Chicken Skillet Casserole

Holidays mean a lot of leftovers for many families. And for most of them, that’s not a problem because  having to eat food that was supper the day before is a way of life — and sometimes a necessity for those fighting a budget battle.

Some of the best dishes I’ve eaten were made from leftovers. I remember the potato pancakes we used to have whenever Mom had leftover mashed spuds. And I could never forget the hash she made with the remnants of Sunday’s roast beef.

We’ve been on a mission lately to eat up all the leftovers from Thanksgiving and have done pretty good. So good, in fact, that I cooked a smoked chicken last night. And you guessed it. Now we have leftover chicken.

But a recipe I came across today may help. It’s for a one-pot casserole that can be made on the top of the stove. The original recipe called for leftover turkey, but I figure chicken will work just as well.

Chicken Skillet Casserole
¾ pound cooked chicken breast, skin removed
Olive oil spray
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
¾ cup low-fat, low-sodium pasta sauce
2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms
2 ounces whole wheat noodles, broken into 4- to 5-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup reduced-fat, shredded, sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
Cut chicken into ¼- to ½-inch pieces. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil spray. Add onion and garlic. Saute 3 minutes. Add the chicken, pasta sauce, 1 cup water, mushrooms and noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook, stirring once or twice, until the pasta is cooked, about 15 minutes. Add a little more water if sauce is dry before pasta is cooked.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle the cheese on top. Spoon sour cream over cheese.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 495 calories, 19 percent of calories from fat, 10.4 grams fat (3.9 grams saturated, 3.4 grams monounsaturated), 123 milligrams cholesterol, 53.9 grams protein, 48.1 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 357 milligrams sodium.

Ham and Bean Soup

Ham, like turkey, lends itself to a cornucopia of leftover dishes. Scalloped potatoes and ham is a popular entree. So is ham salad. And if you’re a fan of Dr. Seuss, there’s green eggs and ham. But probably the most popular use of leftover ham is in soup.

When I was growing up, ham and bean soup was a regular guest at our dinner table. My dad took pride in his version. We could always count on having the soup on the Monday following a Sunday ham dinner.

I’ve never been quite able to duplicate my dad’s ham and bean soup, despite numerous attempts. Of course, Dad’s soup never contained canned beans. He always started with fresh, dry beans that my mom would bring home from her job at Minnesota Bean and Pea Co in Crookston. They usually were Great Northerns, although a few soups undoubtedly were made with pintos.

About the closest thing I’ve had to dad’s soup over the years was the one served this past weekend to three of us who were grinding elk meat into burger at a farm just outside of Devils Lake.

During a break in the action, Annette Buchmeier, wife of my hunting buddy, Dave Buchmeier, treated us to a meal that consisted of ham and bean soup, hamburgers with fried onions and homemade apple pie. The meal reminded me of ones I had as a kid while visiting relatives on the farm near Euclid, Minn. Everything was homemade and all very delicious.

Annette’s meal was not to be outdone. Her soup contained home-grown pinto beans that were raised by her brother as well as the last of her garden’s cabbage, and the pie featured apples grown right in her backyard. Plus, the burger was freshly ground.

If this has put you in the mood for ham and bean soup, here’s a recipe you might like to try.

Ham and Bean Soup
1 meaty ham bone from a leftover ham
16 cups water
5 sprigs parsley
1 medium onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
3 ribs celery, sliced
Stock from above
1½ to 2 cups leftover diced ham plus ham picked from bone
1 32-ounce jar Great Northern beans (or 3 cups dried beans cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped parsley, optional
To make the stock: In a large stock pot place ham bone, water, parsley, onion, carrots and celery. Place over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. Cover slightly, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. Add more water if needed.
Remove the bone and set it aside. Strain the stock back into the pot. Or strain into a bowl, cool and refrigerate overnight. Pick off any meat from the bone, discard fat and chop the meat.
To make the soup: In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add the stock, chopped ham and beans; heat over medium heat. Simmer about 45 minutes or until carrots are softened. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
Yield: 12 cups.
Approximate nutritional analysis per 1 cup: 185 calories, 19 percent of calories from fat, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 27 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 515 milligrams sodium, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.

Turkey Tacos

Thanksgiving is all about leftovers for some people. That stands to reason because at most gatherings, there always is way more food than is needed.

It’s not any different at our house. I just put the finishing touches on some turkey wild rice soup that’s loaded with carrots, peas, celery and onion as well as a handful of herbs and spices. It will make a nutritious and low-cal supper, something I need after Thursday’s food frenzy.

But I haven’t even put a dent into the leftover turkey. And since you can eat only so many turkey sandwiches, I’m contemplating trying the following  recipe for soft tacos that came my way this week.

Turkey Tacos
12 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups shredded turkey
¾ cup jarred chunky tomato salsa, plus more for garnishing
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 4½-ounce can chopped green chilies or 2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 strips cooked, crisp bacon, crumbled
½ cup shredded cheese
½ bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Combine shredded turkey and ¾ cup salsa in a microwaveable container; heat on high until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Keep warm.
Lightly toast tortillas on both sides in a dry skillet over medium heat, about 30 seconds each. Place the tortillas on plates. Divide turkey among tortillas, mounding down the center of each. Top with the celery, chilies, nuts, bacon and cheese.
Spoon as much extra salsa as you like over the filling; top with cilantro. Fold tortillas over into a taco form. Serve.
Note: Consider turning these tortillas into hot enchiladas. Fill each with slivered turkey, refried beans, shredded cheese, diced poblano peppers. Lay the enchiladas in a lightly greased casserole, cover with tomato sauce, top with more grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees until warmed through, about 25 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 353 calories, 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 76 milligrams cholesterol, 29 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 450 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Turkey Dumpling Soup

You usually can count on Thanksgiving Day feasts to have a lot of variety and more food than an army could eat. And it’s no surprise that most veteran cooks have a plan on what to do with leftovers, one that tried and true.

But for the novice chef, there’s always that nagging question about how to use all of that turkey, stuffing and vegetables lurking in the refrigerator in a dish that everyone will like.

Personally, I like to make soup with some of the leftover turkey. That’s also a great way to use up leftover vegetables.

Here’s a turkey dumpling soup recipe that came my way recently that might be worth trying if you don’t already have something in the works.

Turkey Dumpling Soup
Carcass from one roasted turkey, picked clean
2 large onions, one quartered and one chopped
4 peeled carrots, 2 coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
4 stalks celery, 2 coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
6 garlic cloves, 4 smashed and 2 chopped
1 bay leaf
10 whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups leftover stuffing
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups shredded leftover turkey meat
1 cup leftover corn kernels
Put the turkey carcass, quartered onions, coarsely chopped carrots and celery, smashed garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large stockpot and add enough cold water to just cover, about 2 quarts. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain the solids from the broth.  Strain broth.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs, flour, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper together until smooth. Add the stuffing and mix until well combined; cover and reserve.
Wipe the stockpot clean with a paper towel. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the sliced carrots and celery, thyme sprigs and reserved broth and bring to a simmer; cook vegetables are just soft, about 10 minutes.
Roll stuffing balls and add into soup until they float to the top. Gently stir in the turkey meat, corn, and season with salt and pepper, and simmer until heated through. Serve immediately.

Vegetable Chili

A meal without meat isn’t a meal. That’s what some people profess. But there are probably just as many others who believe in just the opposite. For me, there’s room for both.

I like meat just as much those who can’t do without it. But I also am fond of a good vegetarian offering.

To carry that a bit further, there are those who say that chili isn’t chili without meat. I certainly like chili that’s loaded with meat, be it ground or in chunks. But I also like one sans meat.

Just the other night, I made a chili that contained all the usual ingredients and substituted textured vegetable protein (soy) for meat. And the result was totally delicious.

Here’s another vegetarian chili, courtesy of Linda Gassenheimer, food writer for the Miami Herald. Her chili uses hominy, a grain that native American Indians introduced to the colonists. It is dried white or yellow corn that has been soaked or boiled to remove the hulls and is sold canned or dried; hominy gives her chili an interesting texture. The canned version is perfect for this recipe. Frozen or canned corn can be substituted if hominy is difficult to find.

Vegetable Chili
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced (1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 stalk celery, diced (½ cup)
1 small green pepper, diced (½ cup)
2 carrots, diced (½ cup)
1½ cups red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
½ cup hominy or frozen corn
1½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 slices crusty whole grain bread
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons diced red onion
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add onion and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic, celery, green pepper and carrots.
Saute 3 minutes. Add kidney beans, tomatoes, hominy, chili powder and cumin. Simmer 20 minutes, covered. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add chili powder or cumin as needed. Warm bread in oven for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with chili. Pass bowls of sour cream, onion and cilantro.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 429 calories, 17 percent of calories from fat), 8.2 grams fat (2.3 grams saturated, 3.3 grams monounsaturated), 6 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams protein, 76.8 grams carbohydrates, 21.1 grams fiber, 554 milligrams sodium.

Oven-Braised Beef Short Ribs

Some foods are just made to go together. For instance, there’s orange juice and oatmeal. And how about olive oil and tomatoes? And there is a reason, according to epidemiologist David R. Jacobs, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota. He calls it food synergy.

“The complexity of food combinations is fascinating because it’s tested in a way we can’t test drugs: by evolution,”  Jacobs says. And, he adds, “it’s tested in the most complex of systems: life.”

One of my favorite food combos is beef and carrots, one of the most powerful food synergies known to man. The pair make for a hearty meal (think stews and soup) while at the same time helping boost your immune function. The Vitamin A in the carrots is best absorbed when bound to a protein. Plus, the beef delivers an extra dose of zinc, which protects against weakening of the immune system.

I came across an interesting beef and carrot dish while on Facebook today. The recipe, from Betty Crocker, was being shared by a friend, Mary Gilmour Sorlie of Bemidji. Mary said she was making the recipe, with a few slight changes, and wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’m betting that it will taste great considering the main ingredients.

Here’s the recipe, which I also hope to try soon, using some fresh carrots from my garden some elk or venison, more of my 2011 bounty.

Oven-Braised Beef Short Ribs
3½ to 4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ cup beef broth
½ cup Zinfandel wine or cranberry juice
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup chili sauce
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic-pepper blend
2 cups fresh baby carrots
1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 12-inch nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add short ribs; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until browned on all sides.
In ungreased 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish, combine tomatoes, broth, wine, flour, chili sauce, thyme, marjoram, salt and garlic-pepper blend; mix well. Add browned ribs, carrots and onion; stir gently to mix. (Baking dish will be full.) Cover with foil.
Bake covered at 325 degrees for 2 hours.
Uncover baking dish, bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until ribs are tender and liquid is slightly thickened.

Meatballs with Chili Sauce

Food is almost always the centerpiece of most holidays. And it’ usually more than the big production on days such as Thanksgiving.

Often, families get together for a lighter meal the day or two before the main event. And many times, appetizers are the center of attention.

Here’s quick and easy appetizer that guests are sure to love.

Meatballs with Chili Sauce
2 12-ounce chili sauce
1 32-ounce jar grape jelly
1 bag meatballs (about 80 in a bag)
Put chili sauce and jelly in a large pot. Heat until jelly is melted and sauce is smooth, stirring often. Add frozen meatballs; heat until meatballs are thawed and then simmer for 3 hours.
Or you can add everything in a slow cooker and cook on low all day.

Green Bean Casserole — with a Twist

Green bean casserole is one of those side dishes that always seems to show up at holiday gatherings. Made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup and french-fried onions, the dish is traditional fare at Thanksgiving feasts in many homes around America.

We’ve had the casserole at some of our get-togethers over the years, although my family isn’t as fanatical as some about it. That’s usually because we have so many other sides that people like more.

For those of you who are adventuresome and are looking for a new side dish for the upcoming holiday, here is a green bean casserole with a little twist.

Green Bean Gratin
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the baking dish
¾ cup sliced shallots
1 red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
8 to 10 ounces mixed sliced mushrooms such as shiitake (remove stems) and cremini
Kosher salt to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup dry sherry
2 cups whole milk or 2 percent milk
1 round (5¼ ounces) Boursin cheese (regular or light)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
¾ cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or favorite casserole dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans, then plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. When beans are chilled, drain and set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and the mushrooms have given up their liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in the sherry, mixing well, then add the milk while whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute, then cook for 3 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the Boursin cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, lemon zest and tarragon. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Add the reserved green beans and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish. (The recipe may be prepared up to this point 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
To finish: In a small bowl, stir together the panko, Parmesan and almonds. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and pour over the bread crumb mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the green beans. Bake until the topping is golden and the bean mixture is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: You can trim and blanch the green beans for this recipe up to 2 days in advance. Store them in a plastic sealable bag in the refrigerator.
Yield: Serves 12 (generously as a side dish).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 277 calories, 61 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 18 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 446 milligrams sodium, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

Pheasant Tetrazzini

People who hunt always are looking for new recipes. Cookbooks are a good place to start. And then, there’s the Internet. But the best recipes are those that come another hunter.

Recently, Doug Huber, loan officer at Harwood State Bank in Harwood, N.D., gave me a call to ask about my baked pheasant with wild rice dressing recipe. During the course of our conversation, Doug, a UND graduate, longtime reader of the Herald and avid hunter, told me about a pheasant recipe that he uses a lot.

Doug said he’s not quite sure of the pheasant Tetrazzini recipe’s origin other than his brother gave him one many years ago, and he had “kind of tweaked it here and there to come up with what I have now.”

I asked Doug if he would share the recipe, which follows, and he obliged. I haven’t tried the recipe yet, but from the looks of it, it’s something that’s right up my alley.

Pheasant Tetrazzini
6 pheasant breasts, boned (see note)
¾ pound fettuccine
3 tablespoons flour (or more)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon crushed rosemary
¼ teaspoon mace
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream
1 large onion, chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Cooking oil
Roll pheasant breasts in bread crumbs and pan-fry them in oil until browned. Remove from pan.
Saute onions and mushrooms in butter. Remove from pan.
Meanwhile, cook fettuccine until its al dente.
Mix the chicken broth, marjoram, rosemary, mace and heavy cream in a sauce pan. Add flour to make roux. Season with salt and pepper.
Put fettuccine on the bottom of baking dish and place pheasant breasts atop. Cover with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Cover with roux and top with freshly grated Parmesan. Cover and baked at 355 to 375 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour.
Note: Huber likes to tenderize the pheasant breasts by soaking them in milk for a day after sticking them with a fork.

End of the Garden Vegetable Soup

Any doubts that the gardening season is over were accentuated with the blast of snow and wind that north-central North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and the Red River Valley experienced Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean cooks are finished using produce from the garden.

To prove that, I just finished making some vegetable soup with tomatoes, onion, cabbage and carrots from my garden. After adding some pearled barley, celery, broth, seasonings and egg noodles, I had a tasty soup that will be my lunch for the next two or three days.

Here’s another vegetable soup, the recipe coming from Coral Tree Cafe, which has several locations in the Los Angeles area.

End of the Garden Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced onions
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
¾ cup pearl barley
1 quart vegetable broth
1½ cups prepared marinara sauce
2 cups quartered mushrooms
2 cups diced zucchini
Salt and pepper
Heat a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat until hot. Add the oil, then add the carrots, onions, bell pepper, thyme and barley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden-brown, about 18 minutes, taking care that the barley does not burn.
Stir in the vegetable broth and marinara. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook until the barley is al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper (the amount of seasoning needed will vary depending on the vegetable broth and marinara used). Cover and continue to simmer until the mushrooms and zucchini are just tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove from heat, thin if desired, and season again to taste, and serve. This makes about 2½ quarts of soup.
Yield: Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 155 calories, 4 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 8 grams sugar, 365 milligrams sodium.