Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuna casserole: Not too shabby!

It doesn't sound like much, but for some reason, the tuna casserole I made last night really hit the spot. It was quick, easy and actually somewhat healthy. I believe the reason for this success lies in one ingredient: ricotta cheese. It's not normally in my tuna casserole, but I didn't have milk, or cream cheese or more than a dollop of sour cream, so ricotta was the only thing left. It imparted a sort of creamy texture, and added some heft to the dish, which was welcome on a cooler night.

Tuna Ricotta Casserole

1/2 bag No Yolks egg noodles
2 cans solid white albacore tuna in water (do not drain)
1 can fat free cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 T. Cavendar's all purpose Greek seasoning
1/2 t. kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Boil six cups water, and cook egg noodles until al dente, about 6 minutes.

While those are cooking, whisk together the cream soup, ricotta cheese and sour cream. Add in the tuna, undrained, the peas and seasoning.

Drain the noodles, and add the soup mixture. Pour into a greased baking pan. Mix the cheese and bread crumbs, and top dish with the cheese mixture.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Serve warm!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ribollita, of sorts

Look up "ribollita" and you'll come up with all kinds of versions. My version comes from the "use what's in the fridge" method of cooking.

I think it's important to use what you have on hand for recipes, if at all possible. More trips to the grocery store mean more money out of your pocket, when there might be a perfectly good substitute in your pantry. So, when I'm cooking, I try to look at recipes more like suggestions. Remember, when in doubt, you can always scramble eggs!

We had leftover meat from grilling out, which I usually freeze to keep fresh. We also had leftover crushed tomatoes from the jambalaya. However, I will say I think this recipe would be phenomenal with browned sausage!

Ribollita

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, minus one cup of tomatoes
2 cups water
2 chicken boullion cubes
1 T. Cavender's Greek Seasoning
1 t. salt
1/2 cracked black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 small leaves kale, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-oz. can black beans
1 15-oz. can chili beans
1 to 1 1/2 cups meat -- we used cooked cubed chicken and pork
Seasoned croutons
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Mix all ingredients except croutons and cheese in a large Dutch oven. Bring to boil and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Ladle into bowls and top with croutons and cheese. Croutons will absorb broth -- delicious!

You could easily adapt this recipe for whatever vegetables, beans or meat you have on hand. Experiment and have fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jambalaya, Part 1

I made jambalaya the other night with a handy packet of jambalaya seasoning. I browned an entire chicken kielbasa sausage, cut into one-inch slices in 2 T. of butter, then added 2 1/2 cups water, 1 1/4 cups brown rice, 1 1/4 cups crushed tomatoes, 1/2 of a green pepper, chopped, and one carrot, peeled and chopped. I brought all that to a boil, and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, and then added a cup of cooked, diced chicken. Then I let that simmer about 20 more minutes. After tasting, I added about 1 tsp. of salt and some ground pepper.

The dish was great, and got better as it cooled off -- at first, it was lava hot! It wasn't spicy, either. Also, it tasted good cold the next day.

So now the question is, how do we make it without the seasoning packet? The ingredients seemed to include dehydrated versions of garlic, onion and peppers... and "spices". We may have to experiment to figure out what those include!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Turkey Tetrazzini and the Best Asparagus Ever

Have I mentioned this asparagus recipe yet? I found it on TastyKitchen.com, and have been making it per request of my husband roughly every two weeks since. It is so easy, and gives all the other methods of cooking asparagus a bad name.... When I make it, I chop off the bottom inch of the stack of asparagus while it's still banded together. This eliminates tough ends, and ensures only tender shoots for your plate.
So, here it is: Roasted Asparagus. The Best Asparagus Ever!

I also made Turkey Tetrazzini last night. We had one bag of frozen cooked turkey in the freezer, and this seemed like a good time to use it. I have a whole plan to do freezer meals, and I need a cleaned-out freezer to start it, so this is one of many posts where I will use frozen items we have on hand.

Anyway, at one point I had a gut instinct to only use 3 cups of broth instead of 4 cups. I should have listened. It was a bit soupy, but still tasted great. The combination of the cheeses really creates a nice sauce for the turkey, mushrooms and peas. I did not use olives for this, substituted 1/3 less fat cream cheese and also baked it in my Dutch oven. I would say if you bake it in a casserole the extra liquid is probably okay.

On that note, have a wonderful weekend, and perhaps soon, I will be back with New Orleans jambalaya! That or pumpkin-carrot soup. Tune in for the next episode!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sausage meatballs

I make 'em small. They cook faster, and go better in a spaghetti dish. Normally I use ground beef and sausage, but I didn't have that on hand. However, sausage is essential in meatballs, as is seasoning. Without these two ingredients, you might as well make meat sauce. Think of meatballs as mini meatloaves. In other words, all those types of ingredients should be present, but clearly, there's a million ways to make them. Here's one.

Sausage meatballs

1 lb. mild seasoned ground pork sausage
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 T. dijon mustard
1 t. Cavendar's Greek seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with foil, and top with a cookie cooling rack. Mix all ingredients. Shape into 1 to 1 1/2 in. meatballs. Place on the rack, about a 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 30 minutes. These freeze beautifully by the way.

I serve this with whole wheat spaghetti and a 26-oz. can of tomato sauce, as well as cheesy garlic bread and a vegetable side dish. If you're lucky, like me, your husband will opt for more meatballs, leaving the garlic bread for you! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beignets: Beign there, done that


Beignet and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde

Well, we came, we saw, and we devoured six beignets between us. Erin and I thought we'd only eat one each, but clearly, they were too powerful for us. :) The beignets are not doughnuts by any stretch. They taste like a large chunk of deep fried funnel cake, covered in powdered sugar. I always thought the powdered sugar would be too much, but it's actually about right. The coffee is just as dark as espresso, but much more mild, with no need of sugar or milk, in my opinion. Although I hear that a cafe au lait is the way to go here.



In any case, you can see why the place has been open forever, give or take two months after Hurricane Katrina. People flock to it and for good reason. Great food, great service, great coffee. We sent some coffee and beignet mix home, so we'll see how it tastes on Midwest soil!

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Orleans

Recipes will take a hiatus pretty soon here, as I plan to go to New Orleans for work. This is the sign of a lot of Chinese takeout on the homefront, as well as some frozen food. Hopefully everyone survives. In any case, I'm sure I'll have a lot more recipes to try when I get home. And I can finally try these beignets everybody has been telling me about!