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What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole

11 Feb
This.was.so.good.

This.was.so.good.

On Saturday, January 24 my husband and I ran to the store to pick up “a few things” to get us through “a few days” until we could get out to do a bigger shopping. It was the day after pay day, and when we’d normally be doing a big shopping, but we hadn’t had a chance to sit down and do our normal two week menu, or to make a shopping list.

We went through the store, picking things up here and there that we knew for sure we were out of and that we knew we could use to put together several meals with. Meats, fresh fruits and veggies; things of that nature all went into the cart.

In the back of our minds, we knew that a big snow storm was coming and just the night before, we’d seen the report that it could be “historic,” whatever that meant.

Well who knew we’d be snowed in for days and days? By the time a week had gone by, we were already expecting another storm, and we were getting a little low on groceries, but really not doing too badly. It didn’t really seem necessary to do a bigger shopping at this point, we were so close to the end of the pay cycle, another check would soon be coming.

And besides, as true New Englanders, we had enough milk and bread to sink a boat. A cruise ship, actually. At the very least, we could have sandwiches galore until the cows came home.

As the second week wound down, I was really being creative with our meals. I had a few things left to work with and I hopped onto Pinterest to do a search. I typed in Chicken, Broccoli, and Cauliflower into the search button and waited to see what came up. I had fresh broccoli crowns and a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge still, as well as a bag of chicken tenderloins in the freezer. You can do a lot with those three ingredients, as it turns out. I scrolled and pinned, scrolled and pinned until I saw a recipe that jumped out at me, simply because it hand Panko bread crumbs on top.

I love Panko bread crumbs.

I found this recipe on a site called Stacey Snacks , and it was listed as being a good idea for using leftover chicken. I didn’t actually have leftover chicken, but I could cook up my tenderloins in bite-sized pieces and just pretend that I did.

The recipe was such that I had to make a few minor modifications, and I’ve listed them below. I had to double it because there are a lot of us who love chicken, broccoli and cauliflower here, and because I wanted to use up the entire head of cauliflower and both of my broccoli crowns.  I had an entire block of cheddar cheese in stock and although I was out of half and half, I had 1% milk, which I could make work with the sauce, which I more than doubled.

Stacey’s recipe was unbelievably good. Our family loved it. We had one sick child that day, so she didn’t eat, but the rest: all thumbs up. I ate this for lunch every day for the following days until it was gone. I’d most definitely make it again. I can’t *wait* to make it again.

Here is her recipe and my modifications along with it. Thanks to Stacey for sharing such deliciousness with us all!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of small fresh broccoli florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used two broccoli crowns**
1 cup of small fresh cauliflower florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used a whole head of cauliflower**
1 cup of leftover roast chicken, shredded **I cooked up ten chicken tenderloins in bite-sized pieces**
Japanese panko crumbs for the top
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper

For the Sauce:

3 tbsp of REAL mayonnaise **I used 5 Tbsp.**
1/4 cup of half & half **I used 1 cup of 1 % milk**
1 tsp curry powder (you can substitute dry mustard if you don’t like curry) **I used 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard**
a pinch of kosher salt & black pepper
1/4 cup of chicken stock  **I used 1 cup chicken broth**
1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar (I like white cheddar) **I used an 8 oz. block**

DIRECTIONS

Brush an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with some olive oil.  **My dish was 9×12**
Steam the broccoli and cauliflower florets for 2 minutes until bright and still firm.
Lay the vegetables on the bottom of the casserole.
Place the shredded cooked chicken on top of the veggies.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, including the grated cheese & curry. Season with salt & pepper. (I really didn’t measure here, but what you are going for is a nice thick, cheesy white sauce, sort of like for macaroni and cheese, so use your best cooking sense!).  **I did add a bit of flour just to thicken mine a little since my milk was thinner than half and half would have been.**
Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the dish and press down with a spatula to absorb the liquid. If it seems dry, then add some more chicken stock to the dish.
Optional (but makes it even better!): Spoon some panko crumbs over the top to cover and drizzle with olive oil. **Instead of drizzling with olive oil, I lightly sprayed the bread crumbs with a canola oil spray before baking.**
You can make this a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake.

Bake uncovered in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes until top is golden brown and casserole is bubbly.
Serve with rice or salad.  **We served with rice pilaf.**

Thanks Stacey!

http://www.staceysnacksonline.com/2012/02/good-ideas-leftover-chicken-w-broccoli.html

Fun Friday: Blizzard Juno

30 Jan
The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

The last time I wrote, it was Monday, and now it’s Friday, just like that.

So we had a blizzard!

Yep, just as the forecasters had predicted for days prior, we got approximately two feet of snow, give or take an inch or twelve, depending on the drifts.

I spent most of Monday running from store to store to gas station getting the rest of what we needed for food, batteries, and gas for the car. By the time I sat down to start my actual work for the day it was 2pm and by the time I finished it, it was midnight, but I’d beat the storm both in my work and in my preparations at home. I was ready.

Thankfully, we didn’t ever lose power. The temps were frigid and the winds were howling, and we thought for sure it was going to go at any moment, but it did not. That made the week of days out of school and work much more enjoyable. It was like a surprise vacation.

At times we could barely see out the window, especially at the height of the storm.

At times we could barely see out the window, especially at the height of the storm.

We spent the first part of Tuesday literally just hanging out. People slept late, some later than others, and we watched the snow falling furiously and listened to the wind. The term “white-out conditions” was fitting for most of the day and night. We’d gone to bed with about 5″ of snow Monday night and woken up to find 12″ in the morning. By the next day we had at least 18 inches, maybe more. The plows would come by, and seemingly minutes later, you could barely see the path they’d made. We sat and watched TV until about 1pm and then we shut it off for most of the rest of the day.

Even though we didn’t lose power, we made use of the meals we’d planned, and we had several days to hang out, do things we never get to do (including put laundry away), and relax. The kids still had things from Christmas they hadn’t gotten to play with or use yet, things that are more involved and take time, so those things came out early on and I tried my best to make sure we made use of at least one of each child’s “things” during the week, so that no one felt left out. Because we had power, we baked; making special snacks using some fun kits the

The day after the storm dawned so bright and beautiful, a perfect, sunshiny day.

The day after the storm dawned so bright and beautiful, a perfect, sunshiny day.

kids had gotten for Christmas–individual pie makers, giant sugar cookie makers, and the like, all things I’ll focus on for upcoming blog posts throughout the next month or so. We had a family movie night, right in the middle of the week, all piled into the living room, watching an older movie that most of us had never seen.

We had three days out of school and on the second day out, they all got to go outside and play, and as cold as it was, they were in snow-day heaven, as was I. It was so great to see them free and relaxed, enjoying outdoor play time in the middle of the day, in the middle of a week. So much time is spent working on work at school and then working on even more work after school, and doing extra-curricular activities, that many a day go by when outdoor play time just isn’t in the cards. Although everyone had homework this week, some more than others, they still had time to play inside, to play outside, to catch up on sleep, to relax, to cook, to create and to hang out.

For a blizzard, it was a great week.

And guess what?
It’s going to snow on Sunday and Monday. A big Nor’Easter. Again.

I’m not returning my extra batteries and hand-warmers yet!

No matter how old you are, you can always find something fun to do in the snow.

No matter how old you are, you can always find something fun to do in the snow.

Hooray for snow days!

Hooray for snow days!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner

21 Jan
Sometimes breakfast for dinner just seems better, sounds better than dinner for dinner.

Sometimes breakfast for dinner just seems better, sounds better than dinner for dinner.

The other night we had a sleepover at our house. It was a Friday night and I decided that it was a great night to let each child pick a friend to stay overnight at our house.

I definitely subscribe to the theory of “What’s one more?” when I plan our playdates and sleepovers. It’s definitely easier for me to do it all in one fell swoop and let everyone invite a friend at once, rather than a friend a week for three weeks. Additionally, I find that everyone stays occupied that way. Each person has a friend, everyone’s happy.

On this night I thought about what to have for dinner and I decided I’d do breakfast for dinner: french toast and a ham and spinach puff pancake, where I would substitute broccoli for the spinach. It was all a huge hit. There was only one piece of the ham and broccoli puff left, and a couple of pieces of french toast remained at the end of the night.

When I was thinking this week about what dinner recipe to share with you, I thought of our breakfast for dinner night, but since I’d already done a blog post about the ham and spinach puff, I decided to share a breakfast casserole that we ate for brunch this past New Year’s Day, but would also work well as a breakfast for dinner recipe. It’s original intent was to be made as a breakfast pizza, and my sister-in-law who gave it to me has done it both ways–casserole style and pizza style. On New Year’s Day we did it casserole style.

The recipe is so old, I have it printed out in an email from Thursday, February 28, 2002. I only had one daughter at that time. But, I save that same sheet of paper in the overstuffed cookbook I’ve had since I was a teenager and I always know exactly where it is, what one sheet of paper to look for when I need it.

Because there are so many of us, we added a few extra eggs in and changed our method a tiny bit, so I’ll make some notes with the recipe below.

Thanks so much to Jessica for sharing her recipe with us in 2002. I was thrilled to send her a photo of the casserole and the original email she sent me on January 1, 2015.

Pizza style or casserole style, either way it's delicious!

Pizza style or casserole style, either way it’s delicious!

BREAKFAST PIZZA

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

1 package (24 ounces) frozen shredded has brown patties, thawed and broken apart

1 egg, beaten

salt, pepper

Egg Topping:

7 Eggs (we did a whole dozen)

1/2 cup milk

optional salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped ham

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/4 cup green onion slices
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
*we didn’t add these two items in, but we did do sliced sausage links instead*

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

If you are using a pizza stone, cover with parchment paper.

For crust, combine potatoes, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl, mix well.

Spread potato mixture onto pizza stone or into 9×13 casserole dish, (we used nonstick spray on ours) pat down with back of spoon.

Bake 20 minutes, remove from oven.

For egg topping, whisk eggs and milk and season as desired.

Microwave on high 3 minutes, stir. Microwave an additional 3 minutes, stir. **We scrambled our eggs on the stove top in our cast iron skillet.**

Spread cooked egg mixture evenly on top of potato crust; top with ham, mushrooms, green onion and bell pepper (if using).

Sprinkle with cheese.

Return to oven to bake, approximately 10 minutes.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and the importance of eating together

14 Jan
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Now that we’re back into our regular routines, we’re back to meal planning for the weeks ahead.

Over the holiday and vacation weeks we were eating out of the house so often, either at other people’s houses or at restaurants, that we had absolutely no meal plan at all, and practically nothing to even make a meal with. Once we got back into the routine, we had to sit down and start our preparations again.

One thing I had done over the vacation weeks however, was to keep a running list of the things the kids were asking for during the two weeks. When someone said, “Can we have Shepherd’s Pie for dinner tonight?” during those two weeks, for example, even though I’d have to say no because we were scheduled to eat wherever for whatever event, I’d go and write it down. Making our meal plan is tough because we have to come up with two full weeks of meals. Having a list of favorite requests made it that much easier the next week when we sat down. And, it was kind of nice that first week back to school (which felt as long as five weeks in a row, rather than just one), to announce at dinnertime whose special request produced that night’s dinner.

It’s also been nice to see the kids checking out the menu we post in the kitchen each week, looking forward to the dinner of choice for that night or a future night, especially when it’s something they requested. It makes me feel good to know that they like the routine of knowing what’s for dinner, and that even better, they look forward to certain nights of the week, just because it’s their favorite meal of the week. Our menus are nothing fancy, our meals are straightforward and our lists are posted on whatever piece of paper we have handy, and we cross off as we go, but it’s a routine we’ve established and it makes us all feel good….less stress, somewhat excited for dinner, and looking forward to eating together each night. That’s all good, and I’m glad we’re continuing to stay true to this routine of ours. I hope that in doing so, we ‘re creating good, healthy eating habits and family foundations for our family as we go so that once our kids are on their own, raising their own families,they’ve got a great foundation so that they can eat well and eat together.

I recently saw an article in the Washington Post about the importance of eating together as a family, and its many benefits. It definitely confirmed for us all that we already knew and believed about eating together as a family. If you’d like to read it, click here. We work incredibly hard to keep our schedules and meals consistent so that we can eat together as often as humanly possible, and although we’ve always seen the benefits, which far outweigh the effort it takes to pull it off, it’s nice to have our efforts validated every once in a while too! The article is well worth the read.

In the meantime, here’s two weeks of meals for you to get you started. I’ve even linked to a few of the recipes for you so that you don’t have to search the blog for them:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (crock pot meal)

Wednesday: Spaghetti tacos with meat sauce (could be eaten without taco shells or with)

Thursday: Paninis (we used the bbq pork leftovers in the paninis, SO delicious)

Friday: Homemade pizzas (we made three different kinds but here’s just one kind we’ve made before)

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Chili

Monday: Ravioli (some of us had butternut squash ravioli given to us by a friend, others of us had cheese ravioli)

Tuesday: Garlic chicken and wine

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday: Fish Tacos

Friday: Breakfast for dinner

Saturday: Hamburgers and hot dogs

Sunday: Lasagna

 

 

What’s for Christmas dinner: Make ahead twice baked potatoes

17 Dec
Christmas Dinner: pork chop with homemade applesauce, green beans, twice baked potatoes, butternut squash

Today’s post is all about the potatoes.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 28, 2011

Yesterday I wrote the first part of my post about our Christmas dinner, which is a great meal for any occasion:  roasted pork chops, homemade applesauce, Twice-Baked Potatoes, sauteed green beans and butternut squash.

At the end of the post I promised that I’d be sharing the make-ahead process that Don uses for the Twice-Baked Potatoes, which also provides you with a ready-made appetizer: potato skins.

To begin, you need baking potatoes. I get mine at Aldi’s. They sell the perfect sized and shaped potatoes in a big bag so that you don’t have to hand pick every single one. I buy two bags of them.

Early in the day on Christmas Eve, they go in the oven to be baked just as you would for any baked potato. Don bakes them at 400 degrees for one hour.

After that, they cool on top of the stove for two hours.

Potato skins

You want to take off the tops, but leave enough potato on them to make a hearty potato skin appetizer. You don’t want just skin.

At that time, Don cuts the top skin off of the potatoes, putting the tops in a serving dish to be used as Potato Skins for the next day and leaving the bottoms on the tray to be used for the Twice Baked Potatoes.

potato shells

You don’t want to scrape right down to the skin, leave enough flesh on the skin for a sturdy shell.

The next step is to scoop all of the potato flesh out of the skins, and into a mixing bowl.

making mashed potatoes for twice baked potoatoes

Next, you make mashed potatoes.

Next, you make the filling. We use butter, milk or half and half, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese, mashing the mixture just as you would for mashed potatoes.

Then, you fill the potato skins back up again. They should be slightly more full than they were before because of the added cheese, milk and butter.

Wrap the entire tray with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On Christmas morning, when it’s time to cook, take your potatoes out. Let them sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to bring the temperature up a bit. Bake them in the oven 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each one, and broil for a few minutes until brown and crispy. Eat and Enjoy!

Twice Baked Potatoes

Good enough to eat!

Additionally, to make your potato skins appetizer, you use the tops of the skins from the day before, sprinkling them with any toppings you’d like. We use cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Broil them for a few minutes in the oven before serving. We serve with a side of sour cream.

Hanukkah is coming! Here’s a complete meal and craft for you!

10 Dec
Menorah clip art

Happy Hanukkah!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 17, 2011

We are not Jewish, but over the years we have been blessed to know many Jewish friends. When we were first married, we moved to New Jersey. Some of the first people we met there were our friends Max and Jamie, an Italian-Jewish-African American couple whose passion for good food and good times matched our own. They gave us the following brisket recipe in 1996 and we’ve been making it ever since and I think of them fondly every time we do. Accompanying the brisket recipe is a recipe for Latkes, a potato pancake, which we actually make frequently throughout the year because we love them so much. And of course, this post contains a coordinating craft to go along with it. It’s truly the whole package for you!

Max and Jamie sent this recipe to us in 1998 after we had moved back to New England. It’s not perfectly measured out, a lot of winging it, but it’s worth it! I do not have a photograph of this meal because I have not made it since I started this blog in September but I promise that the next time we make it, I will take and post photos.

HANUKKAH BRISKET

INGREDIENTS

One brisket

one medium to large onion

several carrots

a few cans of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS

1) First chop the onion and cook it a bit in a big pot with a bit of oil (vegetable, corn, canola, whatever)

2) Put the brisket in the pot with the onion and brown it on both sides.

3) Add one can of water for each can of tomato sauce until the brisket is covered. The number of cans varies depending on the size of the can. Let the brisket cook in the liquid for one hour.

4) After about 45 minutes add the carrots (cut into medium sized pieces) to the pot. (Jamie wrote: I usually add about 3-4 carrots. You don’t want to add too many or the sauce will take on too much of a carrot flavor.)

5) After the hour is up, take the brisket out of the pot and slice it. Either with or against the grain works fine, whatever you prefer.

6) Put the brisket back into the pot and cook for another half hour.

************************************************************************************************************

mmmmm…latkes!

LATKES

Elizabeth actually brought this recipe home from second grade in 2010 and I enjoy using it, it’s an easy one, although we’ve used several others in the past.

INGREDIENTS

3 large potatoes, grated

1 small onion, grated

2 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

pinch of pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Heat half a cup of oil in a frying pan.

Drop a tablespoonful of the potato mixture in the pan.

Fry until the pancake is brown and crispy on the edges.

Turn and fry on the other side.

Drain the latkes on a paper towel.

Some people enjoy sour cream with their potato pancakes, others enjoy applesauce with theirs. I am an applesauce girl all the way, and I’m including my super-simple homemade applesauce recipe below, but see which you prefer!

***************************************************************************************************************

Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce makes a perfect topping for latkes!

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

There are so many homemade applesauce recipes out there, and I’ve used a few of them, including a great crockpot recipe which makes a huge amount. But, for a meal like this, I’d use my usual go-to recipe that I of course, learned from my mom when we were growing up.

INGREDIENTS

1 three pound bag of apples (like Cortland or Macintosh) peeled and sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup water

THAT’S IT!!

DIRECTIONS

Peel them, slice them, throw them in the pan, dump in the water and cinnamon stick.

Wait til it boils, which happens quickly, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Mash them and eat!

***************************************************************************************************************

Menorah Craft for Hanukkah

Here are the handprint Menorahs my girls made with Caroline last weekend

HANUKKAH CRAFT FOR KIDS

Caroline recently decided to do this craft with her sisters after she saw it in a Highlights magazine. I thought it was so cute and perfect to post with today’s recipes. It’s super easy and her sisters really enjoyed it. They also went online and looked up what real menorahs looked like, while doing their own version of them.

For this craft you need:

one sheet of white paper

two hands for hand prints

one ink pad (I recommend water based ink)

one sheet of yellow construction paper for flames

scissors and glue sticks

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties

3 Dec
These were so great! Definitely a keeper!

These were so great! Definitely a keeper!

On a recent school day afternoon, I received a text from one of my daughters. It was about an hour before I had to leave and she’d be arriving home while I was gone, but I wouldn’t be back for quite some time.

Her lunch had been ruined. I can’t remember the reason why or specifically what happened. My memory isn’t what it used to be. She was annoyed and she was already starving, with a couple of hours to go before she’d arrive home.

I didn’t have an after school snack planned, and she knows how to make a bagel, cereal, a sandwich, things like that, but I had an idea. I looked up a recipe I’d been wanting to try for a while,  one I’d seen floating across my Facebook page for Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties.

Now I know that doesn’t sound like a typical yummy after school snack, it’s definitely not chocolate and not sweet, but it’s savory and my kids actually all like broccoli. In fact, this one in particular loves it, and her winning recipe that got us to the White House in 2012 was a simple broccoli and cheese omelet. Rather than let her come in and make just anything for a snack, which was now replacing her lunch, I thought maybe I could leave her these to just reheat and she’d get something a little warmer and more nutritious than a bowl of cereal.

I checked out the recipe, checked out the time and figured out that if I moved quickly, I could squeeze in the prep and cook times before I left. They’d be done and on top of the stove when she got home. It might even make her day a little better, which would be an added bonus.

They were delicious. I texted her a photo of them when I knew she was out of school, on the bus, on her way home. “Just reheat and eat,” I said.

She was so happy. So hungry and so happy. I later texted again to see if she liked them and she said she loved them, that they were very similar to this recipe that we’d gotten out of our cookbook that we’d received at our White House luncheon, minus the hot dogs and pasta. When my other daughters got home from school, they too reported loving this after school snack.

So I call this a great recipe success! All thumbs up, a quick and easy recipe and it can be used for a side dish with a meal or on its own; even as an after school snack. Who knew?!

When I saw this recipe go by on Facebook, a friend was sharing it to another friend’s wall, but there was no originating information to go with it. I did an online search, saw the recipe on the Food.com site, but the photo was different than the one in the recipe I had, and this person too, reported getting it from a random Facebook post. However, someone put up a comment with the origination of the recipe, so I’d like to give credit here to the Po’Man Meals blog. Thanks for inspiring a whole lot of us!

I’m using the ingredients and directions I found on Food.com, which is the same as the one I have printed out at home, so thanks to them as well.

I encourage you to give it a try!

Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Sauté until onions are garlic are tender, set aside to cool.
  3. Add the broccoli to a kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the broccoli and squeeze out the extra moisture. Pour the drained broccoli into a large bowl, add the onion and garlic and mix gently.
  4. To the same bowl, add the panko, the cheeses, eggs, and salt/pepper to taste.
  5. Mix together and form into patties, place on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Flip and bake for another 15 minutes or until browned and crispy.

 

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