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What you can expect

January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!!  I hope everyone enjoyed ringing in the New Year with their family and/or friends and may 2010 bring happiness and peace to you and yours.

With the turning of the calendar and the passing of a decade, it’s natural to reflect on where one has been and where one is headed.  Looking back, 2009 was a good year for the Schultzes.  I feel like there are some loose ends that remain, but we’re determined to tie them up and tackle 2010 and all it has in store!

With regard to this blog, it spent the better part of 2009 as an idea bouncing around in my head.  Seeing as it’s so new, 2010 offers endless room for growth and definition, so please bear with me as I find my way in “blogspace.”  I’ve been thinking about what direction I want to take now that I’ve made it official, posted, and told people about this.  Should I focus on baking and blog mostly about those ventures?  Should I focus mostly on the healthier foods/dishes we try?  Or focus on the non-healthier versions we make since people often turn their noses up at the healthier things we make?

And I don’t think I can answer that yet, so I’m setting out blogging about our everyday food.  “What exactly does that mean?” you ask.

It means you’ll likely see posts for anything and everything from dog treats to special cakes to weekly menus.  They say variety is the spice of life, right?  This blog will probably be quite spicy, if that’s true!

Speaking of spicy… I want to share this recipe I tried out for my family at our Christmas gathering.  I have to admit: I was skeptical this would work out.  It’s a crockpot recipe.  My crockpot and I have a love-hate relationship.  I want to love it… but it seems to hate me and 9 times out of 10 whatever I try ends up tasting pretty similar to what I’ve tried before.  But I am determined our relationship can work!

So I turned to A Year of Slow Cooking, a blog where the author resolved for 2008 to use her slow cooker every day for a year.  Crazy?  A little.  But she succeeded and even wrote a book about it!  I thought “Where else will I find such a plethora of successful slow cooker recipes?!”  I couldn’t imagine anyone eating crockpot food for a year – or at least what I had grown used to when made in my crockpot; that made me think the author, Stephanie, must’ve found something… some trick, some key, to cooking a tasty offering in slow cooker fashion.

With great pleasure, I present to you

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Source: A Year of Slow Cooking

(As always, my comments are italicized.)

  • Uncooked traditional lasagna noodles (I used ~1/2 box of whatever lasagna noodles I grabbed at the store.  Yes, I put that much thought into which specific brand I bought! LOL  I am very excited to try this again with whole wheat noodles, however.)
  • 4 cooked chicken breast halves, cut up (I used 3 large breasts, pounded to uniform thickness with a meat mallet and then cooked off in a pan stovetop with some extra buffalo wing sauce thrown in for good measure.  Once cooked, I let the chicken sit for a few minutes before attempting to slice it up while nearly burning my fingers.)
  • Jar of prepared pasta sauce (I used a 24 oz jar of Classico Spicy Red Pepper sauce since we had it in the cupboard.)
  • 1 c. buffalo wing sauce (We always have Buffalo Wild Wings sauce in the house.  I used what was left of the bottle of Mild (~1/2-2/3 cup) and had purchased a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Wings Buffalo Sauce based on recipe reviews I’d read for Buffalo Chicken Dip.  That apparently is THE stuff to use for that wing-flavor, but is definitely spicier than the Mild BWW sauce.)
  • 3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 15 oz tub ricotta cheese (I used a bit more since we also had an open container in the fridge.)
  • 2 c. shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar blend) (I used just cheddar since that’s all we had.)
  • 1/2 c. bleu cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 c. of water

(Here’s where I’m just going to modify the directions to explain what I did a bit.  I followed Stephanie’s directions fairly closely because I was certain I’d screw it up somehow!)
Spray a 5 qt crockpot thoroughly or use a crockpot liner.  (Stephanie states that if you use less than a 5 qt crockpot, cut back on ingredients.  She’s right; it’s important to have your crockpot at least 1/2 full.)

Combine the cut-up chicken, pasta sauce, and wing sauce in a large bowl.  Ladle a big spoonful of the sauce into the bottom of your crockpot.  Cover with a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, breaking to fit the shape of the crockpot as needed.

Add a smear of ricotta cheese to the top of the noodles (I found it easiest to break the noodles to fit the crockpot then take the noodle out to spread the ricotta on.)  Add a layer of chopped bell pepper, followed by a handful of shredded cheese.

Repeat layers until you run out of ingredients.

Add the bleu cheese crumbles, if desired. Put the 1/4 cup of water into your empty pasta sauce jar and shake. Pour the liquid over the top of the entire lasagna.

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 4-5.  (We cooked this in two parts – I made this Saturday afternoon and we cooked on High for ~2-3 hours before turning it off and letting it cool slightly before sticking it in the refrigerator overnight.  The following morning, we cooked it on High for ~2 hours before unplugging it and transporting it to my brother’s house where we turned it back on High until warmed up again before leaving it on Warm.)  When cooking time is complete, unplug and take off the lid of the crock.  Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting into (Stephanie eludes to the fact that if you don’t let this sit for a little bit, it will COMPLETELY fall apart when you cut into it.  For us, since it sat overnight in the refrigerator, it had “set” quite a bit – it looked soupy and sloppy when we put it in, but when we pulled it out and later sliced into it, it was fine although the noodles were overdone.)

Wow… this was DELICIOUS.  I would like to be able to give you a rating of spiciness, however my 12-year old nephew said “It’s not really that spicy” but both my brother and mom said it did have some kick to it.  With the leftovers, I found some areas were spicier than others, but it was SO GOOD and will be made again.  Soon.  I do think next time I might mix some bleu cheese in with the ricotta to put in the layers to carry that flavor throughout a little, but I like bleu cheese.  It didn’t exactly look pretty, but the taste more than made up for it!

I used Low-Fat Ricotta, Reduced-Fat Cheddar, and Reduced-Fat Bleu Cheese crumbles; it didn’t take away from the flavor one bit and no one would’ve known had I not said anthing.  Next time, I’ll make it with whole wheat noodles, since that’s usually what we have in the cupboard.

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