Monthly Archives: January 2015

Pasta Bake with Besciamella Sauce

Scott and I both have Italian ancestors. Scott’s maternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather were Italian, which meant our mothers did a lot of Italian cooking.  In addition, Scott served a 2 year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Italy, which meant he did a lot of Italian cooking and eating during those two years before our marriage. Needless to say, Italian foods are featured weekly on our dinner menu. I’ve shared our whole wheat AMAZING pizza dough recipe awhile back, and we have a couple more regular Italian dishes, one of which I will share with you today.

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We’ve made pasta bake for years and years, though it wasn’t until about 2 years ago that Scott remembered how much he loved Besciamella when he had been in Italy, and so he did some research and came up with a fabulous Besciamella sauce recipe (white sauce), that we love to use with red sauce in our lasagna, pasta bakes and other pastas. When you combine the marinara with the Besciamella, you get a lovely pink sauce.

My kids LOVE this pasta bake and I love that it tastes great with a whole wheat pasta (some pasta recipes don’t taste wonderful with whole wheat pasta)! I have a favorite Marinara Sauce that you can get from Costco. It’s the White Linen Collection of Gourmet Pasta Sauces by Victoria. I love that there are so few ingredients, no sugars and corn syrups, all real foods, no preservatives!

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When making the Besciamella white sauce, I’ve used both whole milk and heavy cream and a mixture of the two, all of which are great. I wouldn’t advise using a very watery milk substitute like non -fat cows milk or rice milk etc. You need that cream. I make my Besciamella first, put half of it aside in a glass jar for another day, while I’m bringing my water to a boil for my pasta. I cook the pasta according to package directions, preheat my oven, and once the pasta is done and drained, I put the dish together like I would a lasagna, in layers. From start to finish, you’ll spend a little less than an hour in the kitchen with prep and bake time.


You can optionally add cooked ground meat to this pasta bake as you would a lasagna, or cooked carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach etc. There’s so much you can do with it! You can make this recipe ahead of time, in the morning or the night before, cover it and store it in your fridge. It’ll take a little longer to cook this way because it’s cold, but just keep the foil on until it’s warmed through (maybe 30-40 min?) and then take it off for the last five minutes which will allow the cheese on top to melt nicely. You can use the leftover Besciamella to make another pasta bake, or save it to make a lasagna or a pasta with pink sauce. Enjoy!


Best Pasta Bake and Besciamella Sauce
makes 1, 9×13 pan; serves 8-10

16 oz whole wheat Fusilli Pasta (or another pasta shape like shells, penne etc)
3-4 c  marinara sauce (I use a 40 oz jar from Costco, though I only use about 3/4 of the jar.)
1 1/2 c Besciamella (white sauce…I save the other half for another day. Recipe is below)
2 c mozarella cheese, grated

Besciamella (this makes enough for 2, 9×13 pans)
5 T butter
4 T whole wheat flour
3 c whole milk or heavy cream
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine Besciamella ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5-10 minutes, until thickened. Whisk constantly. While whisking, Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta according to package directions. Remove from heat and drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/4 c marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Pour half the cooked noodles on top of the sauce. Cover with half the marinara sauce, about 1 1/4 c,  3/4 c besciamella sauce, and 1 c mozarella cheese. Repeat adding the remaining noodles,  and the same amount of marinara sauce, besciamella and cheese. Cover with foil and cook for 10 minutes, take foil off and cook another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.


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Diet and Exercise

Though most of my blog posts here are recipes, occasionally, I like to share info on books and articles I’m reading, as well as personal experiences that go along with a whole foods lifestyle.  ‘Diet and Exercise’ may not be the best title for this post. ‘Diets’ are seen by many as a short-term restrictive way of eating, something to help them get to a certain weight or goal and then they stop and go back to eating the way they did before (and not surprisingly, gain back the weight :)). Perhaps a better name for this post would be, “Good Food Choices and Exercise” or, “A Healthy Lifestyle”, since this post will be about healthy habits our family has established over the years, having to do with food and exercise.

Our family is a bit different than your typical American family. We don’t eat at McDonalds, we don’t feed our children goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, or cereals and we really try to stay away from processed foods, which are usually the boxed and packaged goods. We don’t eat a lot of meat, and because we don’t eat it often, I’m totally okay with spending a little more on our meat so that I know it’s not coming from an animal that was pumped full of hormones and that it was raised humanely. We also don’t eat as much as your typical American, but rather have three meals, with usually one late afternoon snack. We didn’t always eat this way.  I remember five years ago when we were eating at McDonalds, snacking on goldfish crackers, amongst many other processed snacks, all throughout the day, and Mac and Cheese and Dino Buddies (chicken nuggets) were frequently seen on the dinner table. We were also sick a lot more then, regulars in our doctors office, getting antibiotics and such.  This never happens anymore! Now, the only time we see the doctor is for our annual wellness checks(and we’ve missed several of those, whoops! It’s hard to remember when you’re feeling so good!), vaccines for the littles, and when we need a broken bone set :), which has happened twice in the past several years. Just like Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Something else happened five years ago that changed our poor eating habits: my mom was diagnosed with 4th stage cancer. She had a tumor on her pancreas and cancer in her liver. She was told she didn’t have long. She didn’t do chemo, but instead made some significant changes to her diet and started to heal herself naturally. She’s still with us today and doing well. In the beginning, she would send me articles on food and how it directly related to our health. I couldn’t believe what I read and decided to experiment on our family. When our health turned around, and my baby weight came off naturally even after baby number 5, we kept going and never turned back. And so our whole food journey began.

We’re also different from your typical American family in that we are not regular TV watchers and we don’t own any video game systems. When the kids get home from school, once they’ve finished homework and piano, we encourage them to go outside and play ball or ride bikes. After dinner, we have reading time. When we get a lot of snow, we still encourage them to be outdoors but instead we’ll do things like sledding or shoveling the walkways which are still very active. On Saturdays, once chores are done, we’ll usually play a sport together like soccer, baseball, kickball or flag football.  Now, that’s not to say we never watch TV or movies, because we do, but usually it’s a show or two on the weekends, after everything is done. Also, our kids can earn 15 minutes of Kindle Fire or computer time at the end of each day, if they’ve stayed on top of all their  chores/homework etc.  When the kids were really young, we’d take our toddlers out back and pass the ball with them while the baby sat in her saucer, or bouncer, on the patio, watching us, still enjoying the outdoors.

Scott and I exercise every day. We schedule it in so that it gets done. We mostly follow videos or worksheets so we can exercise in our home, and sometimes we’ll go for a jog. We like a lot of Bob Harper’s videos, he’s the personal trainer from Biggest Loser, and recently we’ve been doing a program called Inferno, on The Daily Burn, which is a channel we have on our Roku device (internet on TV). It’s a lot of weight and interval training, and a good amount of cardio. Exercising together has brought us even closer as a couple. When we exercise together, we’re encouraging one another, and we’re working toward a goal of good health together which not only blesses our lives now with increased strength and endurance to do all we need to do, but it will also bless our future, so that we can live long and happy, healthy lives together.

As for food, we eat a lot of fresh, whole foods. Foods that have been around for hundreds of years before they started adding chemicals, dyes and preservatives, turning them into food-like substances. Here’s a look into our fridge…maybe another day we’ll look in my freezer and pantry.

Pictured: Cage free eggs, almond milk, whole milk, plain yogurt, grapes, leftover indian food(sauce made from scratch and I use brown rice), spaghetti sauce (with only a couple of ingredients and no added sugar), spinach, salsa, ground flax, sliced strawberries and homemade, agave sweetened whipped cream, mozarella and cheddar cheese, hummus, variety of fruits and veggies and greens in the bottom two drawers. 

On the door we have: parmesan cheese, homemade and store bought salad dressings(Newmans’ Own makes some good dressings with minimal ingredients, which is always good), butter, cream cheese, all fruit jelly, banana peppers, lemon and lime juice, pine nuts and better than bouillon. 

I make green smoothies for breakfast every morning, and that’s my breakfast. I drink about 24 oz. The family will each have a small glass, and then different family members prefer different things: homemade granola  with milk, oatmeal, whole wheat toast with butter or peanut butter, and about once a week we’ll cook scrambled eggs(no hormones, cage free). Sundays we have a bigger breakfast with whole wheat waffles,  pancakes, French ToastGerman pancakes or the like.

Lunch varies, sometimes the kids take PB and J on whole wheat bread, or sometimes they’ll take leftovers from dinner. Some favorite leftovers for lunches are black beans, oatmeal, pasta, or soup, all of which are great in a thermos, or pizza, waffles, quesadillas, granola with yogurt etc. With their sandwich or leftovers they’ll take some fruit, usually grapes, oranges or apple slices, and some carrots or celery. Scott and I have a lot of the same thing for lunch. Below is leftover pizza with grapes and a whole wheat, honey sweetened peanut butter cookie.

This was a lunch I packed for my 2 young girls and I when we went on a picnic: hard boiled eggs, pasta salad, homemade trail mix, half a pb and j sandwich, leftover whole wheat dinner roll, and grapes.

For snacks, we mostly do fresh produce. We love blueberries, strawberries, celery(I love ants on a log; pb, raisins on celery) and carrots, bananas, apples, many times we’ll combine this with some peanut butter, nuts, hummus or cheese. Sometimes I make muffins. If they’re really starving and we have a couple of hours before dinner, I’ll let them have something a little more like whole wheat bread, crackers with hummus or cheese, or granola with yogurt or milk. I don’t let them eat within an hour of dinner because I want them to be hungry so they’ll eat better

For dinner we make a variety of things. Homemade pizza is a Friday night tradition. We usually have Mexican and another Italian dish some time during the week, and many times we’ll have a soup or chili, and some sort of Asian/ Indian dish. Pretty much everything is made from scratch, minus the pasta noodles…I’ve done those from scratch a few times and probably will do it more in the future when life is a little less busy, but for now, the stores make pretty inexpensive whole wheat pasta noodles. I make a large crock pot full of black beans each week, and we usually make a batch of brown rice each week which we use for Indian/Asian and Mexican dinners. I also cook quinoa fairly regularly and keep it on-hand in the fridge to throw into salads or to mix with brown rice etc. I like to keep a lot of produce on hand, and a good variety, because they will snack on it more when it’s there and out in plain sight. When they come home from school I always pull out produce like grapes and carrots, apple slices and other fun fruits we have like blueberries and strawberries. Before we put the dinner entree on the table, we bring the salad out and dish that up for everyone. They are much more likely to eat it, and a good amount, when they’re feeling really hungry, right before dinner, and it’s the only thing out on the table right in front of them. Once most of them have finished their salad, we bring out the main dish.

Dessert, most days, is fruit after dinner. Once or twice a week we’ll have something with sugar in it or something that qualifies more as a dessert even though there is no refined sugar, like our honey-sweetened peanut butter cookies, or maple syrup sweetened home-made ice cream. Scott likes to keep dark chocolate bars on hand and once or twice a week, him and the kids will each have a square. I wish I had that kind of will power :). I don’t eat chocolate, I haven’t for years, but I do enjoy treats and I have a weak spot for strawberry Aussie licorice. Because I’m aware of my weakness, I buy them from the bulk section at Sprouts, and I only buy five at a time, usually on Friday for my weekend date-night treat :). I don’t buy them every Friday, but if I know we’re not going to make something else that weekend, than it gives me something to look forward too.

Eating whole foods and being active is part of who we are now. We enjoy the food we eat. Fresh tastes SO much better than processed, but you’ve got to get rid of the processed that’s loaded with sugars and salts and all sorts of preservatives and additives, before you can really taste and appreciate the fresh, because it changes the flavor. We enjoy being active together, playing sports, going for walks and hikes. We want to take care of the bodies our Heavenly Father has given us, that house our spirits. We are grateful for good health, we work for it, and we look forward to living long, healthy and happy lives.

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Cinnamon Swirl Whole Wheat Bread

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I love the smell of freshly baked bread; my kids do too and before even walking into the house, they can pick up the smell from the garage and it produces instant smiles :).

We go through about 6-7 loaves of bread in a week for our family of 7. I make bread once a week, and when I do, I make 4 regular, sandwich bread type of loaves,  of which I freeze half, and I make one cinnamon swirl loaf. I also have to supplement with 1-2 loaves of store-bought bread.  Once I cut into the cinnamon bread, I immediately put a piece away for my hubby to have once he’s home from work because if I don’t, he wouldn’t get any, it’s gone that fast!

My nine-year-old son loves to cook. Over the holiday break, he helped me make dinners, granola and bread. Here he is keeping an eye on our bread dough.

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Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. You won’t bake it at this temperature, but you’re warming your oven and will turn it off just before you stick your bread dough inside the oven to help the rising process. Take your favorite bread dough (my favorite recipe is here; it’ll make five loaves like I mentioned above), and roll it out so that it’s about the same width as the length of your bread pan. Then you’ll roll it into a long rectangle, the length of the dough being about 14 inches; if that doesn’t make sense, see the picture below…I roll out my dough right next to my pan so that I can use it as a guide.

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Next, you’ll slather on softened butter. I smear it over the entire loaf using a spoon; I probably use about 2 Tbsp worth of butter. Then sprinkle on your cinnamon, about 1/2 Tbsp, and drizzle it with honey.

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Take the end of the short side, and roll it up to the opposite end. Pinch the ends together so your filling doesn’t leak all over your pan and place it in a greased loaf pan. Allow it to rise in your warmed oven(which is now off) for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, turn the oven on, to 325 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown.

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Delicious! So soft and moist and fluffy! You can eat it right away or store it in an airtight container or plastic ziploc bag for later.

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Cinnamon Swirl Whole Wheat Bread

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
honey (~1/4 c to drizzle)
whole wheat bread dough (my fav recipe here)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. You won’t bake it at this temperature, but you’re warming your oven and will turn it off just before you stick your bread dough inside the oven to help the rising process. Take your favorite bread dough (my favorite recipe is here; it’ll make five loaves, so feel free to cut it in half), and roll it out so that it’s about the same width as the length of your bread pan. Then you’ll roll it into a long rectangle, the length of the dough being about 14 inches. Slather on softened butter. I smear it over the entire loaf using a spoon; I probably use about 2 Tbsp worth of butter. Then sprinkle on your cinnamon, about 1/2 Tbsp, and drizzle it with honey. Take the end of the short side, and roll it up to the opposite end. Pinch the ends together so your filling doesn’t leak all over your pan and place it in a greased loaf pan. Allow it to rise in your warmed oven(which is now off) for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, turn the oven on, to 325 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown.


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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (with whole wheat noodles!)

2014-12-02 16.49.45 Since I posted a chicken stock recipe last week, I thought it’d be fun to post a recipe we love, that uses that chicken stock. Today we’ll make a really simple and fast chicken noodle soup that is amazing and so healthy! It’s the perfect meal when it’s cold outside or when you’re feeling a bit under-the-weather. This soup also freezes great so if you have leftovers, you can save them in individual portions for lunch another day! You can either cook your own chicken (I like to boil mine), or you can grab a rotisserie chicken from Costco or elsewhere, shred up the meat and use that in this recipe(and then use the carcass to make more chicken stock!). Since I’m a stay-at-home-mom, I like to do a lot of my prep work, like dicing veggies and shredding chicken, while our 2 year old is napping, that way, when the older kids are home from school and needing help with homework and piano, I’m mostly done and really just need to dump things together and cook it. If you’re busy with work or school, you could always do the prep work the night before or the morning of. 2014-12-02 17.33.52 When we have soup, my family loves to have rolls with it, and we usually serve this soup with these amazing home made whole grain rolls. 2014-12-02 17.42.35 THE RECIPE:

The Best Chicken Noodle Soup (with whole wheat noodles) – lightly adapted from 100 days of real food
Makes 7 servings

9 c chicken stock (this homemade one is wonderful!)
3 c uncooked small whole grain noodles (fusilli, mini penne, etc)
1 1/2 c peeled and chopped carrots
2 c (~4 stalks) chopped celery
1/2 yellow or white medium onion, chopped
2 c cooked chicken, shredded (I like to use Costco Rotisserie chicken, or chicken I’ve boiled)
Salt and black pepper, to taste (I do 1/2-1 tsp)

In a large pot over high heat, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the vegetables and noodles and cook according to package directions (7-9 min). Keep the stock boiling. Add the chicken at the end to warm it up. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm. *Leftovers are fabulous and can even be frozen in individual portions for lunch another day.

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