From Frozen to Fabulous!

Frozen foods have been around since the 1920’s, believe it or not. In this modern day, they are truly a far cry from their humble, vegetable, beginnings with Clarence Birdseye and his contemporaries. Just about any type or style of food can now be found in the freezer section of your local grocery. How you prepare them is plainly laid out on the package, but how you serve them can be another matter all together.

Let us take the simple burrito. While it can merely be heated and eaten, it can also be so much more. Lay out thawed burritos in a baking dish and cover them with chili and cheese, then bake until everything is heated through and the cheese is all melty. Serve up with freshly sliced avocado, sour cream, salsa or pico de gallo, and fresh greens for a more TexMex flair that feeds the soul as well as the stomach.

Have a taste for lasagne? Pick one up for supper tonight, but be sure to grab some extra mozzarella, grated dry cheese such as asiago or parmesan, pesto, and fresh basil. Cook the lasagne as directed, but when the cover comes off to allow the top cheese to melt and brown, smear on some pesto and sprinkle on the extra cheese before popping back in the oven for that last five or ten minutes. Serve with a fresh side salad featuring strips of fresh basil, and a warm and crusty garlic bread.

Pretty much everyone is aware of pigs in a blanket, or klobásníks. Sausage wrapped in a bit of dough and baked up for a hand sandwich. Use croissant pastry and fill it with sausage, cheese, cheese sticks, sliced chicken, or even sliced steak sauteed with onions and peppers for that Philly take.

Eggs are another ubequtious ingredient that many overlook. Crack some fresh eggs onto a frozen pizza before cooking for a sunny side up surprise. Add a fried egg to a cheeseburger, or make it scrambled if you prefer. Turn breakfast into dinner or dinner into breakfast!

Coffee is another kitchen wonder. If you have some leftover from the beginning of your day, use it to end your day in a delightful way. Put a scoop or two of ice cream into a dish or cup, then pour the cold coffee over it to make an Italian cafe classic – an affogato. Top with sliced almonds, whipped cream, even sprinkles to customize your dessert or evening sweet tooth offering.

Give these ideas a try, or better yet, try out your own. Let us know what you come up with so we can give your ideas a whirl in our own kitchen, too.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

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Spaghetti Squash and Sausage

I originally stumbled across this recipe at the Jimmy Dean website, and after playing with it, figured I would share my results since I took photos of the process and all. This recipe may be served “in a boat” (in the squash hull) or simply cooked up in a casserole dish. It’s all about presentation and preference.

The dish features flavors and colors redolent of the fall harvest, and is a great way to kick off the season of cooling temperatures and the glorious autumnal colors of nature.

 

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND SAUSAGE
Prep time: 45minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 pound pork sausage

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Shredded Smoked Gouda

1 spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
1 med or small onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp butter
1 lemon, halved
2 cups baby leaf spinach
Cooking spray – I prefer olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

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Halved Lemon

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

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Removing cooked squash from hull.

Render your squash by slicing in half longways, removing the seeds, and applying olive oil to all the exposed meat surfaces. Roast or microwave until soft. Allow the squash to cool before attempting to handle it. Using a fork or large spoon, scrape the meat out into a bowl and allow it to rest. Be careful to keep the hulls intact. Those may be set aside for later use if desired.

 

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Meat and onion cooked in microwave rather than skillet.

Use cooking spray on a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft and slightly caramelized. Break up the sausage into the skillet with the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is mostly done. Add butter and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. This may also be rendered in a microwave rather than on a stove top, but be sure to use a large microwave safe bowl.

 

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If microwaving, as shown, layer cheese, spinach and squash over meat so that the cheese and spinach are heated between the meat and squash. This will cause nice wilting.

Add the spaghetti squash, spinach, and desired salt and pepper. Cook while stirring occasionally until the squash is nicely broken up and the spinach has begun to wilt. Add the juice from the other half of the lemon, half of the grated cheese, and stir it all up.

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Mix it up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are using the squash hulls, load them with the sausage mixture. If you are using a casserole dish, spray it with you preference of cooking sprays, then fill it up.

Top evenly with remaining cheese and bake at 375ºF until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown and dish is heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

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Allow to rest.

 

Allow to rest for five minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Single serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the original recipe, but one that I fiddled with as I am wont to do. The original called for a panko-based topping, and no gooey cheese. It’s probably healthier that way, but in my house cheese is pretty much a necessity in just about everything.

There are lots of variations that spring to mind for this recipe. Using turkey sausage instead of pork, using kale or another leafy green with or in place of the spinach, and adding other spices to the mix all sparked right off. Toppings might be as simple as a sprinkle of parmesan, or bacon crumbles, or freshly diced parsley or chopped chives. Basing the dish on curry and using a ground meat rather than a pre-spiced sausage sounds tasty, as does a Cajun version.

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The big serving!

As with all the recipes I post, have fun with it! Try it out, twist it up and make it your own.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Red, White and BBQ,

Being a member of MyMagazine™ Sharing Network has gotten me to try a lot of products that I might otherwise have let slip by. These products are normaly in the form of free samples and coupons for free products and discounts. This time around, the mission was all about “Red, White, and BBQ”.

The package of free goodies for this mission included:

 

There. I’m done pimping out the products for the mission. I do recommend trying them all, as they are wonderful in the opinion of my household.

 

37704196_10215091447293353_3453033150546968576_nThe mission suggested a backyard BBQ bash, but it’s been too hot to do much outside recently. Instead we had the party inside and enjoyed every bite.

There were ships and cookies and other assorted goodies on each plate served up, though the burgers and sliders simply stole the show.bite

 

 

 

 

37611425_10215091446413331_7249442738771329024_nWe gave the McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple a try. Instead of sprinkling onto a meat to be grilled, we mixed it into the hamburger meat with a couple of eggs and a bunch of shredded cheese. May not look like much in a bowl, but it came out better than we expected.

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Talk about outstanding flavor! The added smoky aroma and the subtle maple flavor wound all through the burger for a delicious surprise. We made burgers and sliders out of that one batch, with all the fixings, and can’t wait to try some of the other flavors.

— Ann Cathey

Brunch Cups featuring Hormel Natural Choice Bacon

Warning: This entry is photo heavy! As always, click on a photo to view a larger image.

Bacon. Seriously, other than folks with allergies and specific diets, who doesn’t like bacon? (I know there are a few of you out there, but what you don’t care for is our treat.)

34985143_10214773115775264_2706663659517509632_nI have had an opportunity through My Magazine Sharing Network to give a free sample of a Hormel product a try: Natural Choice Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon. There are other flavors of course, but this one appealed to my partner in crime, so that’s what we took home.

 

From Hormel:

No Preservatives,* No Artificial Ingredients

The makers of HORMEL®NATURAL CHOICE® Bacon believe everyone deserves to eat better. That’s why they’re committed to making honest products you can trust that are both enjoyable and affordable. HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE®Bacon is made without artificial preservatives or ingredients. It’s gluten free, minimally processed and comes from pork raised without added hormones.** Whether enjoyed alone or in a recipe — it’s a delicious way to start your day.

*No nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in cultured celery and cherry powder
**Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork.”

 

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Look good, don’t they?

Now that you have the pertinent information, let’s get down to business. The recipe. I’d been wanting to make brunch cups sans pastry dough (my usual tactic) for a while, and this was a golden opportunity. There were a bunch of photos taken during this kitchen session, so you can get a step by step idea of how these lovely cups are built, if you are not already aware. The recipe is good for breakfast, brunch, or anytime you feel the need for these flavors, and can be a wonderful cooking project to share with kids at home or at Gramma’s when you go to visit.

As usual with any of my recipes, feel free to make additions, deletions, and alterations to suit your own dietary and taste needs. The more variations, the merrier!

 

BRUNCH CUPS
Prep time: minutes
Cook Time: minutes
Servings: 6

34874862_10214773116295277_866612718298202112_nIngredients:
1-12 oz package of bacon,
6 whole strips, the rest cut into thirds
10 large eggs
4-6 oz potato, pre-cooked
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
1 tsp parsley
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
Sea salt, garlic, and pepper to taste

 

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Freshly washed yard eggs, medium to large in size.

NOTE:
-I used slices of baked potato (Golden) that had been stored in the refrigerator, tossed with sea salt and diced garlic).
-Olive oil baking spray is a standard in my kitchen.
-Cupcake pan should be larger than normal, but not cake sized. This handy chart helps with sizing.-The Cherry Wood Smoked bacon smells amazing!

Directions:

35080231_10214773116055271_8061552674270609408_nPre-heat oven to 350F. Spray cupcake pan liberally with olive oil.

Line baking cups with bacon in stages: 2 cut slices on bottom, one whole slice around the inside of the cup. Place slices of potato (with garlic and salt) into the bottom of the cup. Place a single slice of cut bacon on top of the potato. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest while other prep work continues.

34963243_10214773153696212_9215589916891676672_nIn a moderate sized bowl, crack eggs. Whisk briskly while adding parsley, paprika, and cumin.

 

 

Pour egg mixture into baking cups slowly, to allow any air bubbles to surface. Return to hot oven for 15 minutes.

 

Remove cupcake pan from the oven. Divide Swiss cheese evenly among the cups, making sure that coverage is even and no bits of cheese are hanging out to make cleanup a chore. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is all melted.

 

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Emplated, with a dab of onion sour cream.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes. Carefully remove the cups so as not to scratch up the pan. They may be plated individually or removed to a serving platter.

 

Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

The brunch cups may be served with fruit, a bit of sour cream on top, or however you prefer to emplate them. The meal is fairly low in carbohydrates and quite high in protein, making is a delicious main dish for diabetics. It is not particularly ketogenic friendly due to the potato content.

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Try this recipe with one of the Hormel Natural Choice bacons, and let us know how you like it. We, and our guests that morning, have enjoyed the experiment a great deal.

 

“That bacon is not too salty and not too sweet. Great stuff!” – Adrian
“I found the cups to be an interesting bit of breakfast. The egg mixing with the bacon and the cheese had a slight sweet taste. Yet, I found the cups to be soft and easily eaten with little mess. My furbaby even enjoyed a few nibbles that escaped from my plate! I would be interested in trying this again — maybe with sausage or a different type of cheese to see how the flavor changes.” — Billie Jean

 

– Ann Cathey

Elotes!

My partner in crime, Christopher, works with a company that indulges in company lunches once every month or two. Employees are encouraged to bring side dishes and desserts. One of his fellows decided to bring a favorite in Houston and other American cities along the Texas-Mexico border – Street Corn, also called Elotes.

While Christopher was too busy munching to get a photo of the dish, he did manage to bring home the recipe and permission to share it with our readers.

ELOTES – Grilled Mexican Street Corn
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
6-8 ears sweet corn, husks removed
½ cup Mexican crema (or sub sour cream)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup minced cilantro
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¼ tsp ground chipotle pepper, to taste
2 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp lime juice
½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled (or sub crumbled Feta or grated Parmesan)

Directions:
Set up your grill as you normally do. Light your coals and get them good and hot.

While the coals are getting started, in a large mixing bowl combine crema, mayo, cilantro, garlic, ground pepper, lime zest and juice and mix until homogenized.

When grill is ready, place ears of corn directly over hot side of grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all sides.

Transfer corn to cheese mixture and coat well on all sides. Set coated ears onto serving tray and sprinkle with additional cheese and cilantro before serving if desired.

Serve immediately. Lime wedges and crisp corn chips are good sides for this dish.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

If the specific dairy items above are not available in your area, please note the suggested substitutions.

 

Christopher enjoyed the elotes quite a bit, and hopes that you will, too.

Bon appetite!

– Ann Cathey

Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

Harvest Endive Salad

Fall seems to be a time to start thinking about using apples and walnuts more than during the spring and summer. It may be because the the traditional harvest has come in and these are fresher ingredients than any other time of the year.

Down in the southern United States, where this blog originates, the weather seems to swing between hot and cold for most of the fall and part of the winter, leaving us wanting warm and savory dishes part of the time, and salads the rest of the time!

Below is a salad recipe that lends itself to both savory and sweet. It’s great for a light lunch, a brunch addition, or an accompaniment to grilling. It’s also a swift and simple side to take to a family gathering or holiday party.

HARVEST ENDIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 heads endive (or substitute Romaine)
1 medium apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 tbsp fresh chive, chopped for garnish

Directions:
Wash, dry, and trim endive. Cut each leaf into quarters lengthwise. Crosscut into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Place in large salad bowl.

Wash apple, core and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Add to salad bowl.

Cut cheese into approximately 1/4 inch cubes. Add to salad bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

If serving immediately, toss with dressing and serve. Sprinkle with chives for added color.

If taking to a gathering, wait until you are about to serve before adding dressing and tossing salad.

 

Dressing:
1/4 rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt

Directions:
In a lidded glass jar, combine vinegar, oils, salt and sugar. Cover and shake vigourously to combine ingredients.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey