Foodie Fridays – Rice Ball Casserole

I scooped this out as soon as it came out of the oven and it fell apart a little bit – but it was so good!!

I am not Italian – but Tom is.  One of these days I’ll list out all of the ethnicities our future children are going to have to rattle off when someone asks them what their background is – poor kids. Anyway – of course I love most Italian foods and clearly I grew up with the basics like baked ziti, spaghetti and meatballs, and parmigiana anything, but I had a lot to learn about all the other Italian staples – like potato croquettes and rice balls.  I had never heard of them until I met Tom and his family, and quickly fell in love.

So obvs when I saw this lil recipe on Pinterest, I had to try it out for myself.  This recipe has been “skinny-fied” but I just have a personal belief that some things (mainly cheese) are supposed to be full fat.  I followed pretty much everything else exactly as written but decided to use my whole milk mozzarella – it’s too damn good to say no to!

Rice Ball Casserole
via Skinny Taste

  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (2.5 oz) sweet Italian sausage link, casing removed
  • 10 oz (.65 lbs) 93% lean ground turkey (1/2 package)
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced 
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 5 oz frozen peas
  • 16 oz homemade tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup egg beaters or egg whites
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano
  • cooking spray
  • 4 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded part skim mozzarella (Or whole milk mozzarella if you are rebel like me!!)

Cook rice in water according to package directions. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, brown sausage, turkey and onions, breaking up as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add peas and 8 oz tomato sauce and simmer on low, covered, about 20 minutes. Spray a 9 x 12 casserole dish with cooking spray, making sure to spray sides too. Add 2 tbsp breadcrumbs to the dish and roll around to coat the bottom and sides.Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl combine rice, pecorino romano, eggs, and 3-4 oz tomato sauce and mix well. Rice should be a bit sticky. Take half of the rice mixture (a little more if needed) and cover the bottom of the dish and up the sides; press to form the bottom layer. Add the meat and peas. Sprinkle mozzarella on top. Top with remaining rice and press until even. Top with remaining 4 oz of sauce, remaining 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, and remaining mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Every now and then I really impress Tom with dinner – last night was definitely one of those times! This recipe was the first I’ve tried of Gina’s from Skinny Taste, and now that the wedding is only about 4 months away (ack!) I think I’ll be trying more of her recipes.  This was incredibly filling and taste was not compromised one bit – which is important to someone who loathes dieting as much as I do. Try it and you’ll agree!

Foodie Fridays – Grape, Corn, and Black Bean Salsa

Last weekend I had my Book Club meeting, and since neither of the books we read had very much to do with food (we read Look Me in the Eye and Before I Go To Sleep, both of which I liked very much), and since the weather was pretty stinking nice for April, I decided to try out a salsa recipe I had my eye on from none other than my gal Cathy at (she has no idea who I am, but I love every recipe I’ve ever tried of hers).

I like anything that gives me an excuse to eat tortilla chips, and when I saw this grape, corn, and black bean salsa, I knew I had to try it. How often do you go to a barbeque and 5 people brought the same jar of tomato salsa with them?  This recipe sounded different enough to stand out on a table of pot luck items, but the ingredients are are still familiar that people aren’t going to be afraid to try it.

Grape, Corn & Black Bean Salsa
via NoblePig.com2 pounds red seedless grapes, each grape quartered (this is time consuming)
1 jalapeno, seeded, de-veined and diced
1/2 a medium red onion, coarsely chopped
One whole bunch of cilantro
Juice of one lime
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Toss the beans, corn, vinegar, salt, and lime juice into a bowl. Chop up the grapes and add to bowl.  Dice up jalapenos into small pieces, add to mixture.  Coarsely chop red onion and remove stems from cilantro, and place in a food processor. Pulse until you have a red onion-cilantro paste. Mix well.

My suggestions: A good rule of thumb when serving up any dish that has several chunky ingredients is to always try to cut your items to approximately the same size.  This often helps everything to cook more evenly (think carrots and potatoes in a stew) and also makes it easier for people to eat.  So when you are buying your grapes, don’t make the mistake I made, and make sure you try to buy small grapes.  I had to pick up two packages, and although I took a quick peek for bruising, I didn’t think about the size of the grapes.  One package had significantly longer grapes that took me an extra long time to chop up because I had to cut them into sixths, instead of just quarters, and trust me, the cutting IS time consuming!

As I was making the red onion-cilantro paste, I admit, it looked like A LOT of cilantro.  So I decided to slowly add it to the rest of the ingredients, and continue to taste.  I ended up adding everything – but I was definitely nervous when I first saw how much my “bunch” of cilantro had made.  I went against my gut to change the recipe and I’m so glad I followed it to the T! I would also suggest making this a few hours before serving, as it gives all of the flavors a chance to really meld together.  I’ll definitely be making this a few more times this summer!

Foodie Fridays – Chicken, Artichoke (and Sun Dried Tomatoes!) Casserole

So don’t think for a second that just because I haven’t posted a recipe since January that it was because I just didn’t have time to post anything.  I literally did not cook or buy food for about 8 weeks.  Straight delivery for 8 weeks, my friends.  I’m not proud of it.  But that is what happens during busy season.  I actually even had a weekend here and there when I could have cooked or baked, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  So imagine my surprise when I finally came home at my regular 7:30 on Monday night and was actually in the mood to cook. Squeeee!

I generally am not a huge fan of chicken, unless in the wing form (be it buffalo, or bonchon), but one chicken dish I can get down on includes artichokes and sun dried tomatoes.  So I literally googled “chicken and artichoke recipes” and this one came up.  I made a few alterations (mostly because the idea of baking mayo makes me gag, and  hello, I wanted sun dried tomatoes) and Tom and I agreed it turned out FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. This could be because it was the first non-Indian/Middle Eastern/Chinese/Thai dish we’ve eaten in months, or it could be because these ingredients just sing together so well. Plus, whenever I see “casserole” in my head I think – yay – only one dish to clean! But that is never really the case.  I actually had to wash a pan, a pot, three knives, two forks, and a measuring cup, and eventually the baking dish.  But it was totally worth it.

Chicken Artichoke (and Sun Dried Tomatoes!) Casserole
via Taste of Home

  • 2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta (I used shells)
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I used 1/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup onion and garlic salad croutons, coarsely crushed (I skipped these because I forgot to buy them)
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped (not part of the recipe, but you MUST include these – they pack a double punch of taste and color)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, artichokes, soup, cheese, mayonnaise, milk, garlic, onion powder and pepper. Drain pasta; add to chicken mixture.  

Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with croutons. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

Both of these photos are of the casserole before it went in the oven. It was so good that we ate it before I  remembered to take a shot of it fully baked!

My suggestions: I thought it tasted just great with less mayo, but if you are the type that likes to follow recipes to the T – let me know how it comes out.  Also, it’s not really a chicken, artichoke and sun dried tomato casserole without the sun dried tomatoes.  After I chopped a few up, I mixed in about 2/3s of them with everything else to evenly distribute, then the remaining amount I sprinkled on top just because they really popped against the rest of the mostly cream colored ingredients.