Monday, May 30, 2016

Grits and Sausage Casserole

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted.  We have been very busy!  My son's school year came to end and so did my daughter's college program at Disney World.  We went to Orlando to help her move out of her apartment and bring her home!  Boy, have I missed my girl!  She had a once in a lifetime magical adventure but we are so happy to have her home.

Here is a pic of us with The Beast at Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom.  The Beast was very charming!  He helped me out of my mobility scooter and walked me over to take the pic then accompanied me back to my scooter.  Who says chivalry is dead?

We had an amazing vacation!  Now, back to cooking.

I grew up eating grits.  I never realized they were a southern thing until a friend from up north asked me what they were.  In case you don't know, grits are just a hot cereal, like oatmeal or cream of wheat, but they are made from hominy, which is a type of corn.  I always ate them plain, with butter and salt.  But, this recipe bumps up the flavor to turn plain old grits into something fantastic!


1/2 cup quick cooking grits
2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt (plus extra salt/pepper to season)
1/4 lb. breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean)
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 TBS chopped bell pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring water to a boil.  Add salt and slowly whisk in grits.  Lower heat, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage with onion and bell pepper in a cast iron skillet (any oven-proof skillet will work.  If you don't have an oven-proof skillet you can just transfer everything to a baking dish before baking).

Once browned, drain off any excess grease.

Stir in the cooked grits and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Salt and pepper to taste.  (If you want it spicy, use Cajun Seasoning or add a little hot sauce).

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and bake another 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

This casserole is so darn delicious!  I couldn't stop eating it.  It's hard to believe something so simple can be so good, but it is.  Creamy, savory with just a bit of spice (or more if you're heavy handed with the hot sauce).  Feel free to garnish with some sliced green onions (I was out so no garnish here, sorry).  But you know how Cajuns feel about food?  It doesn't have to be pretty, just delicious.  This recipe delivers on that!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A TwoFor: Simple Baked Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie

A "TwoFor" is what I call it when I make one meal and turn it into two.  For instance, I make a big chuck roast in the crockpot, then use the left overs to make a Beef Vegetable Soup or Beef Quesadillas.  Instead of just reheating the same dish, I like to turn it into something new.  Here is a really good TwoFor using chicken.  Start with a great baked chicken recipe, then turn it into a hearty, comforting chicken pot pie.  Both recipes are simple, but delicious.

Start with a big batch of baked chicken.  I like to buy family-sized packages of chicken legs and thighs when they go on sale.  Bake a big sheet pan full of chicken, let the left overs cool down then shred the meat off the bones.  Store the shredded chicken in a zip top bag in the fridge for a day or two, then make a pot pie with it.  This trick saves a lot of time and effort.  Here is a great recipe for baked chicken that really lets the flavor of the chicken shine through.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can make a little or a lot in the same amount of time.  So make a bunch and use  the left overs!


Several pounds of bone-in chicken legs and thighs
oil (olive, canola, vegetable)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Take the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes or so.  By taking the chill off the meat, you insure that it will cook evenly and be more tender.

Next, pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  This is important.  It keeps the chicken from steaming and helps it to roast and crisp up in the oven.

Once you've patted it dry, place the chicken in a big bowl.

Drizzle in a little oil (enough to lightly coat the chicken) and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the chicken around to evenly distribute the seasoning.  (I use clean hands to rub the seasoning into the chicken, but if that grosses you out, just stir it around a lot with tongs).

Place the chicken in a single layer (don't pile them on top of each other) on a big baking sheet with sides (I use my gigantic iron skillet).  If you don't have a big enough baking sheet, use two.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes then lower the oven to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through (no longer pink inside).  By starting the oven at a higher temperature you get crisper skin.  Lowering it keeps the chicken from drying out.

It comes out light golden, tender, juicy and absolutely delicious!

If you want even crispier skin, you can put it under the broiler for a few minutes.  But, I find this chicken to be perfect just like this.

Now, after you've eaten this delicious juicy chicken, let the left overs cool down.  Shred the meat from the bones and save it to use in the next recipe.


2 pie crusts (refrigerated kind)
2 cups left over cooked chicken (shredded or diced)
1 can mixed vegetables, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups frozen vegetables, thawed)
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Add the flour and whisk well until lumps disappear.

Let that cook for 2-3 minutes then add the chicken broth, whisking until smooth.

Then add the milk, whisking until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper.

Let it come up to a boil, whisking, then lower the heat to a simmer.  You will see it thicken.

Add the vegetables.

Add the chicken.

Stir everything together until well mixed.  Remove from heat.

Put one of the pie crusts into a pie plate (if you don't have a pie plate, you can use an oven proof skillet, like cast iron, or buy a disposable one for a buck or so).

Gently place it in and crimp the edges to make it look nice.

Then, add the filling.

Next, place the second pie crust on top of the filling and tuck the edges under.  Pinch the edges together to keep everything tucked in nicely.

Cut a few slits in the top crust (to let the steam escape.  Otherwise it will explode).

This next part is optional but I like to do it.  Brush the top with a little milk.  The sugar in the milk helps the crust to brown.

Place the pie on a baking sheet (just in case it bubbles over you won't make a mess in your oven) and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Let it cool for at least 15 minutes!!!  This is very important (in case you couldn't tell by the exclamation marks).  Letting it rest, lets it set up.  If you cut it right away it will be a sloppy mess!

My guys were starving and standing around me waving forks, so I cut this a few minutes early and it was still a little loose.  Delicious, but not as thick as it should be.  So be patient and you will be rewarded.

This dish is a comforting classic for a reason.  The tender chicken, slightly sweet veggies and yummy gravy combined with the flaky pie crust is an awesome combination.  It warms you heart and soul.

You have got to love two dishes that are so simple yet so good.  I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do.