, , , , , , , , , , , ,

You know how bears fatten themselves up before going into hibernation? That’s what this meal does for us. The only thing light about this meal is the color of it – white. This hearty Italian meal will keep you warm and full all winter long. The white cheese chicken lasagna is so hearty and cheesy, you’ll be putting it on your Christmas list. And what do you pair with a garlicky, cheesy lasagna? More cheese and garlic, of course! Fair warning: our homemade garlic bread is so good you’ll never be able to eat the frozen stuff again. To keep with the color (and carbohydrate) scheme, we made inside-out Almond Joy macaroons for dessert. These bite-sized cookies are the stuff of Santa’s (and Blended Kitchen’s!) dreams. This year, all we want for Christmas are carbs! (and jewelry!)

White Cheese Chicken Lasagna AllRecipes.com
What’s better than a warm, gooey, cheesy lasagna on a cold winter’s night? Nothing. At least that’s what we at Blended Kitchen believe. This white chicken lasagna is delicious a twist on the traditional dish, substituting an alfredo-style sauce for the meat sauce and using chicken instead of sausage or beef. And it’s got spinach! That makes it healthy, right?

To make our lives easier, we used no-boil pasta sheets. If you live in St. Louis, you can get great no-boil pasta sheets at Di Gregorio’s Market on The Hill. Each pasta sheet is the equivalent of three traditional lasagna noodles. If you can’t find these, you can use the traditional boiled lasagna noodles instead. We grilled the chicken for a more rustic flavor and also added just a touch of red sauce on top of the lasagna – the tomato sauce intensified the spinach flavors and really kicked the lasagna up a notch.

Another tip: according to Lindsey’s boyfriend, the lasagna leftovers make a fabulous breakfast!

9 lasagna noodles (or 3 pasta sheets)
1/2 cup butter (that’s 1 whole stick!)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken meat
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for topping

For the best cheeses and noodles, we head straight to Di Gregorio's.

Our favorite pasta sheets.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water. (Skip this step if you’re using pasta sheets.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Can't go wrong with a whole stick of butter.

Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly.

Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Mmm cheese.

Season with the basil, oregano, and ground black pepper. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Layer with 1/3 of the noodles, the ricotta, and the chicken.

Place the pasta sheet on top of the sauce mixture.

Add a layer of ricotta.

Layer the chicken on top of the ricotta.

Arrange 1/3 of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with 1/3 of the sauce mixture, spinach, and the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Add the spinach and mozzarella layer on top of another pasta sheet.

Arrange remaining noodles over cheese, and spread remaining sauce evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Lay the last pasta sheet on top of the spinach and cheese layer.

Add the last layer of sauce and sprinkle the herbs on top.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven.

Look at that gooey golden goodness!

You want a piece of me?

Preparing for hibernation...

Toasted Garlic Bread AllRecipes.com

People often question why Italian restaurants serve bread with their pastas. We don’t. Carbs on top of carbs? Yes, please! We all know that bread is better with butter, but it’s best when the butter’s got garlic in it. Once you see how easy this is to make (and how wonderful it tastes) you’ll never be able to look at frozen garlic bread again.

We pumped up our garlic flavor (and repelled any vampires in our area) by using garlic-infused olive oil, but plain extra virgin olive oil will work just fine. If you’re feeling cheesy, top some of the bread with shredded mozzarella cheese and stick under the broiler until it’s golden brown.

1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Preheat the broiler. (We put ours on low.) Cut the bread into slices 1 to 2 inches thick.

In a small bowl, mix butter, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread slices.

Mix everything up with the butter.

Spread the butter on the bread.

On a medium baking sheet, arrange the slices evenly and broil 5 minutes, or until slightly brown. Check frequently so they do not burn.

Remove from broiler. Top with cheese and return to broiler 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is slightly brown and melted. Serve at once.


Inside-Out Almond Joy Macaroons Cuisine Cookies for the Holidays
This week, Lindsey had a Christmas cookie baking contest at work. When she asked Cindy which cookies she should bring, the answer was a no-brainer: the inside-out Almond Joy macaroons are a Blended Kitchen favorite. Lindsey’s stepdad said these cookies are so good that he would eat thousands of them. Make extras of these because you and your family won’t be able to keep your hands off of them.

The coconut mixture needs to be really cold, so it’s a good idea to divide the coconut mixture into two bowls and keep one in the fridge while you work with the other. That way, when one of the bowls gets too warm, you can trade it out for the one in the fridge and keep working.

1 (14 ounce) bag sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup cream of coconut – This is not coconut milk and you can’t substitute coconut milk for this. You can find it in grocery store liquor aisles or in liquor stores.
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
32 Hershey’s chocolate kisses with almonds , unwrapped (you can use regular Hershey’s kisses if you’re not nuts about almonds – get it? Nuts!)

This is what cream of coconut looks like - not runny and watery like coconut milk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Mince 1 1/2 cups of coconut in a food processor and transfer to a bowl.

This is how finely the coconut should be minced.

Add remaining ingredients, EXCEPT kisses.

Add the rest of the bag of coconut to the mixture.

Mix gently with your hands (or with a spatula, if you don’t want to take your rings off!) until combined.

Mix everything but the Hershey's kisses together.

Chill dough at least 1 hour (but no more than 24).

Place a heaping tablespoon of coconut dough into your hand and flatten it out. Place a kiss on top of the flattened mixture and wrap the coconut around the kiss, making sure it is enclosed completely. (This takes a little practice).

Wrap the kiss completely in coconut mixture.

Place 1 inch apart on lined baking sheet.

Bake until firm and deep golden on the bottom and light golden on the top–about 16-18 minutes.

Toasted to perfection!

Cool on pan for 5 minutes and transfer to cooling rack.

We would eat all of these if we could!

Lindsey's got some lucky coworkers...

Next week, we’ll share our Christmas brunch favorites, so break out your stretchy pants!

Nom. nom. nom.