Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sausage and Grits Casserole

If there is one meal I could eat all day every day, it's breakfast. I love everything about it. Well, I should clarify: savory breakfast. I don't like anything sweet first thing in the morning. The most I can handle is my coffee, which is hardly sweet at all. Anyway, whenever we have occasions to provide breakfast for gatherings, I usually volunteer to make something savory. This casserole is perfect for just such a need. It can be made ahead of time and baked before serving, and (especially if you keep cooked sausage in your freezer) it comes together in a snap! You can certainly cook the grits in only water, but in my experience every little layer of flavor helps when you're cooking.

This is also a fairly simple recipe that can be customized. Diced green and red peppers, chopped spinach, mushrooms - there are plenty of ways to add variety.

Sausage and Grits Casserole

1 cups grits
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground breakfast sausage
2 green onions, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, bring the milk, stock, butter and seasonings to a boil, whisk in grits and turn heat down to low. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the grits are thick. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook breakfast sausage in a skillet until browned through, breaking it up as it cooks. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper. Temper the eggs by whisking in about 1/4 cup of the grits, then pour the mixture into the grits and stir well. Add in the sausage, green onions and 1-1/2 cups of cheese. Pour that mixture into a greased 9 x 13 dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Store in the refrigerator until ready to bake, or bake immediately at 350° for 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

My kids could eat spaghetti every night of the week. Except that one kid who is starting to get tired of it. At any rate, I make a lot of marinara and I like to have different ways to use it rather than just the traditional pasta route. This recipe is a great alternative. It offers a big veggie punch along with the flavors that it seems like everyone loves! This is also my go-to casserole for giving to others because it can be adapted to fit dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, whatever. It freezes well so I sometimes give it unbaked. That way if the family has received a lot of food they can freeze it for another time.

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

1-1/2 cups brown rice, prepared according to package directions

1 zucchini, trimmed and shredded
1 carrot, trimmed and shredded
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 jar marinara sauce (about 1 quart)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, saute the turkey until brown, breaking it up as it cooks; season with salt and pepper. Remove to a separate dish. In the same skillet, saute the zucchini, carrot, onion and green pepper. Add the turkey back in, along with the rice, marinara, cheddar and eggs. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, seasonings and olive oil. Sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes, until heated through and bread crumbs begin to brown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thai Chicken Pasta

I have made variations of this recipe many times over the years. One such simplified variation I submitted to a magazine cooking contest and won 3rd place! My favorite version is one that comes together quickly on the stove top. I'm sharing that one here, including preparing the chicken. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you! If you keep cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer, or pick up a rotisserie chicken, it makes the recipe even easier! The flavor is really in the sauce, so if you need another shortcut but you're cooking the chicken, simply season it with salt and pepper. I've made it many times for my own lunch and left out the chicken altogether! The sauce also makes a terrific dip for egg rolls or wontons.

One of the wonderful things about Asian-inspired dishes is the layers of flavor they feature : sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and sour. This dish does a nice job of incorporating each of those elements.

Thai Chicken Pasta

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons canola oil 

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings; sprinkle over the chicken. Add the chicken to the hot skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove and keep warm.

For the sauce:
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock or even water)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but it's so good!)

Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet and saute for about a minute. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine. Allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes, until it thickens slightly. If it gets too thick, just splash in a little more stock or water.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook 8 ounces angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the sauce along with the reserved chicken. Mix well; heat through and serve topped with chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and/or chopped peanuts. Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rustic Apple Tart

Last weekend my daughter had plans to stay the night with a friend about an hour away. After looking at a map and realizing that we'd only be another hour away from Ellijay, the Apple Capital of Georgia, we knew what we had to do. In addition to eating some fantastic apple cider doughnuts, we picked up quite a few apples. Some for snacking, some for use in recipes. For this Rustic Apple Tart, I used Granny Smith. They stay slightly crisp and their tartness is a lovely foil for the sweet crumble topping.

Rustic Apple Tart
Pastry for a single-crust pie (the roll-out kind, not the one sold already in a pie plate) Here's my recipe!
3 medium-sized tart apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
pinch of salt

Roll out pastry dough into a circle. Place the apple slices in the middle - fan them out in a spiral pattern if you're feeling fancy - leaving about a two inch border all around. In a small bowl, mix together the streusel ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Fold pastry up over the edges of the apples, leaving the middle exposed. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes, until apples are tender. You may need to cover the tart lightly with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too much.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I think my family's obsession with bread is pretty well documented on this blog. The recipe I'm sharing today is one that is a great fall-back. I nearly always have these three simple ingredients and it's easy to mix up a batch to round out a meal. One of our family's friends named them "bisclettes" because they're like tiny versions of traditional buttermilk biscuits, and the name stuck.


1 cup sour cream
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups self-rising

In a mixing bowl, stir together the three ingredients. Spoon into mini-muffin tins. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes, until golden and just beginning to brown.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lemon Kale Salad with Spiced Salmon

While I was making my grocery list the other day, I typed "salad" into the Pinterest search bar. For a second there, I thought I broke it. I could almost hear the website go, "bzrrp" as it tried to calculate the billions of well-intentioned salad recipes pinned in the database. But then I was flooded with responses and I saved lots of great salads and ideas to develop new recipes. One recipe that inspired me was Simple Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. I don't eat nearly enough veggies and when I find one that I can tolerate, like kale, I tend to use it a lot.

I had plans for a friend to come to lunch and I decided I'd use her as a guinea pig for my new salad idea. I think it turned out beautifully! There are a few elements that come together to make this dish, but every one is definitely worth it. The good news is that the vinaigrette doubles as a dressing and a marinade, plus you can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.

(Salmon not shown.)

Lemon Kale Salad w/ Spiced Salmon

1 bunch kale
2 lemons, zest one and juice both
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper flakes.)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into bite-size lengths

8 ounce salmon fillet
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

To assemble: 

Blanch the asparagus pieces (boil in salted water 2-3 minutes, cool in ice water, drain) and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well and strip them from the stems. Dry well. Massage the leaves gently for a few minutes. This breaks down the cellulose, making the leaves more tender and less bitter. Chop the kale and place in a large bowl with the asparagus. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, mustard, salt and pepper. On your cutting board, smash the garlic clove, coarsely chop and sprinkle with salt. Using the flat of your knife, smush the garlic and salt into a paste. Add it to your dressing ingredients and whisk well. Pour about half of the dressing onto the kale and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator to chill. Whisk the cayenne pepper and paprika into the remaining dressing and pour over the salmon fillet. Bake at 325° for 18-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Toss in the walnuts and seasonings. Cook, continuing to toss frequently 3-5 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and toasted.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with the walnuts and goat cheese; top with the salmon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Italian Pasta Salad

Over the summer I set out to develop a pasta salad recipe that included some of my oldest daughter's and my favorite flavors. I wanted it to be cold, fairly light, and filling enough to be a meal on its own. I ended up serving this alongside a rotisserie chicken for the family. It was really convenient having the leftovers ready and waiting in the fridge over the next couple of days!

Italian Pasta Salad

8 ounces pasta (macaroni, penne or rotini would work well), cooked al dente and  set aside to cool
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed into bite-sized pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ricotta, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs and spinach. Fold in the cooled pasta, then the tomatoes and mozzarella. Allow to chill in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving.