Tuesday, December 14

A Merry Cofer Christmas, Pesto Lasagna and a Winter Wonderland

Oh, how I love the weekends.  Nashville, you've done it again.  You've simultaneously managed to create a winter wonderland the day after a fantastic Christmas party hosted by our dear friends, the Cofers.  A deliciously snowy and cozy Sunday such as this could come in very handy if one were recovering after a night of Rudolph and Santa-inspired beverages, theoretically speaking of course.

The Christmas party was AWESOME.  The lovely hosts didn't neglect a thing.  Present were fall-out-of-your-chair-hilarious games, Thrift store-gift swaps and a photo booth set up by the one and only Claudia Kay.  As you can see, we spent way too much time in front of Claudia's camera and homemade backdrop.  This was the most blog-friendly pic I could find.

In order to completely outdo themselves, they also made Pesto Lasagna.  I'm a big fan of lasagna.  I'm sure it's rather homely of me to admit, but this lasagna in particular is anything but.  Definitely guest appropriate, but even better enjoyed in blizzard-like conditions.

I stumbled across this recipe on my favorite new website Pinterest, a cataloguing platform of sorts that allows you to create little folders of things that you love.  For me, it's home to yummy recipes, gift ideas, DIY inspirations and general things that I covet.  You must check it out...if you're ever needing ideas for just about anything under the moon, this is the place to go.

The Italian Dish, who originally featured this recipe, deserves all the credit.  The reviews were so great, I decided to make it for a group of friends without a trial run, which always make me a bit nervous.  I knew though, when I dipped my finger in the bechamel sauce that it would not disappoint.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the plates were licked clean.  I added shredded chicken between the layers of sauce, pesto and cheese so the boys couldn't complain about being forced into vegetarianism once again.

(The A-MAZ-ing) Pesto Lasagna
photo courtesy The Italian Dish

1 box lasagna noodles, cooked according to instructions on box

3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into chunks, or shredded
1-1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (whole or lowfat)
1 teaspoon "better than bouillon" (no msg)
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Prepare pesto: Place the chunks of parmesan cheese into the food processor and process until finely ground.  Add the basil, garlic and pine nuts to food processor.  Process, using pulses, till finely chopped.  With machine running, add the olive oil until pesto is smooth.

Prepare bechamel: In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, until the flour is cooked.  Stir in teaspoon of Better than Bouillon.  Whisk.  Add about a third of the milk, slowly, and whisk over medium heat.  Add the nutmeg and pepper.  When the sauce is smooth, add another third of the milk and whisk.  When the sauce is smooth again, add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a heat proof bowl or Pyrex cup and let cool slightly.

Assemble Lasagna: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In an 8x8 pan, place about 1/3 cup of the bechamel to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay first layer of lasagna noodles.  Add enough bechamel to coat the noodles.  Add some pesto and spread into the bechamel.  Add a handful of the grated Parmesan. Continue to layer the noodles, bechamel, pesto and Parmesan until the last layer of noodles.  On top of this, just spread the bechamel only, add the rest of the Parmesan and top with the mozzarella.  Sprinkle the oregano on top.  Wrap tightly with foil (preferably Reynolds No-Stick foil).
Bake for one hour (if using regular, cooked noodles) or one hour and 15 minutes (if using no-boil noodles). Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more, until top is golden.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

If you're making this in advance, be sure to allow bechamel to cool completely before layering.  Cover and store in fridge.  Let it sit at room temperature for an hour prior to cooking.

Friday, December 10


Here's a little gem for you winter weekend.  I'm such a girl, but I can't help myself.  I'm in love with this song.  Have a weekend filled with fa la la's, special cookies and old Christmas movies (fingers crossed for snow again).
I'll be back soon, I promise.  I have a super yummy recipe to share.
love, love, love.

Sunday, December 5

Lemon-Pear Breakfast Bread

As I sit here and write, we're watching the first of the season's snow fall while we sip on our hot, foamy coffee and listen (one of us begrudgingly) to Michael Buble's Holiday radio station on Pandora.  Can a girl get any more sappy?  Probably not, but you should know by now that I am quite the romantic.

For not having an ounce of my Christmas shopping done, I'm feeling peculiarly relaxed.  Peaceful even, and I wonder if it will vanish without a second's notice when I realize just how much I have to do before our trip home for the Holidays.  And then I remember a little chat my Grandma and I had last weekend.  It is no cliche to say how wise this woman is.  I suppose it's my age that allows me to feel such gratitude for her enlightened disposition in life, rather than roll my eyes and wish she were done with the anecdotes and bite size pieces of advice.

We were probably talking about our Thanksgiving that we had 2000 miles away from each other,  when she reminded me that the wisest man that once lived said "simplicity is the essence of life."  And just when I begin to get overwhelmed with all that I should be doing this season, I'm given a little perspective.  A little gem of advice once again, from the wisest woman I know, and that is to place importance on what that really matters.

I know Thanksgiving has passed, but again I find myself especially thankful.  Right now, for Sundays and snow, oh and homemade bread.  Because what's a blog post without a recipe?

Lemon-Pear Breakfast Bread

1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1 cup pear puree
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 ripe pears, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a 9"x4" pan with oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup oil, lemon zest, eggs, honey, pear puree, and poppy seeds.  Add to dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Fold in grated pears.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake until bread is golden brown, slightly cracked on the surface and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 75-85 minutes.  Remove from oven; let stand until cooled completely before serving.

recipe courtesy of O magazine