Apple Puff

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We are surprised by wintry weather early in November this year, very unusual for this far South in Texas. It is definitely sweater and scarf weather, although I smile when I see some decked out in full ski country gear, as if shoveling snow might be next on their agenda  Fact is, there are 2 kinds of people who do that:  those who are so accustomed to the heat here that the first chill wind has them reaching for the electric blanket, and second, those who have winter fashion they seldom get to wear – head gear, boots, puffy vests, and furry jackets. This may be their one chance this year to haul it out!

The things that I have a yen to do when we have a genuine cold snap (or a blue norther, in Texas speak)?  I like to have a fire in the fireplace, bring out my crochet or knitting, and spend more time in the kitchen baking and making hot hearty soups or a big pot of chili – as my mother would have called it – stick to your ribs food.  Include in that category tasty hot breakfasts!   This Apple Pan Puff is perfect when the temperatures dip.  Not only is it full of all the flavors of fall, it fills the kitchen with aromas of cinnamon and baking apples! The recipe I adapted mine from comes (again!) from Breakfast in Bed Cookbook collection by Carol Frieberg. It is a favorite at the Silver Bay Inn in Stehekin, Washington, which is said to offer cozy waterfront cabins with views of Lake Chelan and the North Cascades.

Apple Pan Puff

2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/4 cup butter

3 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon in a shaker bottle for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a heavy iron skillet, melt butter, add sliced apples, and saute, stirring  gently with a wooden spoon, until apples soften. Sprinkle top of apples with cinnamon, and lower heat while blending remaining ingredients..

Place eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, and salt in jar of blender and blend until mixed and smooth.

Pour contents of blender carefully over apples without stirring, and place in preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately, topped with drizzle of maple syrup on each serving.

To transform this from a breakfast to dessert dish, add a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  Pecan Praline ice cream, for instance!

 

 

Mary Ann’s Favorite Morning Casserole

IMG_1062 There are hundreds of make- ahead  egg based breakfast casserole recipes! Our church has a famous sausage and egg casserole recipe that gets passed around every year at Easter when we all have breakfast together in between an early Easter service in the prayer garden and a later one at regular worship time. I love that recipe because it reminds me of Easter and our church family. I am fond of another recipe that uses hash browns along with eggs, peppers, and onions. There are Southwestern style breakfast casseroles served with plenty of salsa that are delicious.  But this casserole is my hands down favorite for making breakfast special.  I like to make it when we have overnight guests and pop it into the oven to bake while we have coffee in the kitchen.  I found the original recipe in a cookbook called Breakfast in Bed collated by Carol Frieberg which is a collection of wonderful breakfast recipes from various B&B’s and inns in the Pacific Northwest. This one is a favorite at Pensione Nichols in Seattle, Washington – located in a residence that is over 100 years old in the historic Pikes Place Market in downtown Seattle. I modified the recipe’s seasoning, and have used a variety of toppings.  It is delicious served with fresh fruit.

Mary Ann’s Favorite Morning Casserole

Prepare the day before:

16 slices white bread (thin slice) with crusts trimmed

16 slices Canadian bacon

16 slices sharp cheddar cheese

6  large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

For topping  - add the next morning before baking

1/2 cup butter

1 cup crushed cornflakes or other unsweetened cereal of your choice

 

In a large Pyrex baking dish (9X13 inch), place 8 of the bread slices. On top of this, layer all slices of Canadian bacon. Then ladd all slices of cheese. Place remaining 8 slices of bread on top.  In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, all seasonings, onion and green pepper. Pour evenly over the layers of bread, cheese, and Canadian Bacon, pressing slightly with back of spoon.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter and drizzle evenly over top of casserole.  Crush cornflakes and sprinkle on top.  Bake uncovered for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, let stand for about 10 minutes, and serve.

Cook’s notes:  I like to stand my stick of butter in a small ceramic cream pitcher or pyrex liquid measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute or until melted.  Then it is easy to drizzle the melted butter evenly on top of the casserole.  For the crushed cornflakes, place cereal in a Ziploc bag and crush with the heel of your hand on top of counter. Easy!

Red Pepper and Gruyere Quiche

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Quiche is a perfect dish for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner! It is also a true mix and match recipe, combining eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables, or meat of your choice plus infinite possibilities of seasonings. Add to that ease of preparation when you use an already prepared pastry crust, and you can’t ask for anything that is more worth adding to your list of go-to recipes. This is one of my favorite combinations:  Gruyere cheese and sliced red peppers from our garden.

Red Pepper and Gruyere Quiche

1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

1 cup (packed) grated Gruyere cheese

3  large eggs

1 cup milk or half and half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

nutmeg for sprinkling on top if desired

1 prepared pie crust (I use Pillsbury refrigerated rolls of pie crust)

Bring pie crust to room temperature (about 15 minutes) and place in 9 inch Pyrex pie dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put pie crust in dish on cookie sheet. Place red bell pepper rings on bottom of pie crust, sprinkle Gruyere on top. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, adding milk, salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour over peppers and cheese and sprinkle with nutmeg if desired. Place on middle shelf in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve this with a mixed green salad or fruit. Heat leftover Quiche in the oven or serve at room temperature.

 

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Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

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We have been enjoying cool evenings and simple hearty suppers. This skillet meal is perfect served alone or with a baguette and a tossed green salad.

Pork Chops with Apple Chutney 

4 boneless center cut pork chops

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

salt and pepper

Apple Chutney:

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

salt

red pepper flakes to taste

2 large apples peeled, cored, and chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat coconut oil in an iron skillet  Add pork chops seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown pork chops 1-3 minutes on both sides, remove from pan, and set aside.  In the same pan, add chutney ingredients, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Cook, stirring for 15 or 20 minutes,  until  apples begin to soften  Tuck pork chops into chutney, making sure all the pork chops are covered. Place iron skillet in oven. Bake 25 minutes, or until pork is cooked through. Serve from skillet garnished with fresh mint or basil.

 

Mediterranean Baked Squash

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A trip to a local Farmers’ Market recently yielded some beautiful late season summer squash – yellow crook-neck and deep green zucchini. By adding the yellow, red, and purple peppers plus herbs from our garden, this easy to bake dish is full of flavor as well as color. It is a ratatouille style dish but does not include eggplant. I made it twice last week, once for our table, and once to take to a choir potluck supper. It was well received at both places!

Mediterranean Baked Squash

2 large yellow squash, sliced in thin rounds

2 large zucchini, sliced in thin rounds

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 purple or green pepper, sliced

1 yellow pepper, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

fresh basil, chopped

fresh or dried thyme

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside of baking dish top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Spread crushed tomatoes over bottom of dish.  Add olive oil, onions, and garlic and stir to blend.  Layer squash and peppers with alternating colors, starting at edges of the dish and working toward center, overlapping slightly.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cracker pepper, basil and thyme.

Place parchment paper cut to fit inside baking dish on top of vegetables and bake for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Remove parchment and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Avocado Soup

IMG_0789I have served avocado soup for bridal luncheons, as a starter for guest dinners, along with grilled chicken, and simply as a treat to enjoy as a light lunch all by itself or with chicken salad. There are many variations, but this one is adapted from The Best from Helen Corbitt’s Kchens, edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald..  It is best served very cold.

Avocado Soup

3 ripe avocados

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

2 cups half and half

Zest of 1 orange

1/2 orange to cut into small pieces for garnish

sea salt

Melt butter, add flour, and cook, stirring until it begins to bubble. Add milk plus half and half slowly. Cook, stirring until mixture begins to thicken and is very smooth. Set aside to cool while you prepare avocados  Peel and mash avocados, and add to the white sauce.  Stir in orange zest.. Carefully lower immersion blender into mixture and blend until smooth.  Chill, and serve with orange bits on top.

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Cinnamon Apples

IMG_0847Cool fall evenings call for autumnal dishes.  This is one of my favorite sides for roasted or grilled pork as well as chicken – and nothing makes the whole house smell better than apples and cinnamon browning in a little butter. You can use any variety of apple you prefer, but this photo gleams with the yellow skins of Ginger Gold apples. Of course you may peel the apples if you wish. Add brown sugar if you want a bit of sweet. You may even decide to use this as a dessert or a wonderful addition to brunch.

3 or 4 apples, cored and sliced.  Granny Smith or Ginger Gold work well.

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon (I use Penzey’s Indonesian or Vietnamese Cinnamon)

brown sugar (optional)

Heat a 10 inch heavy skillet,  melt butter, and add apples, tossing to coat in butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon over apples. Stir gently as apples cook just until softened.

Crocked Pot Roast

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Just about every time I use my crock pot, I wonder why I don’t use it more often. It is one of my favorite kitchen helpers!  I particularly like starting something early on a Sunday morning and opening the door when we are back home from church to the heavenly smell of good food ready to serve!  This recipe is my variation of one I found online at the Food Network Kitchen and has an extra step in the beginning of cooking that adds a whole world of flavor to the finish!  Although gravy is usually something I make after cooking meat and just before serving, this pot roast cooks the whole time in gravy prepared after browning the meat and before cook time in the slow cooker begins. It is a twist that I will try with other crock pot meats because it turned out so well. My family voted this delicious!

Cook’s Note:  I keep a tube of Amici tomato paste in the refrigerator to use for recipes like this that only need a few Tablespoons.  If you haven’t discovered these tubed products, look for them near the canned and jarred tomato products at your supermarket

Crocked Pot Roast

4-pound beef chuck roast

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup flour, (1/3 cup used for flouring the meat prior to browing, 1/3 cup for gravy)

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 stalks celery, sliced

8 red potatoes, halved

1 onion, rough chopped

4 cloves garlic, mashed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

3 cups  beef broth

2 teaspoons dried French Thyme (or try chopped fresh Rosemary!)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Sprinkle seas salt and pepper over roast and rub into both sides. Put 1/3 cup of the flower on a plate and coat the meat, turning to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large iron skillet. Brown the roast until brown on all sides  Transfer the roast to crock pot and tuck all vegetables around the sides.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add tomato paste and stir until the oil is smoothly blended with tomato paste and turns a lovely deep red, about 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir, then add wine, stirring as it thickens. It is OK if there are some lumps. . Add the beef broth,, thyme, allspice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper and bring to a simmer, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thickens slightly.Pour the gravy into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.

Remove the roast to a shallow dish or platter, then lift out vegetables with slotted spoon and add to serving dish. Ladle a spoonful or two over meat, and put the rest into a small pitcher to pass at the table.

IMG_0800Yum!   The return of Sunday dinner!

One Pan Herbed Chicken Dinner

IMG_0846This is a great go-to recipe for family meals or anytime you want to spend more time with the people in your kitchen than you do preparing a meal and cleaning up!  It can also be adjusted for quantity easily.  This is a large pizza pan which was perfect for 8 chicken breasts, with potatoes alongside. Add a green vegetable or a salad if you wish, but the idea is to keep things simple.

One Pan Herbed Chicken Dinner

8 boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 cup olive oil  - drizzle in more if you need it.  The idea is to coat the chicken and potatoes

8-10 small red potatoes,  halved

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano – remember if you use dried herbs instead of fresh, you must reduce the amount

garlic salt

freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put chicken in the bottom of a large bowl. Add potatoes, sprinkle with garlic salt, then pour olive oil over all. With your hands, turn the pieces of chicken and potatoes to coat thoroughly, adding more olive oil if ecessary.  Scatter the chicken and potato pieces in a large baking dish, or cookie sheet with sides. Top with chopped rosemary, oregano, and a few grinds of pepper. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, uncovered.

Experiment with other herbs – chopped fresh basil or dried thyme with some thin lemon slices added while baking.  There are many variations!

Mahi Mahi Poached in Olive Oil with Tomato, Olive, and Rosemary Salsa

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Before I was married (over 50 years ago!), I rarely ate fish cooked any way but fried.  My personal favorite was fried shrimp. Mother avoided most fish, but loved fried catfish. My parents owned a small cafe where my father cooked delicious foods, but I don’t remember his ever serving seafood other than fried fish and shrimp. Daddy loved fried oysters, and liked to make oyster stew with fresh oysters when he cooked at home, especially at Christmas. I still enjoy fried oysters, shrimp and catfish with hush puppies. But now, we enjoy a variety of fresh fish cooked in many ways.  For quick family suppers, my go-to methods of preparation are grilling and baking.  We grow fresh herbs in our garden, so often have fish paired with fresh dill, rosemary, or thyme. When This recipe was originally published Coastal Living. I did a search and found several versions online. I had never poached fish in olive oil before and wanted to try it  The results were delicious so it won’t be the last time I use this combination of flavors or this method of cooking.  The following is the way I adapted the Coastal Living recipe.  And yes, we do live on the South Texas Gulf Coast.

Mahi Mahi Poached in Olive Oil with Rosemary and Tomato Salsa

2 (4-6 ounce) Mahi Mahi filets

2 cups olive oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

4 Roma or Compari tomatoes (small, but not cherry tomatoes), halved

2 Tablespoons capers

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

1 Tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Heat olive oil in flat sided deep skillet.Place tomatoes in oil, cut side down, along with 1 sprig of rosemary.  Cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender  Remove tomatoes to plate to cool.  Rinse fish and pat dry before sprinkling with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Lower fish carefully into flavor infused hot olive oil and poach  8 to 10 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with fork. Remove from oil and place on serving dish.

While fish is cooking, put tomatoes in bowl and mash with fork or a few swirls of an immersion blender.  Add capers, chopped Kalamata olives, chopped rosemary, and vinegar.  Spoon this mixture over fish in serving dish and garnish with a whole sprig of rosemary.