Corn Casserole

A few weeks ago I was making Jalapeno Popper Chicken for dinner but I was at a total loss of what to serve with it. I knew we would have a side salad but I felt like I still wanted something else. Suddenly corn casserole popped into my head and it seemed like the perfect fit. So I did a little searching but I was a disappointed with what I found. Pretty much every recipe called for a canned corn and Jiffy cornbread. I don’t love canned corn and I knew a box of Jiffy would be a difficult find in Suzhou (and probably expensive if I found it!).

At that point I had my heart set on corn casserole, so I continued on the hunt for a from-scratch recipe. I never did find one that was everything I was looking for, but I did find one that looked like a good starting point. I made a few adjustments and cut the recipe in half so we wouldn’t have leftovers for a week. I’m really happy with how it turned and happy to have another side dish to add to the rotation.

 

 

Mexi-Corn

The family that worked for in San Diego had a dog, but not just a dog, a really cool dog. He knew all sorts of fun tricks and was generally really well behaved. Since we never had a dog when I was growing up, he was really the first dog that I got to spend an extended and consistent amount of time with. We got to be great friends and he really opened my eyes to the “dog world”.

Our favorite times together were when I would sing to him. (OK, his favorite times were actually probably more like when I would take him for a walk or feed him. But my favorite times were when I would sing.) His name was Max and one of the songs I would sing to him went a little like this, “Maxito Bombito from Max-ico. Likes to eat Max-a-roni and cheese and sometimes Max-ican.” Original lyrics, huh? Anyway, I couldn’t help but giggle when I was making this side dish. Totally reminded me of him. 🙂

Along with making me giggle, this corn was just the side dish I was looking for when making Enchilada Casserole. It’s light but still flavorful and ridiculously easy. I also love the pops of color it adds to the meal. And as it turns, it’s also really good when scooped up on a chip and eaten like salsa.  If you’re in a rut and looking for a new side dish to add to your rotation, give this a try!

 

 

Spicy Cold Noodles

Last summer when I was just visiting China and no idea I would ever actually live here, I took pictures and made notes of my favorite foods. Some dishes I just had to learn how to make on my own. That’s exactly how I felt about this noodle dish. It’s like a Chinese pasta salad. Cold, refreshing, and spicy all at the same time. It is easily one of my favorite dishes here and Jesse can’t get enough of it either.

Lucky for me I have some pretty great local Chinese friends. Almost exactly a year ago I posted about our friend Mandy teaching us to make dumplings, now she has taught me how to make these cold noodles. My 24×24 party was the first time I made them on my own.  I  have to admit, I was a little nervous making it on my own for a group of Chinese food experts, but this dish was the hit of the party and disappeared in the blink of an eye.



Spicy Cold Noodles 

Ingredients
~12 oz Chinese Noodles*
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup cucumbers, cut into thin matchsticks
1/4 cup green onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 Tbsp very finely chopped peanuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark rice vinegar (white rice vinegar also works)
2-3 tsp chili oil **
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white sugar

*Noodles can be found in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, may also be labeled Rice Noodles. Thin, spaghetti like, noodles are best, but thicker noodles, like in the photo, also work. My noodles came in a roll and I used 1/2 of the roll, which I guess to be about 12 oz.
**If you can find Lao Gan Ma brand in the Asian aisle or at an Asian grocery store, use that! Or look for a chili oil that has chilies in the oil. 


Directions
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally*.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare a cold water bath. When the noodles are cooked to al dente, drain and immediately place in the cold water bath. Let sit for 2 minutes then drain again and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent from sticking. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and peanuts and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant (you’re not trying to cook the garlic, you’re just trying to take a little of the edge off). Immediately remove from heat and add, along with the cucumber and green onion, to the noodles. Set aside.

In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, and sugar. If you like a lot of spice, add more chili sauce or a pinch of dry red pepper flakes. Pour over the noodles and toss to combine and evenly coat noodles. Can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.

 *These noodles cook much faster than Italian style noodles. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn to mush!

As taught to me by my friend, Mandy

Summer Vegetable Casserole

I have been holding out on you. I’ve been making this side dish for almost a year now and I am just now getting around to posting it. The good news is that this is pretty much the perfect time of year to share/make this recipe.

Back when we lived in Ohio, we would have a nice little vegetable garden every summer. By July I was always trying to come up with new ways to use the vegetables that seemed to be taking over every inch of our kitchen. Luckily, I have learned over the years that vegetables are so, so much more than things you just steam and serve along side dinner. Sometimes, even when they are the side dish, they’re the star of the meal.

That’s pretty much how I feel about this casserole, it’s always the star of our dinner. But don’t get caught up on the title, “casserole” fits because the ingredients are bound together and baked with a little sprinkling of cheese. There are no cans of soup or cups of cream in this casserole. There is however a little bit of a surprise ingredient – cottage cheese. Don’t let that scare you. Mixed in with the rice and vegetables it just acts like a binder. Also feel free to play with the vegetables a little bit. I think the zucchini, corn, and tomatoes are a must, but sometimes (like this time) I throw in bell peppers or eggplant.

Summer Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard*
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cup cooked rice (I used short grain brown rice)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 cup zucchini (1 small zucchini), roughly cut into matchsticks or diced
1 ear of corn, cut from the cob or 1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
4 large leaves of fresh basil, chiffonaded

*Sometimes, for an extra kick,  I use 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp whole grain mustard. Just depends on my mood!

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish or pie pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, cottage cheese, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the rice, onion, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, and bell pepper, stir to coat evenly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish or pie pan, use a spatula to evenly distribute in dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Allow to coil for 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh cut basil and serve.

Very slightly adapted from eat love drink