Let the lasagna-palooza begin….

I have sooooo many different lasagna recipes. I was sitting here scratching my head trying to decide which recipe to post today. Hmmm….. decisions, decisions, decisions. The Roasted Vegetable lasagna or the Old World Italian Sausage lasagna or the Southwestern Chicken Lasagna…..hmmm. Then, a brilliant idea struck me….how about I post all of my lasagna recipes over the next month? Screw bathing suit season. Let the LASAGNA-PALOOZA begin.

I will start with a completely different spin on traditional lasagna…..a white and creamy chicken spinach lasagna. I don’t even want to know how many calories are in this baby…I just pretend it’s healthy because it has chicken and spinach in it. Oh, and this sucker takes some time….but is well worth the effort. I believe this was my very first attempt at making a white sauce all on my own that didn’t come in a bottle named Alfredo Sauce. I was so darn proud of myself. I could almost cry thinking about it. Sniff sniff.

RECIPE: Creamy Chicken Spinach Lasagna

Servings 9

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups chicken broth

1-1/2 cup milk

4 cups mozzarella cheese (note: will be split, read directions carefully)

1-1/4  cup parmesan cheese (note: will be split, read directions carefully)

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded

20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained

9 each lasagna noodles, cooked

1 tablespoon fresh  parsley, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender.

2. Stir in flour and salt and simmer until bubbly.

3. Slowly mix in chicken broth and milk  stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.

4. Add 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan and stir well until cheese is melted.

5. Stir in italian seasoning, white pepper, and cayenne. Remove from heat.

To assemble lasagna:

1. Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/3 cup sauce on bottom of pan.

2. Top with 3 noodles, 1 cup of ricotta, 1/2 of spinach, 1 cup of chicken, and 1 cup mozzarella.

3. Top with 3 more noodles, 1 cup of ricotta, remaining spinach, remaining chicken, 1/3 cup sauce, 1/2 cup parmesan,  1 cup mozzarella.

4. Top with 3 more noodles, and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and 1/4 cup parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.

 The great thing with this recipe is you can play around with it.  Add less spinach, more chicken. Replace spinach with broccoli or zucchini. Add romano cheese or asiago cheese.  Maybe add a pinch of nutmeg to the white sauce. Have fun!

Soy Sesame Asparagus

Ah, yes, Springtime is almost here. Anyone that knows me well, knows that Fall is my favorite time of the year, but Spring….it comes in a very close second. Honestly, if college football season kicked off in April, well, then Mr. Fall would have a definite battle on his hands for the top place in my heart. There is just something very special about the transition of Winter to Spring. Things coming back to life. It’s like bottled up hope in a jar…..opened and sprinkled all over the world at once.  Here are some of the things that I love about Spring………….

The first pretty little spring flowers poking through the dirt.  Birds tweeting in the morning. Thunderstorms. The fresh smell of rain. Daisies. Open windows, blowing curtains. Butterflies. The color green. The promise of summer. Driving my car with the windows down and the music blaring. The sun on my face. Walks. Hikes. Grilling for the first time after a long hiatus. Longer light-filled days. Farmers markets. Picnics.

And last but not least, asparagus. Yes, asparagus. I love asparagus.  Which brings me to this sister-inspired recipe. Every summer I spend a week up on the shores of Lake Michigan visiting my sister and her family in the wonderful little town of St. Joseph, Michigan.  We talk, we laugh, we cook together, we listen to music. We  lay on the beach like the biggest beach bums ever, we go sailing, we gallavant up and down the western Michigan coast and visit cute little towns like Saugatuck and South Haven or we hop on the Amtrak to Chicago for a day of exploring. Anyway, a few summers ago my sister took me to a fantastic restaurant called Timothy’s located in Union Pier, Michigan (http://timothysrestaurant.com/index.html). She said that I just had to try their wok-seared asparagus and see if I could duplicate the recipe for her. The asparagus was absolutely close-your-eyes-heavenly wonderful. I remember smacking my lips together tasting the asian sauce and trying to figure out what was in it…..this is the recipe that resulted.

RECIPE: Asian Sesame Asparagus

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon asian chile paste (optional, kicks it up a bit)

2 lbs. asparagus

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and asian chili paste. Set aside.

2. Snap the asparagus at the tender part of the stalk. Cut into 1-inch pieces or you can leave whole (whichever you prefer).

3. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus to skillet and stir to coat with oil. Saute 3-4 minutes until tender but firm.

4. Add sauce to skillet. Stir and cook until heated through about 1 minute.

5. Place asparagus on serving dish, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Mmmm…

Note: you can also steam the asparagus, roast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, or grill it by threading it onto two parallel skewers.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” -Charles Dickens