Quick-Chicken-Asparagus-Lettuce-Wraps-Brittany's-PantrySpring has sprung here in South Carolina and like everyone else, our house is excited! For me, this is doubly so ever since I found out I can grow asparagus.

When we moved to the south, we decided to stick to our family dream and purchase land.  A parcel of property large enough for the kids to explore, hike on, take four wheeling rides through, and of course, big enough for a large garden.  I want chickens too, but that is another post.  *grin*

Now is the time of year to get our plows moving and start planting, but the red clay, granite boulders, and the abundance of trees has us on pause as to exactly how we are going to execute said garden.  We figured no matter how delayed we were, we would at least get the asparagus planted.  It takes a year or two for asparagus to start really producing so we didn’t want to waste any time!  When I started asking friends in the area how well their asparagus faired, I was unprepared for the blank stares, perplexed looks, and general confusion of the question.  Not one person I knew grew asparagus, knew how to grow asparagus, or had ever seen asparagus growing, much less growing in South Carolina.

Panic set in.

Would I ever be able to fulfill my dream of creating my own asparagus field, thereby guaranteeing that I would have a bumper crop of wonderfulness to roast and grill every spring?  Had we moved to the south and built our dream home on our dream land only to live our lives eating asparagus imported from (gulp) Indiana?  Would my children ever know the satisfaction of walking among the tall, bright green fronds of asparagus plants and delight in the knowledge that below them grew stalks of a vegetable so stupendous it could be used as currency in some countries?

It turns out, yes.  Yes we would.

Asparagus grows great in the south and while we will have some adjusting to do with our soil, further research led me to the see that not only is it abundant here, but that clearly my friends haven’t been spending enough time out of doors.

With my future asparagus needs secured, I turned my attention to eating it.  Cold, hot, snappy, or creamed into a soup, I love it in any form.  I often blanch the stalks in boiling water for a bit after I bring them home and then save them, all set to go, to use later in the week.  It was with this in mind that I decided to create these quick lettuce wraps.  So fresh and so full of flavor; I foresee them becoming as much of a favorite in your house as they have in mine.  The bright colors and crisp texture just scream the word ‘spring’ and the quick prep time fits the craziness of our schedule as the school year winds down.  Simply scrumptious.

Now.  Can anyone tell me if rhubarb grows in the South…?

Want to make my Quick Chicken-Asparagus Lettuce Wraps?  Click here to get my original recipe created exclusively for BonBonBreak.com!  But don’t stop there!  Asparagus can be used in a bazillion different ways.

How do YOU cook your asparagus?  What is your favorite way to enjoy this spring vegetable?

Sweet Pineapple Casserole

Sweet Pineapple Casserole is a cross between bread pudding and pineapple upside down cake!  And it goes great with HAM! {Brittany's Pantry}Just a quick post to pass along a favorite side dish recipe.  Just in time for Easter!

About a bazillion years ago, a sweet southern woman served me this kind of baked, scalloped, pineapple, bread, thing.  I was hooked.  I have no idea what she called it, but we ate it with breakfast and I have been dreaming about it ever since.  With a holiday coming up that has a meal traditionally centered around ham, I thought this was the perfect time to bring that tasty memory to reality.

To be honest, I don’t really remember if this is anything like the version I ate all those years ago, but I love it so much I don’t really care anymore.  This stuff is addictive.  In the past few weeks, I have eaten it with burgers, breakfast, and yes, some roasted meat.  All good.  All very very good.  It is like the jack-of-all-trades of the side dish world.  I’ve seen this wonderfulness served with Thanksgiving dinner as well as brunch.  It is at home alongside quiche as well as barbecue.  And yes, you can be sure it will be crazy good with that ham you will be making in a few days.

Pineapple and ham?  Perfect.
Sweet Pineapple Casserole is a cross between bread pudding and pineapple upside down cake!  And it goes great with HAM! {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Pineapple Casserole

1 stick of butter (1/2 c) of softened butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-20 oz can of chunked pineapple, drained
1 small loaf of french bread, cut into 1 inch chunks (4-5 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray or butter a small casserole dish or glass 9X9 dish.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until incorporated.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Fold in the pineapple and the bread cubes until well mixed and bread is coated.  Pour into greased dish and spread evenly.  Bake until bubbly in the center and golden brown on top, 35-40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Savory Chicken Chile Hand Pies

Savory Chicken Chile Hand Pies via Brittany's PantryOne of the things I realized after having children is that anything that is able to be eaten with your hands is golden.  Instant success, friends.

Come to think of it, this may be true across the board with adults as well as kids, hence our continued obsession with all things ‘on a stick’ at the summer festivals.  But there is something incredibly appealing about being able to walk and munch at the same time.  Is it because finger foods are so cute?  Its fun?  We like doing two things at once?  Whatever the reason, these cheesy little pockets of goodness satisfy that need we all have to multitask.

Made with convenient, ready-made pie crusts, this dinner/lunch comes together faster than you would think.  They are just a tiny bit spicy, but not enough to turn anyone off.  Crispy and gooey and warm and satisfying.  A portable little meal.  Perfect for to enjoy while vacuuming.  Or folding laundry.  Or walking the dog…

Find the recipe and more photos over on the Columbia City Moms Blog website.

Enjoy!

Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage is so easy to make, you are going to want to have it year round! {Brittany's Pantry}I bought a new crockpot today. *sigh* Its a beauty.

It is stainless-steel and black and holds up to 7 quarts of glorious food.  At more than double the size of my regular one, it was definitely an overdue purchase.  So what was the first thing I made in it?  Why, Corned Beef and Cabbage of course!  A lot of corned beef and cabbage.  The bigger our family gets, the more I need to adjust the portions I plan for when grocery shopping.  Hence, this recipe that calls for a 5 lb roast!  In a few more years, I’m going to need to upgrade again, but for now, this is perfect for a family of 5 or 6 with extra for leftovers.

With St. Patricks Day just around the corner, adding this to your menu is a must and this version is so darn easy and so simply classic that you will want to make it year round.  It is good.  Really good.  I use minimal ingredients and let the flavors of the beef and the beer do all the seasoning.  This is pretty much the most simple way to make this dish, EVER.  It is very hands off and you are rewarded with melt in your mouth goodness.  Literally.  Melt. In. Your. Mouth.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go polish my new crockpot.
Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage is so easy to make, you are going to want to have it year round! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Crockpot Corned Beef & Cabbage
This recipe is not rocket science so adjust it to what you have.  I happened to have a bunch of baking potatoes left so I used those.  If you have little round roasting potatoes, those are fine too.  A bag of baby carrots to use up?  Throw them in.  Feel free to add as many veggies as you can fit in the crockpot.  It will all cook down.

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, sliced
5 large carrots, peeled, trimmed, and halved
1 (4-5 lb) corned beef brisket, including spice packet
1 bottle of beer, preferably something pale
Water to fill the slow cooker
1 small green cabbage, outer leaves discarded

In a large slow cooker, at least 6 quarts, place the potatoes, onion, and carrots in the bottom of the crock.  Place the meat on top of the veggies and sprinkle the spice packet over top.  Pour in the beer, and add water until it comes up about an inch from the top of the crock, not quite covering the meat.  Cut the cabbage in half, cut out the core, and then slice each half into thirds.  Place the cabbage around the edges of the meat, snuggling them down into the liquid if you can.  Cover, and set the slow cooker on hight for 6-7 hours, or until the cabbage is nicely steamed and the meat starts to shred with a fork.  Remove the meat with a tongs to a cutting board and let rest for a minute.  With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the veggies to a platter as well, leaving the liquid in the crock.  Slice the meat crosswise, on the bias, in the opposite direction of the grain.  Make the slices thin to keep the bites tender, about a half an inch.  Serve meat and veggies together!

College Pasta

College Pasta is an easy, one dish meal that is reminiscent of Momma's kitchen, no matter where you may be! {Brittany's Pantry}Have you ever noticed that the dishes that grace your table are such a representation of your life that it is almost like a culinary scrapbook.  Let me explain…

Years ago when I was in college (go figure), I lived in an old, yellow house just off campus.  The floor was so slanted that when I walked across the kitchen, my ears would pop due to the change in elevation.  My three roommates were also my three close friends and all of them were from Wisconsin.  I tried not to hold that against them.  We had a blast in that house and tried not to mind the lack of air conditioning or adequate heat.

I did my fair share of cooking and baking in that house and my roommates, none of them slackers in the kitchen, contributed quite a bit as well.  My friend Tai used to make this pasta, cottage cheese, and marinara sauce thingy and I loooooooved it.  I can actually remember the moment I walked into the kitchen and Tai handed me a hot plate of this pasta.  I noticed was that it was made with these curly little lasagna noodles that I had never seen before.  But let me tell you.  They make all the difference in the world.  I swear it doesn’t taste the same if you use a different kind of pasta.  It was so easy and so scrumptious that we would all munch it down by the plateful.  If I remember correctly, it was just a regular dinner her mom used to make but was easy and economical enough that it was perfectly practical for four, busy college women living under one roof.  Mmmmm.

Like all good meals, this has stayed with me.  I have tweaked the original a bit and made it more of a full dish, but to me, the essence is the same.  The creamy tang from the white sauce on the noodles is incredibly fantastic with the red sauce.  My husband and kids agree.  And so, I serve this meal to my family and end up telling goofy stories about my college days because that is where it came from.  Just like Lemon Bars can spark conversations about my Mother.  Or the fact that I make roast beef in my slow cooker because of the recipe I got from a little old lady at the military commissary when we lived in San Diego.  It is all a patchwork of our experiences and our personal history.

And I love to share mine with you.  Curly lasagna noodles and all.College Pasta is an easy, one dish meal that is reminiscent of Momma's kitchen, no matter where you may be! {Brittany's Pantry}College Pasta is an easy, one dish meal that is reminiscent of Momma's kitchen, no matter where you may be! {Brittany's Pantry}College Pasta is an easy, one dish meal that is reminiscent of Momma's kitchen, no matter where you may be! {Brittany's Pantry} College Pasta
I have fancied up this dish a bit.  The ingredient list was less than half of this when we made it way back when.

1 lb, curly, mini lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 quart store-bought or homemade marinara sauce
2 c cottage cheese
2 c sour cream
1 tsp dried italian seasoning
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.
While the pasta cooks, brown the beef in a sauté pan with the onions and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  When cooked through, drain fat if needed, and add the marinara sauce.  Stir to combine and set aside.  When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and dump into a large bowl.  Add the sour cream, cottage cheese, and italian seasoning, and stir well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Lightly spray or butter a large, rectangle baking dish and spread the pasta mixture evenly on the bottom.  Pour the meat sauce over top and smooth it out to the edges.  Bake in the oven just until hot all the way through, 20-30 minutes.  When it is done, top with mozzarella cheese, return it to the oven, and then turn the oven off, allowing the heat to gently melt the top.  Scoop and serve!

Rice & Noodle Pilaf

Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}You can never have too may side dishes in your menu arsenal.  You can also never have too many quick and easy side dishes that go with everything.  As you may have guessed, that is what this is.  It never hurts to state the obvious.

It is easy to slip into a rut when it comes to meals and making the same old veggies or potatoes with your meal is a common gripe I get emails about.  As a gal who is kind of addicted to variety in my food, I totally understand.  I don’t mind leftovers, but I often will wait several months before making a dish a second time.  There are just too many foods out there to try and make and experiment with and enjoy!  Why limit yourself and repeat?

That said, I run into the same issues everyone else does.  Budget, time limits, busy lives, etc all play a factor in my menu planning.  Earlier this month I shared a recipe for jazzing up store-bought marinara sauce.  I pull out that method when I am in a hurry and have limited ingredients.  This side dish is similar, in that it uses pantry ingredients and is incredibly inexpensive.  While my husband and I continue to build our new home, our schedules are often interrupted, thus ruining my careful planning.  I am also faced with the current challenge of trying to feed our family of five on a fairly fixed budget.  To that end, I am trying to take advantage of what I already have available in the house.   That has been my goal recently and this dish couldn’t be more perfect.

I have been making it for a few years now and it never fails to fill in any gaps in my menus.  Kids love it, adults love it, and the simplicity lends itself to just about anything you can think of to serve it with.  Exactly what I need.  Think of it as a rice and noodle lifeline that you can tie together into a little rope to pull you up and out of that menu rut you may be in!

Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}Rice and Noodle Pilaf is a quick side dish to make anytime! {Brittany's Pantry}Rice & Noodle Pilaf
Recipe adapted from Mad Hungry

2 T butter
1 small onion, diced small
1/2 c dried angel hair, vermicelli, or thin spaghetti noodles, broken into small pieces
1 1/2 c white rice
3 c chicken broth or water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent and cooked, about 5 minutes.  Don’t let them brown!  Add the dried pasta and stir it all together until toasted and fragrant.  Add the rice and stir in the liquid.  Bring to a boil stirring often, then lower the heat to slow simmer, cover, and let bubble until cooked and all the liquid is absorbed-about 20 minutes.  Be sure the heat is low enough so that it won’t burn, but keeps it cooking!  When it is finished and cooked through, stir and fluff, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary.  Enjoy!

Weeknight Marinara: How To Make Store-Bought Sauce Taste Homemade {Brittany's Pantry}If you could smell what I smell right now, you would swear I had spent hours in the kitchen chopping, dicing, mincing, and stirring my way to the awesome sauce you see above.  If you could taste what is in this picture, you just might start searching my house for the Italian grandmother you figure I must have hidden somewhere.  It is that good.

I do not, in fact, have an Italian grandmother.  Not genetically and not chained to the radiator in my pantry, ready to make cannoli at a moments notice.  I DO however, occasionally have the desperate need to feed my family quickly and with whatever is in my pantry.  Doing this inexpensively is always good too.  When those days sneak up on me, I make this marinara sauce.  Its fast and perfect for busy families, big or small.  It is so easy, I can make it in my sleep.  Come to think of it, I probably have made it in my sleep…

So.  This is my go-to method for those days when I am out of homemade sauce in the freezer and I just need something ready made.  With the addition of a few key  ingredients, you can boost the flavor in a matter of minutes.  Dried herbs are my friend here because it is just faster.  In the time it takes to boil water for pasta, I can whip this up and use it in a bazillion different ways.  Sometimes I add italian sausage, tons of bell peppers, or mushrooms.  Occasionally I skip the pasta and dunk cheesy bread in the sauce.  The addition of meatballs, homemade or store-bought, is great over pasta or on a toasted hoagie bun.  Whatever I have in the fridge to use up, this recipe can make use of it.  So smart.  Maybe not as handy has having an Italian grandmother in charge of your kitchen, but I work with what I have. :-)
Weeknight Marinara: How To Make Store-Bought Sauce Taste Homemade {Brittany's Pantry}Weeknight Marinara
This recipe can be doubled to feed a crowd without adding to any of the cooking time.  When it comes to jarred sauce, I usually pick the cheapest, most plain brand I can find to stash in my pantry for emergencies.  If I can find a brand that is preservative free and low sodium, even better. The addition of the butter and sugar here helps cut down on the acidity that is usually so high with purchased sauces.  If your brand isn’t that bad, omit the sugar.  If you need to stretch this just a bit, add an undrained can of petite diced tomatoes to the recipe.

1 T butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-quart jar of store-bought marinara sauce
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 T chopped fresh basil if you have it lying around)
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sugar
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 large, dried bay leaf (optional)
chopped fresh parsley, if you have it

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and heat the garlic together over medium heat.  Once the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds) add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer together, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, and taste for seasoning.  Remove the bay leaf and top with parsley if you like.  Enjoy!

Carolina Cobb Salad

Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry}Well hello!

For those of you who are noticing that this is the second salad recipe I have posted in a week, I would like to reply with, yes, I realize that too.  And I will not apologize for it, dang it!!

You can never have too many fresh, flavor-filled salads in your rotation and I have been on a particular binge with them lately.  You too?  Oh good.  This particular salad was created when I had something similar in the deli section of a supermarket.  When I started researching the name, Carolina Cobb Salad, I realized that it was just a title.  As far as I could tell, there is no specific formula for this kind of salad.  So after a few tries, I realized that this is the combination that I love.  Then I realized I better right it down before I forget it.  No that that ever happens, but, you know…

You want to know the best part?  The last time I ate this, I skipped the dressing entirely.  There was so much going on in my mouth with the whole crunchy, tangy, crispy, and sour thing, I didn’t even need it.  Which means, you can toss this whole she-bang in a container on your way to work and just grab a fork.  Staying home with the kids, I have been making one for myself and tucking it in the fridge so that I have no excuse not to eat healthy for lunch that day.  Even though, with this salad, it isn’t exactly a taxing experience.  My biggest issue?  Keeping my 2 1/2 year old from stealing all of mine.  So now I just make him his own.  Neither of us miss the dressing and the rainbow of colors is incredibly satisfying on these January days.  Salads for the win!
Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry}Carolina Cobb Salad is so full of flavor you don't even need to add a salad dressing! {Brittany's Pantry} Carolina Cobb Salad
In the interest of keeping this salad healthy, keep your portions of bleu cheese and dried fruit to a minimum.  This combo of flavors is absolutely stellar but if you really need to add dressing, use it sparingly.

Layer on individual plates:
lettuce (I happened to have romaine on hand when I photographed this but use whatever you like)
walnuts
tart diced apples, such as granny smith or gala (I use 1/2 an apple per person)
crumbled bleu cheese
hard boiled egg
diced cooked chicken or turkey
unsweetened, dried cranberries
cherry tomatoes, or whatever tomatoes look good at the time
Optional: bleu cheese dressing or ranch dressing

Enjoy!

Winter Salad W/Dried Cranberries & Feta is as tasty as it is beautiful! {Brittany's Pantry}Just popping in quick to share one of my most favorite salads with you.  Yes, those are sugared almonds.  Yes, that is one of the reasons its my favorite.  So sue me.

I like to call this my winter salad because it looks so fresh and crisp and clean and bright!  Like a cold, cloudless winter day.  Don’t you think?  Ok, the connection sounded better in my head….Also, its perfect to serve during the colder months because it doesn’t rely on an abundance of fresh produce.  Decent spinach and/or spring mix can be found most anytime of year nowadays, especially if you live in an area where they can still grow it during the colder months.  The rest of the ingredients aren’t seasonal, making it a great, fresh addition to winter menus that may be heavy with baked pastas, dairy laden casseroles, and football party food.  Add some grilled chicken on top and you have an incredibly speedy meal that won’t leave you feeling droopy.  Because feeling droopy is no bueno.

And can I just say that it is kinda pretty?  The colors of food get me every time and that is one of the reasons I come back to this salad again and again.  Side dish?  Yup.  Paired with a quick quiche?  You bet.  Topped with grilled chicken or steamed salmon?  Gaaaaaahhhh.  Come to momma.  It covers all the bases.  And don’t worry.  If you happen to eat it in April, and start calling it a Spring salad, I won’t tell a soul.
Winter Salad W/Dried Cranberries & Feta is as tasty as it is beautiful! {Brittany's Pantry} Winter Salad W/Cranberries, Feta, & Sugared Almonds
Like I mentioned above, sliced chicken or flaked salmon, cold or warm, is just about the best thing ever on top of this salad.

fresh spinach
dried cranberries
crumbled feta
sugared almonds
vinaigrette of your choice

Layer all the salad ingredients on a plate or in larger quantities in a serving bowl.  Light and simple vinaigrettes work best with this so be sure to avoid anything too heavy.  Enjoy!

Light and Tangy Tuna Wraps are full of bright, crisp flavors! Sure to become a lunchtime favorite! {Brittany's Pantry}After a quick break to celebrate the holidays, I am thrilled to say that I am back and full to the brim with incredible recipes to share with all of you!  I can’t promise that they will all be healthy (I know we all want to follow those brand spankin’ new resolutions…) but I can promise that they will all be good.  Really good.  As in, good enough that I serve them to my husband and kids, family, and friends.  Ere go, they are good enough to post here.

I am going to start off 2015 with a sandwich that likes to do a disappearing act at my house.  My kids inhale this wrap like it is their last meal and since it is full of only light and healthy good things for them, I am totally fine with that.  I make it for lunch and BOOM! they make it disappear.  Its a deal we have.  I practically have to hide my serving just to make sure my family doesn’t swipe it.  Sheesh!  You would think that no one feeds them around here!!

That was a figure of speech.  All I seem to do is feed ‘em, the leeches….

This wrap has no dairy in it, and no sauce.  It gets the wonderful crunch from the veggies and the refreshing bite and tang from the capers and lemon.  Your tastebuds definitely stand up with a happy salute with this one.  I like a whole wheat wrap as a delivery vessel for my lunch, but this exact same recipe is stellar in a lettuce wrap as well so do whatever is right for you.  Either way, it is an awesome way to start the new year-with or without a healthy resolution!
Light and Tangy Tuna Wraps are full of bright, crisp flavors! Sure to become a lunchtime favorite! {Brittany's Pantry}Light & Tangy Tuna Wraps
This recipe makes four, nice sized wraps. Add whatever veggies suit your fancy. Listed below are the ones that go well with the flavors here but I generally use whatever I have on hand at the time. This tuna mixture is also great just added as a scoop on top of fresh spinach and veggies so feel free to skip the wrap altogether!

1 large can (12 oz) chunk tuna packed in water, drained well
1 T capers
1 T chopped parsley
1 T extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
pinch of salt and pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon, optional
1/2 large english cucumber (or regular cucumber, peeled or scored), cut into strips
1 carrot, julienned or grated
1 sweet bell pepper, cleaned and julienned
fresh spinach
1 avocado, sliced
4 whole wheat tortillas, fajita sized

In a medium bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients gently with a fork until combined.  Divide the mixture among the four tortillas.  Add the fresh vegetables that you prefer and wrap.  Enjoy!

Note: This is a good wrap to prepare and take with you for lunch!

Holiday Shepherd’s Pie

Holiday Shepherd's Pie is made completely from the leftovers of your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal! {Brittany's Pantry}Shepherd’s Pie is kind of a funny thing.

I have posted about it before with this non-traditional version and I have to say that I stick to my original thoughts about this: If it is covered in mashed potatoes, it is a good thing.  But today’s recipe wasn’t my brilliant idea and it is still, I have to say, ‘non’ traditional shepherd’s pie.  I’ll explain.

Years ago, when all six of us siblings still lived at home, we used to travel to my Aunt Mary’s house on New Years Day to celebrate the holidays with her and my Grandmother.  With such a big family, we knew how exhausting it could be to cook for us.  My Aunt solved that problem by making a big turkey dinner earlier in the week, then assembling this casserole with the leftovers.  Then all she had to do on the day was to heat up this big pan in the oven and it would feed everyone, with almost no effort from her.  Genius, right?!  She was free to play and visit and catch up with us.  Now, mind you, my family is not full of picky eaters and we will generally devour anything you put in front of us.

But the first year she made this version of shepherd’s pie, I began to look forward to those holidays at my Aunt Mary’s house for the food, just as much for the company.  What is not to love?  It is all the wonderful parts of a holiday meal rolled into one dish.  Meat?  Good.  Veggies?  Good.  Stuffing?  Gooooooood.  It is like home and family and comfort and love all wrapped up right there and topped with potatoes.  I am sure Aunt Mary has no idea that I remember what she used to serve us all those years ago, but really.  Is it all that surprising that food is at the center of my memories?  I didn’t think so.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it with whatever you have.  Beef?  That is perfect.  No stuffing?  Fine.  Sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes?  Great.  It is ALL good.  The point is that you are just layering in the different categories of your leftovers, wrapping it up, and tossing it in the oven whenever you have need of it.  Heck!  Freeze the darn thing and enjoy it later if you like!  You have already gone to the trouble of making all these individual dishes, and now you can use them up in one perfect meal.  No matter if you have a little or a lot of any one thing, it all works.  My favorite part?  All those little leftover containers that you end up having to find a place for in your fridge?  Gone.  One casserole and you are done.  And then you can take that one casserole and feed whoever you are getting together with the next weekend and you don’t have to lift a finger.  Nice, huh?  I told you my Aunt Mary is a genius.
Holiday Shepherd's Pie is made completely from the leftovers of your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal! {Brittany's Pantry}Holiday Shepherd’s Pie
Remember.  The key to this is the process, not the specific ingredients.  Every version you make will be different based on your leftovers so just embrace the spontaneity.  Also, feel free to make each layer as big or little as you like.  No stuffing?  Just skip it.  If you are vegetarian, just omit the first layer of meat.  Customize it to whatever you have on hand.

leftover meat-turkey, chicken, beef, or ham chunked or shredded into bit sized pieces
leftover vegetables-steamed, candied, or even green bean casserole
leftover stuffing
leftover mashed white or sweet ptoatoes
Gravy (optional)

In a large casserole dish (or even just a small one, depending on who you are feeding), spray or butter the dish lightly.  Spread the cooked, leftover meat in the bottom of the dish.  Layer on vegetables or spoon on leftover gratin or casseroles.  Whatever works.  Evenly top with stuffing, or dressing, and top with a layer of mashed potatoes.  Cover well and chill or wrap well and freeze.  When ready to serve it, put the dish, uncovered, into a cold oven and turn it on to 350.  Heat the casserole through until it is hot in the middle and potatoes are lightly browned, about 45 minutes if thawed.  Serve with a side of gravy to pour over the top if you like.  Leftover cranberries and rolls are good too!

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute | Brittany's PantryJust a quick post to share one of our favorite autumnal dinners!  Believe me when I say that this recipe is a winner.  I mean, you should always believe me (I am very trustworthy) but for SERIOUS, you should believe me now.

It is fast to throw together, full of flavor, and inexpensive to make; three points that make this a great fall dish and perfect for this time of year.  As our days get busier as we get closer to the holidays, I love being able to make this in a matter of minutes.  This meal is one of those things that I just kind of make without a lot of thought and that means that it is virtually fool proof.  Handy when I am in and out of the house between ballet, church, playdates, meetings, book club, and appointments.  You can practically just throw it in the pan.  Like, take a pan, and throw it in.  Throw it.

These flavors are a natural fit for my family, seeing as how we have quite a streak of German blood.  It is very much inspired by dishes of my youth.  Cabbage and sausage is rather prevalent in Minnesota cuisine and this reminds my husband and I of home.  A little warm, Northern comfort food here in South Carolina!

Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute
This is great served with extra applesauce on the side and a huge hunk of whole grain bread with salty butter.

1 whole beef sausage, such as Hillshire Farms

1 onion, sliced
4 T butter
salt and pepper
1/2 c applesauce, preferably chunky
2 T brown sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c apple cider or juice
1 small green cabbage, outer leaves removed and sliced to shreds, or one large bag pre-shredded cabbage

Grill the sausage over medium high heat until it has nice color.  Alternatively, sear it in a tiny bit of oil in a cast-iron pan.
While the sausage is grilling, melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan and toss the onions in.  Season with salt and pepper.  When onions are soft, add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine and keep the heat good and hot to wilt the cabbage and thicken the liquid a bit.  When the cabbage is just wilted but still has some crunch to it, remove the pan from the heat and taste for seasoning.  Serve with the grilled sausage.

Cheesy Bread

Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryMmm.  Cheesy Bread.  Just absorb that thought for a second.

It is spectacularly comforting which is why I am posting my favorite, easy version of this now.  It is the perfect food for the cozy theme I am following during the duration of my Pine Tree Goods Giveaway!  Melted cheese on chewy bread paired with a green salad or bowl of soup?  Yeah baby!!

As you may have guessed from my previous postings of Garlic Toast and Herbed Garlic Bread, I like having a carbohydrate to dip in my food.  I may or may not make noises like a crane on a construction site when I scoop with tools of bread.  One of my favorite hot lunches when I was a kid was the dunkers; big slabs of bread with melted mozzarella on top served with a scoop of spaghetti sauce.  Scrumptious.  Essentially, that is what I make this bread for.  The salad just makes me feel less guilty about eating a dinner centered around bread.

I was reading a recipe by Pioneer Woman recently and she mentioned that she freezes hers.  This never once occurred to me, but you can bet I am going to be doing that from now on!  Smear on the cheese mixture, wrap it up tightly, and pull out to thaw and toast whenever it is needed.  Genius.  And speaking of smart ideas, whoever paired bread and cheese together the first time (probably someone French…) and warmed it up and called it a meal, well they are my forever friend.

Here in South Carolina, I am learning about Southern Caviar (aka Pimento Cheese) and all its versions, uses, and adaptations.  In some ways this recipe is a simpler version of that.  I have been holding out on making my own pimento cheese but since it is everywhere down here, I am sure I won’t be able to resist for long.  Then, of course, I may just have to smear it on bread and toast it up.  That recipe and this recipe can be buddies.  Hehe!

Oy vey…I really shouldn’t blog when I’m tired….
Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's Pantry***Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win some one of a kind accessories from the top rated Etsy Shop, Pine Tree Goods!  FREE STUFF FOR THE WIN!!!  There are still a few days left to get your name in and it is just so darn easy, there is no excuse!!  Want to get your Christmas shopping done early?  Hannah, the artisan behind the goods, is offering a free shipping code just for Brittany’s Pantry readers!  Simple enter BPGIVEAWAY14 to get your items shipped free!  She does special orders too, so be sure to contact her if you want something specific!  Click here to zip over to the post to enter and see official rules.  Good luck!!***

Simple Cheesy Bread

1 large loaf french bread (not baguette-you want it softer than that)
8 oz grated colby-jack cheese
1/2 c good mayonnaise
1 stick (1/2 c) softened butter

Combine the cheese, mayo, and butter in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Cut the bread in half down the side lengthwise and open like a book.  I cut it in half crosswise as well so that the pieces fit on my pan butter, but whatever works for you is fine!  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread and smear evenly all the way out to the edges! Don’t forget the edges!  **If you are freezing this for later, gently sandwich the bread together, wrap well in plastic wrap, and then again in foil, or place in a zip top freezer bag.  Defrost in the fridge and proceed with recipe.**  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the bread cheese side up on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan (because burnt cheese is a major bummer to clean off of metal) and toast for 10 minutes.  Check the bread to see how it is melting and proceed at 5 minute intervals until it is toasted to your preference.  Some like their cheese barely melted, other like it to be bubbling and turning brown.  Your choice!  Pull it out and let it set for a minute-if you can wait that long-before slicing and enjoying!

Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry I feel like chicken stock (or chicken broth) is one of those things that scare people.  The whole business of a DIY process for something you can buy very easily in a can at the store is, I am sure, absurd to some people.  Like making your own corn flakes or churning your own butter.  It just isn’t necessary.  I would like to convince you otherwise.

Why?  Because it is just so darn easy.  There is MUCH less of a science to it than say, baking, and the payoff is tenfold.  It takes so very little effort and can be simmering away while you do something else.  No babysitting.  Also, as my Mother would say, its good for what ails you.  Seriously good eats when the sniffles set in.

Technically, stock like we are talking about today, tends to be made from the bones of an animal; chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork.  Often, the flavor is much richer.  Chicken broth, which I confess is really the only kind I ever make (lamb broth is SO not my specialty), usually is much more subtle in taste and made with the whole bird, meat and all.  Ultimately, I make them the same and have never noticed much of a difference in flavor.  I am sure there are some chefs somewhere shaking their heads and emphatically disagreeing with me, but I am willing to risk that as I doubt many of them are spending their spare time reading this blog. :)

For purposes of ease and the fact that I am just not that fancy, you can call this broth or stock-whatever floats your boat.  K?  K.

Now.  This post is really more about the tips of making good chicken stock than a recipe.  No rocket science involved.  Ultimately, you should know that stock can-and should-be made from the leftover ingredients that you don’t want to throw away.  Waste not, want not.  So read on and be confident!
Keep Calm and Make Chicken StockThe Ingredients 

1. Chicken

Today I used the leftover carcass of a rotisserie chicken from the local deli.  You can use the bones of any chicken you eat, or use a whole, raw chicken.  The process is the same, you would just add more water.  I have a hard time tossing our perfectly good chicken so when I am separating a whole chicken into parts, I usually cut out the back and neck pieces and then toss them in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Over time, I keep adding miscellaneous raw chicken pieces to it and when I have a good sized amount, I make chicken stock.  If I know that I am going to roast a chicken or be picking up a roasted chicken, I usually plan for soup later in the week because I will have a carcass to use to make the stock.  If soup isn’t on the agenda, I just freeze the stock after I make it.

2.  Vegetables

In general, I like to keep things simple when making stock and broth.  I stick to the items that give great flavor, but that I am most likely to have on hand.  That means carrots, celery, and onions.  Garlic if you are feeling fancy.  They are basics that are always around so I never have to worry about making sure I have the ingredients available.  What I suggest (because I do this and it works well :) ) is that when you have some carrots or celery that you didn’t use up and are about to go kinda rubbery on you, is to toss them in a gallon zip top bag.  Just like the chicken parts, they can sit in the freezer until you are ready for them.  Then you have veggies that are maybe a smidge past their prime for munching on, but perfect to add flavor to your stock.

3.  Herbs & Spices

Here is where you can go crazy if you like.  Me?  I add a pinch of whole peppercorns, a few dried bay leaves, and a large clump of fresh thyme.  If I don’t have fresh thyme, I add 1 tsp of dried, mainly because thyme and chicken just go so darn well together.  And that is it!  If I have parsley stems leftover, I will add those, but generally, I like the flavor to be simple and true.  You want your chicken stock (broth) to be flavorful, but multipurpose and not overpowering.  If I am immediately turning the broth into soup, I may add something specific to that recipe.  Otherwise, I keep it simple.  If you are a major fan of sage, add a clump of fresh or a pinch of dried.  A bit of dill would be yummy too.  As long as you have some base flavors, you can jazz it up to your liking.

4.  Water

Ummm…thats it.  Add water.  Fancy, huh?

The Process

If you have the bones of one chicken, use:

1 chicken carcass, picked clean of meat
2 carrots, or the equivalent, rinsed (peeling is unnecessary)
2-3 stalks of celery, or the equivalent, rinsed of any dirt
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
5 whole pepper corns
2 dried bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 large pinch dried
two big pinches of salt-Don’t overdo this because you can’t take it back out again.
4-6 quarts of water
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry Ok.  Put what you are using in a large pot and pour in 4-6 quarts of water.  I always just fill up the pot until the ingredients are covered and it always comes out about the same.  If you have an extra big carcass from something like a turkey or maybe even from two chickens, you will need to add more water and more veggies.  If you are using a whole raw chicken, add more water to allow for the extra volume.
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry Put the pot, uncovered, over medium heat and let the stock simmer.  DO NOT LET IT BOIL!  When it bubbles vigorously, it tosses the ingredients around and makes for a rather cloudy, and not as nice looking broth.  Simmer for an hour, hour and half or so, until the ingredients are all cooked, and it smells AMAZING!  Cool slightly and use a tongs to remove and discard the large pieces of bone and vegetables.  Being VERY careful, pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve.  If you want a very clear broth, line the sieve with cheesecloth.  Let the stock cool, preferably overnight in the fridge, and skim the solidified fat off the top and either discard, or save to use for frying!  Freeze the broth in airtight containers labeled well, or use within the week!
Basic Chicken Stock | Brittany's Pantry A few quick tips:

If I have some store-bought broth leftover from something, I mix it in before I freeze it.

I go light on the salt.  Depending on your chicken carcass, it can add a lot of salt already to the broth if you aren’t careful.  You can always add it to the recipe you are using the broth for, but salty chicken stock is NOT good eats.

You do NOT have to strain the broth through anything finer than a colander.  Sometimes the bits of veggie and meat in there is what you want in your soup and that rustic look is just fine.  Its up to you.

Freeze your stock in quart containers, but maybe a few 1 c containers as well.  Its nice to have a smaller quantity when you need just a bit to deglaze a pan.

TASTE IT!  Be sure to taste your broth so that you know what it is you like in your recipe.  Adjust accordingly.

Don’t fret about the color.  The shade and clarity of your stock will depend on your chicken, your bones, your veggies, etc.  Just check the taste.  That is most important!

Enjoy!

 

Sweet Northern Cornbread (Yankee Cornbread)

Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantryIf you read my blog with any regularity, you know that my family moved to South Carolina a few months ago.  I am finding it a bit of a trial to keep a balance between my Northern upbringing and wanting to experience and immerse myself in my new region of the south.  Case in point-cornbread.

So why, you may be asking, am I not posting a good southern cornbread recipe where the batter is poured into a cast iron skillet and baked to a perfectly crusty disc?  The kind of cornbread that practically thirsts to be doused in black eyed peas?  Cornbread that is to gravy as Curly is to Moe?

Because I haven’t perfected it yet.  Everyone makes their cornbread a bit different around here and since I have Mississippi ‘family’ that influences me as well, I need to cover all the bases and possibilities.  This requires more testing to come up with the final version and it will be, I assure you, coming soon.  It will even be baked to the perfect state of crustiness in my cast iron skillet.

That said, I am, as you know, from the North.  We Minnesota folk like our cornbread tall, fluffy, and sweet and I am not ashamed of it!  That is how I grew up with it, and, if I may be so bold as to say, it is still my favorite way to eat it.  *gasp*  Its true.  This is a safe place, friends.  We accept fans of all kinds of cornbread here.  No judgement.

Often called Yankee Cornbread, my version has flour in it, as well as cornmeal, to lighten the batter a bit.  Most traditional southern cornbread recipes I have come across, either researched or those served to me by southern women, have little or no flour in them and much less baking powder, if any at all.  The Northern version gets flack for being more cake like, while its counterpart is often criticized for lack of flavor.

Never one to discriminate against food (I am an equal opportunity eater), I like them both.  In turn, I like to eat them in different applications.  Today’s recipe is fantastic served with breakfast or brunch, spread with butter and jam.  Generally though, my kids and I like to eat it plain.  The texture and flavor is enough to warrant only a glass of milk on the side.  It is great baked into muffins as well and is a nice balance between crumbly enough to still be cornbread but firm enough to eat out of hand.  Since cornbread is just so darn easy to mix up, this is SO much tastier-and better for you-than reaching for a box of processed mix.  Occasionally, those come in handy, but for straight up cornbread, there is no substitute.

So below is my staple, straight-up, no messing around, no frills recipe for sweet cornbread.  Use it well and enjoy.  No matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you call home.
Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantrySweet Northern Cornbread
Equal parts flour and cornmeal have always been my standard for cornbread.  My mom made it that way, so I make it that way.  I add a bit more baking powder to mine because I like it extra fluffy.  The white sugar forms just a bit of a sweet crust on the top that I can’t resist.  Makes great muffins too!!

1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
2/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 c milk
1/3 c grape seed, canola oil, or even melted butter

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.  In a large measuring cup, mix the egg, milk, and oil together with a fork.  Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients with the whisk, careful not to over mix!  Pour into a greased, 9X9 glass or metal baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan until just barely warm.  Cut into squares and enjoy!