Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Swiss Broccoli Casserole

Sometimes you need a side dish that isn't out of a can, bag or box, right?

This is an easy one from Cooking Light, and it's quite versatile - serve it with chicken, pork, beef - whatever!  Make up a pan for dinner tonight, and then make up an extra one to throw in the freezer for another night or to share.   My kids like broccoli, but even kids who aren't WILD about it won't mind trying this - there's cheese, and rice, for heavens' sake!

 Swiss Broccoli Casserole

2/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup cooked rice
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
Cooking spray
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread (or just use some Panko bread crumbs)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Add cheese; stir until melted. Remove from heat; stir in cooked rice and broccoli. Transfer broccoli mixture to an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup (or just keep it simple and use breadcrumbs). Sprinkle broccoli mixture with breadcrumbs. Cover and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shopping Alert!

These babies are a must-buy!

Check out this deal at Aldi this week!!  If you don't have a cast-iron Dutch oven, or if you need another one (I'm trying to restrain myself), or a really nice cast iron broiler pan or baking dish, you need to get yourself over to Aldi and pick one up NOW - they're super cheap, and they're awesome.  Who needs Le Crueset? (Ok, well, I might dream, but I've got more of an Aldi budget...)

So anyway, get there, and get one, or two!  I bought the pretty red Dutch oven and a lasagna pan 2 years ago, and I LOVE them both. 

Sweet Potato Goodness

THIS was awesome.  

I know this isn't a freezer meal, or a meal, but I had to share it, anyway.  We had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal with our family last week, and this recipe from the Journal Sentinel a few years ago was one of the best sides we've ever had.  I've never been a fan of the whole marshmallow-topped sweet potato thing, but THIS is right up my alley - totally replaced the mashed potatoes and gravy on my plate this year (Although we had those, too.  And stuffing. It was a carb-tastic menu).

I know it LOOKS a little fussy, recipe-wise, but it's not that bad, and again, it is REALLY GOOD.  I am GUESSING you could freeze it, but not recommending it.  And seriously, you don't want to wait long to eat it, anyway.  What are your favorite sides for Thanksgiving, or any other special meal? 

Dauphinoise Sweet Potatoes with Sage & Asiago Breadcrumbs
Makes about 10 servings

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 large onion, finely julienned
1 cup whipping cream (I think 1/2 & 1/2 works fine - a little thinner, but saves calories)
1½ tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 to 6 large sweet potatoes
½ cup grape seed oil
½ cup fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired (see note) (stems removed)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1½ cups shredded Asiago cheese (divided)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in heavy-bottom sauté pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onion and stir to coat with oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and caramelize onions until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes; set aside. In medium saucepan, bring cream, minced garlic, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg to a boil and set aside. Peel and slice sweet potatoes thin and place in water to prevent browning. (Use a food processor with a slicer attachment or mandolin to make slices consistent in size.) 

Place grape seed oil and sage leaves in food processor; process until well blended. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. (This will make about ½ cup of sage oil.)  Mix sage oil with breadcrumbs, then mix in ½ cup of Asiago. Butter bottom and sides of 8-by-8-inch baking dish (or a dish of similar size). Drain sweet potatoes. Place one-fifth of the sweet potato slices in bottom of baking dish. Top with a layer of half the onions. Add another layer of sweet potatoes, then ½ cup of remaining Asiago cheese. Add another layer of sweet potatoes, then remaining onions. Add another layer of sweet potatoes, then remaining ½ cup Asiago and final layer of sweet potatoes. Evenly disperse cream mixture on top of sweet potatoes.  Top with breadcrumb mixture. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven about 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender.

Note: For garnish if desired, fry about 1 cup sage leaves in deep pot over medium heat in 3 cups canola oil (heated to about 350 degrees) until crisp, about 20 to 30 seconds. Sprinkle with salt and adorn casserole. Drizzle plate with sage-infused grape seed oil. (we did not fry any sage leaves - that's a little fussy for me)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spanish Rice Bake

Casserole...Bake..Hot Dish... You either love them or hate them.  

Well, I guess there's a middle ground, but... Some people just can't do the whole food mixed together thing, and some people have been scarred by their childhood casserole experience - you know the ones - smothered in multiple cans of cream of something and topped with greasy potato chip crumbs [shiver].  Others love the convenience of the one-dish dinner and have fond memories of potlucks and family dinners.

Here's an easy one to try - make up a pan for dinner, and then another one to share or keep in the freezer when you need a quick dinner.

Spanish Rice Bake

1 lb. lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup water or chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/2 cup chile sauce (adjust to your family's spiciness - we like it hot)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat and transfer beef to a large pot over medium low heat.  Stir in the onion, green bell pepper, tomatoes, water, rice, chile sauce, salt, brown sugar, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and ground black pepper.

Let this simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then transport this to a 2-quart casserole dish. (If you're going to freeze this, you'll want to cut a few minutes off the simmering time, to slightly under cook the rice.  That way, it won't be too mushy when you thaw and heat it.)  Press down firmly and sprinkle with the shredded Cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chicken Chili

Need a good, hearty but healthy cold weather meal?
Try this recipe for Chicken Chili - it's from the lovely Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  It's delish, it can be frozen, and it can easily be made gluten-free.  Our kids will eat it, but it's not on top of the list.  You can adjust it to make it more kid-friendly if needed. 

Chicken Chili
Serves 6 - 8

4 c. cooked chicken shredded (not rotisserie)
1 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper diced
2 T. chile powder
1 t. cumin
¼ t. cayenne pepper
¼ t. dried red pepper flakes
2 – 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes – undrained
Chopped cilantro to taste ¼ - ½ c.
1 c. frozen corn
1 can black beans – rinsed and drained

 Cook onions over med. heat in 1/8 c. olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add peppers, chile powder, cumin, red, pepper flakes, cayenne and salt to taste. Cook for 1 min. Crush tomatoes in food processor and add to pot with cilantro. Add corn, beans and chicken. Bring to a boil – then reduce and simmer. Freezes well.

To freeze, I would leave out the black beans, and just include the can.  I would add then when reheating the thawed soup, so they don't get mushy, but it's not the end of the world if you put them in before.  Thaw the frozen soup in the fridge, and then reheat on the stove, or throw in your slow cooker on low.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Road Testing: Beef Barbacoa

Well, you've all probably given up on me, but I'm back again! 

I got rocked by the flu, and then hit with bronchitis, and I am still recovering.  Not a lot of cooking going on over the past 2 weeks.  I had a wonderful friend bring us dinner and snacks one night - delish Minestrone soup.  It really hit the spot and felt great on the sore throats in the house!

My mom, who am super grateful for, brought over a care package of enough prepped food for breakfast, lunch and dinner one day, and a hot dinner another night.  It was amazing.  And one of the items was some PHENOMENAL beef barbacoa from a little place called Cocina DeLeon.  We couldn't get enough!  

I will be going there to get some, but I was also inspired to try my own, and see if we couldn't add a new recipe to the freezer meal swap repertoire!  I looked at about 5 similar recipes, and since I'm a total dork, compared the lists of ingredients in an Excel spreadsheet to try to find what were the common ingredients, and see how authentic we could get (and I'm just not making goat barbacoa, even though goat and lamb are more "authentic").  I think you could use pork, too, but we'll see. 

Here's the recipe I based my prep on: tacos de barbacoa.  I also thought he had the prettiest picture, something I can only dream of being able to do. 

Basically, I seared the meat, tossed it in my crockpot, and then added the spice "paste" - not quite a paste-ish consistency when I did it, more of a "sauce", but whatevs - bay leaves and broth.  Then I placed some foil over top of the crockpot, and put the lid on, and I'm planning to let it go for the 8-10 hours, and see what happens!  For a swap, I think you could either freeze the cooked meat, and include some tortillas, or sear the roast, and then add the meat, broth, and the "sauce" to a freezer bag and then thaw in the fridge, and direct the recipient to throw in the crockpot. 

We ate ours on tortillas as tacos and the leftovers as quesadillas.  I think it would be delish as a filling for empanadas, too.  I'll let ya know!  They were served very simply with diced white onions, cilantro, "enchilada cheese" - which was a white, mild cheese - and some fresh salsa. 

Well, once we taste them, I'll let ya know what the family thinks!  It smells good - but I can really smell the cloves, so who knows.......

****BREAKING NEWS****
So, we don't like the cloves - authentic or not, they're not goin' in my recipe.  I THINK, embarrassing as it is, that it needs to be more "taco-ey" - it's not BAD, but it's not like what we had this week.  More to come.... Let me know if you  uncover the ultimate barbacoa recipe in the meantime!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Homemade Applesauce

One of the best things about fall is homemade applesauce.

I don't eat the stuff that comes in a jar - no offense if you do, but I grew up on homemade applesauce.  My grandparents made and froze TONS of it, and kept us well-supplied.  I've been making it every fall myself now, and my kids love it, too.

Again, it's hard to call this a recipe, because it's really easy - it just requires some time.  There are lots of ways to make it, and lots of things you can do to it, but I keep it pretty simple.  Here's my method below, and here's a link from the local paper with pictures and more details.


Homemade Applesauce



  • APPLES - use whatever kind you like, but I used a mix of Empires, Cortlands, Gala and Macs, I think - it was a mix from an afternoon at an orchard and what we had in the fruit bowl
  • a little bit of water
  • cinnamon


Yep, that's it.  That's why it's so good!

Lately, I've thoroughly washed my apples, then cut them into chunks, and removed the cores, and tossed them in (yes, with the skin) my slow cooker with a little water, and let them cook until they were mushy.  The nice thing about this is that the house smells awesome, and you don't have to babysit the apples.  You can also steam them on the stove, or cook them in a big pot with a little water until they're soft.  Just pay attention so you don't run out of water and burn the apples.

Then I use a food mill, and run all the good stuff through, the skin is left behind, and a nice, smooth sauce results.  I stir in a little shake of cinnamon, and usually grab a spoon and eat some warm right out of the bowl.  You can also peel the apples, cook them, and then use a potato masher, food mill or whatever you like to mash it up.  Some people like a chunkier sauce, some like a more smooth consistency.  I know some are concerned about the chemicals with the skin, but since it's what I've always known, and since I know how the apples were treated where we got them AND I washed and dried them well, I feel ok with it. Everyone's different, so do what makes you happy.


One trick from my childhood  (the family secret!) - my grands used a sprinkle of those red hot cinnamon candies in the sauce, and it turned it a rosy pink color and added to the cinnamon flavor.  

Simple Chicken Enchiladas

I love Mexican food. 

That said, this barely counts as Mexican - it's like calling Taco Bell authenic.  But anyway, it's tasty, quick, and you can freeze a pan and make a pan if you're feelin' wild.  Give it a try, and mix it up a little and customize it to your family's liking. You know me and my measuring - I adapted the amounts from another recipe, but when I make it, I just dump things in...

Simple Chicken Enchiladas
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cans (15 ounces each) enchilada sauce
1 cup medium salsa
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
8 flour tortillas (6 inches)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Mexican cheese blend
Sour cream, optional

In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the chicken, salsa, 1 can of enchilada sauce and chilies. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until chicken is cooked and can be shredded with a fork (or just cook the chicken, and mix all the goodies in afterward).

Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Reserve 1-2/3 cups cooking juices. Pour the remaining cooking juices into a large bowl; add the beans and shredded chicken. Coat a 9" x 13" baking dish or two freezer-safe 8"square baking dishes with cooking spray. I put a little salsa and enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan - about 1/2 c.

Place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in prepared dishes. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over top; sprinkle with cheese.

Cover and freeze one dish for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the second dish at 350° for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve with sour cream if desired.
To use frozen enchiladas: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Back! With BBQ Shredded Pork Sandwiches!

So life got a little nuts in October...

I sort of got in over my head with volunteering and working and STUFF, and then everything suffered since I had trouble saying NO.  Ever get that way?  I'm still doing too much, but I've managed to unload a few things.  Anyway, my point is, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, so you can keep taking care of everyone else, and don't be afraid to say NO sometimes. :) 

It's basketball season, so we've got evening practices and games, which means it will be more challenging to eat together, or eat a home-cooked meal most nights.  With some preparation though, it's not impossible.  I'm making some freezer meals to have on hand and share, and I've got TWO crock pots going right now. 

I've got a pork loin roast in one, and a family-sized package of boneless skinless chicken breasts in another.  I'll be using the chicken in some chicken enchiladas and then making the rest into some chicken taco meat or bbq shredded chicken that can be easily thawed and reheated, ready to serve.  For the pork, we're doing BBQ shredded pork for sandwiches. It's barely a recipe, but here's what I did:

BBQ Shredded Pork
1 boneless pork loin roast
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (divided)

Throw all of the above (just 1/2 of the BBQ sauce to start) in your crock pot, and cook for 8-10 hours, until tender enough to shred with a fork.  Shred meat, and add in the rest of your BBQ sauce until it's as saucy as you like.  

To freeze: Let meat cool completely, and package in freezer bags (might make enough for 2 meals, depending on your family size).  Freeze flat so it's easy to store. 

To serve: Thaw completely, and reheat.  Serve on rolls with your favorite condiments - we like freezer pickles (see recipe here), extra BBQ sauce, and some slaw.