Welcome to my first attempts at homesteading!

There will be ups and downs of gardening, baking, cooking, parenting, and trying out homesteading. It should be interesting, a true learning experience!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chicken, Cheese, and Cream, oh my!

I'm not one to normally pick up a new cookbook somewhere (unless it's at a garage sale for a quarter) but...about a month ago I was in the very slow checkout line at Wal*Mart and spotted a Pillsbury cookbook (you know the type - a book the size of recipe cards, full of name brand ingredients and what-not). Well, I paged through it and some of the recipes looked decent and easy enough (I'm a novice cook, at best) so I bought it, for $4.99 plus tax. It hurt, but I did it. Side note: I have been desperate to find recipes that are quick, easy and good. You know, the kind where you might actually have everything on hand, and if not, it still turns out good! Well, much to my surprise ALL of the recipes I've made out of it have been good...not good, GREAT! They are easy, fast, and tasty! They are relatively inexpensive (you can substitute the name-brand items for store brand) if they aren't an every night sorta thing. SO...I made "Make-Ahead Chicken Lasagna" yesterday, and we had it for dinner tonight and it was delicious! It was probably one of the more expensive meals since it calls for 7 oz. of Gouda cheese (which I've never had until tonight) but it was awesome! For all you non-vegans out there (the majority of my immediate family is) I suggest you try it, if not for yourself, for a potluck or a dish to bring someone who's not feeling great...it's hearty and comforting, but light enough to eat again and again, and again!
RECIPE IS AS FOLLOWS: (It looks like more than it is. The directions and ingredients are just very specific.) Make-Ahead White Chicken Lasagna Prep Time: 40 mins Start to Finish: 10 hrs 15 mins (make-ahead remember)
  • 1 Tbl Butter
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped red bell pepper (2 medium)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pint (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 7 oz Gouda cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1 container (12 oz) small-curd cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles (no boil kind)
  • 1 package (16 oz) sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil sprigs or chopped basil leaves, if desired
  1. Spray 13x9 glass dish with cooking spray. In a large pan, melt butter over med-high. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery; cook about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in the center.
2. Reduce heat to low. Add half-and-half, broth and cream cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Gradually add Gouda cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Remove from heat; set aside. In bowl, mix cottage cheese, 1/4 cup fresh basil and the egg until blended. 3. Spread 1 cup chicken mixture in baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture, 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers once, starting with noodles. Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. 4. Heat oven to 350*F. Bake lasagna covered 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 30 to 35 minutes longer or until noodles are tender and casserole is bubbly. Cover; let stand 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs.
Changes I made: I used dried basil since I had just used all my fresh basil for making pesto. I used shredded mozzarella instead of buying pre-sliced. I uncovered it to let it sit so it wouldn't be scalding hot when we were so hungry! Changes for next time: add more veggies! The bell peppers were great but this could use some zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach...anything that goes well with cream sauces. I would also add lemon juice and zest. I love creamy lemony dishes! You might even be able to substitute the Gouda cheese for something less expensive.

Flores' Fun with Flora

So I was standing on my back slab of cement staring out at all this grass and fence and realized that I like flowers. I like things that smell good, taste good, look good and I love being outside when it's not so cold. I looked over at my 8' X 8' sandbox imagining my two girls playing in that this summer and being able to run all over the yard and I was longing for the sunshine. Then the next three days were full of just that - glorious sunshine and 65* weather...I was SO excited! I thought of Bella, my 4 year old, in my mom's garden eating strawberries and beans and peas and all sorts of edible flowers. It was then that I looked over at my 2 gallon pot with a few strawberry plants in it and the dream started. I am going to have a garden.
My garden will be a few important things:
  1. Organic
  2. 90% edible contents
  3. Easy to maintain
  4. Beautiful and productive
I wanted to research just how much our water bill would be in the summer so I got online and tried to look at the previous bills. I couldn't because there was a glitch in the system. So I kindly wrote the previous tenant an email and she immediately responded and within the hour the problem was fixed! I said all this to say that her and I have been emailing ever since and she is the sole reason I started this blog! She has a blog and it is ADORABLE! She now lives across the country and it has been a lot of fun learning about how they lived in this very house and now she wants to do a garden as well! She told me to do a blog about it and my homesteading desires so here it goes! Jennie, hopefully this blog is as entertaining as our emails have been!