Wild Rice & Sausage Casserole

It is unseasonably cold here in Michigan.  As in, it was 40something degrees this morning.  IT IS AUGUST.  Mother Nature, you have overcompensated last year’s 105˚ just a tad.  The weather has me dreaming of all the fall and winter dishes I’ve pinned recently.  But it’s summer!  Everything should be ate outside!  Off the grill!  But, should I really deny myself yummy casseroles just because of the calendar?  No, my friends, the casserole wins.  I don’t care what you say about the casserole; I love her.

So, I’ve had my eye on this recipe for awhile.  Spicy sausage.  Wild rice.  Mushroom soup.  Mmmmm.  But, when I checked out the ingredient list, all the measurements were just too easy.  Everything was a cup!  That can’t be normal.  Ahh, it was Stefanie’s leftover smorgasbord night.

Note: Perhaps I should READ blogs instead of just drooling over pictures before grocery shopping.  Wait, you don’t scroll through Pinterest in the baking aisle?  Oh, just me then.

But the recipe looked so. so. good.  I have never been good at faking it til I made it, but I didn’t think the worst case scenario (take out anyone?) was all that bad.

Wild Rice Sausage Casserole | Jersey Up!

I always look for an excuse to eat cornbread.

Wild Rice & Sausage Casserole
Adapted from Lovely Little Snippets

1lb spicy sausage, browned
2 cups white or brown rice
2 boxes wild rice w seasoning packets
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
2 cups water (plus extra if needed)
1 cup milk
26 oz jar cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1. Brown sausage and drain fat.
2. Combine all ingredients and stir well.  You should have quite a bit of liquid not mixed in.  This is okay.  In fact, if you have enough liquid that you’re nervous this is a soup recipe instead, you probably have enough.
3. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes covered.  Bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered.

*Tip: You could pre-cook your rice before baking the casserole.  I decided this was too much work and risked crunchy rice.  Which serve me right, I got!

*Tip #2: You may want to check your casserole periodically and add water as necessary.  My rice was still a little crunchy and I think if I was patient enough and added more water (or milk) and cooked it longer, it would have been perfect.  Even though patience is a virtue, it runs and hides from me when I’m hungry.  🙂

This recipe is easily freezable – especially if you decide to cook the rice before hand.

Let me know how yours turns out – how much water/milk did you add to make your rice fluffy?  

Advertisements

Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta (& one strawberry)

Now that I am actually getting fruit from my garden (no, really!) I am trying to find new ways to eat them fresh.  I realize at some point I’m going to have to can/freeze because I’ll (hopefully) get too much to eat.  But for now I’m enjoying eating what I’ve grown.  It’s really, really cool.

The other day, Norah and I were playing outside and I realized my strawberry plant had the most perfect cutest red strawberry on it!  I really didn’t expect it to fruit this year, so I was shocked.  We picked it, and ate it warm right from the plant.  YUM!

Strawberry Plant | Jersey Up!

Guessing by the face, it’s a little tart.

I also had some crookneck squash to eat, though I wouldn’t recommend eating that right off the plant.  😉  Since I’m not sure if the squash is dying or not, I wanted to rescue the few that “came of age” recently to eat.  (I just made up that gardening phrase, but I really like it!)  We have been eating on a budget lately and I’ve been trying to eat what we actually have in the cabinets (I know, right?) and buying only what’s on sale – with a coupon if we’re lucky.  So I had some lemons, alfredo, pasta and some veggies of course.  This pasta dish I came up with is super yummy!  I love the lemon and alfredo together.  It could easily be a hot or cold pasta dish – main or side.  And of course you can really use whatever kind of veggies you’d like.

Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta | Jersey Up!

I love sweet and savory dishes, don’t you?

Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta

1lb pasta of your choice
3-4 summer squash and/or zucchini, chopped into even chunks
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
16 oz jar alfredo sauce (store or homemade, whatever ya got)
1 lemon
1 tbsp oil (I used coconut, but you can use whatever you like)*
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Boil pasta, drain and set aside.
2. Zest and juice the lemon (wouldn’t want to be wasteful) and add to your alfredo sauce.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until flavors meld and sauce is hot.  (I also doctor up my alfredo sauce by sautéing some garlic and Italian seasoning before adding the sauce.)
3. Chop up your veggies into even chunks.  Heat up some oil in a nonstick pan and throw the veggies in.  I sauteed the squash and zucchini for awhile before adding the tomatoes since they take much longer.  I also sprinkled them with salt and pepper.
4. Mix it all together with some parmesan cheese.

*Have you ever used coconut oil before?  I hadn’t, but a friend lent me some.  I honestly loved it!  The oil doesn’t burn as quickly in case you have distractions in your kitchen (baby? dog? cats? anyone?) and it doesn’t taste any different than using other vegetable or olive oils.  I will say that it definitely smelled like coconut while cooking, but not while eating.  It is high in saturated fat though, so be sure to use in moderation.  (Just like all the other good stuff.)  Just in case you wanted to try something different – now you know!

Hope you enjoy the lemon alfredo sauce – I will definitely be making it again!

English Muffin Bread

English muffins are expensive, guys. I’m fed up with the wheat toast alternative. Not sure what it is about the muffins, but they’re so much better than bread/toast. It’s either the nooks and crannies that soak up the butter or it’s the cute old guy on the commercial. Either way, I’ve been really missing these since we’ve really cut back our grocery budget.

Ahem. Why do without when I could be making them myself? I really might be going too far with this homemade bread thing now. My husband is undoubtedly doing a secret happy dance as I admit, publicly, that he was right. But just about this one thing.

So, this amazing recipe from Jillee makes 4 loaves of deliciousness in about 2 hours. (No, you don’t need glasses.) She also has a ton of other sweet stuff on her site including a tutorial on how to clean your gas stove grates that I really need to try soon.

Image

English Muffin Bread
Adapted from One Good Thing

11 cups flour
5.5 cups warm water
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
3 packets rapid rise yeast (you can use regular, but you’ll need to let it rise twice)
A little butter for brushing

1. Mix all ingredients either by hand or mixer, being careful not to over mix. Everything fits in my stand mixer juuuuuust barely. So be careful. Dough will be very sticky.
2. Divide dough into 4 well-greased loaf pans.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚ and allow dough to rise until it reaches the top of the loaf pans. For me, it took about an hour. I also leave my dough rising on top of the oven because the heat helps it rise more quickly. The temperature, humidity, altitude and day of the week change how long it takes for dough to rise, so don’t be worried if yours takes longer.
4. Slide those babies into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
5. Brush butter on top of the loaves and bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.
6. Allow to cool before cutting or freezing.

Now of course this is meant for breakfast, but that’s just getting too technical. I can already tell you it’s also exceptionally good sandwich bread. I probably should not admit that I had this for breakfast, lunch and dinner today. Don’t judge me.

Garden Woes (Bound to happen, right?)

So, it’s the middle of summer, and here I was thinking I had totally converted my black thumb to green.  I was dreaming of sauce and salsa recipes for canning and feeding my family with fresh vegetables from the, er, driveway.  I mean didn’t you see the cute little tomatoes and peppers on my plants?  And the big green leaves?  Weeelll…………

I mean, it was bound to happen, right?  It was only a matter of time.  Must be because my garden missed me to much to live on without me while I was away.  (We were in the gorgeous Upper Peninsula of Michigan this past week.  Oh, you’ve never heard of it either?)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

So, several things happened while we were gone.  Hopefully some of you will have some expertise that you can share, and the rest of you can learn right along with me.

Tomatoes
So my cute little green tomatoes are turning into bigger red ones.  (Shocking, I know.)  And then they just went rotten on the bottom.  See?

Blossom End Rot Tomato

Apparently, you can still eat these. Um, no.

After some interneting, I realized that it must be blossom-end rot.  Apparently from moisture issues, usually too much.  Not sure if it rained a lot while we were gone, or if I was watering them too much.  (They were wilty though, promise!)  Luckily, this has happened to only a few tomatoes so far.  Are they all already doomed, or can I save the still green ones?  Has anyone suffered with this same issue?

In unrelated tomato news, my friends and I were out for drinks last night.  She was warning me about tomato worms, and telling me how awful they were and how they’ll completely ruin your plant, and to look out for black seed looking poop.  Sure enough I had SEEN this already and thought it was just dirt.  (Like what do I know?)  She even forced me to look at pictures of the ugly buggers (!) and I about had a panic attack.  I somehow convinced my husband to find and subsequently kill these things before I got home.  I’m not sure how I did that, but I’m NOT complaining.  I shudder to think of finding one still.  Do I have to continue to look for these all the time or do we think they’re completely eradicated and I can stop having nightmares?

Crookneck Squash
So I have two really healthy looking squash on here that I’m planning on picking real soon.  I have read that the more you pick the more they grow – cool!  (Yes, yes, this is all new to me.)  But will you just look at the stem of this plant!

Broken Squash

Yeah, yeah, I have weeding to do. What else is new?

WTF?!  My original idea was to blame the deer, but I think they have enough hostas to eat in my backyard.  Did it just fall over and break?  Is it infected with something?  Can they grow back still or are they totally done forever?

Help me, Garden Guru Friends!

First Birthday Banners

There are so many cute ways to mark your child’s amazing (and fast!) growth throughout their first year. Month stickers, pictures in the same outfit they outgrow, collages, etc. I decided to go with monthly pictures with stickers. Seemed like the easiest way. I also decided after the first month to put a stuffed animal in the picture each time to see how she grew. I spent the first few months trying all my tricks to get her to smile. They hardly worked. The last few months I spent trying to get her to sit still. Oh, how they change so fast!

For her first birthday party, I wanted to do a banner of all the 12 month pictures so everyone could see how she’d grown and compare months. I bought paper at Michael’s that went with my color scheme and glued 4×6 photos to them. I punched two holes in each, strung fishing wire, and used binder clips to attach the banner to our house. I wanted to use pretty ribbon or something, but we were trying to do her party on a budget, so I went with resourceful. Still came out really cute! The banner is now hanging in her room because I can’t bear the thought of throwing it away!

12 Month Photo Banner | Jersey Up!

Which month was her chubbiest do you think?

I also made her a high chair banner with her name on it. I wanted to decorate her high chair a little bit since we’d be taking so many photos of her (delicately) smashing a cake. I cut the same paper I used for her 12 month banner into the shape I wanted, wrote her name, and strung it up in a similar manner. We also used her name banner for her 12 month photo shoot. I am (im)patiently waiting for the proofs to arrive.

High Chair Birthday Banner | Jersey Up!

More cake please?

You could obviously be more elaborate with both banners, but I was going for simple. You should do something that goes with your theme and your crafting abilities. I’ve seen some really awesome banners on Pinterest that were way out of my league. But, sometimes simple is best, don’t you think?

First Birthday Banners | Jersey Up!

I made these pre-birthday and just added the last photo the day of the party.

Basil Infused Oil

Basil Infused Oil

Speaking of basil, have you ever made basil infused oil? My husband’s aunt suggested it after I posted about my basil going to seed. Turns out there are multiple uses for this delicious plant.

Just put some of your basil clippings in a jar of cooking oil and allow it to sit on the counter for about a week. Watch for mold though in warmer climates.

Can’t wait to dip some homemade bread into this oil when it’s ready!

Have you ever infused oil? With what? If this turns out well, I’ll want some new ideas!