Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cooking Shouldn't Be Rocket Science

I watched Trisha's Southern Kitchen this past weekend and Trisha Yearwood made this family recipe which was very simple to make. In trying to decide what to make for tonight's dinner, I remembered this recipe and knew I had all the main ingredients on hand. Whenever I see a recipe I like, I always take it and try to make it my own. What I mean by making it my own, is that, if there is too much of one ingredient or if I can substitute something for another that I like, I do it - and I do it a lot. For this recipe I knew I wanted to put sage in it to add extra flavor. I went and looked up the recipe and saw that there were 30 reviews, so I decided to check them out. Right off the bat, people were saying that the recipe was bland. Several other reviews said that there were too many potatoes. Well, what people don't realize is that when you are cooking, you are the master of your kitchen and ingredients - Trisha won't be looking over your shoulder saying, "No, you can't put that in my recipe". Cooking shouldn't be rocket science - you can add and subtract as you go along to make it taste how you like. Say you're cutting up 3 pounds of potato (like the above recipe calls for) and think, "Gee that's a lot of potato for this one recipe", well then, you put however much you feel is enough. And in regard to bland flavor, when you're cooking, you should always taste your cooking. If something is not right, then you add more seasoning. If you don't like a particular spice, add something else. You can Google spice substitutes if you're not familiar with spices and you will come up with at least something you can sub. The best thing you can do is get a second opinion. If someone else is in the house with you, ask them for their advice and take it from there.

For Trisha's family recipe, I had potatoes (I knew right off the bat that 3 pounds of potatoes was going to be way to much); ground chicken sausage (recipe calls for ground beef); onion; olive oil (in place of the butter); arrowroot (for the flour) - the arrowroot made this recipe gluten free; no sodium chicken stock (in place of the milk) and I left out the cheese - eliminating the last 2 ingredients make my recipe dairy free. I had gluten free bread crumbs in my freezer so I used that. I also had crimini mushrooms, beet greens, and some arugula - all organic.

First off I sliced the potatoes - I have a hand slicer so I used that to cut the two medium Yukon gold potatoes into slices, about 1/8" thick, and placed them in a pot of water to cover with some salt. I boiled the potatoes for about 10 minutes - some of the potatoes broke up, but it was ok, it was going on the bottom and no one was going to look at it. I sliced half an onion and added it to a skillet with some olive oil. I next sliced the crimini's thin and added those. After those started to cook, I added the chicken sausage and got it all browning nicely. I added a pinch of salt and pepper, a nice pinch of red pepper flakes, and two pinches of dried sage (crushed as I added). I chopped up the greens and added those. After the greens looked wilted, I added about 3 tablespoons of arrowroot and mixed it all in. Then I poured in the chicken stock - I poured enough to cover (roughly 2 cups) and then some because I wanted this dish to be saucy.

As the dish is simmering, I got the bread crumbs from the freezer and put them in a pan to toast in my toaster oven. After toasting, they went into a bowl - I did scrape some butter from the container (roughly two tablespoons) and mixed it in with the warm crumbs. If you're truly dairy free, you could use olive oil or coconut oil.

I took the cooked mixture and put it in a foil lined 7" x 11" glass dish and spread the bread crumbs over the entire top. I baked it at 425 degrees for 10 minutes until the top was nice and brown. I could've added some almond cheese to the bread crumbs, but I didn't.

Well, we had our dinner and when a I asked my husband, Jim, how he liked it - he said, "It was ok". I wasn't to sure about his answer until he went for seconds and said, "You know, I could stand for you to cook this again". It was then that I knew I had a winning recipe.

So you see, adding and subtracting from a recipe you find online is fun. Take a recipe that looks interesting and make it your own - I've been doing it for a while now and I love it. Taste as you go along, and if it doesn't taste right, either add more to it or get a second opinion. If you think it needs more of something, add it sparingly - you can always add more to a dish, but you can't take it out. Too much of something? Take some away - put it in the frig for next time. Most importantly, recipe blogs have a comment section - ALWAYS read those. People always leave suggestions on what they feel should be done differently. Take a cue from those suggestions and incorporate it into your recipe.

I hope you try both Trisha's and my recipe, I know they won't taste the same, but the basic idea of the recipe is there.

So next time you find a recipe online, take it and make it your own so you can have a winning recipe, and you won't need a rocket scientist degree to do it!

Here's my recipe - I've given you substitutions for each of the main ingredients:

Old Fashion Casserole

2 medium Yukon gold potato (any potato will do)
Half an onion sliced thin (can use shallots, leeks, or can leave out)
3 large crimini mushrooms sliced thin (can use button mushrooms)
1 lb. of ground chicken sausage (can use ground turkey, beef, or Italian sausage)
1 bunch of chopped beet greens (other greens would work)
1 c. of chopped arugula (parsley might be nice or just leave it out)
cut green beans would make a nice substitution instead of the greens
2 pinches of sage (can use thyme or oregano)
dried red pepper flakes (can leave out)
3 tb. arrowroot (can use corn starch, potato starch, rice flour)
2 c.+ low sodium or no sodium chicken stock (can use vegetable stock, milk of choice or a combo of the 2)
gluten free bread crumbs (can use gluten free cracker crumbs or just use regular crackers)
butter (or olive oil)
spray cooking oil
Cheese, optional (if dairy free, can use almond cheese or any dairy free cheese)

Thinly slice potatoes and place them in a pot and cover with water and boil for 10 minutes.          Drain in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. Set this aside.
- Slice the onion and mushrooms and saute.
- Add the sausage and mix it in.
- After it cooks for a while, add the greens, then the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and mix it all in.
- Cook for several minutes, add the arrowroot and incorporate it in.
Next, pour enough chicken stock to cover the ingredients and then some, you want this to be saucy. If it's too saucy, add more arrowroot. If it's still dry, add more chicken stock - you want a good balance of the two.
- Let this simmer while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees, then put your bread crumbs in a baking pan and toast in toaster oven or under the broiler for several minutes, being careful not to burn it. 
Prep a 7" x 11" baking dish - line it with foil and spray with cooking spray.
- Lay the potatoes in a single layer in your pan - try to cover any holes.
Pour the contents of your cooked ingredients on top of the potatoes.
- Take your hot bread crumbs and pour it into a large bowl - if using cheese, add it at this point and mix it in. Then add some pads of butter or a tablespoon of olive oil and incorporate the two. Alternatively, you could just sprinkle the toasted crumbs on top, then spray the crumbs with cooking spray. Spread the crumbs over the entire dish.
- Place your pan into your oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the crumb top gets brown. If you added cheese, it should get nice and cheesy and bubbly.
- Remove from the oven when done and let sit for about 5 minutes then serve while still warm.

Printable Recipe

Happy Cooking!!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks! 

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