Mom’s Zucchini Casserole

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This dish is a staple at Christmas Eve dinner for our family, and for many years, I refused to sacrifice plate space for this casserole. Zucchini? Vegetables? No thank you says my adolescent self.

But as I began expanding my palate and grew older, zucchini became okay. I even began to spiralize it and eat it, so it was time to try this casserole. This zucchini casserole is cheesy, bacon-y goodness. I highly recommend you don’t wait 10+ years to make this like I did.

Mom’s Zucchini Casserole
From Cinnamon Freud’s mom

INGREDIENTS

6 cups thinly sliced zucchini (or other squash)
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2-2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Boil zucchini slices for 2-3 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine egg yolks, sour cream, and flour. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into sour cream mixture.

In a 9 x 13 pan, place half of the zucchini in a single layer. Season zucchini with salt and pepper. Crumble bacon on top. Spread half of the sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Layer the remaining zucchini and repeat, sprinting cheese on top.

Mix butter and breadcrumbs together. Sprinkle on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Feta Dip

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Dips are just the best. A dinner of dip(s) a great, easy (and usually oven-less) summer dinner, and that is exactly what I did with this feta dip. I had eaten some feta dip at a get together a few weeks ago, and ever since I have been hell-bent on re-creating it at home.

This dip was particularly great outside on a hot day with a margarita. A highly recommended combination. Or any dip with a margarita.

If you will now excuse me, I have a whole bowl of it in the fridge just calling my name for dinner. And it’s all for me since I am the only feta-lover in this household.

FETA DIP

INGREDIENTS

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, break up feta cheese into small pieces (you can also use a food processor as well). Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise until combined. Stir in garlic olive oil, chives, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit in fridge at least 1 hour, preferably overnight to let the flavors develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature with Pita chips or vegetables.

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Pizza Quesadilla

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There have been multiple reasons for my radio silence for the past few months (!?). I was eating out more often, was busier with work, got a puppy that demands 99.9% of my attention at all times, and while I was still cooking, it was nothing that I considered “blog worthy.”

So, my cooking has changed. I still like to cook from scratch as much as I can (cheaper and healthier!), but I am definitely into faster meals now, and I am really into cheese in my meals even more so than before. So that’s where this pizza quesadilla comes in. The picture ain’t a beauty, and that’s because I snapped it with my iPhone in my horribly lit kitchen on my ugly countertop (before I burnt the countertop though at least), but this is a genius idea.

Pizza quesadillas are more quesadilla than pizza, but it is great. I find it more filing than the typical quesadilla fare, but still super simple to make!

Pizza Quesadilla
Barely adapted from Buzzfeed

Ingredients

2 tortillas
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Additional toppings as desired (onion, pepperoni, peppers, sausage, olives, etc.)
Oil

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Spread on tortilla one lightly with tomato sauce and sprinkle mozzarella on top. Add any other desired ingredients. Coat pan lightly with oil and place tortilla in pan. Place another tortilla on top and press.

Cook until tortilla is lightly brown, about 5 minutes, and carefully flip the tortilla. Cook for 5 additional minutes, or until other side is golden brown. Transfer quesadilla to a baking sheet. Lightly spread tomato sauce on top of quesadilla and add any desired toppings, including cheese. Broil for 2-4 minutes, until crispy.

Fig and Walnut Empanadas

2-17 Fig and Walnut Empanadas

Food cravings- I get them all the time. Sometimes I crave a salad, or some veggies, and that is great- my body thirsts for nutrition when I deprive it too long. And sometimes I just need some chocolate, red meat, or salty potato chips. Fine too, a little snacking and indulgence never hurt anyone. But the worst cravings are when I crave food I ate in another city. I’m looking at you, beaver tails

Well, practically every time I head home to Houston, I stop at this amazing empanada place. In fact, last trip, it was the first stop in town. I was grouchy and “witchy” after a long drive home, but all that grumpiness melted away as we stopped and I took my first bite into my empanada.

But what’s a girl to do when she is grumpy at home with no empanadas to listen the mood? Well, make her own! The emapanda dough I use is quick to whip up, only takes a little chill time the refrigerator, and is very easy to work with. Cheese and fig may seem weird, but think of it as a warm cheese plate wrapped in pastry dough. It just works. Then dollop some of your favorite fillings, bake, and devour.

FIG AND WALNUT EMPANADAS
Inspired by Marini’s Empanada House

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1/2 cup water
5 ounces butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped walnits
3-5 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a small saucepan combine water and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

In a bowl combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms. Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 hours.

For the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into 20-25 small equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4-5 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of fig preserves in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle walnuts and mozzarella cheese on top. Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape. Crimp closed with a fork.

Place on lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

**To reheat, I have found the empanadas still get a crispy shell when you bake as directed above, let cool and store at room temperature, and reheat for 5-7 minutes at 400°F.

Makes 20-25 empanadas.

Huevos Motuleños

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I can get tired of eating the same food over and over. Not other people though it seems. My sister typically rotates between cooking 1-3 meals for herself, and my boyfriend literally asks to eat pizza for dinner every other day.

But I need variety in life. Except when it comes to Tex-Mex. I could eat chips and queso, enchiladas, nachos, and tacos all week long. Pair it with a frozen margarita and that’s even better. There is so much variety even within Tex Mex that I can be satisfied, but the familiar base of cheese, spicy sauces, and salsa is the best.

When I saw this recipe on The Chew, I knew I had to make it. Now, this is not a quick 30 minute dinner. It has several steps and involves frying, which means you got to clean up oil (Ugh. The worst). But the flavor is great- crunchy, spicy, creamy, and rich. It is a great homemade meal when you want to cook something special for your Tex-Mex.

HUEVOS MOTULEÑOS
Adapted from Mario Batali at The Chew

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound Chorizo (not in casings)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups refried beans
1 plaintain & 1/2 cup light brown sugar, optional
6-8 small flour tortillas
Canola oil, for deep frying
3-4 eggs
Avocado, sliced
Cojita cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Coat a large skillet in olive oil. Heat over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Stir in Chorizo and cook until browned, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Remove and drain excess oil from mixture.

For optional plaintains: Slice plaintains. Coat plantain slices in brown sugar. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat coated well with olive oil. Fry plantain slices until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour 1/2-1 inch of oil into a skillet. Heat over medium heat until oil is approximately 300°F. Place tortillas in oil one at a time and fry each side until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm (can be kept warm in a 200°F oven but keep your eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Crack eggs individually into pan (be careful not to over crowd eggs- work in batches if needed) and fry eggs for 1-2 minutes. Flip eggs (carefully to avoid breaking yolks) and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble Huevos Motuleños:

Place a fried flour tortilla on a plate. Spread refried beans on top. Spoon chorizo filling on top. Sprinkle cojita cheese and avocado slices on top. Top with additional fried tortilla, if desired. Top with fried egg. Serve with fried plantains, if using.

Baked Fontina

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Oh, cheese. Glorious, glorious cheese.

Some days you really just need some bread with some warm melty cheese on top. This is a simple appetizer and/pr meal for one that will be warm and filling. Perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day in.  Warm cheese, bread for dipping- that is true love.

BAKED FONTINA
Barely Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound fontina cheese, cut in 1 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the broiler.

Grease a 9 inch square cast iron pan. Toss cheese in pan in a somewhat equal layer. Season with salt, pepper,thyme, and garlic. Drizzle olive oil on top. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until bubbly. Let cool slightly. Serve with crusty bread family style.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Cheddar Broccoli Rice Casserole

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I know it’s been a be quiet round these parts recently.  I have been trying to get back into cooking more, and I have actually been cooking dinner much more often.  But sometimes the recipes are only okay, sometimes the photos are not my favorite, and sometimes I just forget. It’s not you, it’s me.  I am hoping to get back into the swing of things more.  Lots has been going on around here though- I have officially gotten my Masters degree (and thus will now only respond to “Master Karen”), went on a vacation to San Antonio with my boyfriend, and am gearing up.  So lots of school but no cooking- something which I hope to fix very soon.

One way I have tried to inspire myself more is by meal planning (also helps me not waste food).  So one week I was planning out my meals and had a huge craving for some kind of warm casserole.  Knowing that I still had my month’s Secret Recipe Club meal to make, I went searching through   Turnips 2 Tangerines, and I found this lovely casserole.  Creamy, warm, and cheesy- just want the doctor ordered. Warm, comforting, and completely inappropriate for this flipping hot summer.  Perfect.

CHEDDAR BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE
Adapted from Turnips 2 Tangerines

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dried jasmati rice
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
Celery salt
3-4 heads broccoli, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS

Cook rice according to instructions. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place broccoli on baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-14 minutes, until broccoli is tender and beginning to brown. Set aside

In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour. Whisk in milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir until sauce is thickened. Combine rice, broccoli, and sauce. Prepare a pie pan for baking and spread mixture inside. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake until cheese is bubbly and melted, 5-10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Philly Cheesesteak

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I am a Texan gal, so I have a love for barbeque brisket, burgers, and Tex Mex. But my parents are northeasterners, so I also love seafood, Italian subs, and cheesesteaks. My parents grew up in the Philadelphia area, and besides loving to visit to see family up there, I also love to eat sandwiches. And lots of them.

I am on a constant search for how to create the perfect cheesesteak in my own kitchen. Now there is a lot of contention surrounding the cheesesteaks based on people’s personal preferences. What type of cheese should top your cheesesteak? Provolone, American, or Cheese Whiz? Should there be peppers? Mushrooms?

While I love squirting cheese whiz on Ritz crackers (who else loved to make pretty cheese whiz designs on their crackers or see how tall you can pile it before your cheese tower collapses?), I am not a huge fan of it on my cheesesteaks.

This cheesesteak recipe reflects how I like mine: with provolone, mushrooms, NO peppers (bell peppers are the devil’s handiwork in my mind), and topped with ketchup. Make according to your own preferences following the same method. Just don’t tell me if you use peppers.

PHILLY CHEESESTEAKS
From The Little Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

4 soft hoagie rolls
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms
1/2 pounds rib eye steak
Salt and pepper
Provolone cheese
Ketchup, for topping

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 250°F. Slice your hoagie rolls and prepare four pieces of foil.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add onions and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cut the rib eye into thin slices against the grain. Chop the slices into small pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add half of the rib eye, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-4 minutes. Top with cheese. Cover with lid and cook until melted, 1-3 minutes. Stir in half of the mushroom and onion mixture. Divide the filling between two hoagie roolls. Repeat with remaining steak, mushrooms, onions, and cheese. Tighly wrap each sandwich individually with foil. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. Eat immediately, topping with ketchup if desire.

Makes 4 sandwiches.