Dinners

Recipe—Chicken & Cheesy White Sauce Lasagna

Chicken & Cheesy White Sauce Lasagna

Ooey, gooey, cheesy white sauce goodness. What more do I need to say about this lasagna. It is layer upon layer of creamy mozzarella sauce, noodles, ricotta, chicken, spinach, and cheese. My mouth is literally watering.

This dinner is the ultimate comfort food. So rich, creamy, and filling. A perfect family dinner as the weather starts to cool down. Seriously though, what is better on a cold night then a big filling serving of pasta? Nothing, the answer is nothing.

This is one of those recipes that is great to make ahead on the weekend when you have some extra time and then during the week all you have to is pop it in the oven and bake. Boom! Dinner is done!

Chicken & Cheesy White Sauce Lasagna

Chicken & Cheesy White Sauce Lasagna

Chicken & Cheesy White Sauce Lasagna

INGREDIENTS
16 oz lasagna noodles
salt
1/2 c butter
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 c flour
2 c chicken broth
1 1/2 c milk
5 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 c parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
2 c ricotta
2 c cooked chicken breast, chopped
10 oz package frozen cooked spinach, thawed and drained
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
  • Cook the noodles per the package instructions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside until ready to assemble the lasagna.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until cooked through.
  • Stir in the flour until it begins to brown.
  • Gradually add the broth and milk to the saucepan and whisk together.
  • Allow the sauce to come to a boil and simmer for 2–3 minutes.
  • Mix in 2 cups of the mozzarella, 3/4 cup of the parmesan, basil, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir until all the cheese is melted and well integrated.
  • Remove the sauce from the stove and set aside.
  • Spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Ladle a quarter of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Layer a quarter of the cooked noodles in the bottom of the baking dish and top with half of the ricotta, half of the chicken, and half of the spinach. Sprinkle with some of the mozzarella and parmesan and ladle another quarter of the sauce over the top.
  • Repeat the previous step. Noodles, ricotta, chicken, spinach, cheese sauce.
  • Add the final layer of noodles and top with all the remaining sauce and cheeses.
  • Bake for 40–45 minutes or until the cheese is all melted and just starts to brown on top.
  • Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow it to rest for 5–10 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the parsley over the top.
  • Cut and serve.
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Dinners

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen Bowls

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen

Last year for our anniversary dinner, my husband took me to this swanky restaurant in downtown Sacramento. Their special of the night was a spicy pork ramen bowl. It is totally not something I would typically order but that chilly October night, it just sounded so good. And it was. The spicy broth warmed me right up and it was just so rich and flavorful. Not at all what I had expected. I thought it would be similar to a beef broth but it had so much depth to it.

Ever since then, I have been experimenting with perfecting my version of a pork ramen bowl. I think I have the delicious meal pretty much dialed in. The broth is flavorful and the meat so juicy and tender. This dish warms you from the core out and is a perfect dinner as evenings start to cool with the seasons.

Note: This recipe will make between 4–6 ramen bowls.

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen

INGREDIENTS
3 lb boneless pork shoulder
salt and pepper
6 c chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp miso broth concentrate
8 tsp chile garlic sauce (4 for the broth, 4 for finishing)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 c shiitake mushrooms
large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles (dispose of flavor packets)
4-6 boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 c green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Season the pork with salt and pepper and place in a crock-pot.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the broth, soy sauce, miso broth concentrate, 4 teaspoons chile garlic sauce, and the ginger paste.
  • Place the mushrooms and sliced onions around the pork shoulder in the crock-pot.
  • Pour the broth mix into the crock-pot.
  • Cook on high for 4–5 hours or low for 7–8 hours.
  • When ready to serve, carefully transfer the pork from the crock-pot to a cutting board.
  • Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes and then shred using forks.
  • While the meat is resting, cook the ramen per package instructions and drain completely.
  • Distribute the noodles among 4–6 bowls.
  • Top each pile of noodles with a scoop of the shredded pork.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and mushrooms from the crock-pot and place around the bowls.
  • Using a ladle, top off each bowl with broth from the crock-pot.
  • Add two boiled egg halves to each bowl.
  • Place a teaspoon of the chile garlic sauce on the top of each pile of meat.
  • Garnish with green onions.
  • Serve with chopsticks and enjoy!
Dinners

Recipe—Italian Chicken Dinner

Italian Chicken Dinner

I first tried this recipe about two months ago and have since made it at least 6 times tweaking it a little bit each time. IT HAS BECOME ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVES! We are actually having it again this week. It is perfect for this summer fully utilizing all those fresh tomatoes and basil. Most of my recipes are for a main dish or a side dish but this one is actually an entire meal. All of the components of this dish are just amazing! You have a flavorful juicy roasted chicken breast, sweet caramelized tomatoes that are literally bursting with flavor, and then the salty creamy fresh mozzarella with a nice little kick of heat from crushed red peppers, and then of course to balance it out you have some hearty brown rice simmered in chicken broth. Is your mouth watering now? Mine is! All these flavors are just so amazing together! Depending on the brown rice you get, this dinner takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and it is worth every minute of it!

Italian Chicken Dinner

Note: You can use fresh mozzarella in any form. I have used both the sliced mozzarella log as well as the little mozzarella balls. This makes a dinner that will serve 3–4 people. 

INGREDIENTS
1 c uncooked brown rice
2–2 1/2 c chicken broth (amount depends on the brown rice you purchase)Basil
3 c cherry tomatoes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian seasoning
salt & pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c fresh basil leaves, chopped

STEPS

  • Cook the brown rice per the package instructions but substitute chicken broth for water.
  • While the rice is cooking preheat the oven to 400º.
  • Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat.
  • Season both sides of the chicken breasts with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and place on the baking sheet
  • Bake the tomatoes and chicken for about 25 minutes or until the tomatoes have just started to burst and the chicken is done.
  • While the rice, chicken, and tomatoes are cooking prepare the mozzarella.
  • Place the mozzarella in a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and salt.
  • Once all the components of the dish are ready, plate the rice, chicken, blistered tomatoes, mozzarella, and top with chopped basil.

 

Recipe adapted from Delish. 

Appetizers

Recipe—Steak & Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Last weekend I hosted a wine tasting party, which is so much fun by the way! Each person brought an appetizer and a bottle of wine so it was minimal preparation required on my part and didn’t break the bank. Thanks to all my amazing friends that came if you are reading this! It was such a blast! We had a total of 13 bottles of wine and an amazing spread of food.

Since I was holding the party around dinner time I knew I needed an appetizer that was hearty and filling. Steak came to mind since it would pair so nicely with a good hearty red blend. These appetizers may look very simple but the flavors were so amazing. The goat cheese is whipped together with cream cheese, olive oil, and red pepper so it is creamy and smooth with a mild kick. I was able to prepare everything earlier in the day and then assemble right before anyone arrived. And let me tell you, they were pretty darn popular among the ladies.

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Note: These can be served hot or cold. I served them cold for the sake of convenience. I was able to do all the prep in the morning, stored the cooked steak and goat cheese spread in the fridge, and put the toasted crostini in an unsealed Ziploc bag. I then assembled them right before the party.

INGREDIENTS
1 baguette, cut into 1/4 slices
10–12 ounce New York strip steak
4 oz goat cheese, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
1/2 c pesto

STEPS

  • Preheat the oven to 425º.
  • Place the baguette slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheets.
  • Brush each slice with olive oil and season with a light sprinkle of salt. Flip each slice over and repeat.
  • Toast the baguette slices for 12–15 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.
  • While the baguette slices are toasting, season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper, a sprinkle of chili powder, and garlic powder.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the steak.
  • Cook the steak for 4–6 minutes, flip, and continue to cook for an additional 4–6 minutes.
  • Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • While the steak is resting, use a hand mixer to whip together the goat cheese, cream cheese, red pepper flakes, and two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Thinly slice the steak and set aside.
  • To assemble, spread about one teaspoon of the whipped goat cheese on a slice of toasted bread, top with a slice of steak, and a dollop of pesto.
  • Enjoy!

 

Recipe adapted from Domesticate Me.

Beverages

Recipe—Creamy Hot Cocoa in a Crock-Pot

Over the weekend we had a holiday cookie decorating party for my son and his little buddies from school. It was wonderful! All the kiddos huddled around the table eating the cookie toppings quicker than they were putting them on the actual frosted cookies getting all hopped up on sugar. I love this time of year!

I wanted to have a little hot cocoa bar where all the kids (and grown ups) could make themselves a fancy cup of cocoa. I’m not talking little envelopes of dry god knows what. I’m talking thick and creamy REAL hot cocoa. The kind that fills you up and warms your belly, the kind that leaves a thick creamy mustache on your upper lip with every sip. I made this a couple of hours before the party and it was perfect! Along with a big crock pot full of pure joy I had bowls of marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, crushed candy canes, chocolate sprinkles, whip cream, and then of course some grown up mixers (Kahlua, Disaronno, Baily’s, Frangelico, and peppermint schnapps). Hey if you know me, you know I don’t half ass anything. 😉

This hot cocoa was by far the best I ever had! If you are having a few people and want to make something very special this holiday season then I recommend you make this hot cocoa. It will take every grown up back to their childhood days and will be memorable for all the kiddos.

Note: Makes 8–12 servings.

INGREDIENTS
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz bag chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white chocolate will all work)
2 c heavy whipping cream
6 c milk (2% or whole)
1 tsp vanilla

STEPS

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large crock-pot.
  • Turn on low.
  • Cook for 2 hours stirring occasionally using a whisk.
  • Ladle into a mug, add in your mixer (optional), and top with your favorite treats or leave as is.
Dinners

Recipe—Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Onion Dijon Sauce

Something about cooler weather makes me crave comfort food. I just love a good hearty meal on a cool night. My chicken breasts with mushroom and onion Dijon sauce is one of those delicious and soul warming meals. This is a sophisticated recipe that is just absolutely wonderful. The sauce is rich and creamy and really allows the flavors of the fresh herbs to come out and complement the zestiness of the mustard. With the holiday season approaching and people getting together this is the perfect dish to prepare for a small group. This recipe comes together relatively easy and you are sure to impress your guests with your culinary abilities.

Note: If you are feeding more than four people consider butterflying the breasts or even getting thin breast cutlets at the store. If you use a thinner breast you will need to adjust the cooking times for the chicken slightly to avoid overcooking. 

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 c white mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c white wine
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c chicken broth
1/4 c heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

 

STEPS

  • In a large Ziploc bag mix together the flour, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the chicken to the bag and toss to coat.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag and shake off excess flour before placing in the pan.
  • Cook the chicken for 4–6 minutes per side and transfer to a platter.
  • Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes making sure to stir a few times.
  • Add the sliced red onions and rosemary to the pan and continue to cook for 3–4 minutes.
  • Mix in the mustards and wine and gently scrape the bottom of the pan making sure to get everything well incorporated.
  • Add in the parsley, broth, cream, and butter and mix to combine.
    Place the chicken back into the pan and spoon the sauce over the top.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Transfer the chicken breast to a plate and spoon sauce over the top.
  • Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley garnish for some added color.

 

Recipe adapted from A Family Feast.

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Chocolate Crackle Cookies

A long time ago in a land far far away, I posted a recipe for Lemon Crackle Cookies. (Okay, it wasn’t that long ago nor that far away.) They were awesome! Perhaps the name Chocolate Crack Cookies would be more appropriate for this recipe since you will not be able to stop eating them! Since the base for my crackle cookies is a box of cake mix they are perfectly fluffy, super moist, ultra fudgy, and easier to make than any cookie should be. This recipe is very straightforward and easy. Anyone can make them. Really. I promise! While they may look complicated all you are doing is rolling the dough into balls, coating them generously with powdered sugar, and then baking them. They do all the fancy crackling while baking. Give them a try. Everyone you share with will be very pleased you did.

INGREDIENTS

2 (18.25 oz) boxes Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix
4 eggs
2/3 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c powdered sugar

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • In a large bowl mix together dry cake mix, eggs, and oil.
  • Put the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or plate.
  • Form small balls with the dough and then roll them in the powdered sugar. Be sure the cookies have a really thick coating of the sugar if you want them to have that crackle look.
  • Place at least 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 7–9 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.
  • Allow cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cutting board or cooling rack.