Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eggplant Parm Casserole

I make a rich, hearty, decadent, cheesy layered eggplant Parmesan.  I love every bite of it. However, when I was asked to make a vegetarian dish for the AmeriCorps group that came to help with flood cleanup. I don't do vegetarian very often as I am a dyed-in-the-wool-no-holds-barred Omnivore.  However, I knew I could figure something out. I thought right away of eggplant because it is hearty and filling and I knew they would be working hard and need a substantial meal. I could not use mushrooms as there were allergy issues. But I had to work that day AND I had a cross-country meet after work so my prep/cooking time was small... my traditional eggplant parm was out...too time consuming.  SO I had to rethink the dish and I came up with this easy, quick casserole dish with the same elements of Eggplant Parm.

Eggplant Parm Casserole  (for 10)

3 lr eggplants  peeled and cubed
1 large onion cubed
3 heads of garlic minced
3 tbl olive oil
1  28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup of your favorite jarred tomato sauce
1  1/2 cup ricotta
2 cups mozzarella shredded
1/2 cup Romano cheese
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 tbl butter melted

I used a xl deep  foil baking pan when I made this....bigger than a 9x13.  Preheat oven to  350.

Put eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt..let sit 10 min then rinse and dry. 
In a large skillet saute onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat DO NOT BROWN. Just cook until transparent. Add eggplant. Stir well . Cover for about 5 minutes. Then stir again and saute until the eggplant begins to soften.  Drain the tomatoes and add to the pan.  Continue to cook and stir until heated though.
Put 1/3 of the tomato sauce on bottom of pan...then 1/2 the eggplant mixture, then 1/2  of each cheese. Repeat the layers.. Stir the bread crumbs into the melted butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake uncovered until heated through and browned on top 20-40 minutes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breakfast Casserole

Who doesn't love a hearty breakfast?   Or Breakfast for Dinner?  Well...we do.  I love this is super tasty and very filling. You can add whatever you might like to make it your own...saute onions or mushrooms, different cheeses, different spices, different breads... experiment and be brave! 
This is also a great meal if you have company, or maybe for Christmas morning when you would rather be opening gifts and visiting instead of cooking!  It can be made the night before and baked in the morning...what could be better or easier?  Your family or guest will be so impressed they will sing your praises to everyone they meet.  seriously!

Breakfast Casserole

16 oz bulk breakfast sausage (your favorite brand/flavor) browned and crumbled I used Bob Evans Savory Sage
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
6 slices bacon  crisp and crumbled
4 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
4 tbl sun dried tomatoes julienned
8 slices white bread cut in cubes
3 slices multi grain bread cut in cubes
3 slices pumpernickel bread cut in cubes
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Spray a 13x9 baking pan with Cooking Spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 400. 
In a large bowl beat eggs, milk. Add tomatoes, thyme, bacon..stir well.  add cubed bread and gently fold until all of the bread is careful not to break up the bread too much . add sausage and  1 1/2 cups cheddar. gently fold these in as well.  Pour into to prepared baking dish. top with remaining cheddar. 
Bake for 30 - 40 until set and browned.

***  you can prepare the dish up until baking the night before...then pop in the oven in the morning! Great when you have company or for a party.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crock Pot Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I love fall and winter cooking....heavy, homey, creamy, spiced, hearty.  When the air up here in New York starts getting crisp..and then quickly progresses to down right mind turns right away to soups and stews and roasts...doesn't that happen to you?? I am not crazy....mostly.  So the other day I saw on the weather report that the following day was supposed to be chilly, and drizzling and I wanted some soup....and biscuits. I wanted a feel good-fill you up-homemade type soup....and this is what I came up with.
This soup is yummy...and hearty....and so easy!  I like it because, like a loaded baked potato, you can use whatever toppings you like...make a big crock pot full of the plain soup and a toppings bar and let the family (or party guests) get creative! 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

a 6qt or larger crock pot is needed as this is a high yield soup!

5 pound bag of russett potatoes  scrubbed well but NOT peeled
8-10 cloves of garlic peeled
1/2 a large onion peeled
1 1/2 cartons of chicken stock (about 8ish cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbl butter
2 cups cheddar cheese
4oz cream cheese
salt and pepper

Topping of your choice

chop up the potatoes (1/2 inch ish chunks no need to be perfect it will all be blended later) with the peel ON (this is what gives the soup a baked potato flavor) and put into crock pot , add whole peeled garlic, and onion cut in fourths. this will almost fill the crock pot. pour chicken stock want everything covered with liquid..if you dont have enough stock use water. Put lid on the crock pot and cook on low 8 hrs or high 4 hours. 
Remove lid and test potatoes to be sure they are soft by piecing with a fork. If they pierce easily they are read ....depending on  what you have available...blend the contents of the crockpot. either with a stick blender (that is what I use) or in batchs in a regular blender, or a hand mixer, or ever a manual potato masher will do in a pinch but whatever you use blend it while it is still piping hot. I like to leave some chunks but not many  some like it chunkier others smooth and  creamy...just go with whatever you like best.Then add cream, buttermilk, butter, and cheeses and mix into hot potatoes.  At thias point taste it...season as you like with salt and pepper. Now, if the soup is too thick add milk (or more cream).  You want it quite thick so it will stand up to all of you toppings.
Speaking of are just a few ideas:

crisped bacon
shredded sharp cheddar
steamed broccoli
shredded swiss
sauted onions and/or mushrooms
french fried onions
sour cream
diced ham
 ect ect ect

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mommy Mcmuffins

Here is a super easy, quick and delicious breakfast (or lunch or dinner I am not picky when I eat them as these are super tasty)  What I like about these  is that you make 12 at a time so in 15 minutes you have 12 sandwiches with hardly any muss or fuss and zero stress. These freeze very well and make an easy before school breakfast or afterschool snack!  So eat them right away or freeze the sandwich and THEN wrap well in foil and return to the freezer.  To reheat put wrapped sandwich in a 350 degree oven for 20ish can in theory microwave the unwrapped sandwich BUT the muffin will be slight soggy...soft like a muffin sandwich from a fast food place.

Mommy McMuffins

12 english muffins (I used whole wheat but whatever you like works)
12 eggs
12 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese
12 slices of crisp cooked bacon (or ham or REAL bacon bits or sausage whatever you prefer or have on hand-or no meat at all if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350
Split english muffiins and lay out on a cookie sheet.  PAM (cooking spray) all 12 cups of a muffin tin.  Crack 1 egg in each muffin cup. Pierce the yolk carefully with a toothpick. add salt and pepper if desired.
Slide muffins and eggs into the oven at the same time. Bake 15 minutes. While the eggs and muffins cook, shred the cheese.  When the eggs and muffins are done, remove from oven spread butter on one side of muffin, top with 1 ounce of cheese, 1 slice of bacon, and 1 with other half of muffin.  Serve!  If you are freezing these let cool. then freeze UNWRAPPED in freezer. when frozen remove from freezer and wrap well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A few of my favorite (RANDOM) things part 3

As I have done before...I, on occasion, just list random food/cooking things that have caught (or in some cases re-caught) my fancy the last few months. I have a slightly obsessive personality when it come to cooking and thus these lists are will find these every few months on my blog. Really it is random nonsense to some but to me it is an interesting and at time scary look into my scattered brain to see what shiney tidbit has caught my attention....enjoy...

raw sugar, scones, sage, granny smith apples, looking at food on Pinterest, rolls, biscuits, brie, phyllo dough, puff pastry, ginger, pumpkin, garam masala, thyme, roasted red pepper, lentils,old antique cookbooks, baking in general

okay...not too weird of a list...not too normal either huh? oh well actually I never claimed to be even slightly normal. See you next time I feel the need to share my obsessions!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

" I'm Sick" Soup

I invented this soup off the cuff because I had a houseful of people who each in turn informed me that they were either sick or getting sick.  The cold day and rainy weather added to the sense of malaise.  The consensus was it was definately a soup day.  I had already made up a batch of Irish Oat rolls anyway so I thought they were right and a big pot of Homemade soup was just what the Dr ordered.  I had not been to the store lately so the cupboards were a bit bare...especially bare of fresh veggies...but I was not going to let that stop me from making a super healthy, hearty, cold-care soup. I chose chicken stock (always great for cold care) as well as beans and lentils for protein and a nice heartiness. The spices I chose besides being delicious and slighty spicey (great for stuffy noses) also have many health benefits. Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend that everyone should try. Garam ("hot") and masala ("mixture") is a blend of dry-roasted, ground spices, such as black pepper, cumin, cloves, and cardamom, bay, nutmeg, coriander..ect.
Here is what I came up got rave reviews at my house...I was handed a notepad and told to write it down before I forgot what I put in it! Feel free to add whatever veggies you like or have on hand. Fresh veggies should be sauted with the onions to soften..canned or frozen veggies should be added closer to the end (except for the tomatoes and beans).

I'm Sick Soup

2 boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large onion diced
3 tbl olive oil
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sherry (optional)
1 can black beans rinsed
1 can sweet potato puree
1/4 cup red lentils
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 tea garlic powder
1/2 tea garam masala (an indian spice blend)
1/8 tea cayenne (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta shells (or elbows or the like)
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot or sauce pan...add olive oil and onion (or other fresh veggies if using) season chicken with salt and pepper and garlic powder then toss in pot with the onion. When chicken is cooked through add stock,sherry and lentils. cook 15 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, garam masala and cayenne and simmer 10 minutes...add uncooked pasta simmer until pasta in al dente.  Serve up with a biscuits, rolls or crackers and cheese.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

High Brow Grilled Cheese Brie & Bacon...yes!

Everyone likes some version of grilled cheese don't they? I mean whether you use American, Cheddar or even Velveeta...what is there not to love?  Buttery, crispy bread...oooey goooey cheese....sigh....
Well lately I have been on a Brie kick....I blame it on the restaurant 'The Cellar' in Owego ( a review of this FANTASTIC place will be in a future blog post)  They make a Brie en croute with apricot to DIE for...I mean it is heavenly.  So now I have been melting Brie in assorted recipes just to make myself happy lol.
So....and I seriously don't know what took me so long to think of this....why not Brie grilled cheese???

So here is what I came up is so decadent you will almost feel as though you should play some classical music and sip wine with it!  Enjoy!!

High Brow Grilled Cheese for 2

4 slices center-cut bacon, cooked till crisp
unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 slices whole grain bread
8 ounces good quality brie
4 tbl of your fave jarred Pesto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a good non stick pan or a seasoned cast iron pan.
Spread butter on 1 side of each slice of bread. Lay 2 of the slices of the bread in the pan. Lay on each slice of bread - 2 thick slices of brie, 2 tbl of pesto, and 2 slices of broken up bacon and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the remaining bread slices on top, butter side up and cook over a medium heat until golden brown on both sides and the brie has melted.