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Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012: REPEAT PERFORMANCE--What am I? An 8 year old? THERE'S A QUIZ BUT THAT AIN'T THE QUESTION!

Back on call and scavenging for dinner!

When I was a kid, we were a "military family." What that means is that you moved every 6-18 months and lived on fairly stringent budget. Places that financial constraints showed up daily were the lunchbox and the dinner table. Of course, not all the results of a limited food budget were bad: Chicken and dumplings ( with lots of cheap floury dough) instead of fried chicken was never a problem for me.


Until I went to high school where lunch was served in the cafeteria and I never once took nor saw a brown bag, I thought there were actually only a few choices for lunch prepared by mom or yourself at home: PB&J, bologna (not the presliced kind either) sandwich, or soup, nearly always vegetable or tomato. Those two were the cheapest. I don't remember being bothered by any of this at all. And I certainly wasn't a skinny kid.

So the thought of eating tomato soup two or three times for dinner in a week is not that off-putting. Even though I had great homemade tomato bisque last night, V8 tomato basil soup was available and easy for the hospital.


Until I wrote my first TOMATO SOUP blog, I didn't realize V-8 was a subsidiary of Campbell's. Their description: "A simple classic like this is all about the ingredients. Field-grown tomatoes. Tender basil. A rumor of garlic. No artificial flavors. No preservatives. Just the delicious, vibrant taste of a full serving of vegetables with the nutritional goodness that goes along with it."

I have to say in comparison to the tomato bisque made last night, this is a very nice mass produced soup. It was definitely a bit sweeter than the "real thing," but tasty and very filling. For those to whom such things matter, it is only 90 calories per cup and it is GLUTEN FREE, too.
And it contains no animal products for veg-heads out there. I give this one a very solid B+. I am not sure you can do it better in box.

Okay, faithful blog readers, I cannot give another Campbell's Quiz nor a tomato quiz (although there is plenty more tomato trivia!). But I can give a quiz about an ingredient in this soup of which I am very fond:

I once rented a house in Shreveport, Louisiana and it had HUGE concrete planters built into the porch. I planted basil there and it grew really well in that hot and somewhat rain-lacking climate. I misted it daily and that seemed to be enough. Everytime I would walk into my house, I would pass those planters and the aroma of basil would wrap itself around my nostrils. What a treat. I made plenty of pesto during my tenure there, as well.

QUESTION 1
True or False. Another name for basil is St. Joseph's wort.

QUESTION 2
Which of the following flavors is not a component of basil varieties?
A. anise
B. lemon
C. hay
D. camphor
E. lavender

QUESTION 3
Which of the following statements about basil is INCORRECT?
A. Basil can be used as an antifungal agent.
B. Basil is toxic to rats.
C. Basil deters mosquitos.
D. Basil seeds in large quantities can be harmful to humans.
E. Basil can be used in herbal medicine to treat acne.

QUESTION 4.
True or False. The word basil is a derivative of a Greek word meaning king.

QUESTION 5.
Which of the following statements is FALSE regarding basil?
A. In Asia, there is a soda made from the seeds.
B. Basil is a perennial plant.
C. Dried basil does not retain flavor very well.
D. The flower buds of basil are edible.
E. Basil has some of the same chemical as pine oil.


Okay TRIVIA fans, hold onto your pesto cause here are the basil basics.

QUESTION 1.

TRUE!
Many of you know that St. Joseph probably had a hammer and saw-horse, but did you know he had wort? And maybe even a radio station?

QUESTION 2.

Answer: E
Basil is very chemically complex and has all the scents listed except lavender. It also has the same chemicals as cloves. Still, lavender and basil make a nice mix for soap--but you'll have to use both to get that smell.

QUESTION 3: B
Although it contains some compounds that given in large quantity are known rat carcinogens, basil is NOT toxic to rats.

QUESTION 4: TRUE. Basil wears the crown :)

QUESTION 5: B

This was a bit tricky, because some varieties ARE perennial but some are annuals.
Just a hint for future quizzes---If I ask if anything, even some unimaginable food combination exists in Asia, it probably does. When I was in China twice in the past, I have even eaten ice cream made from tomatoes or corn or red kidney beans. They are very inventive folks.

OKAY, tah tah for now. I am sure there will be more poop on soup in the future.

January 29, 2012 You say tomato, I say KUMATO. I make bisque. Then we both say YUM!


Okay, I know what SOME of you are saying and that is, "What is this crazy woman talking about?"

I am talking about the KUMATO. I have seen them in the store lately, and I just had to find out what they were. I thought, "Hmmmm. Is this a cross between a kumquat and a tomato?" But alas, it is just a tomato. A brown tomato mind you. A tasty, pretty tomato. A tomato that costs more than your average tomato, but nonetheless, a tomato. However, it is unique in that a Swiss company owns the brand and only lease the right to grow it to a select number of entities with grocery store connections worldwide. Those smartie pants Swiss. No wonder they need all those banks.

I asked my lovely and now wedded niece Lauren to send me her tomato bisque recipe, because ever since I ate some of the Campbell's version last week, I have wanted to make the even better Lacey Bakes (my niece's blog) version. Lauren is a really great home cook who hopes to one day own her own bakery. You go, Lauren!

Kumato Bisque (and you can substitute a tomato where I write kumato)

Here's how you do it to yield about 4 good sized servings:


Cut 8 kumatoes (or about 6 large tomatoes) in half. If you have access to any type of fresh from the vine or heirloom tomato, it is going to crank the flavor up a notch or two. Remove the seeds and juice and that star shaped green thingy on the top.

Place the kumatoes in any roasting pan with a lip on it. Add a handful of basil-- or omit or lessen if you just are not a basil fan. Add 4-5 garlic cloves or a 1- 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Sprinkle well with olive oil (I used about 1/4 cup) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir it around a bit (I did this with my paws.) Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.



In a stock pot or something that will hold at least a couple of quarts, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Chop up 1/2 onion (omit or add a whole onion if you crave onioniness) and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat to soften.

When the tomatoes are done roasting, slide the entire roasting pan full of STUFF into the pot with the onions.

Add 1 quart of chicken stock (or vegetable to make it vegetarian.) Put a cover on the pot, and simmer this all together for 30-40 minutes.

Then get out the old immersion blender, and blend to your preferred state of chunky or smoothness. I made mine mostly smooth with just a few tomato chunks.


Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream to your taste and give a final stir.

Open your trap and enjoy this red delicious treat. EASY PEASY!

I accompanied this with a grilled cheese sandwich.

For dessert, I served a peanut butter toffee turtle cookie with Ben and Jerry's Reeces Pieces Ice Cream. Just a note about these cookies. They taste fantastic but it does take a good couple of hours to make them and you really cannot eat them right away, so you have to do it ahead of time. Secondly, the recipe will follow, but left to my own devices in the future, I would sprinkle some chopped peanuts on top of the caramel and chocolate for a final crunch.




Paul's opinion --photo of Paul to follow...left my SD card at home :(

Kumato Bisque: After he say MmmmMmmm Good and Soup is good food, he said, "Don't take this to work." In PMP (that's his initials) land, that means, "I want the leftovers, so no sharing." For my hubby, who really is not a leftover fan, that is the ULTIMATE compliment.

Grilled Cheese: "Tasty"

Cookies and Ice Cream: "Really good."

THANKS LAUREN for sharing this very simple and amazingly tasty meal that you can serve up in about an hour, but you don't have to stand guard over while its cooking! Photo credits also to Mrs. Geery!

COOKIE RECIPE
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup DOMINO Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed DOMINO Light Brown Sugar
2/3 cup creamy USA PEANUT Butter
2 cups BISQUICK Original All-Purpose Baking Mix
2/3 cup almond toffee bits*
2/3 cup coarsely chopped USA PEANUTS
2/3 cup NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Milk Chocolate Morsels

10 ounce vanilla caramels
2 to 3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Milk Chocolate Morsels, melted

* I substituted peanut butter chips.

TIP: The chocolate drizzle on the cookies will harden as it cools.
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg, beating until blended. Add baking mix, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in toffee bits, chopped peanuts, and 2/3 cup chocolate morsels.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets; flatten dough with hand.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on baking sheets 1 minute; remove cookies to wire racks.
Microwave caramels and 2 tablespoons cream in a glass bowl at HIGH 1 minute; stir. Continue to microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring until caramels melt and mixture is smooth; add remaining cream, if necessary. Stir in vanilla. Spoon caramel mixture evenly onto tops of cookies; drizzle evenly with melted chocolate.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28, 2012: HOSPITAL FOOD AGAIN! Chicken salad sandwich.


Chicken salad is a very versatile medium to work with. There are many places on this planet, including my house, where a chicken salad sandwich is an artform and a truly delicious meal option. Unfortunately, UT Hospital is not a bastion of chicken salad goodness. It is a location of chicken salad acceptableness only.

Here's some places across America that have been cited as chicken salad sandwich meccas:

Graul's Market in Baltimore, Maryland
The Potbelly sandwich chain
Arby's
Zaxby's
The World's Best Sandwich truck on 20th St between Broadway and Park Ave in New York City.

Personally, I like my chicken salad with almonds, seedless grapes and some curry. And please, not too much mayo. I hate sloppy mayo all over the place.

I think the perfect bread for it is a croissant, but usually I go for whole wheat!

Sometimes, it is best to keep this blog short. :)

January 27, 2012: Single girl supper --Popcorn! No peanuts. No prize. But there is a quiz!

When I was a kid, I watched A LOT of TV. And apparently, although marketing research was not as popular, they knew how to get to kids through advertising. There was no tivo, no skipping ads. There was just longing. And one of the things I longed for very often was JIFFY POP. Before Magic Kingdom, Magic Johnson and the Orlando Magic, there was "the magic treat--as much fun to make as it is to eat." And it was! Of course, only excellent behavior and extremely doe-eyed staring in the popcorn section would occasionally spark my dad to pick up a fry pan of Jiffy Pop. You could forget it with my mom. A bag of plain kernels of popcorn would conjure up a bushel of popped, salted treat and cost the same as the Jiffy Pop! "Waste not, want not," was the mantra. And the price of Jiffy Pop definitely bordered on sinfulness.
During the few times I did get to pop it though, it sure did seem like a supernatural event. But probably, it was just Freudian :)

Last night though, I was driving back from my aunt's house and I did not want to stop, because I haven't actually seen my new husband all that much since we got married. I really wanted to get home. So I reverted to the single woman's dinner friend--popcorn. But not just any popcorn. Newfangled popcorn. The new one out on the market is SKINNY POP. This stuff is great: tasty, filling and only 39 calories a cup. If you don't put anything on air popped corn, it is 25 per cup. So this is only 14 more calories and incredibly delicious. I recommend it.



So I was thinking it might be interesting to offer a POPCORN QUIZ. Get ready cause these are the five most obscure pieces of popcorn trivia out there :)

QUESTION 1

True or False. There is substantial evidence that popcorn was around in 4700 B.C. in Peru

QUESTION 2

Which of the following claims to be the Popcorn Capital of the World?
a. North Loup, Nebraska
b. Topeka, Kansas
c. Dubuque, Iowa
d. Kankakee, Illinois
e. Lake City, Minnesota

QUESTION 3
True or False. Popcorn kernels that do not pop at proper temperature are called old maids.

QUESTION 4
Which of the following statements is NOT true?
a. National Popcorn Day is in January.
b. National Popcorn Month is July.
c. National Caramel Corn Day is April 7th.
d. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the largest popcorn ball was 12 feet in diameter.
e. Kentucky is in the top 10 popcorn producing states.

QUESTION 5
True or False. Typical popcorn expands to 40-45 times its original size.


Okay, now it is time for the answers to your POP QUIZ!

1.
It's true. They were eating popcorn, not lima beans in Peru long ago.

2.
Interestingly, North Loup is not the only city that claims to be the Popcorn Capital. So does Ridgway, Illinois, Valpraiso, Indiana, Van Buren, Indiana, Schaller, Iowa and Marion, Ohio!

3.
True. You can also call them "spinsters."

4.

B. National Popcorn Month is October. (Everyone knows that!)

5.
It's true....sort of like my BUTT.

Okay, neighbors and friends. Go out and get yourself a healthy serving of delicious popcorn. And if you are dieting, try the skinny pop.

January 26, 2012: Down home cooked meal with Aunt Bea


When I was a kid, I loved me some Andy Griffith show. And now thanks to Nickleodeon and other nostalgia outlets. I still love that show. What a great cast: Andy, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors, George Lindsey and that duffus, Howard the barber. To this day, I never get bored with it. And I like the whistling...maybe because I cannot whistle. Danged genetics!

But my point here is that Aunt Bea was a good cook and since I had an Aunt Bea too, when I was a kid, I thought EVERYONE had an Aunt Bea. So much for "magical thinking."

Fortunately, my Aunt Bea is still around and last November, she turned 90. She still looks awesome, lives independently, and does "her thing." I missed her 90th birthday party (I was in the hospital!), but I told her I would come celebrate it with her in January. SO this is the time, and Baker Hill, Alabama (population 321) is the place. It is in the rolling hilly pine forest near the Georgia/Alabama/Florida line and the site of my mother's family farm. Apparently, Baker Hill first apppears on maps in 1860. You can actually see my Aunt's house in this googlemap aerial photo!



There's a lot of farm land nearby and truck farms so one of the great things you get when you go there is FRESH veggies. Anyone who knows me knows I spent many years as a vegetarian and I love, love, love fresh vegetables. So my aunt made a country cooking meal for my supper.

Item 1: Green beans mixed with potatoes

There's a funny story about this. I love this combo and so does my aunt. But my dearly departed uncle, "Mr. Dorman" was his South Alabama moniker, liked green beans, loved potatoes but DESPISED having them mixed. So when my aunt was mad at him and felt he needed to do "something different," she made him green beans and potatoes EVERY DAY until he "fixed it." Ladies and gents, it beats yelling and seemed to be an effective communication tool during their 50 years of marriage! Her concoction was very good at dinner.

She also served white peas. \

These were great! I had two servings. They have so many different varieties of peas in this neck of the woods too: crowder, purple hull, black-eyed, sugar snap, lincoln ---that's just a few and when they are fresh, I cannot imagine eating anything that is more of a delicacy, even if all they good cooked in is water and dollop of bacon grease in a steam-pressure cooker!

She also used her pressure cooker to make a delicious smothered cube steak.
My grandmother frequently made this delicious concoction for BREAKFAST. Boy is it good. And although I kept thinking while I was eating it, "This cannot possibly be healthy," my grandmother made it 90 years and my aunt is 90 and still kicking! SO maybe I should reconsider.

I started the blog with a photo of Opie's Aunt Bea but I am gonna end it with my aunt---she is on the extreme right. She's still a marvelous cook.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 25, 2012: Company for Dinner: Lasagna Fest 2012

So my sweet hubby had his work associates over to our condo for dinner. This was fun, because James "the wine guy" brought some very nice wines for us to sample and we had lasagnas. (This will make NAILS very happy. Nails, I have to quote you again--- I offered them "the ultimate comfort food.")
Since I had to work a 24 hour shift the night before, I had to come up with something that did not get worse with 1.5 days of age. If anything, I think lasagna actually tastes BETTER the second day.

So I made Chicken Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Alfredo (there's a whole blog about this one already [with recipe] and it was tres yummy!) and Pizza Lasagna--which is a classic lasagna decorated with typical pizza ingredients such as pepperoni.


We started this meal with a great Spanish cava (wonderful choice by James) and some appetizers: Mozzarella wrapped prosciutto, sopressa (a rustic aged salami of predominantly pork), cheeses and crackers. The sparkling wine was really nice and under $15/bottle. I wish I remembered the name of it, so I could share it. So many inexpensive sparkling wines do not actually taste all that great, but this was amazing.

We next sampled a Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier that Paul and I had had the privilege of buying before. At about $9/ bottle, this is a gem and a subtle sleeper.

For the salad course, we had tortellini salad, "kitchen sink" green salad and mixed fruit chunks. I think you could tell I had plenty of people from west of the Mississippi because the green salad nearly ran out. Tortellini was popular, but you could tell people chose healthy options. Many of our respected guests were from Cali, Kansas, New Mexico. I didn't expect as much from our North Carolina guest, but ends up, most of these folks made an effort toward healthy choices....sort of...

For the pizza lasagna, you could just go straight to Rachael Ray's website, but I think I used the easiest method. I bought a pound of reduced fat hamburger meat and a pound of Jimmy Dean sage pork sausage and browned them in a frying pan. Then the fat was drained off. I added a bit of garlic (1 tsp minced) and 1 tsp ground oregano, I used some "high end" store bought marinara type sauce: one puttanesca--with tomato and black olives and two arrabiata which has a bit of spice to it. I also took a quart of ricotta and mixed it with four eggs.

After browning the meat, I layered three rows of noodles as follows:

A little marinara sauce to keep noodles from sticking to the pan (about a cup) '
No boil noodles ( I recommend Barillo or Delallo)
1/3 of hamburger/sausage mixture
1/3 of the ricotta mixture
1 jar of sauce (I put the puttanesca on top layer, but it doesn't matter)
a layer of basil leaves
a layer of pepperoni

I repeated this layering process three times and on the very top, I sprinkled a cup of mozzarella cheese.

It tasted great. Also, I should note that Rachel Ray does this recipe with non-lasagna pasta noodles if you prefer. TO quote Miss Cutesy, "Yum-oh!"


James brought several nice reds to taste with this but this cab sav from Horse Heaven Hills was my favorite.

For dessert, we sampled cannoli from Coolato Gelato on Gay Street in Knoxville and Tiramisu cake from Fresh Market---both really amazingly good.


Paul's opinion of this meal:

Salad: I love pasta salad
Lasagnas: Wow baby. That was good.
Dessert: Both great.

Tah dah! My first "wifely" business dinner. I'm just glad I didn't lay a goose egg in front of all these nice folks!

If you want Rachael Ray's recipe which I did not use but it is good:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/pizzagna-recipe/reviews/index.html

Also, many kudos to chef, Amanda Stokes, for telling me how to REHEAT lasagna that has been covered overnight in the fridge:
Cover with tin foil and heat at 350 for one hour. Thanks Amanda. Had it not been for you, this would have been a COLD meal!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24, 2012: You won't say "TSK!" to this tomato bisque! Quiz your knowledge too!


Back on call again at the hospital and hunting and gathering. Fortunately, I managed to remember to bring the soup. The Campbells Kettle Creations are pretty decent. Not home made. Not fresh restaurant,but a good mass produced product. The tomato bisque has great texture and a definite tomato-ey flavor. So I have to give this one a thumbs up.


For those of you who are TESTING your knowledge of food and all sorts of trivia, tonight's ON CALL QUIZ is regarding:


TOMATO (Is it toe-may-toe or toe-mah-to? Let's call the whole quiz off?)

Okay, get ready here it comes.

1. True or False. According to the US Supreme Court, the tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit.

2. Which of the following is NOT an actual movie title?
a. Attack of the Killer Tomato
b. Revenge of the Killer Tomato
c. Return of the Killer Tomato
d. Killer Tomatoes Strike Back
e. Killer Tomatoes Eat France

3. The tomato started off on which continent?
a. Africa
b. Europe
c. North America
d. South American
e. Asia

4. The largest tomato producing country in the world is?
a. China
b. India
c. US
d. Brazil
e. Egypt

5. Which of the following fun tomato facts is in fact FALSE?
a. The average American consumes about 15 lbs of tomatoes per year.
b. Women eat more tomatoes than men.
c. The largest recorded tomato weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz and was grown in
Edmond, Oklahoma.
d. The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, most of which is
poisonous for human consumption.
e. The tomato is the 4th largest selling produce item in grocery stores.


All right. Now inquiring minds wanna know the answers to THE DIRT ABOUT TOMATOES!

QUESTION 1. TRUE

Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit. But not according to the Supreme Court!


And according to Clarence Thomas, a coca cola is a place for pubic hair. What do they know?

QUESTION 2. B

Apparently, the killer tomatoes are doing well for themselves and don't need revenge!

3. D
Word has it that Cortez (the killer, if you believe Neil Young) was responsible for the ketchup reaching your table today from South America.

4. A

Not only do they have a GREAT WALL, they got a great big bunch of tomatoes. US is second, India third, TURKEY (who doesn't even measure on turkey production) is fourth and Egypt rounds out the top 5.

5. A


In the US, we eat about 18 lbs of tomatoes per person per annum. Women DO eat more of them than men. There are apparently tomatoes out there LARGER than your first born. The tomato is not toxic but the leaves are so don't get any crazy salad ideas, okay?

That's it. Now go get a dose of lycopene!

January 23, 2012: Chicken Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Alfredo--RECIPE INCLUDED.


I am continuing my quest to provide STELLAR lasagna to my husband and his work colleagues this coming Wednesday. So who better to look for a lasagna to follow somewhat as a recipe than Emeril Lagasse. Always a favorite when you want to "kick it up a notch."

I have already decided to make a "pizza lasagna." This is a fairly typical tomato based lasagna but includes pizza ingredients such as onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, black olives, sausage, ground beef and the coup--at least for my pizza craving hubby: PEPPERONI. And plenty of mozzarella cheese. Rachael Ray has a pretty good recipe for this so I am including it, even though you won't see a photo of it till tomorrow night and I didn't do it exactly the "ray way," but close:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/pizzagna-recipe/index.html

She calls it "pizzagna," because she is SO CUTESY. As mentioned, I would love to hate her, especially with all her schmaltzy stories, but then... that would be HIGHLY hypocritical. Rusty Webb agrees with me that she seems genuinely nice. So okay, Rachael, when you want me to come and cook with you on the show and give away all my cooking secrets, I will come.

I have been trying out lasagnas for the past week, and tonight it was a bechamel sauce type of lasagna. Bechamel is so versatile and, sort of like risotto--- Once you get the sauce made, you can add a variety of favorite ingredients to make it your very own. It is pretty much just flour and milk,salt and pepper heated until the milk protein thickens. It is the base for grandma's gravy and biscuits as well as yummy alfredo sauce. And it mixes well with almost anything. Maybe not lemon, but lemon rind in it is amazingly good.



Although I often find Emeril's recipes a bit complex, his recipe for this bechamel sauce is very simple. In fact you saute most of the vegetables first and then pour in the milk.

First off, you need a BIG POT for this, because you are going to have a pound of mushrooms, a pound of spinach, 7 cups of milk and a cup of onion in this thing. I have a big Caphalon frying pan, but a Dutch oven would be okay as well. A stock pot may be a bit tall and too thin on the bottom for all the stirring required, but if that's all you've got, you can probably make it work.

This recipe calls for a pound of button mushrooms. One nice thing about button mushrooms is that they are CHEAP and most stores stock them. However, I did not use them. I used portobello which are a bit more expensive, but not expensive like a bunch of shitake, oyster or wild vareities. I like the "meaty texture" of the portobello. Frankly, you could use any variety though. Okay, NOT the poisonous kind unless you are hosting a murder mystery :)

He calls for a stick of butter to saute in and that is what I used, but frankly, I don't see that you will hurt this recipe any if you just put enough olive oil or truffle oil in the bottom of the pan to get the mushrooms started. One nice thing about mushrooms is that they sweat and provide their own cooking liquid, same as onions, so you don't need a lot. The biggest advantage of the butter though, is that is helps in making the roux. You definitely need some liquid and some oil in the pan to absorb all the flour, so be careful not to end up with a dry pan. The mushrooms cook about 5 minutes until they get a bit soft. Since this recipe contains chicken, it isn't a bad idea to throw a little bit of thyme in with it. If you want to add sage, rosemary and parsley, hey it will make Simon and Garfunkel very happy.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDjNl5gs4nM



The next ingredient is onion--1 cup chopped. Emeril called for yellow onion. I used purple, but I only advise that if you enjoy a strong onion component. Again, nearly any onion would do, so what's on sale is fine. Here is a great video on easier ways to chop an onion. I have found most of those plastic onion choppers SUCK, so don't waste your cash. If anyone knows one that works well, let me know and I will put it on my blog. Add that and cook for 2-4 minutes until the onion is soft. Also add garlic. I used 3 tsp of store bought minced garlic, but if you have the time and inclination to cut it up yourself, go for it. I think you do get some good flavor if you can find it fresh. Many Knoxville grocery stores here have garlic that is old or non-useable and that is why I often used the minced variety in a jar. Choose heads that are firm to the touch, with no nicks or soft cloves. If you notice dark, powdery patches under the skin, pass it up since it is an indication of a common mold which will eventually spoil the flesh.

Once the onioins and garlic soften, add 2 tsp of salt (of course, truffle salt works great, but regular salt is JUST fine.) and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. Stir well.

Once you have all this done, get ready to stay near the stove for 10-15 minutes stirring. For this step, you need a wooden spoon or a whisk and a strong right arm (or left, for you southpaws.)


Get ready to use 6 cups of WHOLE milk. Emeril's recipe calls for 7 cups, but you don't need that much to make this recipe work. In fact, you will have TOO much bechamel, in my opinion. And you really need the milk proteins so skim or 2% is not gonna work and cream is way overboard.
Add 1/2 cup of flour to your mushroom/garlic/onion/butter mixture. And mix it in relatively slowly (over a minute or two). Leave it there for about 2 minutes or so after it is all in to form a light "roux." Then add the milk about a cup at a time stirring between each addition to incorporate.

This is gonna look really thin, but keep stirring it over medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes until it coats the back of a spoon or hangs a bit in your whisk.

Once it reaches this stage, add a pound of frozen spinach that you have prepared according to the package directions and squeezed out the extra water. There are several ways to do this. I use a strainer and let the spinach sit in there for 10-15 minutes. Then I press it against the strainer with a wooden spoon. However, this cheesecloth method looks like it would work, if you have it available. I like my method because it is cheap and doesn't require that I buy anything extra for the kitchen.

Add the spinach and incorporate with the bechamel. Then add 1.5 cups of grated parmesan. It is nice if you can fresh grate your own, but in reality, even if you buy the cheapie Kraft grated parmesan in a can, this stuff tastes great.Cook 2 minutes over medium then remove from the heat.


Cover your bechamel with a piece of plastic to retard that scummy milk layer that can form.

Next you will need 2 lbs of chicken cooked. I cheated and bought 2 rotisserie chickens in the store and pulled the meat from them. You could also use canned chicken chunks if you are in a bit of a hurry. The best solution is to just nuke a few chicken breasts in the microwave and then slice them up. Add a tablespoon of a chicken rub or seasoning. Of course, Emeril recommends : ESSENCE (what a surprise). I used Tony Cachere. But whatever you have is great and frankly, NOTHING would be okay. There is plenty of flavor in this already.

Now for THE ASSEMBLY. BTW-- I used the NO BOIL lasagna. Please consider using Barillo or Delallo brands. These are Italian imports, reasonably priced and give a very good result. I have not been very impressed by the American made no boil noodles that have the "ridges" in them. Usually one box is enough, but I usually buy two "just in case." If you want to boil the lasagna instead, knock yourself out!

So you should have these things ready :
1. Your warm bechamel sauce ready (total is about 8-9 cups with all those ingredients)
2. A bowl containing your spiced chicken.
3. 1 1/2 cups of Parmesan (or if you prefer Asiago, Romano or Italian blend)

Start by spreading about a cup of the bechamel over the bottom of a pan to keep the noodles from sticking.
Next place a layer of lasagna noodles.

Take out about 1/3rd of the chicken and spread it evenly over the noodles.

Pour two cups of bechamel sauce evenly over the chicken.
I like to do this step with a measuring cup that has a pour spout. This kitchen item is worth its weight in gold, can nearly always be found almost free in a thrift store and makes an excellent gravy bowl to boot.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of Parmesan evenly over chicken/bechamel.
Repeat this with another layer of noodles.
On the last layer, once you have the chicken, bechamel and cheese on top, it is ready for the oven. You may have some leftover bechamel and if so, considering using it to cover the top very well. I also generally at this stage add about a cup of mozzarella shredded to the top, but that can be entirely omitted, if you are cutting calories. Or if you are watching the waistline, except for the bechamel sauce, you could substitute mozzarella in between the layers and on the top.


The end result is creamy and delicious and will serve 8 hungry and 12 normal appetites. Garnish with a basil leaf if desired.

I finished this off for my sweets-craving hubby with a strawberry cheesecake I bought at Kroger...I know. I just ran out of time.

His opinion of the meal:


Lasagna: This is the best white lasagna you have made. I like it.
Cheesecake: Well it is more like pudding than cheesecake, but it tastes good.

Now for the recipe--at the end, I include the link to Emeril's original.

CHICKEN SPINACH AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA ALFEDO
Ingredients
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup finely chopped purple onion
3 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
7 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt or truffle salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound frozen spinach, cooked per directions and dried
3 cups grated Parmesan
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken
1 tablespoon chicken seasoning or rub
1 pound oven-ready lasagna sheets
1/2 cup mozzarella
Directions
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until the mushrooms are browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, to make a light roux, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, pepper, nutmeg, spinach and 1 1/2 cups of the Parmesan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the bechamel sauce until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 9 by 13 by 3-inch casserole, spread about 1/2 cup-1 cup of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish. Lay pasta across the bottom of the dish and spread 1- 1.5 cup of the bechamel sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chicken over the bechamel sauce, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the remaining Parmesan. Lay another 3 sheets of pasta over the chicken. Repeat 2 additional times with the remaining bechamel sauce, chicken, Parmesan, and pasta. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 c mozzarella over the bechamel sauce Place the casserole on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, until bubbly and well browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

EMERIL's VERSION: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/chicken-mushroom-and-spinach-alfredo-lasagna-recipe/index.html

ENJOY!