to cook.

I also decorated the top with chocolate shavings and strawberries.  I definitely should have taken a picture!

I think that these will go into the recipe box to make them in the future.

Reading update time

One thing I remember most about summers as a kid was reading.  A lot.  There were summer book clubs at the library and we would regularly check out 5 or more books a week to read.  Not to mention the finds from local yard sales and other books that we would find.  This summer has been quite busy and I haven’t had TOO much of a chance to read, but I did have two 14+ hour flights which allowed me to read most of 2 books and I finally finished another that I have been reading off and on for awhile.

I had started reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  maybe 2 months ago and read bits and pieces as time allowed.  The novel tells the story of four sisters – Meg, Beth, Amy and Jo – as they grow up in Massachusetts.   Many of the elements of the story are based upon Alcott’s life.  I really enjoyed this book and it was an easy read.

On the plane ride to Vietnam, I read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  Actually I read the version in Spanish, but I guess it’s still the same. 🙂 It was an interesting book discussing 5 ways in which people feel that they are loved.  For example, some people feel love through spending quality time with those they love – you could buy that person 1000000 presents and flowers and trinkets,  but without spending time with that person, they will not feel the love in the same way the gift-giver intended.  It definitely gave me some things to think about and was a very fast read.

Since I finished that book on the way, I bought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the Hong Kong airport.  I had read some reviews online before and so the name automatically sounded familiar when I saw it in the bookshop.  It was a 500+ page book which I managed to read in 2 days (partially because one of those days had 34 hours in it for me and partially because it is a really good book).  It definitely kept my attention and with so many twists and turns, I didn’t want to put it down.  I am definitely thinking about purchasing the next two books in the series – The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest and The Girl who Played with Fire for my next trip (1 month from today!).

I am currently reading Angela’s Ashes which I picked up at the second hand store on Monday.  I’m already 80 pages in and I am definitely enjoying the book.  More updates on this later!

Stay tuned tomorrow and I shall post the recipe for the Mini Oreo Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Cheesecakes that I made for Jenna’s rehearsal dinner!

Oops! I’ve left the blog slide again.

The past month has been filled with wedding things and travel! Yay! June 5 was Jenna’s bridal shower, the 12th was Julia’s bridal shower and the 19th was Matthew and Megan’s wedding.

On the 21st, I left for Vietnam. Our plane was turned around after we left Chicago for a problem with oxygen on the flight. I’m not sure how a plane works, but not enough oxygen seems like a strange problem to me. Since there were no other options to get to Hanoi that night, we had to spend the night in a hotel and we left again on Tuesday. We arrived late on Wednesday night and made it in time for the second day of the conference on Thursday. The large conference seemed to go well – probably close to 300 people or more there!

On Friday we left for the private meeting which was at Xuan Thuy National Park. Look it up these coordinates: 20.259943,106.562576 on Google Maps. You’ll be able to see a little of what I’m talking about. The people there have highly modified the natural environment there. To the point that it’s no longer natural. They have created a LOT of aquaculture ponds in which they raise shrimp, crab and other fish. The people who are there make a lot of money off of these products, so the costs would be too high for us to do a project there which would involve a mangrove restoration project. Farther inland there is a LOT of rice production which is also done in an unsustainable manner. In southern Vietnam, these products are less developed than they are in the south, so we may be able to help the government create legislation and projects which help to protect the natural environment in the south.

We were in Giao Thuy through Sunday for the meeting and then headed to Hanoi that afternoon. Once in Hanoi, we were able to visit a market, walk around the Trúc Bạch Lake which is where John McCain was captured during what the Vietnamese call the “American War.” I didn’t know this, however, until now.

We also went out for dinner at a restaurant where we ate everything from buffalo to crickets. It was delicious! We ordered 14-15 different dishes between the 7 of us who shared everything which was great.

On Monday we flew to Hong Kong where we were able to visit a few markets and watch the nightly light show in the harbor that night, too.

Tuesday was a 34 hour day as we flew back across the date line. Wednesday I slept for most of the day, and Thursday I drove back to PA for Jenna’s wedding preparation. Her wedding was Saturday, on Sunday I met up with Tina for lunch before driving back to DC. Elvis and I biked to the University of Maryland Sunday night to watch the fireworks which was fun.

Yesterday it was too hot to do anything, so we spent most of the day relaxing around the house. Now I’m back at work for another full week…