Cheater Lasagna

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I love lasagna. I think pasta is one of life’s best luxuries so I try to enjoy it decently often. Is that weird?

I don’t care if it is.

I love to make baked pastas when I have friends over, or just to keep in the freezer for when I need a comforting meal. Lasagna and I used to have a love-hate relationship because honestly, it was a bit high maintenance! You have to make the sauce, make the béchamel, par-cook the noodles and assemble it… it was a “once in a blue moon” item rather than something I could enjoy on a weeknight with friends.

Enter this cheater lasagna. Instead of making your sauce, grab a couple jars of meat sauce. Instead of slaving over béchamel, grab a tub of ricotta. And instead of grabbing dried noodles and cooking them, grab fresh lasagna sheets, which are ready to go! This makes lasagna a ten minute assembly with about an hour of baking time- just enough time to enjoy a salad and a glass of wine with friends (or solo!).

Cheater Lasagna

$13.70 for ten or $1.37 per serving

1 package of lasagna sheets- $3.50

2 jars of Bolognese- $4.96

1 small tub of ricotta- $4.49

1 cup of shredded cheese- $0.75

Optional: 1 tablespoon pesto (mix it into the ricotta if you feel like it)

Start off by grabbing a baking dish- this could be a Pyrex one or a stoneware one like le Creuset. I’ve used both, and achieved similar results. I’ve linked some options in the “shop the post” section. Pre-heat your oven on bake at 400 degrees.  Open one of your jars of meat sauce and pour down a healthy layer- this makes sure your noodles don’t stick so make sure it’s a decent layer down there. Lay down a couple lasagna sheets, cutting them to size if necessary. Next, layer on your ricotta, and lay down more lasagna sheets.

Always go meat sauce-sheets-ricotta-sheets-meat sauce and so on. Once you’ve laid down your final sheets, even if you laid ricotta on top of it, put meat sauce to cover the whole situation. If you don’t, your ricotta will dry out and so will the underlying noodles. Next, sprinkle your shredded cheese on top, wrap with tin foil and pop into the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and put it back in the oven for a final 20 minutes.

When you pull your lasagna out, let it sit to cool and set for 10-15 minutes. There’s nothing quite like being burned by molten lasagna.

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Martha Stewart Collection Wire Trivet •
Kate Spade New York All In Good Taste Typographical Ampersand Trivet • Kate Spade •
H&M Metal Trivet • H&M •
Small Groove Marble Trivet • Muuto •
Williams Sonoma Nonstick Burger Spatula • Williams-Sonoma •
OXO Silicone Flexible Spatulas • OXO •
Williams Sonoma Open Kitchen Fish Spatula •
MacKenzie-Childs Courtly Check Stainless Steel Spatula • Mackenzie Childs •
Pyrex 13″ x 9″ Covered Baking Dish • Pyrex •
Le Creuset Heritage Stoneware Rectangular Covered Casserole, Midnight Blue • Le Creuset •
Cuisinart CI1136-24CR Chefs Classic Enameled Cast Iron 14-Inch Roasting/Lasagna Pan Cardinal Red • Cuisinart •

What is your favorite pasta dish to make for a crowd?

Freezer Breakfast Bowls

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I hate the morning. Those that have lived with me, travelled with me, worked with me or even just tried to talk to me in the morning know this fact very well. I’m just not my most friendly in the morning, and my extreme morning productivity is really only born out of the internal rage I feel about needing to be out of bed before I feel ready to be.

For this reason, I try to have my breakfasts ready before I go to bed. Sometimes that means having a guacamole pack, bread and a hard-boiled egg or two ready to throw in my bag on my way to the office, and sometimes it means pulling a pre-made meal out of the freezer like my freezer egg wraps! Nothing makes morning rage worse than hanger. These easy italiano breakfast bowls are freezer-friendly and perfect for busy mornings.

Italiano Breakfast Bowls

$16.43 for ~12-13 bowls or $1.26 per serving

4  Potatoes- $2.24

1 tray of Italian sausage ~$9

8 eggs- $1.60

¼ cup of italiano cheese- $0.75

2 zucchini- $2.44

½ an onion- $0.40

Pantry staples: 1 tbs of tomato paste, hot sauce, Italian spices, olive oil, salt and pepper

Start by washing and chopping your potatoes into a medium sized chunk. Put them on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through and crispy.

Once your potatoes are in the oven (just pull them out to cool when they’re done), it’s time to work on that Italian sausage. You just want to fry it up in a large pan until its cooked and finely crumbled, then remove it from the pan to a plate lined with paper towel to cool completely. I’ve said before, the trick to freezing breakfast items is to have everything completely cooled, then refrigerated for 2 hours, and then put in the freezer to freeze in order to avoid condensation ice. That ice will make your eggs rubbery and the entire meal watery upon defrosting and heating. AKA gross.

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Next, crack your eggs into a bowl, whisk and add your hot sauce and Italian cheese. Scramble cook them and remove to another plate to cool. Chop up your onions and zucchini, then place the onions to soften in a pan on the stove. Add Italian seasoning to your preference- once they’re softened then you can add in your zucchini and cook down about half way before adding your tomato paste and cooking it out while they finish cooking. (These pictures are of a batch where I used crushed tinned tomatoes and spaghetti freezer veggie mix… it was what I had around but I like the version I described in the ingredients list much better.) Then, put this mix in a bowl to cool.

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Once everything is nicely cool, take out 12 containers and split everything amongst the 12 containers. I tried to make mine look pretty for these pictures but honestly just split it up and put them in the fridge to cool for 2-3 hours and then pop them in the freezer until you are ready to eat one! Mine usually gets defrosted in my work bag for about an hour and then microwaved for 2-3 minutes.

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Shop the Post:

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Pyrex 8-Piece Mixing Bowl Set with Colored Lids • Pyrex •
Anthropologie Copper Mixing Bowl • Anthropologie •
Martha Stewart Professional Tools Collection Stainless Steel Large Balloon Whisk •
Wire Head Prep Whisk • KitchenAid •
Ziploc® Ziploc Small Square Containers 4ct •
Ziploc® Ziploc To Go Variety Pack Containers 8ct •
Presto 6858 Slimline 16″ Skillet • Presto •
JA Henckels Zwilling Spirit Ceramic Nonstick 8″ & 10″ Skillet Set • Zwilling J.A. Henckels •
Black & Decker Family Sized Electric Skillet – Black • Black & Decker •

Do you have a favorite freezer breakfast? Or are you one of those people that loves the morning? Let me know in the comments!

What’s Worth the Money at MAC

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20170403_172240Hey guys!

I wanted to do a post about what I love from Mac, and what I think you could probably get for cheaper or elsewhere and get a similar result/product. Sometimes living well for less isn’t just about not buying things, sometimes it’s about being smart about what you do buy.

Check out my video and the links below for more information! I’m sorry the quality looks bad at the end! I SWEAR I wasn’t trying to obscure my identity, it was just by chance that the camera went out of focus right when I started talking crap. One day I’m going to get the hang of this.

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Shop the post

MAC ‘Fluidline’ Brow Gel – Deep Dark Brunette • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Sized To Go – Mini’ Prep & Prime Fix+ • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Sized To Go – Mini’ Strobe Cream • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Prep + Prime’ Natural Radiance Base • M·A·C •

MAC Cremesheen Lipstick • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Mineralize’ Skinfinish – Cheeky Bronze • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Prep + Prime’ Fix+ Finishing Mist • M·A·C •

MAC Pro Longwear Concealer • M·A·C •

MAC ‘Pro Longwear’ Paint Pot – Bare Study • M·A·C •

A Night with Knives- Knife Skills Course Review

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I’m a sucker for Italian food. I love eating it, I love making it… so when my mom invited me to go to a risotto making course put on by the Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group last year, I was totally game. It was honestly an easy sell.

But when she started to insist that I take a Basic Knife Skills course put on by the Sorrentino’s Group, I was a little bit less psyched. A. My chopping was truly not that horrific. I’ve never sliced and diced myself and I cook a lot. B. I was unconvinced that it would be that fun… it seemed like a very academic course to be taking.

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I was wrong. I’m fully ok with admitting when I’m wrong, and this was one of those cases. Chef Jeff was our instructor, and what I thought was going to be a night of learning to chop better ended up being a night of learning how to make a proper marinara, tips for an authentic Bolognese, get more flavor out of my vegetables, cook the perfect chicken entrée, pick the best can of tomatoes and yes- I learned how to chop better. And enjoyed a gourmet meal, a couple glasses of wine, and a few hours of being the painfully slow chopper in the group.

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I didn’t anticipate what great value I was going to get out of this course, which was $90. Maybe it was a flaw in the online marketing for it, which simply said it was a basic knife skills class and “light meal”, along with a complementary chef’s knife. For starters, our group got a chef’s knife and a paring knife (which together sell for 50$ plus tax), and we seriously made so much food that I had three meals plus enough marinara to have friends over for dinner and those glasses of wine I mentioned. Chef Jeff was hands-on, engaged, and while he taught us how to properly use our knives he also passed on loads of tidbits that only someone experienced in the kitchen would know. He also filled the class with the type of humor and laughter that can diffuse even the most nervous of feelings.

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I don’t worry about chopping off my fingers anymore. Maybe I should, but the class built the confidence I needed to attempt to make finer cuts and the skills necessary to do it. Now my meals won’t just taste good- maybe they’ll even look good, too.

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Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group regularly hosts cooking classes, and they’re great to attend with your partner or a friend as well as solo. My family has taken the knife skills class, risotto making, pasta making, macaron making and pizza making classes. There’s a ton of regional courses that you can take as well, and they host seasonal courses (Christmas cookies, Mother’s Day Brunch how-to’s, etc) that fit your life.  Check out the upcoming course offerings at: https://www.sorrentinos.com/cooking-classes/

In accordance with recommendations on disclosing brand partnerships, I am not compensated or sponsored by Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group. They were blissfully unaware that I was a blogger, with Chef Jeff even asking at one point if I cook at home.

 

Best Spring Event Dresses Under $120

 

Hey guys!

There’s just something about spring that I love. Maybe it’s that the sun is out longer, or more birds in the trees, or just bright green everywhere, but I love it! Here in Edmonton it’s still snowing periodically, but you can feel spring coming still. The sun is warm now, melting snow and ice to make way for green grass and tree buds in April and May.

With spring often comes invitations to early weddings, bridal showers and if you’re lucky, a baby shower or two! I find these days a lot of events are much more informal, you’re well dressed in a nice pair of jeans and a pretty top, but for some only a nice dress will do. And that’s ok! It’s always fun to dress up every now and again, but if you have multiple special events, it can get pretty expensive quickly.

My tips for keeping it affordable are:

#1. Always make sure you can wear the dress for multiple things. I try to make sure that I can wear the dress either casually on the weekend or more formally to the office with a blazer or cardigan if I’m buying one for an event. It’s just not smart shopping if you can only wear it one way.

#2. Always keep it $100-120 and under. If it’s $100 but needs $70 worth of alterations, it’s not really $100, is it?

#3. If it’s not $120 with alterations and versatile, it is the only dress you buy for the season. I find this 100% curbs the shop impractically urge and makes you really evaluate if that “super cute dress” is what you really need.

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AQUA Bell Sleeve A-Line Dress – 100% Exclusive • Aqua •

Women’s Charles Henry Woven Shift Dress •

Bardot Gemma Lace Halter Dress • Bardot •

Women’s Wayf Blouson Midi Dress • WAYF •

Women’s Donna Morgan Lace Shift Dress • Donna Morgan •

Women’s Maggy London Print Fit & Flare Dress • Maggy London •

Bar III Floral-Print Sheath Dress, Only at Macy’s • Bar III •

Women’s Eci Floral Print Midi Dress • ECI •

Charles Henry Bell Sleeve Shift Dress •

BB Dakota Laselle Cherry Blossom Printed Wrap Dress • BB Dakota •

NBD X Naven Twins Ask Me Out Mini Dress • NBD •

**Paper Dolls Pink Pleat Kimono Dress • Paper Dolls •

endless rose Long Sleeve All Over Lace Dress • Endless Rose •

Embroidered-Trim Fit-and-Flare Dress • Banana Republic •

 

Do you have any special events coming up? I’d love to hear what you’re wearing!

Fish Tacos 2 Ways!

Hey!

Fish tacos are 100%  one of my favorite indulgences in life. The crisp lettuce, spicy fish, cool and creamy avocado-lime crema and bright pico de gallo… it’s all so, so good. Plus, it’s actually pretty healthy (if you can force yourself to eat in moderation). Unfortunately a lot of the fish you get in fish tacos out a restaurants is breaded and then fried… so this is totally a make-at-home thing if you’re looking to keep it healthy!


I love to make enough spicy fish and fixings to have tacos 2 ways- once for dinner as traditional tacos, and once as a bowl for a nutritious, low carb meal. I figure if I’m going to put in the effort, it may as well last me a few meals!.

Fish Tacos 2 Ways!

Makes 4 meals for $12.71 or $3.18 per serving

For the crema:

2 avocados

1/4 cup greek yogurt

juice of one lime

For the spice rub:

Cumin, chipotle powder, oregano and chili powder. Optional: Southwest seasoning

For the pico de gallo:

3-4 tomatoes (I used vine)

1/2 a jalapeno

1/4 yellow onion

salt/pepper

General: shredded lettuce, corn or flour tortillas, white fish

I like to start by making my pico. I think that the hardest thing ever is to do tiny knife cuts when you’re hungry and just want to eat your dang tacos. Plus, ideally I make the components in this order: pico, shred lettuce, make crema, make fish- this way the crema is cool and the fish is warm.

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Back to the pico. I start by making a very fine dice of a quarter of an onion. Next, I make very fine dice of the tomatoes- if they’re super juicey, dump some seeds etc into a garbage bowl. Lastly, I take a jalapeno and slice the ribs out of half of it and discard along with the seeds. The nice fleshy green part is left, and you guessed it- I really finely dice it. After a very light sprinkle of salt and pepper, it’s ready!

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Next, we’re going to put our blenders to work. Literally, all you’re doing here is dumping 2 pitted and peeled avocados in a blender with 1/4 cup of greek yogurt and the juice of one lime. If you like cilantro, add a bunch in here! I don’t personally, so I didn’t.

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Ok finally, finally, let’s make our fish. I start with 2 fish filets for 4 meals, and in this case I used basa but your end result would be just as delicious with tilapia. I put a tiny bit of olive oil in a pan warming over medium heat and then make my spice mix while it warms up. In a bowl I put 1/2 tablespoon of cumin, 1-2 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple shakes of chipotle powder (this depends on the heat you want) and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of oregano. If you’re adding a southwest spice blend, you’d add it to the bowl now as well.

When your pan is hot, place the fish in the pan and sprinkle ~1/2 of your spice mix over top of the fish. As the fish cooks, start breaking it apart with the spatula. Gradually add the rest of your spice mix as the act of breaking the fish apart gives you more surface area to sprinkle over.

Once your fish is cooked and fully flaked apart, put it in a serving bowl and bring to the table with your tortillas, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and avocado crema.

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Assembling your tacos:

I assembled my tacos by starting with a shmear of the cream to hold everything down, then a couple spoonfuls of fish, shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of pico. It’s that easy! 20170222_190124

Assembling your taco bowl: Assembling your bowl is just as easy. Lay down a bed of lettuce and then sprinkle fish on top, add a dollop of crema, a generous serving of pico, and enjoy! This is also great with fresh corn and/or black beans if you have some laying around.

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Kate Spade New York ‘Larabee Dot’ Champagne Flutes • Kate Spade •

Orrefors ‘More’ Champagne Flutes • Orrefors •

DENMARK Tabletops Unlimited Denmark Set of 4 Square Salad Plates • Denmark •

TABLETOPS UNLIMITED Tabletops Gallery Round Serving Bowl • Tabletops Unlimited •

Certified International Rainbow Seeds Pasta Serving Bowl • Certified International •

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion Small Porcelain Salad Bowl • Portmeirion •

Cuisinart Velocity Ultra 1-HP Blender • Cuisinart •

Magic Bullet NutriBullet Pro 900 Series Bullet Blender • Magic Bullet •

Do you have a favorite taco recipe? Let me know in the comments!

How to Entertain a Friend on a Diet

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Dieting, or making major life changes to be healthier, can be difficult enough to begin with. Add in that it can be isolating because often we make poor food choices when gathering as a group, and suddenly becoming healthier can become very lonely. One of my very best friends has been on a health and fitness journey for over a year (check her out over at Life as Alyx, she posts some of her healthy recipes there!) so when I ask her over it’s usually her “cheat” meal, but even so I try to provide her with options to make it a bit more healthy for her. I support you, so that means I support your goals, too, right?

Recently she came and visited with another friend of ours and we were having a “celebration” dinner of sorts. I wanted to serve something decadent, festive and fun- but I didn’t want to hand her a total gut-buster meal! We ended up having an awesome night with salad, cake, wine and pasta!  I put a lot of thought into what to make because I wanted it to feel like a fun dinner, but I didn’t want to feed her something so far outside of her regular diet that it could make her sick. Since that dinner went so well and everyone enjoyed it, dieting or not, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks!

  1. Always start with salad. And not a “salad” where it’s pasta, or marshmallows and fruit- an actual salad with greenery, a light vinaigrette and minimal cheese is ideal.
  2. If it’s carbohydrate heavy, ask if they’d like to have a carbohydrate alternative. Roasted cauliflower to sub out for potatoes, zoodles or spaghetti squash in favor of pasta- you get the idea! I find that the alternatives are often so fun that even those who aren’t on a quest for healthier living just want to try them anyhow!
  3. Serve wine in smaller glasses or pour for guests. We all have that friend with wine glasses that sneakily hold half a bottle of wine- not only is this incredibly dangerous, but if they aren’t familiar with what volume your glasses hold, it’s hard for them to determine what’s a serving. I often pour, then as I’m handing my guest the glass, I say, “This is a standard four ounce glass- not sure if you drove!”
  4. Tell your guests what’s for dessert- it helps them determine portion sizes.
  5. If you have the time and inclination, ask if they want this to be a “cheat” meal. If they do, just have fun!

Obviously it doesn’t make sense  to make multiple meals- but by asking questions, giving options, having a salad and assisting with alcohol portion control, you can help your guests make the absolute best decisions for their goals.

How do you help support your friends that are on a restricted or healthy-eating diet?

In case you were wondering, I served The Pioneer Woman’s mushroom four cheese pasta with optional spaghetti squash (I made a dish up of each and let everyone choose what they wanted), Caesar Salad with vinaigrette style dressing, light Parmesan and no croutons, there was wine and a girlfriend brought a delicious cake!