Category Archives: Vegetables

Squash Casserole

Yellow squash is one of those vegetables I have loved since I was a kid. My mom would saute the squash with plenty of onions and bacon fat to make a simple side dish. I still like making yellow squash this way although I have cut down on the bacon fat and salt pork my mom used.

The other day I saw someone making a squash casserole on a cooking show which involved crackers, mayonnaise and sour cream. I liked the idea of a casserole but using such rich and high calorie ingredients was too much for me. Instead, I decided on ingredients that were a bit lower in fat content yet tasty and surprised even me.

The real surprised was my taste tester son who said “This is good mom”. I wasn’t sure he would like the squash since he was giving me the side eye while I was slicing it up. When he asked what was for dinner and I said Squash Casserole T did not have an excited look on his face. The only response was humph.

I am going to categorize this as a quick an easy dish. The hardest part of the recipe is waiting for the casserole to finish cooking in the oven. Before and after that piece of the process is easy peasy. With summer upon us and the bounty of squash at the local grocers and farmer’s markets, Squash Casserole is a repeat dish in our house!

Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

2 yellow squash sliced

2 zucchini squash sliced

2 eggs beaten

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

½ small red onion diced

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp grape seed oil or olive oil

1 tbsp Kosher salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tbsp dried oregano

½ tbsp dried basil

½ tsp onion powder

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter and grape seed oil in a large no-stick frying over medium heat. Add red onion and saute for approximately 1 minute. Add squash and season with salt, ground black pepper and onion powder. Stir and saute until squash slightly softens. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together eggs, oregano, basil and cheeses (reserve some cheese to sprinkle on top of casserole). Add squash and onions then stir until well mixed. Pour into a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the center is set and topping has turned light golden brown.

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Rice and Spinach Casserole

Some days are harder than others to come up with side dish ideas. Potatoes, pasta and rice in various forms usually come to mind but can become boring or routine.

The other day I was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover rice in the fridge because I had made too much. Chicken and rice soup was one idea but we were still eating the Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup I had made two days before. So, soup was out. Then I thought about making a casserole and maybe making it similar to my Macaroni and Cheese recipe. The idea morphed into a Rice and Spinach Casserole.

This recipe was so simple and quick to make because the rice was already cooked which meant it did not take long to pull the recipe together. I must say the Rice and Spinach Casserole did not come out exactly like my macaroni and cheese but it was doggone tasty. I think because rice and pasta have two different consistencies the rice did not come out as creamy as macaroni and cheese. Still the rice dish had a certain level of creaminess. It’s kind of hard to explain so I will just say you will have to try the recipe to see what I mean.

As always, I use my family as a guide to whether or not a recipe is blog worthy. Both my youngest son and hubby enjoyed my “new” side dish and happily had seconds of the Rice and Spinach Casserole. I will say a side dish tastes even better when the entire meal is good so that folks want to get just a little bit more of everything.

Rice and Spinach Casserole

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked rice (leftover rice works well)

1 ½ cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese

½ cup half and half milk

1 can 2% evaporated milk

2 tbsp butter

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a medium sized casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside ¼ cup cheddar cheese.

Place cooked rice into the casserole dish. Pour evaporated milk and half and half over the rice. Add spinach, cheese and butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well then top with remaining ¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is evaporated and a knife comes out clean when placed in the middle of the casserole.

Remove from oven and serve with your favorite dish.

Thai Curry Salmon Bowl

On the days I want to prepare a light simple meal I will usually turn to fish or specifically salmon. Salmon is my favorite fish and is very versatile and easy to make.

Today, I did not want to make Blackened Salmon Salad or Teriyaki Salmon. Instead, I wanted to test whether or not salmon would hold up in a Thai curry sauce. I have created curried fish recipes in the past but with slightly different flavors and seasonings. For my Thai Curry Salmon Bowl I used red Thai curry paste I found at the grocery store rather than adding curry powder to the dish. In my humble opinion, the red Thai curry paste had less of a bite than curry seasonings but still had intense flavor. An added bonus was that the house did not smell like curry the next day. I love curry but the seasoning when cooked lingers in the air for quite a while.

“Bowls” are very popular right now and I think eating from a bowl helps to limit portion sizes. Whatever you can fit into a bowl is all you need to eat unless you are starving or the meal is do delicious you just have to go for seconds.

My Thai Curry Salmon Bowl was ultra delicious per both hubby and me. If it had not been so filling on the first round, I would have gone for seconds. Yum!

Thai Curry Salmon Bowl

Ingredients:

1 – 2 salmon fillets cut into thick chunks

3-4 Shishito peppers diced

1 can lite coconut milk

1 can diced tomatoes

1 small jar red Thai Curry Paste

2 tbsp Kosher salt

2 tbsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp grape seed oil

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tbsp ginger paste or diced fresh ginger

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp chili lime seasoning (optional)

Place salmon chunks on wax paper and season with lemon juice, 1 tbsp Kosher salt and 1 tbsp ground black pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add grape seed oil. Let oil heat for about 1 minute then add Thai Curry Paste, ginger paste and garlic. Stir to blend and continue to stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, Shishito peppers and lemon zest. Stir to mix. Sprinkle mixture with remaining salt, pepper, onion powder and chili lime seasoning and stir to blend. Slowly pour in coconut milk while constantly stirring. Turn hit down to medium low. Place salmon in the sauce and spoon some sauce over the salmon. Cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until salmon is cooked all the way through. While simmering spoon sauce over salmon periodically. Serve over a bowl of rice.

Optional Additions:

Sea Scallops

Steamed Cabbage

Roasted Asparagus

Sauteed Mixed Peppers

 

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Chicken, Yellow Beets and Pasta

Yellow Beets. Until I decided to create a new chicken and pasta dish I had not seen nor had I tasted yellow beets. During one of my treks to Trader Joe’s I spotted the yellow beets after I saw another customer pick up a package in the vegetable aisle and it looked different from other vegetables. Of course, it could also have been the posted sign saying “New Try Me” that caught my eye.

To be specific, the package contained roasted yellow beets. Immediately, I started thinking about what kind of dish I could possibly make with roasted yellow beets. Since I planned to make chicken and pasta with the lemon chicken I had already thrown into the cart, I figured why not add the roasted yellow beets for more flavor and a pop of color. To add even more color I picked up a package of snap peas to liven up the dish.

I knew from the beginning it was going to be a little tricky to get my youngest son to eat beets. He professes not to like them but it could be because when I made beet salad and the dish turned pink. I thought the dish looked pretty but he thought it looked unappealing at least to his eyes. Even when I just served seasoned plain beets, T would scrunch up his face and gently remove them from his plate. Like I sometimes say, we often eat with our eyes.

Mixing up the yellow beets with the chicken and snap peas was distracting enough that T didn’t really mention the yellow looking thing in the dish. By the time I told him what it was he couldn’t make a face because he had eaten half the food on his plate. I guess blending in the yellow beets is like when my girlfriend added prunes to a cake and didn’t tell me until I had gobbled it up and said how moist and delicious it tasted. I don’t care for prunes but since the cake was good what can I say.

The next time you want to jazz up one of your chicken dishes try adding roasted yellow beets. It can be our little secret.

Chicken, Yellow Beets and Pasta

Ingredients:

1 box vermicelli pasta

1 pkg roasted yellow beets cut into ½ inch pieces

1 pkg fresh snap peas

1 pkg cooked lemon or grilled chicken

2 – 3 plum tomatoes cubed

2 scallions sliced

½ cup half and half milk

½ cup chicken broth

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp Adobo

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp olive oil

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried parsley

½ tsp dried cilantro

Prepare per package instructions and reserve ½ cup of pasta water. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet along with olive oil over medium high heat. Add snap peas, salt and black pepper then stir to mix. Saute for 1 – 2 minutes then remove from skillet and place in a small bowl and set aside.

Place skillet back on the stove. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the skillet and let it melt. Add flour to the skillet and stir until smooth. Pour in milk and broth then whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and remaining seasonings. Stir to combine. Add chicken, yellow beets, snap peas and scallions (reserve 1 tbsp of scallions). Gently stir to mix all ingredients. Add pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over pasta.

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Chicken and Cabbage Stew

One pot dishes are good for both hubby and me. Good for me because I don’t have to fuss with a lot of different pots, pans and utensils. It’s good for hubby because he usually washes dishes since I cook so less clean up for him.

When I think about it, that is how my mom and dad operated in the kitchen. My mom is an excellent chef and since she did most of the cooking my dad would wash the dishes. Like my hubby, my dad could fix breakfast but that was about it for him. I can’t complain about hubby’s lack of culinary skills because besides washing dishes hubby vacuums and will wash clothes if I don’t get to them first. My in-laws did a great job raising two sons that are productive and aren’t afraid to help around the house. God Bless my dad and in-laws. I miss them everyday.

Okay, back to my Chicken and Cabbage Stew. This is a relatively quick meal and as previously stated the beauty of it is using only one pot. The one constant in our house is chicken. Yes, I sometimes go on and on about eating so much chicken but you really cannot beat it for the price and the health benefits compared to red meats. Adding a few light vegetables to the pot just enhances the nutritional value and cuts down on calories as well as fat.

Aside from the flavors of the Chicken and Cabbage Stew I liked the colors of the dish. The bright red of the peppers. The pop of orange from the carrots and turmeric broth. Plus, the contrast of green between the cooked green peppers and sprinkle of green onions on top. Eating with your eyes is just as important as enjoying the mixed flavors of any dish.

Chicken and Cabbage Stew

Ingredients:

4 – 6 drumsticks or boneless chicken thighs

2 celery stalks diced

1 green onion diced

1 small green pepper diced

1 small red pepper diced

1 small Napa cabbage shredded

1 bag baby carrots

2 cups chicken stock or broth

3 tbsp grape seed oil or olive oil

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp seasoned salt

1 tbsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp turmeric

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

½ tsp dried parsley

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with 1 tbsp salt, seasoned salt and ground black pepper. Brown chicken then remove from dutch oven and place on a plate to cool slightly. Remove meat from drumsticks and chop or cube chicken thighs. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add onions (except for green onions), peppers and celery to the pot. Season with remaining salt, onion powder, cumin, dried parsley and red pepper flakes. Stir for 1 minute or until vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato paste and turmeric. Stir to blend with vegetables. Add chicken with juices along with chicken stock and carrots to the dutch oven. Let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes then add shredded Napa cabbage. Stir and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes until the cabbage is cooked and tender.

Serve over rice and sprinkle with green onion.

 

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Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

What can be an easier side dish than Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms? Not too many things. Depending on what you are using to stuff your mushrooms the process can be easy or a little complicated. The process I used for this recipe was extremely easy.

Stuffed mushrooms were one of the my favorite appetizers back in the days when it was safe to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a full course meal. In the days of Covid-19, my family and I are cautious about social distancing and staying as safe as possible. Although we miss dining out, we are definitely supporting our local restaurants by doing take out a couple of times each week. I enjoy cooking for the family but even I need a break now and then.

So, since I couldn’t have Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms at a restaurant I made my own version at home. Instead of sauteing baby spinach and chopping up onions along with other veggies, I used frozen creamed spinach to reduce my prep time. By adding a few seasonings along with some grated Parmesan cheese I created a quick filling. Viola! I made a lovely Spinach Stuffed Mushroom appetizer or side dish to compliment dinner.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

12 large mushrooms cleaned (chop stems and reserve)

1 pkg frozen creamed spinach

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ tsp Kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp garlic powder

Grape seed oil or olive oil

Pinch of cayenne powder or red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw creamed spinach in a medium sized bowl. Add salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, ½ of the bread crumbs and cheeses. Stir to mix well.

Rub mushrooms with a little grape seed oil them place in a rectangular baking sheet lined with foil or a casserole dish. Stuff each mushroom with the creamed spinach filling then top with remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle a little grape seed oil over the bread crumbs and sprinkle with paprika then place in oven. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and golden brown.

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Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Let me say from the start that even though this recipe is about pasta and sweet Italian sausage this is not necessarily an Italian recipe. It is more of a combination of Italian and Mexican flavors.

Whenever my youngest son asks what’s for dinner and I say pasta he breaks into his happy dance with sound effects. I have said this more than once in my blog… my family loves pasta. Maybe the next time I make pasta I’ll see if I can film the dance and share it on my blog.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to make the usual spaghetti meat sauce using sauce from a jar. Instead, I opted to make my own sauce using canned tomatoes, veggies and sweet Italian sausage. I also wanted to create a few different textures in the sauce so I added white beans which provided both texture and more flavor. Although everything was soft in the sauce, there were different levels of softness if that makes sense. The pasta was al dente. The beans were creamy. The veggies were smooth and the sausage had a nice soft chew. Fortunately, it all worked together and had me doing my own happy dance.

Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packages Sweet Italian Sausage links

1 can small white beans drained and rinsed

1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 small green pepper diced

1 small red pepper diced

2 cups water

2 tbsp grape seed oil

2 tbsp fresh hot salsa

½ tbsp ground oregano

½ tbsp dried basil

½ tbsp Adobo

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Heat grape seed oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add sausages in batches and brown on each side. Slice the browned sausages then set aside. Wipe out the dutch oven if the bottom is too brown. Lower the temperature to medium. Add a little more grape seed oil to the pot then add onions ad peppers along with the seasonings. Stir and cook for approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes, white beans and tomato paste to the pot and stir until well blended with the onions and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes then add the sausages to the pot. Stir and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes over medium low heat to allow the sauce to thicken.

While sauce is simmering cook pasta according to the package. Spoon sauce over a bowl of pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

 

 

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Quiche

During warmer weather I shy away from always fixing meals that require me to be around the stove for any length of time. One pot meals and meals that go into the oven are my favorite things to prepare when it is hot.

Quiche is one of those meals you can quickly prepare then stick it in the oven to do its thing while you do something else. Quiche is also versatile because you can use anything you want for the filling whether it is veggies, meat, cheese or a combination of all three. The only thing I haven’t tried in a quiche is pasta. But who knows, that might work too. I’ll let you know if I ever get bold enough to try it.

I have two quiche recipes you can try for my vegetarian friends and meat eaters like me. I encourage you to experiment with the ingredients to make this your own favorite recipe.

P.S. Crab quiche is wonderful too. I’ll write a recipe on that one too sometime soon.

Quiche

Basic Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:

6 extra large eggs

1 ready made pie crust (roll out to fit in pie pan)

½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup half and half

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

½ tsp mushroom seasoning (Trader Joe’s)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

¼ tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried thyme

2 dashes of hot sauce (optional)

cooking spray

paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pie crust in a pie pan sprayed with cooking spray. Gently tap the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to prevent puffing. Set aside.

Beat together eggs, seasonings and half and half until well blended. Fold cheeses into the egg mixture. Sprinkle with a little paprika. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Test to make sure the quiche is cooked thoroughly by placing a butter knife in the center after 30 minutes. Cook a few minutes more if not completely done. Let the quiche cool for about 5 to 10 minutes then serve with nice soup or salad.

Additional Ideas:

Mushroom Quiche:

Saute 1 package each of baby portobella mushrooms and white button mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil. Place on the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Bake according to basic the recipe.

Chicken and Broccoli Quiche:

Season one package of cooked diced white meat chicken with a little salt, onion powder and pepper.  Set aside.  Blanche 1 package of broccoli florets in salted water for about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and sprinkle broccoli with a little salt. Place chicken and broccoli in the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the filling. Bake according to the basic recipe.

 

 

 

 

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Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese

A steak, pork chop or chicken might be the star of the show on a plate but all stars need a co-star to be truly successful.

Thinking of new side dishes isn’t always easy. Sometimes it depends on what vegetables are in season or it may be as simple as what is in the refrigerator. On the day I decided to make Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese I just happened to have an eggplant calling my name and begging to be created into something delicious. I didn’t want to turn it into a casserole or a stew so I settled on baking the eggplant.

I like easy and this recipe is just that… easy. There is not a lot of fuss when all you need to do is slice the eggplant and mix together a cheesy topping. Since my sons are learning how to cook a little more I think I will pass this recipe on to them to impress the women in their lives.

Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan

Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant

½ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

salt

cracked black pepper

olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together Parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Slice eggplant into ½ inch rings. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Top each slice of eggplant with the cheese topping and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until eggplant is fully cooked and topping is brown and crispy.

 

 

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Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it is a quick process that brings out a lot flavor. Before I started my blog I never thought about roasting unless it was chicken. Instead, I would just saute vegetables in a pan. Believe it or not the two techniques of sauteing vs. roasting will affect the nutritional value and flavor depending on the vegetable.

I did a little research and found that both roasting and sauteing are healthy methods of preparing vegetables. Steaming is the best way to go and grilling is better than frying when trying to maintain nutrition. Both tomatoes and onions maintain their antioxidant capacity after baking but green peppers tend to lose antioxidant capacity when baked. No, that has not stopped me from baking peppers because I like the taste. It’s just good information to know when preparing them.

Mixed Pasta and Kielbasa was a last minute recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand for dinner. I keep a jar of dried mixed pasta which are the remnants of different boxes of pasta. Elbow, penne, bow tie – whatever! Pasta is pasta. All that really matters is what you add to the pasta. On the night I made Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa I had some baby spinach, tomatoes and a package of kielbasa I needed to cook.

The end result was pretty tasty and definitely a hit with my pasta eating crew. It is hard for me to mess up pasta when dealing with an audience that loves pasta in any shape or form. But, I know just how delicious my pasta dishes are when they go for seconds and this one certainly hit the mark. Seconds all around!

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

1 ring of smoked kielbasa sliced

1 small onion sliced thin

1 pkg baby leaf spinach

1 pkg vine ripe tomatoes quartered

½ green pepper seeded and sliced

1 cup mixed pastas (penne, twists, cavatappi, etc) cooked al dente per package

½ cup chicken broth

¼ shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Adobo

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes until slightly charred. Set aside.

Brown kielbasa in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken broth, roasted vegetables and remaining seasonings to the kielbasa. Stir to mix well. Toss in pasta and stir. Cook until pasta is heated up then sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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