I have a sign in my kitchen that says “If you’re lucky enough to live on the water, you’re lucky enough.” Well, I do live on the banks of beautiful, languid Bayou Teche, which is pretty great, but I do LOVE going to the powdery, white beaches of Alabama and Florida and enjoy the azure waters and pounding surf.
And in fact, my husband, a couple of friends and I are heading out to Gulf Shores, Alabama in a couple of weeks, and I’m already planning menus. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but at the same time fast food doesn’t appeal to me either. I try to plan the week’s menu thus eliminating too may trips to the supermarket and too much time getting meals together. I’m a big fan of casseroles and one-pot dishes which I can prepare ahead of time, freeze, then pack them in our trusty old ice chests. Then when meal time rolls around, all I have to do is throw together a salad of mixed greens or fresh fruit, heat up a French bread and chow down. This is a great plan especially if there’s children involved. Desserts can be as simple as ice cold watermelons, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, store-bought cookies, or pound cake topped with fresh berries. Voila!
Makes about 12 servings
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped bell peppers
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 (1-pound) cans whole tomatoes, mashed with can liquid
- 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms with can liquid
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
- Salt and cayenne to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
- 1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 pound grated American cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until all pink disappears. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they are very soft, about six to eight minutes.
Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomatoes, mushrooms, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.
To assemble, lay about one-third of the pasta on the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread one-third of the tomato evenly over the pasta. Then sprinkle with one-third of the Cheddar, American and Parmesan. Repeat the process until all of the pasta, sauce and cheese is used. The casserole can be frozen at this point.
When ready to serve, thaw the casserole. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot throughout.
This next recipe is a south Louisiana version of goulash. It’s similar to the previous recipe, but no one seems to tire of this kind of food on vacation trips. Do what I do. Serve the spaghetti recipe early in the week and the goulash at the end of it. I guarantee no one will complain. Oh, by the way, this recipe makes enough to serve about 20. You can freeze the goulash in two casseroles (one to take with you and one to use another time), or simply cut the recipe in half.
Makes about 20 servings
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
- 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 cups chopped onions
- 2 cups chopped bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 3 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
- 1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel tomatoes
- 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms, with can liquid
- Salt and cayenne
- 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
- 2 1/2 (14-ounce) packages (#4) spaghetti, broken into 3 to 4 inch pieces (cooked and drained)
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven oven medium heat. Add the pork and beef and cook until all pink has disappeared. Drain off any excess fat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and green onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until very soft. Add the tomato soup, the tomatoes, and the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Cook, uncovered, for one hour.
Stir in the cheese and cook until it has completely melted. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Pour into casserole dishes. The goulash can be frozen at this point.
When ready to serve, thaw and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
If you like Mex-Tex food, try this casserole. Accompany it with avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh lime juice and seasoned with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups cooked chopped chicken
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch or two of cayenne (to taste)
- 6 corn tortillas, cut into fourths
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Cook the onion in the oil in a Dtuch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes, chicken, broth, chili powder, salt, ground cumin, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.
Layer half of the chicken mixture in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. Then layer half of the tortillas and cheese over the chicken mixture. Make another layer of chicken and another of the tortillas. The casserole can be frozen at this point.
When ready to serve, thaw and bake, covered, in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake an additional five minutes.
But, hey, we are on the Gulf coast, so we also allow a couple of nights to enjoy either a night out to enjoy fresh seafood, or better yet find a local seafood purveyor. There is always grouper (a favorite of mine), shrimp and crabmeat to bring back to the condo for a leisurely supper.
Barbecued shrimp is messy to eat, but heck, we’re on vacation!
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 6 pounds large shrimp, heads on (don’t peel them)
- 2 sticks butter
- 3/4 cups olive oil
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- juice of three lemons
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1Â½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon TabascoÂ® (or more, according to taste)
- 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
Rinse the shrimp in cool water and drain. Spread the shrimp in a large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, melt butter, then add the rest ofthe ingredients. Mix well. Pour sauce over shrimp and marinate for one hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir a couple of times with a spatula. Do not overcook. Serve in a soup bowl with lots of hot French bread to sop up the sauce. Be sure to have some trays around on which to put shells and such. Be forewarned â€“ this can only be eaten with your hands.
Fish is easy to cook. You can use grouper, redfish, trout or any other white, firm fish fillets.
PERFECTLY GRILLED FISH
Makes 4 servings
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
- 4 (6 to 8 ounce each) fillets of fish
Combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne and hot sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and cool for several minutes. Put the fish in a shallow bowl and pour the butter sauce over the filets and let stand for about 30 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade. Reserve the marinade. Place the fish either directly on the grill or in a grill basket, over a medium fire. Close the lid. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Turn, then brush with the reserved marinade and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately.
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