Category Archives: Lunch

Cajun Chicken and Sausage Pasta

Photo by M. Sandoval

One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Sausage Alfredo Pasta. That’s a mouthful!

This recipe was at the end of a blog post that I neither had the time nor patience to read. The photos are beautiful and show most, if not all, of the ingredients. I love that. What happens with me is: I already have chicken going in the slow-cooker where I know it will be cooked to perfection. My dilemma is getting a recipe together in time for dinner. Why don’t I plan better? I can’t. Literally. Chicken in the pot is a good sign! So, I skim over the recipe and check to see if I need anything from the store. Here, I only needed the sausage and more cream. This would be easy–fresh parsley in the backyard, bulk garlic from Costco, as well as pasta, spices, and my favorite chicken “stock” Better Than Bouillon are all always on hand.

Sometimes I’ll grab the few ingredients I need for several recipes, but I really do need to get out of the house everyday. Today, was a quick-stop day.

A package of quality Andouille sausage, slice the links on a bias, brown in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic, stock, and then cream. Here is where not reading all the directions ahead of time (or at least, thoroughly, became a problem…or a bump in the process). I had a pot of water going in which I planned on cooking the pasta. Looking at the pan with the sausages and stock, I realized I missed something because the cream was not going to fit. I could blame the stock; Better Than Bouillon is added to water to make as much as you need and maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the quantity of liquid I would be using. I could also blame pan use. Stock pots were not made for browning meat, but this recipe clearly states in the name that it’s a “one-pot” dish.

Anyway, I caught it at the right time (really, this is just not a one-pot dish–the chefs will tell you!); after adding the stock to the pan with the sausages which “deglazes” the pan getting all the “yummy bits”, as my chef friend calls it, off the bottom of the pan from browning the meat, and before adding the cream which potentially could stick to the pan. Everybody into the stock pot. Continuing from there, it worked out perfectly.

Cajun Spice:

1½ T sea salt

1½ T cayenne

1½ T paprika

1½ T garlic powder

1½ T fresh ground black pepper

T dried chopped onion

T dried oregano

Optional: T dried thyme

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I had cooked the chicken separately and so chopped it and added it with the cream, pasta, and parmesan cheese (where the author used fresh grated parmesan which I didn’t know until looking up the website to cite–I used what I have unless I know it will compromise the integrity of the recipe).

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What’s left of our backyard parsley after last month’s heat wave. Sprinkled on top!

Amazing flavor, just the right amount of heat (which is variable)! This one’s a keeper!

http://www.number-2-pencil.com/2015/10/15/one-pot-cajun-chicken-and-sausage-alfredo/

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Homemade Pizza

Dough made in the bread machine with Italian herbs? Can you imagine the aroma that fills the house? For the toppings, we started with sweet Italian sausage pinched out of the casings and browned in a skillet with a little olive oil.

The dough from the bread machine looks speckled with the Italian herbs. Mike spun it out like back in his Pizza Hut days and stretched it out to the edges of the pizza pan.

Add your favorite toppings. There’s really no right or wrong here; just try and stick with a theme if you want to make sure the flavors will go together or try to replicate an old favorite. For example, cheeseburger–what do you like on your cheeseburger? Put it on the dough! *Meats, unless precooked, need browned beforehand. You’re really just cooking the dough in the oven. Anything else as toppings need to be safe eaten uncooked or without further cooking. Don’t forget your sauce: red, white, pesto, olive oil would work, too!

We topped it with marinara sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and of course, mozzarella cheese!

In the oven at 375°F for 20 minutes-ish. You really have to check on it after ten minutes depending on what you packed on it and how thick your crust is. Watch the crust for a golden brown, and the cheese in the center should be melted. Voilà! You’re a cook!

Taco Ring

A friend of mine who is also a chef, sent me a similar recipe she had done at home for her kids. Naturally, I have to attempt to recreate it. She challenges me that way. The good thing about that is…she never holds back on the kuddos!

She went to culinary school while I was studying Dietetics and the intricacies of food science and human nutrition, so in working out substitutions and proportions, I get validation from her in what I’ve created thanks to that background (along with my 30+ years of cooking/experimenting). I actually have two best friends who are chefs, but I digress.


The Taco seasoning, of course, I make at home saving from added preservatives or inexplicable additives you can’t pronounce incorporated during processing. I love these little Ball jars with shaker tops! They’re great for the extra spice mix or making bulk for multiple recipes!

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Taco Seasoning:

2 T (tablespoons) chili powder

T ground cumin

½ t (teaspoons) garlic powder

½ t onion powder

½ t dried oregano

t paprika

2 t each sea salt and ground black pepper

Optional– ½ t crushed red pepper

 

Brown 1-1/4 lb ground turkey, drain fat. Sprinkle 3 to 5 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you like your Mexican food, over turkey meat. Allow to warm and release the oils (smells) of the spices. Remove from heat. Allow to cool so it doesn’t cook the pastry while you’re filling it.

Separate two tubes of refrigerator croissants. Overlap triangles into a ring. You may have to adjust it, but it will be okay as long as the dough stays cold. Stir cheese into meat and spoon onto overlapping sections of the croissant dough.

Gently wrap opposite end of dough over the meat and tuck the point under the inside of the ring. Cook according to croissant baking instructions.

Taco Ring ingredients:

2 tubes refrigerator croissants

1-1/4 lb ground turkey

3 to 5 T taco seasoning or one packet

2 cups of Mexican or Fiesta blend cheese, cheddar also works well

Sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes, salsa, and cilantro to garnish

Classic Fried Rice

Childhood favorite, versatile, personalize-able, simple, quick, filling, tasty…so many words to describe this dish. It’s quick if you have rice ready or a rice cooker. I like to think of fried rice as the Asian equivalent to lasagna; it’s everything you have thrown together, or at least, that’s how I figure lasagna was first made! For lasagna, you need pasta and cheese; everything else is by selection. For fried rice, you need rice and egg. You can virtually put whatever else in it you choose. My mom had several versions of fried rice: hamburger fried rice, SPAM fried rice (like you see here), spicy fried rice…

SPAM is easily a kid-favorite food because it’s salty. It balances well with these light-flavored vegetables, peas and carrots. I like to use frozen vegetables for this because they cook quickly, are inexpensive but have similar nutritional integrity as fresh vegetables, and they’re ready to cook (no chopping, cleaning, etc).

I’m basically defrosting them in about 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock in a pan on medium-high while I chop the SPAM.

Probably shouldn’t have the kids chop this up…they like to sneak tastes!

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I’ve added the SPAM to the veggies to warm it up. I just think it tastes better this way. Once that’s done, add three scrambled eggs, salt and pepper. I’ve opened up a space in the center of the mix to cook the egg as you will see any Asian cooking fried rice will do. Drop some olive oil in there before the eggs. You could cook the eggs first and set them aside; this will also save from dirtying another pan.

Rice is done. Add it when everything else is done cooking. Don’t forget your sauce! Soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin…whatever you like. You really have to experiment. Most Asians don’t use recipes.

French Dip Sandwich

I had high expectations for this recipe having tried the French Dip sandwich from the Shady Lady in Sacramento. They have a mushroom au jus (hope I’m not giving away secrets!) and the sandwich itself has a touch of wasabi which is perfectly complementary to the au jus, not to mention the meat is tender, juicy, and divine!

So I admit, you really have to start with a great piece of meat which I unfortunately did not. I like to “use what I have” and this was the closest cut of meat available. Slow-cooking it is essential, but here, it wasn’t enough. The meat was still tough and chewy even though the flavor was good.

If I had a deli slicer, I would have shaved this meat before letting it sit in the pot.

The marbling is okay, but it needed more time in the heat.

It looked like it had potential, and I’m sure it did…just not enough for my patience or time.

http://carlsbadcravings.com/best-slow-cooker-french-dip-sandwiches/

Mee Hoon

You may know this dish as pancit. Depends on what kind of restaurant you visit or where you’re from. It’s difficult memorizing the names of all the foreign dishes you like unless you eat out a lot…or you cook them yourself. I honestly didn’t even know the name of this dish until I was an adult trying to duplicate something my mom had cooked on occasion while I was growing up. I had to ask her, describing it as best I could not knowing the name of mushrooms she used but only how they crunched in my mouth; the noodles by how she prepped them before cooking.

It doesn’t have the exact same flavor as my mom’s cooking it myself, but I’m able to leave out the ingredients I didn’t like, especially onions, and replace them with shallots while choosing other vegetables I like.

This time I used Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and shallots…

Also, rice noodles and frozen shrimp whereas traditionally, you use dried shrimp.

Having a variety of colors adds to the culinary experience.

Here’s some of the prep: soaking the noodles, chopping the shallots, washing/drying the cabbage. Similarly to https://cookingupuneecrivaine.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/classic-fried-rice/ , you make sure everything that needs to be cooked is cooked and then combine everything, including sauce, to heat through. Very simple.

 

Ground Turkey Eggplant Lasagna

Mixing favorite veggies in an attempt to make a one-pot dinner resulting in our new favorite lasagna; although, I have to wonder if the new marinara sauce is to blame.

Ground Turkey and Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

8 0z Lasagna (half a box) noodles

One eggplant, 3/4 skin removed (potato peeler works nicely) and cubed

8 oz sliced mushrooms

Handful (about 4 oz) of spinach, roughly chopped

One jar (40 oz) of Victoria White Linen Marinara Sauce

One shallot, chopped

4 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

8 oz cottage cheese

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

Leftover chopped tomatoes (about 7 oz canned)

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Cooking spray

Layer in Crock-Pot on High for 3 ½ hours. 

I began with browning the ground turkey in olive oil on medium-high heat with salt and pepper 1/4-½ teaspoon of each. After draining the excess fat, add chopped shallots to the pan, stir in. Add eggplant, salt and pepper (1/4-½ teaspoon). Sauté until the eggplant is translucent. 

Coat inside of Crock-Pot with cooking spray. Add ingredients from pan to pot.

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Oops, forgot to sauté the mushrooms! Into the pan they go with a little olive oil and salt and pepper until translucent!

 

I almost forgot garlic, too! Right on top of the cooked mix worked out perfectly. (photo below)

 

Minced garlic, then chopped tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and marinara sauce. Generally when you do lasagna, you layer it three times, but I was running out of time. I needed to get the cooking time going on the Crock-Pot for this meal to be ready for dinner. I did two layers with the mushrooms and tomatoes only in the bottom layer and spinach only in the top layer.

The first layer is always sauce, so since I had half of the meat and veggies already in the pot, I added the tomatoes and half of the sauce over it. Then all of the mushrooms, a layer of pasta, 4 oz cottage cheese, 2 c mozzarella, ½ c Parmesan. Repeat meat mixture, sauce, add spinach, continue with remaining cheese. Cover and cook.

 The result? It was that melt-in-your-mouth goodness that you get from fresh, savory ingredients. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it was like comfort food…and fusion…delicious!

 

 

 

Mahi Mahi with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Spinach

In an effort to change things up a little, I made mahi instead of chicken; instead of rice, I made quinoa. I thought I’d try to cheat with quinoa, and cook it on the rice cooker. It worked! So easy, so delicious!

Three frozen fillets into the pot with salt and pepper (half a teaspoon or so of each). Fresh mushrooms on top.

Add some olive oil and red pepper flakes (about a teaspoon per fillet).

I waited until the last hour to add the spinach. It wilts quickly and will continue to wilt from the steam and heat if you don’t plate it once the dish is done.

Oh yes! Perfectly cooked mahi every time! Do you see how the fish flakes (I used a fork to break a piece in half)?

Beautiful, too!

Quinoa in the rice cooker? It came out perfectly! It may not have much flavor unless you use some kind of stock. I always have Better Than Bouillon in my fridge, so in it went. Two parts liquid per part quinoa. For rice, I always make three cups dry to four cups water (I’ve been doing that since I was 10 years old, so…).

I was surprised with how flavorful this meal was with so little seasoning.

Cincinnati Chili

Did somebody say chocolate?! Until I saw this recipe, I had only heard of chocolate added to mole in a savory dish. This was surprisingly fantastic! I’m not sure if it was the cocoa or if it was the right balance of spices, but this may be may favorite chili yet.

Begin, of course, with sautéing the shallots and browning the and ground turkey.

Add the spices and seasoning, tomatoes…

Toss in the cooked ground turkey and shallots.

Mmm…can’t wait!

All those spices and seasoning, yes!

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Recipes binder, p.120