Crock pot Spinach Lasagna

Our family loves lasagna, in particular spinach lasagna. My son gobbles spinach lasagna up like nothing else. Although lasagna is really easy to make, I often don’t have the time to be at home right before dinner time to get the lasagna made. Since I’ve had so much luck with all of my other crock pot recipes, I figured it was time to try to make lasagna in the crock pot. The presentation aspect only gets a B-, but taste and ease definitely get A’s.

This meal is loaded with Vitamin A (each serving probably has about 180% of your daily requirement), Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, fiber and other vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and flavinoids that are really good for you.

Ingredients:

  • Half a package of lasagna noodles
  • Jar of pasta sauce (of course you can always make your own)
  • 3 tbsp of water (optional)
  • Frozen package of spinach
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot puree
  • 16 oz cottage or ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 tbsp grated parmesan and/or reggiano cheese
  • 2 cups shredded italian cheese (love the Quattro cheese blend from Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

I almost always have onions, spinach and carrot puree in the freezer, so I need to cook a little ahead of time. If you have thawed your spinach and your onions and carrot puree are fresh, you can skip the rest of this paragraph if you are short on time.  Saute the onions in a large sauce pan on medium heat until they begin to carmelize. Add the package of frozen spinach and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrot puree and continue to heat until thawed (if you don’t have carrot puree on hand you can use a large jar of baby food).

Combine the spinach mixture and jar of pasta sauce. After you have emptied the pasta sauce into your sauce pan or other bowl, put about 3 tbsp of water in the jar and put the lid on it. Shake it up and then pour that watery sauce into the bottom of the crock pot.

In a separate bowl, combine the cottage/ricotta cheese, parmesan and milk.

Place a layer of lasagna noodles on the watery sauce in the crock pot. You can break the noodles to form an even layer. Follow with a layer of spinach sauce mix. Then a layer of cheese mix. Repeat with lasagna noodles, spinach sauce & cheese mix until you either run out of noodles or get to the top of the crock pot. Make sure you end with a layer of noodles. In my crock pot, I used 2 lasagna noodles per layer and it took 7 layers.

Once you have your last layer of lasagna noodles, spread the shredded italian cheese on top evenly.

Cook on high for about 4 hours or low for 6 hours.

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Posted in Recipes

Got our new shower head water filter

Our new Culligan ISH-100 Level 2 Inline Shower Filter from Amazon arrived today. I know that I could have installed it myself, but I had my husband install it. Afterall, isn’t that one of the perks of getting married? I’m so excited to use it tomorrow morning.

The acne on my face has drastically improved over the last few days since I’ve been using the filtered drinking water from the kitchen to wash my face. I will not miss the awkwardness of  washing my face in the sink using the pitcher of water. Although, I would gladly do so every day if it means I can have nice skin.

Luckily, I have not been breaking out on my back or other parts of my body. The skin on my body is definitely dry but that could easily be from the season. I do hope that the filter provides healthier skin for the rest of me, too. I’m also really interested to see how my hair reacts. Maybe I’ll be having good hair days on a regular basis. Who wouldn’t want that?

Posted in Beauty

Using filtered water on my face – Day 2

I did the same thing this morning as I wrote about in yesterday’s post (Day 1). Just like yesterday, my skin felt smoother and less irritated. I don’t have any new pimples popping up.

It is quite annoying using a pitcher of water to rinse your face. There just isn’t any easy way to rinse it. Also, the water is really cold which might be another reason why my skin is looking better too. I remember reading about how women in Sweden always splash cold water on their face when they first wake up in the morning. Since I need to put the oatmeal mask on my face, the first thing I do is splash the cold water on my face, too.

In addition, splashing cold water on your face after you wash is a good idea because it helps to close the pores after being opened by the warm water. Although I’m not actually washing my face with the warm water, the steam from the shower I’m sure opens them up.

So besides the extra time it takes to do this, its not too big of a deal and after only 2 days I’m already seeing a difference.

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Posted in Beauty

Using filtered water on my face – Day 1

After reading about how the chlorine content of our tap water could be causing my face to break out, I quickly ordered the Culligan ISH-100 Level 2 Inline Shower Filter from Amazon. After reading several suggestions on other websites, I also decided to stop washing my face in the shower until the filter gets here.

One of the things I read over and over again, was to not let any water get on your face when you are in the shower, although a couple of people found success just by splashing filtered water on their face after the shower. I’m so frustrated with the acne on my face that I really wanted to not let any shower water get on it. I came up with a solution…

The night before last, I filled up a 4 cup container with filtered water from our kitchen sink (we have a PUR 3-Stage Vertical Faucet Mount White FM-3400B). In the morning, before I got in the shower, I splashed my face with the filtered water. As I said in my previous posts about my acne, until we move, I’ve had beautiful skin. I’ve been using oatmeal flour to clean my face for years and years now. Oatmeal is really gentle, since it binds with the oils on your face without stripping the oils from your skin like most soaps do. So I put the oatmeal flour on my face like a mask and then hopped in the shower. When I got out I rinsed the oatmeal off my face using the filtered water.

I am so happy. My face felt smooth (like it did when we were in Israel) and it wasn’t all inflamed and irritated. I ran into the living room to show my husband, and he also noticed that my face wasn’t nearly as red as it usually was.

Now I’m really excited about getting the shower head filter. I don’t know if it filters water to the same point as the drinking water filter in the kitchen. But I am pretty confident at this point in time that the acne on my face is because of our tap water.

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Posted in Beauty, Personal

Fruit Flies

Every so often, we’ll bring home some fruit or veggies along with some fruit flies. Those little things are hard to get rid of, especially if you have house plants (they like to bury their eggs in the moist top soil). Before we moved, I did a search on the internet for a safe solution to get rid of fruit flies. There were several good suggestions. But over the months, I developed my own mix of things. After we came back from our trip this week, we had quite a lot flying around.

So a couple of nights ago, I set up my trap. I’m proud to say that as of this morning, there are 22 of them and I don’t see any in the air.

My recipe for getting rid of fruit flies using natural ingredients:

  • You’ll need a white or yellow cup that will hold about 1/2 cup of liquid
  • 1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 squirt of dish soap
  • about 1/2 cup of water

Put the squirt of dish soap in the bottom of the cup and then add water. Next add the apple cider vinegar. Set it out on the counter and catch some fruit flies.

Explanation:

  • Why a white or yellow cup? Fruit flies are naturally attracted to yellow pigment. I find the white cup actually works better because with the yellow cup, the flies often don’t venture in to the solution.
  • Why organic apple cider vinegar? As I said earlier, I’ve been working on my solution for awhile (we used to get them all the time at our last place because one of our windows opened up to a trash can area). I’ve tried this with white vinegar in a yellow cup, with regular apple cider vinegar and with organic apple cider vinegar. I hardly caught any with the white vinegar. I caught a few with the regular apple cider vinegar. But there are always a lot in the organic ACV solution. Its probably because it smells more like apples – one of the fruits that those little buggers love.
  • You’ll need the soap, if you don’t, the fruit flies can climb back out of the water. They are light enough that they float on the water. The soap breaks the water bonds and the flies sink into the solution.
  • You’ll want enough water so that you can leave it out for a few days. If you live in a high humidity area, then you probably don’t have to worry about how much water is in there. But since I live in Los Angeles, it is really dry here. I’ve tried adding water back in, but when you add the water to the solution again, its just not as effective. If the solution dries up before you’ve gotten rid of all of the fruit flies, just start over.

Besides being made from natural ingredients, you don’t have to worry about kids, dogs or cats getting into the solution. Its not going to do any harm even if your little toddler wants to see what it tastes like.

Posted in Being Green

Chlorine in water could be the answer

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been struggling with acne since we moved to our new place. I’ve been jokingly saying it must be something in the water.

However, after doing some research, it appears that it just might be. Apparently, if you have highly chlorinated water (and we do), it can actually cause acne! Seriously! Excessive exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals has its own term – chloracne.

So I’m going to be purchasing the Culligan ISH-100 Level 2 Inline Shower Filter from Amazon. Its supposed to filter out chlorine. Please cross your fingers for me. I REALLY hope this works.

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Posted in Beauty, Personal

So annoyed

I recently wrote about how my face has decided to erupt in massive acne. It started when we moved to our new place.

Of course, at first I thought it was just the stress of moving. But the acne persisted. Then I thought it was my face soap (even though I’ve been using the same thing for months before), so I changed it and yet the acne persisted. I’ve tried changing my diet, tried a couple of facial regimes and yet the acne still persists.

In my gut, I feel that it is something in my environment. I’ve had beautiful skin for more than 3 years. I don’t want to go to the dermatologist and have them prescribe something for the symptom, I want to fix the problem!

Recently, we just went on a trip to Israel. I used my same soap, shampoo, etc. Within just a couple of days of being there, my face started to clear up. By the time we came back at the end of the 2 weeks, almost all of the acne was gone – the only ones remaining were little and were the last ones to erupt. But there were no new ones for over a week.

It has been a whopping 3 days since we’ve been home and guess what? Yep, my acne is back! WTF?!!!

I am sure more than ever that it is something in my environment, but what on earth could it be? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Needless to say, I am sooooo annoyed at this stupid battle with acne.

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Posted in Beauty, Personal

Benadryl, a baby and a plane

My son is not a good sleeper in general. So the thought of hopping on a plane for 10 hours had me quite a bit terrified. While at the 15 month check up, I mentioned using allergy medicine. The doctor said it read okay but that I should test it before we went on the trip. Some kids actually get quite hyper and you also want to make sure that your child does not have an adverse affect.

A few days before our trip, we tested out the allergy medicine. It didn’t knock him out, but it did make him drowsy. So I packed up the medicine.

When I bought our tickets, I searched for tickets that would keep him on schedule when we flew. Which meant we flew across the country in the day, and then flew across the ocean at night.

Milan was due for a nap when our first flight departed. So right after take off, Milan fell asleep. He slept for a good hour and a half. The rest of the flight we did our best to occupy him.

Luckily for us, the lady that was sitting next to us offered to go to an empty seat. Although when she realized that her son had already paid for the in flight service, she started to change her mind. I QUICKLY offered to pay it for her new seat. That was easily one of the best $6 dollars I ever spent (second only to the ergo carrier I got at a garage sale for $6 dollars)!

We some how managed to keep him entertained for the remaining 3 hours. I must admit that it was more difficult than I thought it would be.

Luckily for us, when he really could not take it any more, we landed. We let him crawl/walk around the airport as much as we could manage him too. The lady at the news stand made a comment about his dirty hands. I told her that it was more important to get out all of his frustration and pent up energy than it was to have clean hands, especially since we had another really long flight ahead of us. And besides, his hands are washable. She laughed and then agreed with me.

About 20 minutes before our trans atlantic flight started to board, I took my son to the restroom while my husband sat with our carry ons (its nice to have an automatic luggage boy at your service). I gave Milan a sponge bath, let him play in the sink for a couple of moments and then changed his diaper. After we got in our seats, we put him in his pajamas and gave him the allergy medicine. After the plane took of we did his basic night time ritual … Sing the pajama song, read two of his favorite night time books, nursed and then he went to sleep.

He slept the entire flight, with the exception of when I had to get up and go to the lavatory. I even managed to eat dinner and breakfast. There were two points in the middle of the flight when I was asleep and he fell off my lap. It was sad and funny waking up to a baby crying that was between my legs and the seat in front of me.

Milan was still asleep for the landing. He only woke up about 10 minutes before we got off the plane.

Here’s hoping for an easy trip on the way back home.

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Posted in Travel

Munchkin Travel Booster Seat

I saw the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat first when my friend used them for her twin boys. They stopped by for lunch the other day and she pulled them out. The booster chair is really quite awesome. It folds up so it is quite compact and it has a little compartment that you can put meal time items in. It’d be nice to keep a bib and utensils handy. They kept both of her wiggly kids safely at the table while she fed them.

Usually I use the Eddie Bauer Shopping Cart Cover since it also works on chairs (although lately, I’ve just been strapping the Ergo carrier around the chair and Milan – not good if he really wants to get out, but a quick solution). But I must admit, I really like the booster aspect. There have been so many times that there hasn’t been a high chair or booster seat when we’ve been out and about. He sits so low. I know he’d really like to be up higher so he can feel like he’s a part of the action. Luckily, we have a toddler place mat to help out.

For now, I’ll be coveting the booster seat. Maybe we’ll get one later.

P.S. I have to admit, I got the idea to write about this from my friend’s blog: Mom at the mall

Posted in Reviews

Crock Pot Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1lb meat (ground turkey or beef)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (if you don’t have cayenne pepper, then use 2 tsp paprika)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (5 oz) tomato paste
  • ½-1 can (5oz) water

Directions:

Ground meat in pan (you can chop the onion while you’re waiting for the meat to cook).

Drain meat.  Add meat and chopped onion to pot and mix together.  Then layer in the ingredients as they are listed.  Mix once or twice.

Cook on high for about 5 hours or low for 8+ hours.

Variations:

To cut down on cost, you can buy beans in bulk. You’ll need about 1 cup dry. Rinse and sort beans. Soak beans overnight in 2 cups water to 1 cup beans the day before you make the chili. Drain the water before using. Whole Foods has an amazing bean blend called “Carnivale.” I HIGHLY recommend it.

If you want to make complete vegetarian, do not add meat. Instead add another can or 1/2 cup of dried beans.

If you don’t have cayenne, you can easily substitute the tomatoes for 1 can (14.5 oz) of fire roasted or diced tomatoes with chiles and one can regular diced tomatoes.

If you have some yummy tomatoes from a farmer’s market or your own back yard, you’ll need about 3 lbs of fresh tomatoes. I’d still add the tomato paste to thicken it up, though. If its between store bought tomatoes or canned, I’d stick with canned. They usually are much more flavorful since they usually use the tomatoes that are too ripe to ship.

Serving suggestions:

Buy a small squash, about 6 inches (kabocha, acorn or butternut work well). Cut in half and remove seeds. Place face down on a plate with a few tablespoons of water. Cook in microwave for about 10 minutes. Test with fork to see if its done. Place squash face up so that it makes a bowl. Serve chili in the squash bowl.

Top with sour cream or cheese.

If at the end of the chili and you don’t have enough for complete servings, make chili mac! Make macaroni and cheese according to directions. You can either mix the chili in or serve the mac and cheese and top with a spoonful of chili!

Chili also tastes great on hot dogs!

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Posted in Recipes