Recipe: Main Dish – Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

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First, please allow me to ask you…please source your chicken as best as you can. It really is so very important not only for your health, but also for our environment. Vote with your dollar. If you struggle with costs, buy in bulk…also…with each meal eating twice as many vegetables than meat allows you to eat high-quality meats but overall eating less of them thus cutting down the costs.

pastured-chickens

Second, if you want the most delicious chicken ever….brining is a very key step.

Recipe: Main Dish – Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

Tools:

  • Paper towels
  • Large short-rimmed baking sheet
  • If you want: Foil, Silpat, or Parchment Paper
  • Tongs

Ingredients:

bragg-24-herbs-spices

    Seasoning Options:

  • General – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, and Bragg’s 24 Herbs & Spices Seasoning
  • General – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika
  • Lemon Pepper – Salt, Pepper, Lemon Zest
  • Greek – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Dill, Rosemary, Nutmeg, Parsley
  • Greek – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Basil, Thyme, Mint, Marjoram, Chives
  • Italian – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Oregano, Basil, Parsley
  • Mexican – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Oregano, Parsley, Chili Powder, Cumin
  • Cajun – Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Cumin, Coriander, Paprika, Cayenne, Oregano

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove chicken from brine, rinse in cold water, and place on paper towels. Use additional paper towels to dry the chicken. Use avocado oil to grease the short-rimmed baking sheet. If you choose to use lemons or limes, slice them thinly and place a layer on the bottom of the short-rimmed baking sheet.

Once the chicken is dry, smear with avocado oil or butter on the underside of the chicken and season with spices of choice. Then place on the short-rimmed baking sheet, bottom side (you just seasoned) down.

Then smear with avocado oil or butter on the skin-side of the chicken and season with spices of choice.

If using lemon or limes and have some left over, place the remainder of slices around the chicken pieces. Also, if using fresh herbs you can put them under the skin of the chicken with some butter for increased flavor.

Place in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes (non-convection time). The skin will be or should be brown and crisp. If it isn’t crisp and you have a convection function use the convection for the last 15 minutes of baking or use the broiler function for the last 5 minutes of baking.

Pull out of the oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before eating.

Done. Eat. Enjoy.

I highly encourage you to Sign-up for Thrive Market

The annual fee is less than Sams Club or CostCo at $59.95 per year. I saved over $1,000 in 2016 purchasing through Thrive Market. The second best part, aside from saving money, is that it all gets delivered to my door and I don’t have to go to stores.

Thrive Market allows you to shop for all the healthy food items you know and love at discount prices, because they cut out the middle man, and it gets delivered to your door so it also saves you time. Not only to you save money, but for every paid membership Thrive Gives a membership to a family in need.

How-to: Grow a Meyer Lemon Tree (Part 1)

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My mother-in-law surprised me one day with a bag of Meyer Lemons and Meyer Lemon seeds she had harvested.

I’m not much of a green-thumb, so I was quite intimidated by this! However, I LOVE lemons and really really want my own Meyer Lemon tree. I had previously read and saved an article on how to grow them in pots and in-doors.

My mother-in-law and my step-mother both have Meyer Lemon trees planted outside in the ground. Both of their trees were 4 to 6 years old before they started producing. Sooooo right off the bat this is a commitment.

lemon-blossom-open

I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything to attempt to grow my own from the seeds my mother-in-law gave me….I mean really….what’s the harm in trying….right??

The research began…….I found a couple of articles that I liked….one and two.

This is what I did….

  • Purchased high-quality composting soil from my local nursery down the street
  • From the first article: Soak the seeds in water for 2 to 3 hours
  • From the first article: Let them dry on a paper towel
  • From the first article: Gently peel the outside shell off the seed and place the seed in a cup of water
  • I mixed my composting soil (1/3) with my potting soil (2/3) and made sure it was moist.

I didn’t know how many would sprout so I planted all of them; see article one’s pictures, that is how I placed them in the pot. About 23 seeds in a medium sized containers; see article two for more information on this.

  • From the second article: I placed my seeds in the pot and covered with about ½ an inch of soil and gently watered.
  • From the second article: I covered each pot with parchment paper, secured with a rubber band, and poked a few holes in the top so they can breathe. Covering it creates a mini green-house.
  • From the second article: I put them inside (because I planted them during winter months) near a window that gets light from outside all day but afternoon direct sun for an hour or two.

After a couple of weeks I checked the soil to make sure it was still moist and it was because the soil I used was really good and it was covered. Nothing happened!!!!! So, I checked again after another week and gave them some more water. Nothing happened!!!!! After a couple/few more weeks….nooooooothiiiinnnngggg happened!!!! So…..I gave up and decided I was going to buy a tree in the coming spring that was already going and established. I put them in the garage stacked up on each other.

A garden snail

Then a couple of weeks later as we were leaving for a long holiday weekend trip….my husband says LOOK!!! They grew! I didn’t know what he was talking about! Hahaha – I went over to see what he was looking at….and I’ll be dang! If they didn’t grow! I had five sprouts. So, I unstacked them and left them there while we were gone.

When we got home they were bigger so I took them inside, removed the covers, gave them water, and put them back in the window. As you can see four of them are bitter than one….but….whatever! I got FIVE! I’m waiting for them to get a little bigger and stronger before I transplant them into their own pots.

meyer-lemon-sprouts

In the meantime in Huntsville, TX in January we had a couple of days in the teens and despite her best effort of covering them, adding a heat lamp, and bucket of water the leaves froze. My step-mother had to harvest all the lemons off her trees.

The bucket-o-lemons below was so big and heavy it had wheels.

bucket-o-lemons

She gave me 15 or 16 lemons (some the size of oranges) and I took them home to juice them and freeze the juice for future use……meaning that I had a bunch of seeds to share with others.

lemon-seeds

I promptly posted on Facebook that I had some seeds if anyone wanted them, I’d happily pass them along. A few people responded and I’m going to send them seeds.

Then a friend of mine and my cousin started telling me that I’d have to graft them in to another plant, because their root system on their own aren’t strong enough.

WHHHHHHAAAAAAAT!?!?!

whhhaaat

The research begins…..

As the journey continues, How-to: Grow a Meyer Lemon Tree (Part 2) to follow….

Recipe: Breakfast – Egg Muffins

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Egg Muffins are one of my favorite batch or bulk breakfasts and snack items.

Key Ingredients:

  • Pastured / Free Range Eggs
  • Protein of Choice
  • Veggies (if you have limited time, buy pre-cut veggies)
  • Starch (if you are not eating carbs for breakfast or are low carb, omit)

Protein Ideas: Ground Sausage or Meat of any kind, Bacon, Pork Chop or Loin, Left-over Chicken or Steak

Veggie Ideas: Pico de gallo, Garlic, Spinach, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Artichokes, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Bell Peppers, Green Onions, Tomatoes

Starch Ideas: Potato, Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash

Making Egg Muffins

I like to use a 12 cup muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease each cup or use silicone inserts.

Season and cook your protein (don’t cook all the way, it will finish in the oven) and chop the protein into small pieces. While the meat is cooking chop the veggies. I like to sauté the veggies in butter, salt, pepper, and garlic for flavor. I use the same pan as I used to cook my protein in. If I’m just using pico de gallo I don’t cook it first. Beat 12 eggs in a bowl, add salt, pepper, and herbs of choice.

Note: Keep in mind that the cups are shallow so only a little of each layer can go into the cups.

If you are using a starch, either chop it in small pieces or grate it, season it and place in the bottom of each cup. If you are omitting starch, then spoon the meat into the bottom of each cup – otherwise add a spoon of meat on top of the starch layer. Then add a spoon of the veggies. Then ladle in the egg.

If you like and can tolerate cheese, you can sprinkle with cheese.

Note: Season each layer, so they don’t turn out bland. If I have a pesto on hand, sometimes I’ll swirl pesto into the top of each one before baking.

Place in the oven for 25 – 30 mins. Pull-out and place muffins on a cooling rack. After they are cool, put in individual sized portions in Ziploc bags in the fridge.

These are awesome with some franks hot sauce!

egg-muffins

Pizza Variation:

  • Chopped Pepperoni
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Fresh Sautéed Garlic
  • Mushrooms (Optional)
  • Dried Basil
  • Dried Italian Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper

Another Variation:

  • Small Pieces Prosciutto
  • Chopped Pre-Cooked, Seasoned Asparagus
  • Goat Cheese
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Pepper

There is literally unlimited flavor combinations and variations you can make.

2016 Reflection = 2017 Theme

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I realize that I’m late posting a New Year post….I hope you can forgive me.

I have decided that 2017 is the year that I’m not going to let stress or should-ofs, would-ofs, or could-ofs hold power over me and how I think or feel about myself or my life.

I am not making resolutions or goals that have anything to do with what “I don’t want to…”, or “I’m not….”, or that are in any way a restriction or way to make myself smaller in the world.

Instead….I’m only making goals for this year that allow for more freedom (mentally, emotionally, and physically).

My Theme for 2017 is “Let it Go”

let-it-go

Let Go of stress

Let Go of all the things out of my control, that I want to control

My active exercise:

  • Recognize – when I’m having negative or stressful thoughts
  • Stop – myself mid-thought
  • Analyze – if the thoughts are about the things I can’t really control or do anything about (which they usually are)
  • Let it Go – actively tell myself to “Let it Go!” (insert a deep belly breath)
  • Move On – to a new thought

It has only been about a week, but so far this exercise is working quite well.

and-let-it-go

I have written about stress before here and here, but stress is our reaction to our perceptions about a given situation. While some stress is probably inevitable, some of it doesn’t have to be….I can make a choice to Let it Go.

I believe there is freedom in Letting Go.

My hope is that by practicing this exercise and Letting Go of all the things and not allowing the unknown to stress me out….that I will be able to be more present in there here-and-now.

definition-presence

I have always been the type of person who is goal oriented and results driven; it is what propels me forward every day and in my life. I think having specific and attainable goals is important; I’ve said for years that “if you don’t know where you are going, then you will not know how to get there”. I do think that we must leave room for error, movement, bending, and flexibility in our resolutions – allowing them to evolve as we do and as our life does throughout time.

Do not allow your resolutions or goals hold more power than they actually do and dictate how you feel or what you believe about yourself and your life. Allow them to be fluid rather than the end all be all.

I wish to you all a healthy and happy 2017!

Introducing: Araza Natural Beauty

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As you may or may not know I’m all about finding and using the highest quality food and products I can. It is particularly important that we are using the most natural high-quality skin care products that we can. Our skin is our largest organ and is permeable, meaning it absorbs everything we put on it into our bodies. (In this post I discuss this further and other options in this link.)

That being said, until recently I found it quite difficult to find a quality ALL natural make-up that I like and is still affordable. I’ve been using products that are better than what is found a drug store but nothing as clean and nourishing as what I’m about to tell you about……

Soooooo I HAVE TO tell you ladies about a make-up that I’ve found and absolutely love….it is the epitome of natural!

Araza Natural Beauty

It is made with the most pure and certified organic ingredients so it will nourish your skin. You can feel good about putting it on your skin. It is Paleo Certified! It is made in the U.S.A., cruelty free, and gluten free.

I started using the 7 in 1 Coconut Cream Foundation and the Green Tea Cream Concealer. I cannot speak more highly of these products!

araza-natural-beauty

A little goes a long way. You can get as little or as much coverage as you want. It doesn’t feel like I’m wearing anything on my face AND it stays on all day (even with my touching my face). BEST OF ALL it doesn’t settle in my fine lines and wrinkles!

Araza has a Jojoba Infused 100% Natural Mineral Powder Foundation for those who prefer a powder over a cream and a Natural Clay Finishing Powder as well, that I’ve not used yet.

You can order sample sizes of all their products for $2.50 to test out colors.

coconutcremefoundation

Araza also offers Natural Sunshine Contouring Bronzer, Olive Extract Cheeky Cheek Color

Long-Wear Raspberry and Citrus Infused Eye Color (15 shades)

Coconut Lip Gloss and Organic Peppermint Luxe Lip Balm

a “Light” – An Illuminating Raw Beauty Oil

Eco-Friendly Bamboo Brushes

Last but not least Gift Cards for all the favorite ladies in your life.

 

Book Review: One-Pot Paleo Cookbook by: Jenny Castaneda

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I have to admit that I’m a bit of a recipe and cookbook junkie. I read cookbooks with the same enthusiasm that other people read novels. I particularly enjoy cookbooks that have lots of pictures of the food in them.

Honestly there aren’t very many of them that I use with any regularity, but I think this one is going to be an exception. I work full-time and struggle with making sure that we have healthy meals throughout the week that are easy and fast.

Enter….the One-Pot-Paleo cookbook!

The first thing that I love about the book is on page 10. “the recipes in this book, you’ll find some that are quick and easy and come together in less than an hour, which are perfect for weeknights. Those that are simmered or braised for hours to achieve maximum flavor are ideal for weekends, and those that are marinated overnight can be prepared the night before, therefore transiting into a quick-and-easy meal the next day.” I would venture to guess that the recipes that simmered or braised for hours could be done in a slow cooker or in the oven at low temperatures all day while one is gone to work to come home to a delicious easy meal.

Although this cookbook says “Paleo” on it, due to the author’s heritage of Filipino and Spanish, she includes ingredients that are not squeaky clean Paleo like white rice, butter, wine, Worcestershire, arrowroot, and tapioca flour. On page 11 she has a short table of ingredient alternatives to these to provide other Paleo options. I personally have no issue with any of those ingredients and will likely not make swaps.

On pages 194 – 196, she has a “Recipe Allergen Index” to easily reference for those with dairy, nut, grain, and egg allergies. Beware that it is noted here too that all the recipes contain nightshades so they may be difficult for those following an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

In the Appendix, on page 192, she has a page that gives helpful tips for “Weekend Prep for Weeknight Meals”, which is fantastic! Seriously, who doesn’t want to make their weekday evenings easier?!

For those that aren’t quite so experienced in the kitchen, I think this would be a great book for you. Not only are we talking easy one-pot meals, but there is a section in the book called “The Basics” on pages 184 – 191 that has bone broth recipes, condiments, rice variations, and common sauces.

It is also nice that it is noted on each recipe that it serves between 2 and 4 people, which is great for those of us with small households. For those with larger occupancy, each recipe can be doubled (I assume that larger families already have to do this and are prepared to do so).

The pictures in the book are beautiful and will make you hungry. hungry-face

To Buy or Not to Buy….That is the question……I say YES!

Recipe: Side Dish – Slow Cooking ‘Greens’ with Bacon

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Growing up in Texas ‘Greens’ is something I grew-up eating. My grandmother would pick and cook polk salad greens, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens. I honestly can’t remember if I liked them or not, but I certainly remember them cooking in a BIG pot on the stove with a giant ham hock in them.

I like to cook mine an easy way. I start them in the morning and they are ready by dinner.

Recipe: Side Dish – Slow Cooking ‘Greens’ with Bacon


Tools:

Ingredients:

Directions:

Chop the onion first and set aside. Chop the garlic cloves and set aside (do not mix with onions).

Then cut the bacon (cut 5+ strips, stacked at a time) in 1” pieces and fry in your pan, I like to add some garlic powder to my bacon while it cooks to layer flavor. Transfer the bacon after fully cooked into the slow cooker.

If you have an overabundance of bacon grease pour it into a glass jar leaving enough in the pan to sauté the onions and garlic. Then put the onions into the pan, season with pepper, garlic powder, and a little salt until nice and brown. In the last few mins add in your garlic cloves – as soon as you can smell the garlic remove from heat and transfer into the slow cooker.

Pour in the bone broth (should be about ½ way up the side of the crock pot). Add the ACV and hot sauce. Stir.

Dump in ½ the pre-washed pre-cut greens of choice and season then add in the rest and season again. Squish it all down in the liquid with your hands.

Then fill the rest of the crock pot with filtered water, leaving at least 1” of room at the top.

Secure lid and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 10-12.

I’m certain this recipe can be easily done in an Instant Pot as well, sautéing the bacon first, then the onions and garlic, then adding in the liquid, greens, and cooking. I’ve not cooked greens in it yet so I’m not sure how long to suggest setting the heat/timer for…..perhaps we would use the “Soup” button?

I highly encourage you to Sign-up for Thrive Market. The annual fee is less than Sams Club or CostCo at $59.95 per year. I will save over $600 this year alone purchasing through Thrive Market. The second best part, aside from saving money, is that it all gets delivered to my door and I don’t have to go to the store.

Thrive Market allows you to shop for all the healthy food items you know and love at discount prices, because they cut out the middle man, and it gets delivered to your door so it also saves you time. Not only to you save money, but for every paid membership Thrive Gives a membership to a family in need.

I am so irritated by the aftermath of the recent election results….

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I typically do not write or post on subjects that are not about food, fitness, or fun! BUT….I am so irritated by the aftermath of the recent election results.

The comments and back and forth on social media has been craziness! People are talking ugly and are out-and-about acting like lunatics. I understand that the LBGT community, minorities, and immigrants are concerned about their lives and futures – however violence and looting is NOT going to improve the situation at all, most likely will make it worse. By the way, we are all concerned about our lives and futures; I wish people realized that we are actually in the same boat together. People’s true colors come out in times of adversity.

I was very opposed to Obama taking office both times. I was not and am not a fan of his. I was in fear for my and our country’s future during his time in office. At no time, NOT ONE TIME, did I talk ugly to Obama supporters. NOT ONE TIME did I stage protests, riot, loot, or create ciaos because I was unhappy with the U.S. nation’s presidential choice.

What is done is done. The current election is done. It is our duty as citizens of the republic of the United States of America (one nation under God and indivisible) to peruse happiness, to celebrate and live out our freedoms, and to be the change we want to see “peaceably”. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “believed that nonviolent protests is the most effective weapon against a racist and unjust society”.

It couldn’t have been said any better than in the movie The American President – “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.” This is how mature adults conduct themselves.

From the very inception of our federal government there were a few men that had concerns about giving more power to the federal government, “fearing it would endanger the rights of states and individuals” (http://www.history.com/topics/constitution). Which it has! At the onset of our federal government, it was the job of Congress to “govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency”, that is it! We find ourselves in the place we are now within our country because the federal government has too much power over the states and citizens.

first-amendment-banner

The Bill of Rights guarantees individuals certain basic protections as citizens, including freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to bear and keep arms; the right to peaceably assemble; protection from unreasonable search and seizure; and the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.” This part of our constitution is what all U.S. citizens and hopeful to-be citizens hold so close, stand on, and fight for. A lot of these freedoms most people do not have the privilege of on our planet. The funny part to me is that many of these basic freedoms are the exact topics that politicians and citizens are fighting over – religion, speech, and right to bear and keep arms. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to fight over, it is set – it is in the Constitution already – be happy and thankful we have them.

The Preamble of the Constitution is inspiring to me and is something that very few people take the time to meditate on. It is powerful, it is what we, as citizens, should all be spending our time trying to achieve, instead of promoting discord. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (http://constitutionus.com/) I hope and pray that these words will set your perspective as to what this nation is really about.

Let me tell you what this nation is not about….it is not about someone owing you anything, it is not about the minority ruling the majority, it is not about the right or freedom to harm the other citizens or their possessions around you, it is not about bullying and forcing your opinions on others, it is not about infringing on the God-given and Bill of Rights’ given freedoms of others, and it is not about your agenda.

The government and people of this country have lost their way, away from the principals of what this country was founded on. Greed and power have overcome. Everyone wants our rights and freedoms, but few people want to do the work it takes to keep and maintain them.

corruption-power-quotes-01

We still live in the best country on this planet. This song epitomizes how I feel about people abusing our country.

The Fightin’ Side Of Me

I hear people talkin’ bad,
About the way we have to live here in this country,
Harpin’ on the wars we fight,
An’ gripin’ ’bout the way things oughta be.

An’ I don’t mind ’em switchin’ sides,
An’ standin’ up for things they believe in.
When they’re runnin’ down my country, man,
They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

Yeah, walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.
Runnin’ down the way of life,
Our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep.
If you don’t love it, leave it:
Let this song I’m singin’ be a warnin’.
If you’re runnin’ down my country, man,
You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

I read about some squirrely guy,
Who claims, he just don’t believe in fightin’.
An’ I wonder just how long,
The rest of us can count on bein’ free.

They love our milk an’ honey,
But they preach about some other way of livin’.
When they’re runnin’ down my country, hoss,
They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

Yeah, walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.
Runnin’ down the way of life,
Our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep.
If you don’t love it, leave it:
Let this song I’m singin’ be a warnin’.
If you’re runnin’ down my country, man,
You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.

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God Bless America

 

Introducing: Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy

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It is my honor to introduce to you Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy

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This is an exceptional product! Kirk Parsley created his sleep remedy initially to help veterans sleep better. Most of which were on multiple doses of Ambien and booze every night. The goal of the sleep remedy is to provide your body with the correct amounts of the bio-available nutrients that will guide your body into “deep, restful, and restorative sleep”. “The quantities of each ingredient are intended to replenish normal levels of these nutrients, to allow for the normal production of melatonin, and to help initiate the initial cascade of events that lead to deep, natural sleep.”

The product can be taken every day if you are like me and have persistent sleep issues or just when you need it (ie. jet lag or after being sleep deprived). It doesn’t cause drowsy side effects or the dreaded wake-up-hangover in the morning.

Please take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Click Here to Purchase: Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy

Use discount code: candace for a 10% discount.

Keeping to the basics of sleep hygiene is still important: I discuss sleep quality in this post and the helpful use of essential oils and sleep in this post.

 

Recipe: Main Dish – Meat Lasagna

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I made this for dinner this past Saturday night and it was a big hit! It does take time to make, so only make this when you have plenty of time.

We were planning to eat dinner around 7:30p and I started cooking at 5:30p. I placed it in the oven around 6:30-ish and we ate around 7:30-ish.

Recipe: Main Dish – Meat Lasagna

Tools:

  • Chopping Board
  • Knife
  • Large/Deep Pan
  • Spatula
  • Large Plate
  • Medium Size Bowl
  • 2 Big Spoons
  • Lots of Paper Towels
  • Trash Can
  • Pot
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Colander
  • 9×13 baking dish

Sauce Ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Small or ½ Large Yellow or White Onion
  • 1 Organic Green Bell Pepper
  • Sliced Mushrooms (optional – my family doesn’t like them so I don’t use them)
  • 1 lb of Grass-fed Ground Beef or 1 lb of ground pork Italian sausage (or half and half of each)
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Minced Garlic
  • 1 15oz Can Petite Diced Tomatoes – Drained
  • 1 32oz Jar of Marinara Sauce
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 Lemon

Cheese Mixture Ingredients:

  • 16oz – 20oz of Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 8oz Pkg of Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1 – 2 tsp of homemade or jar Basil Pesto
  • ¼ Cup of Parmesan Cheese

Other:

  • Lasagna Noodles
  • Shredded Cheese of Choice (Mozzarella or Italian Cheese Blend)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Powered Garlic
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Place 16 – 20 oz of ricotta cheese on a large place and press it flat. Cover with paper towels, as the paper towels get wet, remove and replace. I went through a lot of paper towels, but drawing the moisture out of the ricotta will prevent the lasagna from being watery. I did this process for approximately 1 hour prior to layering. Alternatively, you could use a cheese cloth and squeeze the moisture out of the cheese.

Chop onion and green bell pepper in small equal size pieces. Place onion in hot pan with butter to brown over a medium-high heat. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. When onions are brown add green bell pepper, add more salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Continue to sauté over a medium-heat until brown. At this time, add the mushrooms if you show choose (add butter, and more seasonings as before). The key is to add seasonings to each layer of ingredients.

sauted-onion-green-bell-pepper

Add the ground meat, salt, pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 Tbs of fresh minced garlic. Continue to cook over a medium-heat until meat is browned.

Add the drained can of tomatoes, salt, pepper, and stir – then cook over a medium-heat the rest of the liquid out of them. Then add the jar of marinara sauce, salt, Italian seasoning, and stir – cook to reduce/thicken on a low-medium heat until the rest of the components are ready to layer.

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Bring a pot of water with salt to a boil. Add noodles, stir and cook according to package instructions.

cooking-noodles

While cooking noodles, mix your Ricotta cheese, cream cheese, basil pesto, and parmesan cheese together in a bowl and set aside.

Once noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water, and return to a pot of cold water (this will keep them from sticking together and getting gummy). Pat noodles dry just before layering. I placed paper towels out on my counter top, put 3 noodles down, and placed paper towels on top to pat dry.

Turn off the stove under the sauce.

Line up your 9×13 pan, sauce, cheese mixture, noodles, and paper towels on the counter for easy access.

Time to build…..

  • Add a thin layer of meat sauce to bottom of pan
  • Dry and layer 3 noodles (length wise in pan)
  • Add more meat sauce
  • Generous layer of shredded cheese
  • Dry and layer 3 noodles (length wise in pan)
  • Add entire cheese blend mixture
  • Add more shredded cheese
  • Dry and layer 3 noodles (length wise in pan)
  • Add the remainder of the meat sauce

Cover with foil and puncture small vent holes with a knife. Bake for 30 minutes.

foil-with-vents

Remove from oven and remove the foil. Add a liberal amount of shredded cheese of choice and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.

image

Done. Eat. Enjoy.

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