Shrimp Quiche Casserole

Quiche has always been an incomparable, one dish meal in my opinion. It’s kind of a whole food with protein, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates. Quiche’s convenience wins hands down. After mixing the basics … eggs, milk or cream … any ingredients will work from leftovers to freshly cooked. You can use just about anything that you have in the refrigerator.

While some recipes are crust-free, most quiches have some kind of foundation. Potatoes, rice, cauliflower all make nice ‘crust’ options. Quiche makes a great choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. To keep it interesting, I’m always trying to find ways to tweak the ingredients to make it taste just a bit different each time.

Two of Brion’s favorite foods are broccoli and rice. I decided to make a rice/cheese crust, which I pre-baked so it would get a little crispy. Then, when it bakes with the filling, it holds together quite nicely. The seasoning plays a crucial part in the quiche.

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Shrimp Quiche Casserole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
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Instructions
Rice Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend crust ingredients. Using the back of a large spoon, press into a greased 8-inch round baking dish & bake for 15-20 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter; saute garlic & mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Pour 2 cups water into skillet & bring to a simmer. Cook shrimp for about 1 minute or JUST until pink. Reserving 1 cup of the liquid, rinse shrimp under cold running water. Shell & devein shrimp; arrange over rice in baking dish.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. (If you have turned it off after pre-baking crust). In a heavy saucepan, melt remaining butter & stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, without browning; gradually whisk in reserved liquid & milk. Cook, stirring, for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, lemon zest & spices until cheese is melted. Stir into vegetable mixture & pour over shrimp in rice crust.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup cheese & bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over 'quiche'. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiche is 'set'. Cut into wedges & serve.

Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

While there are numerous ways to enjoy spaghetti squash, I favor stuffed. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to stuffing. Beef, turkey, chicken along with rice and a nice smoky cheese like Gruyere or even mozzarella and Parmesan work really well.

It’s called spaghetti squash for a reason. Just steam, microwave or bake the squash in its shell and scrape out the flesh with a fork or spoon. No need for a spiralizer as it separates its own flesh in slender pasta-like strands. It makes for a remarkable stand-in for pasta dishes and with such a mild flavor you can chose from any number of sauces to give it a flavor boost.

This stuffed squash is the full meal deal. Along with veggies, you have chicken, sausage and cheese. Super good!

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Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
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Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle cut sides of spaghetti squash with oil & season with salt & pepper. Place cut side down on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Using a fork, break up squash strands. Set aside.
Filling & Topping
  1. In a large skillet, scramble-fry sausage in olive oil; drain on paper towels. Add another Tbsp oil to skillet; saute onion & pepper about 3-4 minutes then add tomatoes, zucchini, garlic & lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper & Italian seasoning & cook 3-4 minutes more. Gently stir in squash, cooked chicken & sausage & remove from heat.
  2. Divide mixture between spaghetti squash halves (or quarters). Top each spaghetti squash portion with mozzarella cheese & return to oven to melt for 5 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan & serve.

Wiener Schnitzel

Today, March 21st, our family honors the memory of my father on his birth date. Being of German decent, my dad always enjoyed having meals he recalled from his childhood. My mother excelled at cooking, so I can only imagine that she got the ‘taste of his memory’ perfect. A meal that dad enjoyed but was not one that came up very often at our house, was ‘wiener schnitzel’.

‘Wiener schnitzel’ is actually a geographically protected term in Germany and Austria and can only be made with veal. In researching this subject, I came across at least eleven more versions of schnitzel which still followed the preparation techniques of the original wiener schnitzel. In addition to different types of meat used, a schnitzel can be served with a topping or a filling.

As usual, I’m doing an oven-fried version instead of pan frying in oil or butter. It would be so nice if Brion and I could be sharing this meal with my Mom & Dad today.

Time slips by and life goes on,

But from our hearts your never gone,

We think about you always, we talk about you too,

WE HAVE SO MANY MEMORIES BUT WE WISH WE STILL HAD YOU.

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Wiener Schnitzel
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly oil a wire rack & place over a baking sheet.
  2. Place each cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap & pound with a meat mallet until about 1/4-inch thick.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper & milk. Place the flour in a plastic bag & buttered bread crumbs on a plate.
  4. Place one cutlet at a time in the bag with flour; shake to coat. Then dip in egg mixture; covering each. Finally, dip in buttered bread crumbs, coating each side well. Place breaded cutlets onto the prepared rack.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes; flip & bake for another 5 minutes. Check to be sure they are cooked. Serve with lemon slices & your choice of veggies.
Recipe Notes
  • Boneless pork chops can be substituted for veal & taste excellent.

Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Cheese & Meat Sauce

Pasta is without a doubt, one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with. It can be prepared in so many unique ways with different sauces. Pesto sauce is one of those … a simple sauce with simple ingredients that packs a huge flavor.

Pesto sauce originated in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound or to crush. It was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the translation may be a bit misleading because preparation does not consist of pounding, rather it is of grounding.

Traditionally, pesto is made of crushed garlic, fresh basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. There are many variations of pesto and while the most popular is a pasta sauce, it can be used for a spread or dip, salad dressing or as an accompaniment to steak, poultry or fish. Red pesto is either made from sundried tomatoes or red bell peppers.

This pasta meal comes together easily in a short space of time. Sometimes its the simplest dishes that are truly the best!

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Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Mozzarella & Meat Sauce
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, saute onion in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Add ground pork, 2 Tbsp water, pepper, sage, red pepper flakes & ginger. Cook, stirring until no longer pink.
  3. Add salt, dried basil & diced tomatoes; bring to a boil then lower heat & simmer for 20 minutes. Stir periodically. At the end of cooking time, stir in pesto & remove from heat.
  4. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta shells al dente. It is important not to overcook shells as they will be further cooked in the oven. Drain pasta, add cooked sauce & gently toss.
  5. Place half of the pasta in a baking dish & sprinkle with half of mozzarella & Parmesan. Top it up with remaining pasta & sprinkle with other half of the cheeses.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is golden & pasta is hot & bubbly.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to bake your pasta in individual servings.

Savory Layered Puff Pie

That expression, ‘what’s old is new again’, definitely can be applied to so many things in today’s world. Very often, when you think you have come up with a new idea its really just a modernized version of an old one.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, Brion & I really enjoy casseroles. I happened to recall a casserole that was published in Good Housekeeping in 1958. My mother made a version of it at that time. Being mostly vegetables, it had such a nice flavor. It was called Seven Layer Casserole consisting of vegetables, rice, tomato soup and sausage or ground meat.

With that ‘taste of a memory’ in mind, my recipe development turned into a savory layered casserole. I used vegetables, rice, cheese and ground pork with a layer of puff pastry. When you prepare it, the sheet of puff pastry is on top so it gets crispy, but when it is baked, you flip it over and it becomes a bottom crust.

Of course, we are talking about frozen puff pastry here. It seems it has become a supermarket staple, delivering all the glories of puff pastry without all the hard hours of work. This is a convenience food that’s perfectly useful for cooks of all skill and commitment levels.

All this talk of frozen puff pastry probably seems odd coming from someone who has made a living in the food industry. But lets face, to make it from scratch is either a labor of love or a sign of madness depending on who you are. So here’s my remake of that vintage 7-layer casserole.

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Savory Layered Puff Pie
Instructions
  1. Cook rice. In a skillet, saute onion in 1 Tbsp butter for a few minutes. Add ground pork, water & seasonings; scramble-fry until cooked. Drain well & remove from skillet. Add another Tbsp of butter to skillet & saute drained mushrooms then blot on paper towel.
  2. Grate cheese combo of choice. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line casserole baking dish with foil & butter.
  3. Start layering with mushrooms, cheeses, rice, meat/onion combo & frozen green beans. Top with puff pastry. Cut a few slits in the pastry for vents. Brush with egg wash.
  4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to stand for about 15-20 minutes then invert on a serving plate. Remove foil paper & cut into serving pieces. If you wish, serve the casserole with a brown gravy.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Is there anything potatoes can not do! Many cultures make some form of potato cakes with any kind of filling you can imagine. Sauteed cabbage, ground meat, egg and onions, you name it, the possibilities are endless. Mushrooms are by far, one of my most favorite fillings.

Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety. The difference is just age.

The white button mushrooms, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.

The Portobello is the most mature mushroom; it’s really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.

The Cremini mushroom is just in between these two varieties. It’s a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom. Mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms. Who knew!!

These stuffed potato cakes are such a nice addition to a winter meal.

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Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until soft. Drain & mash.
  2. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms & garlic in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & add chopped parsley.
  3. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl; add egg, butter, grated Parmigiana cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine well. Divide mixture into 8 equal patties. Roll into balls & then flatten into patties. In the center of 4 of the patties place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture. Top mushrooms with a cube of mozzarella cheese. Place one of the remaining potato patties on top of each filled one & gently press edges to seal.
  4. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Brush with some butter & fry stuffed potato patties to a golden brown on each side. Be careful when turning as they will be quite soft.

Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp

Comforting, creamy risotto is one of those dishes that isn’t difficult to prepare but it can be quite time consuming. I find it works best for me when I’m doing other things in the kitchen at the same time.

Risotto is typically made with arborio rice, but pearl barley is a good substitute; it produces a similar texture but with a nuttier taste.

Over the years, I have made various kinds of risotto. Brion is the eternal rice lover. He could eat rice everyday of the week. Even though his favorite is just plain white rice, I can’t resist adding risotto to the mix now and again.

As a rule, if you are using corn in risotto, it would probably be fresh. In February, ‘fresh’ is not happening in our part of the country yet. One of the most favorite canned vegetables in North America is corn. Personally, I love corn no matter if its canned, frozen or fresh. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, I found that Green Giant Steam Crisp was real nice for this recipe. It’s supposedly picked at its peak and then quickly steamed in the can to preserve as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. I added some bacon and mushrooms to give it some extra pizzazz!

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Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. In another large saucepan, saute bacon until lightly browned but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat & wipe out pan with paper towels.
  3. Add butter to pan & melt over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates; add onion & green pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender crisp then add barley (or rice) & hot chicken broth; simmer, stirring occasionally until all broth is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. If you need to make more broth, do so but be sure it is hot before adding it.
  4. When barley (or rice) is cooked & broth is absorbed, remove from heat & stir in corn, butter, Parmesan & parsley. Season with salt & pepper & transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to skillet & heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot & red pepper flakes & cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp & cook until pink & beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth & let simmer until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt & pepper & stir in basil. Add risotto & bacon back to skillet, stirring to combine with shrimp. Serve.

Cauliflower, Bratwurst & Potato Casserole

Cauliflower used to be a boring vegetable. That reputation couldn’t be more different today. The cauliflower craze has managed to last longer then anyone would have expected. It seems to have checked all the boxes … healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Not only can you turn it into rice, steak, pizza crust, gnocchi etc., but you can use any sauce, seasoning and/or flavoring on it as well. It’s entirely a blank canvas for all your cooking needs.

This casserole pairs cauliflower with some tasty bratwurst. The spices used to flavor traditional German bratwurst typically include salt, pepper, nutmeg and marjoram. Other seasonings like coriander, cardamom, ginger, caraway and garlic are sometimes used depending on the region and personal preference. The name is derived from old high German.Brat‘ which means finely ground meat and ‘wurst’ which means sausage. The fine grind of the meat gives the sausage a lighter texture.

There are many ways to make bratwurst so don’t hesitate to put your on personal touch on it. This combination of the cauliflower, bratwurst and potatoes in a cheese sauce is so good. If you would prefer, don’t hesitate to just pick up a package of ‘brats’ at the store and make it even quicker to prepare.

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Cauliflower, Bratwurst & Potato Casserole
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Bratwurst
  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients & mix well. Form into small meatballs. In a saucepan, fry meatballs until just cooked & drain on paper towel. Spread out on bottom of a 9 X 9-inch casserole dish.
Casserole
  1. Peel potatoes & cut into small cubes. Cook in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove & distribute potato cubes evenly with bratwurst in casserole dish.
  2. Break cauliflower into florets; add to potato water & boil for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove & add to other casserole dish ingredients.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a saucepan, heat butter & stir in flour. Cook until slightly browning then whisk in milk & 1/2 cup reserved potato/cauliflower water. Bring to a boil, while continuing to whisk add salt & pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes more.
  4. Pour sauce over other casserole ingredients, sprinkle with the cheese & bake for about 20 minutes.

Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles

Despite having a fairly short history, Mexican fajitas are one of the most popular dishes in the world today. Apart from the fact that fajitas are incredibly tasty, they are actually very healthy not to mention the ease in cooking and assembling them.

As with many foods, time has changed the contents of the fajita and has evolved slightly from the original simplicity of the ranch worker’s dish, with different cuts of meat being chosen such as chicken or seafood. The vegetables have not changed as much as the meat, with peppers, onions & chilies still being predominant ingredients in the dish.

Probably, the most important thing when making fajitas is the marinade. It not only makes the ingredients incredibly tender but very flavorful.

Fajitas usually require some tortillas. While they are wonderful tasting, using zucchini noodles (or zoodles) as a base for the fajita chicken gives this meal an amazing flavor. Zucchini is perhaps the most popular choice for vegetable noodles. It’s long, thin shape makes it easy to spiralize and its neutral flavor allows it to pair well with almost any sauce or topping. This meal has such eye appeal along with a great taste.

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Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine oil, lemon juice & seasonings (RESERVE a small bit of seasoning for zucchini noodles); add chicken, seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Wash zucchini & trim off ends. Using a spiralizer, cut zucchini into 'noodles'. Set aside. Prepare peppers & green onion.
  3. When chicken has finished marinating, Add 1 Tbsp oil to a griddle & saute peppers & onion until just tender crisp. set aside & keep warm. Add another Tbsp oil to griddle. Saute zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with reserved seasoning & keep warm.
  4. Grill marinated chicken strips until cooked through. Divide zucchini between serving plates. Top with peppers, onions & grilled chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Stuffed Onion Rings w/ Guacamole & Cheese

Before I get off the topic of Merida, Mexico adventures, I thought our readers would find this interesting.

Last year when we arrived in Merida, it became clear to Brion that a cap would not suffice in the 33 degree temperature. Our goal was to find a traditional ‘Jipijapa’ Panama hat. This is a soft, pliable hat made from the fibers of the jipijapa palm in several towns south of Merida.

Jipijapa requires a fair amount of water to grow to about 5-8 ft (1.5 – 2.5 m) tall. This evergreen is not a true palm. Each plant is a cluster of about 1-inch thick stalks topped by a dark umbrella-like leaf nearly 3 feet wide. Young leaves and shoot tips are edible and said to taste like asparagus. The plants need 2-3 years to mature before its youngest and most delicate light colored leaves can be harvested to make the famous white/cream hats. Older, tougher parts of the plants can be used to make brooms, mats, purses, baskets, small ornaments or earrings, ie. things that do not need the flexibility of hats.

Jilipapa is a Mexican version of the Ecuadorian ‘treasure’ called the panama hat. About the same time the hats were made famous in Ecuador, a priest introduced a wide variety of Guatemala palms to Becal, a village that is the center of the panama hat trade in Mexico.

The Mayas of the area quickly started weaving hats, the main difference was they were working in a much drier environment and had to devise a way to keep the fibers moist and cool. They started working in caves in their backyards. The cave environment allows the weavers to interlace the pattern more tightly without fear of tearing or cracking the ‘straw’. It also prevents sweat from the weavers’ hands to stain the fiber.

Hats can take anywhere from a couple of days to six months to make. To begin with, there is the picker of the young unopened palm leaves. The best strips are boiled, dried and whitened with a sulfur in a special ‘oven’. Next the brim’s edge is made by back weaving the straw. This prevents the hat from unraveling. It is then tightened. For some hats that takes 3 full circles around the hat, or finer work, 5 circles. This prevents the brim from puckering. The hat is then washed and bleached, then beaten with a special mallet or shell to soften its fibers. Now it is trimmed of any excess, ironed and blocked. The blocking process can take up to 2 weeks. Finally, a sweat band is stitched inside the hat and a decorative band applied on the outside.

Like most popular wardrobe staples, the demand for these hats has led to the industrialization of the hat making process. The process of hand weaving is a dying art that is worth appreciation. In 2012, it was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Although the price was a bit steep, you get what you pay for. After being worn on 2 holidays and packed in a suitcase to travel back and forth to Mexico, Brion’s hat still looks great.

I realize I got quite far removed from the food aspect of the blog. Who knew there was so much to know about the Jipijapa hat! These onion rings really kick up the basic burger a notch. Well worth a try!

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Stuffed Onion Rings w/ Guacamole & Cheese
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings
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Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, mash avocados into a chunky paste. Add red onion, tomato, lime juice & cilantro; stir until well combined. Set aside.
Onion Rings
  1. Cut large onions into 1-inch thick slices, pull out 15 - 20 rings & place onto a flat tray lined with parchment paper. Fill the inside of each onion ring using about 3 Tbsp of guacamole. Insert a cube of cheese into each ring & freeze for at least 30 minutes, or until solid.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together flour & spices. In another shallow dish, whisk eggs & in a third dish combine breadcrumbs & crushed tortilla chips. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  3. One at a time, dip frozen onion rings into flour, then eggs & finally breadcrumb mixture. Spread onion rings in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat with a baking spray or drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Place into oven & bake until golden brown & crispy, about 15 - 20 minutes. Serve with lime wedges & a dipping sauce or do what we did & put inside of burgers for a full meal deal!