Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Twisted Hot Dish

Haiku is a very small literary form made up of three lines (5-7-5) and seventeen syllables. It was invented by Japanese poets hundreds of years ago. But what makes Haiku so unique is it focuses on a single image. Often Haiku will describe something in nature or a season. Imagine using Haiku to describe a hot dish. It certainly takes a very creative mind and Pat Dennis is one such person. She is the author of a small unique book titled Hot Dish Haiku. Not only is she an author but also performs as a stand up comedian in the Twin Cities area.
A hot dish or casserole is something unique to the Upper Midwest region. It usually means a dish made up of some type of creamed soup, noddles or rice, beef or chicken and some type of vegetable. It is a baked dish. Hot dishes have been standards to bring for showers, weddings, family events, funerals and any other get togethers from the late 50's well into the 90's. This culinary comfort food did take a hit when cooks began to look for more healthy lighter alternatives in their cooking.
But mention Tater Tot Casserole and Green Bean Casserole and people have many fond  childhood memories to share about these foods.
Some of my favorite Haiku from the book include
First day meal delight                                         Precious (tater) tots
Second day is better yet                                      This is a reason to live 
Third death could cause death                           In Minnesota?
Wendy Nelson                                                     Pat Dennis

Not only is the book peppered with a collection of 50 Haiku honoring hot dishes it also includes 30 oriental hot dish favorites recipes.
Pat has written several other unique books. Hot Dish To Die For is a collection of six culinary mystery short stories and includes 18 hot dish recipes. You can even order it for your Kindle.

Who Died In Here is an anthology of 25 mystery stories written by 25 master writers. Each story   is connected to bathrooms. Since I just wrote about outhouses in a previous posting this cover certainly caught my attention.
Cook's notes: I picked a few hot dish casserole recipes you might enjoy trying even if you aren't from the Midwest. But I picked recipes that did not use any creamed soups to keep them a bit more healthier.

Chicken Alfredo Casserole
serves 4
recipe adapted from Midwest Living
if using asparagus pieces blanch them first
  • 1-10 oz. container refrigerated light Alfredo pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-1/2 cups cooked white or wild rice
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken 
  • 1 cup broccoli or frozen peas or chopped asparagus pieces
  • 1/3 cup bottles roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 cup bread crumbs(using whole wheat bread works quite well) 
  • 1 TB. melted butter
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 
  • In a large bowl combine pasta sauce and milk. Stir in rice, chicken, vegetables, sweet peppers, and basil
  • Add this mixture to a 1-1/2 qt baking dish bake covered  30 minutes, uncover and stir 
  • Combine bread crumbs, parsley flakes, nuts, Parmesan cheese and butter in Cuisinart  sprinkle over the top of chicken mixture
  • Bake till crumbs till golden brown about 15 minutes
  • Let stand 5 minutes before serving 
Chicken Florentine
recipe adapted from Midwest Living
  • 8 oz. dried bow tie pasta
  • 1 small onion chopped
  •  1 TB. butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1- 6.5 oz. jar of artichoke hearts drained and diced (I used product called Cara Mia)
  • 1/2 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeeze out liquid (use a couple of paper towels) 
  • 1/2 cup oil packed drained dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 TB. butter melted 
  • Preheat oven 350
  • Cook pasta till al dente and drain
  • In a skillet cook onion in 1 TB. butter until tender
  • Remove from heat and set aside
  • In a bowl whisk eggs, milk, seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and crushed red pepper
  • Stir in chicken and Monterey Jack cheese, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes half of the Parmesan cheese, cook pasta and onion 
  • Transfer mixture to 3 qt. rectangular casserole 
  • Bake covered 20 minutes
  • Combine rest of Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, paprika and melted butter
  • Sprinkle over the chicken/artichoke mixture
  • Bake uncovered 10 more minutes 

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