Tag Archives: mushrooms

Creamy Chicken Casserole with Leeks and Mushrooms

I remember researching my baby girl’s first car seat.  I had no clue what I was looking for.  I was focused on patterns that didn’t include teddy bears, perhaps longing for something that might actually match the car instead.  I didn’t know a five point harness from a three point one, and I certainly didn’t know how long I was supposed to keep it rearward facing as opposed to forward facing.  I started to read reviews.  I searched Consumer Reports.  I read mommy blogs to get opinions.  I sorted my Amazon results with the settings “Price:  High to Low,” hoping that if I spent more money, I would stumble onto the seat I was supposed to buy.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I realized the good moms were buying the safe and super expensive Britax seats, so I dropped a whole pile of money down to become part of the club.  And I did this several times over for her and her brother.

I kept her rear facing for longer than anyone thought I should.  I kept her in a five point harness until well past kindergarten, when she complained that her friends thought she was still riding in a baby car seat.  “But it’s actually a booster with a better harness,” I told her.  She didn’t agree.  She rode in a regular booster (LATCH capable, of course) until she was 8.  I finally took the back off when I could see that she clearly wasn’t remotely comfortable any more.  I kept telling myself, “She’s almost as big as her great grandmother.  It’s OK.”

Yet, tomorrow, I will put her on a bus at 6:30 AM for her big third grade field trip.  A bus with a driver I do not know.  A bus with no seat belts that will be barreling down the highway at 65 MPH.  She will wander around museums and theaters with friends and teachers.  She will eat a bagged lunch and buy her own McDonald’s for dinner.  She will carry a wallet and her own money.

But she will also carry her hip pack of allergy medicine.  I will have made sure there are at least three EpiPens with her with directions for symptoms that require flow charts.  I will have briefed the teachers and sent the chaperones long emails that make them think I’m crazy. (I am.)  I will have had thousands of thoughts about how to keep her safe … “Wait. If all the kids need lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated, they will almost all have Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.  Must email teacher about separating her with safe lunches if possible.”  Major red flags will pop up as I walk down grocery store aisles.  “It’s a bus.  What if the person who rode in her seat before her had peanut butter crackers?  What if someone offers her a treat while on a tour?  She knows to say no.  Wait, does she know to say no?”  I will have gone over safety points with her ad nauseum, until her father says, “Kristin, I think she gets it.”

But I just can’t help it.  She’s my baby, even if 9 years have made her more grown-up than infant.  And I can’t be there to keep her safe.  I can’t be around the corner from her school if she needs me.  I can’t watch out for her as she maneuvers in a city, albeit a small one.  I am two hours away if she has an allergy emergency.   I won’t be the one driving.  And there will be no harnesses, side impact protection, or tethers for protection.

As much as I want to “forget” to set the alarm tomorrow morning and keep her home safe with me, I know I can’t.

I will wake up at 5:30 AM and I will put her on that bus.  And I will not rest easy until it pulls back in at 7 PM tomorrow night.

Creamy Chicken Casserole with Leeks and Mushrooms

So the theme here is comfort food, if you didn’t guess that already.  Feel free to use leftover or Rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight dinner (if you do that, you can get less than a pound).  Also, this is very flexible and could include other herbs, vegetables, or seasonings.  It’s a great dinner with just a simple green salad on the side. Also, you can make this up in advance, just put the crumbs on right before you bake it.

Serves 4

1 pound boneless chicken breast or thighs, cooked and shredded (I poached mine)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1-2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 T butter
1 T olive oil, plus a little additional
1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (or other flour)
1/2- 3/4 cup of whole wheat cracker crumbs (or breadcrumbs)
1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
1 T brandy
1 T lemon juice
1/2 T chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

1. In a medium saute pan, saute the sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until they are browned and have rendered all their liquid, about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium saucepan, melt 1 T butter and 1 T oil together over medium heat.  Saute the leeks, celery, and garlic for about 5 minutes and then sprinkle in the 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir well to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour a bit.  Whisk in milk, making sure to get any bits of flour incorporated from the edges of the pan.  Cook the sauce for 2-3 more minutes until quite thick, whisking constantly.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (or to taste), 1 T brandy, 1 T lemon juice, and chopped rosemary.

3.  Add chopped/shredded chicken and sauteed mushrooms to the white sauce and stir to combine.  Place in a shallow baking dish with about 1.5 quart or 1.5 liter capacity.  Cover with cracker or bread crumbs and bake for about 40 minutes until golden and bubbly.



Muenster Chicken

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I have been posting far fewer dinner recipes lately.  And, trust me, it’s not for a lack of eating dinner.  The problem is purely technical — winter means it gets dark early, and because of that, the lighting sucks. You see, I am still in the “learning” category when it comes to photography and while my knowledge and equipment is getting better, I don’t have any decent lighting.  So, I rely almost exclusively on natural light, the tripod, and post production to get decent low light images.  Sometimes the outcome is OK (never great) and sometimes it is not (usually when a child starts jumping next to the tripod during an exposure which feels like it takes twenty minutes).

And setting up all sorts of equipment at dinner time (AKA the hell or bewitching hour with young children) is just not that realistic.  I should remind you that what you see on the site is generally what we are eating at my house. I rarely do a recipe with the sole intention of posting it here.  Which usually means that while I am trying cook and shoot pictures, my kids are hungry, the homework is scattered across the kitchen, and everyone is fried from the day.   Thank goodness they are addicted to the Wii or you may never see anything posted here.

So, here’s an example of that.  It is actually a delicious recipe that we ate all the time growing up and I have just updated it a bit.  It’s a great casserole for a big group, kids love it, and it makes a great drop off dinner for your friend or neighbor who just had a baby.  (Don’t forget to bring them some Grey Goose too.)  We like to serve it with rice if you want a starch and a green salad or sauteed spinach.  I have a hunch you could make a vegetarian version of this with tofu that would be really great too.  I’d probably fry the tofu in the method I outlined here and then just follow this recipe.  You could use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock if you like. (I should add that you can skip the mushrooms entirely or just put them on half if your kids don’t like them, but mine seem to enjoy them under the cheese.)

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sunny spring and summer nights snapping shots of beautiful, bright produce. Hopefully the dark days of winter are on their way out.  After our second foot of snow falls today, of course.

Muenster Chicken

Serves about 8

1.5 pounds of chicken breasts
3 eggs
2 t Italian Seasoning
2 t Oregano
1 t Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
2-3 cups of Panko Breadcrumbs
1 cup of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 cup of Marsala (sweet)
16 ounces White Mushrooms (other types would work well too), sliced
6-8 ounces Muenster Cheese, sliced

1.  Cube chicken breasts into about one inch pieces (chicken nugget sized).  In a large bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1 t Italian Seasoning, 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Add chicken pieces to egg mixture and set aside (can let it sit in refrigerator like this for an hour or two if you like).

2.  In another bowl, combine 1 t Italian Seasoning, 1 t Oregano, 1/2 t salt, freshly ground pepper, and Panko Breadcrumbs.  Remove a few chicken pieces at a time from the egg mixture (allowing excess to drain off) and toss with breadcrumbs to coat.  Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.

3.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  (Coat the bottom of the pan.)  In about three batches, brown the chicken pieces on both sides.  They do not have to be cooked through, just browned.  Make sure you do it in batches and don’t crowd the pan so they will get a nice brown crust.  As they are done, place the chicken pieces in a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking dish.

4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wipe out saute pan and heat a bit more olive oil.  Saute the sliced mushrooms.

5.  Mix broth and Marsala together and pour over browned chicken pieces.  Top with sauteed mushrooms and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place Muenster Cheese slices over top chicken and mushrooms and bake for 10 more minutes until done and bubbly.  You can broil it for a bit at the end if you like the cheese browner.

Leek and Porcini Risotto

Good risotto is one of those things that is nearly impossible to get at a restaurant.   Certainly, there are places that do it well.  But if I order it, I am usually disappointed nine times out of ten.  It just doesn’t lend itself well to advance prep and requires lots of stirring while cooking.  And you would think that would make it family unfriendly — but I find it to be the exact opposite.  It is a quick and simple meal (wonderful for a vegetarian night, too) that can be done in under an hour.  And the actual cooking part really only takes about 30 minutes.


The flavorings are tremendously variable.  Any kind of stock will do, you can add seafood or chicken, and you can fool around with the type of wine you use.  I do tons of variations — saffron risotto with shrimp (add saffron to your stock), lemon risotto with lobster and asparagus (add lemon zest and juice to your stock), chicken marsala risotto with mushrooms (add marsala to your stock), or in this case, a mushroom risotto with white wine and leeks.  The base for any of the variations is arborio rice, stock, some shallot or onion, a bit of butter, and some parmesan cheese (if you like).


And risotto is also great for relaxed entertaining — everyone congregates in the kitchen anyway, so you can do your advance prep early and then stir away while you are having cocktails.  (BTW, I have noticed that alcohol is a theme in almost every post that I write.  Hmmm.)  You can easily double this recipe when making it for a larger group. Serve it up with a salad and wait for the accolades.

Leek and Porcini Risotto

Serves 4-6

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (any type works though)
2 cups of hot water
2 leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise and rinsed to remove any sand, and chopped
2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped (or about 4 T of chopped onion and a bit of chopped garlic)
1 cup of white wine
2 cups of water or chicken/vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice (Italian short grain rice)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1-2 T butter
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 T Chopped Parsley or Chervil

1.  Soak dried mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water for about 20 minutes until softened.  Meanwhile, prep other ingredients (clean and chop leeks, shallots, grate parmesan, etc.).

2.  When mushrooms are soft, remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon, chop them, and place in a bowl.  Strain mushroom “stock” through a coffee filter into another bowl in order to remove any sediment.  Using this soaking liquid makes the risotto extra “mushroomy,” so if you prefer a lighter flavor (or have mushroom haters), use chicken or vegetable broth instead.  You will be left with about 2 cups of mushroom stock.

3.  Place 2 cups of mushroom stock (or other type of stock) in a medium saucepan with 1 cup of white wine and remaining 2 cups of water or chicken/vegetable stock. (5 cups total)  Season with salt and pepper and bring to just a simmer over low heat — it is important to not make the stock too hot so it doesn’t evaporate too quickly.

4.  In another medium saucepan or a saute pan (preferably with higher sides), heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallot (or onion) and saute for 2 minutes.  Add leeks and cook 2 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add arborio rice and saute for about 2-3 minutes in order to coat the rice thoroughly.

5. Add about one cup of the just barely simmering stock and stir.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Continue stirring until most of the stock has evaporated.  Add an additional 1/2 cup of stock and stir until it evaporates.  Keep adding about 1/2 cup of additional stock at a time and stirring until it evaporates. (You can leave the stove, however.  Just make sure you stir it frequently — this activates the starches in the rice making it extra creamy.)

6.  When you have used most of the stock (about 1 cup left out of the five cups), add the chopped mushrooms and the remaining stock.  Continue to stir.

7.  The rice is done when it is creamy, all the stock is mostly absorbed (should be a little “wet”), and the rice is tender (but not mushy).  At this point, add 1/2 cup of parmesan, butter, 1/2 t of salt, pepper to taste, and chopped parsley or chervil.  Taste and season more if necessary.  I like to serve this version with a drizzle of good olive oil, extra fresh herbs, and freshly grated parmesan.


Spring Pasta with Brown Butter, Asparagus, Peas, and Chanterelle Mushrooms

I often think that my laziness has been great fuel for my cooking creativity.   There are so many days when I stare into my pantry (while my two year old desperately attempts to clutch every box of crackers in it) and think that there is absolutely nothing to cook.  And then I walk away and go back in again.  And then I look at my kids and can’t stand the thought of a late afternoon trip to the grocery store with both children, trying to do three point turns in the race car cart, fulfilling bagel requests, and praying to the grocery store Gods that the check out lines are no more than two deep.

So that’s when I go for pasta.  These type of quick pasta dinners are mid-week staples around here.  They are great for a night off from meat, can easily be made into a “one bowl” kind of meal with veggies included, they usually require no grocery store trips, and are super quick.  And there is something about spring and summer that just seems to call out for light pasta meals with fresh vegetables.  And aside from the asparagus and herbs, this was basically a pantry meal.  But there are plenty of nights where we have basically the same dish with peas and pasta with a nice salad on the side.  


So, I give you pasta.  The meal that preserves your sanity.

Spring Pasta with Brown Butter, Asparagus, Peas, and Chanterelle Mushrooms (serves 4 with leftovers)

10 oz. dried pasta (this is about 2/3 of a package and any kind will do, we used whole grain thin spaghetti)
1/2 oz. package of dried mushrooms (I had chanterelles, any kind of dried mushrooms are great pantry staples though)
1 cup of white wine or water
1 bunch of aparagus
Fresh Chervil or other herbs (flat leaf parsley would be great too, or skip it)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
Frozen Peas
1 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar/Olive Oil

1.  Put a large pot of cold water on the stove and salt it generously (it’s imperative to salt your pasta water well — that’s where a lot of flavor comes from).

2.  Take one cup of wine or water and heat it in a small bowl for about a minute in the microwave.  Add dried mushrooms to heated wine/water and let soak for about 30 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, prep your asparagus by washing them and removing tough ends (snap where it breaks easily and you should be good).  Cut asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

4.  Chop 2 cloves garlic and fresh chervil/herbs (if using).

5.  Grate parmesan.

6.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 stick of butter and melt.  Stir constantly after it has melted.  Your goal is brown butter — which will smell nutty and fragrant.  If you cook it too much, it will definitely burn (I’ve done it plenty of times, just start over).  It should take about 2-3 minutes.  When it starts to smell nicely, just keep stirring and as it turns brownish, remove from heat immediately.  Stir in chopped garlic and set aside.

7.  Bring pasta water to the boil.  

8.  If you feel like it, remove mushrooms from wine/water, chop them, and then strain the liquid through a coffee filter and set aside (you can use it on the pasta).  If you don’t feel like it, just squeeze the mushrooms to remove any liquid and chop roughly.  You can use some white wine or just a little of the pasta water in place of mushroom liquid.

9.  When water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  At the same time, put your saute pan with brown butter and garlic back on the heat and reheat it to medium-high.  

10.  Saute asparagus in brown butter/garlic mixture until tender and bright green.  Add some frozen peas, chopped mushrooms, and 1/4 cup of either the mushroom soaking liquid or wine (or scoop out some of the pasta water).  Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Remove from heat.

11.  Drain pasta when done.  Put pasta back in pasta pot on the stove and dump contents of saute pan (brown butter, asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and liquid) onto drained pasta.  Stir in grated parmesan, fresh chervil/herbs, and extra salt and pepper to taste (and some extra mushroom liquid/wine/pasta water if it is too dry).

12.  Stir well when serving b/c the veggies have a tendency to sink to the bottom.  Plate the pasta and veggies, sprinkle with some extra parm, and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (if you like, I find the fruitiness of the olive oil goes nicely with the nuttiness of the brown butter).