Thursday, February 26, 2015

Deep Dish Breakfast Casserole w/ Homemade Sausage and Sweet Peppers

These chilly winter months are a great time to procure homemade sausage from friends and local family farms. I was fortunate enough to do just that, and found the flavor profile very pleasing and past evoking.   My family made homemade sausage for many moons as I was growing up.  The aromas and absolute deliciousness resonates through my mind to this day.  I remember those fateful mornings, beginning around dawn with a blazing fire beneath the scalding tub, positioned perpendicular  to the expansive pen in which our livestock gorged and frolicked for months past.
  The men were responsible for the slaughter, cleaning and  breaking down of the animals, with the younger ones allowed to pitch  in on the sloughing off the hair and outer skin, after the protein had been submerged in the 'hot tub'.  We used this gadget that looked similar to a bell that would sit on your primary school teacher's desk, yet not as deep a bell, nor long a handle.  The women were responsible for grinding sausage and packaging .  The results were frozen to be enjoyed during the long winter months to come.  The hams and side meat was  hung in our custom hand-built cement smoke house to begin it's curing process and enjoyed weeks to months later.  Nothing was wasted however, the head would be smoked and cured , for the jowl.   The feet and ears were utilized as well.
 My favorite part of the evening was the actual sampling of the finished product.  My mother or one of my older sisters would bake a fresh batch of biscuits, brew fresh coffee, then fry wholesome and delicious cakes of the freshest and most delicious sausage, some hot, some mild.  A fried egg embellished the top of this unctuous labor of love and teamwork, a memory for which there is no substitute.  All the day's toils were well worth it, savoring each and every bite of an event which was indeed a whole year or two in the making.
My place in the kitchen had yet to come during those days of old.  I was only around 12 and under for those years that we kept our huge working garden and hogs.
This recipe is filled with the same type memories, only the labor was not that of our own.  The sweet peppers and cheddar cheese, prove complimentary to the savory and sage flecked country gold that is well seasoned and prepared homemade sausage.  This recipe produces 2 to 3 healthy serving portions that is completed simply with some fresh fruit.  Whole wheat sliced bread makes up the crusty and flavor filled bottom, providing a comfort from all four food groups in one amazing forkful!
1/2 lb. homemade sausage, hot or mild
1/4 c. diced sweet peppers
2 tbsp. diced onion
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, rough chopped
2 slices whole wheat bread
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c. milk
1/4 tsp. ground sage
1/4 to 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash of Sriracha, optional
Preheat oven  to 350*F.
Brown sausage over medium high heat, crumbling with a potato masher, drain.
Remove from heat and stir in peppers, onions, and parsley.
In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk, sage and Sriracha together.  SPST.
Butter 500 ml ramekin bottom and sides.
Cut slices of bread in half and press around lower sides and bottom.
Sprinkle with half of cheese.
Add sausage mixture.
Pour egg mixture atop.
Add remaining cheese.
Place in oven on baking sheet and bake until center is set, about 25 minutes.
The top may brown before middle is set, tent with foil.
Serves 2 to 3.

                I would like to give  posthumous  Happy Birthday shout-outs to my big brother Doug, whose birthday was yesterday the 25th and also to my dad Big Doug whose birthday is tomorrow the 27th..  You are both sorely missed and loved...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Triple Chocolate Brownie Stack

Brownies are a crowd favorite, dense and rich,  chocolaty and moist, just fantastic.  I figured why not stack them and create a dish worthy of a dessert centerpiece at any holiday or other occasion.
Frosted brownies are a real treat, especially when laced with a tangy cream cheese.
This version presents brownies in a whole new light, almost upscale compared to just squares on a plate.  For this recipe I used chocolate chips, cocoa powder and chocolate syrup, also a particular blend of both cake and AP flour for textural variance.  The brownie cake turned out wonderful so be sure to make it when it can be shared liberally, lest you may want to eat it all by yourself!
Dry ingredients:
2 c. AP flour, sifted
1 1/2 c. cake flour, sifted
1/2 c. good quality cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
Wet ingredients:
1 2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. or 1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. vegetable oil
5 eggs, 3 yolks 2 whole
1 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp. good quality vanilla extract
1 c. genuine chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 325*F.
Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans.
Combine flours and other dry ingredients and stir well.
Using a stand mixer at medium speed, cream sugar, butter and oil.
Add eggs, ,one yolk at a time, until incorporated.
Blend in chocolate syrup and vanilla.
Alternate blending portions of flour and coconut milk , ending with flour.
Make sure to scrape the bowl sides down throughout to catch any pockets of flour or ingredients.
Distribute evenly among the three pans.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile prepare the frosting:
1 1/2  lb. powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, at room tempertature
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips w/ 2 tbsp. coconut milk, softened in microwave or by double boiler.
1/2 tsp. good quality vanilla
pinch kosher salt
Combine ingredients under medium speed until desired consistency is reached.
Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes to stabilize frosting until ready to use.
Once brownies have cooled, cut each round in half crosswise, creating 6 layers.
On desired dish, add a bit of frosting to stabilize structure and begin to add each layer, frosting and layering etc.
Once 6 layers are in place, frost sides, then top.
Serves 16.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Festive Turkey Meatloaf Wreath with Parmesan

I found this recipe to be a delicious and fun one, especially with the implement of a silicon bundt cake pan.
I accomplished several things. First, distribution of the meatloaf is so that cooking time is reduced, even though  I used a three pound package of ground turkey. Next,  with this form, there is more surface area for the wonderful glaze to present itself with just about every bite.  Additionally, this makes for ease of slicing later and perfect for sandwich or serving portions.   Most importantly, my youngest daughter Bronwyn LOVED it! The super plus of this main course,  which I realized while cooling, is the space in the center is a suitable well for roasted or mashed potatoes, vegetables or fresh herbs for presentation.  You may also embellish the serving plate with roasted sides of a round, oblong or oval nature, creating a very colorful and festive meatloaf indeed!! Happy Holidays!
3 lb. ground turkey ( you may substitute another protein)
1 large green pepper, chopped about 1 cup
1 large onion, chopped, about 1 1/2 cup
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
2 soft chicken cubes, optional
1/2 c. good quality ketchup
1/2 c. restaurant style salsa
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. fish sauce, optional
1 1/2 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
2/3 c. good quality grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
 In a microwavable bowl, combine green pepper, onions , garlic, hot pepper paste and bouillon cubes.
Drizzle with olive oil and toss.
Microwave for 5 minutes or until veggies are softened and aromatic.
Set aside to cool, DO NOT drain.
When cooled enough to handle, combine with ground turkey and rest of ingredients.
Fold until all is evenly distributed.  (A good indicator is when you see the veggies speckled evenly throughout, the flavors are too!!)
Spray or grease the bundt pan and spread meatloaf mixture evenly.
Place on baking sheet and bake until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.
Midway through cooking, carefully pour off accumulated juices and fats.  This will be done a total of two times during the cooking process.
RESERVE some of the juices (skimmed of excess fat and strained) for the glaze.
Remove meatloaf from oven and carefully invert onto another flat baking surface.
Place back in oven and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, while you prepare the glaze.
Glaze: Optional
1/2  to 1 c. meatloaf juices
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
Bring items up to a boil in a small saucepan.
Continue rolling boil for several minutes until slightly thickened.
Remove from heat and paint onto meatloaf, baking several minutes more.
Turn on broiler and paint meatloaf again, letting go until meatloaf surface starts to caramelize.
Let stand before slicing.
Embellish as desired.*
*I used fresh parsley from my herb garden for sake of time constraints.  I can't wait to play around with filling it with side dishes!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pork Chops , Loaded and Smothered!

This recipe is packed with some simple goodness like fiber loaded black beans and leeks, resting atop a roasted chop and baked in an Alfredo sauce,  sprinkled with crushed white corn tortilla chips.  The crunchy topping pairs well with the simmered black beans and leeks.  The chops turn out tender and flavorful from roasting and the Alfredo's creaminess makes for a fantastic comfort dish.  For sake of calories and fat, one may easily substitute the rich Alfredo for individual slices of cheese like Monterey Jack or White Cheddar.  The results will be equally pleasing.  My family really enjoyed the dish, especially my mom and sister Bonnie.  Next time I prepare this dish I will be using the individual sliced cheese method, so I can make it more often! 
6 pork chops, about 1/4 inch thickness
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. well cleaned, thinly sliced leeks
1/2 soft chicken bouillon cube, or 1 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 c. crushed tortilla chips
olive oil for drizzling
fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 375*F.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add beans, leeks, stock and garlic.  If using the soft bouillon, add one cup of water.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, uncovered, until liquid is virtually evaporated, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss chops with cumin, coriander, drizzle of olive oil and SPST.
Roast on roasting pan with rack until golden, about 12  minutes.
Remove from oven and transfer to a 3 quart baking dish.
Spoon equal portions of bean mixture atop each chop and pour sauce over all.
Sprinkle with tortilla chips.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Remove foil and bake uncovered for last 5 minutes to crisp the chips on top.
Garnish with fresh parsley. 
Serves 6.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chicken, Potato, and Leek Cheddar Casserole, TexMex Style

Jump into this fall weather feet first ,with this warm and hearty casserole, embellished with some cool summer flavors and colors.  Lots of fresh herbs potatoes, leeks, and quick marinated chicken form a outstanding profile, while the tomatoes and avocado add even more B vitamins , lycopene, (tomatoes) plus heart healthy unsaturated fats and the ability to help the body absorb more of the nutrients from other ingredients in the dish (avocados).
Assembly is easy and this dish may be prepped ahead of time and baked when needed.
The casserole servings rest on a bed of tortilla rounds, adding a savory crunch and more texture, pairing well with the fresh salad atop.
The family received this dish very well and I look forward to preparing it again soon, real soon!
8 cups diced potatoes such as Russet
1/2 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 c. leeks, halved, thinly sliced and well rinsed
2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese or reduced fat
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
3 sprigs Lime thyme leaves
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
juice of one lime
2 avocados, cubed, optional
2 medium tomato, optional
juice of one lemon, optional
1 bag, tortilla rounds, optional
sour cream or ranch for drizzling, optional
olive oil for drizzling
Par-cook potatoes in salted water and drain, (about 5 minutes after boiling point.)
Drain and toss with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
Toss chicken with garlic, thyme leaves, hot pepper paste, chili powder, coriander, cumin, onion powder and lime juice.
Drizzle with olive oil and SPST.
Fold until well coated.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375*F.
Saute chicken pieces over medium high heat in a large saute pan drizzled with olive oil,  until no longer pink and show signs of browning.
Remove from heat.
In a 3 quart baking dish, spread potatoes evenly.
Spread leeks atop potatoes and sprinkle on 1 cup of the cheese.
Spread chicken atop cheese and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 25 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
Remove foil for last 5 minutes to slightly brown top.
Serves 8 to 10.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Greek Salad Burger

Flavors from Greece and an American favorite hit head-on for a fabulous burger that's a fast 3 course meal in one.  The patty is 1/4 pound of ground beef and the fixings are packed with fantastical Greek salad ingredients including a healthy dollop of store bought Tzatziki sauce.  Fresh whole leaves of oregano, from my herb garden, bring bright and fresh highlights to this sandwich and marries perfectly to the toasted Potato bun.
 This dish is super for a speedy dinner night , especially if you have become bored with just plain old burgers and fries.  You may easily substitute another protein like lamb, turkey, chicken or pork, depending on your preference. The ready to cook beef patties, however, lend to the time saving aspect and represent the dish very well.  Good ole American Sharp Cheddar seals the proverbial deal for a delicious, nutritious and kinda messy meal, bring plenty of napkins!
4 1/4 lb. good quality beef patties
seasoned salt
green leaf lettuce
sliced olives
thinly sliced red onion
sliced tomato
store bought Tzatziki sauce
4 slices Sharp Cheddar
4 Potato buns
fresh oregano leaves
olive oil for drizzling
Cook beef  patties sprinkled with a scant amount of seasoned salt and cumin to 160*F or desired doneness.  Add 1 slice of cheese to each.
Meanwhile, drizzle the separated buns with olive oil and toast under the broiler.
Smear buns with a small amount of Tzatziki to act as a glue.
Place green leaf lettuce leaf or two on bottom bun.
Add patty.
Place a large dollop of Tzatziki sauce on top of burger.
Add sliced olives, onion, tomato and fresh oregano leaves as desired.
SPST and drizzle with olive oil.
Place bun top.
Serves 4.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloween Fare, Monster Meatballs and Green Spaghetti!

Aside from the kids ghastly menu for their Halloween party this year, I wanted the adults to be in on the fun, so I  created something including the big kids, a.k.a. parents.    This recipe is simple and fun to make, especially with the kiddies.  The colors and presentation of this dish really sing Happy Halloween to the fullest of praises!
 I am entertained just as much as the youngsters during this time of year and I constantly try to keep the excitement going.  With this recipe, you won't have to deviate from a recipe you probably already have, just create extra large meatballs, then tint the pasta water with some green food coloring. One meatball would be a serving for the children, and two to three for adults, depending on appetite of course.  Just in case you want a refresher course, here's a super simple recipe to have a Howling good meal and Spooktacular reviews for your creativity!
3 lb. ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 pkg.onion soup mix*
1 c. minced celery
1 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. fresh herbs like parsley, basil and oregano, rough chopped, optional
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
olive oil for drizzling
For Sauce:
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. onion powder
sugar to taste
Bring ingredients up to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to a simmer, stirring often until ready to use.
For Meatballs:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, I like to use a wooden spoon or long tined fork.
Let mixture stand for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld and onions to hydrate.
Preheat oven to 375*F.
When ready, roll mixture into meatballs roughly the size of a large plum.
In a large saute pan, drizzled with olive oil over medium high heat, sear meatballs on all sides in batches.
Transfer to roasting pan with rack and bake until internal temperature reaches 165*F and juices run clear.
Prepare pasta according to package instructions, adding a few drops of green food coloring to the water.
*For finicky eaters, omit the onion soup mix and add 1 tbsp. onion powder and 2 tsp. powdered bouillon.
Serves at least 6.