Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

SAUSAGE LASAGNA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 hours on Low
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb uncooked ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
6 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken in half
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Cook sausage and onions 8-10 monutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Drain well.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Spoon 1/3 of the sausage mixture into the slow cooker, spreading evenly over the bottom.

Arrange half the noodles on top.

Combine 1 cup of the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses in a medium bowl. Spoon half of the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.

Repeat to add another layer.

Top with remaining 1/3 sausage mixture. cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses; sprinkle over top of the lasagne.

Cover and let stand for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna sets up slightly.

Serve directly from the slow-cooker.

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

Advertisements

Tortilla Chip Casserole

Many, many years ago (I believe I was in junior high at the time), my family stumbled upon a casserole recipe that we’ve used ever since. We call it Mexican chicken, even though we often make it with beef and it’s about as Mexican as Taco Bell. My brother, at some point, dubbed the beef version Tijuana Meatloaf.

We are not very P.C. in my family.

Anyway, whatever you call it, the casserole made for a cheap, easy, tasty, filling meal. It’s perfect for those nights when you don’t want to cook; if your meat is precooked, it’s just throw and go! But the best thing about this recipe? It has endless variations.

The original recipe calls for:

  • 1# diced, cooked chicken
  • ¾ of a bag of nacho cheese Doritos
  • 1 small can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 small can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • Shredded cheddar

mexchick

 

Originally, I think you were supposed to mix the chicken, tomatoes, and soup and layer it with the chips. We just crush the chips, mix up everything but the shredded cheese, and top with the cheese. Then you heat it up. You can throw it in the over, or you can microwave it (all you’re trying to do is heat everything through and melt the cheese). Easy peasy. Obviously, you can use a pound of cooked ground beef in place of the chicken.  You can trade out kinds of soup, of course, or types of cheese. You could even use diced tomatoes without the chilies, or those with Italian or other seasonings. Or substitute homemade or jarred salsa.

But here’s the thing. Almost anything is possible with this recipe.

  • My sister made it with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, plain tortilla chips, and homemade salsa along with the mushroom soup.
  • Last night, I made it with chicken, 1 can of nacho cheese soup, one small can of cheap, off-brand enchilada sauce, and plain tortilla chips, topped with shredded cheddar. Cheddar cheese soup would have also been good. Or, if I’d used more chicken and chips, I could have added some sour cream to the mix. Yum!
  • I also decided that nacho cheese Doritos with leftover brisket, pulled pork, or chicken (shredded), BBQ sauce would be good. Maybe with a can or cheddar cheese soup and some sour cream.
  • If you’re worried about the carbs in the chips (but not the other horrendously bad-for-you ingredients), you could probably make this with pork skins or veggie chips.
  • Since we discovered this recipe, Campbell’s soup has released a great many kinds of “cream of” soups. The current line-up includes: chicken, mushroom, beefy mushroom, asparagus, broccoli, broccoli-cheddar, celery, chicken with herbs, mushroom with roasted garlic, onion, potato, shrimp, cheddar cheese, and nacho cheese. That’s a lot of possibilities! When you add in all the varieties of tortilla (and other) chips available, all the many kinds of cheeses, and various meats, the variations really are endless.
  • You can add other things. Garnish with lettuce and tomato. Throw in some olives, roasted red peppers, or sauteed veggies. Add herbs and spices.

Experiment, and enjoy!

How you want them eggs?

When we are out and about in the world, I notice a number of people dining in restaurants who are unsure of how to order their eggs. They ask a lot of questions, then simply default to scrambled if they still don’t get it.

To alleviate some of this, I’ve gathered together terms and descriptions of some of the most common cooking styles for eggs.

The first thing I notice is that a lot of folks don’t know the proper names for the parts inside the egg. What most people call “egg whites” is the clear protective jelly albumen. The “egg yellah” is the yolk. For the sake of clarity in the descriptions below, I’ve stuck to albumen and yolk.

SCRAMBLED –  Scrambled means that the albumen and yolks are broken and mixed together, cooked quickly in a hot skillet. Most restaurants serve them “hard” which is often a little dryer than one might prefer. Ask for “wet” and you should get scrambled eggs that still look a little shiny.

SUNNY SIDE UP – An egg that is fried only on one side. The albumen should be slightly browned at the edges, while the yolk is warm and runny. Also known as “runny eggs” or “dipping eggs” as the yolk will go everywhere and is tasty when sopped with toast or biscuit.

OVER EASY – This is most often a Sunny Side Up flipped over int he skillet just long enough for the raw egg to seal itself up with a thin film of cooked albumen. The yolk, and sometimes part of the albumen, are still warm and runny.

OVER MEDIUM –  The next step after Easy, this egg is flipped and allowed to cook until the albumen is mostly hardened up, leaving the yolk mostly runny.

OVER HARD or OVER WELL –  As it’s name hints, this egg has been fried, flipped, fried some more, until both the albumen and yolk are “hard”.

POACHED – This is an egg that has been boiled without the shell. It may have been added directly to the boiling water, or with the use of a ramekin. The albumen is cooked while the yolk remains runny. Poached eggs are usually offered as part of Eggs Benedict.

SOFT BOILED – The albumen is partially cooked, with the yolk warm and runny. This is also known as a “six-minute” egg.

HARD BOILED –  The albumen and yolk are both solidified.

SHIRRED or BAKED – This refers to an egg that has been cracked and baked in a flat-bottomed pan, or added on top of a dish.

 

Hopefully this will help anyone who is unfamiliar with the wide range of how eggs are prepared, whether ordering breakfast or reading descriptions on a menu.

— Ann Cathey

 

Springtime Adult Beverages

Everyone should know that “adult beverage” translates to “alcoholic drinks”. The following recipes have been gleaned from several sources, including a local grocery circular. They all have some appeal to us, and so we share them with our readers.
POMEGRANITE VODKA COCKTAIL
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 oz. orange juice
6 oz. 100% pomegranate juice
2 oz. lime juice
8 oz. Absolut Vodka
3 Tbsp. superfine caster sugar
½ Tbsp. ginger juice
1 orange, sliced and quartered

Directions 
Whisk together all ingredients to combine.

Divide among 4 glasses and serve over ice, or pour into a pitcher and pour over ice as needed.

Add a wedge of orange to the rim of the glass for a festive addition.

 

FIZZ BOMB
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 tablespoons powdered lemonaid
½ cup water
4-6 ounces tequila ro vodka
4 cups lemon sparkling water or ginger ale
8 scoops lemon sorbet

Directions 
Place lemonade mix into a pitcher and add plain water, stirring until dissolved.

Add sparkling water and alcohol. Pour into glasses.

Top each glass with 2 scoops lemon sorbet. Enjoy immediately!

Leave out the tequila for a great virgin drink.
SWEET BOURBON MOJITO
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients per drink 
8 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp turbinado (raw) sugar
½ ounces club soda, chilled
Ice cubes
3½ ounces bourbon
¼ tsp almond extract
1½ ounces pineapple juice
2 tsp pure maple syrup
Pineapple wedge for garnish

Directions
Muddle mint leaves with sugar and club soda, then pour mixture into a cocktail shaker.

Add the bourbon, extract, juice and syrup. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
BLOODHOUND WITH JERKY
Hands-on Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
3 cups tomato juice
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large dash Tabasco sauce
Celery salt or kosher salt
Lime wedges
Ice cubes
6-8 oz. vodka
4 sticks beef jerky (I like Jack Links)

Directions 
In a large pitcher, combine tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon juice, celery seeds, pepper and Tabasco. Stir well.

Place celery salt or kosher salt on a small plate. Rim 4 glasses with the lime wedges and dip the rims, coating well.

Fill the glasses with ice and divide the vodka among them. Pour in the tomato juice mixture.

Garnish each drink with a beef jerky stick.

For an added treat, garnish with a skewer of grape tomato, beef jerky, and a mild or hot pepper. This garnish adds more color as well as a dash of panache.

 

Remember, always drink responsibly!

— Ann Cathey

Reuben Pie

On a road trip about 15 years ago, I had a culinary epiphany. Little did I know how well the
initial test would turn out, or how much demand there would be. I conceived something we like to call Reuben Pie.

If you like Reuben sandwiches , you’re likely going to love this one. For those not in the know, the Reuben is an American hot sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. There are plenty of variations out there, but only one real Reuben.

This dish is not an inexpensive one due to the ingredients, and it’s deceptive in it’s
simplicity. Making one, let alone two of these things is a labor of love.
Rueben Pie
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 raw pizza crust or preferred dough
2 lbs corned beef sliced at 0.5

DSC_0189

Grated Swiss cheese

1 pound Swiss cheese, shredded or grated
1 15 oz jar of sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, and pressed
1 bottle Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing
10″ spring-form pan
Parchment paper

Directions:

Grate the cheese and set aside.

Drain, rinse and press as much water as you can out of the sauerkraut.

Line the bottom of a spring-form pan with parchment paper and lock the ring in place. You may cut away the excess paper on the outside of the ring, or leave it for a larger “handle” when removing the pie after baking. If your pans are non-stick, don’t bother spraying them olive oil. If using a cast iron or other pan, spray the sides and line the bottom as with the spring-form.

Roll out the pizza crust and fit it into the pan. Be sure to cover the bottom and sides,
pinching any seams or holes closed, and pushing the dough into the edge where the side meets the bottom. You may have to cut away corners and pinch them in to fill gaps along the sides.

Place in a 400F oven for about ten minutes to give the crust a little more definition. If you
have an extra pan that will fit to keep the sides upright, I suggest using it.

DSC_0183

Upon removing the crust from the oven, remove the shaping pan (if you used one) and begin layering in your other ingredients. Begin with a thin layer of dressing, spread evenly around the bottom and sides. Add a sprinkle of Swiss. Add a layer of meat, thick enough so that you cannot see the bottom crust. Spread a layer of kraut around, as thick as you like. Next is a layer of Swiss.

Begin again with the dressing and continue layering until the pan is full. Be sure that your
top layer is cheese and that nothing is hanging over the edge of the pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to ensure cheese melts and dish is heated through.

Once out of the oven, unlock and remove the ring from the pan. Using the edge of the parchment paper slide the pie onto a cutting surface. Allow to sit for three or four minutes before cutting.

Cut into eight wedges and serve with deli mustard and kosher pickles.

 
I’ve made some notes on the process and ingredients I prefer for this dish, as well as some
excellent alternatives. You might find some or all of them helpful.

DSC_0176The Pan
I use a spring-form pan for this dish for it’s ease in releasing the pie once it’s baked. A
deep dish cake pan or cast iron would do as well, provided you don’t mind it getting scratched from having the pie cut in it. This is not a dish that turns out like a cake with anyreliability, tending more to oozing cheese everywhere.

Parchment Paper
Parchment paper in the bottom of the pan will make it easier to remove. With a spring-form, you simply unlock the ring and lift it away, then slide the parchment paper and it’s burden onto a cutting surface. With any other type of pan, the corners of the parchment paper may be used to lift the pie out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Parchment paper also helps give the bottom crust a crunchier texture, reminiscent of the grilled bread of a Reuben sandwich.

DSC_0180Pizza Crust
A pizza crust found in the canned biscuit case is readily available and easy to use. If you
have other breads available (at one time I could get pre-made rye bread dough at the grocery), or prefer to make your own, it’s entirely up to you. Be sure that with whatever crust you choose, the flavors will be compatible with the filling ingredients. We have tried pizza crust, rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel over the years and found them all to be quite tasty.

DSC_0192Corned Beef
Corned beef is typical of the Reuben sandwich, though you may prefer pastrami. Pastrami or even a mix of the two meats is perfectly acceptable. While I have always preferred corned beef sliced extremely thin, you may choose to use thicker slices (tougher) or even chunks/strips if you have home-cooked a corned beef and have leftovers. I know – such leftovers are not likely. Thinly sliced meat will not only allow fats to more readily cook out to combine with the other ingredients, it will give you a more tender texture overall, and allow your cheese to melt into the meat as well as the kraut layers.

Turkey also makes a decent Reuben style sandwich, though I have yet to try it in a Reuben pie. White meat especially is rather dry on it’s own and should be compensated for by adding a bit of an oilier cheese such as Mozzarella to compensate.

DSC_0184Sauerkraut
There are actually several styles of kraut on the market. There is a sweetish kraut (Bavarian style), a red kraut, and the generally well known white sauerkraut. Most people are unaware that when buying commercial kraut, it should be drained of the can/jar fluids, and rinsed before being used. That’s a trick I learned from my father after he had spent some time in Germany. For this recipe, the less fluid in the kraut, the less fluid will run off and move down to make the bottom crust mushy, so be sure to press it well after rinsing.

Swiss Cheese
I recommend buying your cheese in block form and grating it yourself. You may slice it if you prefer, but you will not get the same coverage in the end. Pre-grated or shredded cheeses are commonly coated with an anti-caking agent such as corn starch. If you don’t want those extra calories and carbs, you might consider avoiding the temptation. Besides, pre-shredded Swiss is more expensive per pound than the block.

 

DSC_0200The Dressing
Russian dressing is reputed to be the original dressing used for the Reuben sandwich. Many restaurants over the years have switched to using Thousand Island due to it’s accessibility and popularity on salads. I like either dressing, though this time around Thousand Island was requested.

 

Pickles
Reuben sandwiches, being a deli creation, are generally served with a pickle spear or a whole kosher dill on the side. The same is true for the Reuben Pie. I do not recommend putting slices of pickle into the layering of the pie for a couple of reasons. Pickles hold a a lot of liquid, and it will bake out into your pie. While the flavor may be delicious, the potential for a mushy crust is not. Pickles also change texture somewhat when baked or otherwise heated, losing the lovely crunch and often becoming mushy themselves, rather like sliced squash.

If you like the recipe, experiment with different flavor combinations and let us know what you come up with.

Here are a couple of extra photos of the no-sauerkraut pie and the crust-less pie that I made at the same time. One was a special request, though not strictly in the Reuben tradition, while the crust-less pie was simply a test of the ingredients without bread.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Savory Schmeres

This pair of recipes may be used as dips, schmeres, spreads, dollops, or any other way you can think of to serve them. I personally like them in small dollops on a cheese cracker or spread on biscuits hot out of the oven.

BACON JALAPENO JAM
Prep Time: 30 minuntes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients
1¾ lb. thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1” pieces
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
? cup cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup strong brewed coffee
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 bags (large) Kettle Brand Original Chips

Directions
Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a large skillet, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer bacon pieces to a large plate or tray to drain.

Saute jalapeño, onion and garlic in bacon fat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet.

In a crockpot, combine the bacon and the vinegar mixture, stirring briefly to combine.
Cook on high, uncovered, for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and two tablespoons of the cooking liquid; stir into the bacon crockpot mixture.

Continue to cook on high, uncovered, for 3 hours. Carefully transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse mixture until coarsely chopped.

Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool before serving with chips.

Mixture can easily be made and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks before using.
MEATY ONION RELISH
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients 
2 cups drippings from pork loin, roast beef or other roasted meat
4 large sweet yellow onions
1tsp black pepper
1tsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Directions

Peel and dice onions.

In crock pot, combine all ingredients. Set on medium and allow to cook until all onions are soft and clear.

Turn heat to high for 10 minutes. Add arrowroot powder and allow to thicken, stirring often.

Allow to cool before placing in a bowl to serve.

Relish may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks before using. Also good for canning project.

This relish relies on the spices used for the roasted meat as a major part of the flavoring. It will be a little different with every batch, depending on the drippings. Bits of meat and fat may be included, adding to the savory flavors.

 

I apologize for the lack of photos, but these were oddities in my kitchen. Hopefully you will give them a spin and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Coconut Rice

Rice is a staple in many people’s diets, but it doesn’t have to be the same over and over. One of the delicious variations for either white or brown rice is coconut.

There’s nothing mysterious about making coconut rice. It’s a delicately flavored side that accentuates most Oriental foods with a subtle sweetness and aroma.

Simply substitue one 15oz can of coconut milk for part of the water as you are making rice. Note that a cup of fluid is 8 ounces, and the canned product comes in just under two full cup measures.

Coconut milk is thicker than water and more difficult for the rice to absorb. Be sure to add an extra quarter cup of water to the pot.

I have found that using the full can works extremely well when making up 2 cups of dry rice. Anything smaller batch and the coconut becomes overwhelming and the rice doesn’t cook up as well.

Coconut rice is a sticky rice rather than a fluffy one. Be prepared for this result.

Add coconut rice to your favorite Oriental dishes, Jamaican jerk, Hawaiian dishes, and anywhere else you would like a little bit of coconut flavor to accentuate your meal.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey