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Archive for the ‘casseroles’ Category

We love broccoli. It’s so good and delivers great taste and terrific nutrients to promote good health. You can tell just by looking at it! The best, freshest broccoli has such a deep green color, tinged with purple. It’s a visual as well as a culinary treat. Have I won any converts? 

Perhaps those who confess to hating broccoli were forced, as children, to eat broccoli, boiled to sulfury excess, the broccoli, not the children. It should be steamed or sauteed, or even eaten raw, as it is often served in a vegetable tray as an hors d’oeuvre. Some people prefer to blanch the broccoli for a minute and then to refresh it in ice water instead of serving it raw. 

Sauteed with garlic slivers it is delicious. Steamed and garnished with grated parmesan it is delightful. Served with cheese sauce it is dreamy and rich. Added to a stir-fry it is de-lovely. Let’s face it. It’s versatility makes it doggone essential in a well-stocked kitchen. Toss it in a salad. Make it into a soup, or a vegetable on the side use it for a vehicle for delivering creamy dips to the mouth! 

I’m going overboard here, I realize. So, without further ado, I offer an idea for a make-ahead vegetable casserole using broccoli or cauliflower, or both combined, as their tastes are much the same, cauliflower being a bit more delicate, perhaps. 

(To make it ahead, prepare it up to baking it in the oven, step 5. Cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to bake. Add 10-15 minutes to the baking time, or bring to room temperature before baking, uncovered.)

BROCCOLI GRATIN

1 large bunch of broccoli, 2 pounds or so

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 c. milk, whole if you can spare the fat and calories, lower fat if necessary

salt and pepper to taste

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, you can grate your own if you wish

1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, or gruyere, whatever you prefer)*

bread crumbs, optional

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees.

2. Break up the broccoli into large florets. Drop into a pot of boiling salted water and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until just beginning to be tender. Drain the broccoli and set aside.

3. Make a white sauce by melting the butter in a heavy saucepan, adding the flour when the butter starts to bubble. Stir the flour for a couple of minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and whisk in the milk. Keep whisking to prevent it from scorching on the bottom of the pan. When it is thickened and bubbly, remove it from the heat and add the seasonings and most of the cheese. Keep some back to sprinkle on the top later. 

4. Butter a gratin dish or other shallow ovenproof pan. Spread the broccoli in the pan and pour the cheese sauce over it. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. You may also strew bread crumbs on top of the sauce if you wish.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 or 25-30 at 375, or until the top of the casserole is browned. 

 

* I prefer to use gruyere and parmesan combined, although cheddar is my husband’s favorite.

 

 

 

 


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I had two little visitors staying with us for a few days while their parents were out of town. We played inside, outside, checked out the toys at Walmart, picked up Happy Meals at McDonald’s, and had picnic lunches. Not knowing what each afternoon and evening would bring, I decided to let the crockpot do all the hard work and threw together one of my old stand-by crockpot meals for one evening. 

I’m glad I did, for a couple of reasons. One is that the house had the best aroma floating around for several hours. Another is that all I had to do when we were ready to eat was fix some rice, a salad, or some fruit, and we were all set.

If you followed the link, you found basic directions for a recipe that is quite adaptable, a beef stew that will take up any ethnic flavor depending on which way you want to go. We had a Mexican-type beef stew with rice and beans on the side. 

I layered a diced carrot, celery, a half of an onion, also diced, and a small-ish red bell pepper and a poblano pepper (I think) both cut up as well. On top of this, I put about a pound and a half of beef cubes and two cans of Ortega enchilada sauce. I turned the crockpot on low and let this cook for about 8 hours. I hoped the wee ones would like it. I knew they like some Mexican food and I operated on the theory that a really hungry kiddo would  like it, or at least eat it. They did.

For the next night. I fixed a chicken “tettrazini” casserole which we ate late, after soccer and baths. I know the kiddos were hungry and they ate everything on their plates. I’ll have to share the recipe for the “tettrazini” with their mom. It was easy, and I put it together well in advance of cooking it, perfect for a busy family. Thus, we have a good new stand-by.

CHICKEN TETTRAZINI

1 can cream of mushroom soup*

1 can cream of chicken soup*

1 lb chicken breast, cooked, cubed (and cooled if you’re preparing it in advance)

8 oz. frozen green peas

3/4 to 1 lb. spaghetti

1/4 cup diced yellow onion, or more

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. Mozzarella-Parmesan combo shredded cheese (or any shredded cheese your family likes


*Can use two cans of mushroom or cream of chicken soup instead of one of each.


1. Cook and cube the chicken and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Add the peas, the onion, and the oil to the pot for the last 9-10 minutes. (All you organized cooks take note: If you have any leftover peas, just add them at the last minute.) Meanwhile, mix the canned soups together in a large mixing bowl.

3. Prepare a large oven proof dish, 9″ X 9″, 9″ X 13″, something relatively shallow, by spraying it with Pam or rubbing it with butter. I used a square 11″ X 11″ Corningware casserole.

4. Drain the pasta, peas and onion when done and mix with the soup. Add the chicken and about 1/4 of the cheese. Mix well and put into the casserole. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. [At this point, I covered the dish and put it in the refrigerator to cook later in the day. My chicken was already cool, and I let the pasta, peas and soup mixture cool for a while before I added the chicken to it.]

5. Bake 375 for about 15 to 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. [Because my dish had been refrigerated nearly all day, I had to cook it for considerable longer, about 45 minutes.]

 

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We always have a big breakfast on Christmas morning for lots of the family. Sometimes we have just our immediate family and sometimes we are happy to have my sister and her husband visiting from New York. That was our treat this year with both of them here. They are world travellers and sometimes are  unable to get to Ohio for Christmas.  

My mother started the tradition of cooking a great grits souffle back in the 1970’s and some years we fix that because it is so darn good and seems like a real treat because we hardly ever fix it any other time of the year.  We had it last year but this year we tried something different.

My knitting pal Vicki gave me the recipe for a delicious egg casserole a few years ago and I decided to serve it Christmas morning. It easy to prepare the night before and requires an hour in the oven before serving. You will find the recipe at the bottom of this posting.
To go with the egg casserole, I bought a spiral-sliced honey crusted ham. I took several slices from the bone, laid them in an 11 x 7 baking dish and covered it with foil to heat up for 20 minutes or so. We also had broiled grapefruit with a crunchy topping, tomato juice, and coffee cakes. It was a great way to start the day.
VICKI’S BREAKFAST PIE
Mix and set aside
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. corn flakes, crumbled
2 T. bacon fat
Beat
5 eggs till foamy
Add:
8 ounces of cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar or combo)
1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/3 c. milk
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 bag refrigerated shredded potatoes
Grease a pie pan. Pour in egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325. 
Sprinkle pie pan with reserved bacon, cereal crumbs.
Bake 50 minutes.
——————————–
I had eleven people for breakfast so I doubled the recipe and used a 9 X 13 pan. It was plenty and we even reheated it for breakfast the next day. Naturally, it was a little dry the second day, but we put some salsa on it and it was great.
 Thanks, Vicki.
     

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I made Chicken Divan last night for dinner. I had two chicken breasts halves to cook and plenty of broccoli plus the other items that I needed to throw together. It’s a tasty dish and full of that great vegetable, broccoli.

There are lots of recipes for Chicken Divan, from simple to complicated. The easiest one would be basically, cooked chicken cubes, a can of mushroom soup, frozen broccoli (cooked) and cheese, mixed and baked for 30 minutes. From there, you can get as complicated as you wish.

My recipe falls somewhere in between the two extremes. I can get everything assembled and ready to bake in under 30 minutes. With another 30 minutes in the oven, that qualifies as relatively quick meal. The time in the oven can be spent preparing a salad, another vegetable, or just relaxing with a nice glass of wine. Sounds like a plan to me.

CHICKEN DIVAN

SERVES 4

2 whole or 4 half chicken breasts, boneless for quicker preparation, bone-in for economy and free broth (you want at least 2 cups cooked cubed chicken)
1 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter
1/4 c. chopped onion, one small or half medium onion
1/2 t. salt or to taste
1/4 t. pepper
2 T. flour
1/2 c. chicken broth, either canned or fresh
2/3 c. milk
2 T. dry sherry (optional)
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 lb. broccoli, washed and chopped, or 1 box frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 c. grated cheese Parmesan, or cheddar, or any type, divided
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 t. dijon mustard
1-2 T. heavy cream, optional, if needed to thin the sauce

1. Cook the chicken until tender, remove from bones and cube into small bite-sized pieces; set aside. Preheat oven to 35o degrees. While the chicken is cooking, steam the fresh broccoli for 4-5 minutes, rinse with cold water and drain.

2. In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion and saute until tender but not browned. Add the flour and stir constantly to remove the raw flour taste. Stir in the chicken broth and milk. Stir often being careful to not let it burn on the bottom.

3. Add the sherry, if using, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Keep stirring until thick and bubbly. Add more milk or heavy cream if the sauce is too thick.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the mayonnaise and mustard. Add half of the cheese and stir to melt.

5. In an ovenproof casserole or gratin dish, layer the broccoli and chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the sauce.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.

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Ever since I was a little girl I have eaten a casserole known as “Johnny Marzetti”. If you are from the Midwest, you know what I mean. It is a casserole made with three main ingredients – ground beef, pasta, and tomatoes of some kind. From here it can go anywhere with each cook adding his or her favorite ingredients. When I was a child, my mother made it with ground beef, onions, noodles, and tomato soup. That was it – no herbs, no exotic vegetables, no mushrooms – and we loved it.

When I started cooking for my own family, I was always (and still am) looking for new recipes, new ways to make old favorites. I found a recipe somewhere for Johnny Marzetti that called for mushrooms mixed in with the beef and noodles and it was topped with cheddar cheese. That was the first time I strayed from my family’s “original” Johnny M. It wasn’t the last.

From there, I started experimenting, adding herbs, sausage, different vegetables with the onion. Some of the variations were great, others, not so great. I finally came up with a “go-to” Johnny M. recipe that is probably the one I make most often, although there are no specific amounts and every ingredient is just eyeballed. It is a great recipe for feeding a crowd as well as a good one for preparing ahead of time. If I have made spaghetti, I use the leftover sauce to make Johnny M. although most of the time I need to add more tomato sauce. If I have made a good spaghetti sauce with carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and green pepper, the only vegetable that I add would be a couple of big handsful of chopped fresh spinach, or about a cup of cooked, drained and squeezed frozen spinach. Sometimes if I am making creamed spinach, I will make extra and use that in the Marzetti.

For the pasta, I use penne, or rigatoni, or even macaroni, if that’s all I have on hand. I cook that, mix the drained pasta with the sauce ingredients and mix in a little cheese, cheddar to make it authentic, or mozzarella and parmesan if that’s what I’m in the mood for. More cheese goes on top, then it’s into the oven for a half hour at 350, covered, and uncovered for 5-10 minutes to brown the cheese.

A quick Google search gave me the following info from Wikipedia about the origins of Johnny Marzetti. I had forgotten the Marzetti restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, whose owner conceived the Johnny Marzetti idea and named it after her little brother. Marzetti’s is also known for it’s salad dressings which are available in groceries. I never knew the casserole migrated to Panama where it became a great hit among the American emigres living there during the canal management era. There are several recipes available online for the Panamanian versions. One calls for “arturo sauce” of which I was ignorant. Another google search gave me a recipe* for it and it is available online for purchase in jars or cans.

“Johnny Marzetti is a baked pasta dish, or casserole, consisting of noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, and cheese. Other ingredients and seasonings may be added to adjust the taste. The dish originated in Columbus, Ohio at the Marzetti restaurant, and spread to other parts of the United States as variations of the recipe were published in magazines and cookbooks during the mid-20th century. The dish is still served in Ohio, especially at social gatherings and in school lunchrooms.

Johnny Marzetti also gained a great deal of popularity in the Panama Canal Zone, where it was served at social occasions and on holidays since at least the early WWII era. The Canal Zone version of the dish typically includes celery and green olives, and is almost always spelled “Johnny Mazetti” by Zonians. The importance of Johnny Mazetti to the culture of the Canal Zone was such that most Zonians are unaware of the origin of the dish and are surprised to learn that it did not originate there.”

Here is a recipe from Wikipedia for the Panamanian Johnny Mazetti (no “r”). I am definitely going to try this. Note the suggestion on which wine to use on which day.

JOHNNY MAZETTI

1 lb ground beef
1 green pepper, cut fine
1 onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 large can mushrooms
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper
2 cans tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
Dash of hot sauce
1 tsp chopped capers
1 can Arturo sauce (recipe below*)
1 bottle chopped stuffed olives
1 pkgs. boiled noodles
1/2 lb grated american cheese
1/4 lb grated swiss cheese
1/4 lb grated mozarella
3 strips bacon fried and crumbled fine
1/4 cup red or white wine (use white wine on odd days red on even)

Cook ground beef; add remaining ingredients except cheese. Simmer slowly until green pepper, onion, celery are tender. Place all ingredients with 1/2 of cheese in casserole or baking dish; sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and crumbled bacon. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour. Yields 6 – 8 servings. (Johnny Mazetti is better when cooked and then frozen and then reheated so always put some away for rainy day).

*Arturo Sauce
Source: Unknown
Yield: approximately 1 cup
1/4 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cups water
1/4 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cups soy sauce
1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large clove garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of ginger, nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together.

Compare that with this one from The Chicago Sun-Times.August 19, 1998

Johnny Marzetti
Makes 10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage
1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (7-ounce) can mushrooms, drained
1/2 pound macaroni, cooked and drained
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add celery, onion and green peppers, saute until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Remove vegetables from pan. Cook beef and sausage in pan until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring and breaking them up with the back of a spoon. Pour off fat and discard.

Return vegetables to pan. Pour soup, tomato paste, tomato sauce and 1 cup of water over meat-mixture. Add salt, pepper and simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Add mushrooms and macaroni, mix well. Spoon mixture into a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Cover with cheese. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

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