Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

This is a great dish for a brunch. It’s like hash browns with sausage gravy.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole
(serves 6)

8 oz. chopped broccoli
1 lb. Bulk Breakfast Sausage
2 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
1 1- lb. Package Frozen Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
1 ½ cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9″ x 9″ x 2″ glass baking dish.

If using fresh broccoli, steam or boil for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well. If using frozen broccoli, thaw completely.

Cook sausage in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon. Mix in flour, garlic power, and dried onion. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture thickens and comes to boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits on the pan. Remove from heat.

Arrange potatoes in prepared dish. Top with broccoli. Sprinkle lightly with salt and  pepper. Cover with 1 cup cheese,  then the sausage mixture. 

Bake casserole for 50 minutes. Top with remaining ½ cup cheese. Return to the oven to melt cheese and finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

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Baked Herbed Cucumbers

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This recipe is nearly the same as this one, Cooking Cucumber: the French Way. So, if you don’t have cream in your fridge but you do have lots of cucumbers, you can make this!

Do not skip the salting step. Cucumbers are full of so much water that you will end up with icky cucumber mush if you try to bake them without salting them to draw out some of the water.

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I made this version with basil. Which gives me an excuse to show off the gigantic basil leaves from my garden. Wow! The basil (and the cucumbers) are very happy this year.

Baked Herbed Cucumbers
(serves 6)

6 medium cucumbers
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
⅛ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or use dill or parsley)
3 Tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
salt and pepper

Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the cucumbers the long way into about ½” slices. Then cut into 3″ pieces. Place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix and let sit for 30 minute to an hour. Drain, pour onto a towel, arrange in a single layer then pat dry with another towel. You want the cucumber pieces dry so they cook up crisp, not mushy.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter with the fresh herbs and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper in a small saucepan. Place the cucumbers in a large shallow baking dish – large enough so the cucumbers are mostly 1 layer deep. Pour over the melted butter and mix. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, stirring a few times during the baking. Remove from oven. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Baked Polenta

Polenta can be a time-consuming dish. Like risotto, it requires a lot of stirring. Or does it? No, it does not! You can bake it in the oven and it comes out perfect every time. It’s so super-easy, I don’t think I’ll ever make it on the stove top again.

You can use all water or use ½ water and ½ milk. The polenta will be richer and creamier if you use whole milk.

Baked Polenta
(serves 4-5 as a side dish)

2 cups cold milk or water
1 cup yellow corn grits or dry polenta (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (use the lesser amount if you are going to mix in cheese)
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10″ x 8″ baking dish with butter or non-stick cooking spray. For ease of entry/exit from the oven, place on a cookie sheet.

When oven reaches temperature, combine cold milk or water with corn grits in a large bowl. Combine salt with boiling water and whisk to dissolve salt. Add salted water to grits and stir. Gently pour into the greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir before serving.

You can also embellish your polenta with cheese. Stir in ½ cup (or more if you like cheesy) at 45 minutes, then bake for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Stir again before serving.

Note: The original recipe said use a 9″x5″ pan, which may work but I have never tried it that way!

Mussels Baked with Tomatoes and Potatoes

Sadly not my local seafood market. These are HUGE mussels on display at the River Market in Valdivia Chile

Dropped off the map recently. Went to Texas to visit family. Not much cooking going on there, though I did make a damn good Greek lamb stew for the fam. Did manage to snag some epically good BBQ at Pecan Lodge in Dallas. Boy, if you are near there, check it out! Delicious. Seriously delicious. Just expect to wait in line – it’s also very popular. Back to reality…my husband breaks his collarbone. Yeah, that’s been fun. And, we just broke ground on our new house in the mountains and we had relatives visiting from Chile. Whew!

Just had to share a photo of the spread at Pecan Lodge. That beef rib weighed nearly 1 1/2 lbs! No, I didn’t eat it by myself.

I made this because mussels were on sale. I love mussels. Actually, I like most food that comes from the sea. Mussels are cheap, very nutritious, and amenable to many preparations. Most mussel lovers know of moules frites. This is a bit different, a casserole. Hearty and tasty. The original recipe came from Marcella Hazan and I pulled it out of Gourmet. And I tweaked it. Because that’s what I do.

Mussels Baked with Tomatoes and Potatoes
(serves 4)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds potatoes, scrubbed
1 14-16 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
3 pounds mussels, debreaded and scrubbed
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 Tablespoons panko crumbs
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt & black pepper
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 2 quart deep gratin dish with cooking spray or grease with a little olive oil.

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, add about ½ Tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender but not soft. Drain and run cold water over the potatoes to cool. Set aside while you cook the mussels.

In a large pot, cook the mussels, covered, over medium heat until they open. It takes about 5 minutes for most of them to open. Remove the open ones to large bowl and cook for another 2 minutes. If a mussel doesn’t open, discard it.

While the mussels are cooling, peel the potatoes and slice in ¼” slices. Lay the potatoes in the gratin dish and season with salt and black pepper.

As soon as the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and set the meat aside in a medium bowl. Add olive oil, parsley, garlic, 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix to combine well. Taste it for seasoning and adjust if needed.  Spread the mussels on top of the potatoes. Top with the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover with the remaining bread crumbs and cheese. Spray generously with cooking spray (see Note). Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Being a small person, I try to cut back on the fat (which adds lots of calories) where I can. If you want to make this richer, toss the bread crumbs for topping the casserole with an additional 2 Tablespoons olive oil rather than using the cooking spray.

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping

Some stick-to-your-ribs winter food made easy. You can make this without the cornbread topping if you like. Serve it with rice.

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping
(serves 6)

1 recipe of School of Eating Good Cornbread
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
½ medium onion, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes (either fresh or canned)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare Cornbread. Set aside while you prepare the chili.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook ground beef, onions, and garlic, stirring often and scraping from bottom of the pan, until meat is no longer pink. Lower heat to medium. Spoon off all but 1 Tablespoon fat. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, oregano, dry mustard, cayenne, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 2 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the cornbread batter over the chili, smoothing to cover chili evenly. Place in the oven and bake until cornbread is done, 25-30 minutes. The cornbread will be nicely browned and a toothpick stuck in the cornbread will come out clean. Serve hot.