Category Archives: CASSEROLE RECIPES

CREAMY BAKED PASTA PRIMAVERA

In my quest for vegetarian options to offer family and friends, I threw caution to the wind and glommed together this recipe for a primavera in the form of a casserole/lasagna want-to-be. (Too lazy to use lasagna noodles, so used fusilli instead.) (Coincidentally, using fusilli pasta is easy to serve. That always works for me!)

Now, at first glance you might think this recipe very time consuming to fix. But if you study the preparation instructions you will find that actually this dish comes together relatively quickly. Nothing fancy happening in any of the steps. And oh the results. If you are a veggie and cheese lover like I am, this is a dish you will love from first bite.

Now I’m not going to tell you that just because veggies are the star of this show, that this is a nutritionally perfect pasta dish. Yes the veggies are marvels of nature, but the butter, whipping cream, and various cheeses offset some of the benefits gained by “eating your veggies”. But once in a while, every mouth deserves a break from the mundane. And if you are going to indulge every so often, at least you can eat something with some nutritionally redeemable qualities at the same time. (That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!)

So chop us some of your favorite veggies. (Be inventive and use the veggies you like best.) Grate some cheese, and al dente you up some pasta. (Use your favorite pasta. Doesn’t have to be fusilli.) Stir them all together, throw the whole mess in the oven, and serve yourself up a treat.

Perfect served with a nice crisp green salad and some chewy Italian bread. 

  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 sm. carrot, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced into half rounds  
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch asparagus, sliced into diagonal ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 14-16 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 sm. yellow summer squash, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 med. zucchini, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 c. halved small cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ½ c. unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 4 oz. (½ lg. pkg.) cream cheese
  • 1½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. frozen petite peas
  • ¾ lb. fusilli pasta, cooked al dente  
  • vegetable broth or pasta water, as needed
  • 1 c. grated mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the yellow onion, red onion, asparagus, red pepper, and mushroom slices. Sauté until all the veggies are crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the squash and zucchini and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; set aside.

In a saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the butter, heavy whipping cream, milk, and cream cheese until the butter melts and the sauce is smooth and starting to thicken, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese. Adjust seasoning.

In a large bowl, combine the peas, cooked veggies, sauce, and al dente pasta. If the sauce needs a little more liquid, stir in a small amount of vegetable broth or pasta water.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and scoop in the pasta mixture. Pat down a bit and sprinkle with the grated mozzarella.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the entire dish is heated through and the mozzarella is melted and turning a light golden brown.

Please Note: If you are making this dish ahead of time, let each part of the recipe come to room temperature before mixing together. Cover and refrigerate until about an hour before you place in pre-heated oven.

 

 

OLD FASHIONED MEATLOAF

Having just returned from a month long trailer trip that was relaxing and invigorating at the same time, I decided that the JazzVox lunch menu for this past Sunday would be comfort food. (And yes, I cook a lot of comfort food, but that’s just who I am.) And it turns out – I am not alone. Many of our guests thanked me for cooking a couple of classic comfort dishes that brought back memories of days gone by.

So this meatloaf is my recipe for one of the dishes I prepared regularly for my children as they were growing up.

Now after you look at the ingredients, you will notice that not all are fresh. Dried parsley and granulated garlic are not only perfect for this recipe, they are also easy. Take the lid off a jar and measure. Simple. You could of course use fresh parsley and garlic, but this is comfort food, and part of the comfort for me is in the ease of preparation!

Then of course, there’s the topping. Now if that isn’t retro, I don’t know what is! But it works. And it has lasting appeal.

Now, if you haven’t used savory before, you are in for a treat. Savory is native to the Northwest and can be described as a cross between thyme and mint, with a bit of marjoram thrown in for good measure. It has an earthy flavor and is absolutely perfect in soups, stews, meat dishes, and stuffing.

So give this simple meatloaf recipe a try. It will take hardly any time to prepare, and you probably will have planned-overs. That too is comfort my friends. Talk about a win/win situation!

(BTW – Creamy Mac and Cheese was the other comfort food I served. Check it out too.)

  • 1 c. finely chopped onion
  • ½ c. dried bread crumbs (I use Italian breadcrumbs)
  • 1 T. dehydrated parsley
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground savory
  • 1 lg. egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 lb. bulk sausage (breakfast or sweet Italian)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. ketchup

In a medium large bowl, stir together the onion, bread crumbs, parsley, seasoned salt, granulated garlic, pepper, savory, egg, and milk. Gently stir in the sausage, then the ground beef. (Don’t overwork the mixture.) Form into 2 loaves and place on a small rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Remove from oven and spread with brown sugar and ketchup that have been stirred together. Return pan to oven and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes. (Don’t over bake.) Internal temperature should be 155-160 degrees.

YUKON GOLD POTATO GRATIN WITH PEPPER JACK AND WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE

So, what do you do when you have company coming for dinner, 2 pints of heavy cream left over from Christmas, and a partial loaf of Pepper Jack cheese in your refrigerator desperately needing to be used? Not to mention eight beautiful Yukon gold potatoes longing to know how they fit in to the whole dinner party menu? Well, the answer is obvious. You make a gratin!

So yesterday, as I was contemplating the “potato” portion of my already twice changed menu, I decided to go on line and see if anyone else had possibly ever thought of using Pepper Jack cheese in a potato gratin. Once again I was reminded that there isn’t a combination of ingredients out there that hasn’t already been considered! I tell you, the internet is not good for my ego. I think I have an original idea, and then there in black and white for everyone to read is my idea already conceived and brought to fruition. Of course, hoping I could find a recipe already written was why I searched the internet in the first place! But logic has no place in this rant. So I’m just going to wallow in feeling once again usurped! But in all fairness, I do have to thank Wegmans, a grocery store chain back east for their recipe. I made a couple small changes, but I felt they were necessary not only for the outcome of the dish but also to help heal my bruised ego.

I was a bit skeptical of Wegmans recipe because I have had problems with potato casseroles in the past not getting done in the time reflected in the directions. So I did add some time, and it worked out perfectly.

Now this is not a low calorie gratin. This is a special occasion potato dish. But I am telling you true, for that once-in-a-while treat, you could not prepare an easier or more delicious side dish. Last evening I served the potatoes with Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Spinach Salad, and Caribbean Cornbread, all of which are on this site.

So do yourself a favor and fix this gratin next time you have a dinner party or special occasion feast. It is so creamy and delicious. And as strange as it may seem, it isn’t as rich as you might think from reading the recipe. It’s actually just a lovely potato dish. Thank you for the recipe Mr. Wegman, wherever and whoever you might be. And sorry for the slight changes I made.

  • 3½ c. heavy cream, divided
  • 12 oz. (3 c.) grated pepper Jack cheese
  • 4 oz. (1 c.) grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly grounds black pepper
  • 4 lbs. peeled Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick* (about 8 medium sized potatoes)

Pour 2½ cups of the cream in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cheeses, salt, and pepper. Add the potatoes and using the best tool in your kitchen, your hands, mix until each slice of potato is coated with the creamy mess. (If you can do this step without using your hands, you are a much more coordinated person than I am!) 

Transfer potato-cheese mixture to a lightly buttered shallow ovenproof baking dish. Press down on the mixture to make sure all the potatoes are firmly in place. Pour as much of the remaining 1 cup of cream over the whole mess just until the potatoes are totally covered.  

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven. If the top is already a nice golden brown in spots, loosely tent the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the top from getting too brown. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional hour or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

*I use the 4MM slicing disc on my Cuisinart food processor

 

CHICKEN LAYERED WITH SAGE, PROSCIUTTO, AND PROVOLONE CHEESE

There are just certain ingredients that really should appear in a culinary hall of fame. Each unto itself is magnificent, but when a combination of these marvelous ingredients are used in a dish, the result is almost mystical. This recipe contains four of what I consider to be wonder ingredients – chicken, sage, prosciutto, and provolone cheese. As an amalgam, their flavor is almost unbeatable, thus allowing a dish like this simple layered chicken to become a culinary work of art.

I say simple, because this recipe is very easy to prepare. Even lazy retirees like me can make this dish in quite a short amount of time. And working parents who might not think of fixing a dinner featuring such an exotic list of ingredients, might make it part of their regular rotation if they once gave it a go.

All it takes is a little planning. First of all, you must have the ingredients on hand. Duh! You also must decide what you are going to serve with the chicken. I recommend a nice rice dish like the one I so graciously supplied for you at the bottom of this post. Then something green. If you have the strength, a lovely green salad is always perfect. If you don’t have the strength, frozen petite peas warmed in the microwave with a dab of butter and a sprinkle of seasoned salt, works just fine.

So once you have the rice happily bubbling away and your green offering ready except for a bit of last minute attention, you are ready to focus on the star of the show.

As you can see, if you’ve taken the time to read the list of ingredients and directions below, this dish does not take a long time from stove/oven to table. But I would caution, assemble all your ingredients ahead of time and have them close at hand. (Pretend you are the prep cook in a fine dining establishment.) Because prep work is the key to successfully preparing this dish. Actually it’s a good plan of action for almost every recipe. Good prep work can save you time and frustration. Before almost every dinner, I do my prep work before I ever set a pan on the stove. Of course, I usually have a drink in my hand while I complete these preliminary functions. This of course helps the onerous tasks like chopping onions much easier to swallow. So to speak!

So regardless of your time in life – retired, eager to retire, or parent trying to provide your family with wholesome and delicious food, get thee to the kitchen and prepare this amazing dish at your earliest convenience. As you will also have noticed, this recipe makes just enough for 2 hungry, or 4 not so hungry adults. But luckily for you, this recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. And remember – it really is OK to play with your food, regardless of what your mother told you when you were a child. Fix this dish for her, and she might even give you permission to play with your food more often! Cheers

  • ¼ c. flour
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves lengthwise
  • ¼ c. dry white wine
  • scant 1 T. minced fresh sage
  • ½ c. chicken broth, divided
  • ½ tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 slices prosciutto, cut in thirds
  • ½ c. grated provolone cheese
  • paprika, opt.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a wide shallow dish. (I use an 8-inch cake pan.) Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Fry just until done. Transfer the chicken to a 9×9-inch or 7×11-inch Pyrex dish. (Try not to overlap the pieces.)

Deglaze the frying pan with wine. Add the sage, ¼ cup of the chicken broth, and additional pepper. (Not too much pepper.) Slowly simmer for about a minute. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining ¼ cup chicken broth and add to pan. Let simmer for about a couple of minutes, then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning and set aside.

Lay prosciutto over the cooked chicken breasts, sprinkle with grated cheese, and dribble the sauce over the whole mess. (Use a spatula to get every last bit of the sauce onto the chicken.) Sprinkle very lightly with paprika.

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Place under broiler for about 30 seconds to brown. (That is, if you aren’t afraid of your broiler, like I am.  Long story. Someday when I’m feeling strong I’ll tell you all about my ridiculous broiler phobia.) Remove from oven and let rest for about 3 minutes before serving.

WILD RICE SIDE DISH

  • 1 c. wild rice blend (I use Lundberg Wild Blend rice)
  • 1¾ c. chicken broth
  • freshly ground black pepper (not much)

Put the above ingredients in rice cooker. Turn the rice cooker on go. Walk away for about 45 minutes or until the rice cooker tells you the rice is done.

BTW – if you do not own a rice cooker, what are you waiting for? Christmas is coming. Put it on your list. Or do as I do. Order a rice cooker for yourself and inform your spouse that he/she has just purchased one of your Christmas gifts and you are positive you are going to like it. Saves your spouse time and inconvenience, and you get what you truly want or need!

 

 

CHILI RELLANOS CASSEROLE

OK, there are days (I hate to admit this) when I simply don’t want to cook dinner. All I want is to go out to eat! Practically anywhere! Just – out! And really, there need be no good reason for my lethargy towards dinner preparation on these days. I just know I don’t want to cook, mainly because my inspiration level is on empty.  Plus nothing sounds good. On those days what I need is for someone else to give me dinner suggestions (menu), do the prep work (cook), and clean up the mess (kitchen help). Not that Mr. C. doesn’t do the dishes after meals. He does. Actually, he is a marvel at efficiency when it comes to meal clean up. It’s just that some evenings I don’t even want him to spend time in the kitchen. I know – crazy.  So usually, on these occasions, we simply go out.

But then there are the times when I can’t even decide where I want to go. And the thought of putting on lipstick and driving more than 15 minutes seems way too onerous to even contemplate. (There aren’t an abundance of good restaurant choices near our home you see.) So when this happens, and it’s happening more regularly the older I get, I usually bite the bullet and fix the easiest and most delicious thing I can think of to prepare. And this dish fits the bill perfectly.

Now after looking at this recipe you are going to want to say to me “Patti, that looks like the most fattening conglomeration of ingredients I can imagine putting in my mouth”. And you know what? You’d be right! It is a cholesterol bombshell! But you know what else; it is heaven in a pan. And this heavenly concoction can be thrown together in under 15 minutes. (Of course there is the baking time. But who cares. While the casserole is in the oven you’ll have plenty of time to relax and have a nice adult beverage.)

So what to fix to go along with this caloric wonder? Well how about chicken dinner sausages, fresh from your freezer? And a simple little green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Again, quick, easy, and delectable.

So the other evening when inertia had me firmly in its grip, I fixed this casserole, grilled some defrosted sausages, and made a simple little salad of romaine, red onion, tomatoes, marinated black olives, and lots of basil tossed with a simple vinaigrette. The whole meal took less time to prepare than the time I had already spent thinking about where I might want to go for dinner. Isn’t that pathetic?!?! (The things you learn about me through this blog.) Luckily for you, whatever I’ve got can’t be transmitted through the internet. So you can safely catch my drift, but not my silliness! Tiddely Pom*

  • 3 c. (12-oz.) grated Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1½ c. (6-oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (7-oz.) can diced mild green chilies, drained if packed in water
  • 1 T. flour
  • 2 T. milk
  • 2 eggs

Combine the cheeses and place half of the mixture in a lightly greased 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle the green chilies over the cheese. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Whisk together the flour and milk. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Pour over the cheeses and egg mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm and brown on top, sides, and bottom. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Cut into small pieces for appetizer bites or larger pieces when serving as a side dish or main course.

*Don’t know the term Tiddely Pom? Look it up.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MUSHROOM, CHEESE, AND EGG BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

While I was gathering frozen items to take along on our March trailer trip, I grabbed a package of this breakfast casserole along with the other items I needed. I always start our journeys with a full freezer including several kinds of meat, extra butter (never leave home without it), ice cream (for Mr. C), a small amount of  ice (for our first nights “safe arrival” drink), and anything else that I think might provide meal variety and preparation ease along the road.

In addition to the usual items, this year I included frozen broccoli cheese soup, cinnamon rolls, a pasta casserole, and a vacuum packed 2 person portion of this breakfast casserole.

When we are out in our trailer, I almost always fix breakfast. This trip however, we ate out for breakfast one morning mainly for nostalgic reasons. We used to own a condo in Long Beach, Washington, so we just had to eat at least one meal at our favorite restaurant in the area (42nd Street Café and Bistro) while we were “camped” for one night at Cape Disappointment State Park. (I say “camped”, but in reality, calling a fully equipped trailer parked at a state park or RV park “camping” is nigh onto ludicrous. A walk around queen sized bed, full bathroom, three burner stove plus oven, refrigerator/freezer, microwave, furnace, air conditioner, TV, radio, etc. is about as far from real camping (sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, keeping your perishables in a cooler, etc.) as spending a night in a youth hostel compared to a 5 star hotel! Actually, even further apart. At least spending the night in a youth hostel, you don’t have to leave your warm bed and run through a torrential downpour to reach a bathroom in the middle of the night!) But I digress……………….. And no, I don’t feel guilty in the least. I did my share of tent camping when I was younger and loved every minute of it. But at a certain age, even the most avid tent camper must pay attention to Mother Nature when she starts sending out not-so-subtle hints that it might be time to make a change. (The onset of regular night calls and tender knees, to mention a couple of the hints both Mr. C and I received from Her Grace.)

For a few pictures of our “camping” experience, see pictures below.

Anyway, what I am trying to get at, in my own easily distracted way, is that for one of our breakfasts, it was a delight to open our trailer freezer, pull out the package containing this casserole, heat it up in the microwave, (yes I know I’m spoiled) and have a tasty bit of variety from our normal breakfast meat and eggs over easy.

I guess I should really get back to the subject at hand and mention that this casserole is very easy to prepare, fairly economical, and just plain delicious. And if you haven’t already gathered that it freezes beautifully, let me take this opportunity to make that fact known to you as well.

So do yourself and your family a favor. Make up a double batch of this breakfast casserole. Serve one batch and save the other in your freezer. Then some morning when even the thought of getting out of bed, much less cooking breakfast is repugnant, whip your frozen casserole out of the freezer, and treat yourself to a fabulous breakfast with virtually no preparation involved. OK, you do have to work the buttons on your microwave. But that’s where a hot, steaming cup of coffee really helps! Good morning sunshine! Breakfast’s ready.

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ¼ lb. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 c. half & half
  • ¼ tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices cubed white bread

Melt butter in medium fry pan. Brown mushrooms in butter and remove from pan. Add sausage and cook until starting to brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Pour a tiny bit of the half & half in a large bowl. Add the dry mustard and whisk until smooth. (If you add the mustard to all the liquid, you will have the very devil of a time breaking up the small dried mustard clumps. Trust me on this one!) When smooth add the remaining half & half, salt, pepper, parsley, and eggs. Whisk until the eggs are well combined. Stir in the cheese, bread, cooked mushrooms, and sausage.

Pour into a lightly buttered casserole or 9×13-inch pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake the casserole.

Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until firm to the touch and lightly browned. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Freezes beautifully.

Our trailer parked at Morro Bay State Park. Picture taken from the golf course.

Another picture taken from the golf course. (Man taking his golf clubs for a stroll – Mr. C.)

Rough life at Jalama Beach (Santa Barbara county park).

Any closer to the Columbia River while parked at Peach Beach RV Park across the river from Biggs, Oregon and we would have been IN the river! Pretty darn wonderful!

CURRIED CHICKEN CASSEROLE WITH BROWN RICE AND BROCCOLI

In my opinion, people who think casseroles are uninteresting, too fattening, and a thing of the past, simply don’t have enough empirical study on the subject. And I mean to help with that problem by offering up one of my favorite casserole recipes to assist with said research.

Now I know broccoli, chicken, and curry casserole (Chicken Divan) has been around for decades. But my version is healthier, less caloric, and if I may be so bold, tastier than most. (If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be posting this recipe in the first place! Duh!)

So what makes my spin on this classic different?

  • no cream of mushroom or chicken soup
  • no sharp cheddar cheese
  • no bread crumbs
  • no butter
  • no sherry or white wine
  • the addition of a small amount of cooked brown rice
  • broccoli and chicken cut into really small pieces so that each bite contains a small bit of each ingredient
  • the addition of a small amount of onion
  • the addition of Dijon mustard to give the sauce a bit of a kick

So as you can see, this recipe has just a few ingredients either lacking or added to make this casserole just a tad bit unique. It’s still really Chicken Divan. But I think my execution of this dish better reflects the current taste for more sophisticated yet wholesome preparations. But as they say – vive la différence! If you have a favorite recipe for Chicken Divan, I say, stick with what you know and like. But if you are a novice to casserole preparation, and feel up to the task of researching casseroles to enhance your culinary expertise, I would recommend this recipe. You have to start somewhere after all, so you might as well start with a casserole that is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, and just plain delicious. In Mr. Cs words, “this is really wonderful”. (I love it when those words pop unsolicited from his mouth. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Of course the pre-dinner martini helps with that feeling too. But it’s healthier mentally to believe that Mr. Cs comments are the real reason for my elation!)

  • ½ c. uncooked brown rice*
  • 1 c. water
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • 3 c. very small pieces of broccoli flowerets and peeled stems  
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite sized pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. finely minced onion
  • 2 tsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/3 c. light mayonnaise    
  • 1 T. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley, opt. garnish*or 1 cup leftover cooked rice

    Combine rice, water, and seasoned salt. Cook while you are assembling other ingredients. (I use my rice cooker.)  While the rice cooks, steam or blanch the broccoli until crisp tender. (You don’t want the broccoli tender at this point. It will continue to cook while it cools and during its tenure in the oven.) Set aside.

    Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the diced chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken cubes just until done. (They should have some brown on them.) Remove from pan and set aside.

    Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Do not let the onion get brown. When the onion is done, whisk in the flour and curry powder. (The flour will be quite dry.) Cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning. Bring to just under a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in the cooked rice, broccoli, and chicken.

    Scoop into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the casserole is hot. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

 

 

MEXICAN BLACK BEAN AND RICE CASSEROLE

Basically, I don’t like Mexican rice. Of course, as with almost everything, there are exceptions. One exception is my recipe for Mexican Rice (on this site) because it contains no tomatoes. (I don’t particularly like the taste of rice and tomatoes together.) So mainly when I place my order in a Mexican restaurant, I request no rice. But I do dearly love the combination of rice and beans. So recently I decided to work up a rice and black bean dish (sans tomato) with a decidedly Mexican flavor. And this recipe is the result.

Of course I have known for decades that rice and beans form a complete protein, so obviously this dish is perfect for vegetarians. But for those of us who are omnivores but appreciate a break from meat periodically, this dish is so filling and delicious, the lack of meat is not even noticed. And as a replacement for the mandatory Mexican rice and blob of refried beans served on every gigantic “be careful the plate is hot” entrée platter in America, there are very few rivals. (Well maybe in the Southwest, but sure as shootin’ not here in the Pacific NW!)

So next time you get a hankerin’ for Mexican food, give this dish a try. It is creamy and full of flavor. Absolutely perfect for children and adults alike. And please feel free to add your own spin to this dish. Just don’t add tomatoes. That would defeat all the hard work I put into researching and refining this dish, and that would make me sad.

  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 c. uncooked long grain white rice, washed thoroughly and drained  
  • 1½ c. vegetable broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (small amount)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can black beans – rinsed and drained
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 (4-oz.) can diced green chiles  
  • 1 c. shredded cheese, divided (I use a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar)
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano (Mexican oregano is the best)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder

Heat butter in a medium sized covered saucepan. Add rice and sauté until all the rice is covered with butter and starting to brown. Add broth, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed. Add lime juice to rice, re-cover pan and continue to simmer for 2 additional minutes. Lightly fluff rice with fork and stir in black beans. Cover and heat additional 3 minutes or until beans are heated through. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, green chiles, ¾ cup of the cheese, oregano, and chile powder. Gently stir into the rice mixture. Adjust seasoning. Scoop into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 350 oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted.

(And yes I know brown rice is better for us than white rice. But under the circumstances, I believe you should cut me some slack because of all the nutritional value contained in the black beans. Thank you.)

 

SAVORY KALE AND MUSHROOM STRATA (BREAD PUDDING)

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I am always trying to come up with new and exciting side dishes. And especially side dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. So in trying to come up with a non-potato or rice dish to serve our hungry and discerning home concert guests this next Sunday, I thought about a savory bread pudding. And although I have two other delicious recipes for savory bread pudding on this site, Savory German Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, I wanted a strata that included kale and Gruyère cheese.

So never being one to leave well enough alone, I made some changes to a recipe I found on the New York Times web site. (I don’t know why I can’t just leave a recipe as is. But for whatever reason, most of the time I find it impossible to not tinker with a new recipe!) And in this case, I think the changes worked well.

The kale gives the strata a nice boost of color and vitamins, and the combination of cheeses lifts the overall flavor from mediocre to marvelous.

So if you too are bored with potato or rice side dishes, give this recipe a try. It’s easy to prepare, beautiful to look at, and delectable. It would also make a wonderful change from regular dressing at Thanksgiving or Christmas time. The pudding is flavorful enough to stand on its own, but if someone simply had to pour turkey gravy over it (that would be me!), the pudding would not be hurt in the least! (As if good turkey gravy ever hurt anything in the first place!)

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ c. diced onion
  • 4 c. kale (stemmed, washed, cut into bite sized pieces, and dried in a salad spinner)   
  • ½ lb. button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lb. rustic bread, cut into cubes (I like to use rustic sour dough bread)
  • scant 2 c. grated Gruyère cheese
  • scant 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 lg. eggs
  • 2 c. whole milk, or more as needed
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and kale; cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, the mushroom and kale mixture, and the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses. Pour into a buttered large casserole dish or baking pan.*

Whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, nutmeg, a pinch of kosher salt, and some fresh ground pepper together. Pour over the bread mixture. Press down just a bit so bread cubes are mostly covered by the liquid. (If the bread cubes stick up above the liquid, add just a bit more milk.) Let sit for at least an hour before baking uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until puffed and very lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve warm.

BAKED CHEESY CHICKEN FLORENTINE CASSEROLE

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I don’t know why I am on a chicken and ground beef kick this spring, but I can’t seem to talk myself out of using one of these 2 rather ordinary meats in most of the recipes I am working up lately. So much so, that a hunk of smoked salmon I have in my refrigerator is giving me the evil eye every time I open the refrigerator door. And with every good reason. It keeps whispering that it too would make into a tasty dish if only I would take my eyes off the more plebian chicken and ground beef for even an evening! (I hate it when an ingredient is right! But I still seem to be focusing on lean chicken and ground beef as choice ingredients in both casseroles and salads.)

So for at least the foreseeable future, I am going to be offering more recipes that feature these 2 wonderful and readily available protein sources.

I also have been working on low fat, low calorie, and terribly nutritious recipes. Well let me just state right up front – this is not one of them! This is an in-your-face, all the way, super rich, decadent, and not every day kind of indulgence. The sauce is so rich that you really won’t believe how easy it is to prepare. And in combination with the prosciutto, diced chicken, and spinach (at least spinach is healthy), you and your family/guests are in for a culinary treat.

So next time you want a casserole that can be prepared ahead of time and is sure to impress your family and friends, if they don’t have a coronary while eating it that is, feature this dish at your next get-together.

The bones of the recipe come from the Group Recipes site with just a tiny embellishment from me.

  • ¼ c. (4 T.) unsalted butter
  • ½ of a 5 oz. pkg. of thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
  • ¼ small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. chicken broth
  • 1½ c. milk
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 c. chopped cooked chicken breast meat
  • 1 c. shredded imported Gruyère cheese
  • ½ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ½ of a 9-oz. pkg. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 8 oz. thick egg noodles, cooked al dente
  • paprika, garnish, opt.

In a large Dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat. Add prosciutto and fry until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside to drain. Add the onion to the same pan and cook over low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Whisk in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the broth, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg – whisking until smooth. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in the cooked chicken, Gruyère cheese, mozzarella cheese, and half of the Parmesan cheese; stirring until well combined. Stir in the uncooked spinach and the cooked noodles. Adjust seasoning.

Spoon mixture into a lightly buttered large casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated or frozen up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw completely in refrigerator before cooking. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before baking. (Take out of refrigerator about 1 hour before you plan to place it in the oven.)