Creamy Roasted Red Onions

All onions are not created equal so using the best onion for the job can really add a depth of flavor to your meals.

Onions are the workhorses of the kitchen and the foundation of so many billions of dishes across the globe that we forget how lovely and delicious they are all by themselves.

For most of the year, you’ll find red storage onions at the supermarket, which are pungent and spicy. In the summer months, you’ll often find fresh red onions, which are much milder, and lack a bit of the ‘onion-y’ flavor you’ll find in their yellow and white cousins.

The main difference between red onion and white onion is that red onions are a little spicy in taste while the white are comparatively sweeter and less mild.

It is a well-known fact that almost all dishes feel and taste incomplete without the presence of onion in them. Stuffed onions are an impressive side dish and a perfect complement to any main dish. 

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Creamy Roasted Red Onions
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Onions
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Onions
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Instructions
Onions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Peel onions, trim the root ends so they will sit upright & cut about 1/2-inch from tops. Rub onions with olive oil & season with salt. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
  3. Gently remove the centers leaving a shell of about 2-3 layers. Return a slice of the center to form a bottom. Coarsely chop onion centers.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, salt, herbs de Provence, garlic powder, minced garlic & chopped onions. Spoon filling into onion shells.
Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine Panko, butter, cooked bacon & parsley. Spoon carefully over onions.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is heated through & bread crumbs start to brown. Serve immediately.

Beef & Potato Wellington

Today, November 24th, our neighbors to the south in the USA, are celebrating their Thanksgiving Day. It encompasses both religious and secular aspects … being both a harvest festival and a festival of family.

Here in Canada, we have already enjoyed our Thanksgiving in October but I thought it would be nice to acknowledge their holiday with posting a special meal.

While a classic beef wellington makes for a elegant dinner, it is easy to re-create a Wellington into a gourmet, hearty meal but on a more reasonable every day budget & time frame. Rather than using an expensive steak cut, this beef wellington recipe uses inexpensive ground beef and puff pastry sheets. The ground meat can be changed to ground pork, chicken, turkey or sausage. The list of additions to the meat is endless ranging from mushrooms to cheese. Some bacon mixed with the beef gives the dish that nice bacon impact that is very tasty.

This classic beef wellington-revisited is not only delicious but decadent. It is so good with a mushroom gravy.

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Beef & Potato Wellington
Instructions
  1. Thaw puff pastry overnight in refrigerator. Cook potatoes & mash with grated cheese, salt & garlic powder. On a piece of parchment paper, roll potato/cheese mixture into a log shape. Set aside, keeping warm.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook bacon until browned but not real crisp; drain on paper towel then chop & set aside.
  3. Sauté onions, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings; set aside. Add beef to saucepan & scramble fry until browned, stirring to break up & moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  4. Add vegetables back to saucepan along with flour, beef broth powder, beaten egg, bacon & seasonings. Combine well.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  6. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out puff pastry thin but not so it will break when filled. On one end (which becomes the center underneath the roll) spoon a layer of meat mixture. Next, lay the mashed potato 'log' on top. Spoon the rest of the meat mixture on top & around the sides, lightly patting it into the potato log.
  7. Taking hold of the pastry (that is already tucked underneath), wrap it over top & tuck the edge in underneath to join up with the other pastry edge. Pinch together the open ends, leaving a bit of a gap to allow steam to escape.
  8. Make egg wash & brush liberally over pastry. Lift the 'wellington', using the parchment paper to a baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from oven, cover lightly with a sheet of foil for about 10 minutes. Slice & serve with a mushroom gravy if you wish.

Oyster, Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Po’boys

I have always had a love for sandwiches, not sure why … just do. Submarine, sub, grinder, hero, hoagie … there are many names for a sandwich on a length of Italian bread split horizontally and filled with cold cuts, cheese, veggies and dressing.

The classic oyster po’ boys make the most of briny, salty oysters. If you’re not familiar with this sandwich, it originated in New Orleans in 1929 as a way to feed the striking workers. Credit goes to brothers Clovis & Bennie Martin, streetcar conductors-turned-sandwich-shop owners who made it their duty to help out striking streetcar conductors by giving them free sandwiches. The strikers were called ‘poor boys’ (New Orleans shortens everything, so it got shortened to po’ boy). The brothers’ generosity earned thousands of new fans, and the sandwich with its new name, became of symbol of the city’s heart & soul.

The original po’ boy was filled with breaded, fried oysters or shrimp. Some common variations include crab, catfish, crawfish, spicy sausage, fried chicken and shredded seasoned beef. Seafood and chicken po’ boys are made with breaded and deep fried ingredients, but if deep frying is not your thing, oven baked is the closest technique to achieve the crunchy, deep-fried texture.

Brion & I like this combo because the avocado brings out the sweetness in seafood. Oysters coated in cornmeal make a savory sandwich and a perfect meal. It’s portable, it’s filling and there are endless possibilities.

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Oyster, Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Po'boys
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy but not hard. Drain on paper towel until ready to use.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal & spices; set aside.
  3. Gently dredge oysters in flour then in egg whites & lastly in cornmeal/spice mixture. Cover breaded oysters & refrigerate until ready to bake. Prepare tomato, avocados (guacamole) & bread.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove oysters from refrigerator, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray & carefully place oysters on it so that they are not touching each other. Bake for 15 minutes until crispy & cooked.
  6. Spread bread 'pieces' with your choice of dressing. Divide oysters between bottom halves, followed by avocado, bacon & tomato. Place top halves of the bread over the fillings & press lightly. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Zucchini Boats

Fresh garden veggies are what summer is made for. Eating fresh and in season not only tastes amazing but is so enjoyable.

I’m sure everyone is well acquainted with the zucchini ‘boat‘ idea. Basically zucchini sliced in half lengthwise, hollowed out and filled with whatever you choose. I think incorporating the zucchini you scoop out into the filling is a good idea. This versatile veggie takes on the flavor of whatever your cooking, so the possibilities are endless.

For this recipe, I’m keeping it simple and filled the zucchini boats with rice and succulent pieces of marinated shrimp then topped them with parmesan cheese. I find the best zucchini to use is a medium size, about 8-10 inches in length. Zucchini that is smaller than that really tastes the best but should be saved for other recipes because their not big or sturdy enough to hold the filling. Those super large zucchinis are best for grating to add to baked goods like bread and muffins.

It seems like just about the time you think you made everything possible with this veggie, one more idea pops up. Yay zucchini!

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Shrimp Zucchini Boats
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
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Instructions
Marinade
  1. In a container with a lid, place cleaned shrimp & remaining marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Rice
  1. Cook rice in chicken broth until tender.
Zucchini
  1. Slice zucchinis in half lengthwise; scoop out centers, leaving 1/8-inch thick shells. Place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  2. Chop zucchini flesh that was scooped out of centers. In a large skillet, melt butter; add chopped zucchini & sauté until tender crisp. Remove from heat & add cooked rice, garlic powder & some of the parmesan.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  4. Fill hollowed shells with rice mixture. Drain shrimp & place on top of rice mixture. Drizzle marinade over top of shrimp boats. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until shrimp is cooked & zucchini is tender crisp.

Parmesan Baked Scallops

Scallops are an exquisite delicacy brought to us by the sea. Subtle as their flavors may be, the combination of sweet, buttery and nutty always hits the right spot and makes them so addictive.

Sea scallops are widely known for their iconic, beautiful shape …. a fan-like shell with fluted grooves. Different varieties are found in oceans all over the world and come in many sizes. For commercial purposes they are labeled similar to shrimp. A number is used to designate how many scallops of a given size it would take to constitute a pound. The label 20/30 means it would take 20/30 scallops to make up a pound and labels like U10 means it would take less than (‘under’) 10 to make a pound.

Scallops are bivalve mollusks (meaning having 2 shells- usually united by a hinge) that have a reddish-pink, upper shell and white or cream colored, lower shell.

Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.

Brion & I don’t have scallops often but when we do we enjoy them to the fullest.

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Parmesan Baked Scallops
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 'scallop shells' on a baking pan.
  2. Rinse scallops & thoroughly pat dry on paper towels. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the compound butter. Mix well.
  4. Place 4 scallops on top of each shell dish. Divide butter into 4 portions & place one on each dish of scallops. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of scallops. Test at about the 6 minute mark. Try to avoid over baking as you will be broiling for a few minutes to finish.
  5. As scallops are baking, melt butter in microwave for the crunchy topping. Mix in the panko crumbs & fresh parsley.
  6. Remove the scallops from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Top each with a spoonful of the crunchy topping. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan cheese. Broil for about 1 minute or 2, just enough to brown the topping & melt the cheese.
  7. Nice to serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley & serve with lemon wedges.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken

According to writer Mark Twain, ‘cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education’. This uniquely versatile veggie has graduated above its many cousins, …. broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi to become the sophisticate darling of the species. Delicious raw, fried, grilled, pickled, riced, roasted, steamed or sautéed.

Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or sauté and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts, or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower makes an interesting pizza crust. A different texture than the traditional bread dough crust but loaded with flavor. It’s sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I had tried this idea some years ago and we quite liked it so why not try it with a different topping and have it again!

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken
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Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. In food processor or blender, pulse cauliflower until it reaches consistency of coarse crumbs.
  2. Place cauliflower and 3 tbsp water in microwaveable dish and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one edge lifted. Microwave on high, stirring once or twice during cooking time, until cauliflower is tender, 5 to 7 minutes; let cool. Drain cauliflower in colander lined with cheesecloth or thin, clean tea towel. Wrap cauliflower in cheesecloth and twist while pressing to remove all liquid (this step is essential).
  3. Place pizza pan or baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
  4. In bowl, combine cauliflower, egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, transfer cauliflower mixture to piece of parchment paper and press into 12-inch circle. Slide parchment paper with cauliflower crust onto hot baking sheet from preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes.
Toppings
  1. In a saucepan, sauté red onion & mushrooms until tender and moisture has evaporated.
  2. Evenly spread half of the barbecue sauce over baked cauliflower crust, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese & all of the onion & mushrooms . In bowl, toss chicken with remaining barbecue sauce; evenly arrange over crust and top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onion.

Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms

Some years ago I started using leeks and have never looked back since. Brion & I have never tired of that subtle flavor. When a recipe calls for leeks, it usually indicates to use the white and light green parts only and to either discard the ‘tough dark green tops’ or save them for another use.

So what are these ‘other uses’? Usually it refers to using the green tops as add-ins for soups or stock, only to be removed once they have imparted their wonderful layer of flavor and discarded.

When you think about it, we cook up all kinds of vegetables that are ‘tough’ to start out with yet end up nice and tender when cooked or braised. I find, using the dark green tops presents no issues, just cook them a bit longer than the tender leaves.

On the other hand, you can braise the dark green tops with some butter/olive oil, chicken or veg stock, minced garlic, dried chili flakes, salt & pepper & some lemon juice and make a great side dish to serve with fish or pasta etc.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms
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Instructions
Pasta & Filling
  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells & cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions. Drain pasta
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute chopped bacon until cooked. Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Add leeks, garlic & mushrooms to bacon drippings. Sauté until leeks are soft; season with salt & pepper. Add salmon, gently combine & set aside.
Garlic Sauce
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter & olive oil. Once melted, add garlic then sauté until light golden brown, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour; whisk & sauté for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a wooden spoon & stir constantly until mixture is thick & bubbly, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat & stir in mozzarella cheese, garlic powder & parsley flakes until smooth. Taste then adjust salt & pepper if necessary.
Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Add breadcrumbs & cook, stirring until toasted & golden in color. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; combine with parmesan cheese.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a 13 X 9-inch baking dish, spread a small amount of garlic sauce over the bottom. To filling mixture, add reserved bacon & enough garlic sauce to help the filling stick together.
  3. Divide filling between the 16 cooked pasta shells & place in baking dish. Top with any remaining garlic sauce then sprinkle topping over all.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes making sure not to overcook the salmon. Serve.

Layered Zucchini Cheddar Meatloaf

Food history is full of surprises. The history of meatloaf, a North American staple, offers more than a trip down culinary lane. It provides a glimpse into how advances in technology have shaped the way we eat and prepare food today.

It turns out, the idea of mixing meat with a tenderizing filler traces back to the 4th & 5th century AD, when a Roman cookbook presented a recipe for patties made of chopped meat, bread & wine. But it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that American meatloaf was born, inspired by recipes offered by manufactures of the newly invented meat grinder.

In the 1940’s, WWII rationing spawned meat-free loaves, whereas postwar creativity in the 1950’s & ’60’s produced the likes of Bacon-Dill Meatloaf. In the 1970’s & ’80’s, veal, pork & beef ‘meatloaf mix’ came into vogue. In the 1990’s, restaurateurs marketed upscale versions and today, innovations continue as loaves are stuffed, wrapped or laced with international flavors.

When we cook meatloaf, we’re connected to something bigger: a tradition, a time line. Meatloaf is elemental. It’s enduring, served without undue fuss or expensive implements …. comfort food without a doubt.

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Layered Zucchini Cheddar Meatloaf
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, oregano, basil & garlic powder.
  3. In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, egg white, salt, pepper & HALF of the tomato sauce mixture; mix well.
  4. Divide meat in half. On a sheet of wax paper, form 2 rectangles each about 8 X 10-inches. Spread zucchini over half of each rectangle. Divide cheese & sprinkle over zucchini, still covering only half the meat. Fold the meat over so that zucchini & cheese are inside. Pinch edges of meat to seal.
  5. Place layered meat loaves on top of each other then place on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Top with remaining tomato sauce & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake uncovered for about 1 1/2 hrs. or until meat is cooked. Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous

The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.

Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.

Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.

Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.

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Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
  3. Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
Couscous
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
  2. Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
To Serve
  1. Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.

German Lasagna

Classic German staples come together in this lasagna to make a very unique version of the classic dish.

There are six main ingredients in this recipe. The first is spaetzle, the German equivalent of pasta. The second is onion. By caramelizing the diced pieces you turn it into little velvety pieces of heaven that add incredible depth and sweetness to the dish. Third is Bratwurst, a fresh link sausage characterized by its many different spices and seasonings. Fourth is sauerkraut, bratwurst’s classic sidekick. Fifth is bacon and the crowning touch and grand finale is the Emmentaler cheese.

I would like to talk a bit more about spaetzle which, in my opinion, elevates this lasagna to a whole new level. Compared to traditional pasta dough, spaetzle is softer and quite moist.

Native to Germany, ‘spaetzle’ is made all over the world now, having a different name in each country. The lines have become blurred between what is a spaetzle and what is something else.

The dough is quite basic, made from flour, eggs, water and salt. Although these little ‘dumplings’ can be eaten with almost anything, I thought they added something real special to this German lasagna.

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German Lasagna
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Keyword German Lasagna
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Spaetzle
Sauce
Caramelized Onions
Cottage Cheese
Additional Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Keyword German Lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Spaetzle
Sauce
Caramelized Onions
Cottage Cheese
Additional Ingredients
Votes: 5
Rating: 4
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Instructions
Spaetzle
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with salt & make a well in the center. Add eggs to the well & whisk the flour into the eggs. Gradually whisk in the water until a very thick batter forms. Cover with a damp cloth & allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place spaetzle dough maker above the pot with the water. Load with dough & slide back & forth or press to squeeze the dough through & form the spaetzle noodles.
  3. Once the spaetzle begins to float to the surface, scoop with a large slotted spoon & transfer to a colander placed inside a bowl for the drained water to collect. Continue process until all of the dough is used.
Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat oil in saucepan, add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Set aside.
Sauce
  1. In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, bouillon, garlic powder & salt until smooth. Gradually stir in milk & broth. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat to a bowl & set aside.
  2. In the saucepan, cook bacon (not too crisp); remove to a cutting board to coarsely chop. Add bratwurst sausage meat (which has been removed from casings) to saucepan & scramble fry until cooked. Drain on paper towel. Add chopped bacon, bratwurst & caramelized onions to your prepared sauce.
Cottage Cheese / Other Ingredients
  1. In a small bowl, beat eggs; add cottage cheese & pepper. Set aside. Drain sauerkraut & rinse. Squeeze dry. Grate cheese
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  2. Spread 1 cup sauce mixture over bottom of pan. Layer with 1/3 of the spaetzle noodles, a 1/3 of sauce mixture, 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 of the sauerkraut & 3/4 cup grated cheese. Repeat layers ( spaetzle, sauce, cottage cheese, sauerkraut, spaetzle, sauce). Save grated cheese for last 5 minutes of baking.
  3. Cover & bake for 50-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining GRATED CHEESE; bake 5 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Allow to stand 15 minutes before cutting.
Recipe Notes
  • If you do not have a spaetzle dough maker, just drop spoonfuls of dough into the boiling water to form spaetzle noodles. Dip your spoon into water to prevent it sticking on the spoon.