Ham and Cheese Hash Brown Casserole

Jeremiah and I had some extra ham and a half bag of hash browns. I found this breakfast dish but I think you could very easily use it as a meal you make with Christmas leftovers. Not as cheesy as your traditional cheesy hash browns but still good.

Ham and Cheese Hash Brown Casserole by Plain Chicken

IMG_02161 bag of frozen hash browns
1 lb. diced ham
2 cans condensed cream of potato soup
1 – 16 oz. container of sour cream
2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1 ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with non-stick spray. In a large mixing bowl, mix everything but Parmesan cheese. Pour into dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cook for one hour at 375 degrees.

Note:

  • I halved the recipe and baked in a smaller baking dish for the same time.
  • I added a little salt and pepper.
  • I think you could easily add some onion or garlic salt to this recipe.
  • You could use Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. I think you could also skip the Parmesan cheese and still enjoy this recipe with less fat.
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Winter Fruit Salad

I was looking for a new recipe to cook for our company Thanksgiving gathering. This recipe was especially appealing because it required nothing more than pulling out of the fridge at meal time. Since I was working the front desk, this sold me. Additionally, this dish is very visual appealing and vegetarian friendly.

Winter Fruit Salad with Maple Lime Dressing by Julias Album
FullSizeRender (15).jpg2 red apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
4 clementine oranges, peeled and separated
3 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. pomegranate seeds (one pomegranate)

Dressing
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. fresh lime juice (half lime)

Mix and serve.

Notes:

  • Cut open pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Poke with fork to loosen seeds. Let it sit for a little bit. Then, peel back pomegranate peel and pull out seeds with fork or fingers. Pour bowl of seeds through strainer to remove water.

Breakfast Sliders

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law made the Hawaiian Ham & Swiss Sliders for Jeremiah and I to take on the road. At the holidays, we alternate between our parents’ homes. That means a 5 ½ hour Christmas afternoon road trip between Kansas City and Wayne. These little sandwiches were definitely tasty snack along the way. She also whipped up a Gluten-free, dairy free version for her grandson. (Just substitute with Gluten-free rolls and dairy-free fake butter.)

Recently, I ran across this slightly sweeter breakfast variation on Pinterest. I cooked up a batch for Jeremiah and I on Tuesday morning. Delicious and filled us up until lunch time. Perhaps you could cook up a batch for your family over the Christmas break.

Breakfast Sliders from Pinterest
img_01671 package of King Hawaiian rolls
1 stick of butter
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. maple syrup
6 slice of ham
6 scrambled eggs
6 slices of cheese
1-2 T. poppy seeds

Cook scrambled eggs and sit to the side. In a pan or microwave dish, melt the butter, Worcestershire sauce, and syrup together. Meanwhile, slice rolls in half. Spray a 11 x 7 pan with non-stick spray. Place the bottom halves of rolls in dish. Top with half of butter mixture. Cover with ham, cooked scrambled eggs, and cheese slice. Top with remaining bun tops and press down into pan. Brush remaining butter on top of buns and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Quadruple Chocolate Cookies

I was looking for some new recipes when I ran across cookie recipe. I love Chocolate Crinkles (my signature dish) so these seemed like something I’d enjoy. Although they are tasty, I think my Chocolate Crinkles are better. But they did give me another excuse to use my Kitchen Aid mixer.

Quadruple Chocolate Soft Fudgy Pudding Cookies from Pinterest
img_0018
¾ c. butter, softened
¾ c. brown sugar
¼ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 packet of chocolate pudding
¼ c. cocoa powder
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

5 oz. dark chocolate chopped

Mix together butter, sugars, and eggs. Add in pudding, cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt slowly. Stir in chocolate. Refrigerate for two hours. Roll into balls and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Gluten/Dairy Free Chex Mix

Since my college finals days, I’ve been a holiday baker. One of my signature dishes is Chex Mix. This year, I set out to make a dairy free/gluten free version so that Jeremiah’s oldest nephew could enjoy it.

The gluten free cereal part was easy since Rice Chex and Corn Chex are both Gluten Free. We also knew we could get a fake butter – Smart Balance is the brand his family uses. It’s pretty much just a mix of different oils.

The gluten free pretzels was the hardest ingredient to find. We ended up going to Sprouts to get a bag of Glutino – gluten free pretzels. I love Sprouts – they make buying foods for people with specific dietary needs easy. It’s where we picked up the fake butter. Plus, we were able to buy about 1 1/2 cups of peanuts from the bulk area for about $.70. This is way cheaper than the grocery store packaged bags. We couldn’t use mixed nut because Jeremiah has a pretty serious allergy to cashews.

Here’s hoping you and your Gluten Free/Dairy Free family & friends enjoy this recipe.

Gluten Free ChexGluten & Dairy Free Chex Mix by Amber Bourek
3 c. Rice Chex
3 c. Corn Chex
3 T. Smart Balance Non-dairy Butter
2 c. Glutino (Gluten Free) Pretzels
1 c. Peanuts
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Melt fake butter and stir in seasoning. Mix with dry ingredients. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour – stirring every 15 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used a the Chex seasoning packet. It is the same ingredients as the seasoning listed above.

Stuffing from Scratch

It’s 5AM and I’ve been awake for about an hour now. After 30 minutes of tossing and turning in bed, I had a bit of a panic attack when I remembered that my uniform for work was in the laundry. I jumped out of bed and found myself sorting laundry in the closet as to not wake my fiancé.

I guess that is a bit of news I’d hadn’t shared here. My boyfriend proposed to me at dinner a few weeks ago. It was our 16 month anniversary and we were eating at Houlihan’s in Leawood. It was where we had gone on our very first date. We had planned to go to dinner early because the Kansas City Royals were playing game five of the World Series at 7PM. We were standing outside the restaurant talking about our first date and how we stood outside the restaurant talking after a long dinner. I turned around to walk in and Jeremiah spun me back around before getting down on one knee. I was a little in shock. If I was, you should have heard all the people around us. The people dining on the patio and getting in/out of vehicles were like “Is he prosing?” “Did she say yes?” Of course, without a doubt in my mind, I said yes. We went into the restaurant and the server asked us how it was going. I said, “We just got engaged.” He was like, “Congratulations!” I was like, “It was a minute ago just outside the restaurant. This is where we went on our first date.” The table next to us asked if he could take our photo when he overheard us. He told us how it was he and his wife’s second marriage but when you find the right one, it’s meant to be. The restaurant was so sweet and the manager brought us champagne and dessert to celebrate. Phone calls were made while we waited for our lovely dinner – the George Banks Sea Scallops with risotto and fresh arugula (one of my absolute favorite dishes of all time). As you all know by now, the Royals won it in game five beating the Mets in extra innings. It was also my mother’s birthday so this is certainly a day we will never forget.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been sleeping very long since our engagement. I wake up with ideas about our vows or what food should we make during our engagement photos. The date is set for July 2016 so I need to get cracking on these details. The venue is pretty much set, the guest list has been made, our wedding app/website has been created, half the attendants have been asked (including our adorable 3 ½ month old ring bearer), and the photographer has been selected. However, I have no idea what my dress will look like or what colors I want. I also need to email my hairdresser to see if she’s available. Every hinges on what time my hair can be done. Oh let’s hope she’s available because I have zero skill when it comes to doing my hair. I better email her right now, this is really important.

So since I’m awake and my laundry is in the wash, I decided to write a blog post for all of you. It is Thanksgiving week. Can you believe it? Normally, I would have already scoped all the Black Friday ads and had a plan for our day after Thanksgiving adventure. This year, I’m worried about whether or not I need to schedule a dress outing the Saturday after Thanksgiving with my mother and sister. I’m also not sure what on earth to get my fiancé for Christmas in our $75 spending limit?

In honor of it being Thanksgiving week though, I have decided to share with all of you one of the recipes Jeremiah and I will be making for my family. This is a recipe we learned last year while taking a cooking class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Not to worry my vegetarian friends, I’m including modifications for you to enjoy this recipe as well. I made both recipes for our Thanksgiving work potluck last week.

stuffingApple, Sage, & Sausage Sourdough Stuffing by Rachel Ciordas
12 oz. turkey breakfast sausage
1 tsp. oil
2 c. chopped onion
2 c. chopped apple
2 c. chopped celery
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. dried marjoram
½ tsp. black pepper
12 c. cubed sourdough bread
1 can fat-free, less sodium chicken broth

Cook sausage until browned. Add onion, apple, and celery. Sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in seasonings. In a large bowl, combine sausage mixture, bread, and broth. Spoon the stuffing into a sprayed 11 x 7 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Nutrition: Makes nine (1 c.) servings. 208 calories, 5 g. fat, 11.9 g. protein, 28.9 g. carbs, 2.1 g. fiber.

Notes:

  • Rachel said to not use green apples for this recipe. They are not sweet/juicy enough to sauté.
  • Did you know you can eat the leafy part of celery? It’s actually really flavorful.
  • I brought two loaves of fresh French bread at Spouts. I cubed 1 ½ loaves and let it sit out in a bowl overnight. I used the extra bread for a brioche French Toast.
  • I used the local brand of ground sausage. It added some extra flavor. 
  • I’ve found the lowest sodium chicken broth is Rachael Ray’s brand.
  • To make it vegetarian friendly, I substituted veggie broth and removed the sausage. In its place, I put some dried cranberries. After my luncheon, Jeremiah and I mixed the leftovers. It was good so feel free to add cranberries to the original recipe.
  • For a little crisper stuffing, bake covered 15 minutes and uncovered for 35-40 minutes.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

I know all of you are frantically planning your Thanksgiving dinners. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. It was the second class we had taken there. The theme for the class was “Everything But the Bird.” At the end of the class, Jeremiah and I were ready to cook fresh dishes for our families. I made this one up today. My teacher served it over cheese and crackers. I bet it would also be good on a post Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Super easy so I hope you will give it a try.

Cranberry sauceCranberry Orange Sauce with Apricots by Rachel Ciordas
12 oz. fresh cranberries
½ c. dried apricots, chopped
½ c. unsweetened applesauce
½ c. orange juice
¼ c. fruit preserves

Combine all ingredients and cook over a medium-high heat until cranberries pop (about 10 minutes). Cool and serve at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I used apricot preserves.
  • You can use frozen cranberries. I got these on sale last week for $.98 at Sprouts. I threw a bag in the freezer to cook up this recipe again. 

National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week

Starting in April, Harvesters began receiving larger than normal donations of bread. Our creative Nutrition Department developed lots of recipes to teach the families we serve other thing they could do with bread than just making sandwiches. I recently tried this bread pudding recipe and loved it. I also love it because it uses one of the essential seven produce items – apples.

Each month, Harvesters distributes over ½ million pounds of fresh produce to help feed hungry people in our community. One of the ways we do this is through Mobile Food Pantries. Six days a week, Harvesters works with 6-10 agency partners each day to distribute food through Mobile Food Pantries. Unfortunately, hundreds of families line up hours in advance in hopes of getting whatever food is available.

This week is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. This holiday season, I hope you will remember all your neighbors who struggle with food insecurity. You can help simply by donating a $1 or more at area grocery stores at the cash register through the Check-Out Hunger Campaign. Your $1 gift will provide 3 meals for hungry children, families, and seniors in our community.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding by Harvesters Nutrition Services Department
Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 c. fat-free milk
¼ c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon
5 c. day old bread, cubed
½ c. chopped peeled apples
Fat-free caramel sauce (I like Trader Joe’s)

In a large bowl, combine applesauce, milk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Fold in bread and apples. Let is stand for 15 minutes to absorb liquid. Pour into 8 inch sprayed square pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-60 minutes. (Test with a knife until it comes out clean.) Drizzle with caramel topping. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers. Makes 9 servings.

Turkey Club Casserole

Another great leftover turkey recipe. It’s like a turkey blt with pasta. I really liked the diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano seasoning.

Turkey BLT CasseroleTurkey Club Casserole from Pinterest
1 box whole wheat pasta ( I used penne)
1 (7 oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano seasoning
1 c. diced turkey (or chicken if you don’t have turkey)
1/2 c. diced bacon
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans cheddar cheese
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper

Cook pasta and drain. Add all other ingredients and stir. Place in a 13 x 9 baking dish and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Festivus

What gets you in the holiday spirit? Is it watching that classic Seinfeld episode where we learn that Frank Costanza invented his own holiday entitled Festivus? Is it watching your favorite holiday movie? Is it shopping and wrapping presents?

I have always enjoyed listening to Christmas music while baking. In my college days, it meant staying up into the middle of the night baking Chocolate Crinkles, red and green colored Snickerdoodles, and Chex Mix.

Since I recently asked all my friends what their favorite Christmas songs are, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

  • A Christmas Festival by The Boston Pops – I’m a sucker for classical music at the holidays. This song also reminds me of playing it when I was in the Wayne High School concert band.
  • Sleigh Ride – This song makes me think of The Northland Symphony Orchestra. I served on the board of directors for several years. Although I wasn’t able to make it to this year’s concert, I’m sure Jim Murray included this piece featuring the percussion auxiliary instruments of sleigh bells and the clapper.
  • Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Al Green and Annie Lennox – Ok, maybe it isn’t a traditional Christmas song but it is in the movie Scrooged. Although I was totally scared by it when I saw it in the movie theatre as a child, it was just one of the many holiday movies I’ve seen with my family. We usually go Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas Day to see a movie together.
  • Carol of the Bells by Mannheim Steamroller – Chip Davis, a fellow University of Nebraska-Lincoln alum, did a great job arranging this piece. It always makes me think of my Grandpa Fletcher. He is a huge fan of this group and a great lover of music.
  • Christmas/Sarahevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra – A few years ago, we went to one of their concerts for my mother’s birthday. Not only do they play cool Christmas music but they put on another show entirely of their non-Christmas stuff. I bet they played for three hours. You can catch them in Kansas City on December 22nd. But don’t forget to bring canned goods for Harvesters.
  • All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey – Sure, lots of artists put out Christmas albums remaking classics but Mariah invented a Christmas modern day classic.
  • Rocking Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee – Doesn’t it make you want to reenact the puppet/record player scene from Home Alone?
  • You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch – It’s Dr. Seuss – enough said!
  • Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by N’sync – It makes me wish all the boys would be joining JT when I see his tour next July.
  • O Holy Night from Home Alone – E.T., Indian Jones, The Boston Pops – I love John Williams. My sister and I were talking about although he will never be compared to the likings of Bach or Beethoven, his classic movie scores will probably go down in history as our generation’s contribution to musical history.

Like holiday music, no Christmas gathering would be complete without a cheese ball. I made this one for my Volunteer Services Team holiday party. It was a big hit served with Grinch drinks (Sprite and lime sherbet).

Peppermint Oreo Cheese BallPeppermint Cookie Cheese Ball from Pinterest
1 – 8 oz. cream cheese brick
1/2 c. softened butter
3 T. brown sugar
2/3 c. powder sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 a bag mini-chocolate chips
Peppermint chips/peppermint bark/broken candy cane
5 holiday Oreos

Blend together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Then, add dry ingredients (except Oreos and peppermint). Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then, roll in crushed Oreos and peppermint bark.

Serve with apples, graham crackers, Oreos, and pretzels.