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Monthly Archives: February 2013

February Foodie Pen Pal

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OMG, super excited to tell you about my February Foodie Pen Pal box!  I haven’t participated in a few months due to moving, so I was happy to start back up again.  My match for the month, Megan, a high school student!, who runs the blog Integral of Health was great.  She listened to my crazy requests and delivered a great box.

Pen Pal Box

Pen Pal Box

In the box was:

  • Cholula chili lime hot sauce!  I’ve never had this kind, so I’m super excited to add this hot sauce to my repertoire
  • Chai Spice Tea (yum!)
  • Peeled Organic Apples (only apples, so good!)
  • Natural peanut butter (I’m not normally a huge fan of peanut butter, but this has a nice nutty taste)
  • Love Crunch dark chocolate berry granola (HOLY CRAP GOOD!)

Here’s the information to participate next month:

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
  • Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
The Lean Green Bean

Lasagna Soup

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Lasagna Soup

Well, it’s official.  It’s cold.  Like REALLY cold.  So, most nights I really just want something warm and hearty to eat.  Lasagna would totally fit that bill. Unfortunately I find making lasagna a little more tedious than what I would normally have on a weeknight.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE lasagna.  I think I asked my mom to make lasagna for my birthday dinner for YEARS!  So, when I saw this recipe for lasagna soup, I knew I had to make it, with a few tweaks.  I stayed pretty true to the original recipe, but I will make some suggestions at the end to make the soup a little different each time.

Lasagna Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oilLasagna soup ingredients
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 Tofurky sausages
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1-2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 14oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 6 cups veggie stock
  • 8 oz lasagna noodles or fusilli
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Sweating onions and garlicHeat the olive oil over medium to medium high heat.  Add the onion and sweat for a minute or two.  Add the garlic and cook another few minutes until the onion is translucent.   Add two of the sausages that are cut up in slices.  With the third, crumble before adding to the pot.  Cook another minute or two.  Add tomato paste and the oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine and allow to cook until the paste turns darker in color.  Sausage added

Add the tomatoes with their juices and the veggie stock.  Turn down the heat and cover the pot and allow the soup to simmer.  While the soup is cooking, heat water in a separate pan to cook the noodles in.  Salt the cooking water well.  Break up the noodles if using lasagna before cooking.  Drain the noodles and rinse them off.

Cooked noodles

Cooked noodles

While the soup is simmering and the noodles are cooking, make the ricotta topping.  In a bowl mix the ricotta cheese, nutritional yeast, and the salt and pepper.  Mix well and set aside.

Ricotta mixture

Ricotta mixture

After the soup has simmered for at least a half hour, ladle into bowls for serving.  Add some noodles to each bowl then top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture and some shredded cheese.  If you have any fresh basil you can add  some ribbons to each bowl or top it off with a few more shakes of red pepper flakes.

Soup simmering away

Soup simmering away

There are a few changes that I’d make the next time I cook this soup.  The first is that I’d probably add some spinach to the soup.  It wouldn’t add too much to the soup to take away from the flavor and would add so much more in the way of nutrition.  I may also add other veggies like zucchini and squash when they are in season (or if I’d preserved any for next winter).  If you wanted to make this vegan, use Daiya shredds instead of the mozzarella.  To sub for the ricotta, use firm tofu that you can either process in a food processor or with a fork and smash to little chunks.  Flavor this with some salt and spices and maybe a touch of lemon juice to use as ricotta in the recipe.


Composed soup

Composed soup

Film Review: Win Win

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Win Win

Welcome to the New Year and a new edition of Friday flicks. Yes, I realize I have not really been blogging lately, nor have I really done a Friday flicks feature. But hopefully that will change. I want to blame the hiatus on the fact we moved (from just outside Baltimore, to the Hampden area of Baltimore), but that would only be a partial truth. I think with the craziness of the holidays I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of cooking/baking I was doing. I’ve slowly eased back into the cooking, so here’s hoping for some new delicious recipes.

I happened on the movie Win Win by not changing the channel. I had seen stuff about it, but hadn’t really sought it out. FYI, HBO Comedy channel has some pretty awesome movies. If you are looking for a movie where Paul Giamatti is not playing a poor schlub of a man, then this is not for you. This role is what he does best. He plays a guy Mike who is married with two young kids. He’s a lawyer in his own practice, though shares the space with a CPA, and coaches wrestling at the local high school. Mike’s business is not doing well. His team is not doing well. His life is not doing well. It’s so bad that he started having panic attacks. So, the doctor told him to go running. He then has a panic attack while running (beside the panic attack actually happening, that was a HILARIOUS scene). Mike’s not making ends meet and he hasn’t told his wife about it. Well, he gets a client that is in early stages of dementia and currently lives at home by himself. As he is not competent to be by himself, the state wants to take over his care. Mike convinces the judge that he will fulfill the old man’s wishes and allow him to stay at his house. This would give Mike $1,500 a month for being the old guy’s guardian. The judge grants guardianship to Mike, who instead of figuring out a way to care from him at home puts the guy in a home. And he tells the old man that the judge told him he had to stay there. Yeah, not really a good guy…


Well, as you would have it, some kid shows up on the old guy’s steps. It turns out to be the old guy’s grand-son. The kid, Kyle, tells Mike that his mom sent him there. Well, now Mike has a kid he’s taking care of and for a while as the mom is in rehab for a few weeks. We don’t really learn much about Kyle’s home life at all. We do learn that he hates his mom. A LOT. Like more than anyone else in the world. But he is super sweet with Mike’s family and with his grandfather as well. At practice one day Kyle asks to wrestle. He does, and he’s GOOD. Apparently he had gone to the state championships back in Ohio. He was so good that Mike’s friend ends up joining the coaching staff (mostly to have a reason to do anything like play video games…). Mike enrolls Kyle in the high school and gets him to wrestle. The team starts to win and things are looking up for Mike. Then everything of course goes to shit. Kyle’s mom shows up and wants to take the grandfather, but the mom mostly just wants the money. People find out about Mike’s secret, and Kyle gets kicked out of wrestling. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s good.  Cracks me up…

Mostly, I just want to say that the acting was so well done in this movie. Paul Giamatti is great. He does that whole self-deprecation thing so well. Jeffrey Tambor plays the CPA/assistant coach. I wish he had been used more. I loved him in Arrested Development (can’t wait for that to come back!!!) and he is such a comedic genius I wish he’d been allowed more range. The wife is played by Amy Ryan. If you’ve ever seen The Wire or Gone Baby Gone, you’ve seen the nuances of her work. She draws you in to her story. While again I wish she’d been funnier, she was used so well in the poignant parts with Kyle. Lastly, the kid Kyle was played by Alex Shaffer. This was his first major role. It was pretty much his first role ever. CRAZY. He did an amazing job.

Again, the movie isn’t slap your knee funny, mostly it’s pretty awkward and really close to real life. But it really has its moments.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.