Christmas Breakfast Casserole with a Za’atar Bloody Mary

Turn on a “Cozy Christmas Coffee Shop … Christmas Jazz Music…” while you read.

Christmas breakfast should be, without a doubt, nearly carefree. That being said, it must also be delectable, desirable, and delightful all the while taking care of itself while you open gifts, listen to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, or zoom with the family or friends. Egg breakfast or brunch casseroles — also known as stratas — fit the bill perfectly and are endlessly adaptable to ingredients on hand. This bacon (ham? sausage? veggie crumbles? chorizo?) version topped with brightly colored chopped peppers (mushrooms? tomatoes? jalapeños? zucchini? fennel?) provides six or eight servings but is also perfect for a smaller group who also might enjoy leftovers. That would be us. Though we are rarely at home alone for Christmas, we are this year as are many people all over the world. We’ll make our brunch dish a day ahead, of course, bake it on Christmas morning, and enjoy it over the whole weekend. We might even freeze a couple of pieces for an easy weekend brunch in January.

Serving one? Halve the recipe, which works perfect in an 8 or 9-inch square casserole dish. Relish for a couple of days, share, or freeze.

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Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins

Before moving to Colorado, I don’t remember eating pepitas, but I certainly got to them as fast as I could upon arrival. The tiny, full of health “pumpkin seeds” we eat for snacks, add to salads, tacos, omelets, or granola, and what I put on my muffins (above), aren’t like the pumpkin seeds you remove with all of the gloppy mess inside the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern. I mean, you could open up those big fat seeds (which have their own happy uses–see below at MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO READ) and try to get at the little inner seed, but that’s not where pepitas come from. Read on:

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Easy Apple-Walnut Coffeecake

Start the coffee when you slide this baby into the oven because it’s done in 30 minutes!

I can remember, but just barely, my dad scraping the flesh of an apple with a spoon and feeding it to me when I was a capital-T Tiny little kid. Was I spoiled? Oh, I’m sure I was. I was the fourth kid and born 10 years after the third. Did I learn to love apples? You betcha. And, because God was good (and yes, “God did make little green apples”), I grew up in the same house my entire childhood with apple, plum, and pear trees right outside one door or the other. To say nothing of a midwestern summer garden I’ve never since seen the like of. Of course that all meant work, too, even for the kids. There was planting, fertilizing, weeding, hoeing, picking, cleaning, and the final coup de grâce (crushing blow), canning. Lord, the heat. Apples, plums, and pears, but especially apples, however, didn’t necessitate those long three months of labor followed by a week of boiling jars in a steaming, no-AC kitchen. You simply watched as the trees blossomed in the spring, knowing somehow in the sweet fragrance on the breeze that when fall arrived, you could just munch away to your heart’s content by doing nothing more than reaching up to the low-hanging branches or getting your taller sister to do it for you. There was one thing, though. My mom liked to make jam and jelly, so there were still a few hot Mason jars for that, more’s the pity. She’d make it out of just about anything she could find, but because she had tons of apples in her own yard, we had apple jelly out the kazoo. If I ate a PBJ come wintertime, there’d be apple jelly on it nine times out of ten. Well. That was a lot of the same jelly, so….

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Father’s Day: Dave’s Easy Huevos Rancheros with our CHEEP A** BLOODY MARYS.

When my husband Dave and I became empty nesters several years ago, we began to eat brunch out on Sundays after church and rarely cooked it at home except on holidays or special occasions. Then came COVID-19. No church except online. No restaurants open until recently. (We’re still not going, though we did go to our local dive drive-in for ice cream the other day.) We immediately hopped to and began cooking brunch at home again–just like in the old days. We shared the work–Dave making eggs, etc. and me happily baking a goodie like the Blueberry Buckle below, which I hadn’t been doing in eons. We’ve taken turns on what we now call our Cheep A** Bloody Marys (more on that later) and now eat brunch BEFORE church for the most part. We’ve even gone way old school and made Dave’s mom Lorna’s comforting egg casserole a time or two as it provides excellent lunch leftovers. (Recipe in photo below.) Could we ever have imagined all this? No. You probably hadn’t either.

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How to Make Quiche out of Just About Anything

French home cooks always seem to have a dozen wonderful things up their sleeves to make on the spur of the moment. Great ideas to use up leftovers come awfully naturally, as well, and they all appear to know about how to feed 6 people with a cup and a half of milk, 3 eggs, a bit of ham, and a handful of grated cheese. How DO they do it? These folks are always frying croutons, whipping up homemade hot chocolate, baking an apple tart using apples from the backyard tree, simmering cream soups or vegetable pastas, stirring up something tasty with canned tuna … or even making quiche! How is it that even carbs aren’t a problem for them? This is proven routinely by the unending ubiquitous photos of yard-long baguettes being carried home by slim citizens riding bikes down tree-lined sunny Paris streets. (Well, right now they’re limited to an hour out a day and can’t go far from home. Sigh.) Over the years I’ve been writing the blog, I’ve read and seen quite a lot about this phenomenon, but staying in France for two weeks a couple of years ago gave me a much more complete and definitely personal insight. I’m finding it all definitely useful in today’s cooking world.

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Breakfast for Dinner: Apple-Walnut Pancakes with Eggs and Bacon

Pancakes are the answer when the question is, “What’s for dinner? I haven’t been to the store and there’s nothing thawed. It’s late and we’re hungry.” My happy guess is you have flour, eggs, milk, and syrup or honey. Maybe, if God is good, you have some bacon in the freezer. Enter the fall breakfast for dinner and why not? It’s not something you do often, but when you do, you think, “THIS is a great idea!” Ok, this might not have fit in the “diet,” but I didn’t overdo. Continue reading

Whole Wheat Biscuits and Gene’s Sausage Gravy for Father’s Day

Brunch, and maybe especially Father’s Day brunch, is one of my favorite meals! This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan, a good cook who makes the very best of all Sausage Gravies.

Gene, after a lifetime career in nearly every sector of the grocery store arena, knows the food business.  Just ask him about how long green beans are picked before they’re canned, when a melon is ripe, where sugar beets are grown in the world, how coffee is stored in the warehouse, or what H.E.B. actually stands for.  He’s a fair hand in the kitchen, too, and can keep dinner coming. In fact, the man can bake when he wants to. What he’s really famous for, however, is his sausage gravy.  Well, that and being just about the biggest Illini (University of Illinois) fan in the state of Illinois. He once sported an Illini ROOM in the house, in fact, all decorated and gussied up by his wife, my mother-in-law, Lorna, who joins right in year in and year out with the Illini devotion.

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Bacon and Egg Casserole with Sweet Peppers

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EASY FRENCH 3-COURSE MEAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY AT HOME:  2-HOUR COOKING CLASS @  SHOUSE APPLIANCE  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5:  5-7PM.  INTRODUCTORY OFFER 2 FOR 1.  $50.00 for two students–includes food, recipes and ideas for wine pairing. To sign up:  Message me on fb if we’re friended, email me, or leave your email or phone in a comment at the end of the blog and I’ll get back to you.  (Menu:  Carrot Soup with Fresh Herbs, Chicken Fricassee, Chocolate Mousse.) Class limited to 6 students.  I’ll repeat this class at home if needed to accommodate more students.  Can’t wait to cook and eat with you!

Next week, I’ll be attending a DACOR training session (I work as a chef for them twice a month and demonstrate their products) and of course I’ll feed the team that morning so our brains will absorb the information a bit more quickly.  Who doesn’t learn better with eggs, bacon, and cinnamon rolls?  I’ll throw in a beautiful bowl of chopped fruit and we’ll have coffee from the built-in coffee system that makes on-demand espresso faster than you can say, “Just sugar, please.”  I do lust after that coffee machine, I’ll be honest.  Recently a customer bought their second one for the family room in their basement.  We do have an electric kettle in the basement.  Somehow it just isn’t the same. Hmph.  If you’re at home, add a spicy Bloody Mary or a sweet Mimosa along side the coffee. Continue reading

Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch for 12

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I might love brunch more than any meal...perhaps I like the laid-back time involved or the old-school approach.  There’s barely a noted beginning –sitting around drinking coffee as the food is put out — and there needn’t be any end. (Movie with the coffee and brandy??)  It’s almost always a group.  Nearly certainly a special occasion.  More fun at home than at some swanky, pay-through-the-nose, eat-til-you-drop place, I think.  Even the dogs are at ease.

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