December 25, 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011

Family style Christmas dinner

Grilled lobster and baby asparagus

Grilled tri-tip

Garlic and butter clams

Garlic bread

Shrimp cocktail

Garlic and butter clams before cooking

Split lobster tails before cooking

Lobster tails again

Christmas dinner is usually so wonderful that I always think I will never forget it, but here I sit wondering what the heck we had last year.  I remember the guests, which really is the most important thing to remember.

No guests this year, but Jessica is home from college so that's the memory I'll keep for sure; her sitting at the table, in the usual spot.  It's funny how quickly we changed our routine when she left, but I love how natural it was to fall right back into it.

So here I sit listening to Julie Andrews Christmas songs (and really, is there any better voice for Christmas songs than hers?) and finish a wonderful glass of wine while waiting for my food coma to kick in.  We had such a wonderful dinner this year!

November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Pasta in Sage Brown Butter

Recently, I somewhere - I can't remember where - came across a recipe for pumpkin pasta in sage brown butter. When I saw it, I immediately thought: I need to try this! Unfortunately, an internet search and a foray into some of my old copies of Bon App├ętit yielded no results. In the end, I made up this recipe based on my recollection.

  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh sage
  • shallot 
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • linguine
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • nutmeg
Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. (When I opened my pumpkin and found that it was partially rotted on the inside, I simply removed the yucky part.) Cube the flesh of the pumpkin and place the cubes in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes (or until tender). 

While the pumpkin is baking, finely chop a shallot (or 1 Tbs of onion if you don't have a shallot) and sautee it in the butter. Add several chopped leaves of fresh sage and a pinch of nutmeg about halfway through. 

Cook the linguine and, when finished, add a touch of olive oil and a scoop of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add the pumpkin and drizzle the sage brown butter. Voila!


October 24, 2011

Salmon Burgers

First of all, if you haven't checked out LaDonna Gunderson's tome on cooking everything with salmon, you should do it! 

Mom picked up a copy for each of us, and we find it an incredibly useful resource for new recipes using canned salmon (though it contains recipes for fresh and smoked salmon as well).

I don't want to give away the recipe here because I really do want you to buy the book, but it should be no surprise to our Alaskan friends and family that the main ingredients in salmon burgers are:

  • canned salmon
  • eggs
  • panko crumbs (regular bread crumbs will do if you don't have panko crumbs)
  • onion
  • garlic
  • basil (or dill, depending on your preference)
The sauce includes:
  • mayonnaise
  • lemon juice
  • basil (or dill, depending on your preference)
S. and I made these on Saturday AND Sunday. One 32-oz jar of salmon yields 4 medium-sized patties. Be sure to drain the salmon well, and don't make the patties too large or they will fall apart.


October 22, 2011

Salmon Dilly Pie

Every once in a while I try a new recipe that just doesn't quite cut it, literally.  I'm open to trying new things, and I love the ingredients of this recipe, but it didn't turn out like I expected it to.  I might make it again, using the suggested changes.  The flavor was quite good even if the texture was not.

Salmon Dilly Pie
2 cups salmon, cooked                            2 Tb butter
1 9" deep dish pie shell                           1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup cheddar cheese                              2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream                                 1 tsp. cornstarch
1 bunch green onions
1 Tb dill weed

Place 1/2 c. cheddar cheese in bottom of pie shell.  Add cooked salmon over the top of the cheese.  In pan, saute chopped green onions and dill weed in butter. Add cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, beaten eggs, and cornstarch.  Simmer for 10 min.  Pour cream mixture over salmon, sprinkling the top with the other 1/2 c. cheese.  Bake 375 for 40 min.

Helpful Hints
The most disappointing result of this recipe was the gelatinous texture of the filling.  I think it probably could have been cooked another 20 minutes and been just fine.  My favorite quiche recipe calls for a cooking time of 50 minutes, but I know it really takes about 75.  The leftovers are separated, ready to take to work next week.  Once I microwave them I'll know if a longer cooking time would have made a difference.

It certainly looks tasty.  Notice the salmon chunks on the bottom.

The finished pie, all nice and brown.

Before going into the preheated oven.  Add tinfoil to the crust edges to prevent burning.

Creamy filling.

Sauteed dill weed and green onions.

October 8, 2011

And another easy meal....

We went wine tasting up to Amador county with good friends yesterday.  On the way back we stopped at a (large) local farmers stand and bought fresh produce.  The eggplants are gorgeous this year, and for only a buck you can't go wrong. We also bought a huge bag of green beans for 2.50 and a basket of cherry tomatoes for 1.00.  Great finds!

1 eggplant
1 beaten egg
2 cups Panko, seasoned with Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese (added to the Panko)
Olive oil
Jarred spaghetti sauce
Mozzarella or provolone cheese

Eggplant Parmesan
Slice eggplant in 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Lay on a baking pan in single slices.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and let set for 1 hour.  Wipe salt and excess moisture off.  Assemble the egg and panko in separate bowls near the stove.  Lightly coat a saute pan with olive oil and heat on med until hot.  Dip the eggplant in the egg, turning to coat.  Dip in panko, turning to coat.  Add to the hot saute pan and let cook until browned on both sides.  Place in a 9x13 baking dish that's been sprayed with baking spray. Once all the pieces are browned and in the baking dish (may have to use more than one baking pan), cover each piece with approximately 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce.  Grate mozzarella cheese cheese, or use sliced provolone, and sprinkle on top of each piece.  Cook on 375 for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Sauteed Green Beans
Wash and cut green beans to desired length.  Heat olive oil in pan, add green beans, and cook on medium until the green beans are no longer hard.  Cover the pan for a few minutes, just to soften the green beans.  When the Eggplant comes out of the oven, uncover the green beans and turn the heat up high, sauteing until the green beans have a nice, light brown color on them.  Add roasted cherry tomatoes if desired.  To roast tomatoes, stir them with a little bit of olive oil, add salt and pepper, and cook on low heat (300) for 30 minutes or until they break open and are sizzling.

Helpful Hints
The green beans don't have to be started until the eggplant goes into the oven.
More or less cheese can be added, depending on how much you like.  I happened to have some sliced provolone that needed to be used so each piece in my pan had a round slice on top.
This dish is great with a nice red from Dobra Zemlja winery ( or any red for that matter )


What We've Been Eating...

In the spirit of our (almost) fall-like weather, I made a chicken pot pie.  Super delicious and fairly easy to  make.

1 Pillsbury rolled crust
1 whole chicken
2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 2 small potatoes, 2 mushrooms
3 Tb butter
2 to 3 Tb flour
1/2 block of cream cheese
broth from the chicken

Boil the chicken and save the broth.  Refrigerate overnight and skim the fat off the next day.  Chop vegetables and saute in butter until just soft (including potatoes).  Add flour, stir, and let cook for about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the chicken broth (2 or 3 cups worth) , stir to get rid of lumps. Once the chicken broth is incorporated add the cream cheese and cook on low heat until the mixture is thick and the cream cheese is melted.  Add more chicken broth if needed.  Add about 1/3 of the cooked chicken.  Season with pepper, sage, and thyme.  Cool completely.  Let the crust sit out for about 30 minutes, until it's easy to unroll.  Layer the bottom of a pie pan with one crust, add cooled mixture, then layer the top crust on and crimp edges.  Put small pieces of tin foil around the edges so it won't burn.  Cook at 375 for at least one hour.  If the top isn't nicely browned then cook for another 10 minutes.

Helpful Hints
The most important step in this recipe is to cool the filling before adding it to the crust.  If the filling is even warm it will make the crust gummy.

September 23, 2011

Mediterranean Chicken & Pasta

Well, the kid's off to college and doing well.  We've settled in to a routine of meals for three, which is fine until I think about how soon it will be before I say meals for two.  We have not been starving, I just haven't been blogging.

Mediterranean Sundried Tomato & Garlic Chicken
2 very large chicken breasts (or 1 1/2 pound of chicken)
1 1/4 cup penne pasta, uncooked
1/4 sliced black olives
1 cup water
1 can (15 oz) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
crumbled feta cheese
1 pkg Lawry's Mediterranean Sundried Tomato & Garlic Chicken Spices & Seasonings

Place chicken, pasta and olives in 13x9x2 baking dish. 
Mix Water, Seasonings mix, and tomatoes until well blended.  Pour over chicken and pasta. Stir to coat well.  Cover with foil. 
Bake in preheated 375 oven 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with feta cheese.  Let stand five minutes.  Stir pasta before serving.

Helpful Hints

Does it count if I cheat and use the seasoning packages?  Yes, it does count.  Especially for busy moms.  It makes meal preparation simple and easy. Although I think next time I will use Kalamata olives instead of regular black olives, and 3 chicken thighs.  Make sure none of the penne is on top of the chicken after stirring (before cooking). 

It's always a good idea to look at ingredient content when buying seasoning packages.  Some have very high sodium and msg.  This particular flavor has no msg or additives other than gum arabic and citric acid.


August 8, 2011

Chicken Souza

Chicken Souza

    1/2 cup margarine
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 whole eggs
    1 (8.5 ounce) package corn bread mix, such as Jiffy
    2 1/3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
    2 tablespoons canned green chile peppers, chopped
    1 (4 ounce) jar chopped mushrooms, drained
    1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
    1 can cream of chicken soup mix
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 (8 ounce) package Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 9x13 inch baking dish.
Melt margarine in a small skillet over med-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until tender, 4 to 6 minutes; set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine corn, salt and eggs. Beat in muffin mix. Fold in cooked onion mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, green chiles, mushrooms, sour cream, soup mix, salt and pepper. Spoon over corn mixture to within 1 inch from edge. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

Helpful Hints
Substitute one large can of pinto beans (drained) in place of the canned mushrooms.

Add 1/8 c. chopped jalapenos for a nice kick (yes, in addition to the chiles).

Pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Any kind of shredded cheese can be added.  I used gruyere, cheddar, and mozzarella.

Canned, chopped chiles can be found in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store.  No need to drain. 

2 or 3 green onions can be used in place of white onion. 

I feel like I'm always apologizing for not blogging as much as I should be (on both blogs), but summer vacation gives me toooooo much free time, and in it I lose structure and the ability to do pretty much anything.  Oh well, it's back to "work" next Monday, and hopefully a schedule. 


August 4, 2011

Picnics, etc.

You'll forgive me if I promised picnic-inspired posts at the start of the summer and failed to deliver. Planning a wedding and a trip to Alaska, on top of a quite busy schedule these past few months, has taken up most of my time. Still, I have been cooking - with the help of mom and the help of L. and D. 

Post-trip meal (last night's dinner) of whole wheat penne pasta smothered in sauce (tomato, onion, mushroom, zucchini, and garlic):

Mom's AWESOME chicken and dumplings (bug her if you want the recipe!):

The wonderful picnic mom packed for S. and me (that's grilled salmon and egg salad you see):

We camped overnight on an island in the Kenai River and L. and D. prepared for us a mighty tasty and filling strawberry vinaigrette salad, pork chops, mashed potatoes, and toasted bread: 

Pre-trip meal of tilapia, broccoli, and garlic-mashed potatoes:


July 23, 2011

When it rains it pours....

....or not!  Lazy me has created and cooked many wonderful meals, but just hasn't blogged about them. Although I did just receive my new issue of bon appetite magazine and dog-eared a bunch of pages, so stay tuned.  Once Andrew comes home from camp I'll probably start making an effort again.

After our 5 miler (shortened to 4 miler because we left late and it's hot out) this is what I made for breakfast.

Super easy! (please ignore ugly counter tops.  they would have been changed out but someone is going to a very expensive college on the east coast). All the measurements really depend on how many people you are making for and what size cup you use.  We put our smoothies in large plastic cups, probably at least 16 oz. 

soy milk
flavored yogurt

Layer ingredients in blender, liquids and yogurt first, frozens last. Blend until the smoothie will easily move through a straw.

Helpful Hints

Fresh bananas blend easier than frozen bananas, plus they taste better.
Canned or fresh pineapple can be used.  If it's summer I'm probably using fresh.
Same with the strawberries.  Sometimes I buy them fresh and freeze them myself.
I almost always use frozen blueberries because the fresh aren't readily available where I live.
No need to add sugar or vanilla.  Totally ruins the point!!

June 30, 2011

Jessica is cooking again.

Give her plenty of warning when it's her turn to cook and Jessica really comes through.  She does love to putter in the kitchen, which is odd, because at that age I couldn't be bothered.  This meal was based on a recipe out of Food Network Magazine, called Chicken Parmesan Rollatini.

Tomato Reduction
1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 clove garlic, minced
5 or 6 chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Cook the broth, garlic, basil, and tomatoes and basil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened - about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and cover to keep warm.

Chicken Rollatini
4 large chicken breasts, flattened to 1/8 inch thickness
6 ounces shredded cheese (gruyere and mozzarella work well)
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prosciutto (enough to cover flattened chicken breasts)
5 or 6 chopped fresh basil leaves (or more to taste)
1 large egg white
Freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray

Position a rack in the upper third of your oven, preheated to 450 degrees.
Season the chicken with pepper, and place smooth-side down on a work surface. Layer with prosciutto, cheese, and then chopped basil. Starting at the short end, roll to enclose the filling, seam side down.

Mix the shredded parmesan and Panko breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Put the egg white in another dish, and whip with a fork until foamy.

Mist a 9x13 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Working one at a time, dip the chicken rolls in the egg white, coat with the breadcrumb mixture, and place seam-side down in the glass baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs, and mist finely with cooking spray. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked and breadcrumbs are golden-brown.

Serve with the tomato reduction, either on top of the chicken, or on the side.

 *So happy I don't have to worry about her taking care of herself, as she gets ready to leave the nest*

-Julie (and Jessica, too)

June 28, 2011

Monday night dinner....

In testament to my laziness this summer I'm posting last night's dinner tonight, and perhaps I'll continue the trend and post tonight's dinner tomorrow....does that make sense?  Probably only to me ;)

Joe smoked a whole chicken on Sunday, and with the left overs I made a penne casserole. 

1/4 lb bacon (I buy the end pieces because the pieces are thicker)
Penne pasta
Cooked chicken (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup cheese (your choice)
chopped garlic (to taste)
1/4 sour cream
1/4 mayonnaise

Okay, for my ingredients I'm not listing the basics I think most kitchens have, like butter, flour, and chicken broth (although most kitchens should have fresh garlic).

Make a basic roux with butter, flour, and chicken broth.  Milk can be used but it adds extra calories, and some are sensitive to dairy (like me).  I had approx. 3 Tbsp heavy cream in the fridge and added that to the roux as well.  Let the roux cook on low heat for 10 min to get the "flour" taste out.

Cook the penne according to directions and drain well.  Add the cooked bacon, chicken, cheese, mayo, and sour cream.  Add black pepper and garlic to taste (which in our house means A LOT).  Don't add salt, the bacon will do that for you.  Add the roux, mix well, and cook at 375 for 25 minutes. 

The penne will absorb liquid overnight, so if the casserole is creamier any left overs will be that much better the next day.

June 25, 2011

Simple Summer Suppers....

 (I know alliteration is corny, but I love it!)

Recurring themes seems to be appropriate titles for both my blogs this week.....yeah, it's been a while since I've blogged.  No excuse except that I've been lax in just about everything.

Summer has *finally* made it to Northern California, and with that comes the freshest fruits and veggies one can get.  I made it to the farmer's market in Elk Grove Park last week and was happy to get cherries (mixed Rainer and Bing), 5 lbs for $5.  Great price.  I also found fresh green beans, $1 for a large bag. 

So, this morning I marinated a flank steak with soy sauce, a few TB veg. oil, a few tsp. brown sugar, chopped green onions, dijon mustard, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, pepper, and lots of garlic.  Joe grilled it for approx. 5 min.

The green beans were steamed, and served with a little pat of butter and Montreal Steak Seasoning.

From my new issue of FNM, and the small pullout section of potato salads:  red potatoes with olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Add chopped parsley, 2 Tbsp dijon, and 2 tsp lemon juice.

Serve with any red wine of choice, but if I'm coming it had better be a Zin, and a good one at that.  I recommend 7 Deadly Zins by Michael David winery of Lodi, CA.

Helpful Hints

Of course all the seasonings are to taste.  We tend to go heavy on garlic in  everything. 

A good roasting pan is a necessity in every kitchen.  Mine is ceramic from Portugal.  For those familiar with Home Goods I suggest shopping there for any kitchen item.  Really, they are my go-to place when I need a pan, serving dish, or a new, funky towel. 

Fresh vegetables are always better when a little crisp.  NEVER steam veggies until they're soggy.  Not only do they lose nutritional value that way, but the flavor evaporates as well.

For those wondering if my family is starving....

No, I've just been preoccupied with a lot of other family issues.  For the second year in a row I've received a layoff notice, forcing me to re-evaluate my future career plans.  Still not sure what's going to happen there, but I have decided a new line of work is probably called for.  Also, Jessica's high school graduation (and the weeks preceding) were extremely busy.  Sometimes I feel as if my kids joined EVERY single activity available.  And, I've just been allowing myself to be kinda lazy.

We've actually eaten very well and have many meals worthy of blogging about, but again, I've been lazy......

May 13, 2011

Sauteed Shrimp on Warm Black Bean Salad

I got this recipe from Good Housekeeping online. It's a superb slapdash meal for those who keep frozen shrimp in their freezers like me. The only items from this recipe that I don't stock are bell peppers and cilantro because they're both so quick to wilt. 

Use the following:
  • Two hands full of shrimp, already shelled and deveined
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 lime
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed (retain the bean 'juice')
  • One hand full of fresh cilantro leaves
Sprinkle salt and pepper on the shrimp. Heat half of the oil for one minute over medium heat. Sautee the shrimp for about 6 minutes, or until opaque. 

Meanwhile, grate the entire peel of the lime.

Transfer the shrimp to a small bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. 

Heat the remaining oil for one minute before adding the onion and red bell pepper. Sautee the vegetables for about 8 minutes, or until tender. Add the cumin and cook for another minute. Add the black beens, lime peel, and then squeeze all of the lime juice into the pan. Add salt and pepper, and cook until heated through. 

Spoon the black bean mixture onto your dinner plate; top with shrimp; and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

When I made it, I didn't retain the bean 'juice' or chop the cilantro--two things that I think would have improved the meal. Still, the flavor was excellent and it paired nicely with a fruity Spanish wine.


May 7, 2011

Can I just say sorry?

It's been so long since I've post, I'm truly sorry.  Honestly, in the beginning the food blog was like a new toy, all shiny and new, but grew dull over time and was relegated to the bottom of the stack. I feel a resurgence as summer hits, with new farmer's markets popping up and the cornucopia that is the Central Valley's claim to fame hits our table.  Summer in California means fresh fruits and veggies!  Can't wait!!

But first, I had the opportunity to eat lunch at Club 33, this super exclusive restaurant inside Disneyland. My menu selection (chosen 3 weeks ahead of time) was salmon and Joe's was the steak.  Both were good, although I believe the salmon was farm raised, and had I known that I would not have chosen it.  It was not as red and flaky as copper river salmon, but here I go sounding like the salmon snob I am.  Joe absolutely loved his choice.

 The ladies restroom with fresh roses on the sink and individually folded, thick paper towels (with the 33 logo) to dry hands.  Very classy and pretty.

 The toilet in the stall looks like a wicker chair.  The seat top lifts to reveal a regular toilet seat.

 Terriyaki salmon on a bed of pesto risotto, with a side of sauteed spinach.

 On the left are fresh fruits, grilled tomatoes, and cheese (huge chunks of blue cheese, yum). On the right are cold salads, including a Cesar Salad and Pasta Salad.

  On the left, under the ice, are crab claws, shrimp, and pieces of lobster (shell on).  On the left is antipasti, smoked salmon, and cold meats selections.

 Dessert bar.  Not much more to say other than I had at least one bit of everything under the glass!

Joe's steak, accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes.  Very yummy!

It was a treat to eat lunch inside this beautiful restaurant, using real china and personal waiters, especially given the casual Disneyland setting.  I'm hoping when Joe hits his 25 year mark with AT&T he chooses to celebrate here.  I would definitely eat here again!

April 25, 2011

Halibut Olympia

Halibut Olympia, Halibut Almondine, and Fried Halibut Chunks are my all-time favorite halibut dishes. On Good Friday, I made Halibut Olympia. It's super easy and quite delicious!

I served the halibut with whipped garlic potatoes and sauteed green beans, plus a nice white wine (varietal escapes me) recommended by the always spot-on Mr. Wright.

  • 1 lb Halibut
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or 2 Tbs dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • In skillet over medium heat, sautee sliced onions in olive oil until translucent
  • Line bottom of baking dish with sauteed onions
  • In bowl, mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, shredded Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt & pepper, and butter
  • Roll rinsed, patted dry fish in bread crumbs
  • Place fish, skin sideways, on top of sauteed onions
  • Pour mayonnaise mixture over fish
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes 

April 7, 2011

Cooking for Two

S. has asked me to marry him! No longer will I be "cooking for one" in New York City. I will, however, still be making meals in a teensy-weensy kitchen and with limited ingredients. Even more, I should be inspired to blog oftener now that I wil. be cooking for two (which is much easier, I might add!). I so look forward to the spring and summer: Be on the look-out for picnic-inspired posts from me!


March 28, 2011

Martini with a starfish!

I know I'm being incredibly lazy, but, in my defense, I've been working long hours these past few weeks and have had little time to cook (except for the yummy split pea soup I put in the crock pot Saturday, but that takes 20 min of prep and 6 hours of - nothing!). 

Instead of cooking, I give you a starfish martini! Made by Obao on 53rd between 2nd & 3rd:

I love that place, and I last went there for dinner with my friend, M., a few weeks ago. We were delighted to find a starfish in her martini! A little touch like this certainly has the power to delight. After all, I did take photo and post it on the Internet! 

P.s. In case anyone is interested,  Obao also makes excellent crispy pork belly. So bad for your cholesterol, but sooooooo tasty.

March 23, 2011

Casserole with bacon, asparagus, and chicken

What a super simple casserole.  Leftover roasted chicken from the night before, lightly sauteed asparagus, crisped bacon, and penne rustica. 
Cook penne according to directions, add other ingredients. Pour a mornay sauce over (bechemal sauce with gruyere cheese) the mixture.  Add whatever herbs you like.  I used rosemary and ground mustard. Lightly toss.  Sprinkle shredded gruyere cheese on top (maybe 1/4 cup), bake 375 for 30 min. 
The great thing about this casserole, and any casserole for that matter, is they can be made larger or smaller, depending on how many need to be fed.

I don't really have any helpful hints because this is the easiest dish to make!