Christmas morning arrives and it’s present unwrapping time! The delight of every child and most adults, whether giving or receiving, gifting is FUN and fast. Immediately after gift unwrapping comes cleaning up the papers, bags and bows.
Then there’s the sorting and piling and then… very soon after it all begins, everyone wanders into the kitchen and asks:
“What’s for breakfast?”
What has always worked for me and my family are my make ahead casseroles. I discreetly pop everything in the oven while everyone is grabbing packages, and by the time everything winds down, viola…breakfast is served!
My menu usually includes slices of spiralized, sugared ham, warmed in the oven with a bit of butter and brown sugar; an egg casserole that is the perfect venue for either your favorite veggies or salty meats, and a cheesy hash potato casserole that comes out hot and bubbly.
These are recipes included in my first cookbook, At Home in The Kitchen and I’m sharing one of my family favorites, with you and yours this holiday season.
Merry, Merry to all and to all a Great Season of Family Gatherings!
Fluffy Egg and Cheese Casserole
1 hour and 20 minute cuisine
Serves 6 to 8
10 slices white bread
8 large eggs
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons chopped garlic chives
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash of hot pepper sauce
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons diced green onions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives and mustard.
Season with salt and as much hot pepper sauce as you like. Stir the bread cubes, cheddar cheese and green onion into the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Bake the casserole for about 1 hour or until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown.
This is breaking news! Did you know the pumpkin puree you got at the grocery store is NOT pumpkin? Apparently, it is a combination of all types of squash. WHO KNEW? I feel betrayed, lied-to, conspired against! Well, not really. The canned stuff is still pretty good, and has been a staple for all my pumpkin treats for as long as I can remember.
Now, you can make your own puree, from your very own pumpkins, but this seems just a little bit too over-the top for me.
So…. BRING IT ON, SQUASH… I can take it! Let’s open a can of puree and dive right in, shall we? I CANNOT WAIT, as home baked bread is a real holiday treat for me! I remember my early days in the catering business. Our signature corporate holiday baskets included at least one mini-loaf of pumpkin quick bread.
We baked hundreds of these each season. But I also love yeast bread, especially when it is laced with a bit of sweetness. I’ve told you the story of Sammy’s favorite “Sammy Bread”, a loaf of sour dough bread, sweetened with cinnamon-sugar and frosted with a sugary glaze. We look forward to placing a loaf in our basket every week from the Farmer’s Market.
I recreated it at home, with a can of fake pumpkin puree, wink wink. It’s SO YUMMY, toasted and slathered with butter, or battered and fried ala French toast. Use leftovers to create a toasted crouton for your bowl of ice cream, or as the lead ingredient in custardy pumpkin bread pudding.
But first, make this bread – it’s a recipe born of two cravings: pumpkin bread and cinnamon bread, married together in the sweetest fall recipe you could possibly imagine.
With Hazelnuts and Chocolate
Yield 1 loaf, about 12 slices
2 ½ hours before you can eat the bread!
¼ cup maple syrup, room temperature
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
Pour the maple syrup into a measuring cup. Sprinkle with yeast. Add I cup warm water. Allow the yeast to bloom (foam) about 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk together the flours, nuts, chocolate, spices and salt in a large bowl.
Place the pumpkin into a bowl. Whisk in the bloomed yeast. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to bring the dough together. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous amount of flour. Pour (the sticky) dough onto the flour and knead the dough until it comes together, and no flour shows through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm place to rise for 1 hour. I use the warming drawer on the proof setting for this.
After an hour, remove the dough from its cozy hide-out and use a spatula to fold the dough onto itself while your turn the bowl, about 8 to 10 turns. Cover again with plastic and move the bowl back to the warm place to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch with vegetable oil spray. Use a spatula to transfer the (still pretty sticky) dough to the loaf pan. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 31 to 40 minutes.
How can tell when the Fall season approaches? Is it the cool breeze, shorter days, leaves changing colors? Heck no! You can tell that it’s Fall because absolutely everything is pumpkin-spiced.
Not too long ago I wrote a recipe for pumpkin donuts in my Sunday Best cookbook. It’s easier than you think it is to make these delicious donuts at home. The downside is that unless you have a lot of friends, you may just eat all of them yourself! Check out the yield from this recipe in the photo below:
Aren’t those donuts gorgeous? They should be…for I added a new dimension this time! I pumpkin-spiced up some granulated sugar for dipping, and created a maple glaze for dunking. The results were… well, can I say sooooo Fall inspired. Give these a try… or move next door to me, and ask to borrow a cup of pumpkin-spiced latte for total pumpkin immersion!
with Maple Glaze for Dunking
3 cups unbleached all-purpose four
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Canola oil for frying
For spiced sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 to 2 teaspoons heavy cream
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the eggs, pumpkin puree, sugar, buttermilk, brown sugar and butter. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in batches. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours.
Unwrap the chilled dough onto a floured work surface. Roll out the dough to ½-inch thickness. Use a donut cutter to cut out donuts and holes, reusing the scraps until all the dough has been used. Transfer each one onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Pour enough canola oil in a deep fry pan to come up the sides two inches. This should be less than half of the depth of the pan as oil expands when heated. Heat the oil over medium high heat between 365° and 375°. Fry the donuts in batches until golden brown on one side. Turn to brown the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet pan.
Mix together the spiced sugar ingredients in a shallow bowl. Whisk together the glaze ingredients in a shallow bowl. Place the donuts into either the glaze or the sugar.
My chef “friend”, Grant Allen, from New Zealand had a post on his Facebook page last week. He showed off his evening supper, a classic combination of beans and eggs with sides of hash browns and bacon. It looked pretty darn good! This traditional breakfast food (we all love breakfast for dinner, don’t we?) reminded me of the Full English breakfast we enjoyed in London several years ago. This one includes bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding which is a combination of…. well, let’s just call it another type of sausage.
Then, I got to thinking about the combination of eggs and beans, and my hungry brain went straight to Huevos Rancheros. If you are unfamiliar, this is a dish that tops a lightly fried tortilla with black beans, cheese, and a fried egg, sloshed with a spicy red sauce and garnished with salsa, sour cream and avocado. It’s a spicy bite of South in your mouth. A yum, yumm of a dish!
As you might expect, with my brain on an egg and bean train, my trip to the market this past Saturday got my (pepper) juices flowing. I mean, the peppers and tomatoes were just gorgeous, see?!
And the inspiration came. Why not create a dish inspired by the others with a truly unique Southern flare? And here you have it.
Baked beans spiced with onions and peppers, topped with hand-grated cheddar cheese, sautéed ham in mustard-maple butter, fried eggs and garnished with diced avocado and (farm fresh, of course) chopped tomatoes. This is a great dish to share with friends, especially when most (if not all) of the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge. But, it’s also a great binge-watching dish, as it will take you some time to eat your way through a large portion!
Southern Style Huevos Rancheros
serves 2 large or 4 small portions
30 minute cuisine
For baked beans:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1 bunch green onions, tough tops removed, cut into thin slices, about 1 cup
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
1 (16-ounce) can baked beans, drained
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
For the tortilla:
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 (10-inch) spinach tortillas
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
8 slices deli ham
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, about 1 cup
4 large eggs
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1 small tomato, diced
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, jalapeno pepper and onions and cook until the bacon begins to crisp, and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain as much liquid as you can from the baked beans and pour them into the skillet. Season with some of the salt and pepper, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the beans while you cook the ham.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully lay one tortilla into the oil. Cook for a few seconds. Use tongs to turn the tortilla to the other side. Cook for a couple seconds more and transfer to a large platter. Repeat with the second tortilla and transfer to a second platter. Add the butter, mustard and maple syrup to the same skillet. Stir together to melt the butter. Add the ham slices to the pan (you can do this in batches). Cook until the ham begins to brown and crisp on the edges, turning several times, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Spoon half of the beans onto one tortilla. Top the beans with half of the shredded cheese. Arrange four slices of ham on top of the cheese and beans. Repeat with the second tortilla. Crack the eggs into the same skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the whites of the eggs are set, and the yolks remain runny, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer two eggs onto each tortilla. Top with diced tomatoes and avocado.
I have a recipe in my book Canvas and Cuisine for Fried Peach Hand Pies. It’s good… really good. However, I came across a recipe for peach preserves that included a vanilla bean and smidge of bourbon in place of my cinnamon-spiced version. So, I gave it a try and I’ll tell you what…. good went to gooder, it was so darn good.
Then I saw another recipe for fried pies that uses prepared pie dough in place of my puff pastry dough. And, guess what? This too is knock your grammar socks off-gooder! Then we top these dainty fried pies with a peachy glaze made from the peels and pits of the ripe peach. Well, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Now, you will say to me, I’m not going to spend all this time makin’ peach preserves and fryin’ pies. And, I’m going to say to you, why the heck not!
I mean, there’s bourbon involved for god’s sake!
You can make the preserves in minutes and allow them to cook themselves over the next hour or so. You can put together the pies well in advance of frying, and let them hang out in the fridge until your craving ramps up to speed. You can fry those pies in minutes… literally minutes. There’s not even a lot of clean up. Let the oil cool, pour it into a container and use it again down the road…when you want to go from good to gooder 😉
Made into Peach Empanadas
Yields about 2 cups Preserves
About 20 to 24 hand pies
10 to 12 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and halved
⅓ cup bourbon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
For Fried Pies:
Peach peels and pits from 10 to 12 ripe peaches
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (14-ounce) box refrigerated pie dough (2 crusts)
1 large egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water
Vegetable oil for frying
For Peach Glaze:
Juice from peach peels and pits, about ½ cup
1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Peel the peaches by placing them in boiling water for several minutes and then transferring to a bowl filled with ice water. Reserve the peels by placing them in a large bowl. Chop the peaches into small chunks. Transfer the pits to the bowl with the peels. Stir ½ cup sugar into the bowl with the peach pits and peels and let sit for 20 minutes.
Place the diced peaches, 1 cup sugar, vanilla bean and bourbon into a deep pot, like so:
Sprinkle with salt. Stir together and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the peaches break down and the consistency of the preserves is syrupy. (I used a potato masher to break down the peaches after about 30 minutes and then continued to cook for another 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is reduced into the peaches). Cool the preserves and store in an airtight container.
Strain the peach peels and pits into a bowl to get about ½ cup juice. Whisk some of this juice into 1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Continue adding juice until you get a peach glaze that is pourable and looks like the photo below:
Roll out the pie crusts on a well-flour surface. Use a round cookie cutter (about 3 or 4-inches in diameter) to cut circles from the dough. Place a teaspoon of peach preserves in the center of one dough circle. Brush the egg wash (beaten egg with water) around the edge of the circle. Fold the circle in half and use the tines of the fork to seal in the filling. Place the pie onto a rack and refrigerate until ready to fry.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot to 375. Gently drop the pies into the oil and cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use a wire spider or slotted spoon to transfer the pies to a rack over paper toweling to catch the drips. Continue until all the pies have been fried. Drizzle the warm pies with peach glaze.
It’s that time of year, mid-summer, when blackberries are ripe for the pickin’! Just last week, I found blackberries the size of quail eggs at the local farm stand. When I went back this week, sadly they were gone. I guess all those berry pickers have scarfed up the ones, so recently come to market…To stop my wails, the very kind lady let me know the berries will make a return in three weeks! Yay oh yay!
In the meantime, she suggested homemade preserves to see me through the dry spell. That’s when I found a lovely jar of blackberry jam! I gathered up all the jam I could hold, and came home to my kitchen to create a snack treat for my nieces and nephews, coming for a visit.
The result was this lovely, crumbly, streusel-like bar with the richness of farm grown blackberries. And, yes, they were a hit!
If you’re in the North Carolina area, check out these local U-pick farms with berries galore!
Blackberry Jam Oat Bars
Yield about 16 (2-inch) bars
30 minute cuisine
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, 2 sticks
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
2 cups Blackberry Jam
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a square baking pan with vegetable oil spray.
Stir together flour, oats, melted butter, sugars, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a bowl. The dough will be coarse and crumbly.
Stir together the jam and cornstarch in a bowl.
Press half of the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread the jam/cornstarch mixture over the top. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the jam. Bake until the top of the bars begin to turn golden brown and the jam is bubbling, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan. Cut into squares.