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!

Recipe: Petit Enchilada Casserole

 

Coming up with recipes is truly something that feeds my creativity.  I love when my manager asks me to “come up with a recipe”, because it sends me into my kitchen… one of my favorite rooms in our home.  This recipe came from a desire to create something using leftover chicken, yet have a meal that could be popped in the oven by whomever got home first that night.

As you can see, this looks like a “real” recipe, as opposed to most of my posts.  The reason is that I plugged this recipe into “My Recipe Builder” app so I could figure out the calorie count.  While I usually don’t do this when blogging, the written recipe will be included this weekend at James River Cellars’ Petit Verdot Vertical Weekend and I needed to have it look more official.

  • 12 ounces Salsa (I used Gunther’s Spicy Black Bean Dip)PetitEnchiladaCasserole
  • 10-1/2 ounces Soup, cream of mushroom (use your favorite)
  • 6 ounces Wine, table, red (I love the deep flavor of Petit Verdot here)
  • 15 ounces Beans, baked, canned, plain or vegetarian
  • 8 small tortilla (approx 4″ dia) Tortilla, corn
  • 1 Onions, sweet, raw, diced
  • 2 cups, chopped or diced Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, stewed
  • 2 cups, shredded Cheese, low fat, cheddar or colby

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Saute’ onion until softened, adding garlic if desired.
  2. Add salsa, undiluted soup, drained and rinsed black beans, and wine.  Stir in chicken and mix until flavors combine nicely.
  3. Spray the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Cut the corn tortillas in half, then slice each half into 4 pie-shaped bites.  Separate the tortilla pieces in half and spread half across the bottom of the baking pan.
  4. Layer salsa mixture on top of the tortilla layer, then top with half the cheese.
  5. Top cheese with the remaining tortilla pieces.  Cover the tortilla pieces with the remaining salsa and top with cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

I found this casserole to be really tasty.  I cut the casserole into 8-square shaped pieces and it was a really filling dinner.  As always, you’re welcome to swap out ingredients to suit the tastes of your family… that’s the best part of making your own dinners.  You can even make this into a vegetarian dish by using shredded zucchini or diced eggplant or tofu in place of the chicken.  Try this sometime and let me know how you, and your family, likes this dish.  We loved it!

Recipe: Leftover Ham Casserole

534062_10151607459672953_1949038580_nI totally forgot to tell you about a simple way I found to use up some of that leftover ham I had from Easter – I turned it into a Leftover Ham Casserole!

I chopped up three redskin potatoes into cubes and simmered them in some water until they were almost cooked, but not falling apart yet.  I tossed them in a pie plate with some frozen corn kernels, and some cubes of leftover ham.

I then made a simple cheese sauce using 1T butter, 1T flour, some James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay (since that’s what I had in the fridge… I was using the white wine that we served for our Easter dinner, so use whatever wine you like best) and let the sauce cook and bubble for a bit to cook out the flour taste.  I decided to add a handful of asiago cheese and a touch of shredded cheddar to make the cheese sauce.  Once incorporated and smooth, I poured this over the base of the casserole and topped it with more shredded cheddar.

The photo on the right shows how the cheese melted and made dinner look yummy when it came out of the oven.  I baked the casserole at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until it was cooked through.  This was a huge hit with everyone in our house!

Recipe: Taco Pasta Bake

Are you looking for a quick and easy “go to” dinner for the holiday season that doesn’t involve turkey?  Are you stumped when it comes to making something for your family that everyone will eat without complaint?  If you’re like me and have a household of big eaters, I want to share one of my favorite dinners with you… a Taco Pasta Bake.

You may remember that I’ve mentioned my niece a few times – she writes a fitness and lifestyle blog called “Peanut Butter Fingers” or PBFingers?  She posted a recipe that my husband raved about… but he wanted me to make it “exactly like the recipe says”, which meant “no wine involved”… but what was the fun in that for me?  After mulling over the recipe for a few days, I came up with a version that could make everyone in my household happy… my guys (because they would get a dinner that tasted yummy) and me (because I could experiment and play with wine in my cooking).   I hope you find it as tasty as we do!

I started by browning a package of ground turkey.   If you can get away with it, this is where I would add diced onion and some diced green pepper if my family liked that Taco Pasta Bakesort of thing.  Once the turkey is nicely browned, I sprinkle the meat heavily with taco seasoning and a nice dry red wine (like James River Cellars’ Rad Red) and let everything cook until it’s nice and dark.  Next, I add some salsa and some more red wine so your food is a bit soupy.  At this point, I add in some dry pasta.  My hubby likes bowtie-shaped pasta, so I try and do things that he likes.  I’ve also made this recipe with jumbo elbow macaroni and it’s also tasty.

Now you need to cover the skillet and allow the liquid to be absorbed by the pasta… I know it’s hard not to peek and keep checking on the dinner, but try  and resist so the pasta has ample time to plump up and become al dente and just right.  If all the liquid gets absorbed and the pasta is still underdone, feel free to add more wine (or broth) and then allow time for the pasta to cook until it reaches the right taste for your family.

At this point, you have a few options.  If you’re ready to have dinner, feel free to serve this straight from the skillet.  If you’ve got some time, I would suggest putting your dinner into a casserole dish, spooning in (and on) some shredded cheese and then popping into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes when you’re almost ready for dinner.   It totally depends on what you want to do… hence; this is a great example of using The Force when making your dinner.

I hope you try this recipe sometime and let me know how it turned out for you.  It’s similar to the mazetti recipe that my mother-in-law makes, with a tasty taco twist.  It’s simple… it’s easy… and it’s a recipe that you can adjust to please everyone in your family.  What more could you want?

Seriously…. what more would you want from a recipe?  Enjoy!

Recipe: Stroganoff by The Force

I love making casseroles early in the day so that dinner can be a low stress affair.  I do my best to keep the kitchen cleaned up before M comes home (since he’s the one who does the dishes after dinner) so this is the simplest way I know to have time to make that goal a reality.  Casseroles rock… one baking dish to wash after dinner?  Definitely a plus in my book.  Additionally, with the schedules that are kept by all who currently live in our house, I’d have to make four separate servings of a meal to get everyone fed.  With a casserole, I can make it once and everyone can eat when they’re able, though we do endeavor to sit down together to eat as often as possible.

Dinner tonight is one of those “I can’t be there, so dinner is in the fridge” nights.   I’ve got a consult and then a meeting during the time we usually try and have dinner, so  I’ve made a version of Stroganoff that I’m hoping my guys will like.   I used a Reserve Chardonnay and a Pinotage that I had in the fridge to the recipe so the pasta would cook thoroughly and I wouldn’t have to worry about crunchy noodles in my casserole.  It’s done entirely using The Force… and I think it tastes pretty amazing.  Here’s how I made dinner:

Brown 1 sliced (or diced) onion and 1lb of ground turkey in a tiny bit of olive oil in a large saute pan on the stovetop.  Once these are browned nicely, I added a large glug of good Olive Oil and enough flour to make things start to get sticky.  I would start with 2T of flour and see if you need more.  I then added a half box of jumbo elbow macaroni pasta, some garlic paste, salt/pepper, paprika, the rest of a bottle of Reserve Chardonnay (about 3/4 cup?), some glugs of a Pinotage called “Grinder” I have in the fridge (maybe 1/4 cup?) as well as 1 cup of beef stock.  All the liquid is needed to soak into the pasta and get it to cook up nicely without having to pre-cook it.  Here’s what dinner looked like at this point:

It’s still steamy and the noodles haven’t totally cooked, so they still look pretty yellow.  At this point, I put the lid on and let it cook on its own for a bit.  I was editing pictures, so I’m really not sure how long it cooked.  Once I decided the noodles had cooked enough and turned off the heat.

Here’s where the “stroganoff” part came in.  In my head, a stroganoff has to have some sort of creamy sauce and paprika to make it into what I think of as traditional.  I added some Philadelphia creamy garlic sauce (only because I didn’t have any greek yogurt or sour cream on hand) and that seemed to do the trick.  Taste test was a success and I was ready to put dinner in the casserole dish… but it just didn’t look “finished”.  I needed buttered bread crumbs to top it all off.

When growing up, my mom’s Buttered Bread Crumbs were the standard by which I judged all other casserole toppings, which means that I didn’t like anything that other people called “bread crumbs”.  I now make Buttered Bread Crumbs in the same saute pan I used for the casserole, so I’m including tiny bits of dinner into the delicious topping that will grace this casserole.  Today, I used three burger rolls (because that’s what I had on hand, that’s why) and cut them into small bite-sized pieces.  I heated some of the really good Olive Oil (seen to the right, a fabulous Olive Oil that I got from my cousin Tami and her hubby Harry) with a few tablespoons of margarine and a little garlic paste.  I then tossed in the bread pieces and sauteed this mixture until the bread started to crisp up a bit.  Buttery, garlicky, and toasty… that’s the way these Buttered Bread Crumbs should taste!
Once the topping was finished, I added them onto the casserole and dinner was ready.  M will pop it into the oven tonight and my three guys will have a fabulous home-cooked meal, even though I won’t be there.  It’s one of the joys of working odd hours and being happy to use The Force to create something I am sure they’ll enjoy.  Wine or no, cooking should be about sharing your joy and passion.  I’m just so grateful that my guys appreciate that about me.

Since you won’t be here to see the finished product come out of the oven tonight, here’s a final shot of how dinner looked when I was done playing today.  I may not be the best housekeeper, but I can whip together a great meal and include wine in the process…