Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole

This is a great dish for a brunch. It’s like hash browns with sausage gravy.

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole
(serves 6)

8 oz. chopped broccoli
1 lb. Bulk Breakfast Sausage
2 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried onion
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
1 1- lb. Package Frozen Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes
1 ½ cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9″ x 9″ x 2″ glass baking dish.

If using fresh broccoli, steam or boil for 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well. If using frozen broccoli, thaw completely.

Cook sausage in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until brown, breaking into small pieces with back of spoon. Mix in flour, garlic power, and dried onion. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture thickens and comes to boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits on the pan. Remove from heat.

Arrange potatoes in prepared dish. Top with broccoli. Sprinkle lightly with salt and  pepper. Cover with 1 cup cheese,  then the sausage mixture. 

Bake casserole for 50 minutes. Top with remaining ½ cup cheese. Return to the oven to melt cheese and finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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I have made this recipe many, many times. Not so much lately because we don’t often have bananas in the house. I don’t like bananas. I don’t like the smell of them sitting on the counter. I don’t like the texture. My husband loves bananas but he hides them at work. Oddly enough, I love banana bread! Banana cake too. (I need to post my mom’s recipe for that. It’s a classic. But I digress.) I guess I need to buy a bunch of bananas and set some aside for this.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
(makes 1 8″x 4″ loaf, serves 12)

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 mashed ripe bananas (2 cups)
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons at Boulder altitude, 5400 ft.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever nuts you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 8″ x  4″ loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla, bananas, egg, and lemon juice.

In a medium bowl stir together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing to just combine. Stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Gently thump the pan on the counter to settle any bubbles. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and finish cooling on a rack. Don’t try to slice it while warm; it will fall apart.

Store at room temperature for 2 days. After that, refrigerate or freeze. Because of the high moisture in quick breads, they grow mold within a few days.

Orange Carrots

I made this recipe for Thanksgiving. I was surprised to discover that many of my guests had never had this combination. How could this be? It’s so easy and so perfect. I sometimes believe that in our rush to embrace the latest exotic ingredients, we forget that there are some very delicious old standards that we should still be cooking and eating. This would be one of them.

Orange Carrots
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots, cut into 3″ long x 1/4″ thick sticks
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
salt, about 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a large skillet. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until carrots are nearly done, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook off most of the liquid so that the carrots are glazed, stirring to prevent the carrots from sticking. Serve immediately.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

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Salad assembled but before dressing. Don’t dress it until you are ready to serve. Such pretty colors!

It’s been rather warm here in Colorado. No snow in Boulder at all. Temps in the 60’s and 70’s. One good thing: my lettuce is still chugging along. Usually, we’d have had a hard freeze by now that freezes the leaves solid.

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Chicken wire essential to deter my dog, who loves lettuce!

But, it’s still fall after all. That means that thoughts (and produce sales) are featuring veggies like sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t dream of sweet potatoes this time of year? And turkey! Sorry, I love Thanksgiving food.

This salad combines some classic fall flavors: sweet potatoes, cranberries, and orange. Compared to so many Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes, this is light and refreshing. Now, I’m not saying I won’t make rich and sweet sweet potatoes this year. But, in a year where summer is hanging on until past Election Day, this is spot on.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
(serves 6-8)

2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
leaves from 3 6″ sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
leaves 3 6″ sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup cranberries, rinsed and dried (see Note)
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 orange, zest and juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups lettuce or arugula (or a mix), washed and dried

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large dice. Toss with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, generous sprinkle of salt, light sprinkle of black pepper, and chopped herbs. Put on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until potatoes are browning at the edges and tender.

While the potatoes are roasting, place the cranberries in a small baking pan and drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon sugar. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to let them cool while you make the dressing.

Place the sherry vinegar, zest and juice of the orange, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper into a blender jar. Blend for a few seconds to mix. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining 5 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallot and parsley and mix with a spoon. (If you blend it, the parsley will turn the dressing green. Which isn’t the end of the world but it’s prettier if it’s orange.)

To assemble, place the lettuce in the bottom of a large bowl. Pour on the sweet potatoes and distribute over lettuce. Do the same for the cranberries. When you are ready to eat, pour over the dressing and toss it all together.

Note: You can use fresh or frozen cranberries. If using frozen, thaw them before roasting.

Adapted from a recipe in Sweet Potatoes by April McGreger, The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

 

Red Lentil Dal

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This is a fabulous version of dal. The original recipe used yellow split peas but I have red lentils, so that’s what I used. And, I used my pressure cooker, because it makes cooking beans so quick and easy.

I don’t usually chop onions using a food processor, but in this recipe, it works perfectly. You don’t need a nice looking dice. The onions cook long enough that they will melt right into the lentils.

You can serve this as a side dish or as a main dish. It’s great over brown rice. Or white rice- but I love the chewiness of brown rice with the mushy lentils.

Red Lentil Dal
(serves 6-8)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Rotel™ brand)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped finely
5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro (fresh or frozen)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cover the lentils in cold water and soak for an hour. Drain the lentils, rinse again, and place in the pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water and the diced tomatoes (no need to drain them). Lock the lid in place, bring to pressure, and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. [If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook them on the stove for 45-60 minutes, until they are quite soft.]

While the lentils are cooking, heat up the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook them until they begin to brown, about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions and garlic. Cook until they are a nice toasty brown. This will take a while, about the amount of time it takes to cook the lentils in a pressure cooker. Add the coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir to combine the spices with the onions. Remove from heat.

When the lentils are done, release the pressure and remove the lid. Add the onions, minced cilantro, butter, and salt. Stir to combine and melt the butter. Serve as a side dish or over rice as a vegetarian main dish.

Adapted from a recipe for “Everyday Yellow Dal” in 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate, Chronicle Books, 2007.

Photo: By Mytinytank (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Apple Cheesecake Tart

I made this tart, which is really a cross between a tart and a cheesecake, for a party. Huge hit! It’s apple season so why not make a rich and creamy dessert that features this most-loved American fruit?

Though this isn’t a true cheesecake, some of the hints in my Cheesecake – You crack me up! post are also relevant here. It is vital that your cream cheese and egg are at room temperature. You will get a lumpy mess if you try to make this without having the foresight to warm up your cream cheese and egg.

Apple Cheesecake Tart
(makes 1 9″ tart, serves about 12)

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large apples (I like Honeycrisp but Jonathan or Cortland are also good)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice. Gently stir in the flour until well blended.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and at least 1″ up the sides of a 9″ non-stick springform pan. Refrigerate while you work on the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a clean large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar. When this mixture is fluffy and there are no lumps, beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat again until smooth.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/4″ slices.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Add the apples and toss to coat evenly.

Place the pan on a rimmed sheet pan (just in case your pan leaks). Pour the cheese filling into the tart shell. Gently cover with the apples, scraping out all the sugar and cinnamon. Move the apples around to cover the filling completely.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for another 40  minutes.

Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the crust. Release the springform but don’t try to take the sides off until the tart cools for 10 minutes. It’s just too hot to handle right out of the oven. When you remove the springform, if some pieces stick to the pan sides, scrape them off and put them on the top of the tart. It’s a rustic tart. No one will notice.

Allow tart to cool completely before serving. Once the tart is completely cooled you can remove the pan bottom by running a knife under the bottom crust and then carefully using a large flat spatula to release the crust all the way to the center. Gently slide the tart onto a serving plate. Or not, you can serve it on the pan. I do all the time!

This tart can be refrigerated overnight before serving. Any leftovers (yah, right) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Apple Fennel Sauerkraut

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A friend had a bumper crop of cute lady apples (a type of crabapple). I picked a few quarts. Some went for a plum-apple jam. What to do with the rest? Ooooh! Sauerkraut! You don’t need to use crabapples. Any apple will do.

I love sauerkraut and this is really good sauerkraut. This is a true sauerkraut, fermented for about 3 weeks (you can make it more or less tart by varying the ferment time). At 3 weeks, it’s crunchy and tangy perfection. The apples do not make the sauerkraut sweet. The sugars in the apples are food for the bacteria, making it tangier than typical. Which is just fine with me!

Some notes on making sauerkraut:

  • You are going to need a good sized crock or plastic container. You don’t make small batches of sauerkraut. This recipe requires a 2 gallon container. Crocks are traditional but they are awfully heavy. I prefer a plastic container, which you can get at restaurant supply stores (brand name is Cambro). It’s lightweight, easy to see what’s going on, and inexpensive. I discovered that the plastic does retrain some of odor of fermentation. From now on, it will be my sauerkraut bucket. At about $5, a very worthwhile investment.

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  • It’s vital that you massage the salt into the cabbage to get the cabbage to release its liquid. The resulting brine is where the magic happens. You want enough brine to keep the cabbage covered.
  • On keeping the cabbage covered – it will float, and you will need to weight it down. I mention this here because you need to consider this when selecting your crock. You want to make sure that you can easily fit something – a plate, a bowl – into your crock that you can place a weight on. This will keep your cabbage submerged.
  • Sauerkraut doesn’t need a lot of care during its ferment. You are supposed to spoon off any scum. I admit that I did not (I was away on vacation part of the time). Seems it turned just fine with my neglect. I never noticed anything funky growing in it, at least while I was home. Funky growths like mold don’t usually clear up on their own, so my guess is that nothing ever started. It helps if you keep everything well submerged in the brine.
  • Temperature is important. Higher temps make for faster fermenting and more sour flavors. You also run the risk of bad actors invading. I started this batch in early September, when the temperature in my house was consistently in the low 60’s. You can make sauerkraut even when the temps are running around 70-72 but the fermentation will go faster. It’s not recommended that you try it in temperatures much above that. Cold temperatures slow the fermentation. At refrigerator temp (40 degrees), it stops entirely. Given all this, I wouldn’t try making sauerkraut in the heat of summer, unless you have A/C and keep your house rather chilly!
  • Many modern books say to use unrefined sea salt because of extra stuff in refined salt. I use pickling salt. There is nothing extra in pickling salt – no anti-caking agents, no iodine added. Just plain ole NaCl. It works and it’s cheap.

Apple-Fennel Sauerkraut
(makes about 1 gallon)

3 Tablespoons pickling salt
7 1/2 pounds green cabbage (about 1 1/2 large heads)
1 3/4 pounds apples, thinly sliced
1/2 pound onions, thinly sliced (1 medium)
5 teaspoons fennel seeds

Peel off the large outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve. Cut the cabbage into 1/4’s, core and shred. Place 1/2 the cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt and massage vigorously to release the juices. Don’t be shy. I split it into two batches because a) it’s a lot of cabbage, and b) when you are massaging the salt in, you need extra space so cabbage doesn’t go everywhere. Place the first 1/2 in another bowl. Repeat with remaining cabbage. Mix all the cabbage together with the apples, onions, and fennel seeds. Taste for salt. The salt level is somewhat up to taste. At 3 Tablespoons, I found it about perfect. But, you may want more.

Pack it all into your 2 gallon container. And I mean pack. No air bubbles and totally immersed in the brine. Place the large outer leaves on top. Then place a plate or bowl on top of that. Weight that down with something heavy – I used some heavy jars. Cover the whole thing lightly with plastic wrap. Don’t seal it tightly because you need to allow the CO2 a way out. Place your container on a rimmed sheet pan to catch over-zealous fermentation. Put the whole thing in a spot out of direct sunlight and where the temperature remains fairly constant, within the parameters discussed in the notes above.

Check daily for fermentation. You’ll know it’s happening when bubbles start to form. If any scum forms, skim it off and push down the kraut so it stays submerged. Same for any mold. For more troubleshooting tips, visit Fermentation Gone Bad. Lots of great tips and photos to help you out.

I let my sauerkraut go about 3 weeks. Your mileage may vary. Temperature, your local flora, and your own tastebuds determine when you say it’s done. Taste it and see what you think!

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, pack into jars and refrigerate. This will stop the fermentation. Consume within a few months for best crunch. It will soften up as it sits.

Recipe proportions from Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey, Storey Publishing, 2014.