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.

 

I’ll have the house made ricotta, please!

homemade ricotta cheese in cheesecloth

Have you ever been to a restaurant that offered house made ricotta cheese as an appetizer? Why would you order that, right? Can it really be worth the $12 price tag when you can get a 16 oz. tub at Trader Joe’s for $2.99? Yes, friend. Yes. I promise you, yes. I order it at one of our favorite places in Laguna Beach. It’s served alongside a honeycomb and always makes me feel super fancy. It’s something about house made anything that will make you feel that way. I’m a sucker for the chipotle ketchup, house made crackers, sausage ground and stuffed in the back of the house, or butter that was just churned up that morning by the prep cook. Homemade cheese makes me giddy as well…in a restaurant and especially in my own kitchen. I love when something sounds daunting when in reality, it’s a breeze.

Homemade ricotta cheese is the easiest thing you’ll ever make.

Bring milk and cream to a light boil.
Add vinegar.
Watch milk curdle.
Strain with cheesecloth to separate the curds from the whey (yep, this it where that came from).
Eat.

Cheesecloth in strainer

Cheesecloth layered on top of strainer, awaiting the goodness that is to come!

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

You barely cook, but friends and family will think you are a culinary genius. Homemade cheese??!! That’s so impressive! Impressive until everyone finds out how insanely easy it is, then it’s just smart. Why would you buy the grainy, flavorless excuse for ricotta cheese you can get at the store when you can make twice as much, twice as cheap, that tastes twice, no, let’s say INFINITELY better? You wouldn’t– and you never will again!

This is too easy not to try, and I promise you will find a ton of uses for it after it’s made. You can use it in lasagna, pancakes, gnocchi….hmmm…I feel another blog coming on. My favorite use for it is to smear it on a crostini and call it a day. See ya, butter. There’s a new girl in town and her name is Ricotta. She’ll be slathered on my toast until every last creamy bit is gone. And then I’ll make some more. Why not? It’s too easy and too delicious not to!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (this is NOT white “cooking” wine)
kosher salt, to taste, about 1 teaspoon
cheesecloth

  1. Combine milk, cream and salt together and bring to a gentle boil in a heavy enamel pot, like Le Creuset.
  2. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in white wine vinegar. Let sit untouched for 2 minutes or so until it begins to curdle.
  3. Cover a fine mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl. Pour curdled mixture into cheesecloth and let stand for 25 minutes until the curds and whey have been separated and most of the liquid has drained into the bowl. What remains in the cheesecloth is your ricotta!
  4. Pat yourself on the back and find the nearest crostini, lasagna recipe, or whatever!

Need some cheesecloth to get this job done? Menu Therapy now offers cheesecloth via Amazon.com. Order a pack today so you can be eating cheese tomorrow!

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It’s Thanksgiving in June!

turkeyburger Are we seriously already closer to THIS Thanksgiving than we are LAST Thanksgiving? That’s crazy to me! I swear the holidays just passed, didn’t they? Well apparently not because my calendar says June 3rd and everyone is talking about what to cook on the grill and what to drink on a hot summer day. I guess I’ll jump on board. BJ and I are still on our healthy-ish eating kick, so the other night when a burger craving hit we decided to only half way indulge by grilling up some turkey burgers. Turkey burgers are an awesome alternative to beef. Done correctly they can still be juicy and flavorful with much less fat. A friend of ours grills up the most delicious turkey burgers I’ve ever had, but they are HOT, HOT, HOT! He uses, chipotle peppers, pepper jack cheese and more chipotle peppers. They are super juicy and yummy but they will set you on fire! Since I’m breastfeeding and not hoping to set my six week old’s tummy on fire, I thought we should go a different route this time around. That’s when BJ suggested Thanksgiving turkey burgers. Intriguing. You could really go all out with this theme, but we just used what we already had on hand. The burger patties were mixed up with fresh parsley, thyme and caramelized shallots. They were topped with smoked provolone cheese, fresh arugula and a delicious pepper jelly-cranberry sauce spread. It was just enough kick to wake up your tastebuds balanced with the right amount of sweetness from the cranberry sauce and smokiness from the provolone cheese. Thanksgiving on a bun! If you’re feeling the need to channel Thanksgiving in June, give this one a shot!

Turkey Burgers with Cranberry-Pepper Relish

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup red pepper jelly
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
4 slices smoked provolone
2 cups baby arugula
4 Kings Hawaiian hamburger buns
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté shallot until softened and beginning to caramelize. Set aside.
  2. Combine ground turkey, parsley, thyme, shallots and salt and pepper, mix gently with your hands. Divide into four equal parts and form four patties.
  3. Heat a grill to high heat. Oil the grates to keep meat from sticking. Once grill is smoking hot, reduce heat to medium and put patties on. Grill for 5 to 7 minutes per side, flipping only once.
  4. Towards the end of cooking, top each patty with a slice of cheese and let melt.
  5. Meanwhile, combine pepper jelly and cranberry jelly. Set aside.
  6. To build burgers slather cranberry-pepper relish on bottom bun and top with turkey patty. Add another small amount of relish to the top of the patty and then top with arugula. Top with bun. Serve.

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Asparagus’ Last Hurrah!

aspargus tart

I’m a big asparagus fan. I eat it year-around because I like it and because let’s face it, I can. We live in America and can get our hands on pretty much any produce any time of year, we just might pay a pretty penny for it. That’s the beauty of seasonal eating though. If you eat what’s in season it will not only taste better, it will cost less. So that’s why this dish is asparagus’ last hurrah…of the season.

I love how versatile asparagus is. It aims to please; making it easy for any cook to accomplish something wonderful with it. Grilled, roasted, battered and fried, sautéed, served raw in a salad, pureed into a soup…there is truly something for everyone. There’s not much I haven’t done with asparagus, and now I can mark even one more preparation off the list. Please marvel at this gorgeous tart with me. I mean, how yummy?!

asparagus-tart-horiz

Flaky, buttery puff pastry is the perfect vehicle to house nutty gruyere cheese, caramelized leeks and bright green asparagus. This tart is a cinch to put together, taking very little time and effort but looking like a million bucks. You could cut it up into squares and serve it as an app at your next get together or dinner party, but it would also be a nice alternative side dish to a grilled steak. Starch and veggie in one bite, throw it in the oven and tend to the grill. Done.

However you serve it, just serve it. It’s pretty to look at and even more pleasant to eat. A fun alternative to what you’ve probably been doing with Spring’s favorite veggie.

Asparagus Tart with Gruyere and Leeks

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1½ pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, sliced lengthwise and chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep a parchment lined baking sheet and place the two puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet, overlapping them about an inch to connect them. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges all around to mark a rectangle for the outer crust. Then, using a fork, pierce the dough all around in the center, not the edges. Bake the pastry dough until golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until caramelized, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and caramelized leeks.
  4. Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer over the Gruyere cheese, alternating ends and tips. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Slice and serve. Enjoy! 🙂

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Sweet, Sweet Summer

Summer Sauté Close Up

I can’t believe summer is almost behind us! How can that be? It seems like only a few short days ago I was excited about the arrival of spring and now it’s late August. Too fast! If you’re like us summer is a very busy time of year. Maybe it’s because we happen to live in a pretty fabulous destination spot and play host to family and friends during their annual vacations…which we LOVE doing…or maybe it’s because my husband and I both also see summer as the official countdown to college football season. Either way it’s here today and gone tomorrow like no other season. Luckily, we have a few more weeks to go; weeks in which I will make every possible trip to the Laguna Beach Farmer’s Market I can, and grab all of my favorite summertime fruits and veggies as long as they’re available. My checklist of ingredients that I’ve yet to cook with this season is pretty long, but the good news is I’m back in the kitchen every night as usual so I have plenty of time to get cracking on them. First up next week- squash blossoms! Those little suckers will be stuffed with cheese and fried in a white wine batter as soon as I get my hands on them this weekend. Post to follow!

Last night I stumbled upon a very seasonal, very tasty, and very easy side dish. I’m so excited about this dish that I can’t wait to make it a part of the meal plan for our subscribers next week. If you’ve ever imagined what summer on a plate would taste like, this is it! Zucchini, sweet yellow corn and juicy cherry tomatoes tossed with thyme, oregano, basil, and parmesan cheese, all rounded out with a squeeze of lime juice. It’s hearty yet light, and the bright zing from the lime juice elevates the flavor above your average vegetable sauté or ratatouille. It’s everything a summer side dish should be- fun, bright, colorful, healthful and zippy! 🙂 I love it and can’t wait for you try it. Let me know what you think!

Summer Sauté in Pan

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 large zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan

  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn.
  2. Add the zucchini and corn and sauté for 1 minute. Add in salt, pepper, basil, oregano and thyme. Continue to cook for 2 minutes more.
  3. Add in cherry tomatoes and lime juice and cook for just another minute more or until tomatoes just begin to burst.
  4. Toss in parmesan cheese and stir to coat. Serve.

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BLT Pasta Bake

Everyone has their own version of comfort food. For some, it’s a dish they grew up eating at their grandma’s house. For others, it’s a quick run through their favorite fast food chain. Either way, we all love to indulge in our own brand of comfort from time to time. Comfort food transports us from the busyness and stress of our day to a place of fond memories, peace and happy thoughts. That’s what pasta does for me. I love a good pasta dish. Although my waistline would not be very forgiving, I could literally eat pasta every single day. I don’t…but I could. I try to include one pasta dish in each week’s meal plan. Some times those dishes are actually on the lighter side, showcasing whole wheat pasta and fresh veggies. Still delicious and still my own brand of comfort. But other times I like to go all out, and that’s what BLT Pasta Bake is all about.

What makes this pasta bake so fun is that the individual ingredients are all awesome in their own right. Leeks? Yes please! Bacon? Obviously. Cream cheese, asiago cheese AND parmesan cheese? Perfection.

If you’re looking for a little bit of comfort today, look no further. BLT Pasta Bake is where it’s at. Enjoy!!

BLTpasta

 

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. package rigatoni
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon, crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 3 oz. bricks cream cheese
1 ½ cups asiago cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Cook rigatoni according to package directions. RESERVE 1 CUP OF PASTA WATER!!
  2. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof braising pan or skillet. Add bacon and cook until crispy.
  4. Add leek, garlic and red pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with white wine, scraping up brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Stir in tomato paste, half of asiago cheese and all of  the cream cheese. Add reserved pasta water and stir until cheese is melted and everything is combined. It will be sticky.
  6. Stir in rigatoni and half of the cherry tomatoes. Top with remaining tomatoes, asiago and parmesan.
  7. Cook in oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t brown too quickly.
  8. Serve.