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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Egg, Sausage & Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole


I didn't know a breakfast casserole would change my life until I met this one.  About 2 years ago I was introduced to this casserole for a big church party. I signed up to help with food, but thought I could pick my own thing to make and bring.  However, I was asked to make and bring this casserole and was handed the recipe.  I'm rarely told what to make, and honestly don't really like to be.  I mean, can you blame me?  Needless to say, I didn't really have high expectations for this casserole.  I'm not sure I'd really had breakfast casserole before this.

But, oh baby, was my life changed after making this. Now it's a family staple.  I made a few slight tweaks, and made sure, after witnessing others are our party, do douse the top with salsa and/or green chile! Mmm. We've made this at least a dozen plus times since. I've taken it to two families after they've had new babies, and been asked for the recipe every time I've shared it.  So you know from that, that it's delicious and pleasing.


The prep on this casserole is easy.  You can throw it together in a matter of 10-15 minutes - and even refrigerate it up to a day before baking and serving.  I love meals like this for those busy days/nights. I can make it in the morning and have it ready to pop in the oven for a quick meal on a hectic night.  I guess I should mention that we actually haven't ever had this for breakfast, except the leftovers. We love it for dinner, or brinner, that is.

The layers in this casserole are all delicious. Try only having one serving...I dare you!  The base of the casserole is hash browns (fresh grated or buy the shredded frozen kind) lightly browned in a bit of butter and seasoned with some garlic salt and pepper.  The hash browns are topped with some seasoned egg, and then with some yummy sausage and onions.  Topped with cheese and baked til hot and bubbly! We like to top half the casserole with colby jack cheese (my kids favorite) and the other half with pepper-jack cheese (my husband and my favorite).  And if you've read through some of my other posts you know that we are true NM folk and love stuff like this topped with green chile.  Salsa is good too, and if you do both, then well, it's just even better.  

Enjoy! 

Egg, Sausage & Hash-brown Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

2 pounds frozen hash-browns (or fresh grated potatoes (any variety), rinsed and drained - see **note for using fresh potatoes)
2 tablespoons butter
Garlic salt and pepper to taste
1 pound sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean Natural Sausage (no nitrates and super yummy))
½ - 1 onion, finely chopped
8 eggs
½ cup milk
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided (I really like using pepper-jack)
1 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt (I like to use garlic salt)
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons green onions, sliced (optional)
Directions:

NOTES: If you prefer using fresh potatoes, grate them and rinse them of the starch and drain well. I like to drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt and microwave them for a few minutes (2 minutes at a time, stir, and up to 8 minute) to soften them up before browning. I also like to use pepper-jack cheese on half for my husband and I, who like things a little spicy.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9x13 casserole dish.  
2. In a deep 12” non-stick skillet brown frozen hash-browns in butter (8-10 minutes), season to taste with garlic salt and pepper, cook until lightly browned for best flavor.
3. Once potatoes are browned, dump them and spread lightly across the casserole dish. Top with half the cheese.
4. In same skillet cook sausage and onion until done.  Spread cooked sausage on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle green onions (optional) evenly on top of the sausage.
5. Mix eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour on top of sausage, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of that. Cover with foil.  
6. At this point you can refrigerate for up to one day.
7. Bake for 30 minutes - remove foil and bake 5-10 more minutes.  Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t get too brown.  

Serve topped with salsa and/or green chile.

Source:

lightly adapted from a recipe I got from my friend, Christine, who blogs at I Dig Pinterest.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream


Summer is still in full swing over here, how bout for you? Ice cream is eaten year round at our house, but it does have a special spot for summer. It's a tasty way to cool off in the heat. And since we've been experiencing high 90s temps, I'm always ready for some ice cream. I've seen no-churn ice cream recipes popping up all over the web lately, and decided they must be worth a shot. Have you jumped on that bandwagon yet?  I don't have an ice cream maker, but I love homemade ice cream.  

I have fond childhood memories of fresh strawberries and raspberries from my grandpa's garden mixed into my mom's famous homemade ice cream.  Mmmm, those are the best kind of memories!  We actually got to have some last week when we were visiting them. We had one of those old ice cream makers that is super loud and you have to add ice and salt to it to keep it mixing.  It was fun!  Nowadays you can buy ice cream makers that are much quieter.  But I haven't invested in one yet. I can't decide if I would have enough self control to only make it occasionally, I think that's the only thing holding me back. :)  

But thanks to no-churn ice cream, I can still enjoy the fresh taste of homemade ice cream made right from my own kitchen.  After mulling over hundreds of flavor combinations I went with a favorite flavor combo of mine . Lemon blueberry.


First off, can we stop for a second and admire how beautiful blueberries are! Gah! I'm in love. We've been getting good deals on them fresh at our local grocery stores too, so we've been eating LOTS of blueberries at our house.  I love to freeze them and eat them as a treat. They are so good! Have you tried them?  Better than frozen grapes in my book.

I was really skeptical about how no-churn ice cream would turn out - and while it's a little different than churned ice cream, I still think it's out-of-this-world-good.  If you serve it straight out of the freezer it's got a unique texture of frozen and creamy.  I also tried smoothing it up in my food processor and it was more like the soft serve ice cream you get from an ice cream  maker. Either way, it's deeee-licious! 

Below are the step for whipping up this yummy concoction! 


1. Place blueberries, lemon juice and lemon zest in a 2 cup measuring cup.
2. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth (isn't that color pretty!).
3. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a bowl and mix together. 
4. Add the blended blueberry mixture and stir. 
5. Stir it until it's totally combined (I love watching the shade of purple change).
6. Whip up two cups of heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer. 
7. Fold the whipped cream into the berry mixture. 
8. Once it's all combined you are ready to freeze it. 
9. Pour it into a large storage container with lid and smooth the top.  Place the lid on and freeze for 6-12 hours.  


Once it is done freezing you can scoop it up into a dish or cone and enjoy. And if you are after a more soft serve consistency, put it in the food processor and process til smooth.  

 We love making homemade cones too! 



Here is the smooth version of the ice cream!



 I hope this ice cream will keep you cool during this hot summer! Enjoy! 

Lemon Blueberry No-Churn Ice Cream

Yield: about 1 quart
Ingredients:


1 ½ cups fresh blueberries (thawed frozen ones should work too)
1 small lemon, zested, and 2 tablespoons of the juice
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream


Directions:

Place a medium-sized stainless or glass bowl in the freezer with beaters to hand mixer to get nice and cold for whipping the cream

Place the blueberries, lemon zest, and lemon juice in 2 cup measuring cup and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (or you can use a regular blender too).

In a medium size mixing bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with the vanilla until combined, then add the blueberry mixture and stir until combined.  

In a medium size stainless steel bowl, whip the 2 cups of whipping cream on medium speed until frothy. Once frothy, increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.  Fold the whipped cream into the berry mixture until combined.  

Pour the mixture into a large storage container with lid (that holds about 1 quart). Place lid on top and freeze 6-12 hours.  Scoop and serve in a cone or bowl.  If you want it more like soft serve ice cream place it in the food processor and blend until smooth.  

Recipe Source:

Originally posted on Eighteen25.com adapted from How Sweet Eats Blackberry Chip Ice Cream recipe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Homemade Ice Cream Cones {no cone-maker needed}


We've been enjoying lots of ice cream this summer! How about you? Last summer I was really wanting to make some homemade ice cream cones, but I didn't have a waffle cone press or cone mold.  But I wasn't going to let that stop me from making them - and I wasn't going to drop $40 on a waffle cone maker, because I really don't NEED one.  

So this is where I let my creativity take over.   I remembered how delicious these fortune cookies were that I've made several times. They crisp up totally nice and they taste AMAZING (they actually have flavor and don't taste like the cardboard ones you get for Chinese take out).  So I decided I could make them larger (cone size) and make my own mold out of cardstock and waxed paper.  It worked so well! So well that I've made them several times now.  
Here is my cardstock and waxed paper made cone mold

I seriously find joy in homemaking everything! These cones are no exception.  Homemade always tastes better, and I love knowing what all the ingredients are - and it just gives me warm fuzzies that I can make something so cute, functional and yummy! Is anyone else with me? Or am I really odd?


Now, I will tell you that I don't go to lengths to make these for all the times we eat ice cream around here, because, well, really you probably don't need to know how much ice cream we consume. I'm not sure I want to share that with you.  Ahem! We eat in a bowl most of the time.  But these cones seriously add a little fun to a family night or when we have friends over for dessert.  That's when I make them.  

I hope you'll feel like a rock-star, like I do, when you whip out a batch of these yummy cones!  Fill them with your favorite ice cream!  (I'll share the recipe for the ice cream below very soon)


Here is a little handy picture guide for seeing the steps of making these cones
 

Homemade Ice Cream Cones

Yield - about 6 large cones
Printable Version {Click Here}
Ingredients:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
½ cup chocolate chips, ½ teaspoon coconut oil, sprinkles, chopped, nuts, pretzel bits, dried fruit or other garnishes (optional for dipped cones)

Directions:

If you don’t have an ice cream cone mold, you can make one. Using some cardstock or other firm paper, make a cone shape about the size you would want for an ice cream cone. Tape it to secure the shape. I used an 8 ½ x 11 inch paper and then trimmed the bottom to be flat so it can stand up on the counter.  Then line the cardstock cone with wax or parchment paper, also securing with tape.  Masking tape seems to work well.  Make at least two of these so you can make a few at a time.  

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, and salt and whisk together until incorporated.  In a separate bowl (cereal bowl works great), add the egg whites and vanilla and whisk until foamy but not stiff.  

Pour the egg mixture in with the flour mixture and stir until smooth; it should be fairly runny.  If it’s not then add another ½ - 1 whisked egg white to the mixture.  

You can cook these in the oven or on the stove top. I prefer the oven because you get an even browned look and you don’t have to flip them over.  See notes below on both methods.

To cook in the oven - line an 11 x 17 baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.  (I’ve failed with parchment but I didn’t grease it).  For a large cone use about 3 tablespoons of batter and for a mini (kid size) cone use about 1 tablespoon.  Spread the batter with the back of a spoon making a 7-8 inch circle for a large cone and about a 3 inch circle for a mini cone.  Make sure it’s evenly thick.  Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 5-8 minutes or until the edges of the cone have turned a nice golden brown about ¼  inch wide around the outer edge of the cone.  I can usually fit 2 cones per sheet.  Let the cookie sit for 1 minute after you remove it from the oven (it will cool fast.  

To cook on the stove top - using a non-stick skillet, heat the pan between medium and medium-low heat lightly grease it with spray grease.  For a large cone use about 3 tablespoons of the cone mixture and for mini (kid-size) use 1 tablespoon.   I use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture smooth into a circle, (about 8 inches in diameter for a large cone and about 3-4 inches for a mini cone). Cook til you see bubbles rise to the top (about 4 minutes), and you can slip a spatula under to peek and see if it’s browned.  If it’s cooked enough you won’t have trouble looking on the bottom, if not, let it cook longer - when it’s easy to see you’ll know it’s ready to flip.  Flip it over and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.  

Once they are done cooking - use a wide flat spatula to remove them from the baking sheet or skillet.  I like to use the up side of the cone for the outer side since it’s smoother and prettier (this only really applies to the baked ones).  Place it on the cone mold, being careful because it will still be hot, then wrap it around the mold and press it closed.  Try to wrap it so that the tip of the cone is closed (so you won’t have ice cream melting out the bottom). If you don't wrap the cone so it's closed, you can always dip it in chocolate to seal up the hole.  Let it cool completely (5-8 minutes) - if you’ve cooked it long enough it should be nice and crispy just like a waffle cone.  Repeat this process until you’ve used all the batter.  

If you want to dip them, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl on high for 10 seconds at a time until melted. Dip or spread the chocolate around the edges of the cone and sprinkle with sprinkles, chopped nuts, pretzel bits, or whatever else you fancy. Let them dry until the chocolate is hardened (I place them in a cup so they don’t have a damaged side). If you don't wrap the cone so it's closed, you can always dip it in chocolate to seal up the hole, that way you won't have any leaking ice cream out the bottom.

Enjoy, filled with your favorite ice cream!  

Notes:

You can see pictures on my fortune cookie post showing the difference in look between a baked and pan cooked cone/cookie.

Recipe Source:

Adapted from the recipe I use for fortune cookies, posted here.






Thursday, July 16, 2015

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce



During the hot summer months ice cream is a must around here. But really, we need it in our lives year round, who am I trying to kid?!?!  When my husband and I were married 8 years ago, we probably had ice cream 5-6 times a week. YIKES!  Sadly we've had to cut our ice cream consumption back, our metabolisms aren't what they once were.  Nowadays we might have it once a week, but in the summer it's just got to be a little more than that.  We've even branched out and started making some no-churn homemade ice cream (and I have a flavor combo I can't wait to share with you in a few weeks).  

My husband's favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla.  And while I have way to many flavors to name off (black raspberry chocolate chunk, cinnamon, lemon custard to name a few), I have to admit that vanilla is so classic and good! I really do love it too! Vanilla can be eaten in just about any way you want (it goes with everything).  Pictured here we enjoyed vanilla with this yummy homemade hot fudge sauce (and ganache filled raspberries because why not!) that has been a long time family favorite in my husband's family.  What's your favorite ice cream flavor?

 

If you are anything like me you probably have everything you need to make this hot fudge sauce.  I keep evaporated milk on hand, if you don't then that might be all you are missing.  And it can be whipped up in about 15 minutes.  I really like to load it onto my ice cream, so much that I would be asked, "How about some ice cream to go with that hot fudge sauce?". :)  

Whethere you serve it over plain vanilla ice cream, in a banana split, over your favorite ice cream topped brownie, etc, it's sure to bring some smiles to those who eat it.  

Enjoy! And stay cool this summer! 
 

Hot Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons butter
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

In a medium size saucepan stir sugar and cocoa together until there are no cocoa lumps. Over medium heat add butter and milk to the sugar mixture. Stir constantly with a wire whisk until the butter is melted and mixture is combined.  Constantly stir until mixture has reached a boil, turn heat to low (for a light simmer) and cook 10 minutes, stirring very frequently.  Remove from heat and add salt and vanilla.   Let it cool 10-15 minutes.  

Serve over ice cream or other desserts.  Store any leftovers in a mason jar and keep refrigerated.  Should last 2 weeks if you can keep it around that long.

Recipe Source:

A long time family favorite, from my mother-in-law, Maureen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad {with Creamy Balsamic Parmesan Dressing}


Last week I shared a favorite salad dressing with you all.  And this week I'm sharing one of my favorite pasta salads that I like it on.  My mom made something really similar growing up.  Her  pasta salad was always my favorite. My 5 siblings and I would snarf this stuff.  I have always made it since I've been married too and my husband and kids now love it too.  But we are kind of big on meat for dinner, and while I could serve this pasta as a side with grilled chicken or hot dogs or whatever else, I've simplified it a bit and thrown the grilled chicken right in the salad.  

Last summer I discovered this dressing, and I've adapted it over the last year to be how I like it. The white vinegar in the original dressing was a little too strong for me, and since I'm head-over-heels for balsamic vinegar I've changed that - the dressing whips up super creamy and yummy. The fresh Parmesan and balsamic vinegar give it the perfect flavor to jazz up this pasta salad just the way I like it.  

I hope you can whip up a batch to enjoy for dinner this week. The leftovers keep for 1-2 days too, so sometimes I eat it for lunch the next day or maybe even for dinner again the night or two after.  I always love a night off from cooking.  



Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1 pound tri-color rotini (I prefer Barilla brand)
4-8 ounces feta cheese crumbled
1 small package cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered and diced
1 can olives, sliced in half
1 pound grilled chicken (see my method below)
Olive oil and salt and pepper for grilling the meat

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse with cold water when it’s finished cooking and let the noodles cool.

Pound 1 chicken breast (about 1 pound) until it’s an even thickness (or cut the chicken breast in half if you’d prefer to not pound it).  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat grill over high heat for 5 minutes - once it’s hot place the chicken on and cover, let it sear for 1-2 minutes on high, flip and let the other side sear for 1-2 minutes. Flip chicken and grill for 4-6 minutes per side until it’s done (check with meat thermometer, should reach 165 degrees F). Place on cutting board and cut it into bite size pieces once it’s cool enough to handle.

In a large mixing bowl add feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and cooked pasta.  Once chicken is cut, add it to the pasta mixture and top with the dressing (you can use a bottle of Italian dressing too if you prefer) and toss to coat. Let it sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours til chilled and serve cold.  

Leftovers keep for 1-2 days.

Recipe Source:

adapted from my mom’s classic pasta salad recipe, I added grilled chicken and use this particular dressing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Creamy Balsamic Parmesan Dressing


We are in full-swing summer time mode here. How about you? I love July in New Mexico becasue we seem to get a bit of a break from that cruel summer heat with some cooler temperatures from the daily monsoons.  I love it!  A few nights ago it was 71 degrees after dinner and we enjoyed a lovely walk around the neighborhood.  

In the summer, I totally love salad for dinner.  We have it at least once a week and then I usually make enough that my husband and I can have it for lunch a few days too.  We love green salad with grilled chicken, avocado, fruit and cheese topped with this Creamy Balsamic Parmesan dressing (that I'm sharing today) or this yummy Honey Poppyseed Vinaigrette.   


This balsamic dressing is super versatile, we love it on green salad, pasta salad and we even love to marinate our chicken in it before we grill it.  The flavor is rich and delicioius and compliments just about anything you want dressing on.  In fact, you might see me wiping the dressing remnants with my finger or bread or anything so I don't' leave any trace behind. That's how much I love it. I hope you will too! 

Stay cool!
-Lu
 

Creamy Balsamic Parmesan Dressing

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup canola oil
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions:

You can make this with a regular blender or an immersion blender and 2 cup measuring cup.

In a blender or 2 cup measuring cup combine the vinegars, lemon juice, sugar, mustard powder, salt, garlic salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Blend in blender to combine. While blender is running slowly add the oil in a steady stream. Once that’s added you can turn of the blender and add the Parmesan cheese, pulse to blend and combine the cheese into the dressing.  Then stir in the Italian seasoning.  If you want to blend that you can, but I like my seasonings not blended.

Put in dressing container and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This dressing is delicious on green salad, pasta salad or used as a marinade for chicken.

Recipe Source:

adapted from our best bites