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Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

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Don’t you just love a good breakfast casserole? Something savory, made with eggs and cheese or maybe something sweet, like a French toast casserole, oozing with cinnamon and syrup? There’s just something so satisfying in its completeness.
For some incomprehensible reason, I’d never even heard of breakfast casseroles until well into my adulthood. It just wasn’t something my family ever made. My first experience with a breakfast casserole was at a monthly workplace breakfast. An unknown casserole sat on the table alongside the tray of bagels and bowl of fruit salad. One scoop of this casserole contained bread, eggs, sausage, peppers, and cheese. I thought, What brilliant genius created this complete breakfast in a baking dish? The following month, someone different made something nearly identical. My workplace was clearly dripping with geniuses. And the month after that, someone else made it again. Seriously, Mensa should send an evaluation team to this place.
Over the years since, I’ve enjoyed numerous breakfast casseroles from various coworkers, friends, and family members. It seems that everyone, except for me, was privy to this genius breakfast casserole idea. And I’m pretty sure that everyone is using the same secret recipe, for every one of these casseroles has been nearly identical (and equally delicious).
Recently, I fell upon a different version of a breakfast casserole that sounded too good to resist; a casserole of eggs with sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Ummm…can you say comfort food?? I’ve made this casserole twice now and it does not disappoint. In fact, my brother-in-law’s response to his first bite was something to the effect of, If I wasn’t already married to your sister, I’d marry this casserole. I’d venture to say that he enjoyed it.
I can not take credit for this recipe, nor can I cite the original creator. It’s one of those recipes which is all over the internet in a hundred variations. Perhaps you’ve already enjoyed something like this, but just in case you haven’t, I needed to share it with you. Make it for breakfast, brunch, or breakfast for dinner. Share it with your coworkers, friends, and family. You’ll be happy you did!
***
Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole
***
Ingredients
  • 8 large buttermilk biscuits, frozen or refrigerated
  • 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage (without casings)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 envelope country gravy mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions

Bake the biscuits according to package directions, using the lower end of the recommended cooking time so they do not overcook. When cool enough to handle, cut the biscuits in half to create a top and a bottom. Set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat, until fully cooked. Use the edge of a spoon to break the sausage into small pieces as it cooks.

Spray a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the baking dish with the bottom halves of the biscuits. Scatter the cooked sausage on top of the biscuits. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of the cheese over the sausage.

In a large bowl, whisk together the gravy mix, milk, and eggs, until well combined. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Arrange the top halves of the biscuits over the eggs. Lightly press the biscuits into the egg mixture.

If desired, cover and refrigerate the mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the biscuits during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Brie, Prosciutto, and Apricot Sandwiches

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Apparently, April is National Grilled Cheese Month. How I’ve arrived so late to this party is beyond me. My invitation must surely have been lost in the mail. But, no sooner did I learn of this important food recognition than I threw on my best apron and whipped up a sandwich worthy of the celebration. You can consider me fashionably late.

You don’t need to bend my arm to get me to celebrate grilled cheese sandwiches!

My choice of cheese was easy; nothing less than a rich, melty brie would do. And I love nothing more with my brie than the savory, smokey flavor of prosciutto coupled with sweet fruit flavor. Figs, either dried or fresh, are typically my go-to fruit when it comes to brie. But, inspiration drew me towards a vibrant apricot preserves for today’s sandwich. Look for a high quality preserves with plenty of big, juicy apricot chunks for the best results!

When it comes to a quick, satisfying dinner, it’s hard to go wrong with a melty grilled cheese sandwich! So, throw on your party shoes and join in the April grilled cheese celebration!

Grilled Brie, Prosciutto, and Apricot Sandwich

Ingredients (for each sandwich)

  • 2 slices of thick, doughy bread (such as pain de campagne, French baguette, or ciabatta)
  • Generous quantity of brie cheese, sliced
  • 2-3 slices prosciutto
  • Apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Compose sandwich by spreading a generous spoonful of preserves on one slice of bread. Top with prosciutto and brie. Cover with remaining slice of bread. Brush the outside of both slices of bread with olive oil. Place the sandwich on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, turning once halfway through, until cheese is melted and exterior is lightly browned.

Boiled Irish Dinner and Irish Soda Bread

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We’re just days away from St. Patrick’s Day now! Our green clothing has been starched and ironed and my iPod is loaded with my favorite bagpipe tunes. Ok… so, I admit there are no bagpipe tunes on my iPod and I’ve never actually starched a shirt. But, we are ready for our day o’ green! Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, so polish your step-dancing shoes, tuck a shamrock behind your ear, and celebrate in Irish style!

When it comes to selecting an Irish meal for St. Patty’s Day, it doesn’t get any more traditional than a boiled corned beef and cabbage dinner. Corned beef seems to be one of those divisive meals. People tend to fall into one of two corned beef camps; the lovers and the haters. You can call me president of the club for corned beef lovers! I love it prepared as a classic corned beef and cabbage meal and I love every possible incarnation of corned beef leftovers that follows.

Over the years, I’ve prepared corned beef in a number of different ways. I’ve tried the slow-cooker method. I’ve baked it. I’ve braised it. I love it no matter how you prepare it, but in my stubborn Irish opinion, I firmly believe that boiled is best. On top of producing an incredibly tender brisket, the added bonus is that it couldn’t be any simpler to prepare. It’s a full meal, boiled in a pot.

Enjoy your boiled Irish dinner with a fresh slice of Irish soda bread and a tall glass of your favorite Irish libation. Have one for me while you’re at it!

Boiled Irish Dinner

Corned Beef with Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 Corned Beef Brisket
  • Carrots, peeled and chopped (or substitute baby carrots)
  • Red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 head of cabbage, cut into wedges

Directions

Place the corned beef brisket in a large pot. Sprinkle with the packet of seasoning included with the brisket. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the brisket. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3-4 hours, until fork tender. Add the cut potatoes and carrots to the pot during the last 20 minutes of cooking time and the cabbage during the last 15 minutes. Remove the corned beef from the water and cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting against the grain. Remove the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots to serve on the side.

Corned Beef Tip #1 – Remove excess exterior fat before slicing and serving for a more appetizing presentation.

Corned Beef Tip #2 – Your tender corned beef is likely to fall apart while you slice it. This works fine when served as a corned beef dinner, but if you’d prefer to thinly slice the brisket for sandwiches, allow the corned beef to cool in the refrigerator before slicing and reheating. Cooled corned beef slices easier than hot corned beef.

Irish soda bread makes the perfect accompaniment to a boiled Irish dinner. Soda bread is in the family of breads known as quick breads. It’s a no-yeast-required bread, which gets its rise from the reaction between baking soda and acidic buttermilk. It can be prepared with or without caraway seeds, raisins, or other dried fruits. My personal preference is seed-free, but loaded with raisins, served slightly warm with a generous smear of butter.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter. Stir in the raisins. Stir in the buttermilk and egg until a sticky dough begins to form. Once the dough becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead the dough until well blended. If the dough is still too sticky to handle, add up to 1/4 cup additional flour. Form the dough into a round loaf and place on the prepared baking sheet. Use a knife to cut an ‘X’ in the top of the loaf. Bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

*Recipe adapted from a combination and modification of the Food Network Irish Soda Bread recipes found here and here.

The Kids Cook Monday – Chocolate Coconut King Cake

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I’ve always felt a strong pull towards the city of New Orleans, as if in some long-forgotten past life, it were my home. The most likely explanation for this feeling comes from reading way too many Anne Rice novels during an impressionable period of my youth. I dreamed of the vampire Lestat in the way which girls today dream of  the infamous Edward. I so clearly imagined myself in Rice’s stories, that I began to believe I had a history with New Orleans. Whatever the case may be, the city calls to me. I’ve yet to visit New Orleans, but it’s high on my list.

In another time and place, I would have surely planned my New Orleans trip to correspond with the uproarious celebrations of Mardi Gras. But at this point in my life, as I sit here expecting my third child, I’d almost certainly plan my trip for any time of year except Mardi Gras. I’m just not sure there’s enough wild youth left in me to handle Mardi Gras. These days, I’d be much more inclined to find a dimly lit bar and sit back with a few drinks, listening to live jazz until the wee hours of the morn.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is traditionally celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday; a sort of last hurrah before buckling down for Lenten preparations. Tomorrow, as I’m comfortably nestled on my couch, watching American Idol and eating Easter candy, the city of New Orleans will be buzzing with the grand excitement of Mardi Gras; parades, beads, music and wild partying.  It’s a time to celebrate, indulge, and let the good times roll!

If you were composing a list of foods associated with Mardi Gras, King Cake would surely top the list. King cakes have a long history as part of the Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans. They are typically made from a ring of lightly-sweetened bread, similar to a brioche, which is then drizzled with a sweet glaze and decorated in the customary Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Part of the king cake tradition involves placing a small plastic baby, said to represent the baby Jesus, into the cake. Other items, such as dried beans or nuts are often used as a substitute for the baby. The party guest to find the ‘baby’ is deemed the king.

Holidays make fantastic opportunities for getting kids involved in the kitchen. As with all cooking activities, young children develop early-learning skills in multiple areas. But when the cooking activity relates to a special holiday, it also becomes an opportunity to create a memorable experience which helps kids to connect with their newly learned knowledge of customs and traditions. Experiences like these create memories and help to develop curious lifelong learners.

As part of our Kids Cook Mondays series, my little helpers joined me in making a traditional king cake with a twist. We started with a basic king cake recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, the culinary king of New Orleans. Then, as Emeril would say, we kicked it up a notch, with a double filling of coconut cream cheese and chocolate. The kids helped to measure, mix, stir, and knead. As we worked, we talked about Mardi Gras and its relevance to Lent and our upcoming Easter preparations. We chatted about the history of king cakes and the tradition of the plastic baby in the cake. Then, once the cake was complete, we eagerly plunged our forks into the sweet slices of cake, curious to discover who would become our king for the day.

Chocolate Coconut King Cake
Adapted from Emeril’s King Cake


Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 packets dry active yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

For the Fillings:

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut

For the Icing:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Water (a few spoonfuls)
  • Colored sugars (green, purple, and gold)

Directions

Combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir until dissolved. Set aside for about 10 minutes. It will begin to bubble up, indicating that the yeast has been activated.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and lemon peel. Gradually stir in the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter. Stir in the yeast mixture until well-blended. If the dough becomes too thick to stir, knead the ingredients together with your hands. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add additional flour until it becomes more manageable.

Coat a large bowl with a bit of vegetable oil or melted butter. Place the dough into the prepared bowl and turn once or twice so that the top of the dough is lightly coated with oil. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit for about 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare the coconut filling by stirring together the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and coconut. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough has rested and risen for 1 1/2 hours, split the dough in half. Roll each half into a log, about 30 inches long. Flatten each log into a long rectangle. Sprinkle the chocolate chips along the center of one of the rectangles. Spread the coconut mixture along the center of the other rectangle. Fold the rectangles in half along the long sides and pinch closed. Form into rounded logs. Twist the two logs together. Then, arrange the twisted logs into a circle and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Then, bake for 30 minutes.

To prepare the icing, combine the powdered sugar and vanilla with just enough water to form a pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Prior to serving, insert a nut or dried bean into the bottom of the cake. The guest to find the nut in their piece of cake is deemed king!

King of the Mardi Gras!

Game Day Menu Ideas

Growing up, my family never watched football. We were more of a hockey and baseball kind of clan. But every year we had a big ole Super Bowl Sunday party. I was infinitely envious of my younger sister, whose birthday happens to fall right around the Super Bowl, for she had a guaranteed birthday party each year, long after the rest of us had been weaned off of annual birthday celebrations.

In college, I briefly and half-heartedly tried to get into the whole football thing. I watched games on TV with my new college friends and looked to them to explain the ins and outs of the activity I was so hopelessly clueless about. But, my interest in football was short-lived. Not long after that, I met my husband, who’s more of a guitar and drum kind of guy than a sports fan. So, football remains largely absent from my life.

But in true, inherited non-football-fan fashion, my husband and I are throwing a Super Bowl party this year. Our game day menu is still under construction, but will almost certainly include some adaptation of these Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and a decadent German Chocolate Cake in honor of my sister’s birthday. (Those recipes to follow after the Superbowl!)

In the meantime, if you’re in search of a few new ideas for your game day celebrations, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Spicy Beef Chili

White Chicken Chili

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Jalapeno Poppers

Spinach Dip and Fried Wonton Chips

Chicken Wing Dip

Homemade Pizza Dough

Blue Cows in a Blanket

Creole Deviled Eggs

Fresh Tomato or Corn and Chipotle Salsa

Steak Bordelaise Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Post Christmas Recovery and Recap

Well, the big day has passed. The carefully wrapped gifts have been enthusiastically unwrapped. The cookies, pies and festive dinners have been prepared and consumed, with minimal leftovers to speak of. New toys have been put through their paces and new clothes have been worn and washed. Our house guests and house pets have all made their way home and all that’s left is to launder the sheets and towels. It was a beautiful holiday filled with laughter, love, and smiles.

And now, things are gradually returning to normal. We’re slowly reclaiming the house from the holidays, sweeping up the pine tree needles, and finding places to stash the new toys. As much as I thrive on the Christmas festivities, I’m looking forward to a bit of normalcy. I’m ready to pack away the cookie sheets for a while and get back to our normal day-to-day cooking and routines.

I must admit, I’ve been feeling a bit of post-holiday indulgence remorse. I ate way too many cookies and slices of eggnog pie “for the baby”, which I’m pretty sure went straight to my hips instead. The measly remainder of holiday cookies have been officially exiled from the house and I’m looking forward to some light, nutritious meals for the sake of my hips. But speaking of the baby, we found out yesterday morning that we are expecting our third boy! Looks like my husband just formed himself a foursome for golf!

I’ll be whipping up some healthy new recipes soon. But first, here’s a quick recap of some of the goodies we enjoyed with our holiday guests.

We started on Christmas Eve Eve (does that make sense?) with a request from my brother-in-law for my Steak Bordelaise Pizza. I’ve shared this recipe for you before, back in my Pizza Dragons and Chairs of Stock post. I guess you can say this is one of my signature dishes. It’s sort of a steak dinner on a pizza crust. This is definitely not your run of the mill pizza. My pizza traditionalist father would be reluctant to call it a pizza at all, but we’re all big fans of the dish around here.

On Christmas Eve, I cooked up a Chicken Parmigiana dinner, complete with spaghetti and toasty hot garlic bread. I’ve been cooking Chicken Parmigiana on Christmas Eve in this house for many years now, long before my husband and I were married and long before this house was our house. I’ll give the Chicken Parm it’s own post with a proper recipe soon, but for now, you can take a look back at my recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana. My Chicken Parm follows the same basic recipe, only substituting breaded thin-cut or pounded chicken breasts for the eggplant. It’s a delicious meal that can be almost fully prepared ahead of time. It’s definitely a satisfying crowd pleaser!

On Christmas, we started with two easy appetizers of Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes with Basil Pesto on Baguette and Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce. You can find my recipe for Basil Pesto back in my Toasted Caprese Sandwich post. For the shrimp, simply boil large de-veined shrimp for a few minutes until they curl and turn bright pink. Or, take the easy route, as I do, and buy a large bag of frozen, peeled, tail-on shrimp and allow them to defrost in the fridge overnight. Make a quick, delicious cocktail sauce by combining about a cup of ketchup with a healthy dose of horseradish (a few heaping tablespoons), a splash of Worchestershire Sauce, splash of Lemon Juice, and splash of Tabasco.

Our Christmas dinner featured Roasted Beef Tenderloin with two sauces. I trimmed and tied a 5 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, rubbed it with olive oil, generously sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a 425 degrees oven for about 45 minutes. Smaller roasts will cook quicker. On the side, I served a Horseradish Cream Sauce (made with sour cream, a generous amount of horseradish, dash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper) and a Red Wine Mushroom Sauce, which was simply an adaptation of the Bordelaise Sauce used on my Steak Bordelaise Pizza; a little less wine, slightly less reduced, with sauteed mushrooms added at the end.

On the side, we enjoyed my Cheddar Garlic Biscuits, Spicy Utica Greens, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts. Every bit was enjoyed. The brussel sprouts even managed to surprise a few apprehensive diners. For dessert, we enjoyed massive platters of cookies and Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie. Overall, it was a simple meal to pull off for a large group, which gave me plenty of downtime to enjoy with the kids and our guests.

It was another truly wonderful Christmas season, topped off by the revelation of our third baby boy! We are so very thankful for all of our blessings. Stay tuned for new recipes, coming up soon!

Hot Doughy Buns with Cheesy Cheddar Soup

During the past week, we worked our way through a full Thanksgiving meal. The kids and I are still diligently working on finishing the leftover pies. Let’s take a quick look at the Thanksgiving menu we covered…

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel

Shaved Apple-Fennel Salad

Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Green Beans Almondine

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Fresh Pumpkin Coconut Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Sounds like a pretty spectacular meal to me! But, I promised you one more thing; homemade hot, doughy rolls. Recently, I was glancing through the current Thanksgiving-themed edition of Food Network magazine and I ran across the most mouthwatering, step-by-step guide for soft, doughy dinner rolls. They looked even better than my husband’s favorite Thanksgiving rolls, which we usually buy pre-made from our grocery store. I had to give this recipe a try.

I made one small adaptation to the recipe as published in Food Network magazine. The original recipe calls for mixing the dough using a stand mixer. While this is a convenient option, I’m hesitant to share recipes which require special equipment, since I recognize that not everyone has access to a stand mixer. So, I tested the dough out by hand. And it worked perfectly! If you have a stand mixer, go ahead and use it, but if you don’t, rest assured that it’s totally possible to make these delicious rolls by hand.

And, are you ready for the best part about these rolls?? The dough can be completely prepared ahead of time and frozen until ready to use, which makes this a totally doable addition to your Thanksgiving table. The recipe produces a huge batch of twenty-four rolls. I baked eight last night for our dinner and threw the remaining sixteen in the freezer for Thanksgiving!

Hot, Doughy Dinner Rolls

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine recipe for Parker House Rolls by Alex Guarnaschelli

Ingredients

  • 1 packet Dry Active Yeast
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water (110-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks Butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups Whole Milk (at room temperature)
  • 2 Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 6 1/2 cups Flour
  • Butter for Brushing

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast in the bottom of a large bowl. Stir in the warm water and sugar. Wait a minute. Then, mix in the 1 cup of flour until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and milk. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the yeast mixture. Gradually stir in the flour and the salt, a cup or so at a time, until a ball of dough forms. Towards the end of mixing, you may find it easier to use your hands to knead the remaining flour into the dough. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour if the dough seems too sticky.

Place the ball of dough into a large bowl which has been brushed with melted butter. Loosely cover with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours. The dough should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, place the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Using your hands to press and pull the dough, form a rectangle, about 18 inches long by 8 inches wide. It should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Using a knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise. Then, cut the dough crosswise into 12 strips. You should have 24 total dough strips.

Form each strip into a little roll, by folding part of the strip under, so that a small section of the top overhangs the bottom. Then tuck the overhanging piece underneath. Place the formed rolls, seam-side down, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, close to each other, forming 3 loaves of 8 rolls each. (The rolls can be wrapped and frozen at this point, if desired.)

If baking immediately, bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. If baking from frozen, bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees, then an additional 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Brush the rolls with melted butter prior to serving.

Makes 24 buns

**The original Food Network Magazine recipe and photo guide can be found by clicking here.

We needed a little something to go along with our buns, so I turned to my Delicious Disney cookbook for a really fantastic Cheddar Soup straight from Disney’s Le Cellier restaurant. This soup is thick, satisfying, and a cinch to throw together. The recipe, as follows, produces a huge ten-serving batch. It can easily be halved for smaller crowds.

Start by cooking about a half pound of chopped Bacon in a large stockpot or dutch oven pan over medium heat, until fully-cooked and slightly crispy. Throw in four tablespoons of Butter, one finely diced medium Onion and about 1/2 cup finely diced Celery. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in a cup of Flour. The mixture will be very thick. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Then, whisk in 3 cups of Chicken Stock. Continue whisking until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. The mixture will be quite thick. Pour in 4 cups of Milk. (Skim milk would be perfect.) Bring to a gentle simmer (not a boil) and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn down the heat and stir in a pound (16 ounces) of Shredded Cheddar. Stir until the cheddar melts into the soup. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more milk. Stir in about a tablespoon of Worchestershire Sauce and a tablespoon (or more) of Tabasco Sauce. If desired, add 1/2 cup of warm Beer. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Garnish with chopped bacon and chopped green onions.

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Bread

The kids and I cook together quite a bit. In fact, I can’t enter the kitchen these days without my three year old on my toes, shouting, I want to help! I want to help! As you may imagine, the more we cook together, the more smoothly our cooking adventures tend to go. The boys understand the lay of the land in the kitchen. Mostly. Wildly running their hands through a floured table is still irresistible to them. But, for the most part, our cooking moves along smoothly. They mix, they measure, they stir, they smell, they taste. We move along like a well-oiled kitchen brigade. Until I handed my three year old a ramekin of eggs, mistakenly assuming that he’d pour them into the mixing bowl, as he’d poured in the oil and water. Rather, he inserted his hands into the dish of raw eggs and attempted to pick one up. I’ve never seen such an adorably puzzled reaction. I guess we’ve still got a few things to work on.

This recipe is a little unplanned extra for the week. I ended up with a bunch of leftover pumpkin puree, which would have been a pity to waste. So, I stuck it in the fridge while I waited for pumpkin inspiration. Then, after passing a loaf of pumpkin bread in the grocery store, it occurred to me that I could use my leftover pumpkin in exactly the same way I use my leftover, over-ripe bananas! I went straight to my favorite banana bread recipe and made a few tiny adjustments; a little extra sugar to account for pumpkin not being as naturally sweet as bananas, a little extra cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. Adding chocolate was a no-brainer for me. The resulting bread is sweet, delicious, and seasonly perfect.

We’ll be making this recipe again next week, in muffin form, for my little guy’s nursery school Halloween party! To make as muffins, follow the same recipe, but reduce the cooking time to about 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Bread

Adapted from my recipe for Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Flour
  • 1 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 3/4 cup Chocolate Chips or Chocolate Chunks

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan by greasing and lightly flouring the bottom and sides. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Warm Nut-Crusted Goat Cheese on Garlic Toasts

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Oh, goat cheese. My dearest goat cheese. How I adore thee.

I’ve had goat cheese brain lately. Look it up; I swear it’s a real condition. My husband and I nearly drew swords at lunch in Chicago, when I couldn’t resist from ordering a salad, when we’d sat down with the intention of splitting a Chicago pizza. But there was goat cheese with the salad. Warm. Nut-Crusted. Goat Cheese.

The next day, I had it again. A huge mound of fluffy whipped goat cheese, served with a salad of mixed greens in herb vinaigrette with roasted golden beets and candied walnuts.

And here I am today, still salivating at the thought of goat cheese.

So, for today’s lunch, I made my own version of warm nut-crusted goat cheese on garlic toasts, which I served alongside a salad of mixed greens in a honey-balsamic vinaigrette with crumbled bacon and fresh raspberries. Heavenly lunch.

For the goat cheese, use a food processor to grind a bunch of walnuts until they reach a fine consistency. Cut a log of goat cheese into slices less than 1/2 inch thick. Running the knife under hot water prior to slicing will help the knife to glide through the soft cheese. Press the ground nuts onto both sides of the goat cheese rounds. Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium heat. A vegetable or nut oil would work well. Place the nut-crusted goat cheese rounds in the pan and cook for a minute or two on each side until the nuts begin to brown and the cheese is slightly warmed.

For the garlic toasts, cut slices of bread. I used a French batard. Rub the bread with a cut garlic clove. Then, brush one side of each bread slice with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt. Place the bread slices under the broiler for a couple minutes until lightly toasted. Keep a close eye to prevent burning.

For the dressing, I made a basic balsamic vinaigrette with the addition of honey; about one part olive oil to two parts balsamic vinegar, a bit of dijon mustard, squeeze of honey, salt and pepper.

I added crumbled bacon and raspberries to my salad, but this dish would be equally delicious with many other additions, such as dried apricots, cherries, or cranberries, fresh pears or apples, chopped nuts, or prosciutto.

A Lesson about Little Bread

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My husband has been complaining lately. His gripe is with the size of the bread I buy him, which he claims is too big for the amount of tuna in the pouch, which he prepares each day for lunch.

The bread is so HUGE that my tuna is barely a spread between the two slices, he argues.

Then, make half a sandwich, I reply. It is normal sized bread.

Exhibit A

But he persists. On and on about the gigantic bread. I can’t listen to it anymore. So, I go to the supermarket with my ruler in hand. Ok, not really. But, I did spend a lot of time in the bread section, holding one loaf up to another and scrutinizing the weight and dimensions of each loaf. And I found a suitable loaf of wheat bread.

Exhibit B

My husband returned home for his lunch that day to discover the new smaller bread. He held it in front of me and said, This is what I’m talking about, in that I told you so tone of voice.

I don’t like that tone of voice. No siree, I do not.

So, I went shopping again today. And I found my husband some even better bread.

Exhibits C & D

And then I made my husband lunch.

I’ve got a recipe coming up later for you. In the mean time, if you happen to find yourself with a package of tiny toasts, a little piece of smoked salmon, dollop of creme fraiche, and sprig of dill makes a great snack.

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