A comforting, nourishing and delectable recipe that is worth preparing and sharing is often one that has at least a small handful of steps that need to be followed, or a couple of components that need to be prepared before everyone can gleefully dig in and finally enjoy the finished edible masterpiece.
And when one knows about and prepares themselves for the bit of elbow grease that will be needed during the cooking process, one can then more joyfully enter into the whole experience of making a meal from scratch, and then luxuriating in the pleasure of the end result.
It reminds me a lot of life, and how each and every day brings a new “component”, or a step in the process, that needs to be fulfilled in order to bring depth and ultimately completion to a life one day.
It’s this process of living, with all of its ups and downs, stresses and joys, pains and pleasures, that makes for a complete existence; it offers potential for a sweet finish, one chock-full of many experiences to reflect upon and scrutinize.
And that seems like the life that we’d all like to have.
When the going gets tough, or when the days just simply make one feel boxed in, or like it’s a challenge to even hear one’s own voice and thoughts, then skipping ahead to what one imagines as that glorious day when all things magically come together and fall into place is so utterly tempting.
And I should know.
There are days when I find myself overwhelmed with a dour attitude towards so much of what I see around me, or even towards my own self and what I feel I lack internally as a human being, that I’d rather just skip ahead to the “good parts”, and take a rest from what seems like a daily grind.
But then the question arises, what in the world would then create that “good part” if not the totality of the process—both positive and negative, easy and difficult?
Like it or not, certain criteria must be met in life before growth and ascension of the spirit can take place, and it cannot be glossed over or avoided.
There is a marvelous process to life, one that has built into it a pace and a need for all experiences, and it must be experienced in order for one to enjoy the pleasure of the taste of a life well-lived and full of wisdom.
Just as a recipe for a rich lasagna cannot do without the components of sauce; or of the ingredients for the filling; or of layering; or of finally baking to a golden-brown and cheesy gorgeousness, the human life experience cannot be one of understanding and fulfillment without the entire process of living and all of its various colors and experiences.
It’s in the moments of peace that a certain clarity can be found; a clarity that whispers to me to enjoy the process, and to try to not rush through it.
It whispers that the best flavor can only be found in fully tasting and experiencing each “component”—each step in my process, and not by looking for the “out” and breezing on through it all as quickly and with as little discomfort as possible. That there is, indeed, something to be said for the heartaches, for the misunderstandings, for the losses, for the gains, for the connectivity, for the conversations, for the closeness, as well as for the gaps.
All of these are really nothing more that the elements found in life that are like the components that make up the process of a finished meal.
All add flavor, all add something unique and special, if we can just see it and bear it somehow.
So whether we enter our kitchens to prepare a scrumptious and gooey lasagna that requires a handful of steps and elements to be prepared before we can finally sit down at the table to partake of it; or whether it’s the day to day living complete with everything that we need to experience in order to make our life whole, I wonder if we could learn to just simply find the joy in the process in order that we all may be able to, one day, taste the full flavor of the finished product, and say that it is good.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Creamy Chicken Florentine Lasagna with Two Cheeses, Baby Spinach and Crispy Bacon
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 8-10
• Creamy Garlic Sauce (recipe below)
• 12 lasagna noodles, cooked
• 1 pound chicken tenderloins (about 8-10 tenderloins), cooked and diced
• 3 cups shredded parmesan cheese
• 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
• 1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach, raw
• 12 strips bacon, cooked crispy
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
-Preheat the oven to 350°, and lightly grease a 12 x 9 x 2 ½” (roughly) baking dish.
-To assemble your lasagna, add a thin layer of the Creamy Sauce to the bottom of the baking dish, and spread evenly.
-Add 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce, and add in another, more generous, layer of the sauce.
-Next, sprinkle over about half of the diced chicken, followed by about 1 cup of the shredded parmesan and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella.
-Next, sprinkle over about half of the bag of baby spinach, followed by about 1/3 of the chopped bacon.
-Repeat with another layer of 4 lasagna noodles, more sauce, the rest of the chicken, another cup of parmesan and mozzarella cheese, the remainder of the baby spinach, and another 1/3 of the chopped bacon; then, cover with the last layer of four lasagna noodles.
-Finish by topping the noodles with sauce, then sprinkle over the last cup of parmesan cheese, the last 2 cups of mozzarella cheeses, and the teaspoon of Italian seasoning; bake for about 20-25minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
-Garnish with the remainder of the chopped bacon and the chopped parsley, and serve.
Creamy Garlic Sauce Ingredients:
• 8 cups (½ gallon) 1% low-fat milk
• 2 tablespoons natural chicken base (I use “Better Than Bouillon” brand)
• 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 4 ounces flour (about 12 tablespoons)
• Pinch or two salt
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch ground nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
-Add the milk and the chicken base to a large saucepan or medium pot, whisk to combine, and bring to the simmer; then, turn off the heat.
-While the milk heats, add the butter to another large saucepan or medium pot, along with the garlic, and place over medium heat; allow to melt together, and stir the garlic into the butter to soften.
-Sprinkle the flour into the melted butter/garlic, and stir to combine; stir for about 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw taste of the flour.
-Next, slowly add the hot milk into the butter/garlic/flour mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps form forming, and allow the sauce to simmer for a few moments until thickened.
-Once thickened, turn off the heat and finish by whisking in a pinch or two of salt, the black pepper, the nutmeg, the Italian seasoning, and the parmesan cheese; keep warm, or allow to completely cool and keep in fridge to use later.