Casserole Queen

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Andy has been teasing me lately...referring to me as the "casserole queen".  It is true - in my old age I am finding the beauty of making a casserole for your family.  

Our previous helper was an amazing cook - and for about two years she more or less cooked everything that went into our bellies.  When she left I realized how much I had allowed her to take over my kitchen.  I suddenly understood  how much I missed the creative outlet of cooking as well as the satisfaction I receive from nurturing my children by making their meals.  So...when we hired our new helper - I taught her a few recipes, but made it clear I would be doing the majority of the cooking.  The only hitch in this new plan was that I have very little time in the afternoons.  Vivienne gets off the school bus at 2:15 and Julian and Silas are both still at home full time. Between play dates and after-school classes and activities - our afternoons are generally action packed.  

Enter...the casserole...make it whenever you can...slide it in the fridge...and cook just before dinner.  Add a side salad, and you have meal.  Perfect for all of you working mommies!  

Here are a few of my favorites.  Most of these can be made a full day ahead - great if you are meal planning for a busy week.  The lasagna and spaghetti are actually better if you made them the day prior - it gives time for the flavors to mull together.  


Baked Enchilada Casserole

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This dish is hardly authentic Mexican - but it is yummy…easy... and the kids and Andy love it!  We usually make it with whole wheat flour tortillas…as it is impossible to find corn tortillas in Singapore.  I am sure the corn would be fabulous.  I have adapted this recipe from http://weelicious.com/.  I added more beans and adjusted the cheese amounts.  I would recommend if you have a small egg - to use two.  And... we have experimented by sautéing a bit of zucchini and tossing it in with the filling.  It works well and ups the veggie content.  

You can alter the taste of this dish by adding more spice to the filling.  However, my kids like varying levels of heat…. so we generally slice fresh jalapeño peppers and put them on the side so that everyone can cater to their own preferences.  

Top off with a margarita…if you find yourself in the mood…which happens in our house….from time to time…perhaps only 98%?

For the Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 14 oz can unsalted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water

For the Filling:

  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, brought to room temperature/drained
  • 2 15 ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups pepper jack cheese
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
  • 6 corn or flour tortillas

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions for 4 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, cumin and chili powder and sauté an additional minute.

Add the honey, diced tomatoes and water. Stir, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes then place in a blender, puree and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the onion, garlic, cumin powder, salt, sour cream and egg.

Stir in the corn, black beans, bell pepper, cilantro and 2 cups of cheese to combine.

Pour 3/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 7×11 baking dish. Cover with 2 corn tortillas.

Spread half of the mixture on top of the tortillas and top with another ½ cup of sauce followed by 2 more tortillas.

Spread the remaining mixture on top of the tortillas, top with the remaining 2 tortillas, sauce and cheese.*

Bake for 40 minutes uncovered. Serve.

At this point the casserole can be covered and frozen. When ready to serve, bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.


"White" Lasagna


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The flavors in the lasagna are gorgeous - and they blend together well.  The breadcrumbs add a lovely home-cooked vibe.  This is the perfect italian meal in the warmer months when a traditional red sauce might seem too heavy.   Living in the tropics - this is one of our year-round staples.  Make sure you do not overcook in the baking stage - as it will come out too dry.  Serve with a salad (a traditional greek works beautifully) and extra pesto on the side.  

Adapted from http://www.amateurgourmet.com/

What you will need:

  • lasagna noodle, no bake or parboiled, up to you
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 6 medium zucchini, sliced evenly into 1/3 rounds
  • for 3 layers (less than 5 mm) plum tomatoes, sliced very thinly
  • ¼ cup basil pesto, fresh or purchased
  • pound 1 ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 zest of lemon
  •  cup + 1 tablespoon parsley
  • shredded mozzarella (the fresher the better)
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Method:

1. Add 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter to a large skillet and heat on low until butter is melted. Add onions and leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme. Sauté over low heat about 1 hour until onions are caramelized. If not sweet to taste after 1 hour, increase the heat to medium till onions are browned.

2. Preheat oven to 300 °F. In a large bowl, toss zucchini slices with 4 T oil, and salt to taste. Arrange rounds on 2 baking sheets and bake 40 minutes until tender and slightly desiccated. Increase temperature to 400 and bake 10 minutes more until tops are browned.

3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with shredded parmesan, lemon zest, 1/8 c. parsley, and salt and black pepper to taste.

4. In a small pan, melt 2 T butter over medium heat until foamed. Add in leaves from remaining 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 T Dijon mustard, and 1 T finely chopped parsley. Remove from heat and whisk vigorously. Add in breadcrumbs, toss to combine, and set aside.

5. With all materials prepared, assemble the lasagna layers in a 9 x 13” baking dish, in the following order, remembering to lightly season between layers:

a. 1/3 of onions

b. 1/3 of zucchini

c. 1/3 of tomato slices

d. 1 whole layer of prepared pasta

e. evenly brush pesto over pasta in a very thin layer (use 1/3rd or less)

f. 1/3rd of ricotta mixture, spread evenly to edges of pan

g. If using, evenly cover ricotta mixture with 1 layer of ramp greens

h. 1/3rd of shredded mozzarella

6. Repeat to create 3 full layers, using up most of your ingredients (you may have some leftover, just eat it all in a sandwich). Over the top, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture. Cover lasagna in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

7. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Take lasagna out of refrigerator and place directly in the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 40 minutes till bubbly.


Spaghetti Casserole

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Comfort food at it's best!  Make sure you use angel hair pasta here…it really makes a difference (trust me…I have experimented!)…

The funny thing about the recipe for me is my kids.  Since we live in Asia…whenever they see noodles they think…"we must need chopsticks".  Vivienne does a wonderful job of setting the table every night - and when she sees this is on the menu - she always sets out the chopsticks.  I do not think they have ever eaten it with a fork!  

This is adapted from a Paula Dean recipe.  However... since the diabetes queen has likely never made a single dish without meat - we have adapted it for a vegetarian diet.  

What you need:

For the Spaghetti Sauce:

  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons House Seasoning, recipe follows
  • 1 ½ teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 small bay leaves

For the Casserole:

  • 8 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack

For the "house seasoning"

  • 1 cup salt
  • ¼ cup black pepper
  • ¼ cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a stockpot, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, seasoning mixtures, sugar, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Cover the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan with sauce. Add a layer of pasta and then a little less than 1/2 of each cheese; repeat the layers, ending with the sauce. 

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, return it to the oven, and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 more minutes. Cut into squares before serving.


© the hill family 2013