Mexican meat-and-potato casserole

(This recipe meets all criteria for a week-night main dish: good, fast, filling, and easy on the budget.)

1 box scalloped or au gratin potatoes, made according to the stovetop directions on the box (you may substitute water for any milk that the directions may call for, and you may omit any butter that is called for, if desired)
Salsa con queso: at least ½ cup; more if desired
Garnish (optional): paprika or colorante, salsa, green onions
1-2 cups cooked meat or poultry cut into ¾-inch cubes and warmed in the microwave

As soon as the potatoes have finished their simmering per the package directions, leave the heat on under the pan and fold in the salsa con queso to blend and warm up to the same temperature as the potatoes. Then fold in the cooked meat or poultry. Place in serving bowl (the more elegant the better) and garnish as desired.

Grilled Salmon

(This is superb. It has Asian influences.)

Salmon: 1 two-pound bag of frozen salmon fillets (Wegman’s has this on sale occasionally) , thawed overnight in the refrigerator

Marinade/basting sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbsp. peanut or salad oil (optional, but helps keep the salmon from sticking to the grill)
1 clove garlic micro-planed
½ tsp. micro-planed fresh ginger (I buy a piece of fresh ginger, peel it, freeze it whole in a freezer bag, and micro-plane from the frozen piece however much I need)

Place the thawed salmon fillets in a single layer in a dish or plastic container with any liquid from the salmon that is in the package. Mix the remaining ingredients to make enough marinade/basting sauce to coat the salmon top and bottom. Spoon the marinade/sauce over the salmon, lifting up the salmon to let the sauce flow under the salmon. You may refrigerate for several hours or overnight if you have the time; otherwise, let it sit for however much time you have. Grill (or heat in a twelve-inch skillet) over medium heat until the salmon is no longer squishy when you press on the thickest part of each fillet with your finger. Baste with any sauce that may still be in the dish/container; there may not be much. Don’t overcook, because the salmon will fall apart on the grill and will be too dry in texture. Residual heat in the fillet will continue to cook the salmon.

Wilted Lettuce

(This salad uses lettuce, micro-greens sprouts, and green onions from my CSA share. Use balsamic vinegar and real parmesan or Romano cheese. Anything else is boring. And use an extra-large salad bowl in relation to the amount of lettuce you are using to give room to toss.
Leaf lettuce: 1 large head or 2 small heads (washed and dried and torn into bite-size pieces)
Bacon: 4-6 slices (cut into ½ inch dice)
Sprouts, micro-greens or alfalfa: Large handful
Parmesan or Romano cheese, solid chunk grated: at least ¼ cup ((do not use the stuff in the cardboard container with the shaker top; Wegman’s has re-closable packages of grated real parmesan and Romano cheese hanging on pegs in the dairy case that is very good).
Dressing (makes enough for several salads):
Fat from the bacon (mandatory)
Green onions: 4-6 (white and green parts, sliced on the diagonal) or 3-4 Tbsp chopped chives
Sugar: 1 Tbsp
Balsamic vinegar: 1/3 cup (mandatory; don’t substitute any other kind of vinegar; it will be boring)
Water: 1 cup
Ground pepper, freshly ground: ¼ tsp.
Bacon: Fry the bacon in a medium skillet until crisp. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon onto paper towels.
Dressing: Using the same skillet and keeping all of the fat from the bacon, killet, add green onions if using (if you are using chives, wait), sugar, salt, vinegar, water, and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. (Don’t boil; you’ll overcook the green onions.) If you are using chives, add them now.
Salad: Put lettuce into extra-large salad bowl. (Use an extra-large bowl to give yourself plenty of room for tossing the salad). Sprinkle on the sprouts (separate them so they are not an intertwined mass) and the bacon. Using a serving spoon, spoon the dressing over the salad 1 spoonful at a time. Using the serving spoon and a serving fork, toss after each spoonful taking care to scoop up the dressing that collects in the bottom as you toss. Stop adding dressing when there are two spoonfuls worth of dressing in the bottom of the bowl after you stop tossing. The point is to coat the salad greens, not drown them. Sprinkle on the Parmesan/Romano cheese and toss, again making sure to scoop up the dressing in the bottom. Serve immediately. Store left-over dressing in the refrigerator and warm it up for your next salad.

My version of Copper Pennies

This uses carrots from my CSA share plus parsley and chives from my herb pots by the back steps.

4 large carrots, pealed and thinly sliced (use Cuisinart 2 mm slicing disc)
Fresh parsley (leaves separated from stems and each chopped separately)
Zesty vinaigrette

In a steamer, stem carrot slices until al dente. Put sliced parsley stems in bottom of mixing bowl and place hot carrots on top. Stir in enough vinaigrette to coat the carrot slices and parsley stem pieces moderately. May be served hot, at room temperature, or cold, but in all cases, stir in more vinaigrette just before serving if the carrots have absorbed the first dose. Garnish with chopped chives.

Note: save the water from the steamer and use in soups, or save in a zipper-locked plastic bag that you keep in the freezer into which you add the water/juice from other vegetables. When the bag is full enough, thaw and use all as vegetable stock in soup.

Galliano-Barbecue-Sauce Polish Sausage

Polish sausage (the Hillshire Farms type)
Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
Galliano liqueur

Into ½ cup or so of barbecue sauce, mix one tablespoon or so of Galliano liqueur. Cut Polish sausage into three- or four-inch lengths. Then cut each piece lengthwise MOST but NOT all of the way through, and open the sausage like a book so it lies flat cut side up. (For the lengths that are curved, cut both ends all the way through but leave the center portion attached to act as the hinge. Once cut and opened, the length will resemble a butterfly) Brush the cut surfaces of the sausage with the Galliano barbecue sauce mixture. Broil cut side up under the broiler until sizzling. Serve.

Almond Rice Crispy Treats

1 10- or 10.5-oz bag of white marshmallows
3.5 to 4 oz of almond paste (use half of a 7 or 8-oz. can of almond paste)
7 or 8 cups Rice Crispies (use the real thing, no generics)
½ cup sliced almonds (the very thinly sliced almonds)

Lightly but thoroughly oil an 8×12″ or 9×13″ pan. Place marshmallows in microwave-safe bowl that will be big enough to allow you to stir in the Rice Crispies without overflowing. Using the medium side of a box grater, grate the almond paste into the marshmallows. Microwave the marshmallows and almond paste on medium low until stir-able (a minute or two). Stir well. Stir in the Rice Crispies and almonds until well mixed. Wearing a plastic glove or a plastic sandwich bag over your hand, scoop the mixture into the pan pressing down lightly to distribute the mixture evenly in the pan. Drape some plastic wrap loosely over the pan and let it sit until cool. Turn upside down onto wooden cutting board and cut into squares.

Cocoa krispie treats

1 10-oz bag of marshmallows
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
Partial bag of Heath bar morsels ( ½ to ¾ cup; I used the rest of a bag that was left over from something else)
8 cups cocoa krispies

Oil an 8×12″ or 9×13″ pan by pouring 1-2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan and spreading around with a paper towel. In a huge microwave-proof bowl (as large as your microwave oven will accommodate), melt the marshmallows and butter on low checking every minute or so until melted. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add cocoa and stir. Add Heath bar morsels and stir. Gently stir in the cocoa krispies until thoroughly incorporated. Using your dominant hand inside a plastic sandwich bag, scoop the krispie mixture out of the bowl into the pan and push the mixture around until it is evenly distributed in the pan. Let sit for several hours. Invert the pan onto a flat surface such as a cookie sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut into squares.

Orange juice banana smoothie

1 12-oz container of frozen orange juice concentrate (undiluted)
1-2 ripe bananas (very ripe bananas are ideal)
2 6-oz containers of low-fat sugar-free yogurt (lemon, lime, raspberry or strawberry are good)
36 – 48 oz lite cranberry juice cocktail

Place undiluted frozen orange juice concentrate into blender. Add banana(s) in chunks and add yogurt. Add 12 ounces of lite cranberry juice and blend thoroughly. Add remaining 24 to 36 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail to suit. Stir and serve.

Coleslaw jello salad

1 box sugar-free lime jello
½ c. left-over coleslaw with all of the dressing that has settled into the bottom (KFC coleslaw is ideal)

In a four-cup measuring cup, add one cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve thoroughly the jello in the hot water. Add enough ice cubes to raise the water/jello level to 1 ½ cups. After the ice cubes have melted, add the coleslaw and dressing. Stir. Divide the jello mixture into four small dishes. Refrigerate until set.

Sprout salad

Sprouts (mung bean sprouts or sunflower sprouts)
Grated carrot
Canned pineapple chunks
Juice from canned pineapple

Divide up sprouts among salad bowls. Sprinkle with grated carrot and raisins. Top with four to six chunks of pineapple. Sprinkle two to three tablespoons of pineapple juice over salad as salad dressing.

Wilted beet greens

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary leaves
Beet greens or Swiss chard washed well and chopped (stems chopped separately from leaves).
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar or to taste
Coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt) and freshly ground peper

Wash greens well and don’t dry them. Chop stems of greens separated from leaves. Over low or medium-low heat in 12″ saute pay, saute onion and stems from greens in olive oil until soft. Add butter and melt. Add rosemary and heat for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant. Add chopped leaves from greens and cover until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Carrot and daikon radish salad

1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated diakon radish
Handfull of raisins (golden or regular)
2-6 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Vinaigrette to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate leftovers. Tastes even better the next day.

Beet salad with mandarin oranges, rosemary, walnuts, bleu cheese, and walnuts

Bunch fresh beets left whole, scrubbed, tops trimmed at one inch (use greens for something else), and root ends left intact but clean.
Orange marmalade
Apple cider vinegar
Crumbled rosemary
Walnut pieces
Mandarin oranges
Crumbled bleu cheese

1. Steam the beets in a steamer basket set in a sauce pan with enough water in the bottom to come up almost to the bottom of the steamer basket. (Keep the water at a simmer until a knife pierces the largest beet easily.
2. Remove the beets from the steamer and let cool until cool enough to handle.
3. Dilute a smallish amount of orange marmalade with some apple cider vinegar (the ratio being somewhere between 2:1 to 1:1), to pour over the beets once they’ve been diced. Go easy on this; the beets will exude their own juice). Stir in some crumbled rosemary leaves
4. Rub the skins off the beets and pull off the tops and the bottoms. Cut the beets in ½” cubes. Put the cubes in a plastic bowl and pour the orange marmalade/cider vinegar mixture over them. Stir gently. Cover and refrigerate.
5. Before serving, put the walnut pieces in a small dry frying pan over low heat and stir occasionally for 5-10 minutes until the walnuts are warm and fragant. When ready to serve, place beets in serving dish; arrange mandarin orange sliced around the edge of the dish; and sprinkle on the walnuts and crumbled bleu cheese. These components can be passed separately so that the diners can garnish their own helpings to suit.

Yam Gratin

(bake in 350-degree oven; total baking time about 1&3/4 hours)

1 onion finely sliced and sautéed in olive oil until transparent 2 cups evaporated milk or heavy cream 1 tsp kosher salt or ½ tsp regular salt 3 lbs yams, peeled and sliced ¼” thick 1 ½ cups grated cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack or Swiss, or a combination thereof)

1. Spray large (3-quart) casserole dish with nonstick spray (important; don’t skip this step).
2. Stir together evaporated milk (or heavy cream) and salt in large bowl. Add sliced yams to bowl, coating with milk/cream as you add them; make sure they are all coated.
3. Layer 1/3 of yams slices in baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat with another 1/3 of yams and remainder of cheese. Top with remaining yams. Pour any remaining milk/cream over top.
4. Place uncovered casserole on center rack of oven (bottom third of oven works OK if you need to bake something else on the top third) on a baking sheet (very important) to catch boil-overs.
5. Bake 30 min.
6. Remove from oven and press fork or spatula carefully against top layer to allow liquid to flow over “crust”. Replace pan in oven.
7. Bake 30 minutes more. Remove from oven a second time.
8. Press top layer to allow liquid to flow over top a second time, and replace pan in oven.
9. Bake another 40-45 minutes or until yams are tender.
10. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Fluffy Butterscotch Pudding

1 package fat-free sugar-free Jello butterscotch pudding mix
1 can evaporated milk + enough juice from canned pineapple that was packed in its own juice) to make 2 cups.

Mix together and beat with hand rotary beater several minutes. Spoon into three or four individual serving dishes and garnish with canned pineapple (optional).