Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Veggie Lasagna

This recipe is a great way to use summer vegetables and to feed picky eaters.  My 18 month old daughter loooooooooves this dish and so does my husband.  I get a box of fresh veggies from our local CSA farm, Angelic Organics and later in the summer I will use our garden veggies. 

I always customize with whatever I have on hand.  Use whatever veggies your family likes and it’ll turn out great.  Best part it's healthy, pretty quick to prepare, and delicious.

The recipe is loosely this:
(all small chop here)
1 med carrot
1 med onion
1 med zucchini
1 med yellow squash
3 Portobello mushrooms
A bunch of fresh spinach and/or arugula (frozen and squeezed dry is fine too) chopped &  seasoned
2 cups tomato sauce (I use jarred sauce or make my own)
3 cups mozzrella
1/2 cup parmegiano-regianno
some butter
olive oil
kosher salt & peppa
garlic, you can add that too. I usually omit because my sauce has lots of garlic flavor and I don’t want to over power the veggies. No rules here – you’re in control my friend.
lasagna noodles - I use the “no boil” noodles made by barilla.(not the healthiest but I always have them on hand and they make the prep time much faster.

Preheat Oven 375F – BTW it’s nice to pickup one of those little thermometers that hang out inside your oven to see what the real temp is. My oven has been lying to me. It takes much longer to preheat than it thinks.

If you are using the traditional lasagna noodles – prep those first.

Sauté the onion in 3 tbls of olive oil until soft, approx 5 mins.
Add carrot, sauté until soft, approx 3 mins.
Add the zucchini and squash and cook maybe another 5 mins until they soften some and marry each other.
Season with salt and pepper approx – ½ tsp each, stir really good and than set aside to cool

Ok I’m kinda nutty, but I sauté the mushrooms separately because I don’t like my veggies to look “muddy”.
In a large skillet, (if you have a small one do two batches so that they can brown properly),  I melt some butter and olive oil, add the mushrooms, lightly salt and sauté for about 5 minutes or so until they smell amazing and are getting golden. Set aside.

Ok so time to layer to dish:

*      Put some sauce on the bottom of the dish and cover with first layer of noodles
*      Place your bed of spinach/arugula and cover with the mushrooms spread evenly throughout.
*      Cover with 2nd layer of noodles
*      Spread your veggie mixture evenly and cover with some sauce
*      Cover with 3rd layer of noodles
*      Spread remainder of sauce and the cheese evenly
*      Dot with butter – I know cheese and butter!! Yes it will become a nice and golden top layer.

Bake for about 20 to 25 mins until top is nicely golden, bubbly and delicious.  Let it sit for 10 – 15 mins before slicing into it so that it sets.

Enjoy and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

Bottle Cap Art Project on the horizon

So for the past 6 months, I've been saving these pretty cool beer bottle caps from Three Floyds Beer.

By the way, it is the best beer that I have ever drank. Produced by a small microbrewery in Munster, Indiana. Try the Zombie Dust or Gumball Head, if you can. They use very cool graphics on their labels and caps which makes it even more enjoyable!

We don't really drink a lot so I don't have a ton yet, but I've been saving them for a rainy day project. I am still thinking about what to do with them.  Am leaning toward a cool art piece to place on my kitchen shelf or maybe something bar related.

I kinda have a vision of bottle openers all different types and the caps in the background. I'm just starting to get some ideas in my head and maybe I've do some web surfing today and see what inspires me.

I have this habit of saving scraps, stones, drift wood, and other random object with the intention of one day using them for something cool.

I think that i will have to save many more before I can begin the project but I will def post my ideas as they come.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Post Baby Body Reality Check

Hey so this is not a hating my husband rant but I do admit that I am not too happy with him right now.

So yesterday, I am nursing Zoe while sitting on the sofa. I was wearing a nursing tank and when I looked in the mirror that sits across the sofa, I was taken aback as how heavy I've become. I am not saying that I havent felt overweight, sluggish and overall bad but I was kinda stunned at how big I am now. It kind of crept up on me.
So I made a comment, "Wow, I can't believe how big I've gotten!!" to Dan. He nods and his eyes almost popped out of his head with that "I know right?!!" face. He caught himself and says, "You've put on a little weight!" I quickly added that I put on a lot of weight because I am not in denial and held back the tears.

I am upset with him. Does he know that it's so hard to find time to do anything while raising our toddler? I really do try to eat well and control my portions! I have to lay down with Zoe at bedtime to help her fall asleep and it's often after a big dinner meal!! I found myself yelling comebacks to him in my head over and over the whole evening. I felt like perhaps he turned on me. 

But who am I really angry at? At an honest answer that only agreed with my own conclusion? I have to be honest with myself and make more of an effort to get back into a good and healthy weight.  I hav eto stop letting my husband talk me into eating junk because we don't feel like doing a million dishes before we can whip up a meal!! I am holding myself accountable for the mess I'm in and have recommitted myself to get back to the health  horse and practice what I preach!!!

I don't eat fast food, fried food, processed meats or candy BUT I do love my cheese, croissants, bread and beer.  I love eating healthy food. I enjoy the taste and I do really feel great afterwards.  I have a pation garden going, will be receiving organic produce next month from our CSA farm and plan on hitting the farmers markets often. I know that once I start seeing results, I'll be encouraged to continue. So here's to making positive changes in life!!!!

Day 1, started the day off with an organic steel cut oatmeal with dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. 

I am going to take a power walk later and do some toning tonight while making a healthy dinner for Zoe and I and maybe I'll talk to my husband again :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011


For Zoe's 1st birthday party, I cut butterflies out of felt to use as decorations. I had most of these left over and saved them knowing that eventually I'd like to make something from them.

The felt I used was called Eco Fi Classic Rainbow and is made from post consumer recycled plastic!!! It comes in great colors and is made in the USA!! I purchased these in beautiful colors from this great store

I found stencils of butterflies online and blew them up to the sizes that I needed. I taped the stencil to heavy stock paper and than reinforced them with masking tape.

Here's a tip, if you are going to need many pieces of the same stencil, staple the stencil to a few pieces of felt at a time and than cut around the stencil. The staples can be removed after and the marks just disappear. I used good quality razor scissors and the butterflies came out great!!!
I was walking through the Dollar Store isle and voila, I found a wooden wreath waiting to be decorated!!!

Zoe helped me sort out the butterflies but I waited until she was sleeping before I hot glued them onto the wreath. We hung it on our front door and I love seeing it when we come home!!
Zoe inspecting the final product :)
You can use any shape or color you like and make it into a fun project. We will definatley be doing some fall leaves in the autumn and maybe one for every holiday. We live in a small apartment so hanging a wreath on the door is basically the only way we can decorate the outside :)

Starting my patio garden this week!!!!

Hey so it's May already and I am enjoying it very much so far.

My CSA Farm, Angelic Organics.. sent me an email a couple days ago saying that they were offering seedlings to their shareholders!! They had a surplus of seedlings and were offering these for free!!!I was so excited because I was planning of starting my own patio garden this week. I packed up Zoe in the car and we made the 1:45 minute drive to Caledonia, IL.

It was a rainy day but I was happy knowing that our farm needed that water to nurture my food :) Zoe had a blast splashing through the puddles, climbing farming equipment and smelling all the flower and herbs. She even tried to eat the seeds potatoes, which would have been ok if they were not dusted with some sort of organic anti-fungal powder...not so yummy!

They had them all setup on tables outside of the greenhouse for me to put into containers and haul away. Zoe was playing while I went down my list and packed up my goodies. Here is what I got, for free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.S. They allotted specific quantities to each shareholder so that everyone would get their fair share but it was first come, first serve so I got everything on the list and the max quantity, of course.

Sweet Corn: take up to 20
Squash/ Zucchini: up to 5
Tomatoes (Hybrid): up to 12
Kale (Green and Red): up to 9 
Brussels Sprouts: up to 12
Eggplant: up to 8
Celery: up to 9
Celeriac: up to 6
Sweet Bell Peppers: up to 11
Hot Peppers: up to 6
Greek Oregano: take up to 4
German Winter Thyme: up to 3
Moss Curled Parsley: up to 7
Sage: up to 3
Anise Hyssop: up to 4
Genovese Basil: up to 9
 Yukon Gold: take up to 12
Dark Red Norland: up to 7
Carola: up to 8
Red Pontiac: up to 10
All Blue: up to 6
Kennebec: up to 8
French Fingerling: up to 8
Adirondack Red: up to 5

These are the herbs, kales and eggplants
Here is what my car looked like after my "harvest"  
Corn, Celery, Celeriac, Peppers
Tomatoes, Etc.

My mom is a great gardener and she was thrilled with my haul!! She will plant the tomatoes, eggplants, corn and potatoes in her beautiful backyard garden. I planted half the herbs in containers for my place and she kept the other half for her garden. I am eagerly awaiting the warm weather so that they can be planted outside!!

Zoe shoes and socks were soaked after we left the farm but she really had a great time!!!

Doing some reading on the 2 hour long drive home :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Pregnancy & Baby Favorite Things

So my daughter Zoe just turned a year old. I can't believe how quickly time goes by!!!  I've been wanting to do this for a while......Here is a list of my pregnancy and baby must haves so far. I strive to choose things that are eco friendly, when possible, economical, and safe for baby and me.
Whoa Baby that's a big belly!!!

Pregnancy - 

First and foremost - I chose to follow the Bradley Method during my pregnancy and (most important) during my labor and delivery.  I had a drug-free labor and delivery with the coaching of my husband. The Bradley Method teaches you about all the stages of labor, proper nutrition for baby and mom, your Choices and Rights in the hospital, breastfeeding, pain relief exercises, and basically prepares you and your labor coach(usually the father or partner) to have a safe labor without over dosed hospital interventions.  You learn about your CHOICES and you write out a labor plan so that you can be in tune with your doctor and nurses so that you can have the birth that YOU want for your baby.

We had a healthy pregnancy with proper nutrition. I practiced my laboring and delivery exercises which helped me tremendously with labor pain and prepared me for pushing. Zoe came into the world peacefully and safely.  Each contraction was one less that I had to go through and with the encouragement and power of knowledge I did it!!!

I can def say that it was the most empowering information that I have ever learned.

I chose to breastfeed Zoe and I can tell you that it can be difficult at first but with support(most important), advice, and can do it!!!! I went through fear of not making enough milk, making too much milk, latching questions, lots of stress, etc and I can tell you that La Leche League and lactation consultants saved me from failure and fear with all their advice and information. I probably spent hours with my Blackberry at hand, while Zoe was feeding or sleeping, checking out their website for info, latching pictures, and advice.  Don't give up, just reach out for help and they will guide you through it. I honestly can say now that I am a pro now!! I have breastfed everywhere, including the shower lol...check them out.
Got milk? Oh Yes I do!!

P.S. My daughter's ped's nurses are lactation consultants and have met with me prior to appointments to help me learn latching and positioning techniques(for free!!!) and were all around amazing!!.

Mother's Milk Tea - I actually drank lots of this tea, especially the first few months after Zoe arrived. It's a safe, herbal tea which promotes healthy lactation. You really need to drink tons of water when breastfeeding so I would alternate my huge bottles of water with this soothing tea. I actually love all the teas that traditional medicinals make and they always have coupons on their website!!

Bobby pillow - looks like a butt cushion - a must for nursing the baby. I probably sat in my chair, bobby pillow around my waist, baby on top for days. get it. I also used an organic cover for it. Babies spit up so I had to wash it often. It was very soft for my baby and cute too! There are many organic cotton covers available now I had this one
Zoe sleeping on her bobby pillow after nursing

Medela Pump n Style Breast Pump -
This is one of the only things that I didn't buy used and worth every penny. I still use my pump at work every day.  I used it after my baby was born to increase my milk supply. It's an automatic double breastpump and if you get a pump bra, you can go hands free!! If you are going back to work you will have to pump to keep up your supply so this is a must!!! I also used glass born free bottles for storage as well as Lansinoh® Breastmilk Storage Bags, which I freeze for my husband and caregivers to use.

Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream - A MUST!!!! It does wonders for sore nipples and you don't have to wash it off before feeding the baby. Also great for putting on your nipples before your shower to protect from harsh water, soap, etc. (Do not use soap on your nipples - it can cause issues, trust me!)
Liquid Gold

Baby Slings - The only way I survived the first few weeks of Zoe's life. I was able to get her to sleep, be able to go for walks outside during winter (with a blanket over us), and all around be hands free but close to my little one. 
I love the idea of your newborn being still so close to her momma that she can hear hear heartbeat, smell her and feel her warmth. Zoe loves her sling to this day and I love the tradition of baby carrying or wearing.  There are many types of slings and wraps but I loooove and use the Kangaroo Korner Pocket Sling. I got mine of ebay for a steal. It's fleece, adjustable, safe and the baby can breathe through it. 

Just be sure that you read all information about the proper positioning of the baby because there are some bad ones out there that are not so safe.  

There is a baby sling exchange here in Chicago that is really a cool idea. You can try out different types of slings for a flat fee and can find the one that suits you best. 

This is also a very cool place.
I love to buy used items because they are already here and can reduce carbon waste by manufacturing new products, better for the pocket, items that offgas (read Organic Pregancy and Organic Baby for info) are toxic to us so better to get something older :)

Part 2 to follow......................

Art Projects on the Horizon

Hey so i've been lacking in my creativity lately. It's all due to a mix of having a active toddler, tiny dash of winter blues, and lack of time. Well I am done making excuses and I have a whole list of upcomming projects that I would like to attempt.

Silk Screening - I've recently acquired some pain and squeegies through Craigslist when I found some pastels for sale. I thought, hmm why not try a new project. I do love taking photos and how cute would it be to print some cool shirts for zoe using some of my designs and pics.

Start up an Etsy store. I want to focus more on making invites and party favors. I have some cool desings that I have done in the past that I havent' seen done anywhere else. If I dont sell a loss. I'm sure that I will have fun in the process.

Rain Rain I love Rain

I love hearing rain hitting the rooftop. It's so comforting to  me.  

My husband and I went on a first date to Navy Pier here in Chicago and it poured on us. I mean, POURED!!! I was drenched. Cute hair and make up was ruined! Yet we had a great time. I think the rain broke the ice and we were ourselves. Like little kids playing in the rain together. Great memory !!

These are a few of my favorite things....this week!

Red Mango Fruit Parfaits - frozen yogurt with either tropical or mixed berry fruit, granola and frozen yogurt....yummmmmmm

Watergeeks Water Bottle - these waterbottles have built in filters. I have the one with an advanced filter that cleans lead, bacteria, and tons of crap so I can fill my bottle up for free and not have to worry.