Sausage-stuffed Mushrooms

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe that actually features antelope.  We eat antelope a ton here, but a lot of the meals are sort of boring–the throw-stuff-in-a-pan-and-see-what-happens type meal.  But this.  THIS.  This recipe is great.

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And now I present to you: sausage-stuffed mushrooms.  Let’s get started. 

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Take out a package of antelope (of venison, or whatever) sausage and let it thaw. 

Brown that baby up!

While your sausage is browning, prep your mushrooms and your spinach.  First, rinse your mushrooms and then pull the stems out.  To do this, take the ‘shroom in the palm of your hand and tilt the stem gently with your other hand.  Then, pull straight up.  set the mushrooms in a pan.

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Finely chop 4-8 stems (to taste) and set them aside.  Then rinse spinach and finely chop until you have about two cups. 

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In a small saucepan, melt 2.5 T butter and add the mushrooms.  Then, add the spinach and cook it up a little.  Let the liquid kind of soak out of the spinach and cook a little more, stirring frequently.  Add 1/2# sausage. 

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Now, this mixture is much too thin to put into mushrooms, so we’ll need to thicken it up a bit.  Add 2.5 T italian breadcrumbs and stir well. 

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Mmmmmmmmm.  Spoon the mixture into the mushrooms.  Top some with mozz with you want. 

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Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven at 375 for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes. 

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Dear.  Barbara. 

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Is there a better way to end this post?

Love.

Shrinky-Dink Supper

I’ve gone to the Taste of Home Cooking Schools a couple of times in my life.  In between teaching the audience how to make four dozen kinds of Chex mix in the microwave (which is a sin), sometimes the chefs disperse a little chicken nugget of wisdom.  One such nugget was a charismatic young chef who told us all this: “a lot of people don’t know how to use shrink.  If you can figure out how to use shrink, you can do anything.”

What is shrink?

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See the wrinkles on the green pepper there? That’s shrink. Shrink is basically produce that is almost bad (or parts that are bad) but is still safe and edible.  There’s nothing wrong with it except it looks unappealing and not too pleasant to eat. 

Guess what? Wrinkly produce doesn’t taste any better or worse than regular produce, and it’s a lot cheaper.  Did you know at some grocery stores you can buy ugly produce at a steep discount? It’s a great money-saving option.  

Today, I made shrink chicken fajitas and they were pretty much to die for.  I couldn’t even tell which pieces of my peppers were a bit shrinky and which were fine.

First, cut up four chicken breasts into nice thin strips and put them in a gallon Ziploc bag.  Then, clean the snot out of everything the chicken touched, might have touched, or could have touched by proxy (put on your paranoid cap and think Outbreak or Contagion when cleaning your chicken-prep area).  Add to the bag:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 t. cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 t. crushed red pepper (or 1/4-1/2 t. ground red pepper)
  • Add in 1/4 t. celery salt just for kicks. 

Let the chicken marinate for an hour or a half day, depending on how much time you have. 

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Then, get out the grill basket. 

Put the chicken in the basket on a medium heat grill.

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There are two schools of thought on grilling: you can either obsessively flip, turn, or stir everything you grill, or you can just let it sit and turn your food once or twice.  I’m of the latter school.  Do what you want, but I am telling you: leave your grill alone.  Unless there are flames shooting out of your grill, or it’s been 10 minutes, just. let. it. be. 

So, since you are doing what you want with your grill (but leaving it alone), you have some time to cut up your peppers and onion.  You’ll need two peppers and half an onion for this recipe.  Cut the peppers into this strips and then cut up your onion.

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Since these veggies cook at a slightly different rate, wait until the chicken is *almost* done to your liking, transfer the onion slices to a bowl, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and put some black pepper over them, then add to the chicken.  About five minutes later, stir the chicken/onion mix and add the peppers.  

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Sometimes you can tell your food is going to be delicious before it’s even done.  This is one of those meals.  Stir the peppers once or twice on the grill until they are done to your liking.  

Serve on a tortilla with salsa and cheese (of course).

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Hello, beautiful.

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See? Use your shrink and do anything!  

Leftover Dinner!

Wow it’s been a long time.  WOW.

I feel like I start a lot of posts with that opening sentence lately.  Ahh well, sometimes life happens–you know, finishing up a masters degree, joining roller derby, not cooking–you know how it goes.  But I’m back with a really fast, really awesome recipe.  Leftover dinners are easy and delightful, and this one is no exception.  Plus, it’s so fast, there aren’t even “before” photos.

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Oh heck yeah.

Awesome, right?

The way these came about are all because my ol’ pa was in town this weekend for my graduation and he decided he was going to wow all the attendees at a graduation party with this cowboy caviar recipe.  It was totally delicious, but there was also enough food to feed about 75 people.  There were leftovers.  Enter one of my favorite dishes, stuffed peppers.  They’re versatile, quick, and easy.  Here’s what you’ll need for this rendition:

Appx. 1 cup of each:

Cowboy caviar

Cooked rice

Shredded chicken

1/4 c. salsa

mozzarella cheese, for topping

4 bell peppers

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the first four ingredients together well and stuff the peppers.  Bake for 30 minutes, top with cheese, bake for another 5-10.

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Here’s a good rule: if explaining the recipe takes two sentences, it’s easy and you should make it right meow.  Plus it’s not too often an easy recipe comes out of the oven this pretty.

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If you’re in a real hurry, you can boil the peppers and fill them with hot filling–then making peppers takes about 15 minutes.

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Om nom nom.  Enjoy!

Here are some other stuffed pepper combos I LOVE (all of these are topped with cheese):

rice, chicken, cream of mushroom soup, rosemary

scrambled eggs, sausage

rice, salsa, sausage

I typically plan on appx. 1 cup filling/pepper, unless they’re really dinky.  Be creative! Anyone have favorite renditions out there?
 

Banana Split Petits Fours

You know when you have an idea in your head, and it’s pretty much going to be the greatest thing ever, and then  you do it, and then…your idea comes out ugly (or at least, definitely not how you envisioned it)?

Well, these banana split petits fours are the pretty much the embodiment of the above scenario.  But they are damn good.  

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I suppose they’re not the worst thing in the world, but when I thought this idea up in my head, here is what I envisioned: three dense, gorgeous layers of cake with a delightful medley of traditional banana split toppings in between, topped with a fancy dollop of whipping cream and garnished with a crispy, glazed banana chip.  That’s what I thought I was going to get.  Instead, I got…these.  They’re homely.  They look *slightly* unappetizing.  But trust me, this is a recipe worth making AND I can tell you how not to make your version ugly! Or as ugly.  I hope.

Here’s what you will need:

  • 1 qt of crushed pineapple
  • 1/2# fresh strawberries, diced OR  about 1/2 c. strawberry jam
  • 1 small pkg. chocolate fudge pudding prepared with 1 3/4 c. milk (to make it extra thick)
  • 4 T. cornstarch
  • 1 recipe for a white cake (if you want thin layers like mine) OR double the recipe for a thicker cake layer
  • Reddi-Whip or whipping cream or whatever floats your boat
  • Banana chips for garnish

Seriously simple, right? First, place the strawberries in a bowl with 2 T. sugar and let it sit for awhile, like you would with rhubarb.  Leave it on the counter for about 15 minutes or until you get a nice sugary syrup in the bottom of your bowl. 

Next, put the crushed pineapple in a medium saucepan.  Put the strawberries in a separate saucepan and add 1/2 c. water.  Turn both to medium heat.  While the fruit mixtures are heating, take a potato masher and mash up both fruits a little more.  You’re really going for a jam-like consistency here.  Image

Once the mixtures are warmed up a bit (but not boiling), take out 2 T. of liquid from each pot and pour into a separate bowl.  Whisk 2 T. cornstarch into each bowl and mix well.  When you think you’re done mixing, mix a little bit more.  Then, pour the cornstarch mixture back into its respective pot and stir frequently.  At first, your fruit mixes will look creamy and gross.  Once the cornstarch has fully incorporated though, your mixture will be clear and gooey.  At this juncture, it is perfectly acceptable to throw a boatload of food coloring into each mixture (vibrant colors were also a part of my vision).  

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As the mixture cools, it will gel up even more, and you want a really thick filling, so don’t worry.  There’s no such thing as too thick for this recipe.  While the fillings cool, start baking your cakes.  The recipe I used was for a butter cake, which I think is like a normal cake.  Use a box mix, I don’t care.  We just didn’t have any in the house.  After the taste test, the hub-dubs suggested using angel food cake.  I think pound cake would be really good with this and give it that thick, dense look I was going for.  I The only thing I would be really adamant about would be white cake, not yellow.  You may want to throw an extra splash of vanilla into your batter to make it seem more like vanilla ice cream.  Bake in an 8×8 square pan according to recipe directions. 

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Let your cakes cool completely.  If you use one recipe (or box), carefully cut the layers in half (like, separate the top half and the bottom half).  If you decide to use double the cake, you can start right in on the layering.  First, lay the first later on a baking sheet or clean surface or whatever.  Then, top with the strawberry mixture (also completely cooled):

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See those crumbs on top? I did not “carefully cut.” I sort of haphazardly cut.  See where it got me?

Anyway, put another layer of cake over the strawberries.  I think the strawberry layer was almost too think, or I did not adequately dice/cut the strawberries enough.  If you spread your filling and only have a little bit leftover, save it for something else (like your reward for all your hard work)–this is best underfilled than overfilled.  

Next, layer the chocolate pudding over the second layer of the cake.  With this and all other fillings, leave a little room on the edges of the cake–as the fillings and layers get piled on, the filling will spread to those areas.  

 Put another layer of cake, then top with pineapple.

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Finally, top with the last layer of cake.  Put the ‘finished side’ of the cake up–when you pulled it out of the oven, this will be the side you saw.  Make sense? Hope so. 

Cut off the sides, where the edges are uneven and the filling didn’t quite make it to.  Then, with a sharp knife and wiping clean in between every one or two cuts, cut into 12-16 pieces.  I struggled with come of my pieces wanting to fall over, but it was all ok in the end. 

Transfer to a serving platter, throw a gob of whipped cream on top and very artistically, place a banana chip on top. 

Trust me, this process sounds a lot more complicated than it really it.  Besides, even if it wasn’t, these would be worth it, right?

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Who doesn’t love a beer with their banana split?

If the idea of petits fours freaks you out, here are some alternatives that will make your dessert pretty and still delicious:

  • Use two cake recipes (or boxes).  I really think this would solve a lot of problems.  Partially freezing the cake and covering it with filling, then partially freezing that (and so on) may help too.
  • Once you cut your cake layers, wash one of the pans and fit your layers back into the pan, alternating with the filling.  Top the while thing with whipped cream and banana chips.  No one will ever see the uglies and they’ll be really excited when they find out it’s not just a banana cake. 
  • Bust out your trifle bowl and make a trifle.  If you’ve never made a trifle before, they’re wicked easy: tear up the cake into chunks, layer one filling, then whipped cream, then cake, then filling, then whipped cream…you get it.  Top with whipped cream and banana chips.  Heck, throw some chopped peanuts on there too.  Go crazy. 

You could, of course, simply ignore the homeliness and focus on the taste.  It rocks. 

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Community Post: Great, Easy Recipes!

Do you ever get tired of hearing yourself speak? Granted, some people never do (and we all know these people), but sometimes it’s nice to shut up for a bit and let other people share their knowledge. 

A couple weeks ago, I put our a challenge to my friends on social media: send me a recipe and two photos–one of the ingredients and one of the finished product–of your best one-pot or easy meal. 

My friends are awesome.  Many rose to the challenge and now I have some GREAT food to share with you!

Recipe 1: “I forgot to add the Basil” Chicken Casserole (AKA Tuscan Chicken Tortellini Casserole)

Ok, so she didn’t forget to add the basil, she forgot to tell me she added basil.  Until, you know, she remembered.   

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You’ll need:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pkg. spinach & cheese tortellinis
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4-1/2 c. flour
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning to taste: poultry seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt, and basil
  • 1/4 c. garlic herb butter, melted
  • Spaghetti sauce, for dipping

In a bowl (or ziplock bag), combine olive oil and seasonings.  Add the chicken and let it marinate for a few hours in the fridge.  Then, preheat your oven to 350. Coat the chicken with a tiny bit of flour (1/4 c. should do the trick) and put in a pan on medium heat.  Cook until just done.  Meanwhile, prepare the tortellinis according to package directions.

Spray the bottom of a 2-qt. casserole dish with cooking spray.  Layer the tortellinis and chicken and then pour the butter over it all.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and then cover with mozzarella.  

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.  

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Bingo.  

Recipe 2: Winter Winter Tropical Dinner!

Aunts always come through for you, don’t they? If you’re an only child and don’t have an aunt, find a surrogate because they are the bomb.  Not only will they provide you with great recipes, aunts will also come up with a clever name that rhymes and is a play on your blog’s name. 

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Ahhhh yum-o!

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 c. red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 mangoes (depending on taste), cubed
  • 2-3 slices fresh pineapple, juiced
  • Juice of one fresh orange + 3/4 c. orange juice (from a can–or you could use fresh)

In a large skillet over medium heat, add a touch of olive oil.  Cook until completely cooked.  Remove the chicken and add the onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes or until translucent and soft.  Add the juices and bring to a boil.  Add the mango pieces and simmer for about 2 minutes.  While the mixture is simmering, place the cornstarch in a small bowl with 1/4 c. hot water and mix well with a fork.  Add to the skillet and stir constantly until the sauce has thickened and it no longer looks milky.  Place the sauce over the chicken and serve with sides (like couscous and a veggie).

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Uhhh, yeah.  Like that.  I feel warmer already!

Recipe three: “I Double-dog Dare You” Hot Pepper Sauce

Shockingly, the first two recipes I received were from a dude.  A brewer extraordinaire (my favorite is a Skittlebrau, aka a Belgian wheat with a ton of skittles dumped into the carboy), this guy can cook.  If you’re brave enough, you can try your hand at this hot sauce:

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Having never made this sauce but worked with peppers before, wear the gloves.  For God’s sake, wear. the. gloves.  You’ll need:

  • 3/4 Cup Distilled Vinegar
  • 14 Whole Dried De Arbol Chilies
  • 1 tablespoon Cayenne Powder
  • 1 tsp Jalapeno Powder (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp Xanthan Gum
  • 1/2 tsp Salt 

Rehydrate the dried peppers in a bowl of hot water.  Place everything in a blender until liquified.  Place in a stock pot and simmer for 20 minutes.  Pour into serving containers (like a glass bottle) and age for at least two weeks before digging in.  

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And, of course, enjoy with a beer.  

Recipe 4: Jalapeno Beer Chili

Another recipe from The Dude, this one is a winner.  I tried it and it was awesome.  

If you like what you see from Zane, visit his website.  The ‘before’ photo is mine from when I made it; the after photo is his.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 can pinto or chili beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 4 jalapeno peppers (diced) w/ seeds
  • 4 oz hot pepper sauce (cayenne or arbol based typ.)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 cup Soy sauce

This is truly a one-pot meal, unless you want it to taste even better.  If that’s the case, then grill the burger first, then start in on making this bad boy.  If you can’t grill it, add liquid smoke to the chili (and every dude should have liquid smoke in his pantry).  This is so simple! That’s why it’s for dudes! You can’t mess this up.  Brown/grill the beef in a dutch oven.  Add everything else.  Simmer all day on low heat.  Eat that night if you can’t wait–but if you can, wait until the next day.  

Now, when I tried this I probably cut the total amount of peppery-type stuff in half and it was still spicy, still good.  If you’re not in love with lots of rich spice, start small and go from there. 

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This really hits the spot.  Especially all the time. 

 

Well, folks, this is all I’ve got…this time.  Go on, try out your new easy meal recipes!

 

 

Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese, plus an Internal Dialogue while I Cook

We’ve got some butternut squash (and pumpkins and the like) from our garden that need to be used up.  It’s been sitting on the counter for a few days–I’ve been avoiding it.  But, today, I was inspired to cook it up into something delightful.  After I finished, I realized that I follow a strikingly similar pattern every time I cook, and here it is:

“Good Lord I am hungry.  I wonder what I should make for dinner.”  *text the hub-dubs: Dude, what are we going to eeeeeat tonight?

Silence.  No surprise.

Then I find a recipe, and today’s magic hunger-bullet is butternut squash mac-n-cheese.  So then I call the hub-dubs for an opinion.  He tells me he thinks it sounds awful.  Then I tell him to cut up the squash for me (please).

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He took a photo.  I’m impressed (I also have no editing software on this computer.  So it goes.).

Even in its infancy, this recipe is going to be “tweanked.” You can thank my favorite mother-in-law for that term, by the way.  Here’s why: the recipe calls for ricotta cheese.  Know where ricotta cheese is at? The store.  Know where I am NOT going on my way home from work? The store.  People put cottage cheese in lasagna all the time instead of ricotta.  This has pasta, ergo, it’s pretty much the same thing as lasagna.  Plus, cottage cheese is in my fridge.  Win.

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Full disclosure: I eyeballed the chicken broth in here.  Totally, completely guessed.  I did measure out the squash though, which is a good thing because I ended up using about half of it.  I’m not totally out of my mind.

If by ‘simmer for about twenty minutes’ this recipe means ‘boil until you are finished doing dishes’ and ‘mash’ means ‘blenderize the heck out of it,’ then I followed this recipe to a T.

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Speaking of T, I lost my T spoon, so I measured everything with my t spoon.  I’d really like to know where my T spoon is at though.  I feel a bit crippled without it, plus it means my really nice set of stainless steel measuring spoons is incomplete.

Ok, so up until now I’ve, you know, mostly followed the recipe.  But it says this cheesy goodness needs to bake for 20 minutes covered and an additional 30-40 minutes uncovered at 375 degrees.  Please child, this is going in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes.  In my dutch oven.  Because I just got it for Christmas and have been dying to use it–I also boiled my noodles in it and thought, “sweet, less dishes.”

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Oops.  Forgot to add the spices about two steps ago.  Also forgot to measure them.  This looked a bit too bland for me, so I threw in a couple handfuls of jalapenos and a splash of the juice for some extra zing.

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Well, looks like that turned out just fine, doesn’t it? Once you know the rules, you can break them to your heart’s content and tweank whatever you want.

I think I’ll make this dish again, little (and big) changes and all.  The hub-dubs was skeptical, but even he said it rocked his socks off.  Yesssssssss.

Pumpkin Pudding Experiment gone Right!

I’m a horrible experimenter.  I want to make sure anything I make comes out right the first time–knitting, sewing, cooking, what have you–I think it’s because I simply hate waste.  I can’t imagine creating something, especially food, and then not eating it.  So when I experiment I usually look for similar recipes to try out and adapt a tiny bit or I combine several recipes together.  Usually, if it’s not awesome, it’s at least edible, so I can make a show of choking down one or two servings and then pushing the rest off Hub-dubs. 

Not today though.

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Today I has a cooking experiment go amazingly, awesomely right. I am so proud, especially since I played tennis so horribly earlier today the guy playing next to me was flat-out laughing (to my face, which I guess makes it better?).  That, among other things, contributed to my “inadequacy day.”  I hate those days.  They put me in a bad mood and all I want to do is eat my feelings. 

I shall chow down on this. 

THIS is pumpkin pudding–but not the nasty, overpowering, god-awful Jell-o pumpkin pudding I was so excited to try this year.  Seriously.  Horrible.  THIS pumpkin pudding has a delicate pumpkin flavor with just the right amount of spices.  It’s awesome.  I would totally eat any feeling with this–joy, sadness, inadequacy–because let’s face it, who doesn’t love pudding?

And this experiment all came about because I hate waste:

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I had egg yolks to use up.  They came about because I made these cheesy cauliflower tot-things that have been floating around Pinterest.  By the way, they just tasted like cooked cauliflower.  Nothing special, and a waste of four eggs!

I sort-of-kind-of adapted a pudding recipe (I’m not going in totally blind) from my Bible, The America’s Family Test Kitchen Cookbook or whatever it’s called. 

Here’s what you’ll need for the pudding:

3 T. cornstarch

1/4 c. dark brown sugar

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 egg yolks

3 T. butter, melted

3 1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. pumpkin butter

1 tsp. vanilla

 

There are very few pictures for this post, for a couple: a) making pudding is boring–it’s really just a lot of stirring.  b) how can you make pudding look good? It’s custard.  There’s only so many angles you can shoot it from, and, news flash: they all look the same.  Because it’s custard.  So, use your imagination on the bits where there’s no photos. 

First, whisk together the sugars, salt, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. 

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(ugly photo)

Then, turn the burner on medium-high heat.  Slowly whisk in the butter, milk, egg yolks, and pumpkin butter.  Technically you are supposed to “stir constantly” until it comes to a boil, but you can really get away with “stirring frequently.”

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And yeah, this is the last photo.  Because pudding, although delicious, is BORING. 

Alright, so we’re boiling.  Turn down the heat to medium-low.  NOW you want to stir constantly until the pudding gets nice and thick–you’ll feel it thicken.  When it has thickened (like, 1-4 minutes), take it off the heat and add the vanilla.  Stir well.  Now you have a choice to make: you can either pour it into a dish (or several little dishes) and let it cool, or you can strain it through a mesh strainer to remove any potential little bits of scrambled egg.  Full disclosure: I totally did not strain my pudding.  It looked smooth, so I thought, “what the hell?” Into the dish it went. 

Once you’ve strained (or not, I certainly won’t judge) your pudding, place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding, put in the fridge, and let cool several hours. 

How did I know this experiment really, really rules? The Hub-dubs had no idea what I was making, so I took him a spoonful and all but shoved it into his mouth (not an uncommon occurrence around here), and he says, “the flavor is really good, but it tastes awfully…pudding-y.”  Then his eyes lit up a bit when he realized it was pudding.  Then he high-fived me.  anything in the Bank house that gets a high-five is a win. 

One more thing: if you don’t have pumpkin butter, use 1/2 c. pumpkin puree plus some pumpkin pie spice.  I’m sure it will do the trick. 

Now go forth, and eat your feelings of awesomeness!