It’s been cold in Ithaca. Very cold. And this past week has been frustrating for me. It’s my first week back to work after two weeks away, and my computer chose last week of all weeks to die.

I’m not up against a deadline or anything, laptop.

Lasagna seemed like just the thing to warm us up before having to face the coming week ahead. And copious amounts of cheese always help.


Not much effort is required for this recipe: Slice and chop ingredients, combine with pasta sauce, and bake.

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My body tends to have the worst timing.

I suffer from fibromyalgia, and I also have a broken vertebra in my spine that apparently will not heal (according to the doctor that finally located it). This makes it fairly difficult for me to do many social things, and it’s usually a good day if I can manage to get out of the apartment. For this reason, the holidays are typically something I dread.

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love being around my family, because my husband and I live far enough away from both of our families that it makes it difficult to see them on a regular basis. We typically see them about once or twice a year, those times being in November and December. The fibromyalgia makes my body tend to hate cold weather, so I always tend to feel like crap around that time. Add in lengthy travel times, and it makes for a lot of guilt. I tend to hurt too much to do much of anything for long periods of time, and the more stuff that I have to do, the worse I feel.

This year, we decided to drive.

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Lately, thanks to a hectic release schedule at work, I’ve had less will to browse the Internet for recipes that I might be interested in trying. We had to head to the jeweler yesterday morning to drop off my wedding ring for its regular maintenance, and I really didn’t want to have to leave the apartment again today to run even more errands. I just felt lazy.

I suggested to my husband that we drop off my wedding ring, stop by the SPCA annex that is conveniently located across the walkway¬†from the jeweler to gawk at all of the kitties they tend to have, and then head to Wegmans for lunch and groceries. We quickly decided on this week’s menu, jotted down a quick list of items, and then headed out.

It made for a long day, and I was unable to convince my husband that we should adopt another cat (or two, or three, or all of them) at the SPCA annex, but at least I got to look at some cats while I was out. I’ve had a back injury for years now that has made it difficult to run errands for a longer period of time, so I was really kind of pushing it with this extended errand run, but it beats having to go out and deal with my back twice. Plus, it meant that I got to get a healthy lunch that would fill me up, thanks to the salad bar there at Wegmans.

We’ve discovered since moving to New York that Wegmans carries this fairly tasty hot Italian-style poultry sausage. One of the things I had to miss out on for awhile thanks to a lower-calorie diet was hot Italian sausage. Hot Italian sausage is the only type of sausage I can typically stand! (Sage and I are not friends.) So when we found this sausage, I’ve been finding almost any excuse to catch up on lost time. This week, I felt like lasagna, so it felt natural to make a spicy sausage lasagna.

We found a nice part-skim mozzarella in the dairy section, and we’ve had the fat-free ricotta in our fridge for a few weeks, when we’d planned to make veggie lasagna rolls that we never really followed through on. At home, we had some pasta sauce to use before the end of the month and some diced tomatoes that we tend to have around, anyway. The lasagna noodles had somehow made the journey from California intact, so that rounded out our fairly basic lasagna.

My husband and I didn’t get to bed until after 4 in the morning, so we woke up fairly late. After a late lunch, I took some time to rest my back. I’ve been meaning to update my hair color for awhile, so I mixed up a batch to lighten the shade of blonde that my hair naturally is and saturated my hair before putting on a processing cap and heading out to the kitchen.

The sauce came together while my hair was processing, and I had just enough time to sink the noodles into the water before scurrying back to the bathroom, asking my husband to please pull the noodles off after they were done. I hopped in the shower to rinse out the dye, took a quick shower while I was in there, then towel dried my hair and pulled some clothes on before going back out to the kitchen. The shower had given the noodles time to cool enough to be able to handle them, so I quickly assembled the lasagna and popped it into the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Satisfied that dinner was on its way, I went back to the bedroom to rest my back.

The lasagna turned out GREAT. It came out hot and bubbly, with a nice brown crust on top. After allowing it a half an hour to cool so that we wouldn’t burn the roofs of our mouths, my husband cut it into portions and served us each a piece. Delicious, comforting, with the right amount of spice. Lots of tomato flavor. And of course, plenty of stringy, gooey cheese.

Perfect end to our weekend, with enough lasagna to last us a couple more nights. Get the recipe (including nutrition information) after the jump!

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My husband and I both have a major sweet tooth, so that means dessert every night. While he wouldn’t gain a single pound if he ate the entire recipe, I certainly would, so the recipe in this post needed to be lightened up.

The original post called for butter, white sugar, brown sugar, almond butter, chopped almonds, and shredded coconut. All of these ingredients were either omitted or substituted with something else:

  • You can typically replace butter in desserts with unsweetened applesauce. I have never had a problem substituting it cup-for-cup. However, if this were a shortbread recipe, the applesauce method definitely wouldn’t work – the butter is necessary, because you need to chill the dough before you cut cookies out of them. Applesauce won’t hold stuff together when cold; butter will. Long story short: Applesauce is okay for this recipe. I make my own, which gives me complete control over the ingredients – I know exactly what goes into it.
  • Erythritol is a fairly decent substitute for white sugar, with the added bonus that it measures cup-for-cup just like sugar. If the recipe calls for sugar, I substitute a majority of the sugar with erythritol, then add a bit of real sugar to avoid the slight cooling effect that I get if I were to use just erythritol. However, if you’re good with substitute sweeteners, feel free to use all erythritol or another cup-for-cup substitute.
  • I know that dark muscovado sugar is a version of brown sugar, but when a recipe says “brown sugar,” I typically think “store-bought.” That’s fine, and I actually do use that…but today, I only had muscovado on hand. It’s processed less, anyway.
  • I have almond butter, but I just made peanut butter over the weekend. I wanted to use the peanut butter because, well, it was there, and it tastes good.
  • Chopped almonds and shredded coconut would both add calories to the final product. I didn’t feel like chopping almonds. I hate coconut. These are three good reasons to leave those out of the final product.

The end result still feels indulgent, with the chocolate chips melding perfectly with the peanut butter. At 331 calories per serving, you can afford to indulge once in awhile.

Get the recipe (including nutrition information) after the jump!

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Last week, I purchased a pound of strawberries and a bunch of bananas, planning to make the Roasted Strawberry Banana Bread (recipe by Gina of Skinnytaste) that I’d stumbled across as I was compiling the grocery list. I figured that it’s one of the last times I’ll be able to get quality strawberries here in New York (though I suppose I can’t be certain as I haven’t even lived here a month).

Then I saw strawberries on sale this week. They looked beautiful. So I grabbed another four pounds to make strawberry syrup that I can can and use at some point in the next year.

Problem was, I hadn’t started using the strawberries from last week. So when I pulled them out yesterday, hoping to make that banana bread that I’ve been promising my husband, I was dismayed to find that (big surprise here – sense the sarcasm?) the strawberries had started to mold. So that was a waste of money and perfectly good strawberries. Sigh.

I’d already mashed my bananas, though. That tends to be how I go about cooking in general, really – just kind of crash about and hope that I have everything and that the recipe turns out in the end. Most of the time, it does, and with fantastic results. The other 2% of the time…big flop. Just wrong. (Don’t even get me started on buckwheat bread…)

That’s the way I grew up, though. I watched my mom cook a lot, and I often pitched in when she was fairly busy and we couldn’t afford to really pick up anything on her way home from work. She always just kind of put stuff together, and it magically worked. The biggest surprise of a winner was ground beef, spaghetti noodles, cheddar cheese, and something else that I can’t remember off the top of my head. We were at the end of the month, really just making do with whatever we happened to have, and she pulls this out of a hat. It did not look very palatable, really, but…it’s what we had left in the house.

So I stood there, looking at the mashed bananas, wondering what I would be able to do to salvage it, and I figured I’d just leave the strawberries out and see what happened. I also wanted to leave out the butter (and it turned out plenty moist and tasty without it), use a flax egg in place of egg whites, and add peanut butter chips, making this vegetarian but easily adaptable into a vegan version.

Get the recipe after the jump!

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