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.

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.

Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole

One of the first things Brion and I noticed when we lived in Ecuador for three months, was how much rice the grocery store had on its shelves. Brion is a true rice lover, so when we went grocery shopping, it was definitely on the ‘list’. To our amazement there was an entire isle, from top to bottom, dedicated to rice alone.

Rice has been a staple of the Ecuadorian diet forever, both along the coastal regions and in the mountainous areas. A large scoop of white, starchy rice accompanies most meals. In stores, you can buy brown rice, white ‘new rice’, aged rice (but not minute rice).

Shrimp rice is a classic Ecuadorian and Latin American dish. The fact that Ecuadorians love rice, anything you can think of, there is a rice-based dish for it, especially if it concerns any type of seafood. Because of the fertile soils and the humid, tropical climate of the coast, Ecuador also produces a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably bananas, melons and other exotic fruits like guava and passion fruit.

This is a short cut version of their ‘arroz con camarones’ (rice & shrimp) dish. Great little meal!

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Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, saute onions, peppers & garlic in oil until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce & salsa; simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp & corn; simmer 2 minutes. Stir in bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spoon cooked rice in a buttered, 9 X 13-inch baking dish; top with shrimp mixture & cheese. Cover with foil. Bake casserole, covered, 35 minutes or until heated through, uncovering the last 20 minutes.

Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.

Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.

Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. 

The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.

Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.


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Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.

  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

  3. Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.

  4. Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.

Summer Picnics Menus

When I think back over the years, I have many fond memories of picnics. For the most part, picnics differ from barbecues in that the food is usually served cold. They can be large or small events with the food varying from a simple sandwich or pot luck to an elegant gourmet feast. In any case, it’s a fact that dining ‘al fresco’ makes food taste so much better.

Having been raised in rural Alberta, Canada a community summer picnic was always a special event. It would be held at a one of the ‘country schools’ in our farming community. The men would play a game called ‘horseshoe’ while they visited. This game involved throwing metal horseshoes a set distance to land over a metal peg that had been pounded in the ground. Each family would bring a contribution to the picnic food. The women would set up this wonderful feast on picnic tables at lunch time. The kids ‘mingled’, chased around, drank  kool-aid  and loved every minute of it. The variety of pot luck meals the women would bring made it so special.

Later on in my life, I recall a few other picnic memories that are precious to me. One occasion when Brion and I were staying in Carmel, California, USA. Just outside Carmel is the Point Lobos State Reserve. It runs adjacent to the beautiful Pacific ocean. Numerous times we would pick up a sandwich with a juice/pop and spend the afternoon walking the beach and enjoy our ‘picnic’ lunch there. Another time we were staying further down the California coast and decided to take a wine country tour. The tour was with a company called Wine Affair. You were picked up at your hotel and it lasted about 5 1/2 hours. It was very personal with only one other couple, ourselves, and the driver/guide. He took us on a scenic drive through the Paso Robles  wine country. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside with it’s beautiful vineyards as well as wine tasting at six different wineries. At lunch time we arrived at a estate winery called Summerwood (which I have show cased in my blog photos). Here our guide took us to a lovely patio setting overlooking the estate vineyards. He then laid out an amazing gourmet ‘picnic’ lunch  for the four of us to enjoy. What’s not to love about picnics! 

Over the next few blogs, I thought it would be fun to create four picnic menus that maybe would inspire some summer picnic ideas. Some of the recipes I have featured in earlier blogs and a few new ones I’ve added.

The first one includes Easy Pork Short Ribs, Picnic Oven Fried Chicken (from the April 11/16 blog), Potato Salad (from June 9/16 blog) Oriental Rice Salad, and Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas.

 

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Summer Picnics - Part One
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Instructions
Easy Pork Short Ribs
  1. Remove any fat & cut ribs into serving size pieces; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Seal bag & turn to coat; Refrigerate for several hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a large piece of foil paper on a baking tray. Make 'temporary' sides on sheet of foil paper. Lay ribs in the center & pour marinade over them. Bring up two edges over center & fold down twice. Fold in side edges, allowing a each to have a small 'air vent'. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs to a platter to cool. Ribs will be a great served cold with the rest of your picnic menu.
Oriental Rice Salad
  1. To cold, cooked rice add peas, celery, onion & water chestnuts. Combine with salad dressing & refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss with chow mein noodles shortly before serving time.
Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & orange zest until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup strawberries until well blended. Spread 2 Tbsp on one side of each rice cake. Arrange prepared fresh fruit on top of strawberry cream cheese in patterns of your choice.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe for Oriental Rice Salad I had been given by a friend in 1988. She had made it with a dressing which contained curry. I  have never enjoyed the flavor of curry so I have been using other dressing ideas. Being such a simple salad it will lend itself easily to other choices.