Mom’s Zucchini Casserole

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let me preface this whole post by saying I don’t think I have ever had the green bean casserole with the canned green beans and cream of mushroom soup. I have definitely had those french fried onions (#latenightsnacking).

I’ve made homemade green casserole before on the blog, but I was never completely satisfied by it. One of the hardest things when first cooking what how to get sauces to thicken with a roux. I swear that I would follow recipe directly exactly but it would never thicken up as promised (I am looking at you chicken pot pie recipes…).

BUT I was determined. And I wanted to make a casserole completely from scratch to see if I could get those french fried onions to be even better than than those boxed ones.

And finally I feel like I was able to master a homemade version of cream of mushroom! Forgive the darker photo from a winter evening and make this homemade this holiday season!

HOMEMADE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated & Pioneer Woman

For the Casserole:
1 lb green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup half and half

For the onions:
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

Cover sliced onions with buttermilk and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat large pan and add green beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sizzling. Add water until beans are just covered and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain green beans and cool with cold water (or do water bath if you aren’t feeling as lazy as I was when cooking).

Heat large pan and add butter and mushrooms. Season with salta and pepper and cook until mushrooms have released water, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly stir in chicken stock and half and half. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer while stirring. Simmer until thicken for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer into 8×8 casserole dish (or 9×9 if you want a smaller filling to fried onion ratio.)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil to 375°F.

In large dish, mix flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Working in batches, drain onions and dip into flour mixture, coating to cover. Fry in oil for 1-3 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain and salt when hot out of the oil. Repeat with remaining batches.

Sprinkle onions on top of casserole. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling and onions are golden brown.

Thanksgiving Nachos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Most people know exactly what they are going to make for their Thanksgiving meal. There are the must-haves of turkey, stuffing, and cranberries, and people have their own traditional or family recipes to include too. So why bother sharing more recipes for the day-of when likely 1) you literally can’t add any more dishes because of time, dishes, and space or 2) you have traditions to follow. But if that’s what you need you can look here.

Instead lets focus on leftovers. Now, the main Thanksgiving meal is great and wonderful. But leftovers are really where it’s at. The days after Thanksgiving are full of some of the best turkey sandwiches ever. But let me tempt you to try using your leftovers a new way: on nachos.

If you love to combine all your Thanksgiving food on your plate, this is for you. These nachos do just that but add a crunchy, salty tortilla chip and some salty cheese on top.

Now I do not advocate nachos and no turkey sandwiches, but think about these nachos when you are tired of eating your leftovers the same way day after day.

THANKSGIVING NACHOS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS:

Tortilla chips
Cojita cheese, crumbled
Turkey, shredded
Cranberry sauce
Stuffing, optional
Gravy, warmed

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

Line baking sheet with tortilla chips. Top with turkey, cheese, and stuffing. Cook in oven for 3-8 minutes, until warmed and browned. Drizzle cranberry sauce and gravy on top.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are only a few recipe sources that I always trust. 1) My mom, 2) Cook’s Illustrated, and finally Ina Garten.

When I was first learning to really cook, I was cooking dinners with friends once a week, and our meals typically featured Ina’s recipes. And they never turned out bad. As the years went on, I started cooking and realized that her recipes have a higher success rate than just the typical recipe you see.

I have enjoyed watching her new shows recently and am planning to check out her new cookbook as soon as I can get it from the library (#poorgradstudent). This treat can hold me over until then with her transformation of the classic PBJ to a dessert. PBJ has been my go to lunch at work for the past few months- would I loose any professional standing at work by eating these bars for lunch instead?

 

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4-1 cup jelly
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with aluminum foil and grease it.

Cream together butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until just combined.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.

Press approximately 2/3 of the peanut butter dough in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread jelly evenly over top.  Dollop the remaining peanut butter dough on top.  Sprinkle peanuts on top.  Bake for 25-32 minutes, until done.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo

 

When cooking there are a few dishes that I am convinced can’t be made as good in my kitchen as in restaurants. Or I’ve tried to make a dish and failed every time.

Gumbo was always one of those dishes. I was just convinced that it would be 1) too much work with making a roux and 2) just not taste as good despite my efforts. Well, one day something convinced me to try a Gumbo recipe. It was from Cook’s Illustrated, which is my one recipe source that can gives me hope that it will turn out. But then it was a lightened up/healthier gumbo, so I was skeptical all over again. Anyone who knows gumbo is that “light” is not typically a word you read to describe it.

Well, don’t be skeptical about this recipe. This is not a traditional roux in any sense, but it is so much easier and the taste is spot on. I have adapted a few things based on what ingredients I have had around

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn

pb224737_1024

I am loving my first fall in the midwest. I have been cooking a lot more soups and cold-weather dishes when the temps are cooling off (and then heating up, and then cooling off again).

October is a snack and sweet month with Halloween, and this popcorn is a great sweet snack. You pop your own popcorn, and coat one half in a jelly sauce and the other in a PB or any other nut butter sauce. It’s a nice sweet snack with good crunch. Perfect for eating while watching a movie while ti’s cold outside.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY POPCORN
Barely Adapted from Something Swanky

INGREDIENTS

6 cups popped popcorn
1 cup white chocolate chips, divided
2 tablespoons jelly
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Salt

DIRECTIONS

Divide popped popcorn into two separate bowls (3 cups in each bowl).

Using the microwave or a double broiler, melt 1/2 cup white chocolate. When chocolate is almost melted completely, stir in jelly and a pinch of salt. Pour on top of one bowl of popcorn and stir to mix. Spread popcorn into a single layer on a baking sheet and let sit until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Using the microwave or a double broiler, melt the remaining 1/2 cup of white chocolate. When chocolate is almost melted completely, stir in peanut butter and a pinch of salt. Pour on top of the remaining bowl of popcorn and stir to mix. Spread popcorn in a single layer on a baking sheet and let sit until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Break popcorn into pieces and mix together.

Pastina Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For a long time, I was a staunch believer that a soup is not a meal.

But as a lot of my food obsessions go, out of no where I was craving soup one day. So I had some. And then I had some more. The bf didn’t complain when we had lots of soup for dinner, even during sweltering summer, since he had been a soup-lover in a food desert since our relationship started.

So I have made broccoli and cheese, french onion, gumbo, and more. This pastina soup is a soup my bf has talked about in great awe as a food from his family. I was lucky enough to get to travel up and try the soup, and I was hooked in its simplicity. It is an Italian style chicken noodle soup. Made from scratch, it is a perfect dinner as a chill starts to come in the air.

PASTINA SOUP

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken Stock:
Water
1 whole chicken*
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

For the Pastina Soup:
1/2 onion
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup pastina or other small pasta
Chicken from stock, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS

For the Chicken Stock:

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Put on low heat (the water should bubble occasionally and produce steam only). Cook for at least 2 hours, up to 6 hours. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook for another 2 hours. Strain stock into large bowl.

For the Pastina Soup:

Grate onion, carrot, and celery. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery stalks. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2-4 minutes. Stir in stock and bring to a boil. Stir in pastina and cook for 4-6 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper (will need a significant amount since stock is unseasoned, make sure to taste). Cook until chicken is warmed through. Serve and top with grated parmesan cheese.

From Cinnamon Freud

*You can use any combo of chicken or reserved chicken bones for the stock. I have done this with a whole chicken, with wing tips mixed with old bones, and more. Just make sure to have chicken to put in the soup! Same thing with the veggies, you can use scraps of veggies that you have saved too and can add in other veggies and herbs.

Homemade Pita Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the great parts of living near a metropolitan city is the lots of different types of cuisine. Over Labor Day weekend, I went to a Greek festival and chowed down on a lot of good Greek food. The most important component of Greek food for me is the pita. Great pita bread can make a gyro, and bad pita bread will ruin one.

I wanted to be able to recreate good Greek food in my own home, and since I already had the gyro meat and tzatziki ready, I just needed the pita bread. Now I have had a lot of trouble (and some success) with making homemade bread, so I wanted to find a recipe from someone who I trusted would not lead me astray in a yeast-mess.

And here we go! I have made this pita bread several times, and it works. So go forth and have DIY Greek food in your own home!

PITA BREAD

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
One pinch granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Olive oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Heat water to 110 degrees in a large bowl and stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy and dissolved. Stir in flour, salt, and olive oil. Knead dough on a well floured surface for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Coat a bowl with oil and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and keep covered with towel when not working with them. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Roll out dough to an 8 inch circle. Place in hot pan and cook for approximately 30 seconds to one minute per side until it begins to bible and brown. Keep wrapped in towel to keep warm while making the remaining pita bread.

Serve immediately.

Barely Adapted from Half Baked Harvest