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
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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.

Stuffed Chicken Leg Quarters

The versatility of chicken, as well as the ease and speed with which it can be cooked make it one of the most popular meats around.

Chicken leg quarters, also referred to as whole chicken legs, consist of both the thigh and drumstick. This cut is sold bone-in/skin-on and for most part, quite economical. Because they are dark meat and many people prefer white meat, chicken legs are often over looked by the consumer.

I like to purchase these with six fresh leg quarters to the package. Usually you will find a bit of extra fat on them which needs to be trimmed as well as the backbone rinsed out. Freezing them in a meal size portions makes it so handy when ready to use.

Roasting them in a real slow oven temperature with just a little oil, salt & pepper always produces tasty results. After they have baked for an hour you can always turn up the temperature for a few minutes to crisp the skin if you wish.

Today, I thought it would be nice to do something a bit more special. Stuffing them with a veggie-cheese mixture not only tastes great but they had a nice visual effect on our plates.

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Stuffed Chicken Leg Quarters
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter, add onion & peppers; saute until tender crisp. Add grated zucchini, continue to cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat & place in a bowl. Add breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper & cheese. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Using fingers, loosen skin on chicken legs. Spoon some filling into each chicken leg working the stuffing down the drumstick. Combine the 2 Tbsp melted butter, dry mustard & Dijon mustard together & brush over chicken. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish & bake for about 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven & serve.

Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce

From what I understand, the global dish called chicken parmigiana is a variation on the Italian entree known as eggplant parmigiana. Simply put, you deep fry eggplant, add cheese and tomato sauce and bake it. At some point in time, various regions in the world with large Italian immigrant populations, realized chicken would be an excellent alternative to the eggplant and chicken parmigiana evolved.

In America, the dish became popular around 1958. Often the name has been simplified to just ‘chicken parm‘. Usually composed of fried or breaded chicken fillets, smothered in mozzarella (or provolone), parmesan and tomato sauce all of which is then baked. Another version is using veal instead of chicken. Parmigiana is traditionally served over hot pasta as the main entree but it has also become a sandwich filling favored in subs, hoagies, etc.

In today’s recipe, I’m using parmesan cheese but omitting the mozzarella-tomato sauce. I wanted to accent the flavor with fresh basil in the sauce instead. We quite enjoyed it.

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Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce
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Cuisine American, Italian
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese & parsley. Chop bacon finely & fry until crisp; drain. Add bacon to breadcrumb mixture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, melt butter, add minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce & dry mustard. Mix well. Dip chicken fillets in butter mixture & place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Press crumb mixture on top of each fillet.
  3. Bake, uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes.
Basil Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine oil, vinegar, minced garlic, finely chopped basil leaves & cream; stir until heated through. Add egg yolk & stir until sauce thickens. Do not boil. Season with salt & pepper. Serve over chicken parmigiana.

Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.


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Classic Beef PLov

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German

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Ingredients

Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German

Servings


Ingredients

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Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.

  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.


Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.

Seafood Shepherd’s Pie

Very often, when I’m deciding what to make for our supper, an idea is derived from the taste of a memory. I don’t know if you’re familiar with smoked Haddock fish. I recall a meal my mother made that was called ‘Finnan Haddie’. It was a perfect cold weather meal. Basically, smoked haddock cooked in milk and served with potatoes and peas.

Finnan Haddie is cured with the smoke of green wood, turf or peat. The name comes from the Scottish town of Findon and the slang word for haddock. In the 1800’s, Findon fishwives hung lightly salted haddock in their chimney’s to be smoked gently over peat fires.

Finnan Haddie has a distinct and unique flavor and can be made into many dishes. It can be combined with other seafood where the smoky flavor carries through and influences all the elements such as in a seafood pie.

This brings me back to supper, which is going to be a seafood pie that I’m going to top with mashed potatoes. I guess in essence could be called Seafood Shepherd’s Pie.

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Seafood Shepherd's Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Instructions
Mashed Potato Topping
  1. Bring potatoes to a boil & cook until fork tender. Drain; return to pot & add salt (to taste), margarine & cream. Mash & set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a saute pan, melt 1 Tbsp of margarine; add shallots, celery, mushrooms, thyme & a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring often until soft & fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat & set aside.
  2. In another saucepan, add cream, chicken broth, flour, salt, mustard & cayenne pepper. Whisk together to incorporate all ingredients. Bring to a boil, whisking often then turn down heat & continue cooking until thick, whisking for about 8 minutes. Turn off heat & add remaining 1/2 Tbsp margarine along with the vegetable mixture. Blend well, taste & adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. Spray or butter a casserole dish. Place cod (or finnan haddie), scallops, shrimp & drained, sliced water chestnuts on the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Sprinkle with paprika & parsley. Add lemon juice & a pinch of salt & pepper. Pour cream sauce over seafood. Top evenly with mashed potatoes.
  2. Bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbly & potato peaks are browned. Allow to rest 10-20 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • For an extra flavor boost you could top it with some grated 'old' cheddar cheese before baking the casserole.

Savory Portobello & Pork Crepe Stacks

Savored for centuries, crepes are popular not only throughout France but worldwide. Crepe making has evolved from being cooked on large cast- iron hot plates heated over a wood fire in a fireplace to pans or griddles that are gas or electrically heated.

Around the 12th century, buckwheat  was introduced to Brittany, France from the east. Buckwheat could thrive on the  desolate, rocky Breton moors and was high in fiber, protein and essential amino acids. At that point, all crepes were being made from buckwheat flour. White flour crepes appeared only at the turn of the 20th century when white flour became affordable.

Almost every country in the world has its own name and adaptation of crepes including Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas,  Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars,  Russian blini  and Greek kreps.

Although crepes are simple in concept, by creating fillings that are complex in flavors, takes this entree to a whole new level.

 On July 25/2016, I posted a blog featuring both sweet and savory crepes you might enjoy to read. For something different today, I made ‘crepe stacks’ which have a savory filling of my own ‘design’. Hope you find time to make some.

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Savory Portobello & Pork Crepe Stacks
Smoked Gouda cheese gives such a nice flavor to these crepes.
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Cuisine American, French
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Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Crepes
Gouda Sauce
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Instructions
Crepes
  1. In a large container with a cover, beat eggs well on medium speed. Gradually add dry ingredients alternately with milk & oil. Beat until smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cooking.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour while stirring for a couple of minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices. Add cheese; cook, stirring until cheese is melted. Set aside to cool slightly then place in food processor. Process until smooth & fluffy.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine water & seasonings. Add ground pork & mix well. In a skillet, saute mushroom slices in margarine; remove from skillet & set aside. Scramble fry pork until no longer pink. Spoon onto paper towels to drain. Add to Gouda sauce.
To Assemble:
  1. Place one crepe on each dinner plate. Top with slices of sauteed mushrooms & some pork/Gouda sauce. Repeat 3 more times on each plate. Garnish if you prefer. It may be necessary to reheat for a couple of minutes in the microwave before serving.

Fresh Salmon Roll-Ups

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, Brion and I never pass up the opportunity to have a good fish/seafood meal. Living in the prairie province of Alberta, Canada, fresh fish is not always readily available. This week when we checked out the fish department at the grocery store, they were featuring ‘wild’ fresh salmon. Along with enjoying our salmon for supper it brought back some very special memories I’d like to share with you today.

I’m not sure if you have heard of or maybe you have visited the island of Burano in northern Italy. Situated 7 km from Venice, it’s just a short, 40 minute trip by Venetian water taxi or ‘vaporetto‘. Burano is an old fishing village, whose traditions date back to Roman times. Fishing was the main source of income for most of Burano’s history but the number of fisherman has greatly declined over the years.

Although the island was settled in the 6th century, its significance came in the 16th century. At that time women on the island began making lace with needles. Due to competition from cheaper machine made lace from Asia and dwindling interest among young people both in making lace and using lacy linens, the industry is dying out. 

With a population of less than 3000, this little, densely built-up island is interwoven by canals filled with colorful fishing boats which match the rainbow of colored houses. The first homes of Burano were built on raised piles, with walls made of woven canes and afterwards plastered with mud. Later these houses were replaced with ones made of bricks and the inhabitants began painting them with bright colors. The origin of the colors is unknown but as the story goes that years ago, when the fishermen returned from sea, they couldn’t recognize their homes through the fog, so they started painting them different colors. The houses follow a special color pattern, based on a specific system that has been in place since the village was founded. If you are a resident of the island, and wish to paint your house, you must send a request to the government, which responds by making a note of the colors permitted for that specific lot of houses.

Another interesting Burano sight is the ominously leaning, bell-tower of the church of St. Martin Bishop. The tower rises some 160 feet with the tower leaning 6 feet from its axis. Yikes!

Brion and I had the opportunity, while on a vacation one year with the Trafalgar Tours,  to visit the island of Burano. We boarded the ‘water taxi’ which took across the lagoon to the island. It like you were stepping into a postcard with its brightly colored houses and clothes hung out to dry on lines strung across second-story windows. Extra splashes of color came from the many flower boxes. As we strolled through the narrow streets, many ladies were sitting in the sun, chatting with their neighbors, while making their intricate and beautiful Burano Lace.

The highlight of the afternoon came when we were treated to a fabulous seafood lunch at a local restaurant. I’m not quite sure how to best describe this meal other than it was ‘just incredible’. 

Memories are priceless gifts to savor!

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Fresh Salmon Roll-Ups
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Cook rice. Place salmon fillet in a large plastic bag. 'Gently' pound to flatten to an even thickness. Slice bag down one side and across bottom; open out & set aside in refrigerator.
  2. Microwave broccoli florets about 1 minute; chop. Shred cheese. Melt margarine & add spices; stir well.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine rice, broccoli & cheese with 2/3 margarine/spice mixture. Spread 2/3 of the filling evenly over salmon; pat down. Using the help of the plastic bag, roll filled salmon up in a jelly-roll style. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil & spread remaining filling in it. Place salmon roll on top, pushing under layer close up around roll. Spread remaining butter sauce over salmon roll. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Slice & serve.

‘Retro’ Tuna/Salmon Pasta Bake

The 1950’s became the decade of casseroles. ‘One Pot’ meals have been around since mankind first invented cooking utensils but were rediscovered in the 1930’s.

Culinary habits of the 1950’s were practically defined by casseroles. The legendary ‘Tuna Noodle’ and ‘Green Bean’ casseroles, were the two that have endured the test of time and are still around today. Most others have faded away, largely because they simply weren’t that good.

One day when I was going through my mother’s little recipe file boxes, I happened to come across one such recipe. It appeared to be from the ‘Clover Leaf’ company. I vaguely recall her making it but decided to try it. I’m sure at that time, it was probably made with either tuna or salmon. I added a few extra spices just to ‘kick’ it up a notch and we really enjoyed it. As Brion put it, ‘great little comfort food meal’.

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'Retro' Tuna/Salmon Pasta Bake
Comfort food of yesteryear.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Boil macaroni. Place half of the macaroni in a buttered 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Add drained, flaked salmon (or tuna), peas, eggs & seasonings; cover with the rest of the macaroni.
  2. Combine soup, milk & salmon juice; pour over all. Top with cheese or breadcrumbs or a combo of both. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes.

Ham & Spinach Rolls

While I was giving some thought to something different and interesting for supper today, a unique memory came back to me. I don’t know if you are familiar with Black Iberian Ham. Brion and I certainly were not aware of the Iberian pigs until we had traveled in Spain and Portugal one year. 

Iberian pigs have black skins and hooves and very little hair. Their history is steeped in mystery. Beginning with the acorns from oak tree pastures in Spain to their long curing process. Magically each ham is transformed into one of the world’s most exquisite foods.

Immediately after weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and corn for several weeks. During the spring and summer, cattle and sheep graze on the oak forest pastures. In fall and winter, when the acorns are falling from the trees, the Iberian pigs are then allowed to roam in the pastures and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns and roots until slaughtering time approaches. At that time, the diet may be strictly limited to olives and acorns for best quality Iberian ham. It is possible for a pig to eat 10 kilos of acorns in a day.

The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least 12 months although some producers cure their hams for up to forty-eight months. The extraordinarily long curing process is possible because of the huge amount of fat on each ham. Over that time period, they loose nearly half their weight as the fat drips away.

The curing hams hang where open windows allow mountain air to ‘caress’ them as they transform from a piece of pork into the ultimate flavored  BLACK IBERIAN HAM.

Brion and I have always found that travel is unmistakably the most interesting form of learning one can experience.

This recipe for  HAM & SPINACH ROLLS,  although quite simple, makes a nice little elegant meal in a short space of time. 

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Ham & Spinach Rolls
A nice way to transform basic into special.
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, place egg, 1/3 of soup, onion, garlic powder & salt & pulse for 30 seconds. Add half of the milk, spinach, mustard, bread, thyme & Parmesan. Blend another 30 seconds.
  2. Lay ham slices on work space and divide filling evenly among them. Arrange filled ham rolls in a shallow baking dish. Combine remaining soup & milk; spoon evenly over rolls. Bake, covered for 15 minutes, remove foil & bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly & filling is cooked through. If preferred, garnish with dried parsley.

Christmas Morning Strata

What could be more convenient on Christmas morning than a savory breakfast casserole that is just waiting to be baked!

‘Strata’ is a culinary term coined in the 1950’s for an old fashioned baked egg casserole. Ingredients are layered, using the same technique as when preparing a lasagna or quiche, only bread is used as the main starch and eggs are the binder. Strata’s are always savory as opposed to bread pudding, which can be sweet or savory.

In the late seventies, here in Alberta, Canada, eight ‘bridge club’ friends had an idea about writing a cookbook. They called it ‘The Best of Bridge’, which went on to become one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing. One of their first recipes published in 1979, was called ‘Christmas Morning Wife Saver’, which became a signature recipe that put the group on the road to success. It was a breakfast casserole that could be prepared on Christmas eve, refrigerated overnight, ready to bake Christmas morning.

Time has passed and this has given way to unlimited ideas for such casseroles which are served at any time of the day now. On either side of us, our neighbors have small children. For a special Christmas treat some years, Brion and I have given them breakfast strata’s that they can bake while their children open gifts. They seem to enjoy them.

One of my favorite strata recipes, I happened to find in a California ‘Savemart’  magazine, when on holiday one year. I like to use apple/chicken sausage in ours but you can change it up to your personal preference.

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Bacon & Sausage Christmas Strata
Stay out of the kitchen Christmas morning with this wonderful make-ahead breakfast casserole.
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Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for 15 minutes or until crisp; drain. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Into same skillet, add sausage & cook over medium heat until browned, breaking up sausage with the side of spoon; drain. Prepare bread cubes & vegetables.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt & pepper. Generously spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Using half of each, layer bread cubes, bacon, sausage, cheese, peppers & green onions into baking dish; repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over the casserole mixture.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing down so wrap is right on the surface of the mixture. Cover with foil & refrigerate overnight. Remove strata from fridge in the morning. Remove foil & plastic wrap. Preheat oven to 325F. & bake for 1 hour or until center is set, (if strata is browning to fast, loosely cover with foil). Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
  4. If you chose to bake it immediately after it is prepared, just wait long enough for the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes.