Recipe: Loaded Chicken Lasagna

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Welcome back to A Venturing Girl! I’ve been quite slow with the posts lately, but as I’m sure some blogging readers will understand, sometimes life gets in the way of writing! I’m hoping that the break will bring a fresh perspective to my posts. In light of this, and having not done a recipe in a while, I thought I would share this one with you!

On Sunday night I was feeling pretty lethargic in the way that having a merry old time with alcohol for the past two nights can make you feel. As usual, my first thought was: what can I cook to make this go away? When it comes to comfort food, anything involving cheese is great where I’m concerned, so I decided to make a simple chicken lasagna with blue cheese and cheddar. I know, I know; chicken lasagna isn’t exactly traditional, and I do love to make a good traditional lasagna. But a little while ago while deciding what to make for dinner, my boyfriend asked could we just have chicken lasagna because he was sick of mince. I thought it sounded a bit weird, but, why the hell not? A few substitutions later we had an awesome dish on our hands. So, here is my recipe for a delicious, high protein, comforting lasagna that is out of your comfort zone! It did the trick for me on Sunday and I hope that it saves you from a similar post alcohol funk, or just gives you a nutritious meal for an evening after work, a day of hiking or a decent stint at the gym!

You will need

For the Ragu Sauce and meat:

  • Four Chicken Fillets, diced
  • 25g Salted Butter
  • 2 tins of Chopped Tomatoes
  • Lasagna sheets (number varying on the size of your casserole dish)
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Pepper
  • 2 Fistfuls of Spinach
  • a Pinch of Basil

For the White Sauce:

  • 75g of Salted Butter
  • 50g of Plain Flour
  • 350mls of Warm Milk
  • 50g Blue Cheese
  • 50g Cheddar
  • a cheeky teaspoon of mustard

Cooking Advice:

First things first, pre heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

I like to get all of my veg chopped up and ready to go first, but if you prefer to prepare as you go, put one saucepan on a low heat and add 25g of butter, once the butter is melted, add your spinach and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until it is soft and wilted, this should give you plenty of time to chop up your carrots and pepper.

Next, placing an oiled pan on a high heat, add your diced chicken and cook until nicely browned

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Pop the chicken unto a large saucepan and add in your two tins of chopped tomatoes, a pinch of basil and all of the veg. Season with some black pepper and basil and place on a low heat to simmer, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The next bit is the white sauce!

Put 75g of butter into a warm saucepan on the hob with the smallest ring, until the butter melts.

Add the flour and stir together until the butter and flour form a paste. Sometimes this can be tricky and lumpy, but just keep stirring. I find that using a wooden spoon or soft rubber spatula give me the best results.

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The Sauce, as I made it!

Next, add your warm milk bit by bit, mixing as you go. For this part I would recommend using a whisk as it aerates and thickens the sauce while also getting rid of any persistent lumps of flour!

Turn up the heat until the sauce begins to boil, and then lower your temperature to simmer. You should have a nice creamy mixture at this stage.

Now for the cheese.  Still using your whisk, mix in your blue cheese and your cheddar. Season with a little bit of pepper and, my savory sauce must have: a teaspoon of mustard. If you have never done this, just try it out, I don’t think that you will be disappointed!

Leave your sauce on a low heat.

Now it’s time to layer your lasagna.

People always ask whether you should first soften your lasagna sheets in water. I never do and they are always soft when the dish comes out of the oven. I think that this is to do with using chopped tomatoes which have plenty of juices to soften the sheets as opposed to a jar of ready made sauce which may not have as high a water content.

I just do a bog standard layer of meat and sauce, layer of sheets, layer of sauce, repeat; but some people like some sneaky sheets between the sauce and the meat so if it’s more sheets you’re after, get ’em on.

I leave a bit of extra white sauce for the top layer (I can only ever manage two anyway!) and this time I sprinkled some blue cheese on top which was really divine!

Cook for approximately 25 – 15 minutes (times vary depending on the oven, mine is a fan so it’s a bit quicker) and enjoy your slightly different, but no less delicious chicken lasagna.

Enjoy!

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Get on Board: Why Trying a New Sport Will Make You Feel Exceptional!

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Some snowboarding pics from 2015 and 2014. Kudos to Matt and Jac for getting into a selfie with me on Sunday after a pretty grueling 1st lesson back!

I believe that a lot of people tend to divide sporting activities and fitness into separate entities. It’s easy enough to do; you don’t actually need to be involved in sports to be fit, there are enough gyms, classes and fitness tutorials (as I have mentioned in a previous post) to make doing any sporting activity completely redundant to your fitness journey. However, I have to ask the question, is this a good thing?

Well, in the past I would have said, yeah, it probably is! There are a lot of people who have been put off sports because they don’t enjoy the competitive side of it, or maybe they had a negative experience of sports at school. Why should not being a school star hockey player or a fear of falling off their skis put anyone off having a healthy lifestyle?

Who cares how people get fit as long as they’re out getting what they need?

Well, just this week, I was scrolling through my twitter feed and saw a tweet by BBC Newsbeat about Beth Tweedle. Beth Tweedle is an Olympian, she is described as Britain’s greatest ever Olympic gymnast; among the host medals that she has won over the years, she achieved a Bronze medal in gymnastics in the London 2012 Olympics. She does things with her body that display a discipline and intelligence that most of us could only ever hope to achieve.

She was viciously trolled during a twitter Q & A session for Sky News last year. Not because of a poor performance or something inappropriate that she had said. She was abused for her gender and her appearance.

The tweet that I noticed this week by BBC Newsbeat was reporting how she had forgiven the people who had abused her so disgustingly.

Women like Beth Tweedle inspire me. Her talent and maturity had given her the confidence to speak out about the online tirade that she had experienced in a strong and measured way which showed how little regard she or anyone should have for that kind of rubbish. But it got me thinking. It is this type of abusive, nasty, jealousy that puts people (I say people because I absolutely refuse to limit this to women, it effects everyone) off trying something new. Have you ever thought about doing something and then thought better of it? And if so, why was not doing it “better”?

Be honest, were you worried about what people would think of you? 

Over the past year or so I have tried Bikram Yoga, Wall Climbing, Bouldering, Munro Bagging (well, one so far) Fencing and Snowboarding. I have done Bikram Yoga (Yoga where the room is at a high temperature to increase flexibility) with people whom I have just met, and being very Irish in complexion, I was a sweaty pink mess by about 5 minutes in! I have climbed high walls in a harness and shaken like a leaf the whole way up because I am absolutely terrified of heights. I have stabbed my boyfriend and pal Matt with (blunt) swords in Fencing. And I have fallen on my bum, had snow down my pants and sweated under my helmet in Snowboarding. Trying out new sports is tough. You don’t always stick at it. I found fencing a bit too inconvenient to get to, I go bouldering from time to time, Bikram is pricey but again it’s something that I can do every now and then, and I am back to snowboarding lessons as of last Sunday so that hopefully my friends and I can get on the slopes this year! But I did it, and yeah, at times I felt stupid or that I had made a bit of an odd choice in activity. But then, why should I? Doing something different is exciting. It allows you to meet new people and learn about yourself. So I may not go up another climbing wall again; at least I tried it out.

I am not saying that you absolutely need to add a sport to your fitness regime. But I am saying that you should think about it. Learning a new skill can freshen up your routine and get you thinking again instead of mechanically doing the same old thing. I am not a natural snow boarder and sometimes I get frustrated with it, but I also get a laugh out of it, and when I get something right, when I manage a toe edge descent or a smooth stop, it makes me feel awesome. Even writing about it now is making me smile a bit!

It’s a real pity that someone as incredible as Beth Tweedle had to read some drivel written about her by idiotic people, but none of that stupidity can ever take away from what she has and will continue to achieve. In the same way, why should we limit ourselves to a treadmill where there are a host of activities just waiting to be explored? We’re already challenging ourselves to be better, why not go a little further?

For more about Beth Tweedle:

 http://www.bethtweddle.com/ and http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/31359910

Sunday Post: Blending In

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Welcome to Sunday!

It’s funny how weekends and days off in general are supposed to be restful, but often they are anything but! This weekend for example, I had a long over due wardrobe clear out to look forward to, oh joy of joys. As I mentioned in my last post, I have a move coming up in the next few weeks and, I’m in the process of getting my possessions packed up in the least chaotic fashion possible. To be honest, even though I have not been living here for that long I can still find clothes and things that I can give to charity! That might just be me though. I am not the most materialistic person and am very quick to say when I don’t need something. I can fit all of the clothes, shoes and make up that I need and want into one suitcase (although to be fair, I cannot say the same for books). That has it’s advantages and disadvantages. For example, my style could definitely be described as simple (read: boring) and there is a strong possibility that subconsciously I am just constantly preparing to make a quick getaway (I may have been some kind of fugitive or hunter gather in a past life). I’m just not a great possessor of things. If I no longer have use for something, I throw or give it away. Sentimentality only comes into a few, probably quite strange items that I own: postcards, my dads scarf which I wear nearly everyday, my race numbers and some pictures. That being said, though, I don’t believe in denying yourself something that you want. Life is for living and experiencing not for saving it all up for a rainy day! For some people that’s a new lipstick, for others it’s a holiday or just (we’re getting crazy here) a few hours of down time to do nothing at all.

IMG_20150126_182354Recently, I bought a Kenwood Tri-Blade hand held blender set. Calm down lads, I know this is getting a bit wild! Seriously though, I have been meaning to get something to make soups and smoothies with and was initially just looking for a simple single unit blender as they are reasonable priced and would really help me to pack some fresh fruit and veg combinations to my diet. I ended up going for a bit extra as there was a set on sale with a balloon whisk, shredder and soup blender, so for the sake of an extra £20 I figured it was, as Kevin Bacon would say, a no brainer, but the hand held mixer is what I will be getting the most use out of. Over the past week or so I have been trying out a few different concoctions including a kale, chilli and broccoli soup. I actually got a compliment about the smell of this soup from someone sitting beside me at lunch one day, which, for any kale eaters, made me rather proud as we all know that it can smell rather pungent at times! I also like cucumber and apple smoothies which are incredibly refreshing. I have found smoothies to be great with my breakfast because they make me feel nicely full and stave off hunger for a good while.

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The Blender set has been a welcome addition to our culinary collection. There is something rather satisfying in the act of blitzing things after a long day at work too! Another, slightly more strenuous health and fitness aid that has entered our home this week is the lovely pull up bar which my boyfriend has just purchased. Pull Up Bars don’t seem to like me and in the past have had a habit of falling on my head during an ill advised door closures. This guy is no different, our first acquaintance ended in half a pull up and copious swearing. But now that it is here, I am going to try to make some use out of it as I know that it will be an amazing way to build up my strength, and, tears and swearing aside, help me to achieve my goals as a runner.

When it comes to the things that you have, thinking about what you need is important from time to time. Getting a blender was something that I wanted and will make good use out of but the pull up bar is probably a challenge that I need. So that’s my brief chat on possessions and things. Truth is though, the best one that you will have is your body; yourself. Use it, test it, rest it and take care of it.

Take care of yourself.

Just Go With It – Spring Is Here

Spring is in the air if it isn’t on the ground. Even with the snow, the mornings are bright again. I love to watch the sun rising over the river Clyde as my train crosses the bridge into Glasgow Central Station everyday. That view always stirs a smile from me, even if I’m just commuting into work. Seeing the quays lighting up with the day, the sun bouncing back off the river and the glass buildings makes me think of all of the possibilities and people around me.

Like most people, the last month has been a challenge for me. January is a notoriously tough month, isn’t it? It’s dark, the buzz of Christmas is over, money is always tight and everyone feels like they should be doing more to be a better person. Over the last month, making the commitment to get my act together when it came to my running and health goals has definitely made me more conscious of maybe a couple (of thousand) ways that I can procrastinate and talk myself into letting things slide. But it has also made me very proud of the little achievements that I have made, even if that’s just having breakfast in the morning! Starting this blog has been a big part of that. Not only in terms of thinking of my own little victories, but feeling like I can share them with other people has made me feel a bit more awesome about the little things that I have done. One aspect of this which I had never considered, was how much I would enjoy reading other people’s story’s by exploring other blogs. When I think of myself sitting on that train commute at the start of January flicking through the WordPress Reader wondering what the hell it all was, to now scrolling through the list of blogs that I follow, it’s like another world that I had no clue existed before!

Blogging has been a welcome outlet and motivator in what has been a month that has challenged me in other areas too. Outside of blogging, I have been adjusting to some changes in my life here. Just before Christmas I said goodbye to a great friend and flatmate Audrey who moved back to her home in California to pursue a Masters degree and her career. I have known Audrey since I moved to Glasgow and it was a hard goodbye as we had become very close through our shared experiences (and various disasters!) of moving to a new country. She is not the only friend that I have had to say goodbye to, our other friend from the beginning, Beth, left back in July and a lot of the great people that I have met here have moved on too. Only two weeks ago, Erica an amazing cook and sweet/hilarious friend, also made the journey back to the States. I would never grudge anyone for leaving to move on to the next adventure in their lives, it’s just that for me, moving on has meant staying where I am.

Beth, Audrey and I
Beth, Audrey and I
Erica and Audrey
Erica and Audrey

It hasn’t been all bad. My boyfriend Chris and I had decided a few months ago that we were ready to move in together, which we did just before Christmas. Chris and I have been together for almost 2 years and the last month has been our first real experience of living together, and even at that he was called away on a business trip for a week! Plus, but we have been looking for a bigger flat to rent.

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Me and Chris
Chris and I share a love of crisps!
We share a love of crisps!

This can be a bit of a challenge when you live so close to the city as the ones you want tend to get snapped up (which we have definitely experienced) and we have been waiting for something that we really loved to give us the best possible start. Just last weekend, we were lucky enough to be chosen by a landlord to rent a really beautiful place that I fell in love with the second I walked in. Have you ever been in a place and you can just see yourself sitting on the couch or cooking in the kitchen? That’s how I felt and honestly I cannot describe how excited I am to make it my home (sorry; our home, *cough).

Personally, I don’t like life to be easy, it should be full of plans and spontaneity and fun and challenges and craic (craic is Irish for fun in case you get any ideas). So January is done and dusted and we are all moving on to the next venture. Here’s to Spring.

As the Tears for Fears Lyric says: Welcome to your life; there’s no turning back.

Let’s Go!

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