Sunday, June 24, 2012

Black gold, here we come!!

As it turns out, I think I have found a successful combination for my compost bin.  My grass clippings, and woody yard debris, are rapidly decomposing into what appears to be the first signs of healthy compost.  It's not done, but it's *well* on it's way.  The smell is right, there are no flies or spiders, and it's slowly turning into a dark, rich, earthy aromatic pile of soil goodness!

 

I'm happy with my choice to use just grass clippings and woody yard debris.

I had spent a good deal of time reading up on the perfect compost contents, but in the end, food scraps would be a fly attractant, and, of course, that would bring other critters that would not facilitate decomposition, but rather pest annoyances.

I had started with about 90% grass clippings (nitrogen).  I then happened upon a simple and straight forward site.  The author said, "woody debris (carbon), and nothing else, provided air and water are managed appropriately in the pile, will eventually break down, just not as fast, but a pile heavy in nitrogen will not."  So, I added a lot of woody debris to my pile.  I think it ended up being about 60% nitrogen and 40% carbon, or at least that is my best guess.  I also added the ashes from the burn pile.

Given where I live (very dry), and the frequency with which we turn it, it's progressing faster than I anticipated.  It's pretty clear we have made a fairly happy place for our organisms to go to work, and that's what it appears they are doing.

Would my combination work for everyone?  I have no clue.  This is my first composting adventure, but given the current rate of success, I would say it's been very productive, and while far from complete, it's moving in the right direction, and it promises to make for some fun planting next spring!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fresh fruit kabobs...freeze 'em!

I got this idea from the Today Show, and the segment featuring Ellie Krieger.  Historically, I'm not a fan of her recipes, as they are often health food dishes masquerading as decadent ones.  I'd rather the health food look like health food, and be pimped as health food.

 

I like this one, and it was easy.  One package of semi sweet chocolate chips, melted in the top of a double boiler.  Skewer fruit (any combination, I would think.  Ellie had strawberries and banana's, too).  Drizzle with melted chocolate, then freeze.  Bag when frozen.  Serve on a hot day, or a cold one, depending upon your preference.


 

I set my kabobs on a wire rack, so the excess chocolate would spill through vs. pooling up around the fruit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Can he hear me?

Jet is going to be 13 in August.  I can't believe where all the time has gone.  Is it really possible that 13 years have passed since we brought home that darling baby puppy?  It was 1999 when he joined the family.  Our first Sheltie.  Arguably, the best acquisition of my entire life.

 

He can't jump up on the bed very easily any longer, and getting down is risky business for him.  He really has to think about that dismount, but he can cross the yard in 2 seconds, flat, to give crap to the neighbor Rottie he still thinks needs a good ass whipping.

He can still get up on the sofa, and he does.  Kindle often beats him to it, but she must get in line...when he wants the spot next to me, she must move, whether or not she wants to.

He can't hear very well, but it surprises me how finely turned his hearing is to the sound of a crinkling treat bag.  Some things they always hear, I suppose.

I whisper to him, every day, right into his ear, "I love you," yet I don't know if he can hear me.  None the less, I will do it until he breathes no more.  I can't imagine life without this dog, and the thought is crippling, but I know that day is coming.  It's hard for me to think he can't hear my voice any longer...I hope he can.  If not, I hope he feels the love I have for him.

The light he has brought to my life is impossible to describe.  He has been with me through some of the best times of my life, and some of the worst.  I know God sent him here to watch over me, knowing the hardest days were yet to come, knowing this dog would pull me through, time and again.

Some people don't understand the love I have for this dog.  I don't really care.  I know what he means to me, the impact he has had on me, and the sheer joy he has brought me, so many times I could never re-count them all.

I look forward to many more experiences with him, but as he ages, each day we have together is so much sweeter...I cherish them all.  I cherish him. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grilled chicken caesar salad with polenta croutons

Tonight I made a caesar salad.  It was really delicious.  I've just gotten into salad season, meaning, I'm craving them like I don't usually crave them.  Must be the warmer weather.

 

I used a creamy, traditional dressing recipe with anchovies.  I also made polenta croutons.  This was inspired by a local restaurant, and while I'm glad I tried them, because they were excellent, they were a lot of work.  This is one recipe that won't make it into the recipe list, unless I can figure out a less laborious way to prepare the croutons, but a they are worthy of a close-up...

 

A little grilled chicken, and it was ready for prime time.  Excellent salad, excellent dressing, excellent croutons.

Friday, June 15, 2012

And speaking of Hunger Games...

I have considered writing this post since I saw The Hunger Games a bit ago, but the point of the post, while short, is gut-wrenching for me.

I read all of the books in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, and I wanted to see the movie.  I wanted to visualize the strange world of Panem, and its occupants.

I knew the story of Rue, the young girl from district 11 who is killed while Katniss watches over her, but in the movie, the visual of Rue hit me in the gut like a freight train.  For those who know me, and know what Rue looks like in the movie, you will understand.  Heart-breaking symbolism...

Regulation by-products

This really should be a "thoughtful Tuesday" post, but it's not Tuesday, and I don't feel like waiting to write it and post it, so here we are, on a Friday...my thoughts for consideration, or not.

A few things have bubbled up lately that have made me stop and think about 'regulation' in our lives, and specifically, in *my* life.

As a society, we think regulation is great.  Regulate everything, from animal agriculture to cigarettes and guns, and everything in between.  Regulation makes life great, right?  Someone to 'police' those we interact with on a daily basis.  The food grower, the dog breeder, the hunter, the farmer...tell them how to run their lives, and our *own*  lives will be better.

I think about the native Americans.  They didn't need regulation.  They didn't waste, they were master recyclers, and they didn't worry overly much about what other tribes were doing, so long as they weren't making war.  Somehow they managed to live, and do so quite effectively, off the land, leaving little to no carbon footprint.

The first 'regulators' in this country were the British, as an umbrella 'empire' over British America, or the original colonies.  While independently governed within their colony 'walls', the colonies were, for all intents and purposes, British...ruled by that empire, an empire that was over 3,000 miles away.

Can you image how a 3,000 mile transit, over open water, must have looked to those early settlers?  It was probably on par with how we now view a trip to the moon and back.  Being ruled from that distance must have felt really weird.  I can't even stomach being ruled by the idiots in Washington, on my home soil, much less the kind of ruling that was established for this country in the early 17th century.

In 1776 this country declared its independence from British rule.

Freedom...

Certainly a hard fought battle, as most battles are, but totally worth it.  Why, then, once freedom is achieved, do we panic, and bring forth regulation that slowly, and methodically, chips away at the freedom we fought so hard for?  Do we we have so little faith in our ability to function, to care for ourselves, to work for what we need, and to enjoy the fruits of freedom, that we march toward regulation with unquestioning faith?

How stupid!

A discussion yesterday with a friend was kind of the final piece to the puzzle that has brought forth this dialog.  Planting my own garden is another piece of that puzzle, as is my composting efforts, here in my own home.  Silly things to spur on such a deep subject, but as I thought about some of the things my friend and I discussed, I realized that we have, through that never ending march toward regulation, created a homogenous existence, devoid of choice, other than within the walls that have been built to contain us.

Think Hunger Games.  Throw us into an arena, and we are free to choose our 'game', but in the end, the big prize isn't ours.  Why?  Because we have regulated ourselves into that arena, and many of the choices we might have made have been removed from the 'menu'.  We can only choose what's on the menu.

A few years back I watched a movie called "Food, Inc."  I think many who watched it were lured into believing everything presented.  Shock and awe were certainly options we were left to feel, and I won't tell you I was immune to those feelings, but I also sat and thought, long and hard, about the other side.  What were we missing?  At the time I found an excellent article that reviewed, and debunked many of the points made in the movie.

In discussing Food, Inc. with my friend yesterday, I was reminded of that article, and I shared it with her.  I'd like to share it with you here, too.

I also want to share with you one of my most favorite articles, written by Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs.  It's about the speech he gave at the FFA (Future Farmers of America) in 2009.  His write-up of that speech is moving, IMO, and very much worth a read.

In planting my own garden over the past month, and in the efforts I have gone to to construct my garden with free, or low cost items, as well as many recycled items as I can find, I have seen many of the points made in the two links included in the two preceding paragraphs.

First off, farming, whether in your back-yard, or on hundreds of acres, is a labor of love.  It might be a hobby for the back-yard farmer, but if half of your hobby crop dies, it doesn't have the impact on your livelihood that the same loss percentage would have on the career farmer, and the family he is trying to provide for, yet we criticize him for the way in which he contributes to the effort to feed the 6+ million inhabitants of this planet.

We are removed from our food, and the effort with which it's produced.  We judge those who grow it, and tell them, through regulation, they aren't doing a good enough job, yet how many of us are living off the grid, growing our own vegatables, and raising our own meat?

Many cry foul and say "organic" and "free range", but do we really understand what those things mean?  Do we really think we can feed 6+ billion people, and also have enough land to "free-range" our feed animals?

I'm of the mind that what we eat, and how we eat, should not be regulated by anyone.  I believe we, alone, are responsible for our choices.

From the Slanker's write-up, discussing the movie: 

"Where is the Accountability?

The movie now jumps to a man ordering some fast food (seven sandwiches) and three soft drinks for himself, his wife, and two daughters. He pays $11.48. They are all overweight and he is a diabetic spending about $200 a month on prescription drugs to “stay healthy.” Then it shows the same family in a supermarket turning up their noses at broccoli priced at $1.29 per pound because it’s too expensive. In other words, instead of a grain-based omega-3 deficient meal costing $11.48 they could have bought 8.9 pounds of broccoli and drank free water from a fountain. The broccoli would have made a highly nutritious meal (loaded with nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids) whereas the grain-based sandwiches and corn syrup drinks were not. No matter how you make the comparison, the broccoli with free water provided the greatest value in terms of bulk, nutrition, and value."

IMO, we should not blame the producers.  It's all that regulation that has led us to where we are today.  We have a very straight-forward, simple, and non-governmental way in which to regulate.  It's called our wallet.  If you don't like something, don't blame those who produce it, blame those who buy it, and those who buy it, my friends, are you and I.

Why is McDonald's a billion dollar business that thrives?  Because that is where our wallet focuses its contents.

A word about organic:  First off, is it, really?  A friend just recently suggested a fungicide for my tomato plants that was suggested by a "100% organic grower for fine restaurants..."  Hum, organic?  Fungicide?  Not sure about that.

What is 'certified organic'?  Is the soil tested?  The water?  How about the inorganic ground water from surrounding inorganic producers?  Who verifies the produce from these organic farms have never been treated for fungus (i.e., the above mentioned fungicide from the 100% organic grower), pests, etc.?  How can we know for sure?

Do I buy organic?  I do not, but it isn't because I don't want to, it's because I simply cannot afford it, but given the choice between the 9 lbs. of broccoli vs. the burgers and corn syrup drinks in the Slanker's review of Kenner's movie, Food, Inc., I would probably choose the broccoli, especially if I was spouting off about how food producers are scheming, and operating sinister food production facilities, cloaked in the stuff of secret societies.

Why do food animal agriculture farmers hide their facilities?  Because people like Wayne Pacelle, Kenner, Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan are ready, waiting to pounce.  Shit, I would be a little gun shy, myself.  And, truth be told, I am...and I'm a small dog breeder, with two intact bitches, but the pressure to stop breeding, even at that level, is often times overwhelming.  It makes one retreat.  After all, if a farmer is operating within the regulation of the USDA (oops, there's that 'regulation' word again), does he have anything to prove to the likes of Pacelle, Kenner, Schlosser and Pollan?  Not in my opinion.  I'd rather the USDA just take leave, and regulate with my wallet.

Footnote:  I just read that we have now topped 7+ billion people on this planet...wow!  And, before anyone corrects my historical facts re: British rule, etc., please understand I do not consider myself a history buff, so any inconsistencies, errors or omissions are unintentional.  The point of my post is regulation.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Watering

After my overwatering (a.k.a. "the wrong kind of watering") crisis, and the suggestion of a couple of friends, I made some self watering apparatuses for my tomato plants.

 

Basically a 1-1/2 liter bottle (*very* tall), inverted, buried into the bucket with the tomato plants, with a hole drilled in the top for re-filling.  These bottles will deliver the water at the roots vs. at the top, or on the leaves, because, as I have learned, tomato leaves and water don't play nice.

Because I was limited in my space, the 2 liter bottles wouldn't work.  I needed something very tall, and relatively narrow.  The Jana water bottles did the trick.

A little hole drilled for refilling, and I'm set.

 

Thanks to good friends Ann and Nancy for their suggestion.



Garden casualty?

 

I'm not sure what to think about the changes in the leaves of my two potted tomato plants.  At first, I thought it might be blight, but after a trip to Lowe's, where I bought the plants, the planters and the soil, I'm not so sure.  The nursery manager says it's leaf burn.  My first question was "what causes this?"  I was told it was "moisture on the foliage, followed by direct, and hot sun."

I don't water the plants from above, but rather at the soil level.  The lawn sprinklers could be contributing to the leaf moisture, so I have asked Cliff to make a short bench to house my potted tomatoes.  That should keep them up, and out of range of the lawn sprinkler's range.  If the problem continues, or worsens, it will be a trip to Lowe's to replace the plants, and try again.

Poor tomato plants...and poor me.  I was really looking forward to eating their fruit later this summer!  I hope it's nothing more than the 'leaf burn', but it's hard to know at this point.  If it's blight, things will go down hill pretty fast.  If it's 'leaf burn', it should stop when the moisture ceases to find its way onto the leaves.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Garden progress

Even though I feel like I'm about a month behind everyone else, this garden project is, first and foremost, a learning experience.  I have already learned many things, and while I will do a few things a little different next year, for all my lack of gardening knowledge, I'm pleased with just how far my instincts have gotten me.

We've had the pallets for a few weeks.  Yesterday I drug them from the side of the house, and laid them out where I'd decided I wanted the garden to go.  These are not your grandmother's pallets.  They are much larger, and they are *heavy*.  Moving them was no small feat.  After leveling them up a bit, it was time to add the trellis.  Some cheap pipe, a few fittings, nylon string I had in my sewing box, and some leftover hooks in the tool box, and we had a trellis for the pole beans.




 

My three, lonely little pots are three of my herbs.  The two in cardboard pots will go into the 3 gallon buckets I picked up at Walmart for $1.67/each, after they sprout and harden.  The terra cotta pot contains my chives.  They will remain in that pot, and I will snip them as needed.

I asked Cliff to build me a rugged potting bench.  I think I will house my chive pot there, when it's done.

Back to the trellis:  7' is the finished height.  From what I have read, 7' is a good height.  We will see, obviously.


 

The tomatoes and sweet peppers have been making their home in the 5 gallon buckets for the past few days, and appear to be happy doing so.


 

I have a little surprise up my sleeve for the garden markers.  Another 'free' project to share with you, thanks to Walmart...more on that later.  =)

The pallet boxes need their weed barrier added (I will use several sheets of newspaper, which is a great, natural weed barrier).  We will be using cedar fencing boards to box in the pallets, and then it will be time to fill them up with soil!  By then, my seed starts will be ready to transplant.

I have a feeling this year I will only get two of the three boxes planted with veggies, but leaving the third pallet empty is just not an option that appeals to me, so I think I will do some flowers, just for fun.

We will soon hang our "welcome, bees" shingle, and pray that everything grows to some degree of success.  No matter what, I have really enjoyed this process.  It's a way to connect to the cycle of life, and watch Mother Nature do what she does best...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fire pit

Where we live, lava rock is everywhere.  In most cases, people don't want it, so what better use for some good sized lava rocks, than to surround the burned out area from the shed burning project a couple of weeks ago, and make a spot for our outdoor fireplace?

A search of Craigslist turned up free rocks.  Had to have the tallish rock in front...a little Stonehenge flavor.  =)

 

A $3.23 bag of Western Red Cedar bark mulch makes a ring for the fireplace, and we're rollin'.

 

The good news?  Next year, when it's yard debris burning time again, and the compost bin is overflowing, we can lift out the fireplace, burn right here again, and add a fresh bag of mulch to freshen it up when the burning is done.

And speaking of the compost bin, I'm quite pleased with the progress.  It smells earthy, and is breaking down as it should.  Very happy with that project.  I won't be able to use it this year, I suspect, but it will be ready next year, so I will have something exciting to look forward to for next year's vegetable crop.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lemon pistachio biscotti

 

I can't claim this one as my own, though I sure wish I could.  If you are a biscotti lover, and have even a passing interest in lemon and pistachio flavors, I encourage you to try this one.  Because we are preparing for a road trip, and I like to have things in the car we can eat, without spending money, and without feeling we are skimping, I usually make a few things to take with us.  I made fried chicken party wings this morning, and now the lemon pistachio biscotti.  This is a first for me with this recipe, and I'm so glad I tried it.  Beautiful, and delicious.

It appears that it's been re-published several times, and referred to as "Starbuck's Lemon Tipped Biscotti", but I will avoid being another re-publisher, and just share the link with you here.  I followed the recipe, with one change to the icing, and it turned out beautifully.

When I made the icing, I found it was far too runny to stick to the biscotti and exceedingly tart, so I doubled the powdered sugar.  Seeing the finished product, I would absolutely do it again.

If you over cook biscotti, it doesn't really hurt it, unless you get past 'over baked' and into 'charred'!  With biscotti, the goal is a harder, dry cookie, and that lends itself well to imperfect baking times.

Once the dough comes together, it's really just a couple more steps.

 

Once rolled and on the baking sheet, a light press with your fingers is all you need.

 

I bake mine on parchment paper, as it allows me to easily remove each of the biscuits prior to cutting, and transfer them to my cutting board for the slicing step.  You can see my finger imprint from pressing down the logs.  Not a big deal.  It doesn't need to be perfect.

 

I slice at an angle, because it adds some visual interest, but that's purely a personal preference.  I once heard it said that we eat first with our eyes, so to me, the way something looks either welcomes us in, or turns us away.  Cut them as thin or as thick as you like, and straight or at an angle.

Before they are done, you have to bake them, cut sides up, for a few more minutes.

 

I usually bake my biscotti at about 375 degrees, and for about 25 minutes on the first bake.  After slicing, I bake them another 8-9 minutes on each side.  After cooling, this one can either be dipped into the glaze, or drizzled on top.  The recipe suggested dipping each end of the biscotti, and that is what I did.

 

Enjoy this one.  I suspect it could be a favorite of a few of you.  It sure has made my favorite list.

Fried chicken

Arguably, my sister makes the best fried chicken on the face of the planet.  It's mouth-watering, beautiful to look at, and it tops the 'comfort food' category in my mind, right up there with a superb pot pie, or home-made mac and cheese.

After a visit down south, where my sister lives, seeing how hard she worked in the kitchen to make her fried chicken for the family, and so many other wonderful dishes, I decided I could learn to fry my own chicken.  I didn't just want to copy her recipe, and while it still holds a spot in my mind as some of the best I have ever had, I created my own version that's pretty darn good, too.

 

The process is similar, but the ingredients are different.

There are only two major tricks to frying chicken that I have discovered.  The chicken should be room temperament (fresh from the fridge creates to much of an oil temperature drop when you begin frying your pieces because the chicken is so cold), and you need to keep your oil at as consistent a temperature as possible.  I live at 3300', and I find the ideal temperature for frying is right around 375 degrees.

No matter how neat you are in the kitchen, frying chicken is a messy job.

 

I find a splatter shield over my frying pan really helps, and I don't think I would want to fry chicken without it.  I also use a candy thermometer, clipped to the side of the pan, to keep tabs on my oil temperature.  This is really quite important, from a safety stand-point, as well as a texture and doneness stand-point.

My sister fries mainly only chicken wings, and taking a lead from her, I fry only party wings (the first and second segments).  I find the party wings lay flatter in the pan, and I don't need as much oil.  In frying chicken, I found a real benefit to sticking to party wings.  They are small, fry quick, and you end up with less trouble keeping your oil temperature consistent for each batch you fry.

Ingredients:

Canola or Safflower oil (or any higher smoke point oil)
4 lb. bag of party wings, thawed and patted dry
2 cups buttermilk
6 cups flour
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried sage
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground, black pepper

Directions:

Into a large frying pan, add enough oil to come up about an inch on the sides.  A little more is okay, but you shouldn't need more than about 1-1/2".  Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the tip is submerged, but not touching the bottom of the pan.  Set oil to heat over medium to medium high heat.

Layer paper towels into a cookie sheet, and place a wire rack on top of the paper towels.  I use my cookie cooling racks, and just overlap them.

To a medium mixing bowl, add buttermilk.  Set aside.

To a shallow baking dish, add flour, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, sage and salt/pepper. Stir to combine.  Set aside.  If you prefer stronger flavors, increase any/all of your spices.  This just happens to be the combination I found the most flavorful, and balanced.

Set out a plate to catch the prepared chicken before frying.

Dredge chicken through buttermilk, then through flour mixture, and set on the plate.  Prepare enough chicken for one batch at a time.  In my frying pan, that's about 8 party wing segments.

When the oil is heated to 375 degrees, carefully place your chicken into the hot oil.  It hardly needs mentioning that this is a very hot pan of oil, and care should be taken to keep from burning fingers, or any other body part(s).  It's also very important to keep your eye on the temperature of the oil.  Do not let it creep much past 375 degrees.

Cover the pan with a spatter shield.  Do NOT cover with a lid.  Condensation will build on a lid, and drip into the pan, creating a fire hazard!!

Fry the chicken until it's deep golden brown on all sides, turning frequently to keep it from burning.

Remove the first batch of chicken to your prepared cookie sheet, using a pair of tongs, and start dredging again with your next batch.

I use one pair of tongs to place the chicken into the pan, and another pair to remove it.

 

Let the chicken cool for at least 15-20 minutes, more if you use larger pieces of chicken.  It will remain warm, and any juices will re-distribute through the chicken, which will only enhance the flavor and texture.

When I make fried chicken, which isn't very often, because, well, it's quite high in fat, I make enough to keep leftovers in the fridge.  Cold chicken for breakfast is pretty good, too.  It also beats fast food on road trips!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dutch babies...a family favorite!

 

I've been making this recipe for years.  Served with lemon wedges and powdered sugar, it's a sure winner.  Strawberries are a nice touch, too.  And it's easy.  A single batch serves four.  Double it, and you can serve 8.

  

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
As you like it: powdered sugar, lemon wedges, syrup, fresh fruit, etc.

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Into each of four 8" soufle dishes, place 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter.  Place dishes into a preheated oven to melt butter.

In a blender, combine eggs, milk and flour, and blend until frothy, about a minute.  Scrape down the sides, if necessary.  For this step, I use my immersion blender, as clean up is so much faster, but a standard blender is more common.  If you have an immersion blender, use it.

When butter is melted, and bubbling, split batter into four batches (about 3/4 cup each), and pour directly into hot butter.  I simply open the oven, pull out the rack, and pour the batter into the dishes vs. removing them from the oven.

Bake until pancakes are fluffy, well risen, and start to brown slightly on the edge.

Remove from oven, and serve immediately.  This dish can also be made in a 9" x 13" glass baking dish.  You can also use three pie tins, as I did today.  Pie tins are larger, and hold a bit more batter, so I recommend just three vs. four.  You would split your butter/batter according to the number of dishes you use.

I like mine with fresh lemon juice squeezed from lemon wedges, and a bit of powdered sugar, but anything works.  Syrup is good, or any fresh fruit.  Dress them however you like.

An empty dish is the best sign you served a winner...


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Creamy chicken pesto lasagna

This weekend is a work weekend, and spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not in the cards.  I decided the best course of action was to make a lasagna.  I had enough leftovers from other dishes, I thought I could pull something together easily, and I did.

 

I made my brussel sprout pesto.  I then shredded up some chicken I had leftover from the last 'beer in the rear' chicken I made.  BTW, if you haven't tried this method of cooking a roast chicken, I really can't recommend it highly enough.  If I have time tomorrow, I might make another.  If I do, I will post my rub for it, as well as some photos.  It's one of the most juicy oven roasted chicken recipes I've ever had.  More on that later...

With my pesto made, chicken shredded, and cheeses shredded, I was ready to go.

Disclaimer:  This is NOT a low fat, or low calorie dish.  This is intended as a nice side to a beautiful salad.  I serve mine with arugula tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and some lemon zest.

I can't give you quantities on this one, as I find the best lasagnas are those tailored to an individual's tastes, as well as the size of the pan, but here are the ingredients, minus quantities.

Ingredients:

Whipping cream
Pesto of your choosing
Ricotta cheese
Shredded (cooked) chicken
Mozzarella cheese
Arugula
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Into your baking dish, add enough whipping cream to just barely cover the bottom.  Layer in your first set of lasagna noodles in a subway pattern.

 

Top with small dollops of ricotta and pesto, alternating as you go.

 

Top with some of your mozzarella, chicken and arugula.

 

Top with another layer of noodles, alternating from the first layer, using a subway pattern.  Give it a good press, to flatten out those dollops of ricotta and pesto.  Don't worry if your noodles crack, just fill in the gaps.


 

After the noodles are added, and the bottom layers compressed, pour in the whipping cream until it comes up a bit, and starts to fill in the gaps.  The noodles go into the pan dry, and need a liquid to absorb, and they will absorb a lot, so don't skimp here.  If you wish, half and half can be used in place of whipping cream, and even milk, though I haven't found milk produces a particularly creamy lasagna.  In a 10" x 14" baking dish, I think I used about 5-6 cups of cream.  When it comes to liquid in lasagna, I find too much is better than too little.  IMO, dry lasagna is quite unappealing.

Alternately, you can pre-cook your noodles, which means they will require less liquid in the pan.  Totally up to you.  I find it's just easier to to use dry noodles when building the layers, so that's what I do.

Continue layering in this fashion until you have reached about 1/2" from the top of the pan.  For me, this is usually about 4 layers of noodles.  With each layer of ricotta and pesto, I make sure I alternate from the layer before.  This way, as you cut into the lasagna, your servings will have equal amounts of both.  For instance, on your first layer, if you start in the corner with a dollop of pesto, on the next layer, start with a dollop of ricotta in that same corner.  Make sense?

Top the last layer of noodles with mozarella and parmesan.

 

Bake until cheese is bubbly, and the top has a nice golden brown color.

Let the lasagna set for at least 30 minutes before you cut into it.  It will stay plenty warm, and as it sets, it becomes easier to slice and remove cleanly from the pan.