Monday, October 20, 2014

Oven Baked Creamy, Cheesy, Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

Diane Smith is one of my go-to cooks on the internet. So when she posts a yummy recipe (especially a casserole), you can be sure I'm right there, writing down the ingredients and making plans to put her good cooking and excellent instincts to a test run in my kitchen.  This dish is inspired by Diane and I sure do have to give her the credit for her timing in cooking brown rice in the oven. As many of you know, I am seriously brown rice impaired, and Diane made it simple for me to pull together a perfectly cooked, creamy chicken and rice dish in one pot no less. Her original recipe can be found here, and it's made with poppy seeds. I am not so much a poppy seed fan, but love the combo of creamy, cheesy anything and want to share my little journey putting this beautiful and tasty oven baked dish together. Warning- It's not a 45 minute casserole, but worth every minute in the oven.

Oven Baked Chicken and and Brown Rice with Tarragon, Dijon and White Wine
serves 4

1 c uncooked brown rice
salt and pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese grated
2 large boneless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 10 oz can non fat/low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 c lite sour cream
1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 to 1-1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 c dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers crushed
1/4 c unsalted butter melted

Let's cook: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray or butter. I was feeling decadent and used the butter, (good choice I decided later). Spread uncooked rice evenly over prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 the cheese over rice and place chicken on top.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top of the chicken. Set the chicken aside and mix your condensed soup, sour cream, tarragon and Dijon mustard

Spread mixture on top of seasoned chicken. In a medium size measuring cup, combine chicken broth, and wine and pour over the top of the casserole. This flavorful liquid along with the condensed soup is going to magically cook your chicken and rice to perfection. Looks good already, doesn't it?

 Place casserole uncovered in oven and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

And now my favorite part...the Ritz crackers and butter. Top casserole with the crackers and drizzle butter lovingly on top of the crackers. Place casserole back in oven.

 Bake another 25 minutes and dinner is done. And well worth waiting for. How delish is this?

I'll answer that since you haven't made it yet. It's creamy, cheesy, crunchy, and oh! so flavorful. It tastes like a meal fit for a king or queen. Plus the possibilities for this dish are endless. I might add some veggies next time- like baby peas or asparagus. Or some roasted red peppers. As I said to Diane, "this is not just a recipe- it's another way of cooking chicken and rice to perfection.... which is not easy!" As always, thanks Diane for a wonderful cooking experience! Loved every minute, especially the eating part. LD

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stick to your Ribs

Sometimes after a day in front of the computer I want a hearty, comforting soup  for dinner and that's the only thing that's going to make me happy. And with real estate taxes due in a little more than 15 days I've been skimping a bit on my grocery supplies and the pickin' have been slim. "Not to worry," I said to myself, "there's always something around here to make you happy." And I was right. If you like the smokey flavor of bacon, don't mind adding a few of Nathan's Bigger than the Bun hot dogs, some canned Great Northern Beans and a small serving of orzo, this soup is seasoned just right and can be done easily on a weeknight. Don't let the long list of ingredients inhibit you, the prep/cooking time goes fast!

Stick to your Ribs Bacon, Franks, Orzo and Bean Soup
Makes 2-3 large bowls or 4 smaller portions

4 strips bacon cooked and crumbled
1 T bacon fat
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2-1/2 cups no fat chicken broth, I forgot to get the low sodium so I added...
1-1/2 cups water
8 oz tomato sauce
1 dried bay leaf
2 tsp sriracha sauce- or Frank's hot sauce would work nicely with its vinegary flavor
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 can (15.5 oz) Navy Beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry orzo
4-5 frankfuters sliced 1/4-1/2 inch
4 oz baby spinach chopped

Let's cook! Cook your bacon (not too crisp) and set aside. Reserve 1 T of bacon fat. In large/medium soup pot add the bacon fat and 1-2 tsp of olive oil. On medium/low heat add the diced onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Now add your chopped garlic, cook about 1 minute max and be very careful not to let it burn. Add the Old Bay, kosher salt, and ground black pepper and stir to incorporate into the onion/garlic mixture. Toss in your dried bay leaf.

Add 2-1/2 cups no fat (store bought) chicken broth, 1-1/2 cups water, 8 oz canned tomato sauce and stir to combine. Now let's season this baby up with the srirscha, brown sugar and Dijon mustard. Bring to a simmer and add your cooked bacon, beans, hot dogs and orzo. Cover and cook on a very low simmer until orzo is done, about 13 minutes. Now toss in your chopped spinach, and cook uncovered until wilted. Taste broth for seasoning and make adjustments.

Ladle up this bit of comfort food. I think you will enjoy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash enhanced with Bacon Fat, Baked Eggs and Cheese

I love having sweet potatoes in the house. They're such a healthy vegetable and so tasty. And they're not just for Thanksgiving. But sometimes I just don't know what to do with them besides simply baking, shredding for latkes or adding mini marshmallows. Last night I put on my thinking cap, took a tip from Pat and Gina Neely from Food Network and made their Mother's Day Hash. I used their recipe almost to the letter except I added Sazon Azafron seasoning to the vegetable mix (flavor explosion!!) and sauteed everything in a small amount of bacon fat (why did they leave that out?) and canola oil. I omitted the smoked paprika and parsley which I did not have. Here's my version and lots of pics.

Sweet Potato Hash
Inspired by the Neely's
Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed about 1 inch
1T bacon fat
1T canola oil
1/2 large onion chopped 1/4 inch
1 red bell pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1/4 cup scallions chopped (white and green parts)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 package Goya Sazon Azafran
Additional 2T bacon fat and 1-2T canola oil for crisping the potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper

4 fresh large eggs
Additional salt and pepper for seasoning the eggs
4 T shaved parmesan cheese

Lets get cooking with some pictures. I'm loving re-living this meal. In medium sauce pan add cubed sweet potatoes, a generous amount of salt and cold water. Place on high heat until water boils. Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 10 minutes until potatoes are mostly tender. (We'll be sauteeing them later).

Drain cooked potatoes and dry on a kitchen towel or paper towels. While potatoes are cooking, prep your veggies. Now grab a saute pan and add 1T of bacon fat and 1T canola oil. Heat to medium and add your pepper, onions, and scallions. Cook for a few minutes (4-5) to soften, and add the garlic and the Azafron. Cook a few minutes more to let the veggies absorb the seasoning. Remove mixture from saute pan and set aside.

Now it's time to put this hash together. In the same pan that you cooked the pepper mixture, add about 1-2T canola oil and 2 T bacon fat. What we're doing here is crisping up the cooked sweet potatoes. Place a layer of the cubed potatoes in sauce pan. Don't crowd them, You want them to get crispy, not steamed. And gently turn them so they are browned on all sides (or almost all sides). Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper.

We're almost there, so now add back the pepper/onion mixture and add a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper.

Gently mix together and your hash is done and ready to serve. But if you want to take it to a different level, grab a large muffin tin, spritz 4 of the indented tins with cooking spray and divide your hash to fit each halfway up each large crevice. Pre heat oven to 425 degrees.

You see where I'm going with this. Crack an egg over each prepared muffin tin and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Add some shaved parmesan cheese. And anything else your little heart desires. I could only think of cheesy, sweet potato hash and a semi runny egg.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Let cool a bit before you serve. I dug right in and was happy I did. What a simple dinner. And a great little brunch entree for guests or family.

To me this is comfort food. I'll be re-heating the rest in the microwave for brunch tomorrow after my workout and I'm thinking (hoping) if I don't break the eggs they're going to be great.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tortellini Lasagna, oh yum


Here's a little ditty I made while talking on the phone with Didi the other night. Yeah, it's that easy. And it's delish. Kinda like a quick lasagna. I warn you, there's lots of cheese involved (my weakness) but you can adjust it to your tastebuds. I made this with ground beef, but I think it would be just as good as a vegetarian dish with the mushrooms and spinach while omitting the beef. It would make a great appetizer either way or a main course with a salad and some crusty bread (my other weakness). Here's the recipe:

Cremini Mushrooms and Spinach Baked with Ground Beef and Tortellini
I'm not sure how many servings- 9 for an appetizer and maybe 6 for a main course

1 T olive oil
1/2 large onion diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms diced
1 lb ground beef
2.5 oz fresh baby spinach
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and black pepper
1 12 oz bag of frozen tri-colored tortellini
1 28 oz jar of marinara sauce
1-1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

In large skillet on medium heat, add your olive oil. Now add your onions and mushrooms. Cook a few minutes and add the ground beef. Add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook mixture until pink disappears from the meat. Drain any fat that accumulates.

Now add your spinach. It looks like a lot, but really, next time I'll add more because it sure wilts down to almost nothing. And I might chop it next time too.

Now add your marinara sauce and pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In small baking dish (I used an 8x8 inch Pyrex) add a layer of sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Add half the bag of frozen tortellini.

Top with half the meat sauce, then add half the shredded cheese.

Repeat the tortellini/meat sauce/cheese layer. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes uncovered. Let cool about 15-20 minutes before serving. Ooey, gooey, cheesy deliciousness, that's what it is, yum.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I've been having some issues with my computer lately and missing sharing some new recipes that I've been making. Computer issues lead to stress, and cooking for me is a stress reliever. And orzo seems to do the trick. Yeah, I've been on an orzo kick this year. Bear with me folks because I'll latch on to something else soon (maybe, maybe not so soon), but this is a flavorful side dish (now my favorite) that will go with anything you serve for lunch or dinner. If you're a mushroom fan and like the earthy flavor of creminis and spinach, this is a must make. And it's a quick fix.

Cremini Mushroom and Spinach Orzo
4 servings

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-3/4 cup water or chicken stock (both work great)
1 T additional olive oil to saute mushrooms and onions
8 oz cremini mushrooms
1/2 onion diced
1 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach chopped
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese (or as much as you like)

Melt butter and olive oil in medium size saucepan on low heat. Add orzo and toast on medium heat for about 2 minutes until some of the pasta has become toasted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now add your broth or water and bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 12-13 minutes. While orzo is cooking, slice the mushrooms. Don't they look yummy already?

Dice your onion. In separate pan saute mushrooms and onions in olive oil. I use a medium low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and any other spices you might like. I think tarragon or garlic would be nice, but I've taken the simple route. Just S and P.

Now take the spinach and add it to the pan. Cook for a minute until it wilts.

The buttery, toasted orzo is just about ready. Take your veggie mixture and add it to the orzo, stir and serve hot. Oh, and right before you're ready to eat, add your shaved parm and give the dish another stir so it gets melty and a little gooey. You're gonna like this!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baked Beans with a Little Extra Heat

Jenny's Baked Beans have been a favorite of mine for the last few years. Today I did a quick re-mix and subbed Sriracha for Franks Hot Sauce and used Dijon mustard instead of the yellow. It's hot, but not too hot, so don't let the sriracha scare you. To me, it was just perfect, and the recipe is super simple!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole

This was kind of a fridge cleanout, so please adjust amounts of anything you have in your pantry and fridge. I promise, whatever the ratio, this will come out tasting great.

Franks, Beans and Bacon Casserole
Made in an 8" x 8" casserole dish
Can feed one hungry person or six normal appetites

5 beef frankfurters sliced 1/2 inch
1 T canola oil
1 onion diced 1/4 inch
1 green pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can 28 oz Bush's Original Baked Beans
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T Dijon mustard (I normally use yellow mustard but didn't have any- still pretty good with the Dijon)
1 T Splenda Brown Sugar Blend or 2 T regular brown sugar
1 T hot sauce (I used Franks)
4-5 slices hardwood smoked bacon

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare baking dish with cooking spray. In medium size saucepan on stovetop over medium low heat, add canola oil and onions and green pepper. Soften veggies and add chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. I usually add a bit of cumin but couldn't find mine. Add some if you can find yours and cook about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from saucepan and add to mixing bowl. Add sliced franks, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and hot sauce.

Combine mixture and pour into baking dish. Top with bacon.

Cover with aluminum foil and fold one corner of foil back to vent. Bake one hour, remove foil and bake uncovered for another half hour. Serve with Texas toast (sorry no picture), but all you need to do to make the toast is... while the casserole is cooling, combine a few tablespoons of butter with garlic powder and fresh chopped parsley. Slather the butter mixture on one side of thickly sliced (one inch) Italian bread. Bake in oven for 7-9 minutes. Yummy meal and it reheats in the oven or microwave like a dream.