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Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole with Kielbasa

Cheesy Hashbrowns & Kielbasa  Cheese? Potatoes? Kielbasa? It’s hard to go wrong really.

I love that this dish comes together in less than 10 minutes with minimal effort. I don’t like that it takes almost an hour in the oven to cook because it smells so darn good!

  Ingredients:

1 – Two pound bag of frozen shredded potatoes

3 Cups shredded cheese (I use Mexican blend), divided in half

1 Medium onion, finely chopped and divided in half

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 Cups Chicken stock

1 Cup fat-free sour cream

1 Teaspoon ground black pepper – optional

1/2 Teaspoon salt – optional

1 Package kielbasa franks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Melt butter in microwave. Chop onion until it is finely diced and divide into two piles.

In your trusty lasagna / 9 x 13 casserole dish, spray with non-stick cooking spray and then spread half of the frozen shredded potatoes in an even layer on the bottom. Next, take half the diced onion and sprinkle it evenly over the shredded potatoes in your pan.

Take half of your shredded cheese (about 1 1/2 cups) and spread it evenly over the onions and potatoes. Add the rest of your potatoes on top of the cheese layer. Add the rest of your diced onion, sprinkling evenly over the potatoes.

Next, mix together melted butter, chicken stock, and fat free sour cream until sour cream lumps are gone and mixture is a creamy smooth liquid. Add the salt and pepper to this mixture if you prefer. (Sometimes I add them, sometimes I don’t. It’s easy to salt and pepper to taste as you serve so this step is completely optional.)

Pour liquid mixture over casserole, making sure to spread it evenly over the potatoes so they all get some. Finally, add the rest of the shredded cheese in an even layer.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, pull the casserole out of the oven and put the kielbasa on top. Put the casserole back in the oven and bake for an additional 25 minutes. NOM!

– Note 1: I love the cheese crispy and a little brown on top (so good!). If you are a bit put off and thinks it looks burned, then wait and add the final layer of cheese right before you put the kielbasa on top, then cover with tin foil to bake for the last 25 minutes. Personally, I love the crunchy goodness, but choose the option that works best for you.

– Note 2: This reheats like a dream. I always have leftovers for lunch the next day and it’s fantastic!

Enjoy!

 

 

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Baked Ziti

Red Sauce

It feels like Italian week around here. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta lately. This is great if you like leftovers. I put the leftovers into wide-mouth glass pint jars (I always use glass jars, never plastic bowls) and send it to work with Mike for his lunch. It reheats wonderfully.

Baked Ziti

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 45 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small Box Penne or Ziti Pasta
  • 1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes with Garlic
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 Large Onion, Chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, Divided
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheese Blend (4 or 6 Cheese)
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (1/2 stick), Soft
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put pasta on to boil, cook until not quite done. It should still be a little tough. It will finish cooking in the oven and be perfect. If you boil it to well done, it can turn out mushy after baking. Yuck.

While pasta is boiling, peel and chop onions and garlic. Saute in a large nonstick skillet with ground beef until beef is well done. As beef is browning, break it apart with your spatula until you have small bite-sized or smaller chunks.

Once beef is browning, in a large sauce pan, mix together 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 can crushed tomatoes, and 1 can diced tomatoes.

Tip: The spaghetti sauce I use is rather thick straight out of the jar. I don’t drain the diced tomatoes, just pour the juice and tomatoes all into the sauce. It helps loosen up the sauce without making it runny. If your sauce is already thin, drain the diced tomatoes before adding them.

If you like your pasta saucier, you may want to add a second jar of spaghetti sauce or a second can of crushed tomatoes. I always do because I get very annoyed when I order baked ziti in a restaurant and it comes out dry with very little sauce. If you end up with too much sauce, keep the leftovers in your fridge for pizza sauce.

Mix sauce and tomatoes well and simmer over medium low heat until warm.

If your pasta is done, drain and set aside. Now it’s time to make the cheesy filling.

Add the ricotta cheese to a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese and one cup of the shredded cheese blend. Add the soft (not melted, just soft) butter, the raw egg, and the dried spices. Mix well.

Baked Ziti – Warm and Bubbly

To start building the ziti, spray a large lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add a very small amount of sauce, maybe a half cup, to the bottom of your pan and spread around.

Drain the grease off your ground beef. Add the beef to the lasagna pan in an even layer. Add one-third to one-half of the remaining sauce to your pan, pouring it slowly over the ground beef so it is evenly distributed.

Next add the cheese filling. Drop it by large spoonfuls onto the sauce and beef. Once you have all the cheese filling in the pan, you can push it around gently with your fingers and pat it down to fill any holes so you have a somewhat even layer of cheese.

Now you want to add your drained pasta directly on top of the cheese mixture. Make an even layer of pasta. Add the remaining sauce over the top of the pasta. Then sprinkle the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella and shredded cheese blend over the top of the sauce.

Bake uncovered in your oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Kielbasa Fajitas

Sounds weird, right? But, I promise you, it’s delicious!

Kielbasa Fajitas

(Prep, 10 minutes. Cook time 15-20 minutes)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Onions, Julienne
  • 2 Green Peppers, Julienne
  • 1 package Kielbasa (Franks)
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • Shredded cheese
  • Burrito size tortilla shells
  • Sour cream
  • Mustard

Directions:

Slice onions and green peppers into long strips. Mince garlic.

Put olive oil, onions, peppers, and garlic into skillet over medium high heat. Cover. Once onions and peppers start to sweat, add Worcester sauce, Sriracha hot sauce, lime juice and water. Cover and let simmer about two minutes.

Add kielbasa franks, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until peppers are soft and kielbasa starts to split, about 15 minutes.

Once kielbasa is done, remove from heat. Warm tortilla shell in microwave, add mustard, kielbasa, onions & peppers with sauce, shredded cheese of your choice and sour cream to taste. Wrap up and enjoy. Yum!

You can substitute sweet or hot Italian sausage or even hot dogs if you prefer. I love the kielbasa so that’s what I suggest.

Creamy Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Mac & CheeseMy mom taught me this basic recipe when I was about ten years old. I’ve been making it ever since.

Creamy Baked Macaroni & Cheese

(Prep time 30-45 min. Bake time 45 min.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 8 oz bricks Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (16 oz total), shredded
  • 1 – 8 oz brick Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 Cup shredded cheese blend (I use Mexican but 4 or 6 cheese blend will work)
  • 4 1/2 Cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 5 Tablespoons flour
  • 5 Cups milk
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 sleeve of Saltine Crackers, crushed (10-15 crackers)

Prep:

Shred all cheeses, place near your stove-top

Chop half of a small onion until it is finely diced

Crush saltines into uneven rough crumbs and chunks, set aside

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Directions:

Boil macaroni until almost done (it should be plumped up but just shy of al-dente). It will finish cooking in the oven. Drain water and put cooked macaroni in a large oven-safe casserole dish or dutch oven and set aside. You can put a small amount of butter in it to keep it from sticking together, or just boil your macaroni as you make the cheese sauce.

In a large saucepan (I think mine is 8 quarts) melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour and whisk together to form a roux. Add one cup of milk and keep whisking until it thickens. Add rest of milk slowly, stirring constantly.

Oven Baked Goodness

Once milk is added, add diced onion, salt and pepper. Let cook for two to three minutes until mixture is warm enough to melt the cheese. Add shredded cheeses one handful at a time, stirring constantly to avoid sticking and scorching on the bottom of your saucepan. When all the cheese is added and melted, pour cheese sauce over cooked macaroni and stir. It should be loose, you may think you have too much cheese sauce. You don’t! It will cook down and be perfect once it bakes.

Take the crushed saltine crackers and spread evenly over the top of the mac and cheese. Do NOT stir. This becomes a crunchy cheesy crust that is nom-tastic.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before serving. It will still be steaming hot, so be careful. Enjoy!

Bacon Egg & Cheese Breakfast Casserole

I originally found this recipe on Food.com. The original is quite good, but I made some changes. Here’s my version.

Bacon Egg Breakfast Casserole

(prep time, 30 minutes – cooking time, 50 minutes)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 loaf Italian or French bread, cubed
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar jack cheese (or Mexican blend), shredded
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and chopped into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 32 oz carton of low-fat egg substitute
  • 1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper spread (hot)
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Mexican blend cheese, grated

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rather than fry my bacon, I bake it. Line a jelly roll pan (or any cookie sheet with a raised edge) with parchment paper and spread the bacon in a single layer, then bake it in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. The parchment paper means there’s almost no clean-up, that’s my kind of cooking!

You’ll need a large casserole or lasagna dish. Don’t use a standard 9 x 13 cake pan, it may overflow. Use something with a little more room in it. I have a 9 x 13 Paula Deen lasagna pan and it works perfectly.

Spray your dish with non-stick cooking spray, then spread the cubed bread over the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped bacon, the Gruyere and cheddar jack cheeses, and the chopped onions. You can substitute green onions if you them, they taste fantastic in this.

Next mix all the other ingredients (other than the last cup of cheese) in a bowl and whisk until well mixed and mixture is foamy. Pour over the bread, bacon, & cheese mixture.

Cover with tin foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take the tin foil off, spread the last cup of cheese over the top and return to the oven to bake another 30 minutes uncovered.

Bacon Cheese Casserole

Fresh out of the oven, so yummy!

Let cool at least 10 minutes, then devour!

If you want, you can layer some grilled or fried potatoes in the bottom for more of a frittata-type dish. If you like breakfast sausage or ham steak, feel free to chop it up into small chunks and throw it in with the bacon. If you don’t want to use egg substitute, you can use 8 to 12 eggs, well beaten. I have a hard time with measurements. I’m more of a “shake the canister until you have enough” cook, so feel free to adjust the spices to your own taste.

Mike and I love to make this casserole on Saturday morning for brunch and enjoy the leftovers on Sunday. A happy beginning rather than an ending, I guess.

Enjoy!

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