Overnight Breakfast Casserole for Two

I had a plumber scheduled to arrive first thing in the morning. As I just wanted to roll out of bed right before they arrive, I set up a breakfast casserole the night before so all we needed to do is preheat the oven and pop it in for a while.

I used 4 corn muffins that I made earlier in the week (recipe HERE) but sandwich bread works just as well.

We ended up not putting it in until lunchtime (as I felt guilty eating while the plumber worked) and the added time of the soak wasn’t an issue. The texture was great and the flavor delicious.

We reheated the leftovers the next day and it was still delicious.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole for Two

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt and pepper
½ teaspoon dry mustard (I like Colemans Dry Mustard Powder)
4 cornbread muffins, crumbled or 4-5 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup cubed ham

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard. Layer bread, ham and cheese alternately in bottom of shallow casserole dish. Pour egg mixture over all and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Michelle and I were feeling adventurous this holiday so we kicked up the traditional pecan pie a notch. I had seen an episode of Pati’s Mexican Table where she combined Mexican flavors with American classic foods and Dulce de Leche Chocolate Pecan Pie was one of her recipes. It looked good but a little sweeter than my tastes run, so we switched out the crust and made a couple other minor adjustments.

You lose a little of the top to the foil but leaving it off makes the pie darken too much. Here it is perfectly browned.

Decadently good with the caramel adding a lovely flavor with the toasted pecans. As my friend Charlotte learned, don’t go with too big of slices as it is so very rich it will be hard to finish in one sitting.

We served it with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream. Recipe HERE.

Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Dark Chocolate Pie Crust

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons cold butter
ice water and vodka

For the Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Filling

3 eggs
1 can Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce (we used Eagle Brand)
½ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
⅓ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

First make the crust. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Break up the shortening and butter into smaller pieces and drop into the processor bowl. Pulse maybe 10 times more until the mixture is crumbly and the butter and shortening are well distributed.

While the machine is running, drizzle in the 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water and 1 1/2 tablespoon vodka (don’t worry, the alcohol cooks off), and stop just when the dough comes together. Open the machine and feel the dough, if it comes together when pressed between your fingers, it’s ready. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and bring together with your hands into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a cocoa’d surface (instead of flour). Fit the dough into a 9″ pie pan that you have coated in shortening. Prettify the edges. Put the crust back in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the filling – In a bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Add in the Dulce de Leche caramel sauce, brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and salt and whisk until it is well blended. Stir in the chopped pecans and chocolate and mix well.

Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling into pie crust. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes with the foil on. Then remove and continue to cook until the pie is set and the top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Corny Corn Muffins

I’ve been working on my corn muffin recipe – I needed something a little less cakey, so I tweaked a cornbread recipe I saw on America’s Test Kitchen. I’m not a real fan of sweet cornbread, so I reduced the sugar in the recipe – they used a ¼ cup! I also upped the frozen (and thawed) corn and, therefore, upped the salt slightly as well.

These were perfect little bites of corny cornbread and, while they were excellent warm with a glass of milk, I can’t wait to have them with the Senate bean soup I have in the slow cooker.

Whatever you don’t eat up right away with a bowl of soup or with some beans, you can freeze and then crumble the leftovers to make a terrific cornbread dressing that works as a side with pork, chicken and, even, turkey. I posted a recipe HERE with my cornbread stick recipe.

Corny Corn Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn kernels – frozen is fine but thaw first
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Place the corn in a blender and puree. Add the brown sugar, buttermilk and eggs to the blender and blend them up. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed. Gently fold in the melted and cooled butter.

Butter a 12 cup muffin tin. Place ¼ cup of batter in each space. Smooth the top with your fingertips. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 22-25 minutes. Tops will be golden brown. Remove the muffins to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

 

Overnight Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

When I think of having cinnamon rolls in the morning, I find myself dreaming of Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. You’ve got to wait for satisfaction, though. I gotta say the flavor of the rolls is great after the long, slow rise.

I do have a couple of quibbles, though. There are no pecans in the original and he makes way more than I usually want to make at any given time. Therefore, here is the fixed and halved recipe.

Before frosting

The recipe should have made about 6 large buns. Not paying attention, I was cutting each section in half and before I knew it, I had 8 rolls plus two ends that I merged together to get a final bun. Still plenty of cinnamon pecan rolls for a family.

I also added Grand Marnier to the icing for a hint of orange and to cut the sweet.

Rewarm the next day in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

Overnight Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Dough
2 large egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 1/8 teaspoon yeast
1 1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Icing
2 ounces cream cheese
1 ½ tablespoons milk
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier liquor

In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 1 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; mix until moistened and combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add another cup of the flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the filling ingredients of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pecans in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 8×8-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 12 by 6-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge. Gently press the filling into the dough.

Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 8 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in a cold oven with the light on. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven had come to temperature, place the pan of rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the Grand Marnier until combined. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Filled Manicotti

I saw one of Kevin Belton‘s episodes recently on Louisiana Yams. One of the recipes on the show was for making sweet potato ravioli. While he doesn’t have the recipe on his website, my local Create TV station showed it twice in one day so I was able to scribble down the recipe, as I haven’t been able to find it online.

I’ve never had much luck with ravioli – they always seem to explode on me. So, I decided to try filling manicotti shells. After boiling them, they were large enough for me to spoon the filling in. I recommend using a small spoon or a piping bag to fill them, otherwise you risk tearing them. For even easier filling, you might want to try using large pasta shells instead.

The flavor of the filling is quite good but combined with the mushroom pecan sauce is what makes this dish a real winner. I cheated with a jar of portobello mushrooms I had in the cabinet but 8 ounces of fresh sliced would be great, too.

I used cottage cheese but ricotta cheese would also work in the filling.

This recipe uses dairy and eggs but no meat and so would be a good offering for vegetarians.

Sweet Potato Filled Manicotti

Sweet potato filling:
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

6-8 manicotti shells

Buttered mushroom and pecan sauce
½ cup unsalted butter
1 – 16 ounce jar portobello mushrooms (about a cup when cooked)
½ cup pecans, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine cottage cheese, mashed sweet potato, parmesan cheese, egg and seasonings. Process until smooth.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Place in the shells and add a generous pinch of salt. Boil about 4 minutes or until tender enough to work. The shells will finish cooking in the oven once filled.

Use a spoon or piping bag to put the filling in the shells. Place the shells in a casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Once the foam has subsided and it begins to turn golden, add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in pecans and seasoning, stir well to combine.

Spoon over the filled manicotti shells and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Of course, now Michelle is dreaming of what else we can fill with that sweet potato filling. Any ideas?

Red Beans and Ricely Yours

Louis Armstrong signed his correspondence “Red Beans & Ricely Yours” after his favorite dish. Most New Orleanians serve it up every Monday. I think nearly everyone has their own way to make it.

My version of red beans and rice comes from my mom who usually doubles or triples her batch so leftovers can be put in the freezer for later meals. Here is a picture of a batch she did recently:

As you can see, she makes a lot! That’s over two gallons of red beans! I don’t even own a pot as big as her cast iron Dutch oven or as many Tupperware containers, so I’m fine with making a smaller batch. I still have enough for leftovers, too.

I don’t use andouille in mine. It may be heretical but I prefer the flavor of smoked pork sausage and I get mine from Jacob’s World’s Famous Cajun Sausage in LaPlace, Louisiana. They smoke all their meat themselves and are super friendly. They even let you taste before you buy!

The small amount of cayenne is the perfect level of heat for my taste. If everyone at your table wants more, up that amount or, do as I do, and put a choice of hot sauce on the table for those who want it hotter.

Mama's Red Beans and Rice

1 lb dried red kidney beans
1 lb smoked pork sausage, cut into coins
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup onion, diced
¾ cup celery, diced
¾ cup green bell pepper, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Soak the beans over night in a large bowl of water (water should be 2 inches above the top of the beans). Rinse and drain beans and then place in a Dutch oven or large stock pot. Simmer in 4 quarts fresh water until soft, about two or three hours. Use a potato masher to mash some of the beans to thicken the liquid.

Once the beans have softened, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and sauté the sausage discs. When lightly browned, toss the sausage into the Dutch oven with the beans. Return the skillet to the heat. To the skillet, add in butter. Once melted, sauté onion for about five minutes. Add in the celery and bell pepper and soften slightly. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Scrape the trinity into the Dutch oven with the beans. Place bay leaves in pot.

In the still warm skillet, add in all the spices except the salt and stir to let their flavors bloom. Use a ladle of the bean liquid to loosen all the fond and then scrape everything into the pot with the beans. Bring to a simmer and let the flavors come together for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add salt, if desired.

For the rice, I use about ¼ to ⅓ cup uncooked rice per person. Using the ratio of 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice, bring the liquid to a boil. Add a tablespoon of butter per serving, melted into the heating liquid. Pour in the uncooked rice and boil for 20 minutes. Once the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, fluff with a fork.

Place a mound of rice in each serving dish. Ladle red beans, sausage and that delicious bean gravy over the rice. Serve with hot sauce.

Baked Pears

I love baked apples and when we came across a bunch of pears on sale, I just knew that baking them would be just as tasty. Very yummy and can be eaten along with the meal as a side dish or saved for dessert by whipping up some cream to dollop on them (you can also use dollops of yogurt).

I bet you can guess how I served them!

Baked Pears

4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon light rum (or brandy or bourbon)

Place the pear halves in a greased pie plate or casserole dish, arranged like spokes with narrow ends pointed towards the center.

In a small bowl combine the butter and brown sugar and spices. Mix thoroughly to break up any lumps in the brown sugar. Spread the mixture evenly over the pears.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Test with a skewer, it should pierce easily. Flip the pears to be evenly colored. Serve warm, with drizzles of the cooking liquid.

To top with whipped cream – beat the cream until it begins to stiffen. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Whip in the rum and place a dollop or two on top of the warm pears.

Yummy!

Cinnamon Pecan Meringues

I was feeling a craving for something cinnamony and pecany and decided to try something I found in an old recipe pamphlet of holiday desserts I picked up at a flea market. It didn’t have either an oven temp or a time – just the instruction to bake until done. Luckily, I’ve done meringues before so I had a method to use.

Good thing, too that I had a lot of pecans – Michelle’s mom had collected over 5 five gallon buckets of pecans from the tree in their front yard that we shelled and toasted and packaged up to be stored in the freezer, ready to be used.

This recipe does take a while – you are whipping the egg whites for a while and the bake time is at least two hours. Your patience is rewarded, though. These meringues have excellent flavor and crunch.

Cinnamon Pecan Meringues

6 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lb pecans

Toast pecans and then pulse in a food processor until ground. Set aside.

Whip egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time – it should take about 14 minutes to add it all in. Mix in cinnamon. Fold in ground pecans.

Place mixture in a piping bag (or a ziploc bag with one corner cut out) and pipe out dollops on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 175 for at least 2 hours. Finished meringues will release from the pan and be crunchy throughout. Turn off the oven and let gradually cool in the oven as the oven cools.

Store in an airtight container.

You can’t pop just one!

Quick Chicken in Pastry

When pulling a prepared pie crust out of the freezer for a pie, I found it was broken in half. While I could have thawed it and pressed it back together, I decided to hold on to it for a quick dinner instead. After a day of working in the yard (who knew the trees had so many leaves in them!), I wanted something uncomplicated but delicious.

You can coat the chicken in most any pesto sauce you like – I had a small jar (6.5 ounce) of A.G. Ferrari sun-dried tomato pesto that I used but feel free to use a more traditional basil pesto or even artichoke pesto. What you are looking for is a good flavored sauce that will go well with chicken.

I parboiled a sliced potato while the oven was heating, then drained them and tossed them with olive oil and rosemary salt and put them around the baking sheet. After 20 minutes, flip them over. When sprinkling on the parmesan cheese, put some on the potatoes, too.

If you are told by your girlfriend that potatoes don’t count as a vegetable – slice a large zucchini into spears and toss with a little oil oil, salt and Italian seasoning. About ten minutes into the chicken’s cook time, place the zucchini skin side down around the pastry covered chicken on the baking sheet. After about 15 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Quick Chicken in Pastry

2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 frozen pie crust, thawed (I used one of the Pillsbury Pie Crusts)
1 jar (about 1 cup) pesto sauce
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Pound the chicken to a uniform thickness. Make three shallow slices across the meat. Slather completely with the jarred sauce. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Place any leftover sauce on top of the chicken.

Cut the prepared pie crust into strips. Cover the chicken, overlapping each slice. Tuck under the ends. Beat egg with the milk. Brush over the top and sides of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is done. At the 20 minute mark, sprinkle everything with a little parmesan cheese, if using.

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

We came back from our weekend away to a very brown and spotted banana that had been left on the counter when we headed out of town. It looked especially forlorn next to the new bananas we had picked up on the way home.

One banana isn’t enough for making bread or pudding but it is a perfect amount for making a small batch of pancakes. The recipe below is perfect for 2 or three people as it makes 8 pancakes. You can easily double the recipe if you have more diners (and more over ripe bananas). Freeze any leftovers and rewarm in a toaster oven.

The riper the banana, the sweeter the pancakes will be. We hardly needed any maple syrup as our banana was so ripe!

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon salt
3/4 cups milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large ripe banana, mashed
½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate morsels

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together.

Place the milk in another bowl and add the egg, oil, vanilla extract and mashed banana. Whisk until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk until just combined, then scrape down the sides to make sure all the flour is incorporated and whisk again. There will be some lumps, just no really large ones. Try to avoid overworking the batter.

Heat a griddle or skillet to medium hot and spread some butter on it. Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour a serving of batter over the buttered area of the griddle. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips over the pancake. Flip once the top bubbles start to pop and the edges look dry. Cook until the other side is golden brown. Repeat until all pancakes are made. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a 200 degree F oven while fixing the rest.

Serve with maple syrup.