Category Archives: CASSEROLE RECIPES

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.)

 

 

TÖLTÖTT KÁPOSZTA (HUNGARIAN MEAT AND RICE STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS)

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There are several ingredients seemingly indigenous to Hungarian cuisine that are among my favorites. I love the flavor of paprika, adore sour cream and dill, and think caraway is fabulous. So when I can prepare a dish that contains all of these favorites, I know I am going to be in culinary heaven.

So when I decided I wanted to update my 40 year old recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls, I kept each of these ingredients in mind as I concocted my new version of this Hungarian classic.

While I was at it, I also wanted my cabbage rolls to be low in fat and reasonably easy to prepare. And to be made with fairly inexpensive ingredients. I also wanted a dish that even people like my husband, who are not as fond of cruciferous vegetables as I am, to be able to enjoy the dish and even look forward to eating it again.

So this recipe is my take on Töltött káposzta. And for all of you out there who have lovely Hungarian grandmothers who would be deeply offended by my use of sour cream in the sauce rather than as just a garnishment, who would not be caught dead not including sauerkraut or smoked pork shank in their version, I humbly offer my apologies. But as in all things, it’s really just all about me. And of course, what can you expect from a person who has only French and German blood running through her veins? Remember: not everyone is lucky or smart enough to be born with a Hungarian grandmother. (Next time around, I will be smart enough to get my request in early for an Italian mother and a Hungarian father. Or visa/versa would be fine too.)

If you need more apology than the aforesaid, please ask your grandmother to contact me personally! Speaking of which, don’t hesitate to “leave a reply” if you like a recipe or want to share some insight into the recipe with me. If your comment is not too derogatory, I will gladly add your comment to the blog for all the world to see. Thanks and I hope you enjoy this recipe. Oh, and also – Happy Spring! Yea sunshine!

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • ¼ c. long grain rice
  • 1 c. water 
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. marjoram
  • ½ tsp. caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper  
  • 3 T. sweet Hungarian paprika, divided (and yes, use real Hungarian paprika)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. ground pork*
  • 1 lb. ground beef*
  • 1 small can (14-oz.) chopped skinless tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best)
  • 1 c. sour cream, plus more for passing at the table
  • fresh dill weed, garnish, opt.

Remove core from cabbage with a paring knife. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Reduce heat and simmer the cabbage until leaves are softened enough to pull off individually. Then using a pair of tongs, gently remove the leaves as they become tender and set aside to drain/cool. (Don’t worry if you tear a leaf. It will mend during the baking process. Well, it won’t really mend, but once anyone takes a bite, believe me, no one will notice any tiny presentation imperfections!) Save the cabbage water for use later on in the recipe.    

Meanwhile place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small covered pan and bring to a boil.  Stir, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid, and set aside to cool. (If you have leftover rice, by all means use it.)  

While the cabbage leaves cool, place the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and gently sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, add the marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of the Hungarian paprika, and the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Add the partially cooked rice, ground meat, and combine just until the spice/onion mixture is evenly distributed throughout the meat. (Clean hands are your best tool for this process. Note: take your rings off first!) Place a handful of the meat mixture inside each cabbage leaf and wrap up like a burrito. Place folded side down in a lightly greased deep sided casserole or baking dish.

In the empty frying pan (I hate to make more dishes dirty than necessary), whisk together the tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons of paprika, 1 cup sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 cup of the reserved cabbage cooking water. Pour over the cabbage rolls and tightly cover the pan with foil. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 45-60 minutes or until the sauce is almost gone. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a nice rustic bread, baked Yukon gold potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes, and additional sour cream and fresh dill as garnishes.

*If you want to use another pound of ground beef instead of ground pork – go for it. You could also substitute ground chicken or turkey with wonderful results.

 

CHICKEN POT PIE – HAVE IT YOUR WAY!

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I just couldn’t decide which recipe for chicken pot pie I liked the best. So I decided to share my three favorite recipes (Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken and Parmesan Pot Pie, and Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheddar Pot Pie) and let you peruse the ingredient list for yourself. Of course you could fix all three at once, but I would suggest just starting with one. After all, these babies are loaded with calories. (I’m not proud of this you realize. It’s just a matter of fact!) So why am I posting these recipes tempting you to be naughty? Because my dear friends, there’s a time and a place for comfort food. (To my thinking, it’s anytime and anyplace!) But even a foodie hedonist like myself, can’t advocate eating comfort food all the time. (I would of course if I were 25 and still had the metabolism of a pigmy shrew. But alas those days are long gone. Sigh…)

So once in a while, when Mr. C and I have been particularly good, I reward us with a comfort food. And isn’t that the way it should be? A little reward here and there to act as an incentive for good behavior? I know it always works well for our cats after we’ve trimmed their toenails. So I figure if it’s good enough for our kitties, it should be good enough for us! And then, of course, there are those times when life gets a little rough. You know. Like when your favorite sports team loses a game, or your favorite TV show gets preempted by a presidential debate. Rough times for sure!

So when you too need a little comforting, bake yourself up one of these pies. They really are quite easy to build and absolutely fool proof. And if you are wondering why I mainly bake a big pot pie rather than a couple smaller ones, it’s my nod to being good. It’s much easier for me to cut myself a reasonable portion from a large pie, than to have a large individual pie in front of me that fairly demands to be eaten right down to the last crumb. That, and it’s a lot easier to build a large pie than several small ones. (The real reason is the latter, but the first reason sounded so virtuous, I just had to include it!)

CHICKEN POT PIE

  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced  
  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
  • ¼ rounded tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • ¼ rounded tsp. ground sage
  • ¼ tsp. ground savory  
  • ½ c. frozen petite peas
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 recipe Pie Crust (recipe given below)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk

Pour chicken broth into a small sauce pan. Add the chicken and cook only until the chicken is almost cooked through. Turn off heat. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces to a small bowl. Set aside. (The chicken will finish cooking as it cools.) Reserve the broth.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Sauté until the onion is soft. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minute. Add the reserved chicken broth and whisk to blend. As the sauce starts to thicken, add the milk, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Add the reserved chicken and peas and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Adjust seasoning.

Butter a shallow casserole dish*. (I use a 9×11-inch casserole dish.) Pour the filling into the dish and smooth the top. Set aside while you prepare the crust.

CHICKEN AND PARMESAN POT PIE

  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4-6- mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried sage
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ c. frozen petite peas
  • 1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 recipe Pie Crust (recipe given below)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk

Pour chicken broth into a small sauce pan. Add the chicken and cook only until the chicken is almost cooked through. Turn off heat. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces to a small bowl. Set aside. (The chicken will finish cooking as it cools.) Reserve the broth.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Sauté until the onion is soft. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minute. Add the reserved stock and whisk to blend. As the sauce starts to thicken, add the milk, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Add the cooked chicken and peas and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheese and the parsley. Adjust seasoning.

Butter a shallow casserole dish*. (I use a 9×11-inch casserole dish.) Pour the filling into the dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Set aside while you prepare the crust.

CHICKEN, BROCCOLI, AND CHEDDAR POT PIE

  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced  
  • ¼ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • ½ crown broccoli, cut in small pieces
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 recipe Pie Crust (recipe given below)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. milk

Pour chicken broth into a small sauce pan. Add the chicken and cook only until the chicken is almost cooked through. Turn off heat. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces to a small bowl. Set aside. (The chicken will finish cooking as it cools.) Reserve the broth.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté until the onion is soft. Add the broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minute. Add the reserved stock and whisk to blend. As the sauce starts to thicken, add the milk, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked chicken and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese and parsley. Adjust seasoning.

Butter a shallow casserole dish*. (I use a 9×11-inch casserole dish.) Pour the filling into the dish and smooth the top. Set aside while you prepare the crust.

*Please note: If you prefer individual pot pies, just follow the directions except use smaller casserole dishes or ramekins. Then simply roll the pie crust to the appropriate size for the dishes you are using. Also, if you wish to freeze your pot pie(s), do so before baking. Then remove from freezer about 30 minutes before you stick it or them in the oven.

PIE CRUST

  • ½ c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 T. ice cold water

Cut the butter into 16 pieces and place in the bowl of your food processor with the sharpest blade you own. (The first time I made this I used the dull blade. Bad mistake. The cold butter just laughed at the blade and nothing really happened. So I swapped it out for the one I use when I’m pulverizing ingredients, and life got a lot better!) Add the flour and salt. Pulse about 10-15 times or until the mixture looks like small peas. With the processor running, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Process until the dough begins to look like it might want to clump together. (The only way I know to make sure the dough is ready to form a decent ball, is to use my fingers and pinch a bit of the dough. If the dough ingredients feel like they might be growing fond of spending time together, I call it good!). Sprinkle a little flour on a pastry cloth or clean, dry surface. Pour the mixture on the floured surface and form it into a ball. Roll the dough out until it is about 1-inch on all sides larger than the casserole dish containing the filling. Gently set the crust on the filling. Tuck the pastry edges into the dish. With a paring knife, make several cuts, or steam vents, in the pastry. In a small bowl whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon milk. Brush the pastry lightly with the egg glaze. (You will have extra glaze. I cover the bowl, add more eggs the next morning, and enjoy a nice dish of scrambled eggs. Frugal? Who me?) Bake the pot pie in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

 

EASY HAM AND CHEESE QUICHE

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Our good friend Jim sent me this recipe the other day and I fixed it for dinner a couple of nights ago. It was crazy easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious! As it happens, I didn’t have enough Gruyère cheese on hand, (and was too lazy to go to the store), so along with a couple of other bits and pieces of cheese that I thought might go well together in this dish, I proceeded according to the directions. (I used about a half cup of grated Gruyère, a half cup of grated aged gouda, and a cup of grated manchego.) It tasted great, so basically I think you could use just about any combination of cheeses and come out with a wonderful product.

Now I must admit that I have tried so called “impossible” or “crust-less” quiche recipes before and have never been impressed. But this recipe from Cook’s Country is an exception. It’s very easy to cut into wedges, and very easy to take out of the pie plate. And oh so yummy! I served it with a Greek salad for a quick and easy dinner, and we both were thoroughly happy campers.

So if you too love quiche, but find regular quiche either intimidating to prepare, or too time consuming, give this recipe a try. Just don’t be afraid to change it up a bit. I see no reason why fried bacon or crumbled sausage could not be substituted for the ham. Or lightly sautéed mushrooms added for a delectable taste treat. Or chives used in place of green onions. This is a “use your imagination” recipe if I ever met one. It’s also a perfect dish to serve for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (And how many recipes can lay claim to that honor?)

So have fun and mix up one of these quick and easy quiches at your earliest convenience. You will be delighted by the results and your family and friends will think you amazing. (Which of course you are, but it’s always nice to be reminded of the fact!)

  • 1 T. unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 T. melted butter cooled to room temperature
  • 3 T. finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded (2 cups) or cheese(s) of choice
  • 4 oz. thickly sliced deli ham, diced
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. half-and-half
  • 4 lg. eggs
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Grease a 9-inch pie or quiche dish with the 1 tablespoon softened butter, then evenly sprinkle pan with Parmesan cheese. Combine the Gruyere cheese, ham, and scallions in a bowl. Sprinkle mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared dish. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in the now empty bowl. Add the half-and-half, eggs, melted butter, mustard, and nutmeg to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Slowly pour the batter over the cheese and ham mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the quiche is a light golden brown and the filling is set. (It’s set when it doesn’t jiggle when you gently shake the pan.) Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

 

LAMB BOBOTIE WITH YELLOW RICE (SOUTH AFRICAN)

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Well I guess the first thing to do is apologize for not posting any new recipes for the last few weeks. But I have a very good excuse. (Don’t I always!) I was in SOUTH AFRICA! Yep – you read it right – South Africa. And I have to say, my time there was one of the best travel experiences of my life. We only visited the Eastern side of the country as far up as Richards Bay and environs – Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve for wild animals and St. Lucia for an afternoon boat ride spent cruising the river estuary amid the local hippo and crocodile population. (BTW – if you are interested in how you pronounce Hluhluwe, I will give you the same advice I was given by a nice older couple from Johannesburg. “Pretend you have had too much to drink, and then slur your words. If it sounds like schlu-shlouwee, you’ve got it right!”) Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes.

We only drove from Cape Town as far up as Richards Bay, touring mostly along the coast. On the way back to Cape Town, we stuck close to the Indian Ocean again for about half the distance, then turned inland to drive through glorious mountain passes and wine country. During the 24 days that we had our rental car, we drove a total of 7,016 kilometers or 4,360 miles. And even if the amount of kilometers we travelled seems like a lot, we actually only visited a very small part of this glorious country.

And of course along the way, we had many opportunities to enjoy South African cuisine. Along our route one day, we stopped for lunch at a quiet little café. Basically it was a place to buy gourmet condiments, fresh bread, and take-away food. But we were tired, so we asked the kind server if she would heat something up for us. She said, “pleasure” and we settled ourselves in their small outside dining area to await our meal.

I truly don’t recollect what Mr. C. ordered, but I decided to try a South African comfort food  called Bobotie. Bobotie is basically a savory meat loaf flavored with curry and other aromatic spices and topped with a simple egg custard. Well from bite one I was hooked. So I decided there and then that Bobotie had to be the first South African recipe to get posted when I returned.

So for the next few weeks, my cooking time is going to be mainly spent trying to duplicate some of the amazing dishes we experienced on our trip. And because I know you all love new and different recipes to fix for your family and friends, I have faith that as you try some of these amazing dishes, you will forgive me for being away from my blog for so long.

So give this recipe a try. It’s easy to prepare and just delicious. Comfort food, Cape Town style.

  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground lamb or beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lg. carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 thick slice or 2 thin slices of white bread soaked in ¼ cup milk
  • 1/3 c. slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. golden raisins
  • 1 c. buttermilk or plain milk (or combination)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 bay leaves
  • chutney, opt.

Heat the oil in a large fry pan. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the ground lamb and cook until just cooked through, breaking up the meat as it cooks. (You don’t want any large lumps of meat.) Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the coriander, ginger, curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, sugar, salt, pepper, grated carrot, and lemon juice. Remove from heat and add the soaked white bread, making sure you have mixed the milk and bread thoroughly. (You shouldn’t be able to see big chunks of bread). Add the almonds and golden raisins and mix through. Spoon the mixture into a lightly buttered casserole dish, press down and level the top.

Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs and pour over the meat mixture. Gently lay the bay leaves over the egg mixture for decoration.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes. (The egg custard should be firm and set and the top a nice golden brown in color.)

Serve hot with Yellow Rice (see recipe below), Greek salad, and chutney.

YELLOW RICE

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  • 1½ c. long grain white rice
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (just a bit)
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ c. golden raisins
  • 1 T. butter
  • 2½ c. chicken broth

Place all the ingredients in a rice cooker and set it on “go”. Serve with Bobotie or any other South African dish.