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!

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Recipe: Breakfast Egg Casserole

I’ve been trying to plan my meals and eat better this year, so I’m always on the lookout for a fun and tasty breakfast that will fill me up without a sugar-rush.  Being able to make this casserole at home and control the ingredients is a definite bonus.  My college friend, D, shared her version of this casserole with me and I knew I just had to give it a try.  The wine I use is a surprising ingredient, but one that adds a lovely depth to this recipe.

I started with 1/3 package of bacon.  I diced the bacon and cooked it in a skillet until the bacon was nicely toasted.  I then added about a cup of frozen sweet peppers.  I chopped them fairly fine and used red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, and allowed them to soften with the bacon.  Once this was done, I spooned the bacon and peppers to the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish, leaving a little of the bacon grease in the skillet.

BreakfastEggCasserole

I gathered 2 cups of kale, removed the ribs, and roughly chopped the kale.  NOTE:  You can also add in some spinach if you prefer. Using the remaining bacon grease in the skillet, I tossed in the kate and added 2 oz Dry Rose wine (like Boordy Dry Rose), sauteing the kale until it had wilted and the bitterness had dissipated.  NOTE: If using full leaves of kale, be sure to massage the kale to remove some of the initial bitterness from the leaves.  Trust me… this is important.  I like to season the dish while cooking the greens so the spices have time to develop – for this dish I used salt, pepper, herbs de provence, and smoked paprika. Once I finished sauteing the greens, I layered them in the casserole dish, on top of the bacon/pepper layer.

Here’s the easiest part of the recipe… I poured 1 1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute into a Pyrex measuring cup, gently poured the egg over the entire contents of the casserole dish and pressed the bits of vegetable down into the egg mixture.  How simple is that?

Once everything was in the pan, I popped it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  If your oven runs hot, you might want to check it after 25 minutes, but 3o minutes seems to work best for me.  I allow the casserole to cool for at least 10 minutes and then cut it into 6 square, equal-sized pieces and wrap each in Saran to store in the fridge.  It’s easy to reheat (30-45 seconds in the microwave) and tastes wonderful in a breakfast sandwich, using bread thins.

Hope you’ll consider trying this fun recipe sometime.  Use what you like or what you’ve got in your fridge and it can take on whatever flavors you want.  I love it…. especially when I realized that it’s only 91 calories per square… SWEET!

Enjoy!

Leftover Recipe: Leftover Breakfast Hash

Dinner recently consisted of roasted potatoes, chicken tenders, shrimp, bacon, and a few other items but I ended up with enough leftovers to play a bit with breakfast the next morning.  As you can see in the photo, this is a rendition of my previously posted Breakfast Hash recipe.  I didn’t have to run to the store for anything and it was a great start to my day.  Hopefully, you’ll find this to be a recipe that you can re-create for your family.

LeftoverBreakfastHash (1)

I started by sauteing a singe leftover piece of bacon (honest… it really was left over) until it was crispy.  I then added a cup of leftover roasted potato and allowed it to crisp a bit.  The “fun” addition here was a bit of James River Cellars Petit Verdot red wine and some frozen pieces of peppers (red, yellow, and green).  Once I let the wine incorporate into the potato and the peppers cooked, I added 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute and tossed that with everything so the cooked egg would end up all over the recipe.  The final addition was 1/8 cup of 2% milk shredded mild cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese melted, I plated my breakfast.

This was a fun and tasty way to use up leftovers.  Chopped peppers freeze very nicely, so it’s easy to have them on hand for a touch of color in a dish.  This is something that I’ll be incorporating more often, since I love seeing the bright additions to dishes that can sometimes become a bit bland.

Next time someone tells you the old joke, “what do you call a meal without wine… Breakfast”, feel free to share this idea for a yummy turn on using wine in your cooking.  Enjoy!

 

Recipe: Bacon-wrapped Dates with Merlot

I did it again… had to come up with a tasty treat for a holiday party and decided to add wine to the mix.  Thankfully, it worked out well and tasted terrific!  This is one of those simple, quick, and easy recipes that begs to be repeated again and again.

I had just been to my best friend’s surprise birthday party and her sister (also a major foodie) was providing the food that inspired this creation.  While L’s version had no wine, hers did include a delicious type of cheese tucked neatly inside the dates… oh so decadent, but more than I could manage in the short amount of time I had to make my own rendition.

As sometimes happens when using The Force,  I ended up purchasing way too many dates and not enough bacon.  I probably could have cut the package of bacon into thirds instead of in half, as I did, but it was really yummy, as evidenced by the photBacon-wrapped Dateso I’ve included here.  I simply used a package of pitted dates from my local grocery store and wrapped each date with a half piece of bacon, then secured the bacon with a toothpick.  Once the dates were all wrapped, I drizzled them with maple syrup and then “thumbed” James River Cellars’ Merlot over top the entire recipe.  I probably could have mixed the syrup and wine together and brushed the mixture over those little morsels, but I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead.

Once all these sweet and salty treats were ready, I popped them into a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.  I could have used a 450 degree oven and had them done in 10, but I was working on some other things and the extra time worked to my advantage.  The final product was worthy of a New Year’s Eve party with dear friends… easy on the eyes and oh, so yummy.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe out on your own.  See if you come up with another way to use these ingredients to make something that covers both sweet and savory snack lovers.  Besides… isn’t most everything made better with bacon… and WINE?

Happy New Year to you and yours… May 2013 be a stellar year for one and all!