Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Let me start by saying, I don’t like mushrooms.  I know what you’re thinking, “then why the heck are you making them?!”  Because, like so many other dishes in my life, I’m big into experimenting.  Truth is, there is quite a lot of food I dislike when it’s prepared in it’s most common creations.  Things like broccoli, which I love raw but dislike cooked any way but steamed… and very lightly at that.  The problem is usually in the application itself.  A perfect example of this would be the difference in baking a potato in the oven or in the slow cooker.  Prepped exactly the same (lightly slathered in oil, salted then wrapped in foil), the cooker baked potato comes out with just that much more flavor and a perfect consistency.  That said, I’m challenging myself to “The Great Mushroom Challenge of 2013”!

To help with this challenge will be Organics To You here in Portland, Oregon.  An amazing delivery service (yes, you read that right D-LIV-ERR-EE) of local, organic produce!  Yes.  I. Am. In. Heaven!  Delicious locally grown fruits and veggies, all organic and delivered?  YES PLEASE!  Not to mention how incredibly reasonably priced it is!  Every week they compile a mixed box of what’s in season to be delivered to your door.  And they have great add-ons like local dairy products, local meat, fresh herbs, ethnic foods, etc.  So the choices are abound!  But how are they helping me?  Because they provided us with mushrooms.  Crimini mushrooms to be exact.  And as I’ve never made mushrooms before (because I don’t like them), I decided that it was high time to test my culinary skills and see if we can’t find me at least ONE way that I would eat mushrooms.

My first experiment is as the title suggests, sausage stuffed mushrooms.  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Crimini mushrooms
  • 1 end piece of Oregon’s Hazelnut bread (or equivalent)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then some in a small dish for coating the mushrooms
  • 1 Adell’s Chicken & Apple precooked sausage

Directions:

  1. Clean and stemm your mushrooms but save the stems for the stuffing!
  2. Cut the sausage into slices and add to the food processor.
  3. Add mushroom stems, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and the bread end to the food processor.
  4. Process until all ingredients are finely chopped and incorporated. Add olive oil to the mixture if you find it too dry.  You want something that stays together well without being too moist.  Set aside.
  5. Slather each mushroom top with olive oil to allow for a nice presentation (and flavor) when cooked.
  6. Lightly sprinkle salt inside each mushroom cap.
  7. Add caps to a baking sheet.
  8. Take a fork and gently press a small amount of stuffing inside the mushroom cap, enough to fill it generously.  Repeat for all caps.
  9. Then create equal size balls of stuffing for each of your mushrooms.  We are going to create large mounds of stuffing atop the mushroom which is why the stuffing can’t be too dry (or it will crumble) or too wet (it will slide off your cap).  Add a ball of stuffing to each cap, pressing gently to create a mound the width of the cap but not over the edges.
  10. Then BROIL your stuffed mushrooms for 15 minutes or until they start to brown/crust at the top.
  11. Allow to cool and enjoy!

At the end of this experiment, do I still dislike mushrooms?

I can’t tell you how hesitant I was to even try it even though it smelled insanely delicious.  I mean, it has a lot to do with consistency for me.  So as I bit into the smallest one, I was absolutely shocked to find a very firm and moist consistency!  Gone was the soggy eraser feel of nearly every mushroom I’ve had in my life previously.  And the flavor?!  Oi!  The stuffing alone was a delight (and it has mushrooms in it!) but with the slight hint of the full mushroom cap just made a very pleasant food experience.  So I guess the answer is… no, I no longer dislike mushrooms… as long as I’m the one making them. =D

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Slow Cooker: Roasted Potatoes

Now that I’ve introduced you to baked potatoes in the slow cooker, here’s a recipe for slow roasted potatoes.  This is a great recipe to create in bulk and freeze in meal size proportions (freezing information is below the recipe).

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (I create huge batches of 10 lbs. in my 6 quart slow cooker)
  • Neutral flavored oil (I use Safflower or grapeseed oil – olive oil is often too heavy)
  • Garlic powder
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Options:
    • Minced garlic instead of garlic powder
    • Minced onion instead of onion powder
    • Rosemary
    • Dill

Directions:

  1. Peel and rinse your potatoes as normal, making sure to remove any new growth (eyes), soft spots or areas that look on the verge of spoiling.
  2. Quarter potatoes into large 1 inch chunks.
  3. Drop them in the slow cooker.
  4. Drizzle oil over potatoes while stirring to LIGHTLY coat them (keeps them from looking gray while cooking) and add any spices at this time.
  5. Set cooker on high and cover.
  6. Cooking time depends on how many potatoes you have in your cooker.  Generally, set your timer for two hours and stir the potatoes.  (If you are freezing any portions: You are looking for them to be just slightly undercooked to allow them to remain firm after thawing.  Freeze portions using a food saver or an air-tight container.)  If they aren’t ready, continue cooking on high and checking hourly (stirring each time so not to over cook the bottom ones while the top of the pile stays raw) until done.  10 lbs in my 6 quart cooker took about five hours in total.
  7. Potatoes are done when they are soft but not falling apart.
  8. Option:  You can add a bit of butter here if desired OR quickly fry them in a pan til the edges are crisp!
Freezing Information:
A great way to make meals easier during the week is to create portions of your meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer until you’re ready for them.   There are a few rules regarding freezing potatoes in general:
  • Don’t freeze whole potatoes.  They become solid bricks.
  • Always partially cook your potatoes before freezing.  Raw potatoes do not freeze well and become tasteless once thawed.
  • Using a food saver that removes any air and seals the packaging not only prolongs the amount of time you can freeze food but also helps them retain their flavor (not to mention keeps freezer burn away).
  • Package them in MEAL SIZE portions or individual portions.  Large batches thawed then refrozen leaves too much room for contamination and spoiling.
  • Potatoes that have been stored at room temperature for two weeks to a month are best for freezing (as they are thoroughly ripened and the most flavorful).
  • Thaw potatoes by microwaving or baking.  Boiling will turn them to mush.
  • If you plan on using your potatoes for fries and not mashed or chunks then simply make them into fries, allow to cool and seal.  The above method would make the potatoes too soft for creating fries.
  • If you wish to have potatoes ready for mashing in the freezer: Prepare the potatoes as normal by peelings, rinsing and cubing them.  Boil the potatoes till they are about two-thirds cooked (should still be quite firm when speared with a fork).  Drain and allow to cool.  Package potatoes in meal size portions and use a food saver to remove any air from the package and freeze.  You can also fully create the mashed potatoes as you would normally and freeze meal portions though remember, any frost on the potatoes may result it more watery potatoes.

Slow Cooked Baked Potatoes

There are very few things that I say are so much different form one form of cooking to another.  After all, the end result is the same: a baked potato.  Yet, the microwaved baked potato tastes somewhat different than an oven baked potato but not by much.  And the consistency is a tad different too.  Oven baked potatoes are dry (not in a negative sense, as in they aren’t sloppy potatoes), fluffy centers with usually crispy exteriors (if not in foil).  They are… what we assumed as the standard in baked potatoes.  And then I decided to try them in the slow cooker.  My first words regarding the taste was, “I didn’t know potatoes could taste… well… MORE like potatoes!”  Slow baked potatoes taste the way you imagine they would when you first eat one raw.  Sort of a warm, earthy taste.  Here’s what I did to create these tasty taters that ensured we will never eat them any other way again!

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Neutral flavored Oil (I used safflower)
  • Toppings (I used some butter, garlic powder, ranch dressing seasoning, cheddar cheese and sour cream)

Directions:

  1. Wash your potatoes and dry them thoroughly.  The reason for drying them so well is so there is no scorching.
  2. Slather your potatoes in your neutral oil.  Many recipes state to use olive oil but a neutral oil is lighter, doesn’t change the taste and doesn’t leave the potato tasting oily.
  3. Wrap your potatoes in foil.  No, you don’t need to puncture them as the slow cooking process doesn’t need to expel steam.  Don’t worry, they won’t explode or anything.
  4. Put them in your slow cooker.  No, don’t add water to the bottom, they will be moist enough without it and besides, the water doesn’t penetrate the foil anyhow.  And we aren’t boiling them either.
  5. Set your cooker on high.
  6. Set your timer for: 1-3 large potatoes= 4 hours, 4+ potatoes = 1 hour for every potato.
  7. Once your timer goes off, carefully open the foil but don’t remove it from the potato.
  8. Cut a slit along the exposed potato surface then scrunch the potato (while wearing oven mitts) to break it up (or use a fork to mix it up).
  9. Add your butter, herbs/spices and/or cheese at this time (see how the foil acts like a bowl!).
  10. Set potato back inside the slow cooker, put the lid on it and allow it to sit in the cooker as the cheese melts.
  11. When the cheese has melted, remove it from the slow cooker and deposit it onto the plate (or in our cases, bowls to make it easier to eat) still in the foil.  ENJOY!

 

Creamed Spinach

This is one of those dishes of mine that I’ve been making for years and don’t measure any ingredients.  So you’ll have to tinker a bit to make it work but trust me, it will!  Also, I make this in a large batch because it freezes so well.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. bag of frozen spinach
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons butter/margarine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Directions:

  1. In a microwaveable dish, combine all ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  2. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring after every two minutes (or less if spinach is thawed).
  3. Don’t over cook as this tends to go from creamy to soup in moments.  Heat till desired temperature and serve.

Boston Baked Beans

  • 1.5 lbs dry navy beans
  • water
  • 1 large onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp dry mustard
  • 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup dark amber agave nectar (or 1/3 cup brown sugar)
  1. Rinse and dry beans
  2. Soak in enough water to cover by a couple of inches for 8 hours
  3. Rinse the beans and place in a large pot and cover with 4 inches of water
  4. Bring to a boil
  5. Continue boiling for about 45 minutes until the beans are tender
  6. Drain the beans and place in a crock pot with the remaining ingredients
  7. Simmer on low for 2 to 4 hours
  8. Serve the Boston baked beans hot or at room temperature