Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage

The exact origin of the classic ‘macaroni and cheese‘ is unknown, though it likely hails from northern Europe. Although there were French dishes with pasta and cheese as early as the 14th century, it was an English writer and business woman called Elizabeth Raffald who first wrote the recipe for what we would recognize as macaroni and cheese in 1769. Elizabeth’s recipe was for macaroni, cooked in a béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese added and sprinkled with parmesan.

Many countries have a profound love and deep historical connection to a version of this dish including the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and of course Italy where pasta was first popularized in Europe. It is also possible that some of its origins may trace back to the Alps of Switzerland.

Pasta itself is neither Swiss nor European in origin; it dates to at least 3500 BC in Japan and China, likely spreading to the Middle East and northern Africa via the Silk Road. Some studies believe that the 7th century nomadic Arabs then likely brought it with them while travelling from Libya to Sicily, from where it spread north along the Italian peninsula.

Whatever the truth, this humble pasta w/ cheese dish has become an ultimate comfort food in a plethora of cultures and countries around the world. There have been many inventive twists put on this classic. The 1953 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, calls for a sauce made from Velveeta, onion and cream of mushroom soup. Other variations sub in Brie, figs, rosemary and mushrooms for the traditional cheddar based sauce. Adding applesauce might sound like a weird addition, but it works. Just like cheddar melted over a piece of apple pie is an unexpectedly delicious treat.

I used some orecchiette pasta, which cups the sauce well and amped up the flavor with smoked turkey chicken sausage. Comfort food at its best!

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Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Dice onion & slice smoked sausage. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan; sauté onion until almost tender-crisp then add sliced sausage & continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil & prepare the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. When it is cooked, drain it well, drizzle it with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil. Shake it around a bit in the strainer to keep pieces from getting stuck together.
  4. Heat the milk & applesauce in pot that was used to cook pasta, stirring constantly. Do not bring to a boil.
  5. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter & whisk in the flour. Cook mixture for two minutes, whisking all the while then whisk in the hot milk/applesauce mixture. Cook for 2 more minutes continuing to whisk while the mixture is thickening.
  6. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat & stir in salt, pepper, sage, gruyere (save a bit for garnish if you wish), cheddar, onion & sausage slices. Combine evenly then add cooked pasta & stir until pasta is evenly covered with sauce.
  7. Place the Dutch oven in the oven, uncovered & bake for 30-40 minutes or until the orecchiette on top just begins to turn golden brown at the tips.
Recipe Notes
  • Alternately, you can skip the oven time as the ingredients are already cooked. I thought some sautéed leeks made a nice garnish along with the gruyere.

Peach Chutney Galette

This peach chutney galette has all the flavors of a classic peach pie, plus the pop of fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar and spice.

I love chutneys and find that just about any fruit can be made into one. Each chutney is a balance of sweet, sour, savory and spice with endless variations. When it comes to the ways you can eat or serve it, a few that come to mind are:

  • Add it to a chicken sandwich
  • Serve with cured meats & cheese
  • Serve on the side with empanadas or meat pies
  • Eat it with any cooked pork meal
  • Serve with grilled sausages or roasted poultry
  • Serve it with pate
  • As a topping for warm Brie cheese
  • Mixed into Greek yogurt
  • Puree it & use as a dipping sauce
  • Served on a burger

Peaches are one of those fruits that make their way into summer chutneys so why not put some in a galette and see what develops?!

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Peach Chutney Galette
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
  2. Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, star anise, cloves, pepper, cardamom & sea salt. When mixture starts to bubble, fold in about 2 cups sliced peaches. Bring the mixture to a boil; turn down heat to a lively simmer. Cook, stirring often, 20-30 minutes, or until mixture has thickened enough to easily coat a spoon. Set aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. When chutney is cooled, preheat oven to 350 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press out chilled pastry into a 12-inch circle.
  2. In a large bowl, stir to combine remaining peaches, cooled chutney, 1/4 cup sugar & cornstarch.
  3. Spread mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold pastry over peach chutney filling, pleating to hold it in. Brush with egg wash (if using); sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake 35-45 minutes until filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Chill at least 2 hours to prevent the filling from running out. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Salmon Picnic Empanadas

No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.

Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.

Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.

The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.

According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.

I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.

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Salmon Picnic Empanadas
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6 inch EMPANADAS
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6 inch EMPANADAS
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
Soy Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Filling
  1. In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
  2. In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
  2. Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.

Black Bean Lava Cakes

In a dream world, desserts would be low in calories and fat and eating one cookie wouldn’t tempt us to eat five more.

By now, everyone knows what a molten chocolate cake is (also known as chocolate lava cake). Practically every restaurant has a version of the recipe on its dessert menu. Its basically the richest chocolate cake imaginable, in miniature form. The key is to purposely under bake it so it will reveal the thick, hot fudge-like center that oozes out when you spoon into it.

But, there’s one way to achieve healthier baked goods and that’s to add legumes. Yes, the very same beans that we put in soups, chili, dips and countless savory recipes make surprisingly tasty desserts.

If you’re using beans as a flour substitute, its typically a 1:1 ratio. When it comes to replacing fat ingredients with beans, a little caution is needed. Fats are not only used for flavor but also texture and mouthfeel for dishes. For brownies, you can replace oil with 3/4 as much black bean puree. For cookies, you can replace up to half the butter or shortening with the bean puree. For quick breads and muffins, replace butter or shortening with half as much bean puree. This is only a general guide as other ingredients may need to be altered too. Always good to experiment first.

The end result, of course, with any substitution should not just improve the nutrition content but leave you feeling satisfied and not still craving the decadent variety. We found these black bean lava cakes certainly did that!

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Black Bean Lava Cakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Make flax egg & set aside.
  3. In a food processor, combine black beans, sugar, applesauce, apple cider vinegar & sea salt. Pulse to combine for about 1 minute.
  4. Add rice flour, cocoa powder & flax egg. Process until combined about 30 seconds.
  5. Add baking powder & continue processing for another 30 seconds.
  6. Grease (4) 5-oz. ramekins with oil. Make sure to grease well. Add 1/4 cup batter to each ramekin.
  7. Place a piece of chocolate in center of each & divide remaining batter between the 4 ramekins, spreading evenly.
  8. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Use a knife to loosen edges, then flip ramekins over on to serving plates (they should come loose easily).
  10. If you wish, sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve warm.

Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing

Stuffed pork tenderloin is an amazing way to amp up a simple cut of meat. Pork tenderloin is incredibly tender since it is essentially the ‘filet’. Because there is very little fat in a tenderloin, its perfect to stuff with all sorts of tasty things to bring in both moisture and flavor.

The ‘old-fashioned’ idea of surf & turf seems to still retain an odd appeal. Having seafood and meat on the same plate lets you alternate bites and flavors from two realms, but there is a better way of mixing ‘sea & land’. Actually, combining seafood and pork so they cook together produces something quite amazing. Pork with its mild but rich taste complements the clean, delicate flavor of seafood.

This seafood stuffing uses a blend of rice and barley along with crab, shrimp and some veggies. The seasoning brings it all together into a real special meal.

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Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing
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Seafood Stuffing
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Seafood Stuffing
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Instructions
Seafood Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, cook rice & barley in vegetable broth until tender; transfer to a large bowl. Sauté onion, celery & mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until tender-crisp.
  2. Combine sautéed vegetables with rice/barley mixture in large bowl. Stir in shrimp & crab meat; sprinkle with seasonings & toss to combine.
Pork Rolls
  1. Using a meat mallet, pound out the tenderloin strips very thinly, then divide stuffing between them. Roll tightly, encasing the filling inside. If necessary tie with kitchen twine.
  2. Roll the pork rolls in seasoned flour to coat lightly. Heat the butter & oil in a large skillet & brown the rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a plate.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Add veg (or seafood) broth to skillet, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer making sure to stir in all browning bits from pork rolls; cook for 5 minutes. Season the broth with salt & pepper to taste, then pour into a casserole & place stuffed rolls on top.
  5. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Wheatberry & Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Cake

For many of us, stuffed cabbage rolls bring back memories of a true comfort food. Historically this iconic meal has roots in ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes developed and people migrated.

Many cultures claim to have invented stuffed cabbage …. Persian, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. As with many dishes, there seem to be hundreds of recipes. This humble food probably originated as most comfort food has, from leftovers and the ubiquitous cabbage.

Fillings vary from beef, lamb or pork seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. Other additions to the fillings consist of rice, breadcrumbs, eggs, vegetables, legumes, etc. The sauces used vary widely by cuisine or personal taste.

Instead of making individual cabbage rolls today, I thought it would be something different to make it as a layered cabbage ‘cake’. For the filling I went with ground turkey. What is unique about this filling is that it uses a combination of wheatberries and bulgur, some fresh herbs, leeks, celery and apples.

Wheatberries add such a nice chewy and nutty flavor. We both really enjoyed this savory cake.

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Wheatberry & Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Cake
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Place wheat berries in a saucepan & cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring once or twice. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about an hour. Drain & transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, put bulgur in another saucepan & cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain & transfer to same bowl as wheat berries.
  3. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet. Add turkey & cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp of sage, 2 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring, until turkey is coated with herb mixture, about 1 minute; transfer to bowl with wheat berries & bulgur.
  4. Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in same skillet. Add leek & celery; sauté until vegetables are almost tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in apple & sauté until apple is light golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth; bring to a simmer until apples & vegetables are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in remaining herbs & spices. Add to the bowl of wheat berries & bulgur mixture; combine. Set aside
Parmesan Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine flour & broth until smooth; gradually stir in the milk, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add 1/2 of the grated cheese, stirring to combine. Add to wheatberry/bulgur filling mixture.
Cabbage
  1. Core & separate leaves from the head of cabbage. Place in a steam basket over boiling water & cook until tender. Drain, pat dry.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease bottom & sides of a deep casserole dish & arrange the largest cabbage leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that & up the sides of the dish all around. Place about a 1/2 an inch of filling on top the cabbage leaves on the bottom of casserole. Place a layer of cabbage leaves on top & repeat until you run out of filling.
  3. Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around. Drizzle the top with oil & a sprinkling of salt & pepper. Bake for about 40-50 minutes. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Place a serving dish over casserole; flip over to release cabbage cake. Top with zesty red pasta sauce & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cut into slices & serve.

Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread

Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Over the years, I have prepared so many cornbread ‘pairings’, I have lost count. Needless to say, I love ‘everything corn’.

When it comes to chili, the version made with ground beef usually comes to mind. Although, Brion & I enjoy the original, this shrimp chili is a nice change up for us seafood lovers.

These little cornbread ‘cakes’ have only a hint of honey. This makes them a good compliment to the spicy chili as opposed to the sweeter, dessert version of cornbread (which, of course is wonderful too!)

March seems like a good month to still enjoy a bowl of chili before our thoughts turn to some lighter meals for the spring & summer.

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Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread
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Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Ingredients
Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Instructions
Shrimp Chili
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in spices & salt; cook for 20 seconds. Pour in tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp & cilantro. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder & salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg & honey until smooth. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring only until just moistened.
  3. You can either drop heaping tablespoons of the cornbread batter over the shrimp mixture OR bake it in greased individual pans.
  4. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown (& the filling is bubbling) about 40-45 minutes if baked as a casserole. If your cornbread is baked on its own, test the cakes for doneness after about 15 minutes.
  5. Garnish with grated cheddar & sliced green onions before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • We enjoy the addition of some black beans in this chili as well.

Mushroom Beef Roll

When you cook meatloaf/roll were connected to something bigger …. a tradition and a time line. A comfort food that has been enduring not only an answer to hunger but is served without undue fuss or expensive implements. It reigns supreme.

The reason meatloaf has stayed with us through so many generations is because it is a master of evolution. It can be personalized and adapted any number of ways, all the while requiring only basic skills.

In the 1955 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a recipe for ‘mushroom-stuffed meatloaves’ was featured. To enliven a simpler offering, there was an inexhaustible trend for garnishing, glazing, saucing and decorating.

Then in 1966, the Campbell’s Soup Company featured a recipe for a ‘rolled, stuffed meatloaf’ to promote their tomato soup (in place of traditional tomato sauce). The idea was that by rolling a vegetable into the meatloaf, you could save the work of creating a separate side dish. A new one dish meat and vegetable dinner …. and soup makes it great!

The fact that meatloaf takes on variations so easily shows how it dresses up just as well as it dresses down. This meal definitely does not lack in flavor.

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Mushroom Beef Roll
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, salt & thyme. Cover & simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add heavy cream & cheese. Allow to cool.
Beef
  1. In a bowl, combine beef with kalbi sauce; mix well.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. On a piece of plastic wrap, press out meat in a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat with green onions. Top with mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, roll from the short end in a jelly-roll style.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper, spread crushed french onions in a rectangle shape. Place meat roll on top & roll to cover it with the crushed french fried onions.
  4. Place parchment paper with meat roll on a baking sheet & bake for about 50 minutes.

Rice & Potato Balls

The art of stuffing shouldn’t be reserved just for holidays. Stuffed foods let you combine different textures and flavors in every bite. They offer a unique presentation with one food acting as the dish for serving the other ingredients.

Stuffed mushrooms or peppers are probably some of the most common along with a basic sandwich or burger. One of my favorites is clam chowder being served in a bread bowl.

Stuffed foods appear in almost every culture. The options of ‘food inside of food’ is virtually limitless. Any food that can be wrapped around other foods such as large leaves, pasta or pizza dough can also make amazing delicacies.

Basic rice isn’t quite so basic when its shaped and stuffed. These rice and potato balls are a meal all in one …. rice, potatoes, chicken & cheese.

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Rice & Potato Balls
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Shell Mixture
To Bake
Servings
Ingredients
Shell Mixture
To Bake
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Instructions
Shell Mixture
  1. In a food processor, place cooked potatoes & (cooked) rice; process for a few seconds then add salt & pepper to taste. Add parmesan & beaten egg; process a few more seconds. Do NOT over process or the mixture will turn into paste. This can also be done with a mixer if you wish. Set aside.
Chicken Filling
  1. To a large saucepan, add ground chicken & cook for 5 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Add onions & garlic; cook for 5-8 minutes or until onions are soft. Add spices & cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat, add the cilantro & set meat aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. Have a bowl of cold water nearby. Handling with moistened hands, take a small amount of potato/rice mixture & shape it into a round ball. Hold the ball in one hand & hollow it with the thumb of the other hand. Fill with some chicken filling & close opening. Lay filled balls on a large tray as they are made & flatten slightly.
  2. Place flour in a dish, beaten egg in another & the panko crumbs on a flat plate.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. & line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll each ball into the flour then dip into the egg & finally coat with panko bread crumbs. Place on baking tray, lightly spray with cooking oil & bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
  5. If you prefer, heat a combo of oil & butter in a skillet & pan fry balls instead. Alternately they could be deep fried as well.