A Visit From My Parents: Cabbage Casserole and Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken

My parents and I don’t get to visit with each other very often. They’re retired out in Nevada and I’m here on east coast. And although they came out to Hawaii for my wedding this summer, we didn’t have a lot of time spent together between preparing for the wedding and entertaining others that had come to celebrate with us. Before that, the last time we visited was during the holidays a couple years ago. Fast forward to last week – They happened to be setting off on a cruise from NY, so they took some time beforehand to stop by and see me and Jake.

I decided I wanted to prepare a couple of dishes for them so they could eat at their leisure. I made a cabbage casserole with ground turkey and a simple slow cooker chicken/black beans/corn/salsa dish to go along some Jasmine rice.

I had made this cabbage casserole once before for my friend Lindsay, but I forgot some of the things I didn’t particularly like about the dish. I ended up making and baking the whole thing as specified in the recipe. But believe it or not, I ended up taking everything out of the casserole dish, rinsed it off, added new seasonings, and re-baked it. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

First, the recipe calls for cooking the chopped cabbage a bit in water to soften it up. I think this was unnecessary. I think it could have just been cooked down a bit when added to the ground turkey mix.

Separately, I cooked the ground turkey and then added in the onion, diced tomato, and first part of the tomato paste.

Once the onions were translucent, I added the semi-cooked cabbage, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, packet of minute Basmati rice, and chopped parsley. I let that cook for about 15 minutes. (I didn’t use dried mint as specified in the recipe because I didn’t have any.)

The recipe then calls for the rest of the tomato paste stirred in and everything transferred to a baking dish to bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 40 minutes.

The image below is what it looked like the first time I baked it.

I taste tested it and wasn’t thrilled with it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I thought there was way too much tomato paste and there was a little too much spice for this particular dish.

I put it in the fridge overnight and re-evaluated the next day. I still wasn’t happy, so I ended up dumping everything back into a pot and rinsing it with water to try and get rid of some of the excess tomato paste and cayenne pepper. I tried to drain most of the water out and put it back on the stove to evaporate some of the water. I added in garlic powder and onion powder. I put everything back into a clean baking dish, sprinkled some cheese on top, and put it back in the oven to bake. The result the second time around was much better in terms of flavor. I should have let the water cook out a little more, though. It fell apart a little bit when serving. Also, I froze the leftovers and had some a couple of days later. It was a bit mushy because of the little bit of extra water.

Overall, I learned my lesson for the next time I make this and will make it right the first time!


The second dish I made was the slow cooker chicken. This is a recipe I’ve made several times in the past, both in the crock pot and in the pressure cooker. Since I was making this ahead of time, I went with the crock pot since I had some time. This is one of the easiest recipes that takes almost no effort at all. I used one large chicken  breast torn into a few smaller pieces, one can of black beans (not drained), one jar of medium heat Tostidos salsa, and about 3/4 cup of frozen corn. That’s it. Set it on low for about four – six hours. You can choose to use chicken tenders and leave them whole or do what I did and take the chicken out, shred it with a fork, and put it back into the mix.

We ate this over some Jasmine rice. Very simple, but very good. I imagine you could eat this as an appetizer with chips, too!

I had also ended up making a quiche with some frozen store-bought pie crust and they really loved that, as well. I think they liked having the variety and ability to choose what and how much they wanted to eat.

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It was nice to see them and I’m glad the food turned out well 🙂 I hope this inspires you the next time you need to prepare foods ahead of time or feed a small crowd!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

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A Simple Meatless Monday Meal – Salmon, Delicata Squash, and Cabbage

This meal is really simple, but easy and delicious enough to start the week off right. I just happened to decide to pair these 3 things (salmon, squash, and cabbage) together, but you can mix and match these with almost anything. For example, you could use chicken or steak instead of fish. You could also even use the cabbage or squash in some sort of Buddha Bowl with a grain.

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Salmon

This was a piece of Norwegian salmon that I grabbed at the local grocery store. There was nothing to this prep – just some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little fresh parsley on top. If you don’t have fresh herbs, use dried herbs or skip the herbs all together! It is still delicious simply seasoned.

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I air fried the fish, as I normally do. (I find the cleanup with this method a bit easier, but feel free to cook in the oven or stove top.) We usually have one larger piece that we split into two portions. This gives me the perfect opportunity to cut it down the middle with my spatula after cooking a while to check for doneness. It should begin the flake easily with a fork. Also, this salmon had the skin on, but once the salmon is cooked, I can usually lift the salmon apart from the skin without much difficulty. I just make sure the wedge the spatula carefully between the fish meat and the skin. If you usually cook fish, this may be known territory!

Cabbage

This is the way my mom used to make cabbage when I was growing up. It’s as easy as it can get. Jake really likes it and sometimes requests it. I just slice some carrot with a knife. If you don’t want to do this by hand, just buy already-sliced carrots or use the slicer attachment on a food processor. I also then slice some cabbage. In fact, I think a lot of grocery stores sell a “cole slaw” mix with exactly what you need. In a pan on the stove, I add a little oil, the cabbage and carrots, and some salt and pepper to taste. I then sauté it on medium heat until tender.

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Delicata Squash

I got so excited this past weekend when delicata squash was back at the grocery store. To prepare this, I cut off the ends and sliced it in half the long way. I scooped out the seeds from each half and then cut in approximately 1/2″ semi-circle slices. Because the squash is a bit lighter and sweeter in flavor (in my opinion), I like to play up the sweet and savory. I toss the slices in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon powder.

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I ended up air frying the squash until tender, but in the past, I’ve also baked it in the oven.  If baking, I’d set the oven to  375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 15 minutes, flipping about half way through. Every oven is different, so just adjust as needed. Poke it with a fork part way through. If it’s tender, then it’s done.

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These are some great ideas and are easy enough that you can do them any day of the week!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Bone-In Pork Chops and Cabbage with a Mustard Cream and Leek Sauce

My friend, Kami, is one of the only people from college that I still stay in touch with. She and I have a sort of cosmic mental connection, meaning I can say something extremely vague and she’ll still know exactly what I’m talking about.

She very recently sent me a text message with the picture of a recipe that looked like it was in a newspaper. I looked it up and it was from the Boston Glob. (Here’s the link to the newspaper article/recipe.) She also sent me a photo of her real life and successful attempt at the recipe. Wow, did it look delicious! I hope she doesn’t mind (and if we are channeling that cosmic connection, then I don’t think she will), here’s her photo below.

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She sent me the recipe because she thought it’s something I’d be interested in as a nice fall transition recipe.

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So, here comes the next part…Jake and I were at the grocery store today. I hadn’t previously mentioned this recipe to him and he literally said to me, “Do you want to get bone-in pork chops?” Heck, yes! I immediately pulled up the image of the recipe and scrambled around to get all the ingredients we needed.

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Kami was also nice enough to tell me some of the things that she thought weren’t great or that she would do differently next time, so I was able to incorporate those.

First, she mentioned that the pork chops weren’t as juicy as she would like. I interpreted this as they were a little dry or overcooked. When I told Jake about this recipe, he had immediately asked if it called for the pork chops to be brined (as he normally likes to do). I originally intended not to brine the pork chops because the recipe didn’t say to do so, but after thinking about Kami’s comment, I decided to do this. I used 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of salt. I also added a tiny bit of the sliced leaks, parsley, garlic powder, and pickling spices. I think all that’s really needed for a basic brine is just the water and salt. I did this for the minimum of 30 minutes.

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Second, Kami mentioned that she wished she had some buttered noodles or potatoes on the side. Based on what I saw of the recipe, I could definitely see this. All the recipe really has is the meat, vegetables, and sauce. Some sort of starch would complement it nicely. We happened to have bought little potatoes at the grocery store, so I halved them and air fried them with a little bit of oil, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

Lastly, Kami didn’t mention this, but when I mixed the heavy cream, grainy mustard, and dijon mustard, I thought that the amount of mustard was a little small. So, I squirted extra of both kinds of mustard into the mix. This was more of my own preference because I like that mustard-y taste.


Here are some photos of the cooking process.

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This was a really great and hearty dish. Unlike usual, I couldn’t finish my meal! (That’s a first! 🙂 ) If I make this again, I’d reduce the cream and perhaps even use light cream instead of heavy cream. I would definitely put this on the list to make again, though. If you’re looking for an impressive dish for a special occasion, this is it.

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Thanks, Kami, for sharing!

Sincerely,
Fu’d