Corned Beef & Cabbage Pot Pie

It probably seems odd that I would post this meal today instead of around St. Patrick’s Day. The truth of the matter is, corned beef is really not an Irish classic as most would think. So for us, it’s just a case of enjoying corned beef in a pot pie.

You cook this dish the same way you would cook chicken pot pie. Instead of roasting the corned beef myself, I picked some up at the deli counter. I had them slice it about 1/4″ thick then I cut it into small cubes. Logic would tell you that a ‘beef’ pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different. I used chicken broth in the white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the flavor of the corned beef to come through nicely.

There is often debate whether pot pies should have one or two crusts. For me, its just whatever appeals to me when I’m making some. Today, since I’m using frozen puff pastry, I went with just a top crust. Draped over them, gave such a rustic look … just for the sake of eye appeal.

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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pot Pie
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a large Dutch oven or pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrot & cabbage & cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add flour & cook, stirring, for about 1 minute more. Add chicken broth, milk, mustard, thyme, salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in corned beef & cheese, cook, stirring until cheese has melted. Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat & allow to cool 15-20 minutes.
  2. Cut thawed puff pastry sheets to suit your preference. I used 4 - 14 oz. (414 ml) ramekins with a top crust only.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place ramekins on a baking sheet & spoon cooled filling in to them. Place pastry squares over top. Cut several slits in the middle to allow steam to vent. Combine egg with water & brush top of puff pastry with it.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is bubbling. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

French Onion Chicken Meatballs

Although ancient in origin, French onion soup underwent a resurgence in popularity during the 1960’s due to the greater interest in French cuisine.

French onion soup is a type of soup usually based on a meat broth and onions. At some point in time, the French decided that the onions should be caramelized to bring out their natural sweetness. Then, to top things off, its garnished with Gruyere cheese on a slice of baguette and broiled in the oven.

These chicken meatballs put a bit of a different spin on that iconic soup. Made with all the classic ingredients, but turned into a main course meal. Nice to serve with either pasta or rice.

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French Onion Chicken Meatballs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chicken Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & rub with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, Gruyere, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 16 meatballs then place on prepared baking sheet & bake until golden & cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions & cook until very soft & golden, 25 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic & cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add broth & thyme & season with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & let simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Pasta
  1. Boil egg noodles in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes; drain & add to sauce. Grate Gruyere & Parmesan cheeses & combine.
Assembly
  1. Divide pasta/sauce between 4 serving plates. Top each with 4 meatballs & divide cheese combo between them. If you wish, microwave each plate for a couple of minutes to melt cheese before serving.

Roasted Pork Chops w/ Quince Glaze

One of the more interesting aspects of cooking is combining flavors to create something unique. Case in point would be meat and fruit. Some of the classic pairings such as turkey with cranberry sauce or lemon chicken are delicious, yet the idea of using both fruit and meat in the same dish is undoubtedly a little controversial. Nevertheless, these flavor companions with their sweet and salty relationship does work.

Pork for one, pairs well with an endless array of fruits. Pork comes in many forms so it gives us the opportunity to find the perfect combination.

In mid November, I had tried using some quince paste in some pastries. We quite enjoyed them so today I want to do the meat/fruit thing using the paste in a different context.

To make quince paste, the fruit is cooked in water and the strained pulp is then cooked with sugar. It turns red after a long cooking time and forms a relatively firm jelly. The taste is sweet but slightly astringent. Quince paste is usually sold in squares and is served by cutting it into thin slices to accompany cheese. It can also be served on crackers, spread on toast, used in baking or as a glaze for roasted meats.

With a fragrance that hints of vanilla, musk, pineapple and lemon blossom, quince deserves a little culinary exploration. Even if they are not a fresh fruit that is seen readily in our part of the country, I do think its worth enjoying some in ‘paste’ form.

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Roasted Pork Chops w/ Quince Glaze
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Course Main Dish
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pork Chops
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Rub pork chops with oil & place on a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper. Bake about 1 1/4 hours until very tender.
Quince Sauce
  1. Add cider vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat & bring to a boil. Add quince paste, honey & mustard. Whisk to dissolve the quince paste & blend the mustard. Continue to boil sauce until it reduces to around 1 cup & becomes syrupy, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat & pour into a small pitcher. Set aside.
Onions & Apples
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add butter & saute onions, stirring often, until they are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add apple wedges & thyme; cook until apples are tender. Add 1/3 of the quince sauce, tossing to coat both onions & apples well then simmer for about 1 minute. On each serving plate, place some apples & onions & top with a roasted pork chop. Serve with remaining quince sauce.

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.

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
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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 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!

Bacon & Chicken En Croute

The debate between chicken thighs and breast has been one that’s continued over generations. Juicy, inexpensive and highly versatile, chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of the protein realm. You can enjoy them baked, glazed or simply grilled.

In the flavor department, chicken thighs naturally have a more intense and flavorful edge to them. As for fat content … yes, there is more fat on a thigh than on a breast. However, the monounsaturated fat in chicken thighs can help aid in weight loss, control and reduce cholesterol numbers and even lower you risk of heart disease and cancer.

From an economical point of view, in our part of the world, chicken thighs are generally more affordable than breasts. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, both chicken breasts and thighs are good for you. It all comes down to personal choice.

This meal is good, homey, comfort food that’s easy to prepare using frozen puff pastry but elegant enough to serve at a holiday supper with friends.

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Bacon & Chicken En Croute
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Salt & pepper chicken thighs on both sides. Place in skillet with remaining hot bacon drippings & cook until browned. Remove & cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add butter to the skillet, cook onions, garlic & mushrooms, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & chicken thighs; taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Gravy
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then add the flour. Whisk until flour darkens & begins to thicken then add broth. Season with herbs, salt & pepper (to taste) & continue to whisk until gravy boils. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens. Remove from heat & cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. At this point you can either make individual servings or bake as one long tart. Fit thawed puff pastry into tart pan or cut into 4 equal squares. You can roll the dough out on a floured surface to accommodate the size you need.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooled filling & gravy. Place evenly in pastry shell(s). Brush edges with beaten egg wash & bake for about 20 minutes until puffed & golden brown.

Parsnip Noodles with Meatballs

Spiral vegetable slicers, also known as spiralizers, have been a trending kitchen gadget since about 2014. This nifty apparatus can transform veggies such as zucchini, pumpkin, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, squash, potatoes ……. into linguine-like strands which can be used as an alternate to pasta.

The process is pretty simple, either peel or wash the raw piece of produce and use the tool to spiral it down into a noodle shape. There are two basic varieties of vegetable spiralizers on the market to consider.

For smaller kitchens and counter spaces there is an hourglass-shaped tool. It is two sided for the option of thin or thicker noodles and calls for an easy manual twisting of the vegetable to produce noodles. It comes with a small metal prong to hold the veggie in place.

For larger kitchens and counter spaces there is a tri-blade version with a variety of attachments and a handle so you can crank out your noodles.

Spiralled veggies are easy and fast to cook. For best results make sure to pat them dry before cooking. I prefer to season and saute ours for a few minutes.

What makes pasta great is not the actual pasta but the sauce you put on it. Vegetable noodles have the same consistency as pasta, so when it comes to sauces, the less water the better. Reduce tomato-based sauce as much as possible or choose thicker cream-based sauces to pair with your veggie noodles.

Parsnips are a vegetable we both enjoy, so for something different, I spiralized them. Brion was amazed at how much this meal looked like spaghetti and meatballs. Nice change!

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Parsnip Noodles with Meatballs
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, cheese, grated garlic, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro & some black pepper. Combine well & form into meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Cook meatballs for 8-10 minutes until browned & cooked through. Add pasta sauce & continue cooking until sauce is hot. Remove to a bowl & keep hot while you saute your parsnip noodles.
  3. In the same skillet, melt remaining Tbsp butter; add lemon juice, hot sauce & minced garlic. Add the spiralized, parsnip noodles & saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly, until parsnips are tender-crisp. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper.
  4. Divide parsnip noodles between serving plates & top each with meatballs & sauce.