Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Ham & Cheese Quiche with Thyme

Of  course the first thing that comes to mind for me when I have ham around, after ham sandwiches of course, is quiche.  I’ve made ham & cheese quiche before, and you’ve likely seen this combination many times.  But this one is extra decadent and amazing thanks to some super yummy cheese that I had on hand.  I LOVE when a meal comes together without having to try too hard and when you just so happen to have ingredients that end up being delicious together.

Ham & Cheese Quiche | Hottie Biscotti

I had a little block of gruyere and some wine soaked goat cheese left from the Easter cheese tray.  Any cheese would do, but these seemed to take this quiche to a new level of wonderfulness.  Trader Joe’s has a goat cheese gouda that I think would be awesome, similar in flavor and texture to the goat cheese I used.  It’s not your typical soft and creamy goat cheese, this one is soft but still grate-able.

The crust and the base for this came from this America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.  Have you bought yourself a copy yet?  What’s stopping you?  I had to do some things differently with the crust because I started dinner at 5 and it needed to be on the table at 7.  I didn’t have the time to chill the dough for an hour, roll it and chill for 30 minutes, par-bake for 30 and then bake the custard for another 45 minutes.  So I improvised.  The recipe below shows what I did, but if you have the time, chill the dough before rolling and par-bake for a full 30 minutes.  It will yield a crispier crust.

Ham & Cheese Quiche | Hottie Biscotti

The quiche base is not for the faint of heart.  It’s heavy on the eggs, cream and whole milk.  Add in the ham and cheese and you’ve got yourself a quiche that is hearty enough for the manliest of men.  Add in a little crumbled bacon and they won’t have a hard time scarfing down a few pieces.  But it’s not so heavy that you can’t serve it at a ladies lunch.  It’s just too delicious for any sane person to say “no” to.

Ham & Cheese Quiche | Hottie Biscotti Ham & Cheese Quiche | Hottie Biscotti

You can take this quiche base and add in whatever you want to.  Make it vegetarian with mushrooms, spinach, peppers, asparagus, etc.  Use bacon instead of ham, or cooked chicken or other meat.  Play with the herbs as well.  Endless options.  Enjoy!

Ham & Cheese Quiche with Thyme

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into chunks and chilled
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and chilled
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Custard

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of cooked chopped ham
  • 4 ounces of shredded cheese, 2 ounces of gruyere and 2 ounces of firm goat cheese such as goat gouda

Directions

Crust

  1. In a food processor combine flour, sugar and salt, and pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Add in the chunks of shortening and butter and pulse a few times until the fat is in coarse pieces.
  3. Add the ice water into the machine, start with 3 tablespoons, pulse a few times, then add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing once or twice in between additions, until dough looks like it is just holding together, but not until it is smooth.
  4. Pour the dough out onto a large piece of parchment and pat it together into a disk.
  5. Place another piece of parchment on top and roll the dough out, as quickly as possible into a 12-inch circle.  Peel off the top piece of parchment, then place the pie plate on top of the dough circle.  Turn it all over together and carefully press the dough into the pie plate and peel off the parchment.  Make sure the dough is pressed into the pan evenly, crimp the edges and transfer to the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  7. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights, beans or rice.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes, prepare the custard mixture while it cooks.
  9. Remove the foil and weights, then immediately fill with the custard.

Custard

  1. Whisk the eggs, milk and cream well in a bowl.
  2. Whisk in the salt, mustard and thyme.
  3. When the crust comes out of the oven scatter the ham on the bottom of the crust then scatter the cheese on top.
  4. Move the pie plate to the oven then pour the egg mixture slowly into the pan until it is almost full.  You may have egg mixture left over if you have a shallow pie pan.
  5. Close the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Remove from the oven when quiche is just about set.
  6. Let cool before cutting and serving.

 

Huevos Motuleños

Easter Sunday left us with a huge amount of leftover ham that is going to be in all of our meals for the rest of this week and likely into the weekend.  I scoured the internet for some creative ideas on how to use it.  Here is the first meal I made to use up some of the ham.  It’s either a weekend breakfast or a breakfast-for-dinner meal but really can be eaten for any meal of the day and you can use any meat you have around.

Huevos Motuleños | Hottie Biscotti

This breakfast dish originated in the town of Motul in the Yucatan and in my recent search I’ve seen many different variations.  The things that seem to remain constant are the fried tortillas, black bean mash, salsa, egg, some kind of meat, and the fried plantains.

I prepped the beans and the salsa earlier in the day and reheated them at dinner.  But even if you’re making this and serving it immediately, you may need to heat things up, or at least keep them warm while you’re doing the other parts since this dish does have a few components and it takes some time to get everything together.  I found that getting everything else ready, then frying the tortillas and bananas and cooking the eggs last was a good way to get it all done.

Huevos Motuleños | Hottie Biscotti

My grocery store did not have ripe plantains so I used bananas.  A nice ripe plantain would’ve been better, but the bananas worked out ok.  If the idea of bananas with everything else is just a little too adventurous for you, then leave them out.  This is a great dish with or without them.  I used the smoked gouda cheese called for in the recipe I used, but other cheeses would work well.  I tried my best to make a nice egg over easy, but isn’t wasn’t pretty (as you can see).  Fix your eggs the way you like them.  I think next time I’ll scramble mine because as much as I want to like a runny yolk it’s tough for me to handle.  This recipe also calls for peas, which I found to be weird, but I used them anyway.  You can’t really taste them with all the other flavors going on, and they’re a fun addition to the plate, so use them or don’t.

I can see myself making these again, and I can definitely see myself making the beans and salsa again and using them for a quick dinner on tortillas with some shredded chicken, lettuce and sour cream.  The flavors in both the beans and the salsa are really nice and fresh.

Once you have everything together, assemble them and enjoy!

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While some of the ingredients sound weird together, try them anyway!  Unless you have an allergy of course or peas make you gag.  When they’re all together this dish is deliciously different.  And it’s good to try new things.

Huevos Motuleños

Adapted slightly from Saveur

Ingredients

Beans

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and roughly chopped (reserve 1 pepper for the salsa)
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered (reserve 3 quarters for the salsa)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • kosher salt

Salsa

  • 1 pound tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • Reserved poblano pepper, roughly chopped
  • Reserved onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • kosher salt

Base and Toppings

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 ripe plantain, sliced into thick, 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • oil for frying
  • 4 eggs
  • 8-10 ounces cooked ham, chopped (or other meat)
  • 4 slices of smoked gouda cheese, optional
  • crumbled queso fresco
  • green peas
  • fresh cilantro

Directions

Beans

  1. Puree the beans, 1/4 of the onion, the cilantro, 1 poblano pepper and 1/4 cup of water in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add in the bean puree, stir and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm or refrigerate if using later.

Salsa

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add in the tomatoes, poblano and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and there is some color on the onion, about 10 minutes.
  2. Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  3. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the skillet and return the pureed vegetables to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens slightly, and taste and season with salt.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm or refrigerate if using later.

Base and Toppings

  1. Heat  an inch or two of oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven to 360°F.
  2. Fry corn tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time depending on the size of your pan, for a minute on each side.  DO NOT undercook them.  They’ll be chewy instead of crispy if you don’t fry them enough or if the oil isn’t hot enough. Remove from the oil to paper towels to drain.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas, making sure oil is at the correct temperature before frying.  This may require turning the heat up and down to regulate the temp and keep it between 360 and 375.
  3. Fry the plantains (or banana) for about 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
  4. Cook the eggs, fry, over easy, scramble.

Assemble

  1. Heat everything if it hasn’t been kept warm, including the ham and peas.
  2. Place one tortilla on a plate.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the bean mixture, then your egg.
  4. Top with some of the ham pieces and one piece of gouda cheese torn into pieces.  Top with the other fried tortilla.
  5. Spread some of the salsa on top of the tortilla then sprinkle with queso fresco, peas and cilantro.  Place a few of the plantain (or banana) slices on top and serve.

 

 

Deep Dish Sausage & Bacon Pizza

There are some great food blogs out there, and with a mere 39 food blogs in my Feedly I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface.  I keep discovering new ones and it’s so much fun to see the yummy and creative things people come up with and the amazing photos people take of their food!  It’s both inspiring…and a little frustrating!  Where do you find the time to make a meal in the middle of the day and photograph it so it looks beautiful?!

I came across Seasons and Suppers a few months ago and it never disappoints.  The recipes always look and sound delicious.  While some are totally approachable, others are those I plan to just drool over from afar rather than attempt myself.  But this recipe for deep dish pizza was something I knew I had to try.

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This pizza crust is crazy delicious and has a terrific chew thanks to the cornmeal.  I didn’t make the pizza sauce from the original recipe, but plan to sometime!  It seems simple and delicious.  I used the sausage and bacon called for in the original recipe, but you could use any toppings (I guess they’re more like fillings in a pizza like this) that you like.  Jennifer says to add a layer of pepperoni for a meatier pizza…genius.

I wouldn’t bake this ahead of time, it’s best right out of the oven, bu there are some things you can do to make dinnertime less stressful.  Cook the bacon and the sausage and slice the cheese (if you need to) earlier in the day and store in the refrigerator.  You can also do those things while the dough is rising.

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I topped our slices of pizza with some fresh basil and a little extra parmesan.  Paired with a green salad you have a dinner that won’t disappoint.  Unless someone you’re serving doesn’t like pizza, in which case I’d reconsider your friendship…but not really…but maybe.

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Check out Seasons and Suppers, you will not regret it.  Thanks for the recipe, Jennifer!

Deep Dish Sausage & Bacon Pizza

From Seasons and Suppers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3/4 cup warm water (about 100°F)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Pizza

  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, cooked and drained
  • 4-5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 14 ounce jar of pizza sauce (or make your own)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for topping, at least 1/2 cup, plus a little extra
  • Freshly chopped basil for garnish

Directions

Dough

  1. Combine warm water, yeast and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl.  Mix together then let sit for 5 minutes until it’s foamy.
  2. Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook.  Combine 1 cup of the flour with the cornmeal and sugar in the bowl of the mixer.  Add in the yeast mixture and stir on low to combine.  Stir in the oil.  Add in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Oil a large bowl, then transfer the pizza dough to the bowl, cover with a clean towel and allow to rise for about an hour.

Pizza

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Grease a cast iron skillet with olive oil, then lightly dust with cornmeal.
  3. Flour a clean work surface and dump out the pizza dough.  Knead a little to bring it together in a nice ball.  Then roll it out in a circle just larger than your skillet.  Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the skillet.  Tuck excess dough underneath or trim it off.
  4. Cover the bottom of the pizza with a layer of mozzarella cheese, but don’t use it all.
  5. Layer the sausage and bacon next, followed by the rest of the mozzarella.
  6. Pour the pizza sauce on top, then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake the pizza, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes check the crust, if it is getting too dark, then cover the pizza with foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more.
  8. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing or removing from the skillet to a cutting board to slice.
  9. Serve sprinkled with some fresh basil and extra parmesan.

Shepherd’s Pie with Cheddar Potato Topping

St. Patrick’s Day was yesterday.  After dropping my son off at school I remembered, having dressed him in nothing green.  With blog posts and Instagram feeds full of “pot o’ gold” crafts, kids decked out in green and green or Irish foods, I knew I’d failed as a mom and food blogger.  I figured I should make something for dinner that night that was somewhat Irish, even though I’ve never been big on the holiday.  The more important thing about March 17 is that it’s my niece’s birthday!  Happy 4th birthday, Maren!

I’d seen a few people posting pics of their beautiful Irish soda breads on social media, but I am kind of breaded out at the moment.  The next thing that popped into my head was Shepherd’s Pie.  A complete meal with meat, veggies and starch all in one pan!

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I found an easy and basic recipe, made a quick grocery list and headed to the store.  This one from Martha is basically what I made, but with a few changes.  I also took some tips from a cookbook just recently added to my collection, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

In perusing recipes I found some call this dish Shepherd’s Pie, and others call it Cottage Pie.  What’s the difference?  Opinions differ as to whether or not there is one.  Cottage pie was the term first used for the dish.  But over time people began calling it Cottage pie if it contained beef and Shepherd’s pie if it contained lamb.  A lot of what I’ve read says you can use either term.

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This meal wound up being quite good, a terrific comfort food, and something you can make in advance.  Cook the meat filling and the potatoes, store them separately, refrigerate for up to 1 day, then layer in the casserole and bake when you’re ready.  You can even assemble this in the morning, refrigerate it and bake it in the evening.  I’d recommend adding a little extra milk to the potatoes if you’re going to make it in advance.  For some reason I feel like letting mashed potatoes sit in the fridge dries them out.  This might not be true, but it just makes me feel better to add a little extra liquid.  No one likes dry potatoes.  A couple tablespoons should be enough.

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I like the combination of carrots, celery, onion and peas in this, but you can leave the peas out if you’re not a fan, or add corn to the mix.  If you don’t have fresh thyme, use 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves.  Instead of water use leftover beef or chicken broth.  It’s not enough to justify opening a new container, but if you have 1 cup that needs to be used, this is a fine time to use it.  Instead of sharp white cheddar you can use regular cheddar cheese, or leave it out if you like.  Use the combination of 2% milk and cream, or use all whole milk or all 2%.  The cream adds a nice richness, but isn’t totally necessary.

You don’t need to serve this with anything, but pairing it with a crispy green salad is a good way to round out the meal.  Enjoy!

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Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise then chopped
  • 4 carrots, cut into quarters lengthwise then chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper to taste

Potatoes

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 egg

Directions

Filling

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle with a little olive or vegetable oil.  Add in the beef and cook, breaking up the pieces until it is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
  2. Line a large plate with paper towels and remove meat from the pan to drain on the paper towels.
  3. Return the pan to the heat and add in onion, celery and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables become tender.  Season with a pinch of salt and the thyme.
  4. Add in the flour and tomato paste and stir to combine, cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the water or broth, stir to combine and bring to a simmer.  Add in the peas, stir and let cook for 3-5 minutes.

Potatoes

  1. Peel the potatoes and then cut into small chunks.
  2. Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cool water.
  3. Place pan over high heat and cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork,
  4. Drain the water from the potatoes, then return to the pan and begin mashing to release some of the steam, mash for about 1 minute.
  5. Add in the butter and milk along with some salt.  Mash it up, then add in the cheese and continue to mash until it reaches a consistency that you like.  Add in more milk if the potatoes seem dry, and taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Mix in egg.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Spray a casserole dish (a deep 8×8, 9×9 or 11×17) with non-stick spray.
  3. Layer beef mixture on the bottom of the pan, then layer potatoes on top and spread evenly.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top begins to brown.

 

Quick Chickpea and Spinach Curry

I get one cooking magazine in the mail. Fine Cooking.  I’ve mentioned it more than once (at least a dozen times probably) on the blog.  It’s most definitely my favorite cooking magazine.  It doesn’t have loads of content, but what it does have is good content and not a lot of ads.  Anyway, buy a copy sometime and check it out.

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This recipe for chickpea and spinach curry is from the latest  issue.  While doing meal planning for this past week I was at a loss for Tuesday’s dinner.  So I grabbed the magazine and started flipping through it.  This one stood out to me right away.  I love the flavors in Indian food, but it often takes a lot of time and ingredients to make good Indian food at home.  This recipe allows you to take some short cuts but still wind up with a very flavorful and satisfying meal with just enough spice.

Our Tuesday nights get a little crazy, no matter how hard I try I always feel like I am rushing to get dinner ready or the house picked up.  This meal fit in perfectly with our  busy night (although I failed in some ways this past week and we were still rushed!).  It comes together incredibly quickly and cooks up in a flash.  It’s full of good-for-you vegetables and fills you up without being heavy.  But your house will smell like curry for a few days.  That’s the only downside.  Ben came home the next day from work and said, “Indian again?” to which I replied “No, spaghetti and meatballs.” which I’d spent all day cooking.  I was sure it would’ve masked the curry, but no.

You can serve this as a side dish or as a vegetarian main, which is what I did.  The recipe below serves 4 as a side and 2 as a main.  It’s easily doubled or tripled, so can suit whatever your needs are.

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I skipped out on the yogurt the first time around, but ate it with leftovers and loved the creamy, coolness of it next to the spice.  Definitely serve this with naan if you can, but I am sure it would also be nice on a bed of white rice.

If you don’t like cilantro or are serving this to people who don’t, leave it out of the dish.  You can serve fresh cilantro separately and let people decide how much, if any, they want.

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Quick Chickpea and Spinach Curry

From Fine Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional, I left it out)
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6-7 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional, mix in or on the side)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (optional for serving)

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add in the onion, ginger, curry powder and garam masala and cook for a few minutes, until the onion is softened.  Add in the garlic and cook for one minute more.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon and add no more than 1 teaspoon)
  4. Add in the spinach, a cup or so at a time, letting is cook down just a bit before adding more to keep you pan from getting  overloaded.
  5. Once the spinach has cooked down and is wilted, season with more salt if needed, cover the pan and turn off the heat.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
  6. You can stir in the cilantro to the dish now if desired or serve it on the side.

 

Chicken, Bacon, Avocado & Swiss Panini

Sometimes I have one ingredient that I really need to use and the rest of the meal comes about because of it.  That’s exactly what happened last night.  The ingredient…BACON.

Ben bought some really amazing thick-cut bacon last week when we grilled burgers.  I had more than half of the package left and it needed to be used in the next couple of days.  I could have frozen it, but when something goes into my freezer it may never come out.  And there was no way I was going to waste good bacon!  In college my best friend used to order the chicken, bacon, ranch sandwich at Quizno’s and she’d add either avocado or guacamole.  I might have some details a little confused here, but it was something like that.  With the bacon and some leftover grilled chicken in my fridge I knew exactly what we’d be having for dinner.

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We eat panini a lot, and usually I’m using leftovers to make them.  It’s one of the main ways we use any leftover steak.  As with most panini recipes the ingredient list is short, and prep is simple if you’re using leftovers.  All you need is some bread (I used sourdough) some cooked chicken, a few slices of cooked bacon, avocado and swiss cheese.  You can use any kind of cheese that you like, but I thought the swiss paired well.

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You can spread some mayo on the bread, or if the Quizno’s addition of ranch sounds too good to pass up you can either spread some ranch dressing on the bread or dip the sandwich in it after it’s been cooked.  If you have some guacamole around, then use that instead of the avocado.

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For a nice and crunchy exterior, and terrific color, I like to either drizzle the bread with olive oil or, if I’m feeling really crazy, spread it with softened butter.  It’s up to you.

You don’t need a panini press, but if you have one that you don’t use very often I highly encourage you to dust it off and make it a part of your life.  To make these without a press, just heat a skillet over medium high heat and while one side is cooking, press down on the sandwich with another heavy pan, then flip and do it again.  Like a smashed grilled cheese, although I guess pressed does sound better than smashed.

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The recipe below makes 2 sandwiches, so adjust the ingredient amounts as needed for the number of paninis you plan to make.

Ben and I both really enjoyed these panini and I can see myself planning my weekly meals with some extra chicken and bacon in the future.  Enjoy!

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Chicken, Bacon, Avocado and Swiss Panini

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of thick cut sourdough bread
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
  • 4 slices of cooked bacon
  • 1 half of an avocado, sliced
  • 4 slices of swiss cheese
  • mayo or ranch dressing, optional
  • olive oil or butter for grilling

Directions

  1. Preheat your panini press or a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Set out your bread (spread with mayo or ranch) and layer 1 slice of cheese, chicken, bacon, avocado and top with another slice of cheese.  (I tear the slice of cheese so that it covers the bread.)  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
  3. Drizzle olive oil or spread butter onto both sides of the bread.
  4. Place on the panini press or on the heated skillet and press until bread is golden brown and cheese had melted.

 

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

I’ve debated over whether or not to post this recipe for some time.  And some of you are going to roll your eyes and turn up your noses at me.  But this is seriously one of the most delicious and easiest meals I’ve ever made, and one that gets the husband (and myself, to be completely honest) super excited about dinner.  A friend of mine made this for me back in college, and someone brought it to us when Betsy was born.  You might already know about the wonders of this casserole yourself and have a recipe that you like.  I’ve tried several and after some tweaking here and there I found this one to be our favorite.

This casserole is great when you don’t have a ton of time but still want something home cooked.  I know, some of you will argue that it’s not really cooking.  And you can go right on ahead and judge me, but I’m sticking to my guns here and telling you that this is really good.  Just close your eyes while you’re mixing it up…

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The ingredient list for this casserole is short and sweet.  I typically use a rotisserie chicken (1 whole chicken is just about right) but you can use leftover chicken from another meal if you’d like.  If the chicken you use is flavored in any way that flavor will really come through.  I made this once with leftover grilled chicken that we’d marinated in Italian dressing and it was very different in flavor than when I’d used poached chicken or a rotisserie chicken.

Now you’re going to cringe, but all you need other than the chicken is a can of cream of chicken soup (I like to use reduced sodium) a 16 ounce container of sour cream (low fat is fine) a sleeve of Ritz crackers, poppyseeds and a few tablespoons of butter.  Just go with me on this one.

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You can bake this in any dish, but I prefer one that isn’t too big and isn’t too small.  An 11×7 casserole dish is what I usually use.  An 8×8 is fine, but then the chicken and cracker layers are thicker.  If you use a 9×13 the layers will be very thin.

I always serve this with white rice.  You could use brown.  I’m sure it would be wonderful and add more heartiness to the meal.  I’ve just always used white, and so that’s what I will probably always use.  Creature of habit.

And I always serve this with steamed broccoli.  Not sure what it is I love about the combination, but getting a little sauce from the chicken onto a piece of broccoli isn’t at all bad.  Green beans, asparagus, carrots, all good options.  I will continue to serve it with broccoli.  Again, creature of habit.  Whatever side you serve, make sure it has some color.  Color typically means more nutritional value, and if you serve this with steamed cauliflower you’re serving a super neutral colored meal, which isn’t quite as lovely on your plate.

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After baking you have a creamy casserole with a terrifically crunchy topping with just a touch of sweetness from the poppyseeds.  This is a comfort food for me.  I know the thought of cream of chicken soup and 2 cups of sour cream is hard to handle, but please, please make it.  You will not be sorry.  You might even thank me.

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Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups of cooked chicken, chopped or shredded into fairly large pieces
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup, reduced sodium
  • 1 16-ounce container of low fat sour cream
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseeds
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • cooked white rice for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray an 11×17 or 8×8 inch dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine chicken, cream of chicken soup and sour cream.  Mix well then spread into prepared dish.
  3. In a large zip top bag crush crackers into pieces, then pour in poppyseeds and butter.  Seal bag and then toss around until everything is mixed well.
  4. Spread cracker mixture evenly on top of the chicken.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly.
  6. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

 

Simple & Satisfying Potato Soup

The forecast for this past week boasted 3 days in a row of cool and rainy weather.  Time to make some soup!  I started looking around for a potato soup recipe but most looked so heavy, full of sour cream and cheese.  I wanted a soup that would leave us full and satisfied without being totally weighed down.  I finally found a terrific recipe from The Pioneer Woman (are you at all surprised?).  Instead of cups and cups of whole milk and sour cream, there are cups and cups of chicken broth, with a little dairy to round out the soup and add creaminess.  It is heavenly.

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I was immediately excited about the celery, onion and carrot in this soup.  Made me feel like I was eating even healthier with those extra vegetables.  And they add such wonderful flavor.  I used shallot instead of onion because I didn’t have one.  Next time, though, I will use a regular onion.  Less peeling and chopping.  Everything else in the recipe is unchanged.  I might cook a few extra pieces of bacon because, if you are anything like me, having some of those crunchy bits on top is necessary.  The 6 pieces aren’t enough for the entire pot of soup.  Maybe this says something about our love of bacon.  I’d say 10 pieces would be good, and if you have extra, well, there is not a thing wrong with extra bacon bits.

After cooking the soup you puree about half of it in the blender.  This creates a nice balance of smooth and chunky so that every bite has something to chew on, which is what I like in a soup.  I used a sharp cheddar on top of the soup, but a sharp white cheddar would also be delicious, or whatever cheese you like on a baked potato.

Top this soup with a little bacon, cheese and green onion and you have all the flavor of a hearty baked potato soup but without the bulk of it.  This is definitely a recipe I’ll be making again.

Note:  When reheating you might need to add some chicken broth or milk to thin it out since it does thicken as it sits in the fridge.

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Potato Soup

From The Pioneer Woman

Feeds 6-8

Ingredients

  • 6 – 10 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 whole medium onion, diced (I used 4 large shallots)
  • 3 carrots, diced (I used about 20 baby carrots)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 whole small russet potatoes (or 3 large) peeled and diced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  •  Balck pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I used Lawry’s)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin

Directions

  1. Heat a large pot over medium high heat.  Add in the chopped bacon and cook until crispy, being careful not to burn it.  Remove from the pot and place on a paper towel-lined plate and wipe out some, but not all, of the bacon fat.
  2. Over medium high heat cook onion, celery and carrots for a couple minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add potatoes and cook, stirring things around a little, for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper and seasoning salt.
  3. Add the broth to the pot and bring it to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
  4. In a bowl whisk flour and milk and add to the pot.  Stir together and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Puree about half of the soup in a blender (I filled my blender almost full).  Be sure to remove the center piece from the top of the blender and cover with a dish towel.  If you don’t, you could make a big mess since you’re pureeing hot liquid.
  6. Pour the puree back into the pot, taste and season as needed.  Add in the cream or half and half, and the parsley.
  7. Serve with cheese, bacon bits and green onion.

 

 

Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrot

My kids, ages 3 and 16 months, aren’t very good at eating their vegetables.  Fruit, cheese, bread, french fries, ice cream, cookies, chocolate?  No problem.  But vegetables are another story.  Carson will eat a baby carrot from time to time, and Betsy will eat a few green peas if I mix them up in her macaroni.  But that’s as good as it gets around here.  So in an effort to get them to eat more vegetables I decided to hide them in meatballs.  Both of my kids are pretty good at eating meatballs, so I figured this was a genius plan.

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The first night I gave them the meatballs plain without sauce, and they weren’t the biggest fans.  And I felt like a failure.  I went to all that trouble and they didn’t want them!?  But the next night I heated them in some pasta sauce and we had much better results.  My kids ate vegetables!  Without gagging!

These meatballs are simple and geared towards a picky kid’s palate.  Not a lot of spice or heat.  If your kids are more daring than mine (or if you’ve done a better job of exposing them to spices!) add what you like to the mix.  You could also use half beef and half Italian sausage for a more interesting meatball.  I used jarred sauce, but if you have a great recipe, then use it…and then share it with me!  Do you have any great meals that are healthy and delicious that your kids enjoy?  I’d love to hear them.  We need all the help we can get!

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Meatballs with Zucchini and Carrots

Makes 24-30 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (85/15)
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini (pressed between paper towels to remove excess moisture)
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pasta sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and let soak for a couple minutes.  Add in beef, egg, vegetables and seasonings and mix (clean hands are a great tool here) until combined.
  3. Form into balls (around golf ball size) and place in a greased pan.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.  You can pour on some sauce in the last 10 minutes of baking or heat the sauce separately.

Bacon and Caramelized Shallot Baked White Cheddar and Gruyere Macaroni and Cheese

If you know me or have searched around on the blog much, then it comes as no surprise that I love macaroni and cheese.  I’ve made it more than a couple of times and have tried lots of variations.  But I have two basic recipes that are my favorites, this one from Martha and this one from The Pioneer Woman.  Both are great jumping off points for creating different types of meals based on what you choose  to add in.  They are similar, creamy baked pasta dishes but Ree’s uses an egg, less milk and cheese, Martha doesn’t use an egg but uses twice as much milk and more cheese.  They have similar cooking processes and both yield tremendously tasty results.  Pioneer Woman doesn’t call for bread crumbs, but if I have them around I almost always use them.  There is just something about a crunchy topping on a creamy pasta dish that does me in.  Heaven.

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For this macaroni and cheese I used the Martha recipe as my base and added in cooked crumbled bacon, caramelized shallots and fresh thyme.  I made 4 of these individual servings and had plenty left over to fill a 9×13 casserole.  If you don’t make any little servings it will still all fit in a 9×13.  I sometimes make two smaller casseroles and freeze one for a day when I know I won’t have time to make dinner.  If you do freeze it don’t go through with the baking step prior to freezing.  Wrap your pan in plastic wrap then foil.  Let it thaw in the fridge overnight then bake (with foil only!) for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20-30 depending on the size of the pan.  This macaroni can be served as a main course, which is what I usually do, paired with a green salad.  Or it can be a side dish and is a great addition to a pot luck table.

The thought of making a roux is one that may seem daunting if you haven’t done it before.  It does sound like a fancy cooking skill, but it’s really simple and kind of wonderful.  I love the way the butter and flour smell together as they’re cooking.  This whisk from Pampered Chef is the one I always use when making a roux or sauce.  It doesn’t scratch my pan and can get up next to the edges of the pan like a normal whisk cannot.  It’s also great at breaking up lumps.  But it’s a pain to clean, so soak it right after you’re done with it to avoid stress at dish washing time.  In addition to a good whisk, you also need a nice big saucepan and uninterrupted time.  You can’t go browse Pinterest or finish that episode of whatever you were watching while you make the roux and cheese sauce.  Do that while the macaroni is in the oven.  If you don’t whisk it fairly constantly you run the risk of getting a lumpy sauce or even burning it and having to start over.  It doesn’t take a terribly long time, but it is active time. The first step of cooking the butter and flour happens especially fast.  So just be attentive.

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The cheese.  It’s an important factor in macaroni and cheese, of course.  You can tell if you use really good cheese.  But your macaroni won’t be at all bad if you use normal grocery store cheese.  I used Target brand sharp white cheddar and a nice little block of real gruyere.  Use whatever you want, cheddar, colby, sharp, mild, etc.  But don’t use low fat cheese.  That’s just plain silly.  And remember that changing cheeses changes the final product, so mix cheeses and additions that pair well.

The milk.  2% is just fine.  You can use whole if you’re really going to go for it, but it’s not necessary to achieve a nice creamy sauce.  Do not forget the salt!  If the sauce tastes a little too salty, that’s ok because you’re mixing it with a pound of non flavorful pasta.

The pasta.  I like penne, a little more adult of a pasta than elbow, but elbow is just fine.  You can use fussili or farfalle (bowtie) but I personally like the tubular pasta noodles for macaroni and cheese.

The bacon.  I used center cut, baked it in the oven then chopped it up.  I used 6 slices (sorry I don’t have the ounce amount!) but could’ve easily done 8 and maybe even 10.  Leave the bacon out if you’re looking for a meatless dish, or substitute ham or another meat.

The shallots.  I love shallots.  They’re sweeter than onions are are a wonderful addition to this dish.  I used 3 large shallots, sliced them thinly and sauteed them in a little butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until they were nice and evenly browned without burning.  If they begin to darken too much, add a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and continue cooking.  You can use a yellow onion, the flavor will just be slightly different but still delicious.

This creamy, cheesy and delicious baked pasta dish is real comfort food and something that is sure to please just about everyone.  Enjoy!

Bacon and Caramelized Shallot Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 6-8 as a main dish or 10-12 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 6-8 slices of center cut bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled
  • 3 large shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided, + 1/2 tablespoon to saute the shallots
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 5 and 1/2 cups milk
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 16 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (1 cup reserved for topping)
  • 6 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (1/2 cup reserved for topping)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to  375°F.
  2. Caramelize the shallots: Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, add shallots, stir and cook for a couple minutes until shallots start to gain some color and soften slightly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are caramel in color and very soft.  Do not let them burn.  If they are browning too quickly you can lower the heat slightly or add a tablespoon of water and continue to cook.  This should take 10 minutes or so.  Set shallots aside.
  3. Heat a large pot of water to cook the penne.  While it is coming to a boil, make the cheese sauce.  Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat, once it is melted add the flour and whisk for a minute.  Slowly pour in about 1 cup of the milk and whisk until mixture thickens, being sure to whisk out any lumps.  Continue adding the milk, a cup at a time, whisking until slightly thickened until the last addition of milk (this can be 1 1/2 cups).  Whisk until slightly thickened.
  4. Remove from the heat and add in salt (at least 1 teaspoon) pepper to taste, thyme, and all the cheese except that reserved for topping.  Stir to combine and melt the cheese until mixture is smooth.  Taste and season.
  5. Salt boiling water and add the pasta.  Cook 2 minutes fewer than the package instructs, then drain and add to the cheese sauce along with the shallots and bacon.  Stir well to combine everything.  NOTE: You may reserve some of the shallots to sprinkle on top, 2 tablespoon is enough.
  6. Grease ramekins or casserole dish and spoon pasta into the dishes. Top with reserved cheese, then shallots.
  7. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with the panko crumbs.  Spread crumbs evenly over the cheese and bake for 30 minutes.  Ramekins can bake for about 20, make sure to place them on a baking sheet to catch drips.
  8. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.