Creamy Mushroom & Chicken Lasagna

Happy Leap Day!

I read on FB last night that Caribou Coffee is offering BOGO today…so grab a friend and go enjoy a free Mocha…or Latte…or plain ol’ Coffee!

Last week I shared with you some of my recent struggles and while there is still work to be done and relationships needing a mend, I have tried to spend more time focusing on areas of joy.  One of my greatest joys is doing good for others…whether that be leaving cookies on a doorstep, dropping off lunch for Ryan, or surprising a friend with a note of encouragement, love and support. 

I once came across a quote that read, “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” 

So instead of dwelling on those who are causing me stress, I’ve reminded myself to spend that energy  bringing a smile to someone else who has done the same for me.  And, in the past week…the family I chose to “get even with”, was that of my friend and co-worker, Tiffany.  Just after Bella’s stay in the hospital with RSV, Tiffany prepared a delicious lasagna and dropped it off at the house while I was on the road for work.  To get even, I opted to return her lasagna pan FULL.  Like so many other kiddos, her son Ben needed tubes.  And that particular evening, I assumed dinner was the last thing she needed on her plate.  (No pun intended)  With that in mind, I decided to take a few of my favorite recipes, Creamy Mushroom Pasta and Chicken Marsala, and transform them into a delicious lasagna! 

Creamy Mushroom & Chicken Lasagna

Serves 6-8  (1 large pan)

  • 1 box lasagna noodles (I use the oven ready noodles)
  • 4 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk, heated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup white wine (my preference is Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 4 oz parmesan, freshly shredded

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, then the minced garlic cloves, mascarpone, white wine, parmesan and salt. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, whisking, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.


  • 1 – 1.25 lbs chicken breast (2 medium breasts), grilled and cut into strips
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 16-20 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 oz parmesan, freshly shredded
  • 1 bunch basil, chopped
  • 1 cup ½ & ½

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees . In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions, shallots, and chopped garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the basil and 1/2 and 1/2.; season with salt and pepper.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and 1 cup of mascarpone sauce on the bottom. Layer the baking dish with lasagna noodles. Top with half of the mushroom mixture, sprinkle 2 oz of parmesan cheese, a layer of noodles, then the remaining mushroom mixture, 2 oz parmesan and the remaining noodles. Pour the sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining 4 oz of parmesan.

Bake until golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

After indulging in this Creamy Mushroom & Chicken Lasanga, Tiffany sent a text that said simply, “Home Run.”  So…take her word for it…not mine.  This recipe belongs in your line-up!

Finally…I hope you will take my lead. 

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” 

Go out today and find your opportunity to help a friend, a family member, or a stranger. 

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Hummus Wraps, Portobella Burgers, & Sticky Buns Oh My!

Good Morning!  Happy Wednesday!  

How the heck are ya?!  🙂

I don’t know about you, but I am in a little bit of a funk right now.  A funk that I’m sure you are all familiar with…or have experienced yourself at some point.   While I am so grateful for my career…and enjoy it so much most days…the trials recently have taken their toll.  I feel the stress coming out of my ears and the daily drama draining my enthusiasm.  While I dig deep to push through…I’ve had to resort to an extra bowl of chocolate ice cream…a few extra deep breaths…and several extra personal pep-talks to survive the last month.  In each of those pep-talks, I inevitably remind myself how much I enjoy the variety each day.  Variety in surroundings, variety in co-workers (typically in a different territory each day or few days), variety in challenges and….variety in FOOD.  Yea.  You read that right.  As I talk to myself each morning, I often find myself thinking, “Oh Yes!  I’m headed to Des Moines today.  That means I can pop into Palmers.”  Or…”Sweet!  I will be in the QC early tomorrow morning, that means I can swing by Cafe Indigo and grab a Caramel Roll!”  Ahh.  It’s the little things that keep us going…like a caramel roll.  🙂

Today’s post is for all of the folks in Eastern Iowa.  If you are reading this and are in close proximity to Bettendorf, IA…I encourage you to check out one of my favorite cafes in Iowa, Cafe Indigo.  One of my partners, Julie Edmunds, introduced me to this wonderful little cafe several years ago.  And…in all of my visits, I have not strayed from the Portobello Burger and Hummus Wrap.  They are just SO GOOD.  Needing a few hours away from home and work, Ryan and I took a roadtrip to the Quad Cities on Saturday.  In addition to a stop at our favorite shop (TJ MAXX), I also introduced Ryan to Cafe Indigo.  He was just as pleased!

To start each lunch, the servers at Cafe Indigo offer homemade potato chips.  So simple…but so good!

While I recommended my two favorites (Grilled Portobella Sandwich and The Hummus Wrap), Ryan opted enthusiastically for the Western Chicken Cheese Panini.  Grilled Chicken, Pepper Jack, Smoked Gouda, Cilantro, Bacon, Avocado, and Pico de Gallo….now that is right up Ryan’s alley!  And assuredly, he was NOT disappointed.  (I snuck a bite to be sure.)

Ryan’s decision to go with the panini, left me in a predicament.  Portobella Burger…or Hummus Wrap.   Eeny Meeny Miny Mo.  Hummus Wrap it is!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this wrap.  So simple.  So filling…but so light. 

Mixed Greens, Cucumber, Artichokes, Red Onions, Tomatoes, Carrots, Asiago Cheese, Sprouts, Basil Pesto, and Chipotle Ranch Hummus wrapped in a tortilla.

While the flavor in this wrap is so delightful, I am equally excited that half of the wrap fills me up.  That leaves me an extra half for lunch the next day.  WOO HOO.  Ok.  So I had to steal one more bite before packaging it up…I just couldn’t resist! 

Last…but certainly not least, is my LOVE for their Caramel rolls.  There have been days I’ve raced over the the QC a little earlier than necessary just to get a roll before heading to the hospital.  There have also been days I have called ahead of time and asked them to set one aside so I could pick it up on may way out of the QC that afternoon.  Because, fortunately or unfortunately, these rolls are SO good that they sell out early each day.

So again…Eastern Iowans…this post is for you.  Next time you are in Davenport/Bettendorf, please stop in and visit Cafe Indigo.  You won’t be disappointed.  That I promise.  Whatever you do though, don’t go on Mondays.  They are closed on Mondays.  I’ve learned that lesson…the hard way and man was I disappointed.  🙂

Cafe Indigo.  4925 Utica Ridge Rd, Davenport, IA  52807

 Finally, if you are not local to Eastern Iowa but would like a make a pan of your own Caramel Rolls, check out one of my earlier posts on Sticky Buns!  That recipe will leave you wanting more!

INDULGE.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Wine Diamonds After 15 Years

Today marks 15 years.  That’s right.  15 years ago today, Ryan took me to our first high school dance.  Dinner first at the Red Mill (oh, how I can’t wait to revisit that little supper club someday soon!) and a Winter Carnival Dance to follow at our ol’ MHS.  Every year we say the same thing, “Can you believe it has been XX years?!”  No!  I can’t.  We’ve survived high school…college at Minnesota…graduate school in Iowa…6 years of marriage…and finally, the birth of our first child, Bella.  I’d say we’ve had a pretty good run.  Ups and downs are expected on any journey, but this one has been oh-so-worth it.  Thank you, Ryan.  For an action-packed 15 years…and the most beautiful little girl (inside and out!) that I could have ever wished for.  I look forward to many more years…and many more meals to celebrate!  🙂


After several weeks of traveling for work, Ryan and I were really looking forward to kicking off the beginning of our “next 15 years” with a meal at home last Saturday night.  And after all these years, we’re pretty predictable.  First choice is always caprese, pasta, and wine.  All I needed was a new recipe idea.  Fortunately Rachael Ray offered up a great suggestion in her recent edition of “EveryDay with Rachael Ray”.   (You will have to catch that recipe below.)  Meanwhile, as we enjoyed our caprese we also cracked a new bottle of red wine.  As Ryan discarded the cork, I caught a glimpse of “Sparkle”.  This little lady never misses sparkle.  🙂  I retrieved the cork and noticed that it held many tiny crystals.  It was gorgeous!  I know…it’s a cork.  But have you ever seen a cork that sparkled?   I apologize that I couldn’t capture a better shot…but you get the idea.  I’ve also included a little lesson on these “diamonds” below…just click the link. 

“Wine Crystals:  Naturally made and un-stabilized wines develop crystals, which generally precipitate to the bottom of the bottle or attach themselves on the cork or the closure of the bottle. Sometimes referred to as “Wine Diamonds” they are indicative of good quality. Although crystals are bitter, they are harmless and do not affect the flavour of the wine in any way.”

Along with this wonderful bottle of wine (diamonds and all!), we also enjoyed the new recipe by Rachael Ray (Boudreau modifications, of course).  If you are looking for a new twist on a spicy red pasta, please try this one.  We loved the smoky flavors….fire-roasted tomatoes and roasted/blackened red peppers…spicy red wine…yes, please!

Fire-Roasted Tomato and Hot Sausage n Beef Rigatoni

Recipe Courtesy of Rachael Ray

Serves 6-8

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for drizzling  (I added another 2 tbsps just before serving…to thin the sauce a bit)
  • 3/4 pound bulk hot italian sausage (1/2lb is plenty)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 hot cherry pepper, seeded and chopped, or fresno chile pepper, thinly sliced (These can be hard to find in Iowa…we used 1/2 a jalapeno)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup spicy red wine
  • 1 can (28 oz.) or 2 cans (15 oz. each) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • Pecorino-romano cheese, for serving
  • A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped (We used BASIL)

Char the bell peppers under a hot broiler or directly over a high flame on the stovetop to blacken all over, turning occasionally. Place the charred peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel off and discard the skins and seeds. Quarter the peppers lengthwise, then slice crosswise into strips.  (You can do this over a grill as well.  We did!)

In a dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp. EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and beef and brown, crumbling the meat, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the onion, garlic and hot pepper until softened; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute, then add the wine and reduce for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stock and bell peppers; simmer to thicken.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the sauce and toss for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls with lots of cheese and the parsley. Gild the lily with an extra drizzle of EVOO.

Heaven in a blue dish.  🙂  Serve up family style (like I did above) or plate individually like Rachael mentions.  Pair with a spicy red wine that can stand up to the flavors on your plate.  We chose one of our all time favorites…Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.  Enjoy!

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

The Ultimate Comfort Food

If ever there were a time for comfort food, now would be it.  I don’t know about your house, but the crud has hit ours.  For nearly 5 weeks, Bella and I have been nothing but sick.  What started out as a “common cold” resulted in an ER visit and an in-patient stay at UIHC.  Poor little girl was diagnosed with RSV and Adenovirus.  How torturous it was to watch her and listen to alarms signal as her oxygen would drop.  After breathing treatments and plenty of IV fluids, we were sent home with a little girl on the mend….or so we thought.  There she was, happy, smiling, and eating again but less than a week later…sick again.  Unfortunately, so was I. By Saturday I was at my wits end and sure my head was going to explode.  While my mom had come into town to babysit Bella while Ryan and I made our way to my holiday party in Des Moines, she instead, was watching Bella while I made my way to urgent care.  That in itself, was quite the experience. 

As I greeted the PA in Urgent Care, I said, “Allison, I am so sick I want to shoot myself.”  (I know I know…a little dramatic…but I was done trying to hide it.)  I was miserable.  Unfortunately, another PA was standing nearby and overheard my comment.  She abruptly scolded, “I’m sorry Ma’am.  We are mandatory reporters.  I’m going to need to call the authorities.”  Oh for crying out loud.  “Seriously?”, I thought.  I looked at her and replied, “I am miserable but I am not going to hurt myself.”  She, again, repeated that it was mandatory.  Lucky for me, Allison knew me from my time with Pfizer and defended my sanity.  Not only was I not well enough to attend our annual work function but I about ended up in a psyche ward instead.  Good grief.  Needless to say, I left with a diagnosis of serious sinus infection coupled with a double ear infection.  What am I?  A 2 year old?! 

Headed home with prescription, decongestant, and Sudafed in hand, I was never happier to have my Mom there to help with Bella…especially as her symptoms worsened.  And, here we are…6 days later.  Bella and I are both sick…I’m in CA and she’s at daycare.  What is wrong with that picture?!  I’m hoping Dad will soothe her to recovery in the evenings and I can take some time away after meetings to hide in my room and get the sleep I so desperately need.  Welcome to parenthood, eh?

All of that said, do you know what else is great thing about having Mom visit while I’m sick?!?!  HOMEMADE MAC N CHEESE!  I’m sure we all have something that reminds us of our childhood…something that soothed us when we were sick…something that tastes best when Mom makes it.  For me, this is her Mac and Cheese.  I’m not going to lie, Grandma’s tasted pretty good too…but then again, she just added butter. 

For those of you who are needing some good ‘ol comfort food this week, this is the easiest, most delightful treat that is guaranteed to soothe your aches and warm your soul.  I promise!

Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6-8

  • 16oz Mild Cheddar cheese, cubed (1 inch by ½ inch)
  • 2.5-3 cups Uncooked Macaroni
  • Milk
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Butter, optional (Grandma would!)

Start by boiling the macaroni until al dente (~7-9 minutes).  While the noodles boil, cube your cheese.  You will want plenty of cubes to layer amongst the noodles, so don’t cut them too large.

Strain the noodles.  In a casserole bowl or lightly greased 8×8 pan, layer the macaroni and cheese.  Start with a layer of macaroni, then cheese…..ending the final layer with cheese. 

Once your layers are complete, slowly pour milk over the top just until you can see the milk approaching the top layer.  You will not want to over-saturate…so pour slowly. With the mac, cheese, and milk all set, sprinkle the top with salt and pepper. 

 Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 75-90 minutes….or until golden brown on top.

(Note: if you want the added richness that Grandma would throw in, melt a stick of butter and pour a little over each layer as you make it!)

Thank you, Mom…for helping to take care of me and the Bean…and for making TWO batches of mac n cheese during your visit!  I’m feeling better already.  🙂

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

A Fiesta In My Mouth!

Who here is ready for a vacation?!  I know, I was in Miami last weekend…but I’m talking about a full week of sun, sand, and cervezas!  Who’s with me?!

I know I tell you all the time how handy Ryan is…but I have to tell you again.  That guy is NON-STOP.  Last month he spent 2 full weekends painting our dining room and foyer.  And…not just painting them…but painting stripes…on an 18ft ladder…twice…once in “tavern beige” and again with metallic silver.  Fortunately or unfortunately, Bella and I were both sick, so I didn’t assist with my mad painting skills (haha).  He did it by himself.  Thank you, Ryan!!

Knowing that he was pretty worn out and sick of painting, I stepped in at his most vulnerable moment and said, “Buddy, I found a great deal on an all-inclusive trip to Riviera Maya.  I think we should book it.  You know, fly to Mexico, re-celebrate my 30th birthday since I was pregnant last year and just take.a.break.”  For the first time in his life, he looked at me and said, “Yeah.  Book it.”  I’m not sure I have ever hustled back to my computer so quickly and clicked “Book Now”.  I knew dang well I needed to get it done before he changed his mind…or felt the need to “do some more research”.  I’m awful, right?!  Nah…I’m just helpful. 

Just a short time later, our friends Sean and Tiffany invited us over for dinner.  We purchased a mini-keg of Oberon (one of Tiffany’s favorite beers) while she was pregnant with the intention that we’d share it after Ben’s birth.  Now that Ben is nearly 5 months, we decided it was time.  The menu for the night, Taco Bar!  Perfect, I thought…I have been anticipating the flavors of Mexico and now I can whip up some “Mexican” appetizers to share!  On the docket for that night, Smoked-Gouda-Chorizo Jalapeno Poppers & Chicken Taco Cups.

Smoked Gouda-Chorizo Jalapeno Poppers

Recipe courtesy Sunny Anderson

Serves:  24 jalapeno poppers
  • 2 links Mexican chorizo, casings removed
  • 1/2 pound smoked gouda, shredded
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 large jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and halved

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brown chorizo in a skillet over medium-high heat, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese, red onion, egg, cream cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, and salt and pepper, to taste.
Press into jalapeno halves and assemble on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Chicken Tacos Cups

Yield: 36 Taco Bites

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 envelope reduced-sodium taco seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa, divided
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided
  • 36 wonton wrappers
  • Sour cream, chopped green onions and chopped ripe olives, optional.

Sprinkle chicken with taco seasoning. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir the chicken over medium heat for 5 minutes or until juices run clear. Transfer chicken to a food processor; cover and process until chopped. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, onion, half of the salsa and 1 cup cheese. (As an alternative to frying the chicken in cubes, bake full chicken breasts and shred.  I prefer shredded chicken to “pureed”)

Press wonton wrappers into miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Spoon rounded tablespoonfuls of chicken mixture into cups; top with remaining salsa and cheese. Bake 15 minutes longer or until heated through. Serve warm. Garnish with sour cream, green onions and olives if desired. Yield: 3 dozen.

**Tips/Tricks – When placing the wonton wrappers into the minitature muffin cups, ensure that the “tops” of the wrappers stand firm upright so that they do not fold over onto the tin and blacken**

Sean described these treats as, “A Fiesta In My Mouth!”   So, for your next fiesta, give them a try.  They were easy to make and easy to eat!

Thank you, Tiffany & Sean, for a relaxing night!

Indulge.  In Life. In Love. In Food.