Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin

Gratin is sort of like a crustless quiche, but a little more substantial. What’s not to like about anything cooked with chicken, bacon, custard and cheese? The cauliflower is meltingly tender. The bacon is smoky. The chicken is seasoned just right. The custard that holds it all together is creamy, and I love cheese.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable. It’s inexpensive and good for you, and you can turn it into rice or pizza crusts. It even gives a pretty good impression of a ‘steak’. You can add cauliflower to virtually any casserole, and it will blend right in with the meat and cheese. This gratin is loaded with cauliflower, but with all the bacon, chicken and cheese in there you’ll barely notice.

There are few things as convenient or as comforting as a ‘casserole.’ While the easy-to-assemble dish might appear to be a more modern invention, casseroles have existed in one form or another across different food cultures throughout history.

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Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Arrange chicken in a 9 x 13-inch, foil lined baking dish. Drizzle chicken with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven & shred.
  3. Reduce oven to 350 F.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower & cook for 6 minutes. Strain cauliflower well.
  5. In the 9 x 13-inch baking pan, gently stir together cauliflower, chicken, 1 cup shredded cheese, bacon pieces, green onions, ranch seasoning mix & garlic powder. Top with halved cherry tomatoes & remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes. I put a pan with a small amount of water in it under the baking pan to prevent the gratin from drying out during the baking time.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

A glass of beer, a loaf of bread, a bowl of cereal, a standard of measurement, a form of currency, a medication – they all began with barley – an ancient grain, possibly even older than rice. Barley’s once exalted status has been redefined. No longer does it serve as a unit of monetary exchange or a unit of measurement. No physician thinks of prescribing it for an ailing patient. Now, barley is largely relegated to being a food or a key ingredient in the making of beer.

We owe much to the desert nomads and the camel caravans who endured sandstorms and unrelenting heat to trade their sacks of barley with distant neighbors, who then traded with other distant neighbors. Our steaming bowl of mushroom barley soup is a hand-me-down recipe with roots that take us back to prehistoric man. In 2005 barley ranked fourth for cereal production. There are many types of barley, many different uses for it and a long history of its importance to mankind.

Barley has a unique family-friendly quality. You can make a batch ahead on a Sunday, and it keeps well for at least three days in the fridge, and up to three months in the freezer. Monday, you can use it as breakfast and Tuesday, put a cup or two in your salad, and on Wednesday, you can add a barley casserole to your meal.

Four ways to cook barley. For each cup of barley, add 2 1/4 cups of water.

-Stove top: bring barley to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 50 minutes.

-Rice cooker: barley will cook in the same amount of time as brown rice — approximately one cycle in a rice cooker.

-Oven: place barley and liquid in a covered casserole dish and cook it in the oven.

-Slow cooker: cook barley in a slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours on low heat.

Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole is such a wholesome and comforting meal.

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Barley Chicken & Mushroom Casserole
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Instructions
Chicken Thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the seasonings until well combined. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and place them in the baking dish.
  3. Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken, rubbing it on both sides of the chicken thighs.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven, without moving or turning, until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken reaches at least 165° F. This will take about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken thighs. During the last 15 minutes, place the cherry tomatoes on baking tray & roast. Remove chicken thighs & tomatoes from oven. Slice thighs in 1/4-inch thick slices. Keep chicken & roasted tomatoes warm.
Barley
  1. In a saucepan, place the water & vegetable broth powder, stir to dissolve. Add barley & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer & cook barley until tender. Cooking time for pearl barley is around 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir the barley, cover the saucepan and let it stand for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Vegetables
  1. In a saucepan, sauté vegetables in 1 Tbsp oil until tender then season to taste. Combine with cooked barley.
Serving
  1. In a casserole serving dish, place the veg/barley mixture. Top with sliced chicken thighs & roasted tomatoes. Garnish with sliced green onion & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • If you find the barley & vegetables seem a bit dry add a bit more vegetable broth.

Shrimp Pizza w/ Artichoke & Garlic Sauce

It’s hard to get bored of pizza, but sometimes you want to change things up a bit. In addition to trying new toppings and cheeses, consider using an alternative to tomato sauce on pizza.

Pizza night is a cherished tradition in many households, but sometimes, it’s good to break away from the routine and experiment with new flavors. One of the easiest ways to do this is by trying out different alternative pizza sauces.

The other day Brion & I were in a Winners/Homesense store. Of course, my favorite spot is always the area where they have all the cookware and specialty food items. I saw bottled sauce made with artichokes and garlic. Immediately my thoughts were as to how I could use it. It was quite pricey, so I opted to try and make a copycat version at home.

While tomato sauce has long been associated with traditional pizza, there is a whole new world of flavors waiting to be discovered by breaking from tradition. Tradition of course has its place—there’s a reason classic tomato-topped pizza has been a staple for generations. But there is more to pizza sauce than regular tomato. There are exciting flavors, interesting textures, sweet things, spicy things, cheesy things, even exotic things!

Here are some ideas for making pizza without tomato sauce:

  • White pizza – Make a white sauce with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and a dash of salt and pepper. Spread it on the pizza dough instead of tomato sauce. Top with cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, or feta, and veggies.
  • Pesto pizza – Spread pesto sauce on the dough instead of tomato sauce. Top with veggies and cheeses.
  • BBQ chicken pizza – Use BBQ sauce as the base instead of tomato sauce. Top with chicken, red onion, cheddar cheese, etc.
  • Mediterranean pizza – Make a tahini sauce base. Top with artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, feta, red onion, etc.
  • Breakfast pizza – Scramble eggs with veggies and meats. Spread it on the dough. Sprinkle with cheeses.
  • Buffalo chicken pizza – Spread buffalo wing sauce on the dough. Top with chicken, blue cheese, mozzarella, celery, onion.
  • Thai pizza – Make a spicy peanut sauce base. Top with chicken, carrot, onion, cilantro, mozzarella.
  • Carbonara pizza – Spread an alfredo sauce base. Top with bacon, onion, Parmesan, egg, parsley.

The best thing about pizza is that there are endless ways to enjoy it. So here you have it … shrimp pizza with artichoke & garlic sauce. Yum!

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Shrimp Pizza w/ Artichoke & Garlic Sauce
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Instructions
Sauce
  1. Place all ingredients except oil in food processor. With motor running, Add olive oil in a slow stream to make an emulsion. Place in a dish & set aside.
Pizza Toppings
  1. Fry bacon until done but not crisp. Drain on a paper towel then chop into bite-sized pieces. In the same skillet, sauté shrimp until just cooked & remove it from skillet.
  2. Sauté sliced mushrooms & sliced onions until just cooked.
  3. Slice cherry tomatoes in halves & prepare fresh herbs.
  4. Shred mozzarella cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spread each naan bread with artichoke & garlic sauce.
  3. Top pizzas with onions, mushrooms, shrimp & bacon. Sprinkle shredded cheese over all then dot with halved cherry tomatoes & herbs.
  4. Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly & tomatoes are roasted. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • You will no doubt have extra artichoke & garlic sauce. Store it in an air-tight container for up to one week. Enjoy it on toasted bread or swirl into cooked pasta.

Orecchiette w/ Cheesy Chicken Meatballs

One thing Italians share with the rest of the world is their love for pasta. Pasta remains part of a rich tradition that impacts every corner of Italy, meshing with regional cultures and influencing local cuisine.

Orecchiette is a pasta specialty from the beautiful southeastern region of Puglia, down in Italy’s southern ‘heel’. It’s one of the country’s flattest and most fertile regions, with wheat and olive oil produced in abundance.

Orecchiette translates to ‘small ears’—a fitting name for a dome-shaped pasta that looks like tiny ears. This pasta has a thin, concave center, chewy edges, and a rough surface texture. Orecchiette require only three ingredients: hard wheat flour, water and salt.

Their particular shape, combined with the rough surface, makes it perfect for any kind of sauce, especially vegetable sauces.

With its deep-rooted history in the region, use of simple ingredients, and its convenient versatility, orecchiette has become a defining part not only of Puglia’s cuisine, but its culture, as well. And its popularity extends far beyond the region of Puglia.

I absolutely love orecchiette with its chewiness and nice ‘cupping’ ability. Pared with some cheesy meatballs, this meal is so good!

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Orecchiette w/ Cheesy Chicken Meatballs
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Ingredients
Pasta Sauce
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Ingredients
Pasta Sauce
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Instructions
Pasta
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta & cook until tender but still firm to the bite., stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Transfer pasta to a bowl & add the parmesan. Toss to lightly coat orecchiette, adding reserved pasta water, if needed to loosen pasta.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with foil & rub with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 30-40 meatballs, then place on prepared baking sheet & bake until browned & cooked through about 25 minutes.
Pasta Sauce
  1. In a large pot, add chicken broth & tomatoes & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer until tomatoes are soft. Remove from heat & add meatballs & pasta/cheese mixture. Combine grated mozzarella cheese with basil paste.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9-inch baking dish.
  3. Place meatball/pasta mixture in baking dish & top with mozzarella cheese/basil mixture. Bake only until cheese is melted.

Barbecue Salads x Five

No barbecue is complete without adding a few salads. More than just greens topped with a dressing, there are many versions of coleslaw and pasta salads as well as vegetable and gelatin salads. Without a doubt, you can make them as simple or fancy as you like or have the time for.

Every family seems to develop its own salad favorites. For our family, it was my mother’s ‘German’ version of potato salad. This was not the ‘Hot German Potato Salad’ which you most often see in recipe books. Her’s was a very basic potato salad, not a lot of ingredients, but the dressing was what made it special to us. Like so many German recipes it had that sweet-sour taste.

Over the years, either in the commercial food industry or at company barbecues, etc. I have used and shared her recipe many times. It has never failed to draw great reviews but strangely enough I think my husband is the only person I’ve known who didn’t care for potato salad in any fashion.

There are endless ideas for barbecue salads. In today’s blog I thought it would be nice to post a medley of five different kinds. I think you will find they are reasonably quick and easy to prepare as well as good accompaniments to most any meat being barbecued.

        Potato Salad   –   Chick Pea Pasta Salad   –   Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad                          Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad – Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad 


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Barbecue Salads x Five

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Servings
servings


Ingredients
Potato Salad

Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad

Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad

Servings
servings


Ingredients
Potato Salad

Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad

Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Potato Salad
  1. Cook potatoes in salted water. Cool, peel & cube. Combine potatoes, eggs, & onion. Blend together dressing ingredients & pour over potato mixture; mix well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Just before serving time, add sliced radishes & more salt if necessary. Mix well.

Chick Pea Pasta Salad
  1. Cook pasta according to pkg. directions. Drain & rinse under cold running water until cold. Combine pasta with next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat evenly. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Arrange greens on serving plate & top with chick pea mixture or mix greens into salad, your choice.

Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt sugar stirring constantly. Add nuts, stir until nuts are coated. Remove nuts from skillet; spreading them out on a sheet of aluminium foil to cool. In a large bowl, combine greens, dried fruit & Gorgonzola cheese; refrigerate. At serving time, combine salad with dressing, toss gently; add candied nuts & toss again.

Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
  1. Cook barley to desired tenderness. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients; toss well. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour dressing over salad; toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad
  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. At serving time, drizzle with dressing choice & top with toasted seeds.


Recipe Notes
  • If you like raw cauliflower, try adding a cup of it sliced along with some crisp, crumbled bacon bits to your potato salad. It adds a whole new dimension to an old favorite.