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.

Shrimp, Mushroom & Artichoke Casseroles

The art of casserole creation is a blend of inspiration and what’s on hand. The word casserole is used to refer both to an ovenproof baking dish as well as the baked, savory food item baked in it.

In North America, the Campbell’s Soup Company started publishing casserole recipes in the 1940’s as a way to promote sales for their cream soups. Casserole cooking goes back to slow-cooking dishes in earthenware containers. The ingredients are usually bound with some kind of sauce and often they are leftovers from a previous meal. It can be layered or all ingredients might be mixed together.

The height of the casserole era was during the 1950’s & 1960’s. This style of cooking was popular because it didn’t require a lot of constant watching and was hailed as the way forward for busy, efficient homemakers. By the 1970’s, quiche came to look down on the humble casserole.

Nevertheless, Brion and I really enjoy a casserole and this one ticks all the boxes for us.

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Shrimp, Mushroom & Artichoke Casseroles
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Filipino
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup salted water with 1/2 cup rice; cover & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer gently for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed & rice is tender. Fluff with fork & remove to a dish; set aside. Add 1 Tbsp butter to saucepan & saute sliced mushrooms.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter either 2-3 individual casserole dishes or a 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Set aside. Drain marinated artichoke hearts (reserving 2 Tbsp) & halve each piece. In a large bowl, whisk together soup, Alfredo sauce, Worcestershire, artichoke marinade, salt & pepper until combined. Gently stir in cooked rice, mushrooms, artichokes, shrimp (cut each in thirds) & parsley.
  3. Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Combine Parmesan with buttered crumbs & sprinkle over casseroles. Bake until shrimp are cooked through, approximately 25 minutes.

Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna

Do you recall the Monte Cristo sandwiches of ‘yesteryear’? There was a time when you could find this sandwich on most restaurant lunch menus across North America. Basically, its ham and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of french toast, smothered in egg batter, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in a side of jelly. It’s where salty meets sweet and savory.

It’s believed that the Monte Cristo evolved from the French sandwich called ‘Croque Monsieur‘. The original grilled cheese sandwich consisted of Gruyere cheese and lean ham between two slices of crust-less bread, fried in clarified butter.

This sandwich, although delicious, is neither health or diet food but sometimes its fun to just enjoy these kind of things in moderation, of course.

This ‘lasagna‘ turned out to be real tasty. It kind of puts a new spin on an old classic. Instead of french toast, the ham and cheese are layered in between a baked cauliflower mixture that resembles slices of bread or lasagna noodles. Serve with cauliflower sauce or a sauce of your own choice.

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Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Cauliflower 'Pasta'
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tablespoon of salt & lemon juice. Cut cauliflower into florets, add to boiling mixture & cook until they are soft. Drain cooked cauliflower & roughly crush them into 'mush'. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, garlic, Italian herbs, salt & pepper; mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press cauliflower mixture on baking sheet into a 9 x 9-inch square. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven, cut cauliflower into 3 strips. In a buttered baking dish place the first strip. Cover with half of each of the ham & cheese slices. Put another strip of cauliflower on it & top with the rest of the ham & cheese slices. Place the third strip of cauliflower on top & sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. & bake 'lasagna' for about 30 minutes.
Cauliflower Sauce
  1. Add butter to a blender or food processor. Cook cauliflower according to package instructions. Using a slotted spoon, drain off any excess water, transfer to blender. Add the vegetable broth, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt & pepper. Process until a very smooth consistency is reached. Serve warm over Monte Cristo lasagna.

Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage

Even though we are almost at the end of fall, there is still time to embrace those summer zucchini. I realize using zucchini instead of lasagna noodles is not a new idea but definitely a natural substitution. Lasagna, in any form, has to be up there on our list of comfort foods. Their saucy, cheesy and you have endless possibilities with fillings.

Thinly sliced zucchini stands in for the noodles and the three cheeses give this vegetarian lasagna plenty of richness, but for an even more substantial dish, I added some cooked and crumbled Asiago sausage.

It certainly has wonderful eye appeal but even more important, the flavor was amazing. Asiago/Red Pepper sausage is made in-store by Save-On Foods in our city. It has become my ultimate favorite in fresh sausage to use.

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Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a sheet pan with 1 Tbsp oil; set aside. Slice zucchini into 1/8-inch thick slices. Lay zucchini slices on prepared baking sheet & roast for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 5 minutes before handling. Leave oven on for baking casserole.
  2. In a saucepan, crumble-fry sausage; remove & drain on paper towel. In a bowl, beat egg & combine with ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, salt & pepper.
  3. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some marinara sauce on the bottom. Assemble zucchini roll-ups by laying the zucchini strips on a flat work surface. Divide filling between strips & spread. Sprinkle each strip with a bit of mozzarella cheese. Roll up & place in casserole dish. Drizzle remaining sauce on rolls & sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly.

Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes

Although brussel sprouts fall in that ‘love to hate them’ category for many, not so for me. I remember my mother growing them in her garden. They just seemed so unique … little mini cabbages on a stem! The fact that we can buy them pretty much year round takes away from these Autumn jewels somewhat.

But, it seems more people have realized that soggy, boiled, overcooked sprouts are a thing of the past. These tasty little treats are often dressed up with salty bacon, sweet balsamic vinegar or nutty Parmesan cheese. The smaller the sprouts, the more tender they are and even more tender and sweet after a frost. I probably appreciate the texture as much as the flavor.

In this casserole they are paired with some very tender corned beef, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. In regards to the corned beef, the key is either to slow roast at a very low temperature or a long, slow simmer in a liquid infused with spices. The ‘corned’ part of the beef refers to the brining process. The meat is submerged in a brine mixture which is flavored with spices. This process usually takes about seven to ten days. At this point its ready to cook.

Most often you can buy a piece that is sold in a vacuum sealed pouch which is in a spiced ‘gel’ mixture. All you have to do is rinse it in cold water, place it in a baking dish with a bit of fresh water and roast at about 250 F. until it becomes ultra tender.

This was such a nice fall meal. The flavors came together so well.

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Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Rinse spiced gel off of corned beef. Place in a shallow baking dish; add a small bit of water & roast until VERY tender. Remove from oven; using 2 forks, pull meat apart & set aside.
  2. Peel & slice potatoes into 1/4-inches slices. Slice the shallots & Brussels sprouts thin; set aside
  3. In a large saucepan, add the sliced potatoes & cover with milk & butter. Bring to a boil, lower heat & simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; lift potatoes from milk with a slotted spoon & reserve the milk & butter for sauce.
  4. Adjust oven temperature to 375 F. Coat a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with oil or butter; layer the potato, then corned beef, shallots & Brussels sprouts. Repeat again using all the ingredients. Whisk the flour into the cooled milk/butter combo. Pour sauce over all; sprinkle with garlic powder & top with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; cool for a few minutes & serve.

Chili Mostaccioli

Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.

Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.

Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.

Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.

Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.

This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.

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Chili Mostaccioli
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
  2. Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.

Seed Encrusted Ham Cordon Bleu

Many variations exist to the basic idea of the French ‘cordon bleu’ dish. It would seem that its one of those recipes that has evolved over time, starting in the late 1840’s. Veal cordon bleu was created in Paris, France to later be swapped out for chicken in Moscow.

Chicken Kiev, stuffed with an herb butter was likely the meal that inspired chicken cordon bleu. In North America, the first mention of this upscale dish was in 1967. It consists of chicken breast, pounded thin, stuffed with a slice of ham and Swiss cheese then breaded and baked or fried.

Today, a lot of interesting versions are being made using everything from bacon, avocado, spinach, onions, cheese varieties as well as numerous ways in which to prepare them.

I have chosen to kind of reverse the basic idea by using ham slices and stuffing them with turkey, stuffing and cheese. The sunflower seeds in the breading added a nice flavor dimension.

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Seed Encrusted Ham Cordon Bleu
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms, onions & seasonings in butter until tender. Add water & bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add stove top stuffing & allow to stand, covered for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork; cool slightly. Grate cheese.
Breading
  1. In a food processor, pulse sunflower seeds for a few seconds ONLY. In a bowl, combine seeds, Panko crumbs, grated Parmesan & melted butter.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. On a work surface, lay out the ham slices & spread with mustard. Divide stuffing mixture evenly between ham slices. Top each with a turkey slice then divide the Swiss cheese between the 8 'cordon bleu'. Wrap each by laying one side over the other, securing with toothpicks. Carefully transfer each roll to the baking pan. Using your fingers, place some beaten egg on all exposed ham slices. With a spoon, sprinkle breading mixture over ham rolls, covering evenly.
  3. Place a pan of water on the bottom shelf of oven. Position the pan with ham rolls directly over your water bath. This will help to 'steam' the rolls as opposed to drying & over baking them since all ingredients are already cooked. The flavors come together nicely as a result. Bake for about 15- 20 minutes.
Mushroom Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute sliced mushrooms in melted butter. Whisk in flour & continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken broth, continuing to simmer mixture until sauce is thickened & bubbly. If you are using cream, whisk it in now.
  2. Top baked ham cordon bleu with mushroom sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes & a hot veggie of choice.

Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette

Over the last few years, marinated artichokes have become one of the ‘go-to’ ingredients on my pantry shelf. Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant burst of flavor and unlike fresh artichokes, they are available all year around. Might I add, they require zero preparation! Keep in mind, these are the ones in glass jars, not the canned ones that can be flavorless and soggy.

Some of the ways I have made use of them were: as a pizza topping, veggie dip, on crostini, with roasted potatoes, omelettes or in au gratin dishes.

As you have probably noticed if you follow my blog, I love savory pastries all year long. Spring through winter they showcase their ingredients so beautifully. If you’re someone who feels intimidated by pastry, galettes give you opportunity to make a free-form masterpiece. This recipe simplifies it even more by using frozen puff pastry. Yet another reason to keep a package on hand in your freezer.

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Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Slice breast & marinate in artichoke MARINADE (liquid only) for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, cook chopped bacon, onion, garlic & chopped mushrooms over medium heat until bacon is cooked & the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.
  2. Add the chicken & marinade & continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, milk, egg & grated Parmesan cheese & fold into chicken mixture as well as the reserved artichoke pieces.
Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. On a large piece of parchment paper, roll out thawed, puff pastry 'SHEET' into a rough 12-inch 'CIRCLE'. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon cooked mixture over cheese then fold edges of pastry in about an inch, 'pleating' to keep filling in. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top of filling.
  2. Brush pastry edge with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is slightly browning. Remove from oven; slice & serve.

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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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
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Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
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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.