Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fantastic Fall Casseroles

I've made a couple delicious casseroles in the past few days. I thought I'd make up for not posting in a while (has it really been a week and a half?) by putting them together into one post.

First up is Harvest Hamburger Casserole. I've made this one several times - we love the combination of flavors. It's a tiny bit similar to Shepherd's Pie, with a beef and tomato layer and a potato layer, but different enough that it's a completely different and unique dish. It's hearty and flavorful, and one of my favorites.

Casseroles are funny things - by that I mean funny looking! No matter what angle I try to shoot at, it just ends up looking like a big blob on a plate. But it's definitely a very tasty blob!

Harvest Hamburger Casserole
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sliced potatoes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 package (10 oz) frozen corn, thawed
1 package (10 oz) frozen lima beans, thawed (I usually skip this)
1 green pepper, cut into strips (this time I used a combination of green and red)
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine beef, onion, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and salt. Spoon into a greased 3-qt casserole. Layer the potatoes, flour, corn, lima beans, and green pepper on top. Bake, covered, at 375 for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and continue baking, uncovered, for 30 minutes longer.

Next up is Apple/Sausage/Sweet Potato Casserole. I just made this for the first time today, and it was incredible! I knew as soon as I read the recipe in one of my many little recipe books that I wanted to make it as soon as I could. A layer of sausage, topped with sweet potato and brown sugar, and finished off with apple slices - the delicious definition of a fall casserole!

Apple/Sausage/Sweet Potato Casserole
1 lb. seasoned lean bulk pork sausage
1/4 cup water
1 can (23 oz) sweet potatoes, drained and thickly sliced (I used the equivalent in boiled fresh sweet potato)
1/4 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 medium apples (red cooking variety), cored (I used one huge apple)

Form sausage into patties; brown in a skillet and drain. Place patties in bottom of an ungreased 2-qt casserole. Add water. Layer thick slices of sweet potatoes over sausage. Sprinkle with sugar; dot with half the butter. Cut unpeeled apples into 1/2-inch slices; layer over all. Dot with remaining butter. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer.

Oooohhhh, this one turned out so delicious! This flavor combination is so awesome. Between Jeff and the kids and I, we didn't have any leftovers. Thomas particularly enjoyed the apple slices; Zaylee adored the sweet potato. Jeff and I, we just loved the whole thing!

***By the way, today is National Chocolate Day. Go eat some chocolate and celebrate this inspired holiday!!!!***

Monday, October 19, 2009

Salmon Chowder and Irish Soda Bread

In addition to all the delicious apple and pumpkin goodies that are floating around this time of year, fall is also a wonderful time to make comforting soups and hearty breads. Together these make a delicious and filling meal that warms you right up.

The salmon chowder is adapted from a tuna chowder recipe in an old cookbook I have. The soda bread is from my sister's blog, Fabulous Food! Both turned out delicious, perfect comfort food for a crisp autumn evening. As an added bonus, both were also fairly quick and easy.

Salmon Chowder
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 cups diced raw potatoes
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
1 (14.75 oz) can salmon, drained, bones and skin removed, broken into chunks

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in butter until tender, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, water, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes.

Combine flour and milk. Stir into potato mixture. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add salmon. Heat through and serve.

Irish Soda Bread
3 cups wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice

Sift the white flour and baking soda together. Add the wheat flour, salt, and brown sugar and mix well. Make a well in the center and add about 2/3 of the buttermilk. Quickly and gently mix the flour in with the milk, use your hands rather than a wooden spoon. If too dry, add some more of the milk. Shouldn't be too firm, keep it a little sticky. Kneading is not necessary, just dust your hands with enough flour so you can shape it without it sticking to your fingers.

Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking tray. Cut two deep slashes across the top, either side by side like a loaf of french bread, or criss cross. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce to 400 and bake another 15. Take out, turn over and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If it doesn't, pop it back in for another 5 - 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Butter

Another deliciously spiced autumn fruit spread. I've made pumpkin butter once before, but this time I used an actual recipe. It turned out so delicious, just as wonderful as the apple butter I made recently. I made pumpkin pancakes this morning specifically to serve with the pumpkin butter. I won't post the pancake recipe - they were dense and heavy, and not as good as I had hoped. Edible, just not post-worthy. Anyway, the pumpkin butter was the star of the meal, and it shone brightly.

Pumpkin Butter
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin puree (3 1/2 cups if you're using fresh puree)
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

Pack into small, freezer-safe containers leaving 3/4 inch space at the top. Store in the freezer. Makes 2 1/2 pints.

This would be good over regular pancakes, biscuits, bagels, toast, whatever! And it's also good over the pancakes when you add some maple syrup, yum...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chocolate Butterfinger Bars, and fun ways to use a cake mix

Part of Jeff's anniversary gift was a bunch of small Butterfinger bars. They're his favorite candy bar of all time, and I usually throw in one of those $1 fun size packs when I give him a gift for whatever reason. We decided it would be neat to use them in a fun way, and since we recently bought a bunch of cake mixes that were super-duper on sale (69 cents a box!), we used an idea from 101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix (checked it out at the library) to create some delicious cookie bars.

Chocolate Butterfinger Bars
1 package German chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
4 fun-size Butterfinger bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan.

Mix together cake mix, eggs, and oil until powder is completely dissolved into dough (dough will be stiff).

Chop Butterfingers into tiny pieces, then mix into dough. Press the mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake 14-16 minutes.

The bars were nice and puffed up when I pulled them out of the oven, but deflated pretty flat after a few minutes. That's okay - they were still wonderfully fudgy and delicious!

They were also delicious served warm with ice cream.

This basic formula can be used with any cake mix and any additions, to make either bars or cookies: 1 cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, plus 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups optional additions. For bars, press into greased 9x13 and bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes. For cookies, drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

You can make any number of delicious bars of cookies using this recipe, by changing the cake mix and the additions. Try yellow cake mix with chocolate chips, lemon cake mix to make lemon bars, white cake mix with 3/4 cup peanut butter added to make peanut butter bars or cookies, use your favorite cake mix and add your favorite candy bar chopped up, make cherry chip cookies by using cherry chip cake mix. The possibilities are endless, and the results delicious!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Anniversary Dinner, Yummy!

Yesterday Jeff and I celebrated five years of marriage. Then today we celebrated more by closing on our house - we get the keys on Tuesday and are so excited!!!!

Anyway, we like to do special homemade meals for special occasions. Yesterday was no different. We had an absolutely delicious dinner of Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing, salad with Basic Vinaigrette, and Anniversary Pie for dessert. It was the same pie I made for our anniversary last year, but I changed it up to include chocolate, teehee. The whole meal was absolutely wonderful.

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

This recipe was based on a recipe I got from my sister a long time ago. The flavors of the pork, the stuffing, and the apple pie filling are absolutely wonderful together. It's delicious just the way it is on her blog, Fabulous Food, but I wanted to give it more of a homemade touch, so I made the apple pie filling from scratch. This is what we came up with.

4 pork chops, about 3/4 inch or thicker
6 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. lemon juice (only if the apples lack tartness)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
1 box stuffing mix

Combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spread in the bottom of a crock pot.

Quickly sear the pork chops over high heat on the stove, just until they're lightly browned on the outside. They shouldn't be cooked through. Place on top of the apples in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low until the pork is thoroughly cooked. In our crock pot it took about 8 hours.

Just before serving, prepare stuffing according to directions on the box. Serve with the pork chops and apples.

Next time I might add a bit more flour to the apples - it made a whole lot of syrup because it was in the crock pot instead of the oven. But as is, it was still absolutely delicious.

Salad with Basic Vinaigrette

For the salad, I just mixed together some green leaf lettuce with a bunch of veggies - mushrooms, shredded carrot, tomatoes, fresh chives (from the garden of a wonderful elderly gentleman in our church). Then I topped it with this simple vinaigrette.

1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. each sugar, salt, and pepper

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store unused dressing in the fridge.

This recipe is really easy to customize and make it however you want. Use flavored oil or vinegar, specialty mustard, or add herbs and/or spices along with the salt and pepper. I made it very basic last night, but it's fun to change things around and make it your own.

Anniversary Pie

Last year I made this with butter pecan ice cream and a plain graham cracker crust. This year we changed it up a bit. I used vanilla ice cream and brown sugar instead of white. I also made a chocolate graham cracker crust, and we topped the pie with an easy chocolate sauce. It was divine!

18-20 graham cracker squares (9-10 full sheets)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Crush graham crackers in food processor. Add sugar and cocoa powder, process until mixed. Add melted butter and process again until thoroughly mixed. Empty into a 9-inch pie plate and press onto bottom and sides. Set aside.

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup eggnog
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggnog and ice cream. Pour into crust and freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 10 to 15 minutes before slicing to soften the pie.

Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk (approximately)

Melt chocolate and milk slowly, either in the microwave, in the top of a double boiler, or on the stove over very low heat. Add additional milk if it's too thick (I don't really know exactly how much milk I used, I just eyeballed it and stopped adding when it was a good texture). Drizzle sauce over individual slices of pie (I admit that I might have drizzled a bit more on after taking the pictures).

Well, by the time we were done eating, my stomach was very full, but I sure was happy! This was definitely a very good meal for our anniversary. May Jeff and I continue to have many more years of cooking beautiful and delicious meals together.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Apple Butter

I'm loving all this fall baking and cooking. This is totally my favorite time of year! We got lots of apples and pears for really cheap ($.33/lb) this week, so I was excited to use them to make delicious treats. I'm planning on using the pears to make pear honey, but first I wanted to use up some apples by making delicious apple butter! This was my first time making apple butter, but it won't be the last - this stuff is fantastic. It tastes like autumn itself.

Apple Butter
8 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups sugar (my apples were already pretty sweet, so I used three cups, one of which was brown sugar)
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Fill a slow cooker with diced apples, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt (I also added a bit of allspice - that stuff goes great with apple dishes). Cover, and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 hours, or until thick and dark golden in color.

Pack into small, freezer-safe containers leaving 3/4 inch space at the top. Store in the freezer. Makes 2 1/2 - 3 pints.

So that's what the recipe says to do. But my slow cooker is apparently incredibly slow. After cooking several hours longer than the recipe says, my apples still hadn't thickened into an apple butter texture - they were just pieces of very soft chopped apple floating in a fragrantly spiced syrup. So I whirled the mixture in the blender in batches, leaving a few larger chunks, and was able to get the right texture that way.

This really is so delicious. We served it over homemade biscuits for breakfast this morning - doesn't that look so good?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Betty

Today is National Apple Betty Day, and what a perfect day for this absolutely delicious dessert! Here in Utah, the temperatures have been dropping, the skies turning cloudy, and fall is definitely in the air. What better way to get warm and cozy than with a delicious spiced apple and crumb dessert?

Apple betty (also called apple brown betty) is a simple dessert featuring apples and a crumb topping. It is thought to date back to Colonial times. So you know it's pretty good if it's stuck around for that long. I found this wonderfully simple and easy recipe on, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it as our after-lunch treat. I wish we had some ice cream, it would have been super fabulous. But even by itself it was fantastic. I did make a couple changes, using brown sugar for half of the white, and adding some cloves and allspice.

Apple Betty
4 cups thinly sliced apples (peeled if you want, I didn't bother)
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash each cloves and allspice
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate.

Mound sliced apples in the pie plate. Sprinkle with orange juice.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugars, spices, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Scatter over the apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

This was so delicious. The topping was crisp, and the apple filling was gooey and caramel-y. The spices went wonderfully together; the whole dessert was just so deliciously warm and comforting, the perfect fall dessert.