Friday, October 14, 2011

The benefit of frozen meals



Yesterday we went and ran errands at the mall. When we got home, I fed the baby and passed him off for some daddy/son bonding time. And promptly fell asleep on the couch while catching up on the 900 hours of tv we have DVRed from when the inlaws were here.

I was awoken with a kiss on the forehead about an hour later. Dinner was on the table, the laundry had been done, and Thatbaby was as happy as a clam sitting in his swing. During one of our last "date nights, " Thatboy had confided in me that he was a little nervous how I was going to handle life once the baby came around. With my anxiety disorder he thought it would be easy for me to get worked up about all the things that I didn't get done in a day with the new baby to worry about. I tried to assure him that his fears were exactly the reason I had been doing so much prep work for the past month. I wouldn't need to worry about making breakfasts, lunches, and dinners because they were all ready to go in the freezer. And since we wouldn't be going out much, laundry and cleanup would probably be kept to a bare minimum.

What I wasn't expecting was how much Thatboy would rise to the occasion of getting things done. It's truly team work - since I did all the prep, it's very easy for him to make things available. With meals, all he has to do is defrost! Which means that while I was sleeping last night, he could pull the lasagna from the freezer, stick it in the oven and claim complete credit for making dinner.

He was pretty excited for this lasagna. I had made the same recipe a couple months back, when H had her son, and thought it would be a good idea to whip up a batch for us. It's an Emeril Lagasse recipe - which means it has a bit of kick to it, and also means it uses his fabulous "Essence." I made a ton of Essence earlier this year when I made his amazingly delicious gumbo (and seriously - if any of y'all are watching Hart of Dixie I can vouch that Emeril's gumbo is way better than gator food). You can easily find a recipe for the stuff and if you're like me, use it in pretty much everything.

Chicken, Mushroom, and Spinach Alfredo Lasagna (from Emeril Lagasse)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 7 cups milk
  • 2 tspns kosher salt
  • 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 1/4 tspn nutmeg
  • 1 pound cooked spinach, chopped
  • 3 cups grated Parmesan
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 pounds chicken breast
  • 1 TBSP Essence
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets
  • 1 TBSP butter, cut into 8 pieces
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are browned and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and stir about 2 minutes.
  4. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, 5 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Season the chicken with the Essence and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and place in the hot pan.
  7. Sear the chicken, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool and set aside. When cool, cut into bite size pieces.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13 by 3-inch casserole with cooking spray, and spread about 1/2 cup of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  9. Lay 3 sheets of pasta across the bottom of the dish and spread 3/4 cup of the bechamel sauce over the pasta.
  10. Sprinkle 1/4 of the chicken over the bechamel sauce, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the remaining Parmesan.
  11. Lay another 3 sheets of pasta over the chicken. Repeat 2 additional times with the remaining bechamel sauce, chicken, Parmesan, and pasta, ending with a layer of pasta covered with bechamel sauce.
  12. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the bechamel sauce and scatter the butter pieces over the top. Place the casserole on a parchment paper-lined 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.

4 comments:

  1. Looks like you are well prepared. Good for you!

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  2. I need to cleat space in my freezer which means make that ketchip with all of those frozen tomatoes so that I can be prepared as well.

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  3. I'm so impressed. I didn't make a single freezer meal. So far it's worked out fine, but some nights I wish I'd planned ahead a little better!

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  4. Ooh you've got your premade lasagna, and I've got my big fat bag of premade dumplings!

    I love Emeril. His show is kind of what made me more passionate for cooking. :0)

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