Chicken Tomato Basil Lasagna with White Sauce

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Chicken Lasagna
As I was telling you I went shopping for some ‘exotic’ stuff last week to a gourmet store. Yes, even lasagna sheets count exotic in most parts of India because though we can easily get penne and macaroni in most general stores, lasagna sheets are hard to come by. So I bought a whole big box of 30 sheets when I found one of Brasilla brand. (My readers from US and UK can share their reviews of the brand here for others). I’ve used it just this once and I liked it, was easy to cook and tasted good (Though seemed very sticky even when little dry so I kept a olive oil spray handy!)

Now, time for Garfield’s favorite dish – the Lasagna! No wonder it’s the favorite of so many of us, it’s just the right mix of everything; Pasta, creamy white sauce, chicken or any favorite meat or veggies we like, and lots of cheese!  It’s basically a layered dish of 3 components – The pasta sheets, white sauce and the veg or meat sauce. As you start recreating this awesome yummy dish in your kitchen, I’ll tell you that the recipe might look long , but it’s only to make your job easier. Do try it on a relaxed day or a Saturday evening and I’m sure you’ll be the star of the day! I’m showing here the chicken version; you can also make a vegetarian version by using your choice of veggies instead of the chicken and cook it the same way.

Serves 2
Special equipment: A Borosil or a bone china casserole (Don’t use plastic containers or cake tins) 8 x 4 x 3 inches
Cooking Time 1 hour
Ingredients

Boneless Chicken 300 gms
Lasagna sheets 4
Tomatoes 3
Onion 1
Garlic Cloves 10
Basil 7-8 Leaves
Chicken Masala ½ tsp
Olive Oil 1 tbsp
Parmesan Cheese 2 tsp
Cheddar Cheese 1 tbsp
Mozzarella 1 tbsp

For the White sauce:
Flour 1/2 cup
Butter 2 tbsp
Processed Cheese 2 tsp
Milk 2 cups
Oregano ½ tsp
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

Chicken Sauce
  • Finely chop the onions. Make tomato puree of the tomatoes.
  • In a non stick pan, heat 2 tsp of olive oil. Once hot, sear the chicken, 5 mins on each side, on medium heat. Keep aside.
  • In the same pan, heat 1 tsp more olive oil on medium heat.
  • Add 5-6 crushed garlic cloves.
  • Once garlic browns, add the chopped onions.
  • When onions turn pink, add the tomato puree and the basil leaves together.
  • Reduce heat and ½ tsp oregano, chicken masala, salt and pepper. Mix well and let it simmer for 5-6 mins.
  • Meanwhile shred the seared chicken into small pieces and add to the tomato mixture. Mix well and sprinkle little water on it. Let it simmer for 5-6 mins uncovered or till the sauce thickens.

White Sauce
  • In another pan, heat the butter. Keep flame on low.
  • When butter melts, add remaining crushed garlic.
  • After 30 seconds add the flour. Keep stirring and let the flour cook.
  • When flour gets light golden colour, add the milk slowly and keep stirring.
  • Add ½ tsp oregano and the processed cheese and stir well. Let it simmer for 3-4 mins. Then turn off the stove.

Lasagna sheets
  • Even if they are instant sheets, they still need some pre-boiling.
  • Boil 5-6 cups water in a wide pan and add the sheets. Keep flame on medium.
  • Also add 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt in the pan.
  • Do not cover the pan. Let it simmer for 5 mins.
  • Once done, drain 90% water only to prevent pasta drying out. When layering, drain complete water.
  • Do above step the last as the sheets tend to stick together when dry.

Layering
  • In the casserole or baking dish, first put a ladle (Kadchi) of white sauce. Then put one sheet.
  • Then Chicken mixture. Then put a sheet.
  • White sauce. Then Sheet.
  • Chicken Mixture. Sheet.
  • White sauce.
  • Take care that each sheets is properly covered in the sauce.
  • Now sprinkle on top, the mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar cheese. You can use regular pizza cheese if you can’t find these.
  • Bake the lasagna in the oven at 160 degree Celsius for 30 mins till the top turns light brown and bubby.

Yumminess is ready to be savored and devoured!

Brussel Sprouts and chicken salad in tangy dressing

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Brussel Sprouts and chicken salad in tangy dressingI was always fascinated by these ‘little cabbages’ or Brussel sprouts whenever I saw these used in some show on TLC or masterchef. We don’t easily get these in India and I thought I’ll have to do with cabbage or lettuce in any recipe that had them. Last week I was looking around in westside gourmet store and I found these! (along with many other delightful stuff like fish pickle, lasagne sheets, iceberg lettuce, basil and lotus stem!) I picked them up instantly and tried recalling all the salad recipes I’d seen till then. Two days back , when I reached home from work, I found a chicken breast in my deep freezer. I had made chicken lasagne last week and saved some chicken for later use. Now was the time I said! I got out a few ingredients from the fridge, mixing n matching, and made a yummy salad. 
Time 15 mins
Serves 2
Ingredients
Boneless Chicken 150 gms (preferably chicken breast)
Brussel Sprouts 8-10 small pieces
Iceberg lettuce (or Chinese cabbage) 8-10 leaves
One small Capsicum
One large Onion
4-5 Garlic cloves
Salt to taste
Black pepper 1 tsp
Thyme and oregano ½ tsp
Extra Virgin Olive oil 2 tsp for dressing and 1 tbsp for chicken
Mustard 1 tsp
Apple cider vinegar 2 tsp ( If replace it with 2 tsp Mustard)
Honey 2 tsp
Directions
  • Boil  2 cups water in a pan with a pinch of salt.
  • Cut steps of the brussel sprouts and make a small incision on the back of them.
  • Put them in boiling water and blanch for 3-4 mins on medoium heat. Do not over cook. Strain and wash again under cold water to stop cooking. Keep aside.
  • Add 1 tbsp olive oil in a nonstick pan. Once hot, add 2 crushed garlic cloves and sprinkle some oregano and thyme.
  • Keep the chicken breast between two kitchen towels and pound with a pestle or rolling pin to soften and thin the chicken.
  • Cook chicken in the oil for 5 mins each side on medium heat.
  • Sprinkle some salt on the chicken. Add 1 tbsp water to the pan and cover with a lid for 2 mins to soften the chicken.
  • Meanwhile, chop the capsicum and onion into bite sized big pieces.
  • Cut the brussel sprouts into, lengthwise.
  • Take the chicken out and let it rest.
  • Increase the heat, and once the pan and remaining oil is very hot, add remaining 2 crushed cloves of garlic, capsicum, onions and the brussel sprouts, cut side facing down.
  • Saute for 2-3 mins and take out.
  • Chop the chicken into small pieces.
  • In a cup, mix together 1 tsp olive oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Dressing is ready!
  • Tear the lettuce leaves by hand and place in a big bowl. Put the sauted veggies and chicken pieces on it and pour the dressing on top. Mix well using 2 big spoons or salad tongs.
  • Serve in a bowl with freshly chopped mint.

 Awesome taste guaranteed!

Managing it All: Tips for Working Mothers

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I know this post is a little out of place for a food blog, but I felt this might be the right place for it as many moms use this site and am sure most of them are working. (I believe being a homemaker is infact a strenuous full-time Job 24x7). I’ve had a few friends, relatives, and bosses with kids and they keep saying working and managing a baby at home is impossible without a full-time helper or a maid. Well, in today’s cases, keeping a fulltime maid/nanny might not be a good idea for financial or security reasons. So why not have some ideas to help ease out things for you? Do read, maybe you’ll find a trick that can make you a ‘Super-Duper Mom’! (All moms are super moms by default!)

Managing it all: some tips for working mothers
While a man may get away with working in the office all day, a working woman who is also a part of a family has to power through, almost every day of her life. Not only does she need to keep up her expected level of performance at work, she also has to ensure the smooth-running of the household, the safety and care of her children, and that time for the family is not compromised in any way. It can get very difficult for working mothers and wives to manage their lives and lead both their working lives and domestic lives successfully. However, this lifestyle, while it may be difficult, is not impossible. A few smart management tricks ensure the smooth functions of all areas of a working-woman’s life. For working mothers especially, things get much tougher with regards to bringing up the children. But it can be done, if a few things are followed.

A routine:  A routine is a must-have for someone who has such a packed life, where almost everything is a priority. Every little detail should be penned down on the routine, and one should be made for everyday of the week, keeping the exceptions in mind for each day. This helps reduce mental clutter and it also helps put things in perspective.

Keep small pockets of rest in between:  When you know you have to run around from one place to another all day long, and that “you’re a superwoman” is not literally true, you should get as much rest as you can, when you can. Learn how to take power naps, and take one on your way back from work, or even during work if time permits it. Get some shut-eye or just some relaxed time by yourself, even if it is for five minutes.
Keep a chart for meals: We almost always end up spending a lot of time thinking about what to make for lunch, breakfast, dinner, etc. Keep a meal chart for your family, and consult the meal chart in order to not waste too much time wondering what to make. You will also not end up cooking what you cooked for dinner two weeks ago.
Focus on each task individually: At the office and at home, one should always focus on each and every task individually, and make sure that they are carried off properly. This saves a lot of time in the long run, because if you do shoddy work, you will have to repeat those tasks.
You must always be clear about why you’re doing certain things, and why they’re essential. Do not burden yourself with unnecessary tasks which you need not do on a regular basis.
Talk to your husband: Talking to your husband as well as your children, and telling them that they need to share responsibility is something which should be a natural thing to do, but which most women use as a last resort. Do not reach a burn-out phase and then talk to your family. Tell them how they too, need to take up some work in order to ensure the smooth running of the house. 

Guest article from www.glad2bawoman.com. Glad2bawoman is an online media company for women with over 73,000 members. The articles on their site encompass various topics around Health, Empowerment, Relationships and Fashion.

Apple Muffins - The Taste & Flavour of Winter!

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Apple Cinnamon MuffinsPosting this recipe on Popular Demand!

These are an instant hit with everyone! Perfect for a cozy winter evening, or almost every lazy morning; this muffin is the perfect partner to your tea or coffee. You can even add cream cheese frosting to make this a cupcake or add apple glaze, or dust with icing sugar to serve as a party dessert. The recipe is really easy with very basic steps and you can even ask your kids to help out!


Cooking Time 30 mins
Makes 6 medium or 12 mini-muffins
Apple Cinnamon MuffinsIngredients
1 Apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
4 tbsp Powdered sugar (You can grind normal sugar in a mixer grinder)
2 tbsp Canola/Olive oil
2 tbsp softened unsalted butter (or add 2 tbsp canola oil)
1 cup flour
1 egg, light beaten with fork
4 tbsp warm milk
1 tsp Cinnamon powder (You can add cinnamon stick to the mixer while grinding the sugar)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder

How to make delicious easy Apple muffins
    Apple Cinnamon Muffins
  • Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
  • In a bowl add all dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon powder.
  • In another bowl, add all wet ingredients – milk, oil, butter, vanilla essence, egg and mix well.
  • Now add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix only to wet all the dry ingredients. Do not over-mix to make a fine batter. Few lumps are ok.
  • Now add the apples and gently fold in with a spoon.
  • Grease a muffin try or put the muffin cups. You can also take small size paper cups and line them in a baking tray.
  • Put 1 spoonful of the muffin batter in each cup for a mini-muffin. Put 2 spoonfuls for regular muffins.
  • Put the muffin tray in the oven on a low grill rack and bake for 25 mins for mini-muffins and 35 mins for regular ones.
  • Check by inserting a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean, they are cooked, otherwise bake for 5 mins more.
  • Take the muffins out from the tray and let them cool on the rack. Serve warm.
Chef’s Tip: Sprinkle some brown sugar on the muffins before baking to add an extra crunch and caramaly glaze!


Virgin Mojito - Mocktail with Lemon and Mint

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Virgin Mojito - Mocktails
I know it’s winters right now, but it’s the festive season with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. So even though it’s cold outside, you might wanna have a few options for mocktails for the parties and get togethers at home. Now, for the hard drinks, you can have ample options. (And with scotch and wine on the table no one usually cares about cocktails!) But for our mocktail lovers, here’s a very interesting option – The Virgin Mojito. I was so thrilled when they launched it at KFC in India. It’s super refreshing in summers and even during winters one can enjoy it after a long shopping day or just when you feel like this minty taste. Very easy and simple to make, you’ll have a glass made in 5 mins flat!

Time: 5 mins
Serves 4
Ingredients
15 mint leaves
2 teaspoon sugar
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp simple sugar syrup
Ice as per liking
3 glasses of chilled ginger ale / club soda / sparkling water / Sprite / Mountain Dew

Directions
  • In a shakes or big glass, add crushed mint leaves, sugar, lime juice and simple Syrup.
  • Add ice and shake well.
  • Pour this into 4 long glasses.
  • Top with the ginger ale, soda, sprite or dew. Stir with a spoon and serve!
  • For the calorie conscious, you can replace the sugar with Sugarfree or splenda. Enjoy!

Choco Frost - Chocolate Drink with Chikki Sprinkle

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It’s been a while we made some mocktails here. Maybe cos the winters set in. But there are hot beverages as well in my mind and I’m gonna help you treat your family to something special everyday of this week – because this will be a ‘Beverage Week’! Now when we talk about drinks, there are basically 3 things or 3 components to it – Temperature, Base and Flavour.
Temperature – Hot or cold, just cool or like a slush with crushed ice, warm or super steaming hot.
Base – This is the most important component. Base is basically what your drink is made of – water, ice, milk, juice, alcohol, soda water etc. This makes more than 60-70% of your drink.
Flavour – Well, this is the soul of the drink. A Mojito at the right temperature and best quality rum, might not taste so good if ratio of lemon to mint is not right.
Once we’ve got these decided, it’s all about mix n match. There are so many flavours to choose from around us. You can experiment with a few and invent your own drinks!
Today I’ll start with a cool drink with an Indian crunch. I call it –

The Choco Frost
Serves : 4
Ingredients
6 tbsp chocolate syrup (I prefer Hershey’s)
4 cups milk
3 cups Vanilla icecream
4 tbsp crushed mixed dryfruit chikki (Gajjak with jaggery and peanuts or almond crumble can also be used)
Crushed Ice ½ cup

Directions
  • Put some crushed ice in a shaker. Add milk, vanilla icecream and chocolate syrip and shake well for 2 mins.
  • Pour into cocktail glasses.
  • Sprinkle crushed crumble or chikki and serve immediately.
  • I prefer making these even on some cool days because winters in India is the time when chikki / gajjak is most easily available!

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

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Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Enjoy this super easy and probably the healthiest variety of pasta! The pumpkin gives it good fiber content and that mildness of flavour, making it ideal for breakfast and the kids can enjoy it to the fullest. You can always add blanched spinach and corn to pasta if you like.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield Serves 8




Ingredients
Salt and ground pepper
400 gms pasta, boiled and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
50 gms basil leaves chopped
50 gms mint leaves chopped
50 gms parsley chopped
1 can pumpkin puree, (if not ready made, then boil 300 gms pumpkin and make a paste in grinder)
2 cans vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato pesto( recipe here: Add 2 tomatoes while grinding the pesto)
1/2 cup almonds, sliced
Grated processed cheese ½ cup

Directions
  • Cook pasta, and drain; reserve.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
  • Add basil; cook, stirring, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chopped mint and parsley. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add pumpkin, stock, and pesto; stir to combine well.
  • Bring to a simmer. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Toss pasta with pumpkin-basil mixture.
  • Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or eight individual dishes. Top with almonds and sprinkle cheese.
  • Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot!

Simple Cheesy Broccoli Noodles Casserole

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PREP TIME 20 Min
TOTAL TIME 50 Min
SERVINGS 4


Ingredients
 4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
3cups Green broccoli florets
1 can processed cheese spread or 1 ½ cups grated cheese
¾ cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
½ cup garlic croutons ( like we put in tomato soup) or broken crackers

Directions
  • Heat oven to 375°F.
  • Spray 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
  • Cook noodles as directed on package, adding broccoli for last 2 minutes of cooking time.
  • Drain noodles and broccoli and keep aside in a pan.
  • In same saucepan, stir cheese spread, milk and pepper until smooth.
  • Stir in noodles and broccoli.
  • Spoon into the casserole.
  • Sprinkle with crushed crackers or croutons.
  • Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown.

Veggy Veg Enchiladas

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Veg Enchiladas
It’s the time for Mexico! And Mexican cuisine to me means nachos, burritos, tortillas and spicy beans! Most of the Mexican dishes are easy to prepare and can be made in huge batches as well, such as a single one pot dish for a family of 4. Enchiladas basically are like Mexican rolls with a cheesy sauce, which can be had simply like rolls or you can bake it with the sauce. The filling can be made 2-3 days in advance as well. You can serve this as a main course at a party, or make it for your and kids’ tiffins! Just prepare a day in advance for dinner, save a few rolls, freeze overnight, next day just heat in microwave for 2 mins and ready to pack for lunch! I’m making a vegetarian version here. You can easily add boiled chicken, pork, beef, mutton, fish, or eggs to the filling as well whatever you like the most.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Serves 8
Veg EnchiladasIngredients
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
2 teaspoons ground cumin/ jeera
1/4 cup all-purpose flour/maida
1/4 cup tomato paste/puree
1 cup vegetable stock/soup
Salt and ground pepper
3 cups grated cheese (1 ½ cup processed,1 cup cheddar, ½ cup parmesan)
1 cup boiled black beans, rinsed and drained
200 gms chopped spinach
100 gms corn kernels (thaw if frozen)
6 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
16 corn tortillas (6-inch)
Directions
  • Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium.
  • Add 1 teaspoon cumin, flour, and tomato paste; cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  • Whisk in broth and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and let simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  • Make filling: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups cheese, beans, spinach, corn, green onion whites, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin; add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Lightly oil two 8-inch square baking dishes; set aside.
  • Stack tortillas, and wrap in damp paper towels; microwave on high for 1 minute. (This softens them)
  • Top each tortilla with a 1/3 cup of filling; roll up tightly and arrange, open edge facing down, in greased baking dishes.
  • Dividing evenly, sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with sauce.
  • Bake it uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool for 5 minutes; serve garnished with spring onions.

Chef’s Tip: Prepare the enchiladas till stacking in baking dishes, and cover baking dishes with plastic cling wrap and then aluminum foil. Place sauce in a separate airtight container. You can deep freeze enchiladas and sauce for up to 1 month. This is for my friends staying abroad, who mostly can afford only frozen food due to lack of time.
To bake from frozen: Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight (or microwave on high 2 minutes, stirring once halfway through). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove foil and plastic wrap from baking dishes, and pour sauce over enchiladas; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes then remove foil, and bake until bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Quick One Pot Chicken Pie

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One pot chicken pie
This one pot chicken pie recipe is really easy and so simple. All it needs is a few ingredients and just one big skillet, and you can make a delicious meal for an entire family in minutes. It’s also ideal when you’re planning to have many guests over and do not have time to make many complex or time consuming dishes. You can even free it for 1-2 days for reusing. The best part is you can cut the slices and wrap in cling film and give to your kids in their lunch box the next day or have as breakfast with coffee! You can easily make the vegetarian version of the same buy replacing chicken with chickpeas, pumpkin, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant or any other vegetable of your choice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
Ingredients
CHICKEN PIE FILLING
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
7-8 sliced fresh mushrooms
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (Boil the chicken and shred with a fork)
2 cups frozen cubed hash browns
1 cup long sliced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley/coriander
Pastry Crust
1 8-9 inch refrigerated piecrust
1 egg white

Preparation
Recipe of Filling:
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Melt 1/3 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add flour/maida, and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Gradually add chicken stock and milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 6 to 7 minutes or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in Creole seasoning.
  • Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a pan and add onion and mushrooms, and sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, hash brown, carrots, peas and parsley, and sauce.

Prepare the Crust:
  • Place 1 piecrust inside a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet (thick bottomed kadhai).
  • Spoon all chicken mixture over piecrust, and top with remaining piecrust.
  • Whisk egg whites and brush top of piecrust with egg white. Cut 4 to 5 slits on top of the pie for steam to escape.
  • Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 70 mins or until golden brown.

How to make Creole seasoning
This recipe makes 1 1/4 cups (20 tablespoons) of Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons salt
Directions
In a small bowl, combine onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt. Mix well in a shaker or in a grinder for 30 seconds. Store in an airtight container.

 
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