Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

cheesy Mexican lasagna

Can I appoint myself Loryn the Lasagna Queen, or is that bad form? I really love making lasagna! The more I make it, the easier I find it to be.  Make a sauce of some kind, layer it with no-boil noodles and cheese, and bake until it’s bubbly. Simple. No-boil noodles are the secret. They remove an annoying step from the whole process, and I don’t think anyone can tell the difference. You just have to make sure the sauce you are using has enough liquid to cook the noodles, and make sure you take that sauce all the way out to the edges so you don’t end up with a crispy, uber-al dente edge. That would just be a pity. I’ve made several delicious lasagnas using this method, and they are always crowd-pleasers. Check them out on the blog if you haven’t already…Tuscan Lasagna, Buffalo-Ranch Chicken Lasagna, and Mega-Meaty Pizza Lasagna. Today I took my love for lasagna in a new direction and tried my first Mexican version. It was incredible. Cheesy, spicy, and tangy…all of the flavor profiles you expect from Mexican food, but all wrapped up in a lasagna. So fun!

mexican lasagna

This Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna could not have been easier to throw together. It really took me only 20-25 minutes to have the whole thing in the oven. You can’t beat that when it comes to homemade lasagna!

whole-mexican-lasagna

I boiled three chicken breasts until they were cooked through, and then shredded them up. Combined the chicken with a jar of salsa verde, fire-roasted green chiles, queso quesadilla cheese, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Then I layered that Mexicany-goodness with the no-boil noodles, Crema Mexicana, more queso quesadilla cheese, and Monterrey jack cheese. Repeat, repeat, and keep repeating until you run out of the chicken mixture. Then top the whole thing with all of the remaining cheese and bake. Now you can call yourself the Lasagna Queen…or King. Serve this next time you have a hankering for Mexican but are over tacos and burritos. It has all of the flavors of your favorite Mexican restaurant, but with an unexpected twist. You’ll love it!

Happy cooking!

mexican lasagna slice

Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of ickiness
1 jar of salsa verde
10 oz. can fire roasted chiles (could substitute Rotel if you want some tomatoes too)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper
no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded Cacique Queso Quesadilla, shredded
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
15 oz container Cacique Crema Mexicana

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and boil until cooked through. Shred.
  3. In a bowl, season shredded chicken with cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir in fire roasted green chilies, salsa verde and one cup of the Queso Quesadilla and 1/2 cup of jack cheese. Combine well.
  4. In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a small amount of the chili-chicken mixture.
  5. Top with layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with another layer of the chicken mixture, making sure to go all the way to the edge with the liquid. Pour Crema Mexicana over the entire layer, again paying close attention to the edges. Top with a layer of shredded jack and Queso Quesadilla.
  6. Continue building casserole alternating between layers of lasagna noodles, green chili-chicken mixture, Crema Mexicana and shredded cheeses.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375(F) oven for 30 minutes. It’s a good idea to spray the bottom side of the foil with nonstick spray so that the cheese doesn’t stick to it.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking another 5-10 minutes until cheese on top has melted and the entire casserole is bubbling and hot.
  9. Allow the casserole to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve alongside sliced avocados and a sprinkle of cilantro.

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

These cupcakes have been on my to-do list since I was on bedrest with Allie. After a doctor’s appointment one day in February, BJ took me to our favorite bakery in the world, Susie Cakes. You see we used to only visit Susie Cakes when we were already up in north county. Now however, they have opened up a location right down the street from us. BJ goes twice a week. It might be a problem. But back in February it was still a real treat to stop in, so we did.

We shared a slice of their seasonal special, Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. It was decadent and delicious. I’m a sucker for banana-flavored anything, and just so happen to have one of the best banana bread recipes around, so I knew this would be something I would want to recreate.

banana cupcakes in pan

banana chocolate chip cupcakes in pan

I took my recipe for banana bread and merged it with another great cupcake recipe. Perfection! These could have passed as muffins and been eaten with no frosting at all…but where’s the fun in that? I piped on some homemade cream cheese frosting, topped the whole thing with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, and died and went to heaven. These jokers are good! The banana bread-cupcake-muffin-whatever-it-is, is lovely; not overly sweet with nice warmth from the cinnamon swirling around in the background. I love the addition of chocolate chips and fluffy cream cheese frosting, because they both serve to pull it all together and take the cupcakes from good, to spectacular. Who doesn’t love a melty, chocolatey, surprise in their banana bread? I mean cupcake. Same thing, right?

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

banana chocolate chip cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

So if you have some bananas that are quickly passing their prime on the countertop, go through your pantry and gather up everything else you’ll need to make these happen. Your friends and family will thank you. I took them to our Life Group last night and watched proudly as my two preggo friends devoured two each. I love feeding pregnant girls, they are the best! If there’s another time when a girl can eat two cupcakes without batting an eye, I’m not sure when it is. Unless I suppose you’re alone with your thoughts, two napping babies, and a cup of coffee. I’m not confessing anything here, I’m just imagining that a girl could get away with it then too. Especially if no one was watching. 😉

Happy baking!

cupcake garnished with banana slice

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 to 4 large very ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (if you haven’t used this yet, please do ASAP!!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
mini chocolate chips, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe will yield twelve to eighteen cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mash the bananas until smooth and stir in milk and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.
  5. In three or four batches, slowly add in the flour mixture, careful not to overmix but beating until just combined.
  6. Stir in the mashed banana mixture and chocolate chips by hand. Batter will be lumpy.
  7. Fill the muffin pans two-thirds of the way full and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool before adding frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick usalted butter, softened 
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the cream cheese. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar. Be careful to have the mixer on very low speed so that you don’t end up covered in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and then beat until smooth and well-combined.
  2. Side note- the longer you beat the mixture, the lighter and fluffier your frosting will be!
  3. Assemble the cupcakes by topping each with cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.

many cupcakes

More Chicken I Don’t Hate…Who Knew?

Buffalo Lime Chicken

I kind of knew that the moment I went public with my hatred for chicken, chicken recipes galore would flood my brain. I was right. So maybe I don’t hate chicken at all. Maybe I just hate chicken done wrong. Yes, we’ll go with that. Chicken done wrong is gross, but THIS chicken was done right!

Say hello to buffalo-lime chicken. This is perfect for a quick weeknight meal and yet tasty enough for a weekend cook-out. The key to chewy-piece-free chicken is to cut away all of the icky-ness before you ever begin cooking. That’s right, don’t just pull the the chicken out of the plastic wrapped styrofoam and cook it as is. Yuck! That’s how you end up with the yucky bite that makes you want to dump the whole breast in the trash. It’s happened to me one too many times- usually at a restaurant. Maybe that’s why I tend to like chicken I prepare a little better. I can control it. I’m a bit of a control freak anyway so that makes sense. For this recipe I used three chicken breasts to make enough for three people. First cut away all of the slimy, nasty, stringy bits, then slice the breasts into 3 tenders each. Season the tenders with salt and pepper, marinate in the hot sauce-lime mixture, then simply grill to perfection. So easy and so yummy!

Happy cooking!

Buffalo Lime Chicken 

1 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana)
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  1. In a bowl, combine hot sauce, garlic salt, lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Stir to combine.
  2. Toss trimmed chicken tenders with hot sauce mixture and let marinate one hour or overnight.
  3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates to keep chicken from sticking.
  4. Grill chicken for 3 minutes per side or until cooked throughout. If need be, place seared chicken on the top rack away from direct heat to keep outside from burning while allowing the inside to cook.
  5. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and hot sauce, ranch dressing and/or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Buffalo Lime Chicken Tenders

What Gazpacho Taught Me About My Tastebuds

green gazpacho

It was a fun week experimenting with my Farmer’s Market goodies. I enjoyed only having to throw everything into a blender and then TA-DA…dinner was served! All of my summer produce was showcased so nicely in its raw state. Nothing beats summer veggies at their freshest, and using them in a crisp, bright gazpacho served before the main dish is the perfect way to highlight their awesomeness. So get out to the Farmer’s Market and see what you can find. Use these recipes only as a starting point, and let whatever bounty you score be the star of your dish.

 

white gazpacho

 

Gazpacho week has taught me something I had long forgotten about my tastebuds…they don’t like raw onion. And guess what? Gazpacho is packed full of raw onion. Raw everything, right? Next time I make gazpacho I think I’m going to cheat a bit. I’m going to sauté whatever onion, shallot or leek the recipe calls for before I chunk it into the blender. Problem solved. If you’re not a fan of raw onion I encourage you to do the same when you play with these two recipes. You’ll be happier with the results and will still only have to do minimal cooking. However, if you’re not worried about that strong taste and resulting strong breath, give the recipe a whirl as is.

Happy cooking!

Green Goddess Gazpacho

green goddess gazpacho

3 spring onions
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1 green pepper, cut into a few chunks
2 cucumbers, cut into large chunks
1 avocado
5 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh dill or dried dill weed, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Throw everything in the blender and puree until smooth. Garnish with dill, a dollop of plain greek yogurt, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve.

 

Nutty White Gazpacho

nutty white gazpacho

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
2 slices of crustless white bread
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 1/2 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped (optional to saute)
1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds
1/2 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped, plus 1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and white pepper, to taste

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool and drain well.
  2.  In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups of cold water with the cooked cauliflower, bread, pine nuts, chopped garlic, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot, 1 cup of the slivered almonds and the coarsely chopped cucumber; blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse just until incorporated. If necessary, add more water to thin the gazpacho. Season the soup with salt and pepper and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  3.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of slivered almonds in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Ladle the gazpacho into bowls. Garnish the soup with the toasted almonds and the finely diced cucumber and serve.

 

Classic Red Gazpacho

classic red gazpacho

After our Farmer’s Market run last weekend, I set out to try my hand at three very different gazpachos, starting first with this classic red one. The best thing about gazpacho is that it’s a breeze to pull together. If you can do some basic chopping, mostly slicing off the root ends of the different veggies, and you can hit the “start” button on your blender, you can make gazpacho. The next best thing about it is that it requires no heat, meaning it could be your go-to dish during the blazing-hot summer months.

I once heard someone describe eating gazpacho as like eating a bowl of finely pureed salsa. They were not wrong; that is exactly what it’s like. So if you’re a fan of salsa, you’ll be a fan of this! When you keep produce raw you are preserving every wonderful nutrient it has to offer. How great is that? The flavor will also be brighter and each ingredient will shine like the star it is. In this classic red gazpacho recipe, it really is hard to say which ingredient is the superstar since they all come through so strongly.

Don’t eat this dish on a date. Really bad idea. You’ll be a exhaling onion for the next few hours, so be warned. I actually felt for my husband as I was eating…apparently onion comes through my skin for days. Whoops!

This is a really awesome take on a classic gazpacho. If you’ve never ventured into trying a raw, chilled soup, this is a great place to start. Happy pureeing!

spoonful gazpacho

Classic Red Gazpacho

3 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1  cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 green red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunk
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 slices French or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1-inch pieces
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced chives
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion, pepper, garlic, and salt in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain juices into a large bowl and add the bread. Transfer the drained vegetables to a rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until vegetables are frozen, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove vegetables from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature until mostly thawed, about 30 minutes. Transfer vegetables and all their juices from the pan to bowl with soaked bread.
  3. Working in batches as necessary, blend vegetables, juice, and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and sherry vinegar into blender as it blends. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve, drizzling each bowl with olive oil, a few sprinkles of sherry vinegar, extra cracked black pepper, and chives.

Grilled Clams in Chorizo, White Wine Butter Sauce

Grilled clams and chorizo

Another fabulous Sunday Grill-Day is in the books. This has become such a thing in our house and I really love it. I LOVE that BJ does all of the planning and most of the cooking. I love that we eat outside under the beautiful white lights BJ hung for me last Mother’s Day. And I really love that the food always tastes really, really good.

This week we ventured WAY outside of our usual comfort zone and really went for it. We grilled clams. They were awesome!! It turns out that clams might be the easiest thing in the world to grill. You literally do nothing but light the grill, put the clams on, and wait for them to pop open. So easy, and yet, so impressive. The only real work is in the white wine butter sauce.  You know, the decadent sauce you dip your crusty bread in when you’re eating shellfish? Yes, that sauce. This one is particularly yummy. Made with chorizo, shallots, fresh tomatoes, butter and a lot of white wine; it not only imparts a wonderfully layered flavor into your grilled clams, it gives you something to do with that gigantic french baguette you’re going to buy. So, so, so good…and fun! We had a lot of fun watching the clams open on the grill. Kellan stood on a chair nearby, waiting and watching, and we cheered each time a shell popped open. Disclaimer: If they don’t open up, toss them out. They’re icky.

clams on the grill

 

clams in white wine butter sauce

I hope you’ll join us outside of our grilling comfort zone and give this one a go. You will not be disappointed!

Grilled Clams with Chorizo, White Wine Butter Sauce

36 littleneck clams
1 lb. ground chorizo
2 shallots, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
french baguette or other crusty bread

  1. Put clams in a bowl of cold water and let stand at least 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the clams one by one and place in a colander. Don’t simply dump the water and clams into the colander or the dirt will just end up on top. Scrub each clam clean.
  2. On one side of the grill, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet, preferably an enamel one.  Add the chorizo and cook until cooked through, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chorizo and leave approximately 2 tablespoons of the chorizo fat in the pan.
  3. Add shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add in the white wine, tomatoes, smoked paprika, garlic, unsalted butter, salt and pepper. Let simmer for 8 minutes.
  4. Bump the heat up to 500 degrees on the grill. Add the clams and cook for about 6 minutes, until the shells pop open. As they open remove from the grill grate and toss into the sauce.
  5. When all of the clams are in the sauce, stir to coat. Serve with crusty bread.
  6. Enjoy!!

Grilled clams in chorizo white wine sauce