Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Casserole

Do you ever find yourself looking at your stove and wonder …..what should I make for dinner tonight?  You want it to be quick and easy!!!  My first thought is a casserole that I can put everything in, bake and serve!  You can do that with just 5 basic ingredients:

Chicken, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese,  broccoli and pasta.

I used whole wheat bow tie pasta.  I first boiled the pasta.  While that is cooking I cut up chicken breasts in bite size pieces and brown in olive oil with fresh garlic, salt, pepper, parsley flakes and basil.  Mix your cooked pasta and chicken in a casserole dish.  In your same saute pan cook your cut up broccoli in olive oil until slightly tender.  Add that to your casserole dish.

Again using your same pan make your Alfredo sauce (see my sauces 101 blog) Flour and butter to make a roux.  Add milk, garlic powder and parmesan cheese. stir until slightly thickened.

Add your sauce to your chicken, pasta and broccoli along with some grated mozzarella cheese. Top with more parmesan cheese and bake at 350 deg. until cooked through.

There you go..one pan….one dish!!!

Smothered Fried Steak

More comfort food for a rainy day.  This is a simple dish using inexpensive cube steak.

Start off with frying some bacon pieces and set aside for later, dredge 4 cube steaks in flour that is seasoned with salt and pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Add about 1/2 cup of oil to your bacon drippings and fry until brown.  Take your steaks out and set aside.

Add 1 sliced onion in the same pan and saute.  Add about 2 Tbls of flour (use your seasoned flour you dredged your steak in) mix until incorporated.  Add 2 cups of beef broth, pepper and  1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce.

Put your fried steak back in your pan, cover and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

Top with your reserved bacon pieces and serve.

There are so many variations to this dish you can make.  Try adding stewed tomatoes instead of the flour and beef broth.  Add oregano and serve over pastas.  Add your favorite mexican spices and serve over rice.

Roasted Garlic vs. Raw

The only difference between roasted and raw garlic is the taste.  Both not only adds flavor to your food but also good for you health wise.

As you roast garlic the raw flavor we all know and smell becomes sweeter and milder.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Remove the outer paper to expose the skin and cut ¼ to ½ of an inch off the head to expose the cloves. Place the garlic onto the center of a piece of foil large enough to accommodate the garlic head.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the garlic. Make sure to cover all the cloves.  Fold the foil over the garlic to completely cover it.

Roast for about 35 minutes until soft and light brown.

If you want to store your roasted garlic. Place one part garlic to two parts olive oil in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Store in a plastic food container with an airtight lid. Your garlic oil is good kept in the refrigerator up to 1 month. This is perfect for garlic bread.

You can also freeze your garlic.  After roasting place cloves on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Make sure they are not touching.  Place in the freezer.  When frozen transfer the individual cloves in a freezer bag and seal.  Remove cloves as needed.

Roasted garlic can help lower high blood pressure and lower your cholesterol. It’s also has been known as a prevention of many cancers associated with the digestive system.  Since roasted garlic is easier to digest than raw it can help with heartburn and indigestion.  It can also help boast your immune system.  So next time you feel a cold coming on roast some garlic!

Stew Night

This meal is perfect for the meat and potato lover in your family. The longer it cooks the better it is!

Start off with about 2 lbs. of stew meat.  Pot roast is a must for this dish.  When cutting it up, leave on some of the fat…that’s where all the flavor is!

Brown your meat in olive oil with 1 cut up onion until brown.

Do not drain!!!  Add 2 cups of flour and stir until all the flour is incorporated.  Next add:

  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 2 celery stalks – diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbls of Worcestershire sauce
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and pepper

Let simmer for at least 2 hours or more stirring occasionally.

Add 3 peeled-diced carrots and 4 peeled-diced potatoes. You may need to add about a cup of water at this point.

Let simmer for 1 hour. (make sure you take out the bay leaves before serving)

If you want to make this in the crock pot follow the same directions but cook on low for 8 to 10 hours adding the carrots and potatoes the last hour.

You will go back for seconds!!!!    Don’t forget your yummy crusty bread for dipping!!!  Enjoy!

Chicken Parmesan

Feel like Italian tonight! Why not a simple Chicken Parmesan that may seem like it would take hours to make but really doesn’t.

First you need to set up your work station separated in 3 dishes:

  • Flour-salt-pepper
  • egg and water
  • Italian bread crumbs (ok to cheat here and buy the ready-made)

Pound your chicken out thin.  Dredge your chicken in the flour, egg and then bread crumbs.

Fry in hot oil until crispy and brown.  Place on a paper towel to soak up oil.

Lay the pieces of fried chicken in a casserole dish.  Pour your favorite tomato sauce on top and add grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with a side of noodles and garlic bread.  Enjoy!

Sauces 101

There are so many gravy’s and sauces you can make with just a simple roux.

The definition of a roux is a mixture of butter and flour, cooked until bubbly. (pronounced.. roo)

For 1 cup of sauce you whisk 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of flour. Salt and pepper.

After making your roux add 1 cup of liquid of your choice. Whisk until smooth and desired thickness. If you like a thicker sauce add a little more flour. A thinner sauce add a little more liquid.

Chicken gravy

Brown Gravy – add beef broth with a dash of worcestershire sauce.

Light Chicken Gravy – add chicken broth

Cheese sauce – add milk. When milk is heated thru add one cup of cheese of your choice

Alfredo Sauce – Add milk and use parmesan for your cheese and 2 tsps. of garlic powder.

Cheese Sauce

There are endless combinations you can do. Add some wine in your brown gravy, try different cheeses to your cheese sauce. Add a favorite spice.

Everything tastes better with gravy or cheese sauce!

Soups On!

There’s nothing better than a big hearty bowl of soup on a rainy day.  My Potato soup is so easy to make and is a great base for adding any of your favorite meats or vegetables.  Go thru your refrigerator and use up that left over ham, chicken or turkey. If you’re a clam lover, add a can of clams with the juice for a delicious clam chowder.  I used broccoli in mine but cauliflower would also be good.  Or leave them both out if you’re not a fan.  Be sure to toast a nice crusty bread for dipping.

In a big pot bring ingredients below to a boil and let simmer until vegetables and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally:

  • 4 cups chicken broth (1 32 oz box)
  • 4 med. potatoes – peeled and cubed
  • 2 green onions – diced
  • 1 celery – diced
  • 1 med. carrot – diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • 2 cups cut up fresh broccoli (optional)
  • 2 tsps vinegar (don’t be afraid of this, you won’t taste it and it keeps the potatoes from discoloring)
  • Salt-pepper and crushed pepper flakes

Whisk 2 1/2 cups of milk with 2 tbls. of flour.  Add to soup along with 2 cups of shredded cheese (I use mexican cheese blend) and 6 strips of cooked crumbled bacon. Stir until slightly thickened.

Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Baked Mac and Cheese Cassorole

Summer is over and it’s time to put the barbecue away and get out those casserole recipes.  I use to make mac and cheese as a side dish and then decided it would be easier to put everything in a casserole.  I add ground beef to mine and top with bacon.  If you have a pasta machine I recommend making your own noodles.  But if not,  I buy the large elbow macaroni, they tend to hold the cheese better than the small.

I’ve seen a number of mac and cheese recipes.  Most of them tell you to mix in eggs and several different types of cheeses.  I’ve tried them all and decided the simpler the better…one type of cheese and no eggs.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ small onion –  diced
  • 4 cups uncooked large elbow
    macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 ½ cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
    cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Saute onions in olive oil, add ground beef and brown (drain grease).
Salt and pepper to taste.

Boil macaroni.  Mix cooked macaroni with cooked meat mixture.

Cheese Sauce:

Melt butter and whisk in flour
and salt/pepper to make a roux.

Pour in milk and add paprika and
a pinch of fresh nutmeg,  whisk until heated though.

Add cheese, whisk until melted and creamy.

Pour cheese sauce into meat and
macaroni mixture and mix.  Reserve enough
cheese sauce for the top.

Transfer into greased casserole
dish and spread remaining cheese sauce on top.

Optional:  Add crumbled bacon on top before baking.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. (or until
bubbly and brown on top).

Serves 4 to 6 people

30 minute prep time.

Shortcuts are Allowed

You have unexpected guests and you need a quick dessert.  Make it your own with a little help from a cookie, brownie or cake mix.

Use a brownie mix and add mini chocolate chips to the batter (who doesn’t like more chocolate!) top with whipping cream and add some crumbled oreos, drizzle with chocolate or caramel sauce, add a sprig of mint.  Be creative to make it your own!

I made a box cupcake mix with a cream filling.  My 5 year old granddaughter even got in the act and told me to put a mini oreo inside for a double surprise.  I also put mini oreos in the middle of a store-bought chocolate chip cookie mix fora added chocolate crunch!

It doesn’t have to be with just desserts.  I dress up my salads with store-bought italian dressing by adding some mint and lemon juice for a fresh tangy taste!

We all need a little help now and then, but by adding your own special touches you can call it yours!