Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rosemary-Chicken Lasagna

Since I made the Number One Best Lasagna and learned how to prepare lasagna noodles so they'd come out perfectly, it's time to revisit the first lasagna I'd posted on this blog.  Two years ago I made Rosemary-Chicken Lasagna with smoked Gruyere and the smoke was the dominating flavor, masking the rosemary.  This time, that's not going to happen.

Rosemary-Chicken Lasagna
from Cooking Club of America

3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 lb. bone-in skin-on chicken breast halves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced (about 2 1/3 c)
2 small green bell peppers, diced (1/4")
2 tbsp white wine, if desired
1/3 c pine nuts, toasted

24 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
1 c (4 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt

5 tbsp butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c all-purpose flour
3 c milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

12 lasagna noodles
1 c (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c (4 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese

Chop enough rosemary to measure 1/2 teaspoon; reserve for garnish. Place chicken and remaining rosemary sprigs in medium skillet. Add enough water to almost cover chicken. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 10 minutes or until no longer pink in center and juices run clear, turning once.

I flipped the chicken before covering and flipped again after about 5 minutes.

Place chicken and rosemary on plate; cool. Shred chicken. Remove rosemary from stems; finely chop. Combine chicken and rosemary on plate or bowl.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or until tender.

Add mushrooms, bell peppers and wine; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced and vegetables are tender.

Stir in pine nuts; remove from heat.

Place lasagna noodles in hot water to soak for 15 minutes.

In small bowl, stir together all cheese filling ingredients.

To make sauce, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 minced garlic cloves.

Whisk in flour; cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly.

Slowly whisk in milk until smooth and thoroughly blended. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until thickened.

If you prepare this in any advance, anticipate a skin will form over the sauce.

Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 13x9" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread 1 cup of the sauce in pan.

Layer as follows:

3 noodles, half of the cheese filling,

half of the vegetables, 3 noodles,

...and this is where I goofed up the steps...

1 cup of the sauce, chicken filling, 3 noodles, remaining cheese filling, remaining vegetables, 3 noodles,

and remaining sauce.

Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Gruyère cheese and 1/2 teaspoon reserved chopped rosemary.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and cheese begins to brown in spots. Let stand 10 minutes.

Ok, so I botched the exact layering of the lasagna. Oops. I figured there'd be a sloppy disheveled price to pay there. What I didn't expect was the pool of liquid in the lasagna pan bottom after I shoveled the first piece out. Yikes. And I didn't anticipate the noodles to puff up as they did, forming ravines of cheese grease between them.

The flavor though, oh, the flavors! Excellent! This second go-round with regular Gruyere allowed the rosemary to really come through. The nuttiness of the cheese was very nice, especially when supplemented with a pine nut! Oh, wow!

  • rosemary: $1
  • chicken breast: $0.59
  • onion: $0.60
  • mushroom: $1.69
  • bell peppers: $0.64
  • pine nuts: $2.41
  • ricotta: $3.99
  • Gruyere: $8.99
  • eggs: $0.67
  • garlic: $0.35
  • butter: $1.84
  • milk: $0.49
  • mozzarella: $1.25
Total:  $24.51, or $2.04 for each of 12 servings.

Click for the printable

How to Toast Pine Nuts

It's simple.

Dump your pine nuts into a dry skillet, giving the nuts plenty of room, over medium heat.

Stir constantly for 1-3 minutes. Or until toasted.

Put the nuts on reserve until you're ready to use them.

Toast some extra because they are tasty.

Pine nuts are pretty pricey. I bought a 3-lb bag from Costco many moons ago and guess they cost about $10. They do keep quite nicely in the freezer. Because nuts have oils, they could go rancid at room temperature. Take care of your nuts.

Grand Cru Gruyere

I needed a cheese for a recipe, a Gruyere cheese. I've used Gruyere before, even in recipes already on this blog. But I want you know something about Gruyere. At least the one I use.

It's a brand called Grand Cru. They know what they're doing when it comes to Gruyere. After all, it's award-winning cheese.

Now here's a little something you should be aware of if you are not a big cheese aficionado. That print on the edge of the cheese? It's not fruit juice like the USDA stamp on beef. It's not edible. Don't eat it. It's a very thin waxy papery thing. Cut it off the edge of the cheese.

If you don't cut it off, you'll get the waxy, ultra-thin paper between your teeth, on your tongue. Your soft palate will suddenly be very noticeable as it is that part of your mouth that is immediately and drastically affected.

Biology or anatomy instructors could use cubes of cheese with the printed paper on them to demonstrate easily to students where the soft palate is. It would be a two-fer lesson: one on the anatomy of the mouth, one on the preparation of cheese.

Available at Ralph's for $8.99/8 oz. Hmm, it's pricier than the Comte I bought from the Meat House.

Beef and Veggie Meat Loaf

I was a little wary of this recipe since it's so vegetable-y.  That means it could be pretty wet. But going out on a limb, I tried it.

Beef and Veggie Meat Loaf
adapted from Cooking Club of America

1 lb. ground beef (93% to 95% 90% lean)
1 c chopped onion
1 c shredded carrot
1 c shredded zucchini
3/4 c old-fashioned oats
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tb ketchup, divided
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 12-place muffin tin with cooking spray.

Gently combine all ingredients except 2 tablespoons of the ketchup in large bowl; mix well.

Divide meat loaf mixture even over the 12 muffin cups. Spread remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup over top.

Place pan on baking sheet; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until no longer pink in center and internal temperature reaches 160°F.

Did I put cheese in the mini loaves? No? Oh, then that white stuff is fat. I soaked it up with paper towel.

Drain off fat and loosen edges to unmold. Sprinkle with additional pepper, if desired.

On the plus side, the meat loaves were not too heavy. Quite light, in fact. On the down side, the meat loaves were pretty moist, leaning toward wet. I mean, the line between moist and wet was very narrow. Actually, I'd consider this too moist. It was wet. And the flavors, while ok, didn't explode in my mouth. I'm not thrilled about this meat loaf.


  • beef: $6.89
  • onion: $0.24
  • carrot: $0.32
  • zucchini: $0.97
  • oats: $0.63
  • eggs: $0.67
  • seasonings: $1, SWAG

Total: $10.72 or $1.79 for each of 6 servings.

Click for the printable

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Food Plan and Grocery List, Week of 022711

It's cold here in SoCal. 48°F. Cold and wet. We're talking rain. And hail. In Orange County. This sucks. And it makes me want to be comfortable. I don't know how to turn on my heater. Even if I did, it's blocked by the desk I sit at right now. That means my oven is on. Almost all of the time. As I type even. May just as well get some use out of the heat.

I have some fresh rosemary left from the beef stew of last week and I want to make good use of that instead of letting it wither in my fridge. Chickens are on sale. I want to do a redo of the Roast Veggies. That said,

the line-up this week:

  • Beef and Veggie Meat Loaf
    • Oven-Roasted Veggies, Take 2
  • Rosemary Chicken Lasagna
  • Alabama Backwood BBQ Chicken
    • No-Stir Butternut Squash and Rosemary Risotto

So I went shopping.

Grower's Direct:

  • fresh-cut cantaloupe: $1.21/2.05 lb
  • fresh-cut pineapple: $1.62/2.05 lb
  • fresh-cut Maradol pineapple: $1.50/1.69 lb
  • green bell peppers: $2.55/1.28 lb (or 3)
  • zucchini: $0.97/0.39 lb
  • russet potato: $0.55/0.93 lb
  • brown onions: $0.94/2.40 lb (or 4)
  • sweet onion: $0.82/1.04 lb
  • carrots: $0.32/0.54 lb
  • garlic bulbs: $0.75/0.30 lb (or 2)
  • butternut squash: $2.20/2.78 lb
  • baby spinach: $1.99/6 oz
  • TOTAL: $15.65

Trader Joe's:

  • white button mushrooms: $1.69/8 oz
  • TOTAL: $1.69


  • whole milk: $0.49/qt
  • Parmesan cheese: $3.99/8 oz
  • arborio rice: $2.99
  • arborio rice: $2.99
  • Gruyere cheese: $8.99/8 oz
  • lasagna noodles: $1.99/lb
  • mozzarella cheese: $2.50/8 oz
  • ricotta cheese: $4.99/30 oz
  • ground sirloin: $6.89/1.15 lb
  • whole chicken: $3.26 @ 0.59/lb
  • whole chicken: $2.94 @ 0.59/lb
  • TOTAL: $43.02

Grand Total: $60.36.
Total for the year: $283.95.

Can You Use an Onion with 5" Green Growth?

Getting ready to make an omelet for an exceptionally late breakfast, I found this onion. I don't know about you, but normally, I'd simply feed this to the worms and select another onion.

But it was my last one.

I cut the green top off and split the onion in half. This is not attractive.

Picking out the brownish-green layers left me with not very much onion.

I went ahead and diced the onion as well as some red bell pepper and softened them in butter in a cast iron pan before making them omelet components.

The onion parts I used didn't taste funky at all. So, yep, turns out you can use some of an onion even if it's on the way to being a full-fledged plant.