Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna and Other Christmas Recipes

Before Christmas, I shared with you all a few recipes I intended to make for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  As promised, I now want to share how they all turned out!

You may remember that the main event was a Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna from Martha Stewart.  After reading the reviews, I omitted quite a few things and added others.  I also made mine a lot bigger since the original only made 4 servings.  Not nearly enough leftovers for the amount of work, I think!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 (10 oz.) packages of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, diced
  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 jars of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 9 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 red bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 yellow bell pepper (optional)

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Over medium high heat, saute your onion and mushrooms in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add your spices and saute another minute or so.  You don’t need to cook the veggies too long, since they will finish cooking in the oven.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Sauteed Vegetables for Lasagna

Lasagna Spinach and Mushroom FillingIn a medium bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, garlic, and cooled veggies.  Set aside.  Also in a medium bowl, thoroughly mix your diced prosciutto with your tomato sauce.  Set aside.  You can use any sauce you’d like, we combined a four cheese sauce and a basil marinara, both from Trader Joes.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Then place a layer of noodles on top.  I used no boil noodles because that’s all Trader Joes had, but either will do!  If you do use no boil noodles, I highly suggest soaking them in hot water for 5-10 minutes before working with them.  This will make them more pliable, and help to ensure they will cook all the way through.

Evenly crumble 1/3 of the spinach and ricotta mixture on top of your noodles, and then spread 1/4 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat noodles, mixture, sauce two more times.  Place one more layer of noodles on top, the last 1/4 of your sauce, and then top with shredded mozzarella.

Assembling Lasagna Layers

Bell Pepper Christmas TreeNow, if you did see my previous Christmas recipe post or just went to my Pinterest board, you know I planned to create a Christmas tree topper for my lasagna.  That’s where those optional bell peppers come in!  You’ll want to slice the green peppers, dice and create a tree stump from the red pepper, and dice and create a star from the yellow pepper.  I thought it was pretty awesome looking, what do you think?

With or without the topper, bake uncovered until brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Then let stand 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!  My recipe will make about 12 servings, and Daniel said it was the best lasagna he’s ever eaten!

Here are a few pictures of our tasty lasagna and our Christmas Eve!

Christmas Lasagna

We served our lasagna with garlic bread and salad, and plenty of wine, of course!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Table Setting

Daniel and Michele on Christmas Eve

For dessert, as I suspected, we were too tired to make this peppermint bark cheesecake.  So sadly I can’t tell you if it was delicious or a fail, BUT I can tell you that the frozen cheesecake sampler from Trader Joes is worth a try!  It comes with 2 slices of 3 different kinds of cheesecake, and all you have to do is thaw it for an hour on the counter.  A great find if you want something easy!

Cranberry Mimosas

We did make breakfast and mimosas for Christmas morning though!  We made cranberry mimosas, and they were pretty tasty, although the orange juice really overpowered the cranberry.  I think next time we make them I’ll fill the glass with mostly cranberry juice and add just a splash of orange.

We had a few unused glasses already rimmed with green sugar from our holiday party, and Daniel had the brilliant idea to use them that morning.  I LOVE how festive they look!

We also made baked french toast and baked bacon!

Christmas Day Breakfast

I followed this french toast recipe exactly, and it turned out beautifully!  The top is the perfect french toast consistency, and the bottom has a delicious buttery brown sugar sauce – it didn’t even need syrup!  This was the first time I had ever baked bacon in the oven, while I wouldn’t say it made the clean up any quicker, it did produce an entire pan of perfectly crisp bacon.  So I definitely think I will be cooking it in the oven from now on!

Family on Christmas MorningWell, it’s always a little sad to see Christmas come and go.  It was a very relaxing and quiet Christmas with my best friend and love, and all around favorite person in the world.  It will be a Christmas that I will cherish forever!


Christmas Recipes for Dinner & Breakfast

This year, Daniel and I will be spending the holiday in Portland, just the two of us (three if you count our cat, which we do!).  We were fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving with Daniel’s family and Christmas last year with mine.  While we will both miss our families this holiday, we are also both looking forward to having a quiet Christmas to ourselves sans traveling!  As our relationship has progressed, we have been having fun sharing our families’ traditions and coming up with new traditions of our own.  That’s actually one of the fun things about getting older, I think, is starting to create your own traditions like your parents did when they were your age!  Since we’re on our own this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to try some new ones out (and see if they’re awesome enough to make a tradition)!

A couple of years ago we started making ourselves fancy dinners on Easter, and we decided to do the same on Christmas Eve this year.  I haven’t tried these recipes out yet, and I will definitely blog about my results after, but I wanted to share them now anyway in case any of you are looking for ideas.  We toyed with a few different options, you can see my massive amount of pinning on my Christmas recipes board, but we narrowed it down to either making lasagna/stuffed shells or a pot roast with a couple of elaborate side dishes.

Spinach and Prosciutto LasagnaWe chose to make a spinach and proscuitto lasagna, and pair it with a simple salad and garlic bread.  As much as I really wanted to go all out with our dinner, we’ve both been pretty stressed out trying to get everything done for the holiday, social commitments, and work.  So we decided to take it easy on ourselves and do something a little easy.

Based on some of the reviews, I plan to cut out the salt because a lot of people complained the lasagna was too salty.  Proscuitto alone should provide enough flavor.  I also plan to use full fat mozzarella and ricotta cheese, mainly because I’ve used reduced fat in lasagna before and it didn’t turn out well.  I will also be adding more spices, herbs, and garlic and I’m going to double the recipe as well.  We like lots of leftovers in this household!

Also, because I’m a little cheesy, I’m totally going to make a Christmas tree out of bell peppers to top our lasagna with!  Oh, the things you find on Pinterest!

Christmas Tree Lasagna Topper

Some of you may remember that Daniel and I went wine tasting in Forest Grove, OR, and purchased a bottle of “Holiday Magic Wine” (gluhwein) from Shafer Vineyard Cellars.  We decided to save it for Christmas Eve, so we will be having that with our dinner!

Peppermint Bark CheesecakeWe will most likely be purchasing a dessert to cutback on stress, but I’m still toying with the idea of making this peppermint bark cheesecake.  It just looks so amazing!  I may have to keep the ingredients on hand in case I get a second wind after our holiday party is over!

Even if we don’t bake a dessert from scratch, we will definitely be making homemade hot chocolate to sip on while unwrapping gifts and watching Christmas movies!  This is a great basic recipe – we will either add bourbon like the recipe suggests, or we may add tequila and cayenne pepper to make it Mexican hot chocolate!

Well, that takes care of Christmas Eve, now on to Christmas Day!  Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to have a lazy Christmas day, but never had one… it’s always involved traveling in some way.  I’m pretty excited to stay in pajamas most of the day and watch Christmas movies with Daniel, we may even go see a matinee that opens on Christmas day (which Daniel’s never done before)!

Baked French ToastI wanted to have a fancy breakfast this year too, but didn’t want anything too crazy so we could sleep in and have a super relaxing day.  I grew up eating french toast far more than pancakes, and yet in my adult life I never seem to eat them anymore!  The up side of that is… it makes the dish a bit more special, therefore making it a great option for Christmas morning!  I’ve never tried this method of baking it in the oven, but I decided I’m going to try it, since it would be quick and everything would be done at the same time.  I’m also going to bake bacon in the oven for the first time, which apparently will produce perfectly crispy, no-mess bacon!  We shall see!

To top it all off, we will be enjoying cranberry mimosas!  It’s simply 1/2 cranberry juice and 1/2 orange juice.  I love how festive it looks!

Cranberry Mimosas

Well, these were just a few of the recipes I found, be sure to check out my board for more ideas for your dinner and breakfast Christmas recipes!


Holiday Party Ideas for Christmas

Tis the season for holiday parties, and Daniel and I will be throwing our first one this year!  If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll see I’ve been fervently pinning holiday party ideas like crazy.  While I’m still pinning last minute ideas, we had to finalize our menu and activities so we could get our invites out.

If you want more ideas, definitely check out my holiday party ideas board, but here’s what we’ve decided on… We will be throwing a Christmas sweater (ugly optional), white elephant, finger food potluck!  The reason why an ugly sweater is optional is because Daniel bought a sweater that isn’t technically ugly, and I haven’t bought mine yet… So who knows what I’ll find!

Brownie in a Cup White Elephant GiftI’ve always enjoyed playing white elephant at holiday parties, and it’s fun to see how creative people get with their gifts!  We chose to put a $10 limit on gifts, mainly because we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to spend too much.  I thought this would be a fun gift to give and very easy to do!  You could most likely find white mugs at a dollar store, then all you have to do is Sharpie the instructions on the mug!  Most tutorials I’ve seen say to bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I’m thinking of adding a second mug and writing the “cookie in a mug” instructions so they can be a pair!

After searching through pins, I decided that I was a huge fan of food being the decorations.  I saw these great appetizer ideas, which provided most of my inspiration.

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

Grape and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

Meat and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

We plan to do combination of all of the these!

Wine Glass Holiday Decorations

 

While the food will be the decorations on the main table, I plan to do this on our coffee table.  It’s going to be so easy and yet so chic!  Daniel also had a great idea to use some of our tree clippings to surround the wine glasses!  I plan on getting the candles and some new ornaments at the Dollar Store!

For our main course we will be serving cookie cutter pizzas.  These are actually the reason I chose to make it a finger food potluck.  They were just too cute and festive, I was smitten with them as soon as I saw them!

Cookie Cutter Christmas Pizzas

If you happen to be strapped for time though (which we might be), you could also just make full size pizzas like these.

Full Size Veggie Holiday Pizza

Full Size Holiday Pizzas

I saw these melted snowman cookies all over Instragram, and I think they will be a hit for dessert!

Melted Snowman Christmas Cookies

Melted Snowmen Cookies

Melted Snowman Cookies

Gingerbread CookiesIt looks like they are usually sugar cookies, but I plan to switch it up and make gingerbread cookies instead.  I think it would be more Christmas-y, and they will also look like the ground the snowmen melted on!  Daniel and I made gingerbread cookies last week so we could test a recipe out, and it was a winner!  We used the Nauvoo Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and here it is with my changes.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

We halved the recipe and it made about 30 cookies.  The original recipe called for lard, but we replaced it with butter, because ew.  It also uses white sugar, which we ended up using, but for the party I’ll be using brown sugar because I think it will give it more dimension.  I also added a few new spices and upped the amount on others

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, molasses, butter and hot water.  Mix in egg.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until dough forms.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm.
  2. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookies cutters, and place cookies onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes and then cool on cooling racks.

We iced ours with royal icing and they were delicious!

Pomegranate Champagne Christmas DrinksOf course, we also need drinks at our party!  I saw this awesome looking pin, which has since been repinned over 100 times from me!  I clearly have to do it now.  The original pin was a broken link and didn’t have any information, but I’m pretty sure those are pomegranate seeds at the bottom, glasses are filled with champagne, and coarse green sugar is rimming the top.  If you buy ready to use pomegranate seeds, this drink will take no time at all, yet looks super impressive!

Another drink we’ll be serving is, of course, eggnog!  Which happens to be Daniel’s specialty, and the recipe he uses is amazing.

Here’s what you need:

  •  6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground or grated

Begin with pre-chilled ingredients for the best results.

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together until they’re very frothy.  Add sugar and continue beating.
  2. Sprinkle in nutmeg and vanilla, continue beating.  A little at a time, add in the whipping cream and continue to beat.
  3. Beat in the milk also a little at a time.  Lastly, beat in the rum and brandy.
  4. Chill for 1-2 hours and serve cold.

Hot Chocolate Stirring SticksLast but not least – party favors!  I’ve never hosted a dinner party before, or been to one that gave out favors, but I personally think it’s a nice touch.  I also think that homemade gifts are often the best kind, and these hot chocolate stirring sticks seemed like a great choice!  I think they will be fairly easy and fast to make – we plan to pop a few in a cellophane bag with a pack of hot cocoa!

Other than white elephant, we also plan to play board games, and if we want to get a little rowdy… a Christmas Vacation drinking game!  We will also have a variety of santa hats and other Christmas costume pieces, for anyone that wants to take photobooth-esque pictures.

I hope this gave you a few ideas for your party, and if you want more, remember to check out my Holiday Party Ideas on Pinterest.  I can’t wait to show you all how everything turned out!  Happy Planning!


Tillamook Cheese Factory in Oregon

Tillamook Cheese Factory

If you’re visiting the Oregon Coast, a main attraction besides the ocean is the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Daniel had been to the factory once before, so he already knew how awesome it was.  But I had never been, and it just so happened to be on the way to Rockaway Beach.  Clearly we had to make a stop!

Tillamook Cheese has a long history in Oregon, and the factory is the perfect place to learn more.  They have historical facts and videos all over the place, and you can also learn more about the cheese industry itself with a self-guided tour.  Plus, you can see how it’s made and packaged as there are multiple viewing areas.  Tip:  If you really want to see the full production in action, don’t go on a Sunday.  That’s when we went, and although it was nice that it was less busy, the production line was all but shut down.

Tillamook used to only be accessible by water, and this is the original ship that brought their cheese to Portland.

Tillamook Cheese Ship

While the history is incredibly fascinating, the real attraction is the cheese!  Here you can see Tillamook provides a bunch of cheese samples.

Tillamook Cheese Samples

This, of course, leads you into where the cheese for purchase is!  Here is just one small case of what they have to offer.

Tillamook Cheese Case

But they don’t stop with just cheese.  They also have fudge!  We came home with far too much cheese and a slice of pumpkin fudge.  So good!

Tillamook Fudge

And don’t forget to get a scoop (or two) of ice cream!

Tillamook Ice Cream

We saw a couple of fun photo opportunities throughout the factory, and this one was the best (we thought).  Be sure to get a picture in the Tillamook Van!

Daniel & Michele in Tillamook Van

This is dairy heaven, I tell you!  The Tillamook Cheese Factory is definitely worth a stop!

Fat Dog PizzaWhile we later found out that the cheese factory also serves food, we didn’t know that at the time, so we stopped for lunch in the main part of town.

We ate at a really small, but really amazing place called Fat Dog Pizza.  If you’re looking to explore more of the town, there are a variety of restaurants in the area.  If you’re in the mood for pizza, check this place out!

If you already read my Rockaway Beach post, then you know if you’re staying in town, there aren’t that many food and activity options there.  Luckily, Tillamook is only about a 20-minute drive from Rockaway, and can easily add variety to your getaway if you’re looking for more restaurants and excursions.


Rockaway Beach Romantic Getaway in Oregon

So my boyfriend works for this great vacation rentals company called Vacasa Rentals.  You can rent amazing vacation homes, often for the same price (or less) as a hotel, but with a lot more space and privacy!  And if you’re a homeowner, Vacasa manages your property and takes care of housecleaning, so you can easily make some extra cash when you’re not using it!

Well, obviously since he works for a vacation rentals company, we wanted to utilize this great service and take a vacation ourselves!  So… Right before Halloween, Daniel took me to the Oregon Coast in Rockaway Beach, OR for a romantic getaway.  Lucky girl, right?!

David Hill VineyardWe were super excited to finally see the coast, but we were also excited to make some stops along the way.  A friend of ours gave us the idea to stop and do some wine tasting, which was right up our alley.  When we used to live in LA our weekend getaway spot was Santa Barbara, and our favorite activity was bicycle wine tasting!  I had heard that Oregon had great wine and vineyards, but I had no idea HOW MANY!  Seriously, go to Google Maps and search “vineyards near Portland, OR” and then zoom out a bit… I was not expecting all of those red dots!  We stopped in Forest Grove because it was the closest to our route to Rockaway.  You can read about the vineyards we stopped at here.

Tillamook Cheese FactorySide note:  while on the way to the vineyards, I totally saw a sign for Roloff Farms!  Umm, has anyone else watched Little People, Big World?!  I used to watch that show when I was younger, and I maybe got a little too excited when I saw that…

Ahem, anyway, another stop we made on the way was at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  This is a must!  If you love all things dairy, this is heaven.  Read about what we did in Tillamook and the cheese factory here.

After our last stop we finished our journey to Rockaway, which is about 20-30 minutes away.   Read more »