Retake Homemade: Hamburger Noodle Casserole

I am a big fan of Taste of Home for recipes.  They’re usually easy, seldom involve “weird” ingredients, and will generally be eaten by my entire family.  This one came to me in a recent email and me, being me I had to adapt it a little by adding in some extra veggies and swapping the noodles to whole wheat.  Still, we really enjoyed this, so much so that we wound up having seconds.  The original recipe claims to serve 10, but obviously the authors are not southern and do not adhere to the “a casserole is an entire meal” rule.  I’d say this reasonably serves 6 with some other veggie as a side.

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups uncooked wheat egg noodles
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 10 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cans (8 ounces each)  Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2/3 cup shredded reduced-fat fiesta blend cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and reserve.
  2. Meanwhile, brown your ground beef, going for a good caramelization on the crumbles.
  3. Drain and rinse, reserving just a bit of the grease in your pan.
  4. Add the mushrooms and onions and saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the beef back.
  6. Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Mix well.
  7. Add the noodles and mix well.
  8. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, sour cream, and cream cheese.  Beat until blended.
  9. Add half the onions to the cheese mixture.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, then add half the noodle mixture.
  12. Top with half the cheese mixture, then the rest of the noodles, followed by the remainder of the cheese.
  13. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  14. Uncover, add the fiesta blend cheese and the last of the onions and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

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Retake Homemade: Thanksgiving Prep Edition

I do not have a new recipe for you today, I am sorry to say.  And my weekend is going to be consumed with early prep for Thanksgiving.

Wait, Kait it’s Saturday.  What are you doing FIVE WHOLE DAYS before Thanksgiving?

Well, I shall tell you.  I have two main purposes today:

  1. Make chicken stock.
  2. Batch cook and empty the fridge to make way for the 3 gallon bucket in which I shall be brining the turkey starting on Monday.

You see, I have what I like to refer to as the Nano Fridge.  It is not one of the itty bitty college dorm varieties, but neither is it one of the nice side by side kinds with actual SPACE inside.  Oh how I lust after a new refrigerator.   Next house…    I am 5’4″ and even I have to squat to see what’s inside.  Hence, the Nano Fridge.

In any event I have many many things in there that must be used between now and Monday, so today is about figuring out in what.

The stock is first.  I have, no doubt, posted about making your own stock before.  :goes to look:  Yep, way back in the early days of the blog in 2007, I did a post on batch cooking where I discussed making your own stock.  Now ordinarily I would just roast a chicken or snag a rotisserie one from the grocery.  But I did my shopping at Kroger this week, and I don’t care for the flavors of their rotisserie chickens, and they were freaking out of whole chickens.  Seriously.  Who is ever out of whole chickens?  Well except they had the fancy pants “roasting chickens” that cost over $8.  I would really love to know what makes those chickens so special and different from a normal chicken as to cost twice as much and have the title “roasting” chicken.

It is against my bargain shopping religion to pay over $8 for a freaking chicken.

So I bought a pack of chicken leg quarters (5 lbs for less than $4) and shall start with that.  Now you have two options for making stock, and I’ve used both.  You can roast the chicken, then debone and make stock with that, or you can toss the leg quarters in the crock pot all day and cook them that way before deboning and so on and so forth.  Having done both, the latter is easier, but I think the former makes for better stock.  I have no science to back me up on this, just personal preference.  So toss your chicken or your leg quarters (lightly coated with olive oil) into your roasting pan at 350 degrees and cook based on weight.

Once cooked, remove from oven, cool, and drain off the juices from the pan into a 6 quart crock pot.  Once the chicken is cool, remove the skin and toss it.  You don’t want this in your stock because it will make it fatty.  Remove the chicken and set aside for any future recipes calling for precooked chicken.  I like to store mine in 2 cup servings in freezer bags to use in soups, casseroles, and the like.  Place your bones in the crock pot (be sure to try to get those gristly cartilage bits out).  Next you’re going to take a couple of stalks of celery, an onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a couple of carrots.  Rough chop them all and toss in with the bones.  No need to peel or remove leaves, just scrub the dirt off and toss them in.  You’ll be straining out the solids.  Cover everything with water almost to the top of the crock, and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low from 8-10.

Once your stock is a rich golden color, you’ll turn off the crock, allow to cool a while (because it is EASY to burn yourself with this), then use a slotted spoon to scoop out the biggest bits of vegetable and bone.  Discard.  When the stock itself is cool enough to pour without burning yourself, place a colander over a large stock pot or dutch oven (whatever you’ve got that has enough room), and carefully pour the stock in.  Discard whatever gets caught in the colander.  Refrigerate stock, checking after a few hours to skim any congealed fat from the top of the pot.  You might have to do this a couple of times.  In the end you will have a couple of quarts of rich, homemade stock to use for your dressin’, gravy, and any other holiday dishes.   I swear, once you’ve had your own stock, you won’t be able to go back to that pale, flavorless stuff in a box.  When I make this normally, I freeze the stock in ice cube trays (1 cup of stock makes 10 cubes) and keep in a giant freezer bag.

Now, I just have to decide what to do with butternut squash, mushrooms, spicy andouille sausage, bread dough, and several varieties of cheese.  More to come.

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Retake Homemade: Shrimp and Black Bean Tacos

I have no idea what gave me the idea to put shrimp in tacos.  Maybe because I keep seeing fish tacos and my brain made the leap?  Who knows.  What I do know is that this experiment was FANTASTIC and is a dieter’s friend.  Hubs said it tasted just as good as beef tacos and is (of course) much much lower in fat and calories.  This serves 2 at 627 calories and 13 grams of fat (assuming 4 baked taco shells, 1/3 cup 2% fiesta blend cheese, and 2 tablespoons light sour cream along with the filling).  The filling itself is 282 calories per each of 2 people.   This would make wonderful topping for a taco salad and would go fabulously with avocado.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined (smaller ones work better for loading into shells) [you can do raw or cooked…they’ll simmer either way; I used cooked]
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 packet Sazon
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning (I like Old El Paso)
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. Toss the shrimp and black beans into a skillet.
  2. Add the Sazon, taco seasoning, and water.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Turn down to medium heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.
  6. Spoon into taco shells.
  7. Top with desired toppings.
  8. Enjoy!

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Retake Homemade: Baked Croutons

I don’t know about you, but I was never a natural salad eater.  My dad would eat it, drowned in ranch (thus eliminating the healthy part), and mom wouldn’t touch it.  So I was 12 or 13 before I was ever really exposed to salad eating families.  And what got me through was not dressing, it was the CROUTONS.  Because, for me, life is all about the bread.  The pumpernickel croutons at Ruby Tuesday are one of life’s greatest joys.  These aren’t pumpernickel, but this technique can be applied to any form of day old bread.  In this case, I used half a small loaf of artisan bread (the base recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day).  The end results were crispy and delicious.  This is really one of those recipes that has no measurements.  You use as much as you like.  A drizzle or a drench of olive oil.  Any seasonings you like.  This is sort of my generic whatever recipe.  If I was having a salad with Italian, I’d toss in Italian seasoning.  Mexican, a bit of chili powder and cumin.  Play with it, figure out what you like.

Ingredients:

  • day old bread cut into cubes
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • seasoned salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Toss the bread cubes in the olive oil until well coated.
  2. Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like and toss until well coated.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees (keep an eye on these until you know how your oven cooks).
  4. Serve with your favorite salad greens.

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Retake Homemade: Red Beans and Rice

Look at that!  I’m finally back posting on my own revolution.  :blushes:  Sorry I’ve been busy.  Moving on!

I confess, I have never been a huge fan of red beans and rice.  This probably stems from my hatred of kidney beans in my chili, which was then generalized to kidney beans in everything.  And the fact that my mom is the most bland cook alive.  Sorry mom, it’s true.  Add to that an experience with only the KFC or Popeye’s version of red beans and rice and, well, you can see how I’d be uninspired by this dish.  But I had some cajun sausage and leftover rice in the fridge and we needed a crock pot meal that would be ready when we got off work so that hubs could scarf and run, so this is what I threw together.  I’m not even sure WHY I had a package of dried red beans.  Possibly my mom had picked them up intending to use them in a container for something arty looking and passed them on to me (it happens).  But whatever, this is the kind of dish where you chop everything the night before, then just before leaving for work in the morning, you toss in the crock pot and cook on low aaaaaaaaall day.  The end result was so far superior to KFC and Popeyes, I guarantee I’ll make it again, though I make no claims as to its authenticity.  It comes out to 6 large servings at 408 calories and 13.9 grams of fat (before you add the rice).

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. Conecuh Hickory Smoked Sausage (Spicy Hot)
  • 1 bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup dried celery (1/2 cup fresh if you have it)
  • 1 packet ham bouillon
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used Amber Bock)
  • 1 small bag of red beans (2 cups?)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cajun seasoning (I used Slap Ya Mama)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  1. The night before, put the beans on to soak.
  2. Chop all your ingredients before bed (you can wait til the morning if you’re not in a rush to get out the door).
  3. Morning of, rinse the beans and add to crock.
  4. Add all other ingredients and give it a stir.
  5. Cook on low for 10 hours.
  6. Serve over rice.

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Retake Homemade: Hearty Tuna Casserole

I swear, I’m about to give up on tuna casserole as a dish to be served in our house.  No matter what variation I make, hubby just doesn’t like it.  No matter, this current incarnation made ME happy.  It is an adaptation of this Light But Hearty Tuna Casserole from Taste of Home.  I’d actually planned to cook it as listed, but naturally I didn’t have everything listed and my mushrooms had turned, so I made some tweaks.  The end result was quite tasty and is, I think, my favorite of the various varieties of Tuna Casserole that I’ve made in the past.  This worked out to 2 large servings at 652 calories and 10 grams of fat.  Original recipe allegedly served 4 with a side.  We prefer having it all in one.

Ingredients:

  • 2 5 oz. cans of water packed tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons light Miracle Whip
  • 1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
  • 3 cups uncooked No Yolks noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon Smart Balance Light, melted
  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the soup, Miracle Whip, milk, ground mustard, tuna, peas, and red peppers in a large bowl.
  3. Once the noodles are done, drain them and add to the mix.
  4. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.
  5. Add the tuna mixture.
  6. Mix the breadcrumbs, butter, paprika, pepper, and Italian seasoning and sprinkle over the top.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

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Retake Homemade: Cowboy Casserole

This one was an adaptation of a recipe from the August/September 2010 Taste of Home (pg. 43).  I loved the concept of this recipe, but I needed to make a few adjustments in the name of healthy and grown up.  Tater tots are a thing of the school cafeteria and do not come into my house, so I changed those out for hash browns and doubled the beef as well as lightening the cheese, milk, soup, and sour cream.  The end result was declared a winner by all.  Serves 2 at 671 calories and 21 grams of fat and is a full meal in a bowl.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, browned, drained, and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1 can 98% fat free condensed, cream of chicken soup (original recipe called for 2/3 cup but I misread)
  • 1/2 cup 2% shredded cheddar cheese, divided in half
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 Tbsp light sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups frozen hash browns, divided

Directions:

  1. Mix the milk, soup, sour cream, 1/4 cheese, onion powder, and pepper.
  2. Mix the browned beef and corn.
  3. In an 8×8 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, layer 1 1/2 cups of the hash browns.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the beef and corn and mix well.
  5. Pour into the 8×8 dish over the hash browns.
  6. Add the remaining has browns over the top and top with the last of the cheese.
  7. Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

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Retake Homemade: Smoky Stuffed Potatoes

Down in the south we have a deli chain that started in an old gas station in Oxford, MS.  MacAlister’s.  This place was a college staple of mine since it was only about a mile and a half from campus.  In addition to the usual deli fare of sandwiches and salads, they have a line of ginormous stuffed baked potatoes.  My favorite was taken off the menu years ago.  It was called the Big Spudinski and was loaded with keilbasa sausage and cheese.  Tonight I decided to do an adaptation of this potato using bacon and gouda (because that’s been the theme of the week if you’ve been paying attention) in addition to some smoked turkey sausage.  The end result was a delicious and incredibly filling weeknight supper that came out to around 720 calories per tater.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1 large russet baking potato
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 oz smoked gouda, finely shredded
  • 3 slices applewood bacon
  • 3.5 oz. smoked turkey sausage

Directions:

  1. Bake your potatoes however you prefer.  I did mine in the crock pot, oiled and wrapped in foil and cooked on high for 6 hours.  But you could just as easily bake in the oven at 475 for 75 minutes if you’ve got time.
  2. Cook your bacon as preferred.  I like to bake mine.
  3. Dice the bacon.
  4. Slice the sausage into small, bite sized pieces and toss into a skillet on medium high heat.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Saute the sausage until it has a bit of caramelization.  This isn’t strictly necessary as the sausage is already cooked, but it gives it a nice boost to the flavor.
  7. Split your potatoes down the middle and squish open.
  8. Layer the bacon and sausage into the heart of the potato and top with cheese.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is good and melted.

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Retake Homemade: Mexican Corn Muffins

After last week’s meh Mexican spoon bread, I opted to try a jazzed up version of my mother’s Mexican cornbread.  Since we were taking it to a party, I thought muffins would be best (and it fits with my obsession for mini these days).  Results were moist and flavorful, a nice side to a Mexican themed dinner (these are being paired up with tamales and chili).  Makes 18 muffins that work out to 110 calories and 4.9 grams of fat apiece.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 can mexicorn, drained
  • 1 box Jiffy mix cornbread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packet Sazon
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and rinsed
  • 1 poblano pepper, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup fiesta blend cheese, 2%

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown the beef, then drain and rinse.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the corn, cream corn, egg, sazon, and poblano pepper.
  4. Add the beef and stir until well incorporated.
  5. Add the cheese and stir until well incorporated.
  6. Spoon into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes in the pans, before removing to a wire rack to cool until touchable.

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Retake Homemade: Mini Pizza Puffs

The inspiration for this recipe hails from the April 2010 issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray (pg. 83).  I offer this up as a homemade alternative to stuff like Totinos pizza roles.  They’re fresh, light, easy as can be, and a WHOLE lot healthier.  I made a few substitutions to the original recipe to lighten things up.  These are a fantastic appetizer for parties or snack to keep around the house.  Freeze on a cookie sheet and pop into a freezer bag then reheat at 350 for 8-10 minutes.  Makes 24 puffs at 47 calories and 1.8 grams of fat apiece (not counting the pizza sauce for dipping).

Variations: You can change up the fillings to any of your favorite pizza toppings so long as you chop them small.

Edited: I can and have made this with gluten free flour (no xanthan gum necessary) and with Daiya to make them dairy free.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup skim milk (original recipe called for whole)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (original called for 4 oz.)
  • 3.5 oz. turkey pepperoni, diced (original called for 4 oz.)
  • 3.5 oz. baby bella mushrooms, finely diced (my addition)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (my addition)
  • 1/2 cup store bought or homemade pizza sauce (I actually like Ragu Light Tomato and Basil marinara for this)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and egg.
  4. Add the flour and baking powder and whisk until there are no clumps.
  5. Add the Italian seasoning.
  6. Stir in the mozzarella, pepperoni, and mushrooms.
  7. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
  8. Stir batter well and divide among the mini muffin cups.
  9. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes.
  10. Serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping.

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