Sausage and Pepper Casserole

My neighbor had a health issue with her mom last night and I thought that the nicest thing I could do for her would be to make dinner and dessert for them tonight.  I know her mom loves sweets, so I had to make sure to have some sort of dessert included, so I made a platter of chocolate chip cookies, since I already had the dough in the fridge… the question was now “what do I make for dinner”?

I looked through my freezer and found a package of turkey kielbasa and a half package of bacon, so that became the base of my recipe.  Since I also had some green peppers and an onion in the crisper, I decided to make a turn on a “sausage and pepper sandwich” and add some linguine and a creamy cheese sauce to pull it all together.  Here’s how I went about making dinner. NOTE: Remember that I was making two dinners for two people each, so these could have easily been made into a single 9×11 casserole instead of two individual 9″ round casseroles.

I crisped up the half package of bacon and then removed the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the saute pan.  I diced one package of turkey kielbasa and crisped that up in the saute pan as well before removing that to a plate. I sliced one green pepper and half a large onion and sauteed these in the bacon grease until softened.  While cooking all these individual pieces, I cooked 3/4 package of linguine (broken in half) until just al dente, then drained the pasta, saving some of the water in case I needed it for the sauce that would top the entire casserole.Sausage&PepperCasserole

I then assembled the casseroles, placing a little of the bacon and half the kielbasa and half the vegetables on top before adding half the pasta.  Once this was done, I was able to turn my attention to the sauce.  I wanted something that was creamy and slightly cheesy but didn’t just want to throw cheese on top of the pasta and hope it melted correctly.

I started the sauce by simmering 2T butter and 2T flour together to make a roux.  I then added some white wine (using chardonnay was my choice this time… crisp and clean) and chicken stock to start a great tasting sauce.  To make the taste unique to this particular dish, I added half a can of cream of mushroom soup (leftover from Christmas dinner), some parmesan cheese and some cheddar cheese for creaminess and a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce for flavor.  Once the sauce tasted “right” (you HAVE to be willing to taste your sauces during the cooking phase so they balance out once they’re added to a dish), I poured half over each casserole and topped each with a sprinkling of leftover bacon.

I have no idea if my neighbors will enjoy this casserole, but I hope they feel the love that comes from wanting to do something nice for others in times of stress.  Karma is a tricky thing… but I believe that if you always reach out to others in a positive way and from a place of kindness and love, that same thing will come back to you tenfold.  I’m not expecting them to do anything in return…. I just know that they shouldn’t have to worry about feeding their family when they’re facing a difficult time.

May we all approach life in this manner… give when you can and your life will be made better for the effort.

Happy New Year Blessings to you all, my friends.  Wishing you health and happiness as 2015 begins!

Advertisements

White Cream Puffs

This recipe is one that has been used in my family for as long as I can remember.  As a child, my mom would make these cream puffs for her bridge club nights.  She’d make the cream puffs, cut off the tops and fill them with vanilla ice cream, then frost them with some chocolate before serving them to her honored guests.  Occasionally, we’d be given one of these treats before the ladies arrived and they always looked so incredibly elegant.  What a gift to find out, years later, that this was a simple recipe that I could share with my own guests… and now I get to share that gift with you!WhiteCreamPuffs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups boiling water (I like to use 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup white wine)
  • 1/2 cup butter (don’t skimp… butter is the only way to go here)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water/wine with the butter and bring to a boil.  Once melted and fully boiling, add the flour/salt at once and stir, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Drop by teaspoons onto 2 greased cookie sheets (or baking sheets lined with parchment), shaping dough to peak in center and round out on the bottom.  Place dough 2″ apart.
  3. Bake in preheated 375* oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350*  and bake for an additional 25 minutes.  Cool and fill.  Freeze or use immediately.

These cream puffs make a lovely dessert – slice off the top of the puff, fill with softened ice cream and replace the top, then frost with a bit of chocolate.  My Red Fudge Sauce is fabulous with this dessert (as seen in the photo), but you can use whatever sauce you like best.

Another alternative would be to fill the puffs with a small amount of my Nutty Chicken Salad and serve for a fancy luncheon. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to using these cream puffs!  Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownie Muffins

If you ever have the need for a delicious and simple muffin recipe, this is one to keep on hand.  I have been making (and playing with) this recipe for years and it is one of my absolute favorites.  This version seems a little more sophisticated, but it’s truly one that I make to give to anyone, especially when I have people doing work on my house.

We’re getting a new HVAC system installed in our home today.  We’re not exactly thrilled with the timing, but the original system was installed in 1998, so we knew we were due. Since I knew the workers would be here for much of the day, I thought I would make some muffins to show my appreciation for all the work they’re doing.  I made this recipe in mini-muffin tins so they would be “pop-able”… nothing worse than having to worry about muffin wrappers or holding food between bites if you’re working hard.  I just love the ease of this treat!

fudgybrowniemuffinsNote:  If you saw my post about “chocolate jury gems”, this is a version of the same recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One box chocolate brownie mix (I like to use dark chocolate mix)
  • One can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dark chili powder
  • 1/4 cup (2 Tablespoons) red wine.  I used a pinot noir, but any dry red wine works well

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Empty brownie mix into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  • Blend everything together thoroughly until it resembles the photo in the lower left corner of the collage above.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, divide batter into mini muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Note:  this recipe will make about 40 mini-muffins, so you’ll go through two sets of mini muffin pans twice
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 18 minutes, remove promptly and allow to cool while you scoop the remaining batter into the muffin tins for the second round of cooking.
  • These muffins are delicious warm, room temp, or cool.  They are fabulous for kids (the pumpkin packs a great punch of fiber) and have been a favorite in my family for years.

Fish in a Flash

I’ve written this recipe a few times, but wanted to update it a bit for everyone.  This is one of the easiest and fastest three-course meal recipes I’ve ever written and I love that it’s also incredibly versatile.  The basic premise is the same but the specific ingredients can be adjusted, depending on your preference and what you have available.  I hope you love this recipe as much as me!fishinaflash

  • I call this recipe “Fish in a Flash” because you’re only going to need 15 minutes to make this three-course meal for your family.  It’s full of flavor, cost-effective, and adjustable… what more could you want in a recipe?

Ingredients:

  • Fish (Feel free to use whatever fish is on sale or what you happen to have in your freezer)  In this case, I used two tilapia fillets, but I’ve made this dish with flounder, haddock, or any other light, flaky fish.  I haven’t used salmon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t!
  • Crackers (Ritz crackers, Cheese crackers, club crackers, saltines, etc) crushed
  • Salt, Pepper, and any favorite seasoning (I like Paprika)
  • White wine (use whatever you have on hand or you can substitute water)
  • Broccoli flowerettes (I used a half bag of Broccoli-Wokly from the local grocer)
  • Bag of microwave brown rice (or your favorite starch)

Directions:

  • Spray a microwavable dish with cooking spray and arrange your fish fillets on dish.
  • In a small bowl, crush the crackers and mix in your seasonings.  Sprinkle fish with seasoned cracker crumbs.
  • Using your thumb as a stopper, gently “thumb” wine over the crumbs to lightly wet them  to create a coating on the fish.  You can also spoon the wine (or water) over the fish.
  • Top fish with broccoli flowerettes – I did them in a decorative fashion for these photos, but I typically just add a layer of broccoli over the fish.
  • Wet a paper towel and lay on top of the broccoli – this will help to steam the veggies.
  • Pop your dish into the microwave and cook on high for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is flaky and well-cooked.
  • Remove the fish from the microwave and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
  • Cook the 90-second brown rice in the microwave.
  • Remove rice and divide onto individual plates.
  • Serve meal with brown rice on the plate, topped with fish and vegetables.

This has been a staple in our menu selection for most of my 28-years of marriage.  I’ve adjusted and altered the recipe to the point where this is the cleanest and most simple rendition.  The original recipe (from my first year of marriage) included a half stick of butter and lots of lemon juice… this version is much healthier and the flavors really seem to pop.

I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how your family likes our Fish in a Flash.  It might just become a favorite in your house too!

Pad Thai a la Ali

When my son E was in high school, I would make Pad Thai every few days for his volleyball team.  His friends would drive him home and then back to school again for practice, so I would make homemade meals for them to thank them.  Since I had never included this recipe on my blog, I thought I would post it now.padthai

Ingredients:

  • Sweet sausage (about 1 cup)
  • Broccolini (sliced into 1 cup of small pieces)
  • Thin Spaghetti (approximately 6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1T sugar
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 2T white wine + enough to deglaze pan
  • crushed garlic (about 1 thumb-worth)
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1 large shallot (thinly sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2T sliced almonds (lightly toasted for better flavor)

Directions:

  1. Heat 1T sesame oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Sear sausage until cooked through, deglazing pan with wine, then add broccolini and saute until both are cooked and toasty.  Remove until ready to toss meal together for serving.
  2. In separate pan, cook spaghetti until al dente.
  3. In small bowl, mix ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, wine, and garlic.  Set sauce aside until ready to toss with meal.
  4. Heat remaining 1T sesame oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Saute shallot until softened, then add garlic cloves to pan.  Once both are lightly cooked, add the cooked sausage and broccolini to pan and bring to temperature.
  5. Add cooked spaghetti to pan and toss with reserved sauce.  Saute until everything is thoroughly coated and heated through.  Divide among two plates and sprinkle with toasted almonds to serve.

This post is my own interpretation of a favorite Weight Watchers’ recipe that I used years ago.  That recipe used shredded chicken and had a few other tweaks, like using rice noodles and peanuts.

Suffice it to say that I love to play with recipes to create new versions that use wine and work with ingredients or flavors that are favorites of my family members.  I hope you enjoy coming up with new ways to change recipes of your own!

White Roasted Stir Fry

Have you ever wanted to make dinner but you didn’t actually want to “make dinner”? That was my night tonight.  I had an idea to make a stir fry, using a bag of frozen shrimp that I had thawed during the day, but I had no desire to stand by the stovetop.  Enter the idea of a “roasted stir fry”.  While it was a bit of a gamble, I do think it paid off in the end when we sat down to dinner.  It was yummy!  The best part is that it can qualify as a Starter Recipe because it’s just so darn simple.  Check out the recipe for yourself!WhiteRoastedStirFry.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen shrimp
  • 1 bag broccoli bites
  • grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • half onion, cut in half and sliced
  • a thumb of garlic (I used a tube, so it was about the size of my thumb… probably 1 clove, crushed)
  • teriyaki sauce (just a small pour)
  • white wine (a large splash)
  • Splash of cream (totally unnecessary but looked good)
  • 1 pkg 90-second brown rice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees and cover baking sheet with foil.
  2. Remove shells from shrimp and put raw shrimp in a bowl.  Toss in broccoli, grape tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
  3. Pour sauce over shrimp mixture and toss to combine.
  4. Pour shrimp mixture onto baking sheet and pop into oven.  Cook 20-25 minutes, until shrimp are cooked.
  5. If you decide you want to add the splash of cream, you can add it by removing baking sheet from oven, pour cream, and toss to blend before serving.
  6. Cook brown rice packet as directed.
  7. Serve with shrimp mixture over brown rice.

To finish off our dinner, I like to add bread when I make dinner… I typically have sliced bread in the freezer, so I grab a few pieces, spray it with Pam and season with garlic salt. Feel free to play with the ingredients and create something that fits into your family’s favorites… add veggies, serve on noodles, change out some of the sauce flavors… the sky’s the limit when it comes to making dinners that everyone will like!  Enjoy…

Shrimp and Peas with Pasta

We were looking for something easy and delicious for dinner tonight.  I knew I wanted to use shrimp, so I started there.  Scrounging around the fridge produced grape tomatoes and some frozen peas, so I came up with this yummy meal.

ShrimPeasPasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen shrimp, thawed and shelled.  Salt and pepper shrimp before cooking.
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Coconut oil
  • White wine
  • Savory nutritional yeast flakes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta water
  • Thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente’
  • 1 Egg yolk, whipped with a fork and tempered with a few spoons of pasta water

Directions:

  • In boiling, salted water, cook your pasta, saving 1 cup of pasta water
  • In a large saute’ pan, heat coconut oil and sear shrimp on both sides until toasty.
  • Add peas and tomatoes, saute’, then add some white wine and allow to cook through.
  • Season dish using dashes of yeast flakes, parmesan cheese, and a bit of pasta water. Taste after each addition before moving forward, adjusting as needed.  Pasta water will add a bit of thickening, so take your time with this step.
  • Drain pasta and add cooked pasta to shrimp mixture and toss to combine.
  • Remove from heat and add whipped egg yolk to add in a bit of creaminess.
  • Toss well and serve.  I like to top with parsley or minced chives.

This is one of those meals that can be thrown together fairly easily.  I like to keep bags of frozen shrimp and peas on hand.  If you don’t happen to have grape tomatoes in your fridge, you can substitute a small amount of sun-dried tomatoes (sliced thin) or leave them out altogether.  Play with your ingredients and come up with your family’s favorites. Enjoy creating your own version!