Ten Gallon Hat Winery

I finally went to my first winery! After attending multiple wine festivals and tastings, I finally went to a winery. My friend got me a gift certificate to Ten Gallon Hat Winery, and before I knew it, its expiration date was quickly approaching. Unfortunately, she was not able to go with me, but dad was happy, and more than willing, to substitute.

So, February 10th, after work and running some errands, we drove about 15 minutes over the DE/PA line to Ten Gallon Hat Winery. Its pretty well hidden. Despite how small the building looks on the outside, its a spacious beauty on the inside. Dad and I walked down the steps to a room with a bar and a bunch of high top tables. Each table and corner bar supplied with mini saltine and chocolate chip morsels, to compliment the wine.

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We were given a list, with a descriptions of each wine, and a pencil to check off our choices. We were able to each choose six wines to sample, so between the two of us, we covered the 13 options. While dad was more set on the reds, I was counting down to the fruit wines.

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First came the reds:V__DAE2

  • Merlot- This was so-so. Its pretty hard to mess up a merlot.
  • Zinfandel- I’ve had white merlot, but never a red zin. It was sort of dry like a zin, but with a deep flavor typical of a red.
  • Barbera- This, in my opinion, was the best red. Cedar was the scent that stood out to me. I don’t mean it was like sipping on bark. It was mellow and there was something calming about drinking this wine.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon- Dad’s a cab guy, so he was looking forward to this one, and wasn’t disappointed. He rated this as his highest ranking of the red and whites.

Followed by the whites: Admittedly, neither dad nor myself are much fans of white wines.V__55CE

  • Chardonnay- It just sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? But, unfortunately, it was much too dry for my liking.
  • Pinot Grigio, AKA “The Sheriff’s Daughter”- Based on the description, I expected a citrus and fruity wine with a bit of a dry bite. But, alas, still not my fancy…
  • Riesling, AKA “The Preacher’s Daughter”- We had finally hit a white wine that tickled my fancy with its mild sweetness.
  • Moscato, AKA “The Farmer’s Daughter”- I’m not a moscato chick, typically. But this and Riesling were the best whites, in my opinion.

And, lastly, the fruits:

  • Blackberry- This was a dark wine, deep with flavor, but no incredibly sweet. I feel like this would be a good wine for someone who is a Cabernet drinker…
  • Red Raspberry- This was the one I was looking forward to the most. After my girlfriend’s wedding two years ago, I fell in love V__08E7with raspberry wine. The bartender spooned some chocolate semi sweets on a napkin and poured us our wine. The first thing I noticed was the pieces of actual raspberries in the wine! Well, that’s a good sign… real fruit… I thought to myself. Dad thought this was the best of the fruit wines. Although, this was an enjoyable wine… what was up next, blew me away.
  • Cranberry- Although I enjoy cranberries and cranberry juice, I did not have high expectations for this wine. Its cranberries… I mentally prepared myself for a tart wine. Boy, was I wrong! After our first few sips, the bartender brought out a wedge of lime to squeeze into the glass. In a nutshell, I bought a whole bottle, and dad and I finished off 2/3 of the bottle that night. Wow, just wow! I can’t even explain how delicious this one is! It’s been months since we’ve had this wine, and I still rave about it!

The fruit wines stole the show for me!

As I talked with Sheryl, one of the bar tenders, I had mentioned I was curious about what was done with all the corks. She filled a whole bag with corks for me to take with me. (I have one of those iron cork holders to hang on my wall and in need of more corks.) Dad and I headed back up the steps to the entertainment room, where were heard music playing. With our wine glasses and an uncorked bottle in hand, dad found us a seat, and I ordered a bowl of Lobster Bisque and a cheesecake.

I had just gotten my first pay check from my new job and was too excited to celebrate with dad. With all the endorphin flowing, I introduced myself to the musician playing, Matt Santry, and offered to get him a glass of wine, while dad and waited for out order.

Matt sat down with dad and I, and the three of us, sipping our wines, discussed music, life, performing, wine, and more. It was pretty cool. My dad must have liked the guy because suddenly dad became my wing man, trying to find out all sorts of information about Matt’s relationship status, past, and so on! I have to say it was pretty cool and quite the bonding moment for pops and I. (But, sorry ladies, Matt’s engaged.)

As Matt  took the stage, our food arrived. The bisque was served with a few homemade croutons. The cheesecake elegantly served with a pool of raspberry syrup and a white chocolate swizzle.

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We left the winery in a great mood and a bit of cranberry wine left. Guess who’s got limes in the fridge, now? This chick!!!

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Salud!

A Break

With the gross feelings  that I’ve been having about myself, and the insecurities I’ve been feeling, I thought it would be nice to break the monotony of the blog and complete a survey… I def want to hear about you too, so answer some in the comments below!!!

A to Z Survey

A – Age: 23.

B – Biggest Fear: Not being able to have children.

C – Current Time: 1151.

D – Drink You Had Last: Wawa Diet Green Tea.

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: Mom, except if its about her.

F – Favorite Song: I don’t know how to pick just one! But I think this one send a great message:

G – Grossest Memory: I’m a nurse, so not much grosses me out. Sputum specimens used to make me gag, though.

H – Hometown: I was born in Wilmington, DE, but much of my childhood was spent with my mom’s family in Philly, and our summers in Seaside Park, NJ.

I – In Love With: Beauty (may she rest in peace), and learning.

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J – Jealous Of: People who can just pick up and travel. I’ve been offered traveling nurse jobs, but just leaving my family and home… its pretty scary.

K – Kindest Person You Know: Mommom Higgins (my mother’s mom). I’ve never heard her say a bad thing about anyone.

L – Longest Relationship: about 13 months.

M – Middle Name: Marie. Its my mom’s first name, so I tell her that its where I get all my crazy from.

N – Number of Siblings: Technically, I’m an only child, but when my mom remarried to Frank, I gained a step-sister (who is 7 months older), and two step-brothers (who are 2 and 4 years younger than me).

O – One Wish: To make a difference in the world.

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last: My step-dad, Frank.

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “You work with sick babies? How do you do that? Isn’t it sad?” No! No, it is not sad. I get to sing, and dance, and make silly faces, and comfort parents, and make that sick baby feel better.

R – Reason To Smile: I’m blessed with a job, a driving ambition, a roof over my head, and even though living with an eating disorder is a daily struggle, I’m surviving.

S – Song You Last Sang: “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffett. Probably that Andy Grammer song sing I just posted the music video, but prior to that…. a little Paul Mc Cartney.

T – Time You Woke Up:  0650.

U – Underwear Color: Since we just finished the Fourth of July weekend, my undies are screaming “USA” with blue fabric, red lace, and silver metallic stars.

V – Vacation Destination: My dream to travel the Mediterranean. I’ve always wanted to visit Sicily, where my Nonna was born, but Greece look gorgeous, as well.

W – Worst Habit: Besides biting my nails like its my job, I can be really lazy.

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: Hmmm… I’ve had chest X-Rays when I had bronchitis, and an X-Ray to my femur when I was having issues walking (muscle tear from malnutrition)….

Y – Your Favorite Food: I’m addicted to feel good foods, but who’s not?! My mom’s meatloaf or chicken cordon bleu I could eat every day. I’m currently (and I mean for the past like 6 years) addicted to soft-serve fro-yo. I would love to figure out how to make it at home. I always get just a shot of frozen yogurt, then cover it with chopped fruit and usually about 5 reese’s pieces.

Z – Zodiac Sign: You would think for a Libra I wouldn’t be so high strung.

So tell me about yourself….

Pin-tresting

Apples and cheese are a classic fondue pairing. So on Pintrest, it really doesn’t surprise me that there are so many apple-cheddar pies. Some put the cheese in the crust, others in the pie, and others on top. And it didn’t just stop at cheddar and pie. There was Brie, and gallettes, and hand pies, soups, and dips.

You all know my experimentality and how much I adore playing in the kitchen. Needless to say, Pintrest got my gears turning… Some food combos just taste odd together, like this grapefruit protein shake I made one time (not a good post, Pintrest)… But lets face it… bacon goes with EVERYTHING!

Apple-Cheddar-Bacon Pie

serves 8

  • 11 slices thin slice turkey bacon (2 slice for 35 calories)
  • 3 apples (enough to yield 4 cups)
  • 1 medium onion (about 2 1/2 in diameter), finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely choppedWP_008337
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp thyme, to taste
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp granulated Splenda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, apple pie spice, or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup fat free shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup Fiber One bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • salt and pepper, to top

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-in pie pan with nonstick cooking spray and weave 8 slices of turkey bacon. Line the last three slices of bacon around the walls of the pie pan to create the crust. I found that making a little tear in the middle of those three slices helps keep the bacon from rolling down the sides of the pan. Bake for 20 min.

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In the meantime, core and thinly slice the apples. Then, cut your slices in half and measure 4 cups. Combine the apples, celery, and onion in a large skillet on medium heat with 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a lid for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle with thyme, sage, garlic, Splendas, cinnamon, salt, pepper, vanilla, and lemon juice. Toss the mixture. Whisk the cornstarch with cold water until dissolved and pour over apple mix. Recover with the lid until bacon crust finishes baking.

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Meanwhile, in a food processor, chop 3/4 cup shredded cheddar. Set aside. Next, process the cereal until extremely fine. Add the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar to the processor, and blend until evenly distributed.

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Stir just the processed cheese into the apple mix, and transfer mix to the baked bacon, spreading the cheesy blend evenly over crust. Return to the 350 F oven for 15 minutes.

Lastly, add the unsweetened applesauce to the processor of cheese and Fiber One crumbs and blend until a crumble is created. Get messy, and use your hands to crumble on top of the warm pie. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and return to the oven for a final 25 minutes. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, while you make the optional sauce.

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What really is the icing on the pie is this sweetened thyme yogurt sauce!

Thyme Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/4 cup plain non fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar free syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Blend and dollop!

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Rather than sticking with the sweet/tart, salty feel, I wanted something a little more savory. I was really impressed that the bacon crust stayed perfectly together when the pie was sliced. I was  even more impressed by the the afterthought of dressing up some yogurt. Thank goodness for that afterthought, too, because it tied all the sweet and savory flavors if the pie together.

Nutrition: (1/8 of pie and 1/2 Tbsp sauce)

Calories:119, Fat: 2g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 391mg, Carbs: 17g, Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 9g, Protein: 10g

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I would imagine that this could also be served with an over-easy egg, where the yolk would act as the yogurt sauce.

I’ve sort of rediscovered my love for apples recently so you may see another apple pie riff sooner that you think.

On A Spoon

The family I work with belongs to a local co-op, but with everything going on in life, they were not able to use all the apples. They generously offered them to me, and I a gratefully replied, “Thank you. Sure, I’ll take a few.” The mother then handed me a huge bag of assorted apples and Asian pears.

So what to do with all these apples? Apple chips? Apple pie? Apple dumpling? Apple jam?

Apple Pie JamWP_008125

makes 16 oz (approx 32 Tbsp)

  • 2 cups apples, finely chopped (almost minced), skin on or off
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup granulated Splenda
  • 1 tsp Splenda brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp no sugar needed pectin
  • 2/3 cup water

Place the minced apples and 2 Tbsp water in a microwave-safe container, cover with plastic/saran wrap, and microwave for 2 minutes. Transfer contents of bowl to food processor, and process apples as much as possible before you create applesauce. This will require scraping down the sides and then processing. Combine the processed apples and remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to boil, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, transfer mixture to clean jar(s). To seal jar(s), tighten the lids to a finger-tightness. If you have a canner, now is the time to use it… If not? Follow along:

In a large pot, place the sealed jars, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the top(s) of the jar(s). Bring to a boil. Check on the jar(s) every few minutes. Use a utensil to poke the center of the lid(s). If the lid dips when pressure is applied, continue to boil, rechecking the lid(s) every few minutes. Once the lid(s) are solid and no longer “pop,” turn off the heat, and carefully remove the jar(s), using tongs, and allow the jar(s) to cool at room temp. Then you can refrigerate.

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Nutrition (per tablespoon):

Calories:6, Fat: 0g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 0mg, Carbs: 2g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 1g, Protein: 0g

This stuff tastes amazing on anything! Toast, graham crackers, with nut butters…

** I made another batch, tweaking it a bit: substitute 2/3c water for 2/3c diet cranberry juice, 2Tbsp pectin, 1/2 tsp Splenda brown sugar, and sub lime juice for lemon juice.**

Heck, even just on a spoon!

Summer Memo

I know its not winter, but by the way Mother Nature has been treating us, I don’t think she got the memo… So on such a cold, rain day as today, I believe a warm, cozy, creamy meal is well called-for.

After seeing this recipe on Pintrest, I thought… I like veggies.. I like cheese… Makeover!!!

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Winter Veggie Casserole

6 servings

  • 12 oz package frozen Winter Blend vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower)
  • 12 oz package frozen California Blend vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
  • 1/2 7.5 oz pkg fat free shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 7.5 oz pkg fat free shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 4-5 oz can (2 servings per can) water chestnuts, sliced, drained
  • 1 8 oz can bean sprouts, drained
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup plain non fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Dijionaise
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Dash of Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In one bowl, combine the vegetables. In another bowl combine the cheeses, and in a third bowl combine the remaining ingredients (I also added a finely chopped jalepeno for heat). Add half the cheese mix to the bowl of food glue (the soup-yogurt-egg- spice combo). Once well-combined, evenly coat the mixed vegetables.

Spray a 9 x 13 dish with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the coated vegetables to the dish, and evenly spread into the corners. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese blend.

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Bake for 1 hour, uncovered.

Nutrition: per 1/6

Calories:207, Fat: 1.1g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 1503mg, Carbs: 21g, Fiber: 5g, Sugars: 5g, Protein: 24g

I served this with steak, and a doggie bag for pops to take with him. You could probably add the protein to the actual casserole, as well, and then bake it…. Or for a meatless meal, like I did, eat 1 1/2 servings for about 300 calories!

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Whats not to like? The crispy cheese shell? The creamy blend hiding just beneath it? Exactly! Dig in!

I started thinking about how versatile this recipe is. With the water chestnuts and bean sprouts, I began to think about playing on the Asian influences and tweaking this with Asian sauces and seasonings. I think my favorite part of the this were the carrots. I just love how cooking carrots brings out their naturals sugars and sweetness!!

What’s Your Story?

Another year of a successful Vagina Monologue performances! We raised over a grand for Natasha’s Justice Project, all while empowering others and ourselves. This year, I was in three scenes: Wear and Say, The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, a moan in Woman.

Wear and Say

Wear and Say

Middle Coochi  (ages

Middle Coochi
(ages 10 and 13)

The Starwars Moan

The Starwars Moan of “Woman”

I tell the girls of the cast the same thing every year, “I’m surrounded by 30 or so females, but this is the one place that I’m not afraid to change my clothes, goof off, be myself, by proud… Its because of you, ladies… ” They empower me. Most of us are complete strangers, but we end each year making new friends, finding common ground, and growing and being inspired by each other’s strengths.

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An Army of Vagina Warriors

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That O Face!

Cast Party Beer Pong

Cast Party Beer Pong

 

Still Friends since High School

Still Friends since High School

This year, a few weeks post the conclusion of the show, we got approval to host another event. This time, its OUR story. Any member that wanted to write and perform their OWN story, was welcome to do so. I knew immediately I wanted to participate.

I wanted to share the struggle and  the fight of perfectionism. The OCD that overcomes our minds. The hidden pain, anxiety, fear, and self mutilation that is experienced.

The following is MY story: Perfection

234 lbs. That was me 4 years ago.

She’s so pretty. Why can’t I be that pretty? She’s thin, and chesty, does her hair, make up… All the guys like her. God, I long to be in a bikini.

I hate going shopping for clothes. Another party? “ Sammy, how do I look,” she asks… “Wow,” I say, “fantastic.” In my mind, I’m crying. Someone hide me. Can’t I just curl up in a ball? Suck it in, Sam! Why am I always the third wheel? Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a nice person…

Enough is enough! I can’t be the fat friend anymore! Run, Sammy Run! You can do it. No cookies, veggies please.

Yes! 5 more pounds gone! “You’ve lost the weight of a third grader, Sam! You need new clothes!” my friends say to me.” Sure! Let’s go shopping! No, I’m not hungry, but thank you.

I can’t sleep, I’m going to the gym. “Sammy, this is your second time going today,” she says “ we think you have a problem. You’re scaring us.” I storm out the door and spend the next two hours pedaling a stationary bike.

130 lbs! I can’t believe it!

Suck it Sam! Yes, I do have ribs! Wait! What is that? How can I still have stomach fat? No! No!

Walk everywhere…

150 calories? I think to myself, for one snack bar? No thank you. How many carbs are in this? No only 30 carbs a day for me!

Run! Damn it, Sam! Run, you fat ass!

Why? Why won’t this fat go away?!?!  I wish I could just cut it off!  Cut it off… Cut… It cuts so smoothly through my skin. Ahhh. I can breath. Again. Ahhh, yes.  I watch the blood drip down.

94 lbs.

I’m not eating today. No way. I need to work out.

I’m cooking daddy dinner. I don’t feel well. Oh man… “Dad!” I’m down. On the ground. “How many calories have you eaten today? “He yells to me. “50,” I reply.

Mom watches me sleep, fearing that each shallow breath would be my last.

“Samantha,” my boss say to me, “ You’re late, your weak, you’ve become a hazard to your patients and for the company. You need to resign or we’ll have to terminate you. ” No, not my patient’s. I can’t lose my patients.

12 weeks of FMLA. 12 weeks of crying, cutting, fasting, binging, purging. 12 weeks of no exercise. 12 weeks of denial, realization, bargaining with God, pleading for help, yet unable to actually help myself.

Physically, emotionally, spiritually weak.

140 lbs

I wake up at 3am and write.

From sound asleep, I awaken,          Frantic, Nervous, shaken,

My mind racing a mile a minute,           Pumping the brakes, but its in it to in it.

Memories of my past mistakes flashing before my eyes,            How did I? I could I? How will I survive?

Trembling, ashamed, wanting to cry,            This mind fuck is a game, wishing I would die.

Take me home, Heavenly Father,           I beg of you, please

I’m down here, screaming, crying,             Pleading on my knees

Swallow another handful to numb myself,              Oh God, I’m begging you for your help

This blood I bleed,          These scars I see

This pain I feel,          Shits getting too real

Hearts racing, hearts pounding,          All these thoughts, taunting, resounding

Grit my teeth, fists getting tighter,          Look out world, ’cause this bitch is a fighter

The good I’ve done,         The lives I’ve touched

It must outweigh,          This hatred of self

I am my enemy,          And you are my Savior

With your many blessing, Oh Lord,          My faith should never waiver

I did it once,          I can do it twice

Can’t hold me down,           I’m still alive

Dear Disease,

You don’t make me,          I make me

And your foolish games,          Can only strengthen me

The marks on my body,          I wear them with pride

They’re not a sign of weakness,            They’re proof I survived

That I thrive,          That I strive

To carry on,          Head held high

Watching my world around me crumble,          You reached out, Lord, grabbed my hand

Pulled me from the rubble,          You’re my rock, my hope

The light of my tunnel,            The strength getting me through this struggle.

154lbs

The constant comparison of her to me to her and her and her.  No one can see the pain behind the scrubs and the smile. I ride a rollercoaster. Never sure if the day will bring anxiety, if I can bring myself to have dinner with my family and friends, if I can pull myself out of bed in the morning, if I can control a binge, how many pills I will take, how deep the next cut will be…

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

 

Mama’s Lean-zagna

Meatloaf, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Noodle Soup, Honey Mustard… just a few of the make-overs I’ve done of my mom’s hit meal! But I cannot forget the lasagna!

Lean-Zagna

24 servings

  • 2 lbs 99% lean ground turkeyWP_007931
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried chopped onion
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp granulated Splenda
  • (72oz+4lb3oz) (about 15 cups) your favorite sauce
  • 3 (11oz) bags fat free shredded mozzarella
  • 2 lbs fat free ricotta
  • 24 oz lasagna noodles (no-boil if possible)*
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat grated Parmesan

In a large pot, break up and brown the ground turkey. Make sure there are no chunks of meat, make it a nice fine ground. Over medium-low heat, add the spices and Splenda, and toss to coat the meat. Top with sauce, stir, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Coat the bottom of a large pan, about 17 x 12 (this is the one time I choose a disposable pan, like a large rectangular roaster) with sauce. Line one layer of lasagna noodles, with edges slightly over lapping. Evenly distribute some of the cheese mix over the noodles. Ladle another ladle of sauce and use the back of the ladle to smooth and even out the layer. Place another of noodles down and repeat with the cheese and sauce. Repeat this process, reserving a small amount (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) of the cheese mix, until you’re out of noodles (about 3 or 4 layers).

Top the last layer of noodles with the reserved cheese and the remaining sauce. Smooth out the layer with the back of the ladle and distribute the reserved mozzarella and the Parmesan topping.

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Bake for 90min. Let it rest 5 minutes before cutting (6 x 4) and serving.

*If NOT using no-boil, just ensure you make up for it by using more gravy (and by gravy, I mean sauce), because the noodles will absorb a decent amount of liquid, and no one wants a dry lasagna.

WP_007932Nutrition (per 1/24, 1 piece)

Calories:291, Fat: 3g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 902mg, Carbs: 37g, Fiber: 5g, Sugars: 15g, Protein: 28g

**Nutrition info based off using an 80 cal sauce. If you use a lighter sauce, congrats! You cut more calories!

Oh man! All of the delicious flavor of mom’s lasagna without all the guilt!

While waiting for this to bake I put this together for my kitchen… I think after all my hard work I deserve a nice hunk of lean-zagna!

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What Time Is It?

Hey Kids! Do you know what time it is?????

Thats right! Happy Peanut Butter and Jelly Day!!!

You know if its a holiday involving any nut butter, I’ll know about it! A classic side kick to peanut butter is jelly, of course, and one of my favorite collections of such items is Polaner’s Sugar Free with Fiber collection! Well, recently, I’ve gotten on the mason jar bandwagon, and since doing so, have wanted to make  my own jam. Pops brought home a big container of blueberries and JAM, I mean, “BAM!” Don’t have a canner? No worries… Neither do I.

No Sugar Added Blueberry Jam

makes 16oz (approx. 32 Tablespoons

  • 2 cups blueberries or strawberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (zest would probably be a nice addition, as well)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp No Sugar Needed Pectin
  • 1/3 cup granulated Splenda

Mash blueberries to your preferred consistency. (I like chunks remaining, just makes it a bit more textured.) Transfer mashed blueberries to a medium pot with the water. Sprinkle with Splenda and pectin. Turn heat to medium high. Continue to stir constantly and you bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute. Thats it!

Remove the pot from the heat, transfer mixture to clean jar(s). To seal jar(s), tighten the lids to a finger-tightness. If you have a canner, now is the time to use it… If not? Follow along:

In a large pot, place the sealed jars, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the top(s) of the jar(s). Bring to a boil. Check on the jar(s) every few minutes. Use a utensil to poke the center of the lid(s). If the lid dips when pressure is applied, continue to boil, rechecking the lid(s) every few minutes. Once the lid(s) are solid and no longer “pop,” turn off the heat, and carefully remove the jar(s), using tongs, and allow the jar(s) to cool at room temp. Then you can refrigerate.

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Go Ahead… SCHMEAR IT!!!

Nutrition (per tablespoon):

Calories:9, Fat: 0g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 0mg, Carbs: 1g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 1g, Protein: 0g

Fun Fact: What the heck is the difference between jelly, jam, and preserves??

The difference between them comes in the form that the fruit takes.

  • In jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice.

  • In jam, the fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit (and is less stiff than jelly as a result).

  • In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a syrup or a jam.

Thank you, howstuffworks.com!

When Life Gives You Lemons…

… make Limoncello! Or as I like to call it: Italian Moonshine

My Uncle has been making this stuff for a few years, now. I began my first batch on Black Friday 2014, hoping it would be done in time for New Years. And it was perfect! I don’t know what it was, but its the best I’ve ever had. Even Uncle Eddie left me the best voicemail telling me how fantastic my batch of his limoncello was. “I hope you wrote down everything you did, because I’d use that recipe.” That’s a huge compliment coming from my uncle. One that made me smile ear to ear!

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(makes a small batch)

  • 750ml bottle grain alcohol (like Everclear)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more
  • 1.4 lbs sugar
  • 10 lemon peels
  • large glass jar
  • plastic wrap or wax paper
  • food scale (optional, but helpful)

Shallowly  peel the lemons, ensuring not to include the pith (the white part of the peel). Place the peels into your large jar. Pour the grain alcohol a top the lemon peels. (Save the alcohol bottle!) Cover the jar opening with wax paper or plastic wrap, and seal the lid. Place this jar in a dark spot for at least 3 weeks. Turn the jar back and forth each day.

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After 3 to 4 weeks of the peel steeping, strain the peels into a large pot. While the peels are draining, refill the saved grain alcohol bottle with water. Empty the water into another pot, in addition to 1/3 cup water. Weigh out 1.4 lbs of sugar, and add to the pot of plain water. Continually stirring, bring the pot with the sugar to a rolling boil, ensuring the sugar melts, creating a syrup. Let it slow bowl for 5 minutes. Remove this pot from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

Discard the drained lemon peels. Once the syrup has cooled, stir it into the lemon-infused grain alcohol. Transfer back to the large jar. Reseal with plastic wrap or wax paper and seal the lid. Place back into dark space for an additional week, turning the jar back and forth each day.

WP_007506After the final week, transfer the completed limoncello into your empty grain alcohol and another* bottle. Place in the freezee to chill and enjoy.

*You can find empty bottles at Bed Bath and Beyond like these, in a variety of fluid capacities. Or recycle an old wine bottle, like I do. actually, empty Torani and DaVinci syrup bottles are useful to.

Salud! 

But then you’re left with a bunch of peeled lemons… so now would be a good time to make lemonade… And we did! Brett juiced all the lemons, while I was peeling the zests. We followed this recipe with a change of sweetener, and using 3 cups of water, for the most perfect lemonade! One thing I love about homemade lemonade is the pulp that sneakily makes its way through the juicer. Plus, you can make it as tart or as sweet as you like. After the finished lemonade was refrigerated, we brewed a gallon of tea… Home-brewed tea and fresh squeezed lemonade??? Best Arnold Palmers!

Lenten Promises

ashAsh Wednesday is here. Sure, most people think of today as one or more of the following:

  • people get that cross on their forehead made of burnt palm
  • start of the Easter season
  • start of the Lenten Season
  • no meat of Fridays

In actuality, it begins a 40 day period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It mirrors the time that Jesus Christ spent in the desert, fasting and reflecting, being tempted by sin, Satan to be more precise. As a child, we are told that during this period, we should give something up. My childhood priest would pick a different class every year to watch over his stash of bubble gum. As I entered middle school, I began giving up things I thought would help me lose weight, like soda and chips. In more recent years, I’ve gotten my dad to participate. While I still can’t get him to stop smoking, he does give up his favorite drink of cherry brandy.

Side Note: You’ve mastered giving up cherry brandy! Pick something more challenging!!!

Within the past couple years, my view of Lent has changed. A few years ago, after my mom got clean from a prescription drug addiction, I talked to my priest and asked if my Lenten Promise had to mean I would be giving something up… If I could try to improve my relationship with my mother, instead. That’s when I began to see the true meaning of a Lenten Promise. I really liked how Father put it tonight at mass, “Hey, we’re all sinners! But that does not mean we are to be ruled by sin.” Father Hurley’s homily, as always, made me examine my life.

So here’s my conclusion on Lent:

This is the time we not only repent, but also “refocus” our attention, as Father put it. Lenten Promises are not about giving something up. It’s a time we focus on on how we can live more like Christ, how we can live in a way that reflects God and his message. (But if you ask me, we should be doing this self-examination thing way ,ore often than just Lent.)

This years Lenten Promise:

This year, my goal is to refrain from self injurious behavior. In this term, I include binge eating, purging, and cutting. God would not want me to hurt myself. God created us in His image. When I hurt myself, I’m really hurting God.