From the freezer

Last night was one of those nights where I had to be somewhere from 6 – 7:15 and my husband had to be somewhere from 7:30 to 9:00.  That calls for something from the freezer that we can each eat on our own schedule.  I pulled out mushroom lasagna without great enthusiasm.  When I ate it I realized that I had forgotten how good it was – the Fontina cheese makes it.  I made a Caesar salad to go with it and loved my dinner.  Make this lasagna this weekend and put the leftovers in your freezer – just the thing for a cold winter night when everyone is going different directions.

Mushroom Lasagna

  • 2 Tb butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used cremini, shiitake and oyster but use whatever you like), cleaned and sliced
  • 1 package dried Porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 lb Fontina cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

In a heavy skillet, melt butter and olive oil.  Saute shallot until soft.  Add mushrooms and cook stirring occasionally about 15 minutes.  Add wine and cook an additional minute.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.   Add dried porcini mushrooms and boil 5 minutes.  Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, reserving stock.  Rinse mushrooms and add to mushrooms in skillet with reserved stock.

Add milk and half and half to mushroom mixture and simmer about 5 minutes.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

Butter a 9 x 13 pan and spread with 1 layer of lasagna noodles.  Top with half of the mushroom mixture and half of the cheeses.  Add another layer of lasagna noodles and remaining mushrooms and cheese.  Top with lasagna noodles.  (I dotted the top with butter and additional Parmesan cheese but next time I would brush with melted butter and/or olive oil to keep from getting too crisp.)

Mushroom lasagna with Caesar salad

Mushroom lasagna with Caesar salad

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes covered with aluminum foil and then 15 minutes uncovered.  Serve hot.

Three ingredients

If you are a regular follower of blog, you know that this is one of my favorite recipes.  It has 3 ingredients, it takes no time to assemble, it’s delicious and it’s even Christmasy with the red and green!  Perfect dinner to free up your time for wrapping gifts!  I serve it with cous cous.

Chicken with Pesto and Sundried Tomatoes

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 per serving)
  • Pesto (prepared or homemade)
  • Minced sundried tomatoes in a jar (packed in olive oil)
  • Pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Top each breast with approximately 1 TB of pesto and 2 tsps of sundried tomatoes and then roll up.  Place rolled chicken breasts in a ceramic or glass baking dish and bake 35 – 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  I baste them with pan juice about 5 minutes before done (it gives them a nice color.)  If you want to dress them up more, sprinkle with pine nuts.  Serve or let cool and freeze.

California Casserole

My husband and I had this dish at a dinner party years ago.  The hostess was from California and I loved the idea of the avocado on top of the cooked casserole so I think of it as the California casserole.  I assembled it last night and cooked it tonight for my husband to take to a potluck dinner.  (Samantha and I actually had poached eggs for dinner.)  When I called my husband on the way home from work I told him to look it up on blog for cooking instructions and was stunned to discover that I don’t think I have ever blogged this recipe.  Surprising because it makes good leftovers and freezes well.  Here is the recipe – I hope that it went over well at this dinner meeting!

Chicken Avocado casserole

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split
  • milk for poaching chicken breasts
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 dashes Tabasco
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 2 avocados

Place chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour in milk to cover about halfway.  Cover with a sheet of wax paper sprayed with Pam and cook at 350 for about 40 minutes.  Let cool and chop.

Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium low heat and add flour.  Stir to combine and gradually add milk (or half and half), chicken stock and wine until smooth and thick.  (If mixture gets too thick, turn down heat – if it is too slow to thicken, turn up heat.)  Add Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, rosemary and basil and remove from heat.

Melt remaining butter in another pan and saute mushrooms until soft.

Place chopped chicken in a casserole dish.  Pour mushrooms over top and then cover with cream sauce.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Add almonds and return to oven for another 10 minutes.  Serve with sliced avocado on top of casserole.

This is also delicious with rice.

Chicken chipotle chili

If you are a follower of blog, you know that my husband makes a wonderful chili with beef and sausage (in fact he won a trophy last year in a chili cookoff).  I found a recipe that sounded interesting for a chicken and chipotle chili and liked the concept although I made some pretty significant changes to the recipe.  I made it yesterday and we had it tonight.  I thought it was delicious and sitting overnight helped it to thicken.  (My husband suggested that I enter it in the chili cookoff this year which is certainly a vote of confidence.)  We’ll freeze some and this is a definite do over.

Chicken Chipotle chili

  • 3 TB canola oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small cubes
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained of about 1/2 of liquid
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans black beans

Heat oil in a heavy sauce pan and brown chicken cubes (about 5 minutes.)  Remove chicken and drain on paper towels.  Pour off fat leaving about 1 tablespoon in pan.  Add onions and brown about 4 – 5 minutes.  Return chicken to pan.

Stir together flour, chili powder, cumin and salt and sprinkle over onions and chicken.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.  Add stock, tomatoes and chipotles and simmer covered about 30 minutes.  Add black beans and cook another 10 minutes.

Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with sour cream and tortilla chips.

Marinating

I was scheduled for a late meeting tonight so wanted something easy.  When I want easy, I think marinate ahead of time and grill (even easier for me because my husband does the grilling!)  There are so many marinades for chicken and we really like grilled chicken with rice.  You can buy good marinades at the store – just keep an eye on the salt and sugar listed in the ingredients.

I had some leftover Thai marinade in the refrigerator so we used that.  Here is the Thai marinade recipe, a picture of our dinner and a few other choices.  Because I had the marinade in the fridge, I was able to pour over the chicken this morning before I left for work so it only needed grilling.

Thai marinade

  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 TB cumin seed
  • 2 TB coriander seed
  • 1 TB peppercorns
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar and/or honey
  • 1 TB turmeric powder
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tsp ground Thai chili peppers
  • 1 cup coconut cream
Toast the cumin seed, coriander and peppercorns in a dry pan over the stove for a few minutes until aromatic.  Grind together in a mortar and pestle.  Add garlic and continue grinding until ingredients make a paste.  Put paste in a bowl and add brown sugar, soy sauce, juice from lime, ground chili pepper, turmeric and coconut cream.  Mix well.

Chipotle marinade 

  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 TB tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  NOTE: Marinade keeps well in refrigerator.  We have also had this on steak, shrimp and pork chops.

Indonesian Marinade 

  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients.   This is also good on fish.

Grilled Eastern Shore chicken

  • Chicken breasts, bone in (two per person for leftovers)
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 oz olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 tsp poultry seasoning
Combine marinade ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let cool to room temperature before marinating.

Book Club night

Tonight was my book club night (The Paris Wife – about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife) so I wanted something easy.  I actually made the sauce for the swordfish last night, up to the point of adding the fresh basil in.  When I got home from work, I reheated the sauce and chopped the basil and added it in.  This goes really well with cous cous to sop up some of the sauce.

We had an entertaining game at dinner because our five year old decided to start acting out things and we all had to take turns acting things out and guessing what they were, including a mouse, ice skating, getting money out of an ATM machine, sewing, playing golf and a walking cheetah.  (The walking cheetah was particularly difficult!)  When most of your work is done ahead of time, you can spend your time playing games at the table!

Grilled swordfish with tomato fennel sauce and cous cous

  • swordfish fillets (6 – 8 oz per person)
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 TB olive oil (plus additional for brushing on fish)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz canned plum tomatoes, drained
  • 2 TB chicken stock
  • 2 TB white wine
  • 2 TB capers, drained
  • 2 tsp butter
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • cous cous

In a heavy pan, saute the onion and fennel for about 12 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic and stir in.  Add tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat.  Add chicken stock and wine and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.  Add capers, butter and basil and simmer for 5 minutes.  (NOTE: You can make ahead of time and wait and add basil right before serving.)

Brush swordfish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for 5 minutes a side over high heat (either on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan).  My husband was particularly proud of his grill marks tonight on the indoor grill – check them out on the photo.

Make cous cous according to package instructions.

Mound tomato sauce on one side of plates and cous cous on the other.  Place fish on top of sauce and serve.

Light summer dinner

Smoked salmon is one of my favorite things and my local grocery store has occasionally had a cold pasta salad with smoked salmon.  I decided to try to create a variation and I must say, I was very pleased with the result.  The weather here has cooled off but this would be a refreshing dinner on a hot night.  I made it last night so the flavors would blend and it was a treat to walk in the door knowing that dinner was done.  Here is how I fixed it for two of us (you could save money by decreasing the salmon and increasing the pasta, but I love smoked salmon and opted to spring for it.)

Pasta with smoked salmon

  • 2 servings pasta of your choice (I used fusilli)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 TB minced dill
  • 2 tsp minced parsley
  • 8 oz smoked salmon, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.  Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard and honey and toss with pasta.  Add dill and parsley and stir to combine.  Add chopped smoked salmon, stir to combine and refrigerate overnight.  Serve.

Friday from the freezer

About a week ago my husband pointed out that we have a lot of food in our freezer.  I have a tendency to make things that produce extra and then I’m stingy about using what is there.  As the seasons get ready to turn, some of the things that I stockpiled might not be as appealing.  I decided that the next few Fridays we will eat from the freezer.  I’m tired on Friday night so it’s nice to come home to a dinner that just needs to be reheated.  Tonight we selected beef stew.  For each selection, I’ll repeat the recipe.  If you want to fill up your freezer, this is something you could make this weekend.

Beef stew

  • 3 lbs beef (round or chuck – I used 1/2 and 1/2) cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour mixed with 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 lb baby bello mushrooms
  • 1 can consomme
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 12 small white onions, peeled
  • 8 oz baby carrots
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 TB chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp thyme

Toss beef cubes with seasoned flour until well coated.  Cook bacon in a large pan until it begins to brown but is not crisp.  (This caused some confusion in our house because my 5 year old got excited that I was cooking bacon and was very dismayed to discover that it was not for eating now.  I’m hoping that if I explain that the beef stew contains the bacon, she will try it but I’m not counting on it!)  Chop bacon into 1 inch pieces and place in a heavy glass baking dish.

Saute garlic and mushrooms in the bacon grease until garlic is browned and mushrooms are soft.  Put mushrooms in the casserole.  Add beef cubes and brown quickly on all sides – turn often.  You may have to do this in two batches.  Put meat in the casserole dish.  Add brandy, consomme and 1 cup of the red wine to the pan and bring to a boil.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all browned bits mixed in and pour liquid over ingredients in casserole.

Add onions, carrots and spices to casserole dish and pour remaining 1/2 cup of wine over top.  Bake covered at 300 for 2 hours.  Remove, cover and chill.  Remove from refrigerator 90 minutes before serving.  Let stand for 30 minutes and spoon liquid from bottom of container over meat.  Bake covered for 1 hour at 300 and serve hot.  (Remove bay leaf, peppercorns and cloves before serving.)

Shish Kabob

I got email from a friend this week suggesting that we get together tonight.  We considered going out but didn’t want to leave our daughter with a sitter.  We invited them to our house – they are bringing salad and we’ll have grilled shish kabob with rice.  It’s pretty healthy and always delicious.  I made the marinade this morning and the meat and veggies have been soaking all day.

Shish Kabob

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TB dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar.  Marinate sirloin cubes, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and red onions (quartered).  Skewer and grill.  Serve over rice.

Asian Chicken

One of the things that really helped me last week was staying a step ahead.  Tomorrow night we’re having Asian chicken with rice.  I’m mixing up the marinade this afternoon and letting the chicken sit overnight.  My husband and daughter are off tomorrow but I’ll be working so it’s nice to have dinner ready to go in the oven.  We’ll have this with rice.

Asian chicken

  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 1 TB soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  • 1 TB fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bone in chicken breast per person (or more for leftovers)

Whisk together all ingredients except chicken and then add chicken and marinate overnight in a ceramic baking dish.  Tomorrow night this will be baked at 350 for about 50 minutes (we’ll check it with a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is cooked through – chicken should be cooked to about 160 degrees.)