Back in my younger days when I was working as a cashier at Winn-Dixie Grocery Stores you’d find me either eating or always wanting to eat. I went from being a carnivore to a vegetarian to a vegan and well, right back to a carnivorous creature. I never understood why I went through such phases but I did. Might I mention, you feel so clean and refreshed as a vegetarian but even more so as a vegan. It’s difficult being vegan though, reading labels, not knowing what are in other people’s recipes, it’s tough stuff but if you are dedicated and don’t crave the animal products you are good. Honestly, these days I couldn’t be vegan, the lack of protein from eggs and meats, I just can’t. I LOVE eggs, to the moon and back. Any style, any way, I love love love eggs. YUM.
Anyways, back to my story of when I worked at Winn-Dixie, I went through my vegetarian phase and I fell in love with Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna that is sold in the frozen section. When baked it’s absolute perfection! I just want to eat more and more and more until I explode. The breadcrumbs nice and crispy and the inside so cheesy and gooey, ugh, soooo delish!! If I hadn’t just eaten a serving of my own dish, which is equally good, if not better 😜 I think I would have put this post on pause and run to the grocery store to buy me some! I think I even licked the little package it came in one time, don’t judge me, it was just that good! At work however, I cooked it in the microwave and it was just as tasty doesn’t measure to being baked though.
So today, I was craving it, like BAD! I decided to try to replicate it and also add my own touch to it, chicken! Not even sure that I know which vegetables are in the Stouffer’s brand but I’m sure you could add just about anything and it would still taste yummy. I made my good ol’ fashion Alfredo sauce recipe that took me ages to perfect. Today it came out insanely good, I guess I had the right motivation.
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- dash of pepper
- 3 1/4 cups of Milk*
*I used lactose free milk, not that it made much difference considering how much cheese I used. Haha!
- 1/2 lb lasagna pasta, cooked
- 2 thin sliced chicken breast, cooked
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- 2-3 carrots, shredded
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 head broccoli, chopped
- 2 handfuls of spinach
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups Italian blend cheese, grated*
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
*I used Mozzarella, Parmesan and Fontina.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Cook your pasta to al dente.
In a frying pan, spray coconut oil or your preferred spray oil to coat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until done. Let cool and chop into small pieces, the smaller the better.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. While the butter is melting mix your dry ingredients. Once butter has melted add your flour mixture and with a whisk or spatula cook flour for a minute or so, this is creating a roux (link is to a YouTube video I found) which is the thickening agent for the sauce. Slowly add milk while stirring.
Switch to a wooden spatula, add cheese* and continue to stir until the cheese melts and is smooth. Your sauce will start to thicken. Turn your burner to a very low heat to keep warm and stir occasionally.
*Don’t add too much cheese because the grease will cause your sauce to separate.
In a bowl, mix all of your vegetables, 1/2 cup of cheese, egg and chicken.
In an oven safe baking baking dish (I used a Hefty 9×13 aluminum pan because I was lazy) pour just a little sauce to cover the bottom.
Now start layering! Starting with your noodles, veggie mixture, a little cheese and spoonfuls of sauce and continue the process until completed. Make sure to leave just a little sauce to top the last row of pasta, this is optional. I personally like the crispness of the top noodle with the breadcrumbs but if you don’t like crispy and want moisture, add sauce to the top and cover with breadcrumbs.
Bake for 50 minutes covered. 10 minutes uncovered or if your like me, I turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes to give it the nice brown color.
Take out of oven let sit for 10 minutes, if you cut into it too soon it will go all over the place. Those 10 minutes make a difference and allow for the dish to set but me being me I couldn’t wait and dug right in, I like my food piping hot!
I’m not a professional at making my food look so fancy in photographs but this is what homemade really looks like! 😉
Beautiful golden color!