Ham & Cheese Breakfast Casserole

Today’s recipe is for a breakfast casserole that includes some fun ingredients to change things up.  Yes, it includes eggs, ham, and cheese.  However, it also has chives-and-onion cream cheese, southwest style hash browns, roasted red pepper, Parmesan cheese, and panko bread crumbs.  I especially loved the panko topping.  It added a nice crunch.  It only fills an 8 or 9 inch square dish but could easily be doubled  and made in a 9 x 13.

The other great thing about this dish is it is suppose to be made at at least 4 hours in advance.  So make it the night before and then in the morning all you have to do is throw it in the oven.  I know you all love a good overnight breakfast or brunch dish.  They make life easier.  This one is also full of flavor.  YUM!

It would be perfect for Easter morning or a great way to use up leftover ham from Easter dinner.

Cheesy-Ham-Breakfast-Casserole

Cheesy Ham Breakfast Casserole

  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chive-and-onion-cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 cups refrigerated southwest style shredded hash browns from a 20 oz bag (I used Simply Potatoes)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
  • 2/3 cup of ham
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  1. Spray a 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese while slowly adding in the milk.  Then beat in the eggs, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the hash browns, cheddar cheese, roasted pepper, and ham.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared square baking dish.  Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover the casserole and bake for 40 minutes.  While it bakes, combine the panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter together in a small bowl.
  5. Remove casserole from the oven and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture even over the top of the casserole.  Return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes more until the bread crumbs are golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cut into 6 pieces and serve.

~Enjoy!

Blueberry Lemon Bread

Blueberry Lemon Bread
Blueberries and Lemons go together in baking like apples and cinnamon… truly!  Whether it’s muffins, cakes or breads, the combination of those two flavors are a dynamite pairing, and today I’m bringing you a fantastic bread that has a glaze on the top that really kicks this recipe up a notch and makes it a stand-out one you’ll love.  Try it, you won’t be sorry!
 Lemon Blueberry Bread
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1⅓ cup sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour a 8½ x 4½ x 2½ loaf pan and set aside.  In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, cream together the butter with 1 cup of the sugar with a electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture. Beating well after each addition of egg. Beat in the lemon peel.  Next, add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Then alternately add half the milk with half of the remaining flour mixture, being sure to end with the flour.
Toss the blueberries in about ½ tsp flour to coat. This will prevent them from sinking in your bread. Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 60 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  While the bread cooks, add the remaining ⅓ cup sugar to a saucepan along with the 3 tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat.
Once the bread is cooked, pierce the top of the bread with a toothpick several times. Be sure to not go all the way through the loaf.  Pour the hot lemon/sugar mixture over the bread.  Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.
~Enjoy!

Homemade Pita Bread & Hummmmmmus… easier than ya think! :)

Sorry about my imposed bit of quiet on the blog here as we dealt with Dear Hubby’s health scare, but I’m back with not one but TWO recipes that go (dare I say it?) hand in hand with each other… Hummus and Pitas!  🙂

After trying this recipe for homemade hummus, I may never buy hummus again. And after reading this, you may join me. Because once I (and therefore you) figure(d) out how easy, cheap, and ridiculously delicious homemade hummus is, I decided to turn my back on the prefabricated stuff and am never looking back. That’s it! I’m done. You soak a bunch of dried chickpeas overnight (I bought a bag of roasted, dried chickpeas at Trader Joes, just because they looked… well, nuttier than the regular ones, but who knows if that made a difference), then simmer them in salted water until they’re soft. In the meantime, you make a paste out of salt and garlic, then whizz that in a food processor along with sesame seed paste and what seems like an inordinate amount of lemon juice. Trust the recipe, though! The mixture should look “contracted”, which meant nothing to me, but I stopped when it starts to look like the consistency of hummus and that turned out to be fine.

Then you add the drained chickpeas and process the mixture until an improbably creamy mass starts to form kinda looking like this:

MMMM… Hummmmmus…

Depending on how loose you like your hummus, you can add cooking liquid and lemon juice. It keeps in the fridge for a few days, though you’ll have to add some more water and lemon juice to loosen it up a bit (and let it come to room temperature, because the flavors totally bloom then). I sprinkled mine with paprika, some minced garlic and drizzled it with some EVOO.

A more appetizing plate of hummus I never did see. And the taste! Fresh and creamy, with a nutty flavor and grassy notes from the oil. The hummus had heft, but was also airy from all the processing. I’m telling you – after you make it, you’ll never want storebought hummus again. I’m so glad I tried this recipe. It was like a birthday present!

Hummus
Makes 4 cups

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup sesame seed paste
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and more to taste
Cayenne or hot Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Rinse the soaked chickpeas well and drain them before putting them in a saucepan and covering them with plenty of fresh water. Bring to a boil; skim, add one-half teaspoon salt, cover and cook over medium heat, about 1 1/2 hours, until the chickpeas are very soft (you might need to add more water).

2. Meanwhile, crush the garlic and one-half teaspoon salt in a mortar until pureed. Transfer the puree to the work bowl of a food processor, add the sesame seed paste and lemon juice and process until white and contracted. Add one-half cup water and process until completely smooth.

3. Drain the chickpeas, reserving their cooking liquid. Add the chickpeas to the sesame paste mixture and process until well-blended. For a smoother texture, press the mixture through the fine blade of a food mill. Thin to desired consistency with reserved chickpea liquid. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice. The hummus can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.) Serve, sprinkled with paprika and parsley and drizzled with oil.

How to Make Homemade Pita Bread

Makes 8 rounds

There is NOTHING like freash pitas for dipping in hummus…

What You Need

Ingredients

1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast

2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1-2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)

Equipment

Mixing bowl

Rolling pin

Cast iron skillet (for stovetop baking)

Baking sheet or a baking stone (for oven baking)

Instructions

1. Form the Pita Dough: Mix the water and yeast together, and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil (if using). Stir until a shaggy dough is formed.

2. Knead the Dough: Sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading.

3. Let the Dough Rise: Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

4. Divide the Pitas: Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Sprinkle the pieces with a little more flour and then cover them with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap wrap until you’re ready to bake them.

5. Shape the Pitas: Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as your oll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if its starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get into a rhythm, you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)

6. To Bake Pitas in the Oven: While shaping the pitas, heat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet on the middle rack to heat.

Place the rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone or baking sheets (as many as will fit), and bake for about 3 minutes. I’ve found it easiest to carry the pita flat on the palm of my hand and then flip it over onto the baking stone. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

7. To Bake Pitas on the Stovetop: Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until a few bead of water sizzle immediately on contact. Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess.

Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

8. Storing the Pitas: Pitas are best when eaten immediately after cooking. Leftover pitas will keep in an airtight bag for several days and can be eaten as they are or warmed in a toaster oven. Baked pitas can also be frozen with wax paper between the layers for up to three months.

Additional Notes:

Storing the Dough: Once it has risen, the pita dough can be kept refrigerated until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

Pitas That Won’t Puff: Sometimes you get pitas that won’t puff. The problem is usually that the oven or the skillet aren’t hot enough. Make sure both are thoroughly pre-heated before cooking. Even pitas that don’t puff are still delicious and can be used wraps or torn into pieces for dipping in hummus.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Fresh Pico de Gallo… I use this a lot. A LOT, a lot.

Fresh Pico de Gallo… I use this a lot when cooking. A LOT, a lot. I use it in dinner dishes, appetizer dishes, by itself for an appetizer, in guacamole… I am telling you: I use this stuff like it’s going out of style (which it’s NOT).

The best pico de gallo I have ever had was on our honeymoon in Mazatlan. I survived on pico de gallo, fresh guacamole with chips, fresh shrimp and daquiris because I was scared I would get sick from anything else and I had learned the year before to avoid Tequila at all costs. That was almost 18 years ago & I still avoid the tequila, but I LOVE me some Pico de Gallo! Now I would probably eat anything there without any trepidation. Maturity or stupidity… it’s a tough call. 🙂

Pico de Gallo is such an amazing salsa because you don’t daintily dip your chip. No, you scoop that salsa and enjoy a delicious mouthful of tantalizing fresh flavors that makes you dive right back into the bowl. It takes all of 5 minutes to pull together and you can serve immediately or let is sit in the fridge for a couple hours – very flexible. The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes but use what you have on hand.

Last but not least, think of Pico de Gallo as a symphony… sorry, but I think in musical terms a lot, so bear with me and hear me out. Some people tend to put more tomatoes than anything else (for whatever reason). Now, on their own, I’m not particularly fond of onions, or jalapenos, etc… but they really are all doing their own part to balance this dish, so don’t skimp on the onion, garlic or cilantro, etc… You are just going to have to either trust me on this or end up unhappy with your Pico, because they really do all blend beautifully into this gorgeous explosion of taste that makes your tastebuds sing. (Aren’t you glad I finally circled to the point and landed that plane?) *wink*  Anyhow, enjoy the Pico. Throw it in a chicken casserole, over your omelette, eat it with chips, the uses are simply as limited as your mind and creativity. 🙂

Ingredients:

5 plum tomatoes (I use Romas and you want them firm, not soft)

1/2 large or small onion

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 lime

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

salt, pepper to taste

*Quantities are approximate

Instructions:

Chop jalapenos, onion, and tomatoes in a very small dice. I typically cut the seeds and the “jelly” part out of the tomatoes, leaving just the meat of the tomatoes for my pico. If you leave them in, your pico will be juicier and runnier. Some people like that consistency when it’s more like salsa, I happen to like the fresco version that you chomp & scoop. LOL! I use my food basher-chopper thingie-ma-bobber from Pampered Chef I got years ago to do all this dicing, but the Cuisinart works well too if you’re feeling lazy.

Leave the seeds in your jalapenos for a hotter pico. Adjust the amount of jalapenos for your preferred temperature. Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro, about a half cup or so. Throw away the long stems before chopping. Stir together. Add the juice of a half a lime and add salt to taste.

Enjoy!

Mama’s Easy Breakfast Casserole

I was blessed with a really good memory when it comes to names. For example, I can name everyone in my kindergarten class with Mrs. Baskin at McSorley Elementary along with a random fact about each person (her all time favorite flower was a buttercup & her dog’s name was Roscoe). Somehow I continued to accurately fill the slots in this computer brain of mine over the years with dates, names, and people. Now…on any given day, I can automatically start spewing the birthdays and anniversaries of random people from my past when asked a question about them, or if I see their picture.

But… then I had kids. And they sucked the brain cells out of my head.  I’m lucky now if I can remember their names. As a matter of fact, sometimes I will just randomly start spewing out ALL their names knowing if I list them all, the one who I am actually referring to will hear me and have to respond. Don’t argue that logic until you have birthed multiple children and given your brain 5-10 years to stew in its own fried juices… LOL!

When I do something like book an appointment for the wrong day or forget where I hid birthday presents, my husband will say, “Honey, your poor brain.”  After all, he knew me as the woman who could remember his cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend and the names of everyone that came to our wedding…from his side. The good news is that anything I had stored in my brain before kids, is still there. And I can still access it when I’m back in my hometown at Strike & Spare and run into half of my high school. Even if we weren’t friends, I probably know your name and your birthday. But it’s not really something I’ll let on, because from experience I found it freaks people out when you still know minute details about them from when they were little, when you hardly know them now as adults. It comes off a bit stalkerish, I guess.
The really fantastic news for you, is that I can clearly recall the Christmas Eve night I learned how to make the best breakfast casserole, and the perfect Christmas morning present to yourself & your family. It’s my Grandma’s recipe, tweaked by my mama (she liked spinach in hers *shudder*), and now tweaked by me.
Mama’s Easy Breakfast Casserole
(We recently ate this for dinner though, so don’t be limited to making this just for breakfast!)  🙂
Ingredients:
1/2 loaf of french bread cut into 1 inch cubes (enough to cover 9×12 pan bottom)
12 eggs1 cup milk

3-4 chopped potatoes

1/2 grn pepper

1/2 red pepper

1/4 c. chopped onion

(optional): 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

1 pkg chopped bacon OR 1 lb. cooked sausage (or if you’re feeling adventurous BOTH)

1 cup finely shredded cheese (we use colby-jack OR the mexican blend depending on mood)

Idea: after Thanksgiving, we chop up about 2 cups turkey meat (or ham) and add that for the meat

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×12 pan.  Place bread cubes so they make a nice single layer on the bottom of the pan.  On the stovetop, cook your bacon in a large skillet.  Strain oil off.  Once done, chop into 1/2 inch pieces (you want them kinda big).  Use the same pan you made the bacon (or sausage) in:  cook the onions, peppers and potatoes.  Cook on medium heat for maybe 5 minutes until the potatoes start to transition from transulcent to opaque.  When this occurs, spread these in a nice even layer over the bread in the 9×12 pan.  Spread/sprinkle the bacon bits over this.   Mix the eggs and milk together & then slowly pour back and forth over the pan making sure the egg mixture gets everywhere in the pan.  The egg mixture will look like it’s about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up to the top of the pan, don’t worry, they fluff up nicely!  🙂  Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top of all of this evenly, cover with tin foil.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the center is firm.

My kids are INSANELY picky & all four of them LOVE this dish!  We’ve even made this on campouts in a dutch oven & it’s so yummy & filling.  If you are prepping this dish for the next morning, do everything except bake it (put it in the fridge overnight). Pull it out about an hour and a half before you want to eat. Let the dish sit at room temp about 20 minutes or so to lose it’s chill, preheat your oven, and then pop it in to bake for the 50-60 minutes.

ENJOY!   🙂

Ice Cream on par with Stone Cold…

homemade ice cream with fresh blackberries

I got this… stone cold. (sorry, couldn’t resist) 😛

My family loves ice cream. When I say that, I don’t just mean in the normal context of “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream”.  I mean: my family are ice cream snobs of the first order, extremely picky, and would (if I let them) consume gross and vast quantities of ice cream daily. Lucky for their waistlines I don’t let that happen, but I do think ice cream now & then on a hot summer day can be THE BOMB, especially when it’s homemade & you’ve poured a little labor & love into it & top it with fresh fruit.

Knowing this, my family bought me an ice cream/sorbet & gelato machine for my birthday this year. (Personally I think that was their very sly and wicked way to bribe me to make ice cream. LOL)  The box said “Frosty frozen treats in 20 minutes!” Between you & I, I am going to call a big fat, whopping, hurking load of B.S. to THAT nonsense right here & now. Not ONE recipe in the book the machine maker provided offered a recipe that could be ready in 20 minutes. NOT ONE. Yeah, I was a tad irritated by that. LOL!

Sooooo, fine! I will play their silly little game and test out the new machine with one of the recipes in the book. Only, by now, you are starting to realize I never really cook recipes exactly as they as written, so I’m giving you the instructions of how I made it, not how it was written originally. HAHAHAHA!  😛  Now, it should be noted here that the prep time was about 5 minutes, the cooking time (yes, you read that right: cooking time – it’s a frozen treat, there should be no cooking required my stubborn brain insists!) anyways, that was about 20 minutes, the mixture had to then cool in the fridge for about two hours. Then I FINALLY, FINALLY! got to add the mixture to the canister I’d prepped in the deep freezer the prior 24 hours. The machine did it’s work in about 35-40 minutes, and then the whole batch had to “ripen” in the freezer for another 2 hours.  I don’t know if you’re keeping track here, but from the moment I opened my box with the intention of making ice cream to the moment we all actually got to roll our eyes in heavenly oblivion, a whopping 27 hours had passed. Let me just say by the time I closed my lips around that spoon I was ready to swear off making ice cream recipes that required cooking for all time. That is, until my taste buds actually came in contact with the ice cream we actually made. I will still search for other no-cook ice cream recipes, or maybe even simpler ones to try in the machine so we don’t have to wait 27 hours for a batch of pure decadence, but for the days we feel like taking a side trip floating on clouds of decadence and supreme taste-bud heaven, I will be making the following ice cream recipe:

Be warned: this is not waistline friendly, but damn it’s good. SO good, that my younger son Garrett said it rivals Stone Cold ice cream. Yeah. You read that right.  Enjoy!

2 c. Whole Milk

2 c. Heavy Cream

1 c. Granulated Sugar (divided in half)

1 pinch salt

1 whole Vanilla Bean, halved & seeds scraped

5 large Egg Yolks (no whites)

1 1/2 tspns pure Vanilla Extract

  1. In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together the milk, cream, half of the sugar, salt and the scraped vanilla bean (including the pod). Bring the mixture just to a boil.
  2. While the milk/cream mixture is heating, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer on low speed (or a whisk), beat until mixture is pale and thick.
  3. Once the milk/cream mixture has come to a slight boil, whisk about 1/3 of the hot mixture into the yolk/sugar mixture. Add another 1/3 of the mixture, then return the combined mixture to the saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, stire the mixture constantly over the low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. This mixture must NOT boil or the yolks will overcook – the process should only take a few minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, discard the vanilla pod and bring to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours until completely cool.
  5. Turn on your ice cream maker, pour the mixture in, and let mix until thickened per your machine’s instructions.*  The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in your freezer for at least 2 hours to allow the ice cream to “ripen” and firm up. * I wanted to note here that my machine’s instructions indicated it should be at this point by 20 minutes… it wasn’t. It took more like 35 minutes to reach that ultra-dreamy phase. You’re looking for soft-serve ice cream consistency (or firmer) BEFORE you pop it in the freezer.
  6. Wait. Wait some more. This is the hard part. Wait some more.
  7. SERVE! (add fresh berries if you have them or any other treat you like)