Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nanny Steph's Breakfast Casserole

I got this recipe many, many years ago in college (wait, not that many years ago).  My friend, Steph, and I took a public speaking class and had to give a how-to speech.  She spoke on how to make this breakfast casserole.  Afterward, she gave out the recipe to the class on a slip of paper.  I recently found that slip of paper tucked into a cookbook.  I decided to make it and share it with my kids (who call her Nanny Steph).  They loved it!

*Note:  I halved this recipe.


6 slices of bread (white, wheat, whatever you have)
8 eggs
1 lb Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp Cajun Seasoning, optional
shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sausage and crumble.  Drain off the grease.

Break the bread into small pieces and place in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.

Scatter the cooked sausage over the bread.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and seasoning.

Pour the egg mixture over the sausage and bread.

Top with as much shredded cheese as you like.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  (45 minutes was perfect for me).

You could substitute bacon or ham for the sausage and use any kind of cheese you have (pepper jack would be so good).  This casserole is really easy to make.  It's a hearty breakfast that fills you up.  Plus, it's yummy!  Thanks Nanny Steph!

Friday, July 17, 2015

WOW Sour Cream Noodles

This recipe has a terrible name.  It literally means With Or Without sour cream noodles.  I named it that because you can serve it with or without sour cream.  My daughter and I love sour cream.  My husband and Pickiest Eater Ever Son, not so much.  I know the name is quite literal, but I couldn't come up with anything better.  I guess I was having a creative deficit day.  Anyway, my family made fun of me when I told them the name (we love to rib each other).  We all had such a laugh that I just couldn't change it.  That was years ago and we still laugh about the name.

It may have a bad name, but it's a good recipe.  It's quick, easy and yummy.  What more could you want in a weeknight meal?


1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 lb pasta (rotini, penne, ziti, etc)
sour cream
sliced green onions to garnish, optional

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  That way it will be ready when you need to cook the pasta.

In a large skillet or pot, brown the ground beef.  Drain off the grease.  

In a bowl, mix together diced tomatoes (with juice) and dry onion soup mix.  I zip this in the blender because my picky boys don't like chunks of tomatoes, but it's not necessary.  Once mixed, pour into browned ground beef.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente (that just means that it's not mushy, it still has some bite to it).  Drain the pasta, then stir it into the beef mixture.

I used Tri-color Rotini pasta.  But, I have made this with Penne, Ziti, Shells, etc.  Use what you have.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or without.  If you like, garnish with sliced green onions or chopped fresh parsley.

This is a family favorite because it's hearty and filling.  I like it because it's cheap to make, easy and quick.  A perfect weeknight meal with a not-so-perfect name.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chicken and Rice Wraps

This recipe reminds me of a simpler time...for me that is.  Back when my husband and I were still in college in our first apartment.  I was still learning to cook.  We didn't have much, but we were ridiculously happy, young and in love.  Sounds like a movie, but it's true.

The other day I was going through old cookbooks and found a binder.  It's like a photo album with pockets and is filled with recipes that I tore out of magazines, newspapers, etc.  I ran across this recipe for chicken and rice wraps.  I had cut it out from a box of Rice-a-Roni back when I lived in that apartment.  Just looking at the recipe brought me back.  I knew I had to make it for old time's sake.

The entire time I was cooking, I kept remembering old times.  Little things that I'd forgotten, like how the lock on the sliding glass door was broken so we put a broom handle in the track to keep out intruders.  And the time I decided to cut my very long, curly hair super short and cried in the bathroom for an hour.  And the tiny Christmas tree we had that first year.

When we sat down to eat, my husband said, "Ya know what this reminds me of?  Our first apartment."  Isn't it funny how a recipe can instantly take you back?


1 TBS butter
2 TBS oil (plus a little more, if needed)
1 box chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni
2 large boneless chicken breasts (or 3 small ones), cut in strips
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 1/4 cups water
1 bell pepper, cut in strips
1 onion, cut in strips
8 flour tortillas
salsa and sour cream, optional

Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper (remember the Rice-A-Roni mix is pretty salty, so go easy).  In a large skillet (with a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat, brown the chicken strips in oil.  Do this in batches so you don't over crowd the pan.

Once all the chicken in browned, remove from skillet and set aside.  Brown the onion and bell pepper strips.  You don't need to fully cook them now, just get a little color on them.

Remove and set aside.  Melt the butter in the skillet.

Add rice mix (not the seasoning packet at this time, just the rice mix).  Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown.

Add the water, chicken, peppers, onions, chili powder and the seasoning packet.  Stir well.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer on low for 15-17 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

Let stand for 5 minutes before stirring and serving on tortillas.  Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

OK, so this is not gourmet.  But, I was just learning to cook back then and I felt great about myself that I was able to cook something that tasted great.  And this does taste great.  It's quick and easy and tastes great.  Nothing wrong with that!  Plus, it brings back really great memories.  If you're just starting out in life, one day you'll look back on something that reminds you of today.  It may be a food, or a song, or even a smell.  But, I promise, you're gonna miss where you are today.  So, take it in as much as possible.  Make some memories.  Because, before you know it, you'll be a lot older, wondering where the time went.  I know I am.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chicken and Sausage Etouffe

My Pickiest Eater Ever Son loves gumbo.  He could eat gumbo every single day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  But, making gumbo is not so easy.  In fact, if you do it the old fashioned way, it can be quite a chore.  So, to satisfy his gumbo cravings, I make chicken and sausage etouffe (pronounced eh-too-fay).  It has a lot of the same flavors but you don't have to make a roux so it's not so labor intensive.  My son gives it a thumbs up and says it's almost as good as gumbo but not quite as rich.  I love that he's developing a discerning palette.  Now, if I could only get him to eat his vegetables.


1/2 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cubed
2 TBS oil
Tony Chacherre's Creole Seasoning (any Cajun Seasoning will work)
1 (10oz) can Rotel diced tomatoes with chilis (if you don't like the spice, use regular tomatoes)
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter (or margarine, but butter tastes better)
2 cups water

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add sausage.  Brown well on both sides.  You want it to stick.  That stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot is flavor!

Remove sausage and set aside.  Add the oil.  Season the cubed chicken with Creole seasoning.  Add to the pot and brown on both sides.

Remove chicken and set aside.  Add the butter to the pot and let melt.  Add onion, celery, bell pepper, green onions and garlic.  Saute 5 - 10 minutes, until cooked down a bit.

Add the Rotel.  I have to zip the Rotel in a blender first because my picky eaters don't like chunks of tomatoes.  But you don't have to do that if you're feeding normal people.  Scrape the bottom of the pot to get up the stuck bits.

Season to taste with Creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  Return the sausage and chicken to the pot.

Add the water.

Bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer for 30 - 45 minutes until it has reduced and thickened slightly.

Serve over rice and garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.

Like I said earlier, this hits the same flavor notes as a gumbo but is much easier to cook.  It makes my Pickiest Eater Ever Son happy so it's alright by me.  (Plus, he is unwittingly eating onion, celery, bell pepper, etc).  I call that a win!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Southern Potato Salad

I just had a family BBQ.  My two brothers, two sisters, all the kids and my parents came over to my house.  I can't remember the last time we were all together.  It was a lot of people and a lot of fun!  In addition to the grilled meats, I wanted to make a side dish that's not only delicious, but easy to make in a large quantity.  I had a lot of mouths to feed!  Good old fashioned Southern Potato Salad was the perfect choice.  What goes better with hot barbecue than cold potato salad?  Here's the recipe:

*Note:  I doubled this recipe and it made a ton!  We fed almost 30 people and had leftovers.


5 lbs Idaho potatoes (these have the right starch content)
5 eggs, hard boiled*
1/4 of a large onion, grated
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 TBS yellow mustard
3 TBS sweet pickle relish
2 TBS dill pickle juice
Tony Chacherre's creole seasoning
salt, pepper

Peel potatoes.  (Tip:  Have a big bowl of water ready.  After you peel each potato, put it in the bowl of water.  This will keep them from turning brown).  Cut into cubes, try to make them all relatively the same size (so they'll cook evenly).  Place potatoes in a large pot.  Cover with cold water (just enough water to cover the potatoes).  Bring to a boil, then salt the water generously.  This is where the potatoes get seasoned so be sure to add enough salt.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until a fork slides easily into the potatoes.  (I can't tell you exactly how long to boil them because it depends on how big you cut your potatoes).  Just keep checking them until they are fork tender.

When done, drain the potatoes.  I like to mix this in my stand mixer.  It makes it easier, but you can do it by hand in a big bowl.

Put the potatoes in a big bowl, then add the grated onion, mayo, mustard, sweet relish, pickle juice and mix everything together.

Season to taste with Tony's creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  Lastly, stir in chopped boiled eggs.

*How to hard boil eggs:  In case you don't know how to hard boil eggs, here's an easy way to do it.

Place eggs in a pot.  Cover with COLD water (just enough to cover the eggs).

Bring to a boil.  Then, put the lid on the pot, remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, fill a big bowl with ice and water.  When the 15 minutes is up, immediately transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice water.

This stops the cooking process and makes the eggs easier to peel.  Another tip:  Older eggs are easier to peel.  Buy your eggs about a week before you boil them and they'll peel a lot easier.  See how the shell just slides off.

So, there's the recipe for a delicious, old fashioned potato salad.  I hope you get to make it for a family BBQ like I did.  It was so nice to have everyone together again (even my semi-annoying brothers who live to aggravate me).  Enjoy your summer and enjoy your family!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creamy Spinach Dip

It's always a good idea to have a great dip recipe in your arsenal.  You never know when you'll need it.  Whether you are bringing a dish to a pot luck, need a good snack for movie night or are having friends over for drinks, this dip fits the bill.  It's easy, but most importantly, it's delicious!  Here's the recipe:


1 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix (get it in the dry soup mix aisle)*

*This is just dry soup mix.  It has lots of dehydrated veggies in it.  The veggies plump up in the dip as it sits.

Thaw the spinach.  If you think ahead, you can put it in the fridge over night to thaw.  I usually don't think ahead, so I microwave it to thaw it out.  Just be sure to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can!  You don't want watery dip, yuck.  I drain the spinach in a colander, then put it in a clean dish towel and squeeze until dry.

In a big bowl, mix sour cream, mayo and soup mix.  Stir in spinach and mix well.

Cover and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour.  This gives the veggies time to soak up moisture and lets the flavors marry.  This is a good one to make the day before you need it.  It gets better and better as it sits in the fridge!  (Not to say I haven't made it and eaten it immediately.  What can I say?  I couldn't wait!)

I serve this with a combo of chips, crackers, carrot and celery sticks.

It's always a big hit!  And you see just how easy it is.  Plus, no baking means it's perfect for summer (I avoid turning on the oven in the summer like I avoid Walmart on Black Friday).

So, print this recipe and keep it in mind this summer when you need a delicious dip for a special occasion or a not so special one!  Enjoy!