I thought it was time to shake up here at Food is Life. And get the man behind the blog involved on the front line of FIL. Since he’s my tech support, taste-taster and kitchen clean-up crew, I thought I’d put him on the other side of the lens, and get him working in the kitchen.

When Mr. FIL and I first met, we would cook together all the time. On weekends we’d always be in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, cooking up a storm together. Especially in the dead of winter. It was so much fun. Eight years later…times have changed. With both of us working full time, and our differing schedules, we don’t get much time to cook together like we used to.But this guy makes the best pizzas, breads, and does a pretty awesome job cooking on the grill. He definitely is the bread/pastry guy in the house. I’ll gladly move out of the way for him to whip me up a pizza or fresh loaf of bread!

I thought since we were cooking together, we should cook up one of his favourite meals… LASAGNA!

Who doesn’t love lasagna? I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like lasagna.

This isn’t just any lasagna. It’s not traditional. It’s a weird lasagna, with a mix of ingredients you wouldn’t think to put together. But it works, and this is a knock-your-socks-off, impress your guests kind of meal. Every single time I make this meal for someone, they ask for the recipe. It is hands-down the best lasagna I’ve ever had.

So, you might be thinking, what are the ingredients in this weird lasagna? Well I can tell you it doesn’t have ricotta or cottage cheese, the main vegetable is spinach, and the middle is layered with a super delicious garlic cream sauce. Did I lose you at spinach, but get your attention back with garlic cream sauce?… I promise the spinach works in this. I’ve served this meal to people who claim they “detest” spinach, and would never eat it. But like magic, they eat it in the lasagna.

There’s also a super awesome hasselback garlic cheese loaf to serve with it. It’s covered in melted garlic butter and TONS of cheese. There is no shortage of cheese in this meal, which is perfect.

My last few posts I’ve started backwards, and given you a picture of the end result to start. I think I’m going to continue that trend for a bit.

That’s just a small sneak peek. I will issue a disclaimer – there are going to be a LOT of photos from our day in the kitchen today. We actually had a ton of fun, and I wasn’t too bossy! (Maybe I should double check with Mr. FIL on that one…) 😉

This is literally all of the ingredients you will need to make this lasagna. I picked up some fresh Italian sausage from my local butcher yesterday, and I love that it’s organic and hormone free. I used brown rice lasagna noodles to make it gluten-free, but feel free to sub them out for regular lasagna noodles. Honestly, those noodles are so awesome, you can’t even tell they’re GF.

This is my secret recipe box. That secretly actually doesn’t have that many recipes in it… mostly because I’d never be able to store all of my recipes in this tiny little box. I’d need 100 more. It does however, hold the recipe for this delicious lasagna.

This lasagna recipe was copied out of some cookbook for beginners that my friend Michelle had. Which I have to laugh, because in my opinion, this is not a beginner recipe. It’s easy to make, but lasagna is quite a bit of prep-work.

Anyway, I’ve had this recipe for about 7 years now, and I’ve obviously adjusted it to make it my own, and I really don’t refer to it much when I’m making the lasagna anyway. I guess it’s just one of those things I’ll always keep… just in case!

I put Mr. FIL right to work, getting the pork out of the casings, frying it, and draining it.

The prep for this is done in two parts, so it was nice to have his help. Cooking the meat, frying up onions and spinach, and then making the garlic cream sauce.

The ingredients for the garlic cream sauce: butter, milk, flour, freshly crushed garlic, nutmeg, fresh pepper. This sauce is what makes this lasagna so amazing. The recipe still has tomato sauce, but it goes on the top and bottom of the lasagna, and this amazing sauce gets layered in between.

The other important part of a lasagna: CHEESE! Give me all the cheese!

Sorry. I love cheese. And memes. And cheesy memes.

So once Mr. FIL so nicely grated parm, asiago and mozzarella, we started to build the layers of the lasagna.

Order of layering:

  • 3/4 jar of tomato sauce on the bottom of the lasagna dish.
  • noodles
  • white sauce
  • sausage
  • spinach/onion mix
  • parm/asiago cheese
  • more noodles, repeat.

I got three layers of noodles. Once you put the last layer of noodles on, coat them completely in tomato sauce, ensuring the corners and sides are filled in as well.

I cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it on a large cookie sheet, because it will leak a bit.

Bake for 50 minutes, then remove the foil, coat the top in the mozzarella cheese, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Test to make sure the noodles are done by sticking a knife in the middle. Sometimes I find the top ones aren’t as soft as the middle ones, but that’s ok, they’ll be al dente.

One thing I learned about blogging lasagna: it’s not the prettiest to photograph. Definitely a challenge,  cause it’s not like I can share the way my house smelled the whole time this was cooking! If only I could bottle up that smell and you could click the photo and it would release the smell. I’m sure that’s in development as we speak..

I swear I have way nicer photos than the one above. That was fresh out of the oven.

I mentioned earlier about a delicious hasselback garlic loaf to go with this lasagna. I think if you make this, you’ll never want regular old garlic bread again. I have tried this many times back in my gluten eating days. But I still love to make it for everyone else, because good food should be shared!

To make this bread: Cut slices about 1/2-3/4 inch thick, but don’t cut all the way through the bread. Just to the bottom. Then stuff it with LOTS OF CHEESE! I cut slices of Monterey Jack and stuffed it in between each slice. Then, melt garlic butter and pour it all over the loaf.  See pictures below.

It’s up to you if you want to make garlic butter, or buy garlic butter and just melt that. Either work. I have put the instructions to make garlic butter in the recipe. It’s super easy, and only requires three ingredients. Plus, the store-bought garlic butter has all kind of ingredients in it that I can’t pronounce.

Wrap the loaf tightly in foil, and pop it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes are up, pull out of the oven and pour more garlic butter over it. Yes, you read that correctly. More melted butter. Then you can top it with whatever you want! Tomatoes, green onion, peppers, more grated cheese. Hey, I never said this recipe was healthy, it’s just delicious.

Saying that, this is supposed to be a healthy food blog. However, life is short, and you need to enjoy delicious, rich food every once in a while. I’m all about the 80/20 rule. Eat well 80% of the time, and the other 20% can be spent however you’d like. A good balance means you don’t have to worry about indulging every once in a while.

Outcome of bread ^^^^^^ nom nom nom. Holy yum.

Rich buttery, cheesy, melty goodness. A perfect accompaniment for lasagna.

OMG who is that girl!? She’s not behind the camera for a change! What the heck happened?!

This was one of the fun parts about today. Mr. FIL actually got to experience the whole process of putting together a blog post, and how much work actually goes into it. Plus, I got him behind the camera to take a few shots. Letting someone else take control of the camera was a little challenging, only because I’m super particular about food shots. But he did an awesome job, and I rewarded him with yummy food. 🙂

It’s important to always let lasagna sit for about 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven. It gives everything time to rest, and cool down. But that 15 minutes is always the longest 15 minutes of life. My stomach is doing the whale call, there’s a huge pan of lasagna in my face that smells incredible, and I have to wait. Complete torture!

Oh and then the smell of this bread mixed in with that…. it’s like this marriage of amazing smells. Mostly just garlic and cheese, but that’s fine by me.

Happy husband, with a full belly ^^^ which in turn, makes me happy.

I was almost tempted to lick the plate clean…

So there you have it. A day in the kitchen with the man behind the blog. It was super fun, and I’m sure we’ll definitely do it again. There’s never enough hours in the day, and to spend time together doing something we both love, made it even better. In our house, there’s never a shortage of good food.

Hopefully this inspired you to grab one of your favourite people and cook a delicious meal together. Cooking is a great way to bond, learn new things about someone, and just have a good time.

Happy Eating 🙂

Cheesy Italian Sausage Lasagna (Gluten Free Options)

This lasagna is like no other! Layered with a creamy garlic sauce, italian sausage and spinach, it is anything but traditional. Always a crowd pleaser, you will have people asking for the recipe!

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 4 Italian sausages casings removed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 med onion diced
  • 11 oz fresh spinach** 1 large container
  • 1 handful fresh basil chopped
  • 1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles reg. or gluten free
  • 2 jars pasta sauce your preference
  • 1 cup asiago cheese grated
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese grated

For the garlic cream sauce

  • 4 cups milk room temperature
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup GF flour or regular all-purpose
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • freshly cracked pepper

Instructions

To make the garlic cream sauce:

  1. Heat a large pan on medium heat. Melt the butter. Once the butter starts bubbling, add the flour and whisk, cooking for 1-2 mins until the mixture darkens slightly in colour. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking until there are no lumps. Add the minced garlic, pepper and nutmeg. Cook for 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally until the sauce is thick, (close to the consistency of yogurt). 

  2. Remove from the heat, set aside.

For the lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a frying pan, heat up 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Once the pan is hot, crumble the Italian sausage, and cook until the the sausage is no longer brown. Drain the sausage, and place in a bowl. Set aside. 

    In the same pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil, and add the diced onion. Cook on med-low heat, until it is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the container of spinach, and slowly cooking the spinach down until it is wilted - about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.

  3. To build the lasagna, start with pouring 3/4 jar of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add the first layer of noodles, covering the bottom completely. Then, add half of the garlic cream sauce, and then crumble half of the sausage on top. Cover the sausage with half of the spinach mixture, sprinkle the chopped basil, then add 1/2 cup of parmesan and asiago cheeses. Place the second layer of noodles on top of the cheese, and repeat.

  4. Lay the third and final layer of noodles on the top of the lasagna. Pour the rest of the two jars of lasagna over the top of the noodles, ensuring there is sauce along the sides, and corners of the baking dish. Place the dish on a large baking sheet, and cover the top tightly with foil.

  5. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes. At this point, pull the lasagna out, remove the foil and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Put back in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the noodles are soft. (Poke the lasagna in the middle with a knife to check if noodles are soft).

  6. Remove from oven and let the lasagna rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

If you don't have time to cook down the spinach, you can use 10 oz of frozen spinach. Just thaw and drain of all excess water.

 

Hasselback Cheesy Garlic Loaf

This bread is perfect for the garlic bread lover in all of us. It does not skimp on either the cheese or garlic butter, and it's easy to pull-apart and serve alongside a pasta dish. Great for dipping in your favourite pasta sauce!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 fresh french loaf
  • 200g (about 1/2 bar) Monterey Jack cheese 1/4 inch slices
  • 3/4 cup salted butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Slice the french bread in 1/2-3/4 inch slices, right down to the bottom, but do not cut all the way through the bread.

  3. Stuff 2-3 slices of cheese in between each slice of bread.

  4. To make the garlic butter: add the butter, minced garlic, and parsley into a measuring cup. Microwave for 20-30 seconds until the butter is melted. Quickly give it a stir.

  5. Cut a long sheet of aluminum foil, and place on top of a baking pan. Carefully place the loaf of bread on top of the foil. Pour half of the garlic butter all over the bread, ensuring it's evenly covered. Wrap the entire loaf of bread in the foil, making sure it's tightly covered, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

  6. After 20 minutes, remove the foil from the bread, and pour the rest of the garlic butter over the top. Add whatever toppings you'd like - more grated cheese, tomato, green onion, or peppers, and place back in the oven, bake uncovered for another 10 minutes.

  7. Remove from the oven, and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Feel free to use whatever cheese you'd like. Cheddar, marble, mozzarella. It's whatever your personal preference is!

 

 

 

 

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