Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cheesy Sausage Potato Casserole

Tonight was one of those nights when I don't know what to make for dinner so I start going through the fridge and pantry to see what we have. I know I need to use up the rest of the potatoes soon. There's smoked sausage in the freezer, a can of cream of chicken in the pantry . . . I can make a casserole! Add some cheddar cheese because cheese makes everything better. And some garlic. Sneak some onions in too. Might turn out awful; might be good. Luckily, it turned out pretty damn good and will be added to my list of dinner ideas in the future.

1 pound smoked sausage
3 cups thinly sliced potatoes
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of chicken
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
pepper, to taste

You can cook the sausage two different ways. I like my sausage broiled so I stuck in the oven on broil for 10 to 15 minutes to blacken it a bit. Or you could brown it on the stove top to add more flavor. You can also use spicy or even sweet sausage, whatever you have on hand. Next time I'll probably use spicy just because that's our favorite kind. Once cooked, cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 2-quart casserole pan and layer the potatoes in the bottom of it.

In a saucepan, heat the cream of chicken and milk. Add 3/4 cup shredded cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in onions, garlic powder, pepper, and sausage (I will probably add thyme to the mix next time. I just didn't have any on hand tonight). Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle a handful of shredded cheese over the top. Bake for about one hour or until the potatoes become tender.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Butterbeer from Harry Potter

Since Eric gave me the last three Harry Potter movies for Christmas, we decided to have a Harry Potter marathon that started on Christmas Eve with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and ended just last week with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two. For the occasion I made up a batch of butterbeer. This seems to be the most popular recipe out there on the web. I found it on at least a dozen sites, but who originated the recipe, I don't know. It's extremely sweet. So sweet that I wasn't able to finish my drink. Eric not only drank my butterbeer, but finished off the whole batch and gave himself a stomachache as well as a sugar buzz.

In the movies we noticed that the butterbeer had a more orange  than brownish yellow color.

1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
6 cups cream soda

Special Equipment: Candy thermometer

In a saucepan, bring the brown sugar and water to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Allow to boil until the mixture reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer then remove from heat. Add butter, salt, cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Allow to cool to room temperature. Add rum extract (I used dark rum that we had in the pantry instead).

Mix 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, beat for about 3 minutes or until you've made whipped cream.

Divide the brown sugar between four tall glasses, about a 1/4 for each glass. Divide the cream soda between the glasses and stir to combine the two layers. Add a layer of whipped cream to each glass, about 1/4 cup. Serve at room temperature.
Chances are I'm not going to make this again, at least not anytime soon. It's more of a special occasion beverage than an everyday drink. However, I do love Harry Potter and to entertain, so somewhere in the distant future, I may have a Harry Potter party and make a bunch of food featured in the books and movies. Here's what I would/will change if/when I make it again: add less brown sugar mixture to the soda cream and add zero brown sugar mixture to the whipped cream. The whipped cream is the only ingredient that really helps cut the sugar.

There is also a cold, alcoholic version of butterbeer for the adults that we tested out. 1 part butterscotch schnapps, 2 parts cream soda. Add ice and top with unsweeted, homemade whipped cream. Again this is a very sweet drink, nothing I'd drink on a regular basis. Actually, I prefer it as a shot, minus the whipped cream, of course.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken Patties

So this recipe may look eerily familiar. It's the same as my tuna burger recipe except made with canned chicken instead of canned tuna. I have to admit, I like the chicken patty best. It's so flavorful and easy to make. I also got to test out the patty making skills that Eric taught me when we last made turkey burgers. I think I've improved exponentially.

2 5-ounce cans of chicken, drained
3/4 cup stuffing
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup mayo
1 egg
1 tablespoon minced onion
2-4 tablespoons water
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Mix the chicken, stuffing, cheese, mayo, egg, onion, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture sticks together. Scoop approximately 1/3 cup of the mixture up and form into a patties. Makes about six patties.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Cook patties over medium-high heat, three to four minutes on each side or until the patty is fully cooked. Make a sandwich by adding bread, lettuce, tomato, Dijon mustard, or ketchup.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Peep S'mores

So this isn't really a recipe but just something fun to do.

Eric and I are pretty low-key people. Our first New Year's Eve together, we got all dressed up and headed out to a party. On the way there, we both decided that we didn't feel like being at a loud, crowded party. Instead, we stopped at a 24-hour super center, bought champagne, some scary movies, and the makings for s'mores. Back at my apartment, we rang in the New Year roasting marshmallows on my gas stove, watching horror flicks, and sipping champagne. It was perfect. This has now become our tradition on New Year's Eve--though this year we watched Harry Potter instead of scary movies. We also decided to make our s'mores with holiday peeps that Eric got in his Christmas stocking.

S'mores with chocolate reindeer peeps
chocolate bar
holiday peeps
graham crackers

chocolate reindeer peeps

snowmen peeps
Roast marshmallows in a bonfire, fireplace, or on a gas stove top. Build your s'more by layering a graham cracker, piece of chocolate, roasted peeps, and then another graham cracker.

Roasted peeps
snowmen on fire

Snowmen peep s'mores



Pull-Apart Spinach and Cheese Bread

This is one of my all time favorite recipes. I've brought it to dinner at Eric's parents' house a number of time and there has never once been leftovers. His mom is especially found of the pull-apart bread. It was my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house a few years ago. They loved it. It takes a bit of time to make, but it's so worth it. However, if you have a helping hand in the kitchen, the process goes much quicker. Eric and I usually make this together.

This recipe comes from Pillsbury. I just made a few minor changes.

3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and finely chopped.
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans of crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray.

Combine melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the mayo, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, spinach, basil, pepper, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Set aside.

Separate crescent roll dough into 16 triangles then cut each triangle in half lengthwise so you have 32 small triangles. Roll out the triangles to make them slightly bigger. You may want to lightly sprinkle your work area with flour to prevent sticking. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture into the center of each triangle and pull the dough around the filling to form a ball. Press the edges of the dough together to seal. Dip each ball in the butter mixture then place in the bundt pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the bread turns a golden brown. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. To remove the bread from the pan, place your serving plate upside down over the pan then turn the plate and pan over. If desired, serve with marinara or tomato sauce. 
This bread compliments any dish that calls for tomato sauce--spaghetti, ziti, lasagna, etc. As a tradition, we eat pizza every Christmas Eve in my family. This year instead of ordering a side of bread sticks, we made pull-apart bread. It went perfect with the pizza.

When Eric and I make this dish together, I make the balls, he dips them in butter, and the process seems to go a million times faster.