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Posts Tagged ‘casserole’

A basic, simple lasagna satisfies hunger any day of the week but particularly in inclement weather.  It’s very simple if you keep some homemade marinara sauce or bolognese sauce in the freezer.  Then all you  need is a good mixture of cheeses with some herbs bound with and egg or two and some noodles (fresh, dried or no-bake–your choice).  The result is the ultimate comfort meal.  You can add some fresh roasted garlic to a toasted baguette and a salad on the side if you are a big eater.  Any which way, this is a satisfying, economical and pleasing meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I’m just going by my own experience.  (Wink)

This photo shows the richness of the cheeses:lasagna with bologese sauceAnd this shot shows the meaty bolognese sauce:

lasagna with bolognese sauce 2Two sides of the same piece of lasagna.  Sheer happiness.

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Recently, a client brought me a recipe from Cooking Light magazine that looked good as far as flavors go.  After following Cooking Light’s recipe exactly, I changed some ingredients to be more to my client’s liking and ended up with a delicious, flavorful and pleasing casserole that was even a wee bit healthier than the Cooking Light version.  Mine also had stronger flavor to make it tastier.

My version began with Cooking Light’s Tortilla Chip Casserole’s basic recipe.  I avoided all the packaged ingredients and spent a little time in the kitchen making my own ingredients from scratch.  After our experience with the original recipe, I adjusted the ingredient amounts and flavors to please their tastes.

The result was a good casserole with low caloric value, lower fat, low sodium and high flavor.  Totally a successful dish that we augmented with a simple spinach salad with some tomatoes, low fat balsamic vinaigrette and chopped vegetables.  For those who aren’t concerned about calories, you could even add ½ cup of corn kernels to this recipe.

Note: If you are taking the “from scratch” route, I recommend that you make your chicken stock, baked chips, roasted pepper and enchilada sauce first or even a day ahead to make this recipe easier.

chicken casserole

Here is my version of Tortilla Chip Casserole

(Serves 6-8 depending on serving sizes):

Ingredients

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 full tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 Tablespoons all-purpose King Arthur flour

1 cup 1% milk

¾ cup homemade, unsalted chicken stock (if using canned, use salt free stock)

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 ounces, reduced fat cream cheese

1 cup reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts (trimmed of all fat and skin)

4 ounces, homemade baked tortilla chips, crushed  (If you are using store-bought use the baked Tostitos brand chips)

1 freshly roasted bell pepper, chopped (you can used jarred peppers if necessary)

1 ¼ cup sodium free, homemade green chile sauce  (Or substitute low sodium enchilada sauce if necessary)

2 ounces shredded reduced fat cheddar mixed with 2 ounces shredded reduced fat

Monterrey Jack cheese (you can use packaged low fat cheese if necessary)

2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño or more to suit your taste

Garnishes:

¼ cup chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Fresh homemade red salsa (or use jarred if you must)

Preparation

Make your chicken stock, baked chips, roasted pepper, enchilada sauce and salsa and set them aside.  If you are cooking these the day before, cover in air tight, separate containers and refrigerate them all except the baked chips.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Heat the 3 teaspoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook 4-6 minutes depending upon your stove-top.  Add the garlic and flour.  Cook two minutes.

Gradually add the milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

Remove from the heat and stir in the spices: cumin, oregano, coriander, salt and pepper.  Next, add the jalapeño and stir.  Lastly, add the cream cheese stirring until it melts.

PREPARATION:

In an 11×7 pan, spread ½ cup milk mixture over the bottom of the pan.

Spread the black beans as the next layer.  Add 2 cups chicken.  Add half of the crushed chips.

Top the chips with ½ cup milk mixture.  For the next layer, add 2 cups chicken, the roasted bell pepper and the rest of the chips.  Cover it all with the remaining milk mixture and the green chile sauce.  Sprinkle the top with the cheese mixture.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Top with chopped onions, chopped cilantro, and a dollop of salsa.

Serve hot with a side salad and ice cold beer.

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At the beginning of the New Year, I began culling my old recipes.  One of my goals was to eliminate the useless, outdated ones and update the usable dishes that could be delectable instead of just good.

One of the gems I found was a traditional macaroni and cheese with a Mexican slant with a tomato sauce.  Back when it was popular, this recipe used macaroni, cheddar cheese, green chilis and ground beef.  Not much else except some traditional spices like oregano.

In my upgrade, I followed the basic directions for my old recipe.  However, I substituted Ziti for macaroni, Pecorino for Cheddar and added some fresh ricotta for a creamier texture.  Instead of hamburger, I used a spicy hot Italian sausage.  Therefore, the recipe followed the same path but I did alter ingredients.

The result was quite pleasing.  In fact, it was good enough to serve to company with a side salad, some freshly toasted bread and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Baked Ziti with Spicy Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. hot Italian sausage, removed from casing and coarsely crumbled

1/3 cup dry red wine (I used a Cabernet)

Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup crushed dried oregano

28 oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices

1 cup ricotta, fresh is better if you can get it or packaged will do.

½ lb. mozzarella, fresh is better but packaged will work,

cut into small diced cubes

1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino

¼-1/3 cup chopped Italian Parsley

Generous pinch of nutmeg

1 lb. Ziti

Generous sprinkle of Panko Crumbs – about 1 cup or so.

Preheat the oven to 425˚ while you assemble the ingredients.

Lightly oil a baking dish and bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Prepare your mise en place (all ingredients) before beginning.  Do all your chopping, dicing, measuring and assembling to allow the process to move smoothly.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and then add about 2 Tablespoons olive oil.  When it shimmers, add the onion and sauté until soft for about 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and crumbled sausage.  Saute until the sausage is browned on all sides.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

If there appears to be too much fat in the pan, pour most of it off.  Otherwise, use the fat for flavoring in the recipe.

Add the red wine and boil.  When it’s almost vanished, Add the tomatoes and their juices.  Cook, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly at this point.  Add the oregano and taste.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

While the sauce cooks and thickens, mix the ricotta with the pecorino or parmesan and the parsley and nutmeg.  Let it sit while you cook the pasta.

Cook the Ziti until it’s just al dente (firm to bite).  Drain the ziti and mix it thoroughly, while still hot, with the ricotta mixture.  Coat the ziti well.  The ricotta mixture should melt like a sauce from the heat of the ziti.  Add the sausage and its sauce and mix thoroughly again.

Next, add the chopped mozzarella and toss together until mixed well.

Last, pour the entire mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle generously with panko bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with a fresh green salad and/or a side of vegetables and some hot bread.

Enjoy!

At the beginning of the New Year, I began culling my old recipes.  One of my goals was to eliminate the useless, outdated ones and update the usable dishes that could be delectable instead of just good.

One of the gems I found was a traditional macaroni and cheese with a Mexican slant with a tomato sauce.  Back when it was popular, this recipe used macaroni, cheddar cheese, green chilis and ground beef. Not much else except some traditional spices like oregano.

In my upgrade, I followed the basic directions for my old recipe.  However, I substituted Ziti for macaroni, Pecorino for Cheddar and added some fresh ricotta for a creamier texture.  Instead of hamburger, I used a spicy hot Italian sausage.  Therefore, the recipe followed the same path but I did alter ingredients.

The result was quite pleasing.  In fact, it was good enough to serve to company with a side salad, some freshly toasted bread and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Baked Ziti with Spicy Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. hot Italian sausage, removed from casing and coarsely crumbled

1/3 cup dry red wine (I used a Cabernet)

Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup crushed dried oregano

28 oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices

1 cup ricotta, fresh is better if you can get it or packaged will do.

½ lb. mozzarella, fresh is better but packaged will work,

cut into small diced cubes

1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino

¼-1/3 cup chopped Italian Parsley

Generous pinch of nutmeg

1 lb. Ziti

Preheat the oven to 425˚ while you assemble the ingredients.

Lightly oil a baking dish and bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Prepare your mise en place (all ingredients) before beginning.  Do all your chopping, dicing, measuring and assembling to allow the process to move smoothly.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and then add about 2 Tablespoons olive oil.  When it shimmers, add the onion and sauté until soft for about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and crumbled sausage.  Saute until the sausage is browned on all sides.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

If there appears to be too much fat in the pan, pour most of it off.  Otherwise, use the fat for flavoring in the recipe.

Add the red wine and boil.  When it’s almost vanished, Add the tomatoes and their juices. Cook, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly at this point.  Add the oregano and taste.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

While the sauce cooks and thickens, mix the ricotta with the pecorino or parmesan and the parsley and nutmeg.  Let it sit while you cook the pasta.

Cook the Ziti until it’s just al dente (firm to bite).  Drain the ziti and mix it thoroughly, while still hot, with the ricotta mixture.  Coat the ziti well.  The ricotta mixture should melt like a sauce from the heat of the ziti.  Add the sausage and its sauce and mix thoroughly again.

Next, add the chopped mozzarella and toss together until mixed well.

Last, pour the entire mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle generously with panko bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with a fresh green salad and/or a side of vegetables and some hot bread.

Enjoy!

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Pasta Timballo is an Italian meal that varies from region to region in the use of ingredients and sauces.  Timballos involve several steps of preparation to achieve a baked “pie” that includes pasta, rice or potatoes as a base, using cheese and/or eggs as a binder to hold it all together.  Often, the timballo is moistened and flavored with a Bolognese sauce or béchamel sauce or in this case both! The Timballo is similar to the bomba or a pasticcio (which is baked in a pastry crust), or even an English casserole (but saying so could start a culinary feud of sorts).  I am not posting the recipe to this one just yet because it is a recipe in progress.

A timbale or timballo can also be wrapped in thinly sliced vegetables like eggplant or zucchini for a presentation that is a bit more formal.

This one, however, is penne pasta in a tomato-wine sauce with poached, shredded chicken.  The tomato chicken sauce coats the first layer of pasta, and then a béchamel sauce including spinach and winter flavoring is added.  One more layer of tomato-chicken sauce goes atop the spinach-béchamel layer and the whole casserole binds together with shredded Provolone, cubed Mozzarella, eggs lightly beaten and a good handful of Parmesan cheese.

To finish the timballo crust, panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning dust the pan and the top of the casserole.

Serve with a light, fruity wine and some bread on the side to max out your carb allotment for the week!  Buon Appetito!

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