Category: casserole (page 1 of 2)

Our Favorite Cheesy Potatoes Recipe

I shared a lot of photos on Instagram since Christmas, but the one that received the most love featured potatoes.

Party potatoes, Funeral potatoes, Football potatoes, Pittsburgh potatoes, Crunchy potatoes, Corn Flake potatoes, and, my personal favorite, Cheesy Potatoes. This casserole goes by many names which really suggests that there is no bad time to make these potatoes.

This casserole makes an appearance at every one of our family’s holiday meals. My mom used to be the bearer of the party potatoes. I remember popping bags of frozen has browns and dumping them into our big, plastic popcorn bowl. The potatoes, sour cream, cheese, and cream of chicken soup created such a thick mass, that I always handed the spoon over to mom to finish mixing. My Godmother’s taken over the honors.

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Taste Test: Pizza Hot Dish In A Slow Cooker

Spending time browsing Pinterest makes me want to do strange things.

After avoiding Pinterest for quite some time, I logged back into my account and gazed in wonder and bewilderment at all of those frosted watermelon “cakes,” two or three ingredient [insert the name of any food imaginable] and recipe round-ups ad nasuem. Of course, nearly every image on Pinterest is vertical because someone’s research found people are more likely to pin them. Now, we have no other choice but to.

Last week my friend posted a nifty recipe for crock pot meatloaf. Between reading her post and seeing crock pot lasagna recipes, pizza hot dish got stuck in my head. I chose to try the Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole recipe from the blog Six Sisters Stuff because it seemed to make slightly less food and contained less cheese and sausage than the other recipes (though I loathe the word skinny).

I did swap ground beef for ground turkey. My new favorite butcher grinds fresh beef and I drained the fat off anyway. Plus, the recipe calls for a cup of pepperoni, so why count calories? A friend commented that this type of pasta dish in the slow cooker can become dry and so I took her advice by adding more pasta sauce and water than the recipe called for. In the end, the pasta had still soaked up most of the sauce.

So, what does happen when you cook marinara sauce, rinsed (but not cooked) spiral noodles, chopped bell pepper and onion, black olives, ground beef, pepperoni, and mozzarella in a slow cooker on low for four-five hours?

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The recipe called for fresh garlic. My pasta sauce smelled garlicky, so I omitted it.

The instructions specifically say no peeking while the dish cooks. Five hours later. . .

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Honestly, the pizza hot dish in a crock post tasted pretty dang good. Since slow cooking is essentially steaming food, the cheese will melt instead of become golden brown. Also, the noodles at the bottom will feel mushier while the ones near the top will be chewier. Depending on how long you keep the meal on warm, some noodles may even become crunchy, but I didn’t even mind the varying noodle textures because they added textural contrast.

This isn’t the prettiest dish and it’s far from gourmet, but pizza hot dish in the crock pot is comfort food like our mom or school cafeteria might have made. We’re enjoying it enough to keep chipping away at the leftovers. Jake’s only complaint is that he did not like the addition of the green pepper. He likes raw green pepper but thought it got overcooked in the hot dish.

My best advice for anyone who wants to make this dish is to add lots of black pepper and change up the ratio of noodles and pasta sauce. Using about 2/3 box of pasta and 16 oz. of sauce + 1 cup of water might create more sauciness. Who knows, though. Cooking pasta in the slow cooker is wild, you guys.

Comfort Food After the Storms: That Swiss Chicken Casserole My Mom Made

Four evenings of storms passed and our refrigerator remained running for three, so I’m cooking again.

The tornado warnings occurred on Monday, followed by severe thunderstorm watches and flash flood warnings. Many farms, parks, homes and campgrounds in North Iowa are experiencing flooding. Our block is located near a creek and we’re thankful it’s remained dry this week.

I wanted the first meal I prepared after our post-storm fridge dump to be simple and comforting. For whatever reason, a casserole my mom used to make popped into my head. It combined chicken breasts, swiss cheese, white wine, and stuffing.

It turns out that this dish is called “Swiss Chicken” or the vague and partially misleading “Chicken with white wine sauce.”

Swiss Chicken casserole is not gourmet. It won’t win any beauty pageants and contains condensed cream of [pick your poison] soup, but it made me happy and it tasted like my mom’s. Comfort food after the storms.

Swiss Chicken
There are a million recipes for this dish and they are nearly identical. I worked from The Girl Who Ate Everything’s post.

Swiss Chicken

Ingredients:
4-6 chicken breasts (or enough to fit into a large baking dish).
1 slice of swiss cheese per chicken breast
1 can of cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup
1 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine
Black pepper
1 box of stuffing
Melted butter, enough to lightly drizzle over the stuffing

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  2. If you are using smaller chicken breasts, pound the thicker part so it’s more uniform in size. If you are using large chicken breasts, slice them in half so you have two thinner halves of equal size.
  3. In a lightly oiled baking dish, line-up the chicken breasts in a single layer.
  4. Top each piece of chicken with swiss cheese.
  5. Combine the soup, milk and wine. Sprinkle in some black pepper.
  6. Pour soup mixture over the chicken.
  7. Sprinkle the stuffing on top and drizzle with melted butter.
  8. Cover and bake for 40-minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the stuffing is golden brown. You will need to adjust the length of time depending on how thick your chicken breasts are.

Mom’s Chicken Chalupas

The best things don’t always come from mom’s kitchen, but they often begin there.

For most of my years living at home, my mom just didn’t enjoy cooking. She thought of it more as work than a fun activity and often relied on convenience products. As we moved through high school college, she experimented with a greater variety of recipes. I’m sure the fact that we were older and more independent resulted in days filled with more time and less stress.

In her later years, she spent a lot of time caring for her own mother who lived in an assisted living facility in Burnsville, MN. It was here that she made many friends with whom she exchanged recipes. One of our family’s favorites was a casserole she called Chicken Chalupas. I recently discovered she had submitted this recipe in a cookbook published by my grandma’s care center. As usual, I added my own twists.

This past weekend, we attended a memorial service for my grandma’s sister-in-law, Agnes. My cousin found this photo of my mom while he was looking through Agnes’s old photo albums.

For some reason this makes me inexplicably happy.

Alice’s Chicken Chalupas

For a milder version, omit the jalapeno and spicy enchilada sauce. My mom grilled the chicken breasts which added a lot of flavor. We are not permitted to have a grill on our patio, so I sauteed the chicken breasts in olive oil with a spicy, steak seasoning. The original recipe also did not contain sauteed vegetables. You could omit these, or choose your own combination of vegetables. I did not measure them but would estimate I added 1-1 1/2 cups of sauteed mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers

Ingredients:
Cooked and seasoned boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cooled and cut into small pieces

1/4 lb. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 lb. shredded pepper jack
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream (I used light).
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
2 tsp. cumin
Black pepper
3-4 stalks of green onions, chopped

1 red jalapeno, finely diced
1 small can of drained, sliced black olives

Sauteed mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers
1 package of flour tortillas (original recipe suggests eight-inch)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Mix the shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheeses and set aside.

Combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, green chilies, cumin, and season with black pepper.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and add the jalapeno, olives, half of the green onions, and sauteed vegetables.

Add half of the shredded cheese and all of the cut-up chicken.

Place a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in a tortilla. Roll and fold in the ends. Place in the baking dish and repeat until you use all of the chicken filling and the baking dish is full.

Top the filled tortillas with the rest of the sauce and spread until even. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and chopped scallions.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

To serve, I cut the casserole into squares and served with spicy, red enchilada sauce.

Recipe: Lutheran Volunteer Corps-Inspired Cheesy Lentil Bake

Some of my closest friends were a part of Lutheran Volunteer Corps.

In fact, I almost joined Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) right after college. I withdrew from the process to be closer to family while my mom was in hospice, since I wouldn’t have necessarily been placed in the Twin Cities.

Volunteers may vary in age (though most are recent college graduates) and are placed all over the United States where they hold full-time positions in nonprofit organization. They are paid stipends and their essential needs are cared for including housing and basic health insurance. Most share houses with other volunteers

My two friends lived in house that used to be located along a busy stretch of Lowry Ave. in North Minneapolis. As part of their intentional communities, housemates took turns cooking dinner on designated evenings. My friends’ housemates preferred to pool part of their monthly stipend into a grocery budget. Therefore, they became very adept at preparing creative and affordable meals, many of which were vegetarian.

Several years after college, I shared a house with my LVC friends near Theodore Wirth Park. I relished the recipes and cost-saving strategies they shared with me. One housemate introduced me to her version of spicy Kushari which I make occasionally as comfort food. The other mentioned her favorite meal had been baked lentils with cheese. She recently gifted me with a copy of the LVC Cookbook from which both friends frequently cooked. I was thrilled to find the baked lentil dish she had mentioned years ago and promptly adapted it for a weeknight dinner.

This recipe is vegetarian and obviously not vegan, due to its substantial layer of gooey cheese. It’s savory enough to satisfy those like my husband who aren’t used to eating dinners without meat.

Cheesy Lentil Bake
Adapted from the recipe for Baked Lentils with Cheese, from the Emmaus House 1999-2000, Simply LVC.

Feel free to add your own combination of vegetables and herbs.


Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup of lentils, rinsed and examined for stones (I used organic, green, French lentils)
2 cups water (can substitute stock or incorporate stock/flavor base/bouillon)
1 bay leaf
Salt, starting with about a teaspoon. Be careful if your stock is salty.
Black pepper
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon sage
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Cayenne to taste
A little honey or brown sugar
Canned tomatoes or tomato puree (I just had one 12 oz. can on hand. Use whatever you have and adjust water/stock accordingly)
1-2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
Shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a baking dish, combine the lentils, water, salt, pepper, herbs, cayenne, honey, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Taste for seasoning. If the liquid tastes bland, try boosting it with soy sauce or Worcestershire. Keep in mind that the bland lentils will soak up the liquid. I aim to strike a sweet and savory balance.
    1. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. 
    2. Add the sliced carrots and celery and stir. Cover and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If there is too much liquid, uncover and bake until it evaporates. 
    3. Top with shredded cheese and bake until it melts. If you want a more crusty and golden brown top, broil.
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