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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Breakfast casserole


The Alter clan—or most of them—had a grand morning today. We slept later than usual, and then Colin made his usual run to Starbucks—now that’s an addiction I don’t understand, but they don’t want to make coffee at home, and I’ve stopped buying it for them. I had decided to make a breakfast casserole. With twelve of us for breakfast which would be our only “big” meal at home, days ago I started hunting through my cookbook that holds breakfast dishes—several egg and sausage casseroles, an enchilada casserole, a Velveeta cheesy bacon casserole discarded because I didn’t like the picture,  casseroles that only feed six or eight. I needed something that would feed all of us without doubling the recipe, and I remembered having this casserole at Janet and Dave Douglass’ house several years ago.

It’s one of those that requires overnight refrigeration, so I had most of the parts ready last night and popped it in the fridge when we came home from Joe T. Garcia’s. I put it in a cold oven, even though it had been warming to room temperature for about forty-five minutes. I’m always afraid glass baking dishes, even Pyrex, will crack with a sudden change of heat.

At first I thought I’d fix waffles for the grandkids—ages 5-8—but I realized that would mean only seven eating a casserole meant for 12. Some of them ate heartily; some didn’t. Christian brought the remnants of a potato casserole he’d made for a business breakfast, and I made biscuits. A hearty, last-all-day breakfast.

And then they were all in a whirlwind of packing the cars and leaving. Tonight, Sophie and I are in a quiet, empty house. We’re both a little tired, and I think she’s sort of shell-shocked.

But here’s the recipe:



Sausage and Egg Casserole


Spread 8 slices fresh bread, cube, or croutons (about 3 cups) on bottom of greased 9x13 pan (I used garlic cheese croutons)

1-2 lbs. pork sausage (I used the full 2 lbs.), browned and drained

2 c. grated cheddar cheese (I do not like the pre-grated kind you can get in the grocery)

1 4-oz. can mushrooms stems and pieces, drained (optional and I omitted it because some of us are not mushroom eaters)

4 eggs beaten

¾ tsp. dry mustard

3 cups milk, divided

1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can get by with that even with non-mushroom eaters)

 Spread bottom of pan with bread cubes or croutons. Layer sausage, cheese and mushrooms. Beat eggs and add to 2-1/2 cups milk. Add dry mustard. Pour over the ingredients in the pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to bake it, combine the mushroom soup with the remaining half cup of milk and spread over the top.
Bake in a preheated overn at 300 degress for 1-1/2 hours. Serves 12.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cheese--A new trend in food? Sort of

Food magazines, which I devour, are always predicting coming trends, like a couple of years ago they started talking about kale and all its various uses. Gourmets and gourmands have long talked about artisan cheeses, but these days the talk seems to be filtering down to the rest of us. I have a friend who is promoting cheese from Texas creameries (Facebook fans check out the Texas Cheese Tour page) and also researching the health benefits of cheese.
Now a trendy cheese restaurant has opened on our avenue that has lots of trendy places--sorry to keep overusing the word, but it fits. I went to the Magnolia Cheese Company with my neighbors and good friends, Jay and Susan, a few nights ago. Here's what worked and what didn't"
Perfect ambience in an old building with windows all around, mismatched antique wooden chairs and tables, old-fashioned floor of tiny tiles--all contrast with walls painted bright turquoise. Display cases that look like they could have come from an old butcher shop hold all kinds of cheeses, and the menu is hand printed on a blackboard with what Susan, our resident artist, called great graphics.
Jay had the turkey and cheddar sandwich (I'd had it once before and liked it although a review said the grain bread overshadowed the contents. I didn't think so.) Jay liked the sandwich but said he didn't get much of the cranberry that was supposed to be in the cheese.
Bread really did overwhelm the sandwich in what Susan and I chose--the fraiche fish, with lox, avocado, cucumbers, and house-made creme fraiche on a baguette. For the cost, it was way too much bread and way too little filling. Next time--because I will go back--I want to try the serrano ham and brie sandwich. Sandwiches come with salty, crip kale chips that are wonderful.
We remembered the soup and decided to split one serving after our sandwiches. That's when the fun began. Mushroom soup with brie was rich, creamy and delicious--served in small mason jars no more than three inches tall on a plate that looked like Depression glassware. Jay got to chatting with one of the cheesemongers, said he was from Vermont and shared his theories about it taking good forage for cows and goats to make good cheese--i.e. Texas won't produce great cheese. The cheesemonger and then the owner trotted out small bites for us--a mild, mild blue (like Gorgonzola) which Jay, who hates blue cheese, liked; a manchego with no flavor (she told us she was bringing negative examples), a cheddar that she warned wasn't very good, and a much better cheddar with jerk seasonng. Finally the owner brought some fromage fort, and was delighted that we knew what it was. The evening became an education in cheese tasting, and we had a lot of fun.
One nit to pick: the wine selection by the glass is limited, and that's putting it mildly. They had a cabernet and a prosecco--I'm a white wine drinker but prefer chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. I would like to believe the excuse that they ran out is not a ploy to urge you to buy the bottled wine available.
The owner of this highly focused restaurant is personable and obviously enthusiastic about what she does. Talking with her was a delight. I want this place to succeed, and I hope some of the disappointments I found were just early days bugs that will get worked out.
For Fort Worthians: the Magnolia Cheese Company is at 1251 West Magnolia; phone 817.945.2221

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chicken with dressing

The holidays are barely over, but I have to confess they always leave me with a longing for more--more turkey, more gravy, more dressing. So when I saw a recipe in the newspaper recently for chicken with drssing on the outside, I was intrigued. And tonight I served it to two guests. Basically, you put dressing or stuffing--whatever you want to call it--on a cookie sheet and then bake the chicken pieces on top of it.

Here's what I did--a variation on the recipe that appeared in the newspaper:

4 chicken thighs
one apple, such as Gala or other semi-sweet variety
About 2 large stalks celery
1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning, sage, whatever you want
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided use
Eight slices coarse white bread
One cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a large, rimmed cookie sheet with oil.

Dice apple with 1/2 cup celery (rough chopped, not too fine) and mix with one tsp. poultry seasoning or sage or whatever seasoning suits your fancy.

Add about eight slices cubed bread--I used sourdough and the pieces were fairly large. At that I ended up with too much bread, so you might cut down to maybe four cups cubed bread.

Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Mix until olive oil is thoroughly distributed, and spread evenly on cookie sheet. Bake ten minutes.

Remove from oven. Pour one cup chicken broth evenly over the bread mixture, stirring to make sure all the bread is dampened.

Rub each piece of chicken with remaining olive oil (you may have to use a little more--I didn't measure) and place on bread mixture. Season chicken and dressing with salt and pepper as desired. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bread is golden and chicken is cooked. Watch it carefully, as I found the bread turned golden and was done before the chicken was. But the chicken ends up with lovely crisp skin.

Pile dressing on a serving platter and top with chicken. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Twelfth Night and a pot of soup

Tonight is Twelfth Night--some marked it last night on the eve of Epiphany, but my family has always celebrated it on January 6, as the night the magi arrived at the Bethlehem stable with their gifts. We each, from youngest to oldest, take a turn throwing a tiny branch of the tree into the fire and making a wish for the coming year.  You must NOT share your wish with anyone.
I've learned lately it is British custom to bake a bean and a pea into a cake; whoever gets the bean is king and whoever gets the pea is queen. If a woman gets the bean, she chooses her own king. Wonder what happens if a man gets the pea? Another part of the tradition involves pranks and chaos, but I'm not telling my family that.
There will be eight of us tonight, and I considered a roast and all kinds of things--and finally decided on a hearty soup that will use the New Year's ham. Of course, Texas weather has called for soup all week--until today. It is sunny and gorgeous, predicted to go into the high fifties. No matter the weather, we're having soup and salad--and a fire in the fireplace. Tomorrow all the Christmas decorations come down.

Here's my version of potato/ham soup. I started with a recipe and went from there, adding about twice the amount of diced ham and 8 oz. Velveeta.

3-1/2 c. diced peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 c. diced celery
1/3 c.  chopped onion
chicken broth--about 3 cups or more for consistency you want
1/2 tsp. salt (Iused an herbal salt substitute)
1 tsp. white pepper
2 c. diced ham
5 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. flour
8 ox. Velveeta original

Cook potatoes, onion, and celery in broth until potato is tender. Add salt and pepper and ham.

Separately, melt butter and whisk in flour. Slowly stir in milk to make a white sauce. Stir into potato/ham mixture, along with diced Velveeta. Serve immediately when cheese melts.

Should serve eight easily.

PS. Soup was delicious. Hearty, warm and good. Wanted to post picture but Blogger has changed something and I can't figure out how to post pictures.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A P.S. to Sunday's post

Sunday I posted a recipe for Reuben dip that called for Thousand Island dressing, but I forgot to add that I make my own. Here's the easy simple way to have fresh Thousand Island with maybe not quite to many preservatives:

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. pickle relish (I prefer dill but you can use sweet)
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black peppeer.

Actually, if you want to just use the mayo, ketchup and pickle relish, it tastes great. I'm always leery of sugar in things, but it does smooth off tomato-ey recipes.