Christmas Cookie Roundup

sugar & spice

sugar & spice

Even though today is Christmas Eve Eve, it’s not too late to make some Christmas cookies. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made over the past few years. (Click on the photo for the recipe.)

Hello Dollies (aka Magic Cookie Bars) – so many delicious layers

check out all those layers

check out all those layers

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies – get your (cookie) gun

cream cheese spritz

trim the tree

No-Bake Chocolate Clusters – there’s literally no baking involved; just melt, mix and set

no-bake chocolate clusters

no bake, no fuss

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Summer Squash’d Lasagna

roasted zucchini lasagna

hearty but not heavy

Thanks to a momentary break in the humidity, I was able to crank up the oven last weekend. That worked out great because I’ve been craving Italian food … something really saucy and comforting, like a heaping slice of lasagna. Normally I’m a traditional lasagna guy, opting for the meaty varieties. But that’s a little heavy for a summertime meal, right? So I roasted up my favorite summer vegetable instead, and went a little lighter on the ricotta. It made for hearty — but not heavy — supper.

Roasted Zucchini Lasagna
2 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼ inch slices
– 1 5 oz bag of baby spinach
– ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
– 3 cups of marinara sauce, or more/less depending on taste
– 8 oz of part skim ricotta cheese
– 1 egg
– ½ teaspoon of garlic salt
– 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
– Pinch of cinnamon
– 1 8 oz box of no-boil lasagna noodles
– 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
– Salt and pepper
– Olive oil

Heat your oven to 450º.

Toss the zucchini slices with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and add the zucchini slices in an even layer. Roast for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip the slices over, and roast for an additional 6 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender and slightly browned.

Lower the oven to 350º.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the spinach leaves, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just starting to wilt.

In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and cinnamon, and season to taste with pepper.

Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish. Spread a small spoonful of marina sauce on the bottom and place 3 lasagna noodles on top. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then a layer of zucchini slices, some sautéed spinach leaves, a layer of marinara sauce and Parmesan. Repeat the layers (there should be 3 layers of filling), ending with a layer of lasagna noodles. Top with additional tomato sauce and Parmesan, and an extra sprinkle of Italian seasoning for good measure.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top begins to brown and the whole thing is bubbling. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then eat.

roasted zucchini lasagna

hello zucchini

I always make sure I have enough sauce leftover so I can spoon some on top. Mmm.

Chicken Divine

a real diva(n)

Isn’t there something great about a good casserole? The way everything just bakes together, creating one completely comforting and satisfying meal … it’s almost divine. Chicken divine? No, today it’s chicken divan. This is an update on the classic dish that most people have probably had in some form or another. There are a lot of recipes out there that call for cream of whatever soup, but it’s just as easy to make your own cream sauce like the one here, flavored with two kinds of cheese, fresh thyme and a little cayenne. I love that the rice, broccoli and chicken form these tasty layers that bubble with delight as it bakes. And the way the bread crumb and almond topping give it a nice, slightly sweet crunch.

Chicken Divan
– ¾ cup of bread crumbs
– ½ cup of slivered almonds
– 1 large broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized florets and stem pieces
– 1 medium white onion, finely diced
– 1 ½ cups of long grain & wild rice
– Garlic salt
– 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– ¼ cup of flour
– 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
– ¾ cup of light cream
– 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar
– ½ cup of grated Parmesan
– 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped thyme
– ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
– 5 to 6 thinly sliced chicken cutlets
– Salt and pepper
– Olive oil

In a food processor, pulse together the bread crumbs and almonds. Add a drizzle of olive oil and process until coarse crumbs form. Set aside.

Heat your oven to 400º.

Fill a Dutch oven or large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and teaspoon of salt and cook for 1 minute, or until the broccoli is bright green and crisp tender. Drain and set aside.

Wipe clean the Dutch oven and then heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli stem pieces and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice, season with a little garlic salt, and cook for 1 minute.  Add about 3 ½ cups of water and bring to a simmer. Then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the water is nearly all absorbed and rice is tender, about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and cream, and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Off the heat, stir in the cheddar, Parmesan, thyme and cayenne pepper until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Add the rice mixture to the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Add the broccoli florets in an even layer over the rice. Add the chicken cutlets on top, making sure each piece slightly overlaps like shingles. Cover the chicken with about 2 cups of the cream sauce and the bread crumb mixture. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, the top is brown and the edges are bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve with the additional sauce and eat.