Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Zucchini Lasagna

In my many hours of skimming pinterest, I keep seeing pins for lasagna using zucchini instead of noodles. I'll be honest-I didn't stop and actually read any of the instructions. And we all know what happens when I do that. I'm happy to report that this time wasn't quite as disastrous and now I can share the lessons I learned! I love that this is a veggie packed meal with so much flavor (and CHEESE) but nearly guilt free.

What you'll need:

2 large zucchini
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and diced
2 c fat free ricotta
6 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 medium bag of baby spinach
4 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 c shredded Parmesan cheese (the good stuff, not the weird cheese like stuff in the can)
Italian seasoning to taste
Garlic powder to taste
2 Tablespoons bread crumbs (optional)

First, I cut the zucchini into long strips using a wire cheese slicer. I'm going to guess they were about 1/4" thick. They need to be study enough to hold up the filling of the lasagna, but thin enough to still cook through in the oven. Pictures would be helpful here, but hey-I'm working with afterthoughts here so we're using some Creative Commons photos.

Raw zucchini cutlets
photo by Gloria Cabada-Leman 
Here's one of the things I learned after the fact....par cook the zucchini to reduce the moisture. The dish will work if you don't, but you'll have a lot of veggie water in the pan-not very appetizing. Next time I make it, I'm going to just toss these in a non stick pan for a few to draw some moisture out. I may do that with the spinach too.

Line the bottom of an 8x8 dish with strips of zucchini. Next add half of the spinach, half of the chicken, half of the mushrooms, half the ricotta, a good sprinkling of the Italian seasoning and some garlic, a third of the mozzarella and a third of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat. Top with remaining zucchini strips, cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 375 until all the cheese is melted and center of lasagna is hot. That took about 45 minutes for me.

And the leftovers make a great lunch the next day! 

I wasn't very organized while I was making this and realized as soon as I put it in the oven that I forgot to put the mushrooms in. Oops! So I had to carefully pull back strips of zucchini to add it all in, which led to clumps of mushrooms and sections without any. Oh still turned out tasty! With the healthy versions of the classic lasagna ingredients, I was able to cut the calories down to about 237 per serving! And that included the breadcrumbs. If you skip those, it would be even less. This lasagna is super cheesy and very filling.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting Ready for the Next Batch of Chicks

After our first incubator hatch, we had lots of young chicks living in our basement for a few weeks. It was still a little chilly outside, so they weren't quite ready for the early spring temperatures until April. But we were finally able to move them outside into our grow out pen so they could get used to the big chickens and the big chickens could get used to seeing them around.

After a couple of weeks, we were able to let them out to explore the entire yard.

It didn't take long for each group to check the others out.

Within a couple of days, the two groups became one flock.

Maybe it was seeing the young chicks around the yard, but of course we now have 2 broody hens sitting on a total of 45 eggs! The first group should be hatching this weekend.

Most of our birds are dual purpose breeds, so with this sudden influx of birds, we will likely raise the roosters as freezer fillers and some of our older hens will join them later on this summer. We will also select the hens we want to keep for their specific traits-best layers, temperament, and markings.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Vanilla Frozen Custard

We had our foray into ducks last year. I did not like it to say the least. They were dirty and smelly. The only perk to having ducks was cooking them for dinner! Thankfully, there are many people who enjoy having ducks on their farms and (even better) sometimes they share their excess eggs with me. Yay! That was exactly what happened to me recently. To get an idea of how big these are, they are sitting in a "jumbo" egg carton and it wouldn't close.

Friday, April 10, 2015

After the Hatch

Our chicks are nearly three weeks old now and they are growing so fast! They started out so very tiny. These guys are less than 4 days old.

Here they are about a week into life.

We ended up with a couple chicks with scissor beak. One of them is fairly pronounced, the other is relatively minor. Here's Skizzers. Amazingly, she eats and drinks just fine, even though her beak is crossed.

And we have one who's legs didn't develop quite right.

We had her separated from the others in their tank, but she got too big for the box, so now she's in her own chicken mansion. And now I have a spare bedroom that looks like this:

Now at nearly three weeks old, they are over half way feathered out and just about ready to go outside to their grow out pen. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Spring Chicks

Things sure have been busy in our house lately! It all started about 7 weeks ago when our favorite rooster, Deuce, was attacked and had to be put down. We were planning on incubating some eggs this spring because we wanted to have some of his offspring, but that cold, snowy day in February was much sooner than we anticipated. But if we wanted eggs he had fertilized, we knew we had to act then, so we collected eggs for about a week. With the super cold temperatures, we didn't know how many of those eggs would develop and hatch, but we decided to give it a try anyway.

We started out with 42 eggs. After candling on day 7, we were down to 36. On day 18, we had 35.

On day 21, they started hatching. Hatching continued all the way thru day 24.

This was our first time incubating chicks, so I was just a little obsessed with watching them!

We ended up with 26 chicks. Two more of them died during the hatching process, But considering the temperatures when we collected the eggs, we had about a 75% hatch rate and I was very happy with that!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lemon Garlic Rainbow Chard

Last week I bought some rainbow chard from the food hub. It was absolutely beautiful! I love the bright colors and so desperately needed it after this cold rainy weather we've been having. I had some salmon patties ready to cook for dinner the other night and I knew that was the perfect time to pull out the chard. I love the flavor of chard and it's soooo easy to make!

Start out by sauteing the chopped stems with some olive oil, a tablespoon or two of garlic, a few dashes of red pepper flakes and some salt.

After about three minutes, add in the roughly chopped leaves and toss around with tongs until the leaves wilt. There's nothing dainty and pretty about my pan of chard, but if I had company over, I'd make it a little more pretty and fork friendly! Splash on some lemon juice (maybe a tablespoon) and you're ready to go!

The lemon and garlic flavors were perfect with the salmon patties and some steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Omelet in a Mug

For the last few weeks, some of the ladies at work and I have been having our breakfast at work together. We have all been focusing on eating more whole foods, specifically fruits and vegetables, so we decided to pool our resources and make breakfast easier on all of us. Each of us brings in specific foods-I bring eggs of course-which helps with grocery shopping and weekly planning for all of us. When it's time for breakfast, we meet up in the breakroom and assemble our food.

We chop up our ingredients for the day, which include bacon, ham, salsa, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, spinach, various cheeses, and avocado.

Then we put them into our mugs, adding 2 eggs at the end and giving it all a good stir.

Next, into the microwave for about 45 seconds on medium power-that's the trick to prevent rubbery eggs which are completely disgusting! Another quick stir and back into the microwave for 2 minutes on medium, or until eggs are set. Depending on your ingredients, it may take up to 3 minutes, just be careful not to overcook it. We usually watch the microwave for the eggs to puff up and fall twice.


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