Butternut Squash Lasagna Redo

I posted this butternut squash lasagna last year but I thought it it needed a little re-do.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Don’t judge this lasagna until you try it. It is seriously so good and a great fall food. I love this one! It is much faster to prep & cook than traditional Italian lasagna.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, roasted
16 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
½ box lasagna noodles

Directions:

Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees. (this could be done the day before)
Combine ricotta, cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash
Mix squash and chicken stock over medium low heat.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
To assemble lasagna: spread noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan; top with ricotta mixture and some cheese; layer more noodles; top with butternut squash mixture.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
Repeat laying noodles then ricotta and cheese, then noodles, then squash and repeating until all the layers are used.The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
Sprinkle some cheese on top.
Bake 30 minutes at 375.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
I sprinkled some fresh basil in there. I love the flavor combo and I hadn’t grabbed a package of sage. I think the fresh-factor is important and sage makes it more fall-ish.

See? Pretty simple and it’ll feed a crowd. It is a great dinner to prep in advance and stick in the oven for just little fuss. It reheated well and I froze leftover pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna (serves 6-9)

1 butternut squash: $1.89
16 oz. ricotta: $1.99
4 oz. cream cheese: $0.62
1 egg yolk: $1.24
16 oz. mozzarella: $3.59
4 oz. Parmesan cheese: $1.98
8 oz. chicken stock: $0.11 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
8 oz. lasanga noodles: $1.00
total cost = $12.42/9 servings = $1.38 per serving
Even cutting larger pieces (6 instead of 9) comes to $2.07 per serving!

I had some leftover noodles. Early on in your layers, take a quick count how many noodles fit so you don’t run out mid layer when you could have scooched a few. I cut the up the leftover noodles with a little sauce and some cheese. Pow! Pop a meatball on and I’ve got a last minute dinner in the freezer some night! My resourceful Momma taught me well!
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Oreo Dip

Awhile back I made a dip that was sooo easy it made me think kids would have fun making it. The original source on Pinterest was a blog that seems MIA or maybe they’re just under construction.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip

Ingredients:

1 box white chocolate pudding (I used instant)
2 cups milk
8 oz cool whip (aka frozen non-dairy whipped topping)
½ package Oreos (or about 25 oreos)
1 box chocolate graham crackers

Directions:

Mix pudding and milk until thickened (about 2 minutes)
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo DipAdd cool whip and crushed oreos mixing well.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip
Refrigerate for at least and hour before serving.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip

I liked this for a twist on a regular dip. It was an easy one that didn’t require any baking. Serve it with chocolate graham crackers.

Mr. J thought this was great. It made a ton so I took half to a small meeting and we enjoyed the other half at home. The photo above is half of what I made! This stayed good for a few days, after that, the oreos were a bit soggy. I thought it was a bit loose or soupy but the original post included mini marshmallows too so that would change the consistency.

I was thinking these would be great as chocolate graham cracker “ice cream” sandwiches. Maybe next time I’ll whip in some cream cheese to thicken it and I’ll freeze graham sandwiches filled with it.

Cost Breakdown:

1 pkg chocolate sandwich cookie: $2.75
1 pkg white chocolate pudding mix:  $1.00
1 pkg cool whip: $2.49
1 pkg chocolate graham crackers:  $3.49
total: $9.73/10 servings = $0.97 per person (with graham crackers and oreos leftover!)

I skimped on the cookies and bought the cheapest ones I could find, and went “high end” on the dippers but this whole thing could be made for even less.

What I Ate: Ramen Coleslaw

I was trying to think of an easy side I could literally throw together. I was lacking motivation recently and somehow this came out of nowhere. I’ve made it a few times, but not once this summer yet. My twist is using broccoli slaw instead of cabbage or slaw mix.

This is so easy and takes 5 minutes to prep and goes with everything. It isn’t vegetarian but it is delicious! It is probably the cheapest side-dish ever. I dare you, find a cheaper one.

The Three Bite Rule - Ramen Slaw

Ingredients:

1 bag broccoli slaw
1 pack ramen noodles, chicken flavor
3/4 cup oil
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
sprinkle of pepper
1 of the chicken pack flavorings in ramen noodle package

Directions:

The Three Bite Rule - Ramen Slaw
Boil the ramen noodles for about 5 minutes then drain.
Whisk or shake in a jar the oil, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and ramen flavor pack.
The Three Bite Rule - Ramen Slaw
Mix noodles, slaw, and dressing.
The Three Bite Rule - Ramen Slaw
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. I should have thrown in sunflower seeds. That crunch on top is delicious. I like how oil-vinegary this is. There is so much flavor from the ramen. My Mum and mother-in-law both make it with grapes & nuts. I like this salad when you keep the noodles raw too. They’re super crunchy.

Let’s break it down:

1 pkg chicken ramen: $0.24 (12 pack @ $2.99)
1 pkg broccoli slaw: $2.99
very little oil & vinegar
total = $3.23 and serves about 6, or $0.53 per serving.

Can you believe that pricing? It’s a crowd pleaser that won’t break the bank.

What I Ate: Turkey Panini

In my effort to simplify dinner (but still keep it delicious) I figured I should throw in more sandwiches to the rotations since lately I’ve been into dinner salads. Mr. J is (rightfully) worried about getting salad-ed out.

The Three Bite Rule - Turkey Panini

I like that paninis are perfect any-time-of-the-year dinners. They’re super easy and quick (and cheap). In the summer I appreciate that they don’t heat up the whole house to make! In the winter I appreciate that it is a warm meal with a fresh factor. I also love that there aren’t any weird leftovers. I made some once when I hosted the book club and served them with a salad bar. It was a hit for a group with different tastes!

Here are some tips to take this from a “sandwich” to a “dinner-starring-panini” Continue reading

Restaurant Recreation: Chicken Cordon Bleu Calzone

In my world, there’s nothing better than take-out and DVR Friday nights. I’m old at heart and this is my ideal way to end the week. It feels so right to be lazy and loungy and doesn’t make me feel guilty at all. Saturday & Sunday mornings are a different story. I feel the need to get stuff done…immediately. Plus, in this heat do you really want to be crazy like me and crank your oven?

I don’t usually plan dinners for Friday night and Mr. J gives me a sly grin saying “how ‘bout we order something?”. I am the cheap one so often I’m the one who would eat something weird that I can come up with from the depths of the freezer or pantry rather than going out. Since we moved to the burbs our take-out delivery is slightly more limited. We tend to go with pizza or Chinese.

I got a chicken cordon bleu calzone from a local pizza joint and was stoked. Enough for lunch leftovers over the weekend! Woohoo! It was amazing and I wanted to recreate it.
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I made regular chicken cordon bleu and loved it but this calzone was definitely the easy way out.
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Ingredients:

4 breaded chicken tenders
8 oz shredded Swiss cheese
4 slices deli ham
Pizza dough
2 cups arugula
1 egg + 1 tbs water = eggwash

Directions:

Cook chicken according to directions (or bread and bake your own!)
Spread pizza dough onto a baking sheet.
Chop chicken, ham, and arugula.
Layer the chicken, cheese, ham, and arugula over the pizza dough.
Remember to include fillings almost to the edge and keep layering eventhough it will look like too much filling.
Close pizza dough over to seal shut.
Cut a few slits into the top and brush with eggwash (optional)
Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Let sit 5 minutes before slicing (or you’ll have an oozer)

Since I can’t pretend I made this idea up, I’m not tooting my own horn saying this was soooo good. I loved the swiss in there. That’s different than most of my calzones. I threw the arugula in since I had it and figured a little green never hurt anyone!
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The pre-made chicken tenders made it super simple. Those suckers are dirt cheap. Maybe that’s why there are so many kids who don’t know chicken in another form. Whatever. I’m not an 8-year-old but having these in the freezer reduced this recipe to purely an assembly project.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The calzone will look like it’s wayyy over stuffed but not enough filling is definitely a rookie mistake.

Cost:

4 breaded chicken tenders $1.14
8 oz shredded Swiss: $2.75
4 slices of ham: $0.75
Refrigerated pizza dough: $1.99
2 cups Arugula: $1.33
Total: $7.96 serves 4 for $1.99 per person
Total at my local pizza joint: small for $9.69 serves 2 for $4.84 per person

It is kind of crazy that I know I can make it for $1.99 per person and as frugal as I am I’ll still pay $4.84 per person for somebody to make it and bring it to me.  Whatever, don’t judge ;)

Greek Dip with Some Assembly Required

This is the easiest dip ever. There’s no cooking involved…some assembly required. Make this for your next BBQ or pool party and you’re guaranteed to wow people. I really enjoy the simplicity of this in relation to how much folks rave about this dip! Yesterday was Ms. L’s bday and she likes this one ;)
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Ingredients

8 oz hummus
2-4 oz feta
1 cucumber
2 tomatoes
3 tbs Italian salad dressing

Directions

Spread hummus onto a plate
Chop cucumbers and tomatoes and toss with feta and dressing
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Arrange on top of hummus
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Serve with pita chips, wheat thins, or your favorite crackers

That’s it!

It is a nice alternative to other dips served. It is lighter but really fresh tasting and goes with anything. I’ve made the topping and assembled on-site when it was time to eat so I can attest to how portable it is.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged it before. It tends to be a crowd pleaser. Even when people tell me they won’t like it, they try it and are surprised. Happens. Every. Time.

It would be good as a crostini if it is easier for you not to serve a dip. If you do make it as a dip I assure you folks will be standing around devouring this one! (I love when that happens at a party but crostinis would help when serving a crowd.)

Cost Breakdown

Hummus: $3.50
Feta $1.99
Cucumber $0.75 (English cuke $2.00)
2 plum tomatoes $1.00
Wheat thins $3.00
Total = $11.49 (for the dip & dippers to serve 6-8 for <$2.00) That’s even using an English cuke which is totally worth it not to have to peel it!

Cheesy Baked Ziti

My Grandma W wasn’t known for her cooking but I’ve thought of her often lately. She would have loved Mr. J and she would be really proud that we got the house. She was a tough cookie but her grandchildren could do no wrong.
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She made fantastic fudge, chex-mix, and baked ziti. Mine didn’t quite rival hers, but it was good. The perfect sauce with lots of cheese was an ideal dinner. I concentrated on making sure there was a ton of cheese and that the noodles were cooked perfectly.

Ingredients:

1 pound ziti, rigatoni, or penne
2 cups tomato sauce
12 oz ricotta
1 cup spinach
12 oz shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Boil pasta until al dente (it will keep cooking when baked)
Blend (or chop) spinach into ricotta
Mix ricotta with pasta, half the sauce, and half the mozzarella.
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Spread into a greased pan and top with remaining sauce.
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Bake 30 minutes covered. Then top with remaining cheese and bake until melted.
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Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

If I were making this Grandma W style, I would have added meatballs, chicken thighs, sausage, pepperoni, peppers, and onions.  Mine was simplier but I liked it a lot. I have a strong love for ricotta.
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It reminded me of a baked pasta Ms. L made for me. I liked the crispy ones at the edges. I think this dish is super easy, can be made ahead of time, and is definitely a cheap dinner.

Cost breakdown:
Sauce: $1.67
Pasta: $1.00
Ricotta: $2.69
Spinach: $1.74
Shredded mozzarella: $2.99
Total: $10.09 and serves 6 or just $1.68 per person

Salmon Burger

I’m posting out of sequence so it might look like I’m eating bugers non-stop. Mr. J had some venison so I bought myself some fish. Salmon was on sale so that sealed the deal. If I’d been coordinated, I’d have made a pie for pi day so, happy 3.14!

I’m talking $2.68 for a POUND of salmon. That’s several servings. Whoa!
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I was doing to cook it in the oven with butter, lemon, & dill but then I had this strange hankering for a salmon burger. It came out of nowhere. I’ve never even EATEN a salmon burger before, but this was wicked good.

Ingredients:

½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
1 pound salmon
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg½ tsp garlic

Directions:

Cut salmon off the skin
Add breadcrumbs, salmon, dill, and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. (I was out of breadcrumbs so these are some homemade croutons becoming breadcrumbs).
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Mix in an egg and garlic by hand.
Form into patties & grill
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I served these with spinach, some tzatziki, and mustard on a grilled wheat roll. I liked the creamy component and thought the cukes, garlic, and dill of the tzatziki were really good with the salmon.
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I made 3 burgers out of it and really enjoyed this as something different. The other 2 are frozen and I’m sure will be a great surprise some night when I feel like there’s nothing for dinner.

It stayed together much better than I expected, but I did arm Mr. J with some super duty aluminum foil for the burger on the grill.

I wouldn’t ever order a salmon burger at a restaurant so I think this was a fun/easy one to make at home. I think if a restaurant is cooking my fish I’ll have them taking the tougher method.

Cost Breakdown:

1 pound of salmon: $2.68
breadcrumbs: ~$0.55
lemon for juice: $0.89
roll: $1.59
tzatziki: $0.41
total:  $6.12 (for 3 burgers) or $2.04 each!

Making Crab Rangoons at Home

Even non-fish eaters like crab rangoons and all the guest bloggers I’ve had recently got me inspired to use some wontons.

These were a fun app to make at home, and I liked that I had more control of them…which meant that there was wayyy more crab in them than in those of take-out Chinese restaurants.

Ingredients:

8 oz crabmeat (or imitation crab)
4 oz cream cheese
2 tbs mayo
3 green onions, chopped
splash soy sauce
spash of sesame oil
wonton wrappers

Directions:

Mix crab, cream cheese, mayo, green onions, and sauces together and let sit for 10 minutes.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Stuff each wonton by putting about ½ tsp of filling into the center of the wonton and bringing the corners to meet in the middle. This forms a purse shape. Or put the filling in the center and bring 1 set of opposite corners to meet, forming a triangle.
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Spray lightly with nonstick spray and bake for 10 minutes.

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My triangles oozed a bit, but were much crispier. The purses were really cute and ensured evenly filled bites, but didn’t bake up as crispy. That triangular ooze of crisped crab was amazing. Not that I’d ever taste for the sake of presentation.
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Mr. J LOVES sweet and sour sauce so I bought probably the world’s largest jar at the grocery store (think 40 oz for $2.99). It isn’t quite like take-out Chinese sweet and sour, but I like it better. Want to know the first ingredient? Of course you do!

It is apricots!
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Wow. I never would have guessed. This actually has distinguishable chunks.  I lucked out with the real crab on sale. I bet imitation isn’t bad since that’s probably what the restaurants are using anyway.

Crab Rangoon Cost:

8 oz crabmeat: $6.75 (it was on sale and wasn’t imitation crabmeat)
4 oz cream cheese: $0.75
2 oz mayo: $0.30
green onions: free! (I did this, but note it really only worked once, after that the color was a lot lighter and the flavor was pretty weak)
wontons: $1.25
total: $9.05 for about 24 crab rangoons or about $0.37 per piece.

This beats my local take-out option which sells about 8 for $8.75, though, they do bring it to my door so that has to count for something.

 

Creamy Cream-less Tomato Soup

I don’t make soup nearly enough. I was totally enticed when I saw this tomato soup that doesn’t have any cream in it. It’s not that huge of a deal health-wise, but it doesn’t taste the same when it is reheated and it is just one more ingredient needed since we drink light soy milk and that gets wanky in certain recipes. I made it during one of the very brief winter-weather days here in New England.
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I loved that the bread made it thick and rich.
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I grabbed the canned tomatoes and almost choked when I got home. $5 something?!?! WHAT? In retrospect it was totally worth it for good stuff since there aren’t many ingredients annnnd it is the highlight of the soup. Maybe I ate the soup about 6 times so it is not much cost per serving anyway. Ok, I’m over it.

tomato_soup_can_390_590

Ingredients:

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½  tsp red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice (I used Pastene’s San Marzano Tomatoes with Basil)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Over medium high heat, warm olive oil before adding onion, cooking until translucent and starting to caramelize.
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Stir in tomatoes, sugar, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes.
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Stir occasionally.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium until bread starts to break down.
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Add broth and blend with an immersion blender/blender/potato masher to the consistency of your preference.
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I left mine a bit chunky because I like chunks in ice cream, peanut butter, apple sauce, and soup! I made it smooth when I recreated it for some new parents who I thought could use a meal or two.

I served it with grilled cheese (the secret ingredient was pesto) and it was a fantastic wintry meal. Mr. J isn’t into soup so I ate this myself a million times. It is surprisingly filling.
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Because I’m feeling especially dorky, I looked up what the nutritional facts are and this is a scant 53 calories per serving! A considerably smaller serving of a condensed tomato soup (who shall remain nameless) is 91 calories (with a lot more sugar, double the sodium, and less iron than mine).

Here’s the cost breakdown because I made such a stink about it:
1 can San Marzano Tomatoes: $4.99
3 slices wheat bread: $0.24
1 small onion: $0.99
2 cups chicken broth: $0.22
total = $6.44 (or $1.07 per serving)

Again, more red food in time for Valentine’s Day!
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