Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quesadilla Casserole

By Paul Briand

The folks at McCormick, the spice people, have come up with what I think is a great idea for people who are not only spice challenged but meal idea challenged as well.

McCormick is now selling what it calls "Recipe Inspirations" -- all-in-one package that includes pre-measured spices, a shopping list and recipe card for a variety of meals.

I chose this Quesadilla Casserole because I've done other dishes that use layers of flour tortillas in a lasagna-type arrangement with layers of meat and cheese, and I wanted to see how it measured up. It was great.

This recipe package included all the spices for the dish, all measured out in separate little packages: Chili powder, ground cumin, minced garlic, oregano leaves and crushed red pepper.

Here's how it came together:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (I just used one medium sized onion)
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (4 1/2 ounces) whole kernel corn, undrained (I used frozen corn ... less sodium)
1 can (4 1/2 ounces) chopped green chiles, undrained
6 flour tortillas (8-inch)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown the beef and onion in large skillet over medium-high heat, when cooked through drain fat;
2. Add tomato sauce, beans, corn and green chiles, mix well;
3. Stir in the spices, except red pepper, and bring to boil;
4. Reduce heat to low, simmer 5 minutes and add red pepper, if desired;
5. Spread 1/2 of beef mixture over bottom of baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking oil
6. Top with enough tortillas to cover mixture (some cutting of tortillas and overlapping may be required);
7. Layer with half of remaining beef mixture and half of cheese;
8. Add another layer of tortillas;
9. Top with rest of beef mixture and red of cheese;
10. Bake in oven pre-heated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through and bubbly;
11. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I'll definitely try more of these "Recipe Inspirations."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Rice & Sausage Stuffing

By Paul Briand

Here's a good recipe for autumn that captures some of the texture, color and flavor of the season.

I like that the squash becomes not only part of the meal but part of the presentation too.

2 acorn squash, each cut crosswise in half and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces of sweet (or hot) Italian sausage (casings removed if buying links)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt, parsley and cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice

1. Spray a large microwave-safe plate with a non-stick cooking spray and place squash halves -- cut side down -- on plate. Microwave on high until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to work with;
2. In large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and add sausage, stirring to break up and cooking until no longer pink. Remove sausage and set aside in large bowl;
3. Add onions, red pepper, garlic salt and pepper to skillet, cook until tender, about 8 minutes;
4. Remove from heat and add mixture to the bowl with the sausage;
5. Scoop out the squash, leaving about a quarter inch thick shell, and add the squash meat to the bowl;
6. Add rice and parsley to the bowl and mix until everything is well combined;
7. Evenly divide the mixture among the four squash shells. Serve warm.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Soup

Paul Briand

So, after rooting around for a Chicken Soup recipe that I could try to keep my cold at bay, I decided I'd just give it a go on my own.

How difficult could it be?

Chicken, chicken stock, carrots, celery, spices and some noodles. What could go wrong?

Actually, my recipe was going along like gang busters -- great texture, richness of flavor with the help of some shallots and a splash of sherry. But then I made a fatal, rookie mistake. I used egg noodles, which turned my steamy broth into a thick, stew-like concoction. It became so thick that to make individual servings I had to cut it down with additional chicken stock.

Roasted whole store-bought chicken
1 pound baby cut carrots
2 1/2 cups celery, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock
Oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water

1. Strip the chicken of all the meat, discarding the skin and fat. Set meat aside;
2. In the 2 cups of water in a large pot, bring the chicken carcass to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, using a fork to strip away left over meat;
3. Remove the carcass and preserve the broth, using a strainer to remove any leftover bones and a spoon to skim away the fat;
4. Add the carrots, celery and shallots to the broth and simmer at a medium heat for 10 minutes;
5. Add the chicken to the broth and stir;
6. Add the chicken stock and spices to the broth and stir;
7. Let the chicken simmer another 10 minutes;
8. Fill a soup bowl, add a splash of sherry and serve.

My original idea was to add the noodles during the cooking process to create a Chicken Noodle Soup, but it was a mistake to use the egg noodles. They should have been cooked separately and added separately. Or I should have used noodles that didn't produce as much starch.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feed a cold, right?

By Paul Briand

Feed a cold, starve a fever. You've heard it. I've heard it.

So I should be concentrating on eating this week, given the lousy cold I have.

But preparing meals is the least of what I want to do when my head and chest are full of congestion.

There's a certain mythology to feeding a cold and starving a fever.

Certainly, you can't starve yourself completely if you're trying to fight a fever.

According to Denise Snyder, a nutrition scientist and clinical trials manager at the Duke University School of Nursing.:

...loss of appetite is your body’s natural defense mechanism for fevers, as it helps the immune system focus its energy on fighting pathogens.

“You shouldn’t overconsume, but if you’re hungry you should eat,” she says, adding that fluids can only help fight the fever.

As for “feed a cold,” it’s simply a matter of keeping your nutrient levels up while the virus runs its course.

“Colds usually last longer than fevers,” Snyder says. “You need to be consuming food so you can fight it off -- especially fruit and vegetable juices and warm broths.”

So fluids it is.

And chicken soup, of course.

I'm on the hunt for a chicken soup recipe. I'll try to report back next week on the results, if I can motivate myself beyond the coughing and sneezing.

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