Thursday, April 29, 2010

Frito Chicken and Bean Casserole

Last week when I was meal planning, I had the random desire to make some sort of cheesy casserole with taco seasoning but couldn't find just the right recipe when I tried searching online. So, I decided that since I had a general idea of what I wanted, then I should try make something up. So voila, this is my creation! I must say, this absolutely came out every bit as good as I hoped it would, and is definitely something I plan to make again. Probably frequently. I love how a good casserole is easy to make, satisfying to eat, and less expensive than serving meat by itself (like in this recipe, I only used two large chicken breast halves and the casserole fed us for two days).

Frito Chicken and Bean Casserole

1-1/2 cups crushed corn chips, divided
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1/8 cup milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
2 cups shredded chicken (fully cooked)
1-1/2 cups or 1 can beans (such as kidney or black), drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup onion, chopped

Lightly spray or grease a 2-1/2 quart baking dish. Line the bottom of the pan with 3/4 cup finely crushed corn chips and set pan aside.

In a large bowl, stir or whisk together the sour cream, salsa, milk, soup, and taco seasoning until smooth. Stir in the chicken, beans, cheese, and onion. Gently drop by spoonfuls over the crushed chips in the pan, being careful not to displace the chips. Top with the remaining 3/4 cup of crushed chips. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna

It's no secret that I love lasagna and I was very happy to not be disappointed in this one. It's definitely a unique twist on an old favorite and tastes like something from an upscale restaurant. The sauce is homemade, which helps keep the cost down for this dish, and the sauteed vegetables impart some nice, healthy substance. Roughly estimating, it cost less than $8.50 to prepare this and lasted us three days for an average of less than $3 a meal.

This was my second time using an Aaron McCargo Jr. recipe (the first was Black Bean Burgers) and I found that once again, I had to tone down some of his seasonings (black pepper, red pepper, and smoked paprika). That man seriously loves wild flavor! I thought that my husband and I had pretty adventurous taste buds, but there's no way we could have handled using the full amount of spices that Aaron calls for. Even with my modifications, the lasagna still had quite the kick so anyone who does not like really spicy flavor may want to reduce at least the black pepper and red pepper even further (and remember, the measurements listed below already reflect my reduced amounts). My 2 1/2 year old asked for seconds on all three nights that we ate this, though I've come to the realization that he has a very abnormal palate for a child.

Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna

12 to 15 lasagna noodles
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups broccoli florets
1-1/2 cups cauliflower
1 cup seeded and chopped zucchini
1 cup seeded and chopped squash
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

Fill a large bowl or baking dish with hot water and soak the lasagna noodles for about 15 minutes, or until slightly pliable. Drain the water and set the noodles aside.

Meanwhile, place the oil in a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and zucchini. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Continue cooking, while stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables are still cooking, use another stove burner to begin the sauce. Place 2 tablespoons of butter and the onions in a large saucepan and saute over medium-high heat until translucent. Whisk in 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of paprika, the flour, and garlic. Stir in the milk and broth and season to taste with salt. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for a few minutes, while still whisking. Stir in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and then combine with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, and the red pepper flakes. Add the bread crumbs and mix well.

Ladle some sauce (about 3/4 cup) into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. (You may want to then pour the remaining sauce into a large measuring cup to help determine how to evenly divide the sauce for each layer.) Add a layer of noodles*, followed by half the cottage cheese mixture, half the vegetables, and one-third of the remaining sauce. Repeat this layer once and then finish with a final layer of noodles and the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and return to oven to bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the lasagna to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Yields 9 servings.

*Keep in mind that the lasagna noodles will expand during cooking, so it is not necessary to completely cover the pan bottom (and subsequent layers) with the noodles. However, you can it you want would end up needing all 15 noodles. I used only 12 noodles and evenly spaced them to allow for expansion.

Recipe adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Meal Plan 4/19 - 4/25

I think I've almost fallen too far behind on this blog to ever catch up again, but I'm determined that I will!

This week, I am going to try creating a new casserole. I love experimenting with making up my own recipes and I'm really hoping this one turns out great. I have tentatively named it Frito Chicken and Bean Casserole. The Beef and Broccoli I made earlier this week came from one of those by-mail recipe club cards (you know, where you get some free recipes just for trying out their over-priced club). We also had some yummy loaded baked potatoes that I baked rubbed with a little bit of oil and sprinkled with seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder. It gave the skins some nice encrusted flavor.

Monday - Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry with rice
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Lentil Vegetable Soup (from freezer) with salad
Thursday - Loaded baked potatoes with salad
Friday - Frito Chicken and Bean Casserole with cornbread
Saturday - ???
Sunday - Leftovers

Check back to see these recipes posted... eventually! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup

When I was fortunate enough to live near a Carrabba's Italian Grill, I really enjoyed their sausage lentil soup. Then one day I was craving the soup... and now living 2 hours away from the closest Carrabba's... so searched All Recipes for a good substitute. I found this recipe, altered it a bit, and loved it; but honestly I don't remember the Carrabba's version well enough to say whether this is a close replica of theirs or not. It doesn't really matter to me though since I simply enjoy it for what it is, a deliciously spicy soup. Try using turkey Italian sausage to cut some calories.

Spicy Sausage and Lentil Soup

3/4 to 1 pound hot Italian sausage (substitute sweet sausage if you don't want it too spicy)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup (about 3 ribs) celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound dry lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced or diced
5 cups water
7 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

In a large pot, brown sausage until no longer pink. Drain grease and return to pot. Add onion, celery, and garlic, and saute until tender. Stir in lentils, carrot, water, chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, and red pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve topped with grated cheese. Yields 10 to 12 meal-sized servings.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tortellini Salad

This yummy salad is my great-grandma's recipe and one of my childhood favorites. It looks pretty and with only three ingredients, it's a snap to make. I like to eat it as a main dish during the summer - the cold tortellini makes a perfect refreshing meal - but it's also a great side dish. My mom likes to serve it at cookouts, graduation parties, and other gatherings where it's always a big hit.

Tortellini Salad

1 (16- to 20-ounce) bag frozen cheese tortellini
2 small jars marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
2 small cans sliced olive

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Meanwhile, chop the artichokes into bite sized pieces, making sure to reserve the marinade. Pour the marinade over the tortellini and stir in that artichokes and olives. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Yields 4 meal-sized servings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meal Plan 4/12 - 4/18

Once again I find myself behind on posting my meal plan (and last week's recipes). This week I'm making two new recipes, Skyline Chili and Tiramisu which are both copycat recipes from Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes series. The Stuffed Shells is the same recipe I had originally meal planned for two weeks ago and then ended up not making... this time I already bought all the ingredients so it will definitely be made.

Monday - Leftover Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna
Tuesday - Skyline Chili spaghetti with cornbread
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - Stuffed Shells with salad
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Dinner with family, bringing Tiramisu
Sunday - grilled bratwurst and salad

Visit again to see these recipes posted!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sausage and Mushroom Quiche

Last week I was craving breakfast sausage, so decided to throw together this quiche using my mom's quick quiche recipe as a base. I hardly ever make the same quiche twice since quiche is so adaptable that its my go-to meal when I need to use up ingredients, so it tends to turn out differently each time. That's the beauty of this dish - you can change the filling ingredients (even altering amounts, within reason) based on your preferences and what you have on hand without worrying about having to adjust the egg mixture. This filling combination makes a savory breakfast dish which also works well as breakfast-for-dinner (which is how we ate it). And to make it healthier, I used turkey breakfast sausage instead of regular pork sausage. For the veggies, since we don't like our veggies too soft, I threw everything in raw but if you prefer very soft veggies, you could always soften them first in a pan with a little butter.

Susage and Mushroom Quiche

1 box (10 links) breakfast sausage
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/8 cup onion, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
4 eggs
1/2 cup baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Brown the sausage according to the package directions, then place on a plate and allow to cool. When it's comfortable to handle the links, cut them into small pieces and place them in a small bowl. Add the onion, scallions, mushrooms, and cheese and toss gently to combine. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, baking mix, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Evenly distribute the filling ingredients in the bottom of buttered 9-inch pie pan. Pour the egg mixture on top. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Yields 4 servings (8 slices).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Meal Plan 4/5 - 4/11

Yikes, already Thursday and I don't have my meal plan up. This is a light cooking week for me since I have three meals taken care of by mystery shopping! I snuck another soup in this week even though the weather has warmed up but my husband didn't even complain. Haha! Then tomorrow, I will be trying a new lasagna recipe (yes another one... I think I'm addicted to lasagna!). Saturday's Lemon Cream Cake is one that I've made before but this time I plan to alter it by substituting a key ingredient, so that should be fun.

Monday - Restaurant mystery shop
Tuesday - Pizza delivery mystery shop
Wednesday - Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup with bread
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna with Strawberry Spinach Salad
Saturday - Dinner with family, bringing Lemon Cream Cake
Sunday - Restaurant mystery shop

Check back soon to see these recipes posted!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gone All Day Stew

I first had this stew when my mother-in-law made it. I'll be honest, I'm not a big meat and vegetables fan unless there's also cheese involved, but I really enjoy this stew especially if served with cornbread. It's so tasty and comforting, perfect for cool weather (or if you're like me, any time of the year).

The first time I tried making this I followed the original recipe's instructions to cook the stew in the oven, but since I don't own a roasting pan or oven-safe pot, I had to borrow one from my mother-in-law. Then the next time I made it (last week), I forgot all about needing an oven-safe pan until the last minute, so out of necessity I turned this into a slow cooker recipe. I think I prefer the oven method, but that's probably because my slow cooker is an overachiever and doesn't cook as slowly as it's supposed to, resulting in overcooked food.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot about taking a picture of the stew. That's how distractingly good it was!

Gone All Day Stew

2 pounds beef, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes
4 to 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch diagonal slices
4 to 5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
3 to 4 small onions, cut into large chunks or 1 inch wide strips
8 ounces fresh white mushrooms
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 can (10.75 ounce) condensed tomato soup
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place beef, vegetables, and bouillon cubes in a large roasting pan or oven-safe pot with lid. In a medium bowl, combine soup and flour until smooth. Add seasoning and water; stir until well combined. Pour mixture over meat/veggies in pan. Cover and bake at 275° degrees for 4 to 5 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. Yields 6 to 8servings.

Slow cooker version: Reduce the water to 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup. Cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours.