Mashed Potato Casserole with Cheddar and Green Onions

Sure, regular mashed potatoes are tasty. But with a couple of extra steps, you can turn them into something even more delicious — mashed potato casserole! I must admit that another motivation for making this dish was to use a vintage casserole dish from my collection. Corning Ware is a particularly handy choice, because you can assemble the casserole ahead, refrigerate it overnight, then pop it in the oven with no risk of thermal-shock-induced breakage.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
8 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 green onions, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

In a large pot, combine potatoes with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook until softened, about 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, then put back in the pot. Add 7 tbsp butter, cut into smallish pieces. Mash with a potato masher until butter has melted and is mixed in. Add sour cream, milk, garlic powder and salt and mash until smooth. Stir in green onions and 1 cup of the Cheddar.

Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated overnight, if desired. Leave out at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking, and extend cooking time as needed.)

Melt 1 tbsp butter. In a small bowl, combine with bread crumbs and stir until butter is evenly incorporated. Stir in 1/2 cup Cheddar, then sprinkle the mixture over the potatoes.

Bake, uncovered, until topping is lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Pictured: Corning Ware April DC-1 1/2-B Designer Casserole

Sausage and Spinach Spaghetti Pie

I’ve been on the hunt for a casserole that is fun, dramatic and delicious in equal measures — and I think I’ve found it! I love this recipe because it’s a meal in itself, but a side of garlic bread and salad wouldn’t hurt. I’m also planning to try making it again with other ingredients — a meatless version would still be tasty, as would other vegetables (eggplant? chard? zucchini?). Just be careful not to add too much moisture, or the final product won’t set properly.

If you don’t have a springform pan, an 8-inch cake pan will do. But you’ll miss out on the fun of releasing the sides of the pan and letting the pie stand on its own.

Adapted from Food Network’s Beefy Cheesy Spaghetti Pie.

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 oz uncooked spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz bulk Italian sausage (remove casings if you’re using links)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
12 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt
pepper
4 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz small mozzarella balls, drained
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until it’s just al dente. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, then toss with 1 tbsp olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage in 1 tbsp olive oil, breaking it up into crumbles, until no pink remains. Spoon it out onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Add the onion to the skillet and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute more. Add the tomatoes and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the spinach a handful at a time, stirring until wilted. Stir in the cream and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Add salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper to taste.

Stir together the spaghetti, sausage and sauce. Allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and 1/4 cup Parmesan, then stir into the spaghetti mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Transfer half of the spaghetti mixture to the pan, then dot with half of the mozzarella balls. Add the rest of the spaghetti mixture, then top with the rest of the mozzarella balls and 1 tbsp Parmesan.

Bake until the center is set, the edges are browned and crispy and the cheese is starting to turn golden, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Pictured: Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware Snack-It Plate

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Making vegetable broth from scratch is so easy to do, and tastes so much better than the store-bought stuff — it’s totally worth the effort! If you have a little time, some empty containers and some freezer space, you can stock up and never have to buy a can again. I like to freeze it in 1- or 2-cup portions so I can defrost just the amount I need at any time

Of course if you’re really diligent, you can save up vegetable scraps over time (storing them in the freezer) and use them in place of some of the ingredients below. The exact quantities aren’t super critical, so mix and match as you see fit.

Yields 6-7 cups broth

Ingredients

18 cups water
4 ribs celery, cut into large chunks (including any leaves)
3 carrots, cut into large chunks
3 leeks, cut into large chunks (clean carefully to get rid of any grit)
2 parsnips, cut into large chunks
2 small yellow onions, quartered (skins left on)
1 bulb garlic, cut half horizontally (skin left on)
2 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
1-2 tsp salt

In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients except salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.

Turn off the heat. Remove most of the vegetable pieces and place them in a colander over a large bowl. Press with a spoon to help squeeze out excess liquid. Then place a weight on top (such as a bowl full of water) and let sit until the veggies stop dripping. Discard the veggies and put the released liquid back into the main pot of broth.

Add salt to taste, then strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander and into a bowl. Chill the broth by placing the bowl in an ice water bath. Transfer to containers (leaving about an inch of head space) and freeze until needed.

Pictured: Pyrex Measuring Cup, Hazel Atlas Egg Beater Cup

Antipasto Salad with Lemon Garbanzos

Garbanzo beans are one of the stars of this tangy, vibrant salad, so I amped up their flavor with a simple marinade of lemon juice, parsley and salt. Most of the other ingredients can be adjusted to taste: For example, while salami is one of the things that puts the “antipasto” in an antipasto salad, it can be omitted for an equally delicious vegetarian version.

Make sure all the salad ingredients are thoroughly drained and/or patted with a towel so they are as dry as possible before combining.

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

For the dressing:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp whole- or coarse-grain mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
pinch cayenne

For the lemon garbanzos:
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp salt

For the salad:
1-2 romaine hearts, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
8 oz fresh mozzarella balls
6 oz pitted Kalamata olives
4 oz whole or thick-cut dry salami, cut into small chunks
12-15 pepperoncini peppers, sliced
2 oz shaved Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. (Note: This recipe makes more dressing than needed for one salad; refrigerate the excess and use within 1 week.)

In another bowl, toss the garbanzos with lemon juice, parsley and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours, stirring occasionally to distribute the marinade.

Drain the garbanzos, then combine with the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing to taste and serve.

Pictured: Pyrex Verde 404 Round Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Spring Blossom 401 Round Mixing Bowl

Spinach, Artichoke & Leek Dip

Most recipes for spinach artichoke dip require a particular step that has always put me off: thawing frozen spinach and squeezing it dry. The bits of wet, defrosted spinach tend to stick on everything, and it’s hard to get enough liquid out.

Then I discovered that using fresh spinach is actually easier, because the liquid cooks off when you saute it! Suddenly a ho-hum dish turned into one I actually enjoy making. Plus it’s so delicious, people inevitably keep coming back for more.

Adapted from The New York TimesSpinach Artichoke Dip.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, chopped (white and light green portion only)
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz fresh spinach, chopped
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts (I prefer bottoms), drained, patted dry and chopped
8 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
4 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
pinch red pepper flakes
salt
pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the leek in oil until softened and starting to brown slightly. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more.

Add spinach a little at a time, allowing it to wilt in the pan before adding more. Saute until the spinach is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add artichokes and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn the heat down to low, then add cream cheese and mozzarella and stir until melted. Add sour cream, Parmesan and red pepper flakes and stir until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a shallow 1-quart dish and serve hot. You can also refrigerate overnight; reheat in a 375-degree oven until the dip is hot throughout and bubbly on the edges.

Pictured: Corning Ware Merry Mushroom B-1-B Round, Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl

Easy Chickpea Curry with Kale

Recently my daughter and I were making a curry dish from a kid’s cookbook, and I couldn’t help but modify it to my own liking. Plus, there were so many problems with the recipe: It called for a single leaf of kale (is that ever enough for anything?), used way too much salt, listed a bake time of 20 minutes (no baking was actually involved), and was illustrated with a drawing of a red onion that looked exactly like a rutabaga (which just didn’t inspire much confidence!).

So I was pleasantly surprised when our version turned out very tasty! The recipe is designed to be kid-friendly, so it’s not spicy, and lends itself to some kid help along the way. My daughter particularly enjoyed tearing up the kale, rinsing the garbanzos, measuring the water and spices, and stirring the pot.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (undrained), torn into pieces
2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1 bunch lacinato kale, torn into bite-size pieces (discard stems)

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, saute the onion in oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Stir in the curry powder, salt, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the kale and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes more. Add salt to taste.

Serve over rice.

Pictured: Descoware Flame Dutch Oven, Pyrex Spring Blossom 471 Casserole

Grandma’s Hamburger Goulash

This is my comfort food: a classic American one-pot dish made with pretty basic ingredients that come together into something delicious and belly-warming. It’s also pretty hard to screw up! Case in point: While cooking this last night I accidentally added some tea- and anise-infused simple syrup that I mistook for the mushroom-infused soy sauce I wanted to use (both of those were homemade items in similar-looking mason jars). I quickly realized my mistake, so I put in the soy sauce too and hoped for the best. And it still came out pretty tasty! Maybe a tad sweeter than usual, but not that noticeable. Hooray for a foolproof dinner!

Adapted from Classic Goulash on Allrecipes.com.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 cup elbow macaroni (uncooked)
salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat up into bite-size pieces, until no pink remains.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, soy sauce, Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Skim off any excess fat with a spoon. Add salt to taste (about 1-2 tsp). Then stir in the macaroni, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from heat. Take the bay leaves out, then stir in the cheese and serve.

Pictured: Descoware Flame Dutch Oven