Easy Chocolate Ganache…

My husband has an incurable sweet tooth. The other day he informed me we had nothing sweet in the house to eat and I was not in the mood to whip up something from scratch. I looked in the pantry and found a box of Duncan Hines decadent chocolate cake mix and told him I would make that. Unfortunately I opened my mouth before carefully reading the outside of the box. Staring me right in the face in clear letters on the front of the box were the words “frosting not included”. Now what… Luckily I thought I might have the ingredients for making chocolate ganache (which I did) so I thought ok, now’s the time to tackle your fears and make it. I had not other choice.

I’m not quite sure why I was afraid to make ganache but I always thought it was difficult and tricky. To my surprise it was unbelievably easy. So I thought I would dedicate this blog to a very simple way of making ganache that turns out silky, luscious and ever so decadent looking, not to mention absolutely incredibly delicious.

So let’s talk making chocolate ganache…

Lesson Learned 1 – There are many ways to make ganache: I am going to share with you the simplest way. The ratio is easy to remember 1:1. Use as many ounces of heavy cream as semi-sweet chocolate. It couldn’t be easier.

Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the chocolate squares into very small pieces: I used a 4 ounce box of Bakers semi-sweet chocolate. With my chef’s knife I cut off pieces and chopped them into small bits. If you decide to go the chip route, I would use the mini semi-sweet chips. You need the hot cream to melt the chocolate and if the pieces are too big that won’t happen.

Chocolate Covered In Hot Heavy Cream

Lesson Learned 2 – You can warm your heavy cream in the microwave: In order to get the desired consistency of the ganache, the cream has to melt the chocolate. So you have to get the cream hot enough to do that but you don’t want to scald the cream. That won’t work either.

Many recipes that I looked at recommended warming the cream on the stove. You can certainly do that especially since it gives you slightly more control in determining when the cream is hot enough. And you can certainly do that with this recipe, although I didn’t. I heated my cream (4 ounces) in the microwave for 45 seconds. After that time I found it still wasn’t hot enough. I heated it for an additional 15 seconds and it was bubbling. I was worried that I’d scalded the cream but I think what happened was the cream had just started to bubble, so I was still ok. The next time I think I’ll just nuke it for 50 seconds straight and go from there.

If you use a larger 1:1 ratio you will need to nuke the cream for a longer period of time. With this you’ll simply have to keep checking it. With 4 ounces I recommend 50 seconds. For larger amounts I would start checking at 1 minute and go from there.

Lesson Learned 3 – Let the chocolate and heavy cream sit for at least 3 minutes: Once you add the hot heavy cream you may be tempted to start whisking the mixture right away. Don’t. The cream has to melt the chocolate in order for you to get the desired consistency of the ganache. Be patient and let the cream do it’s work. I guarantee you it’s worth it.

This recipe makes enough to generously frost one bundt cake, one 9 x 13 sheet cake or one 9 inch round layer cake. So next time you need some frosting try this instead of buying the canned stuff. It looks impressive and it tastes divine!

Easy Chocolate Ganache...

  • Servings: 1 Bundt Cake
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate squares cut into small pieces

4 ounces heavy cream, heated

DIRECTIONS

Chop up the chocolate into very small pieces. Heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe dish for approximately 50 seconds. Test with your finger to make sure it is sufficiently hot to melt the chocolate. If not, microwave at additional 5 second intervals until cream is hot but not scalded.

Pour cream over chocolate pieces. Let the hot mixture sit for at least 3 minutes. Whisk mixture until cream is incorporated and the chocolate is dark and smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the top of your bundt cake. Let ganache set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

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Home Fries…

I love my cast iron skillet. It only cost me about $20 and it’s one of the best skillets I have. But there’s a reason for that. Cast iron produces even, sustained heat and that’s the best for cooking just about anything. The only drawback to cast iron is it’s so darn heavy. But I just think of it as an upper body workout and move on from there.

This recipe uses the features of a cast iron skillet to produce the tastiest home fries. And making home fries is not all that complicated. The flavor of homemade sure beats the taste of the frozen kind.

So without further adieu, let’s talk home fries…

Lesson Learned 1 – Make sure to cut the potatoes to the correct size: For the purposes of this recipe you need to keep the pieces close in size (approx. 3/4 inch pieces). Here’s a little trick to help you achieve that. Using your chef’s knife cut a thin slice off of one of the longer sides of a peeled potato. Set the potato on the cut side and slice crosswise into even planks. Stack several planks and cut crosswise. Then rotate and cut crosswise again. This will give you evenly sliced potatoes.

Lesson Learned 2 – You can cook the pieces of potatoes two different ways, on the stovetop or in the microwave: (I will include both methods in the recipe printout). I chose to cook them on the stove. The process is not much different than making mashed potatoes. The only difference is you want to monitor the potatoes as they boil to make sure they don’t get overly soft, otherwise they’ll break apart. You want them to hold their shape. I would boil them for about 7-10 minutes and check their consistency. If they are still hard, check every couple of minutes until they are just becoming fork tender.

Lesson Learned 3 – If you choose to boil your potatoes first, let them cool a little in the strainer so they are as dry as possible when you put them in the cast iron skillet: In order to get your potatoes nice and brown you want them to be as free from water as possible. I would boil the potatoes first, strain them and let them sit in the strainer while you saute the onions and garlic. That way most of the moisture will drain off before you put them in the skillet.

Lesson Learned 4 – Once you saute the onions and garlic remove them from the pan and set them aside. The first time I made this recipe I kept them in the cast iron pan while I was browning the potatoes. Big mistake! They didn’t stand up very well through the browning process and wound up getting burned. Once you saute the mixture remove it from the pan and add it back in at the last minute just to get it warmed through again. That way you won’t get browned potatoes and blackened onions and garlic. Lessons learned from the cook who never could…

Lesson Learned 5 – Don’t continuously move the potatoes once they are in the skillet: In order to get the potatoes nice and brown you have to let them sit for a while in the skillet. The whole browning process can take about 20 minutes and you don’t want to be flipping the potatoes continuously during that time. If you want to check to see if they are ready to flip, turn one of the pieces or look on the sides of the pieces to see if the bottoms have started to to turn color. You’ll get a much better result if you are patient during the browning process.

And that’s it, couldn’t be any easier. I like these so much better than the frozen kind. Try them and see if you agree!

Home Fries...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch cubes

2 – 3 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 small-medium size onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. fresh chives

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a high rimmed pot, boil the potatoes until they just fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside. (NOTE: you can also microwave the potatoes. Put 1 Tbs. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a covered microwave safe bowl along with the potatoes. Stir. Cook 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain the potatoes well).

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Start with 2 Tbs. of oil (you may or may not need to add more later) added to the skillet and heated until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned. Salt and pepper the onions. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.

If needed, add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the potatoes and gently pack them into the skillet using the back end of a spatula. Cook, without moving for 7-10 minutes or until they begin to brown.

Flip the potatoes and lightly repack them into the skillet. (check to see if you need to add oil during this process). Continue flipping process until the potatoes are browned on all sides. Add the onions and garlic back to the pan, mix with the potatoes and heat until warmed through.

Season with salt and pepper, garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Potatoes during the browning process

 

 

 

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Asparagus Soup…

Ingredients

Last Saturday I visited our local farmers market. I love going there on Saturday mornings. Our famers market has a wide variety of vendors selling vegetables, meats and baked goods. There is also a guy who sharpens knives (I love that) and food and crafts vendors. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours meandering the site, sampling the goodies, listening to live music and going home with in season farm-to-table goodies.

This week the farmers stands were inundated with chives and asparagus. There was asparagus as far as the eye could see. I couldn’t resist buying some (along with some cranberry walnut bread and some cheddar brats). I’ve had a craving for soup lately and thought I’d try my hand at making some asparagus soup. And the rest is history… I could’t believe how easy it was to make but even better than that how delicious it was. I’ll probably head back next Saturday for another batch.

But let’s talk asparagus soup…

Lesson Learned 1 – Learn what parts of the asparagus spears you can use: Quite often you’ll see on television the way to trim asparagus is to bend it and where it breaks off is where you should trim your bunch. I’ve found that sometimes that wastes too much asparagus especially if you’re making soup. I learned early on that even with a very sharp knife, there can be a part of the spear that will very hard to cut – you almost always have to use two hands pressing down on the knife to cut it. That is the part you want to throw out. That still leaves some of the tougher parts of the asparagus, but as long as a knife will go through it without a lot of force you can use it in the soup. Keep in mind that soup is designed to use as much of the asparagus spear as you possibly can so don’t be afraid to use some of the tougher parts of the spear. As long as you can cut through it without a lot of force it will be perfectly fine for the soup.

Lesson Learned 2 – Be careful when using an immersion blender: I recommend using an immersion blender for this recipe. Some recipes have you blend the soup in batches in a regular blender. That’s a lot more work than is actually necessary. But, be careful when you use an immersion blender. If you lift the blade up over the top of the soup you’ll have soup splattered all over the place. (I know, I’ve done this!) Move the blender around slowly in the soup and don’t lift if above the top of the soup. If you have to lift it up higher, turn it off first. Just a little tip to save you a lot of aggravation.

Lesson Learned 3 – You can make this soup and store it: This soup will keep it’s freshness for a couple of days. If you decide not to serve it immediately hold off on stirring in the last tablespoon of butter and lemon juice. I made my soup in the morning, refrigerated it and served it for dinner. Right before I served it I stirred in the butter and lemon juice. It gives the soup that that final finishing touch and freshness.

This recipe is so simple and easy. Most of the work is in the prep of the ingredients. I also like this recipe because it makes a manageable amount of soup, servings for four. That way you don’t have a lot of waste. But if you want more, just double the recipe and it’ll turn out just as good.

This recipe is so good I plan on going to the farmers market again this Saturday and buying more asparagus to make some more soup. It’s so much better than the canned stuff. Enjoy!

Asparagus Soup...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3 Tbs. butter, separated

1 medium sized onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 Tbs. flour

3 cups low sodium chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth as well)

1/4 cup creme fraiche (you can use sour cream)

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Take the tough bottoms off the asparagus spears. Remove a couple asparagus tips and set aside for garnish. (you can slightly steam them or leave them as is for a bit of crunch). Cut spears into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium size high sided pot melt 2 Tbs. of butter. Add the onions and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Salt and pepper the onions while cooking.

Add the asparagus pieces to the onions and cook over low/medium heat for five minutes. Salt and pepper the asparagus. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the asparagus, stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a low boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend the asparagus into the soup. Continue until there are no evidence of remaining spears. After a few minutes, if any parts of spears remain remove them – they are probably too tough to be broken down. Add the creme fraiche and stir to thoroughly combine.

At this point you can cool the soup and store it for a couple of days if you like. If you plan to serve it immediately stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the juice from the lemon. If you plan on serving it later, warm the soup and at that time and add the butter and lemon juice right before you serve.

 

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Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash…

One of my favorite vegetables is butternut squash. It is a versatile vegetable capable of being made in a variety of ways but my favorite is roasted butternut squash (with a close second butternut squash soup).

I stumbled on a version of this recipe a while back and have been making my version regularly ever since. But it dawned on me that I never posted this recipe so I will now. There are only a few ingredients in this recipe but they compliment the squash so perfectly and give a gentle sweetness to its flavor.

So let’s talk cinnamon roasted butternut squash…

Lesson Learned 1 – The size of the squash pieces matters: If you cut the squash too large it will remain hard. Conversely if you cut it too small it will turn into mush. For this particular recipe you want to cut your squash into 3/4 – 1 inch thick pieces. I recommend that you cook the squash at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Cutting the squash into those sized chunks results in the pieces being cooked through without being overly mushy and with a nice caramelization on the outside. Don’t get worried if all your pieces are not exactly the same size. Make them close enough in size as you possibly can.

Lesson Learned 2 – Only use coconut oil in this recipe: If you use olive oil you simply will not get the same flavor. The coconut oil renders a subtle sweetness that, along with the cinnamon, makes the squash taste so good. Now, can you use olive oil if you don’t have coconut oil – of course you can. But I wouldn’t recommend using cinnamon with olive oil. I don’t think the flavors would compliment each other as much.

I’ve been roasting squash for years and my go-to recipe was using a garlic flavored olive oil with some dried thyme – and that’s a great combination as well. But I’ve found when I use coconut it not only enhances the flavor but the squash roasts more evenly, if that makes any sense. When I roasted the squash with olive oil sometimes I would get pieces that did not cook through and were somewhat hard even though the only major change was the oil I used. That never happens with coconut oil. Funny, isn’t it?

Lesson Learned 3 – Be careful how much cinnamon you add: In this recipe it is important for the oil and cinnamon to balance each other out in order to get the correct flavor and sweetness. For that to happen the correct proportions need to be used.

Cinnamon on its own without the benefit of sugar can be quite pungent and not very good tasting. Think about it, when do you ever see cinnamon used without some sort of sweetener? I wouldn’t add any more than a teaspoonful in order the get the correct mixture of both the oil and the cinnamon. If done correctly the combination is heavenly. If not, you’ll wind up throwing the squash out.

Lesson Learned 4 – Don’t crowd the pieces of squash when roasting them: Did you ever see the movie “Julie and Julia” about a woman from New York who blogged about cooking her way through Julia Childs’ cookbook? There is a scene in the movie where Amy Grant, who plays Julie, is cooking mushrooms on the stove and says that Julia noted in her book not to crowd the mushrooms – they won’t brown. Well the same thing applies to the squash. You want the squash to roast so you need to give the pieces room. If you don’t they’ll steam instead of roast and you won’t get the benefit of the wonderful caramelization that so enhances the flavor of the squash.

There could not be a recipe any simpler than this that produces such a flavorful, elegant side dish. I make this at least once a week now and can guarantee that you will make it often once you try it. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups butternut squash cut into 3/4 – 1 inch pieces

1 Tbs. coconut oil, melted

1 tsp. cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a 9x 13 pan with foil. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl combine the squash, coconut oil and cinnamon. Combine until all pieces are thoroughly coated.

Transfer the squash to the prepared pan making sure the pieces are not crowded in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. (I’d go easy on both – you could always add more when you serve).

Roast for 30-35 minutes turning over the pieces of squash at the half way point. Serve.

Squash & Cinnamon

Thoroughly Combine Squash, Coconut Oil & Cinnamon

Don’t Crowd The Squash In The Pan

 

 

 

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My Kitchen Remodel Saga And My Slow Cooker Favorites…

The saga of the kitchen, dining room, living room and den flooring projects continues and prevents me from posting some new recipes. I’ve lived through this many times before and even recognize the many ebbs and flows of this type of process. We are definitely in the “frustrated” stage of the project. The whole house is in disarray and will be for a few more weeks (the hardwood floor goes down next week) and it’s at this stage that you long for a clean, organized home.

I liken these types of projects to giving birth. Once the baby arrives you forget about all the pain and rejoice in the outcome. I am so waiting for that time. Before I go into some of my favorite slow cooker recipes I thought I’d share a few pictures of my kitchen to give you some perspective of what I am currently going through.

The picture below gives you somewhat of an idea of what the kitchen looked like when we moved in. Not bad you might say, but there were definitely some challenges. The gas cook top was not what was originally there. When buying a condo I told my husband I would not even consider one that did not have a gas stove. I’ve been a gas girl all my life and know that most if not all professional chefs cook with gas so there was no room for negotiation there.

We took out the cooktop you see in the picture below to install the gas cooktop in the picture above (the gas cooktop was the one the builder took out and replaced with the electric cooktop when doing the remodel). Our condo had been previously owned but purchased back by the builder and converted to the model for the development. (the development was done in two phases and our condo was in one of the first phase buildings). “Upgraded” appliances were installed as part of the conversion. I say upgraded in parenthesis because the new appliances were actually not very good and my husband and I wound up replacing all of them except the refrigerator. I also found it interesting that the electric cooktop they originally installed looked like Mickey Mouse, my bizarre sense of humor.

The original electric cooktop that was in our kitchen

The original kitchen design called for the cooktop and oven to be separate. You can see a small portion of the original oven on the far right of the very first picture above (note the stainless outline at the bottom far right of the picture). The problem with having the oven located there was the thermostat for our heating and cooling system was on the wall directly opposite the oven. Using the oven had a direct effect on the thermostat and we certainly didn’t want that. So we decided to eliminate the cooktop and separate oven combination and get a stove with an oven (see the picture below), install it in the space where the cooktop was (requiring removing the cabinets underneath) and adding cabinet space where the oven had been. It worked out great.

After that, the final problem we wanted to resolve was the engineered wood flooring (you can see it on the bottom of the first picture above). It really doesn’t look that bad in the picture but it was cheap stuff, scratched easily and was hard to clean. Both my husband and I have had wood floors in our previous kitchens and always wound up replacing them with tile. Tile is more durable and easily stands up to the wear and tear of work done in a kitchen. Just be careful not to drop your wine glasses, though. Tile is not forgiving in that regard.

So at this point the tile is laid and setting for a day before doing the grout. My husband does excellent work and is a perfectionist so the work sometimes is painstakingly slow. In the end I know I will be so pleased but in the interim living in a war zone has its ups and downs.

Where my stove/oven used to be

waiting for grout

The one thing we’ve already noticed is the tile is brightening up the kitchen. With the dark cabinets and the dark floor the kitchen was a pretty dark place. The tile is changing all that and brightening it up considerably.

And so, because of all this, once again I do not have a new recipe to share this week. But the good news is I have so many recipes amassed from the many years of doing this blog that I can share some of my recipes that have not seen the light of day for quite some time.

This week I decided to focus on some of my personal favorite slow cooker recipes. Over the years I’ve learned that slow cookers are actually very versatile. Years ago when I would make something in a slow cooker (or crock pots as we used to call it then) my food would come out bland and overcooked. Now I’ve mastered some techniques that have helped me create some wonderful slow cooker dishes. Those are the ones I want to share with you today.

So let’s talk slow cooker favorites…

I’ve chosen these particular recipes because they are easy, impressive and your guests (or family for that matter) will never think they were made in a slow cooker.

  1. SLOW COOKER GROUND BEEF STEW: I really like this recipe because the end result is a thick and luscious stew. The secret is using a large amount of tomato paste. For a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce I recommend using an entire 6 ounce can of tomato paste. For this recipe you want the sauce to be really thick before the stew starts to cook. If the sauce still looks a little thin after mixing the sauce and paste I recommend adding more tomato paste. Don’t be afraid if you think it’s too thick. The residual fat from the browned ground beef will loosen up the sauce in the cooking process but not to the point of making it runny. The consistency of this stew is similar to a nice thick chili. And the flavor of this stew is fabulous. I assure you, this recipe can easily become a family staple.

2. CREAMY MEATBALL AND TORTELLINI SOUP: Years ago I never would have thought of making soup in a slow cooker. But actually it is a perfect tool for making soup. This was the recipe where I learned I can vary my temperatures during the cooking process versus just cooking a recipe on low or high all the time. I made sausage meatballs for this recipe but if you don’t want to take the time to remove the casings and shape the meatballs you can just cut the sausage up in links and throw it in that way. This is a great dish for a chilly night. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and you have one heck of a meal that takes virtually no effort at all to make.

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3. SLOW COOKER TURKEY AND DUMPLINGS: Remember when you only used to have turkey around the holidays? I happen to love turkey and so I try to find as many ways of serving it all year round. I used turkey tenderloins in this recipe, cooking them whole and then shredding them. The surprise ingredient is refrigerated biscuits that I cut up and used as the dumplings. This is a flavorful and hearty dish and a great way to incorporate turkey more routinely into your meal plans.

4. JAMBALAYA: This was my breakthrough recipe using a slow cooker. From past experience, this was the first time that I made something in the slow cooker that didn’t look or taste like mush. If you are inclined to try any of these recipes, I would start with this one. This is a traditional chop and drop slow cooker recipe. The difference is you don’t add all of the ingredients at once so everything is cooked properly but not overcooked. My husband and I absolutely love this recipe and I am sure you will too.

5. SLOW COOKER COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS: I have been making this recipe for years. It is definitely a recipe for someone who is just learning to cook as it is, if you follow the instructions, absolutely foolproof. The sauce is rich and thick and the pork is fall-off-the-bone delicious. You can serve this with rice or potatoes and a vegetable of your choice and have a superb meal. If you want a great recipe that is a complete no brainer, this is the one for you.

And there you have it – the saga of my kitchen remodel coupled with my favorite slow cooker recipes. I’m not sure if I will be able to post a new recipe next week, but I certainly hope to. If not, I will share some of my former recipes that have not surfaced for a long time and probably something sweet versus savory. We’ll just have to see how it goes. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Next stop, doing the grout and the hardwood floor installation in the rest of the condo!

 

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Salmon Casserole For Two…

No lie, my first taste of this casserole all I could say was “Oh My God”! It was unreal how good it was. My husband, who is a little less dramatic, said, “This is very good” which is high praise from him.

Over the years we’ve been eating more and more fish and so every once in a while I like to try to shake things up with my fish recipes. Well, I hit the jackpot this time. This is one of my best recipes ever and I don’t even hesitate to say that the non-fish lover in your home will like this as well. It’s a very versatile dish and can be amended in a variety of ways but for now I’ll share what I did and talk more about versatility in lessons learned.

One more note… from time to time I will also focus on making recipes for two. It’s just my husband and I that I cook for now unless we are having a party and sometimes I find if I make too much we either throw stuff out or eat leftovers. And some recipes are more conducive to leftovers than others. These days it is hard to cook for two since grocery stores seem to sell bigger portions. But I found this particular recipe can be adapted in many ways and one of them is the amount you make. So I am writing this recipe for two people but keep in mind you can increase the ingredients proportionally  to serve more.

So let’s talk salmon casserole…

(NOTE: All meals pictured in this video can be found in the recipe index on this site)

Lesson learned 1 – Choose your salmon wisely: I’ve found that the salmon filets you buy at the grocery store can vary in thickness. For this recipe you’re going to want to get the thickest piece you can find. Normally what you’ll see is a piece that is about one inch thick at its widest part. Since this cooks for about 35-40 minutes you’re going to want to have a thicker piece so the salmon doesn’t dry out.

Most if not all prepackaged salmon pieces still have the skin on. You’ll need to remove that as well. I cut the salmon into approximately one inch chunks. They turned out perfectly. So keep in mind the thicker the piece the better. But don’t be afraid to also use the thinner part of your salmon filet. Because it is cooked in cream the salmon does retain its moistness.

I only used an 8 ounce salmon filet. Normally that is about enough for both of us. If you want a little more in your casserole, don’t be afraid to add it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Adapting this recipe: I originally wanted to use some spinach in this recipe but didn’t have it on hand and didn’t feel like going to the grocery store to buy some. But I did have some flat leaf parsley and so I used that. If you use spinach just saute it with the onions and only use a couple of handfuls. The spinach should act as the accompaniment to the recipe and shouldn’t overpower it. The same applies to flat leaf parsley. I only used a little more than a tablespoon (and of course I used some for garnish), just enough to enhance the flavor.

I also added butternut squash. The key to using that is to make sure you cut the pieces small, otherwise they won’t cook. I cut mine into about 1/8 inch cubes. But even cutting it that small a couple of pieces turned out a little more al dente than I would have liked but all the rest were perfect.

You can easily add peas to this, or carrots. If you add carrots I suggest you precook them until they start getting soft. You can do that while sauteing the onions. If you want to add cauliflower then I would steam them until they start turning soft. Or you can simply add a frozen vegetable medley and it should cook through during that time period. I prefer adding fresh vegetables but it can work either way.

Lesson Learned 3 – Those tricky potatoes: I don’t know about you but, for me, potatoes are tricky when using them in a casserole, specifically sliced potatoes. I’ve experienced many instances where they were hard and not cooked through. This time they turned out perfectly. This is what I did. I used two medium sized yukon gold potatoes and boiled them with their skins on until I could easily stick a fork in them. Then I put them in a colander and let them cool. It is important to let them cool. If you try to cut them when they’re hot they’ll fall apart. Once they cool you can easily peel and slice them. Can you leave the peel on? Of course you can. My husband prefers them with the peel off. I sliced potatoes into half inch thick rounds and they were delicious. One of the first things my husband said when he took is first bite was, “the potatoes are good”. Success!!

You can boil your potatoes early in the day or even the night before and leave them with the skins on in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. It doesn’t have to be a big deal or overly time consuming.

Lesson Learned 4 – The seasoning is so important: This recipe doesn’t have a lot of ingredients so the seasoning is very important. Once again this part lends to the adaptability of this recipe. Once you layer the fish and squash make sure you salt and pepper them. Once you add the onions and parsley then sprinkle your fish seasoning on top. You can use any type of seasoning that works well with fish. I used a tuscan garlic seasoning blend that includes onion, garlic, red bell pepper and lemon peel. I use this seasoning a lot when I bake salmon filets so I knew it would work well with the salmon. Just be careful not to overdo the seasoning. About a quarter of a teaspoon should do the trick, at least for the first time you make this dish. You can adjust as you fine tune your dish.

I was so pleased with how this recipe turned out and will definitely make it again. Try it and and let me know what you think.

Salmon Casserole For Two...

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS

2 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, pre-boiled

1 Tbs. garlic infused olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

1 generous Tbs. flat leaf parsley, minced

1 Tbs. flour

1 thick 6-8 ounce salmon filet, cubed

1 cup butternut squash, cubed small

1/4 tsp. tuscan garlic seasoning

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup shredded gruyere

kosher salt

freshly cracked pepper

olive oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the flat leaf parsley and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Set the mixture aside.

Slice the potatoes into 1/2 inch rounds. Spray a 1 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Put the salmon and squash on top of the potato layer. Put the onion/parsley mixture on top of the salmon and squash. Season with salt, pepper and tuscan garlic seasoning.

Put another layer of potato rounds on top. Pour the cream over the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with the gruyere cheese.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

 

 

 

 

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Mini Cherry Cheese Danishes…

This recipe was born out of leftovers I had from making my Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake. I still had some of the cream cheese mixture and cherry pie filling leftover and really didn’t want to just throw them out. I searched online to see if I could get some ideas and found something similar to this and thought, I’ll make some mini cheese danishes.

Apparently a lot of people are using refrigerated dough to makes these types of recipes. I was surprised to find crescent dough “rounds”. I’d never seen them before. I was thinking I might have to take the traditional crescent dough and pinch the seams in order to get the rounds I needed. I was delighted that I did not have to do that work, that it was already done for me.

So let’s talk mini cherry cheese danishes…

Lesson Learned 1 – Working with the refrigerator dough: Using this kind of dough is very convenient but you do have to work it a little bit. I cut the pieces along the pre-perforated edges as best I could (I wound up with 9 rounds and  I should have only had 8 if I followed the perforations exactly – oh well…) and  rolled each piece into a ball. I flattened each piece with my hand and then used my thumbs to create a crater inside the dough. The crater is important because that’s where you put the cream cheese and cherries. Making the crater as deep as possible helps to prevent the cherries from falling off. But don’t worry, if they do once you pull them out of the oven just use a small spoon to push them back on top. Once they cool they will stay put.

Lesson Learned 2 – The cream cheese filling: This recipe was inspired by the cream cheese filling and canned cherries I had left over from making a Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Cake. After I made the cake I had enough filling and cherries left over that I really didn’t want to just throw out. This recipe is designed for that type of leftover. You can make the filling for this recipe versus using leftovers, and I will include the the recipe for the filling I used, but any type of cream cheese filling will do. Plus if you make the filling from scratch you will definitely have too much filling. There have been many times I’ve had filling like this left over and I just trashed it. But even if I didn’t have any leftover canned cherries, another type of fruit could be substituted, like left over apple sauce or apple pie filling. This recipe is a very easy way to use your baking leftovers.

Lesson Learned 3 – The Glaze: As I’ve shared before the formula for glaze is quite simple – a cup of confectioners sugar and 1 – 2 tbs. of liquid (water, milk, heavy cream) and a little flavoring like an extract, juice, and/or zest. For this recipe I used 1/8 tsp. of almond extract and the glaze was perfect.

My husband really liked these tasty little bites. Cover them with plastic wrap or put them in an air tight container and they’ll stay fresh for 3 days, if they even last that long. I know mine didn’t. Enjoy!

Mini Cherry Cream Cheese Danishes

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

1 can of crescent rounds, I used Pillsbury

Leftover cream cheese filling (note recipe below was the filling I used but if made from scratch is too much for this recipe)


2 – 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. flour

1 egg, room temperature


Leftover fruit  – I used leftover canned cherry pie filling

GLAZE:

I cup confectioners sugar

1 – 2 tsp milk

1/8 tsp almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Open the can of refrigerator dough and cut the dough rounds using the perforations as a guide. Roll each into a ball. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hands and create a crater in the center of each with your thumbs.

Place a half teaspoon of cream cheese filling and 2-3 cherries inside each crater.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Remove each danish onto a wire rack and let cool. If any cherries have fallen off during the baking process, spoon them back on top before placing on the wire rack.

Once cooled, make the glaze and drizzle over the danishes. Serve or place in an air tight container. Danishes will stay fresh for approximately 3 days.

Ready To Go Into The Oven

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