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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breakfast/Brunch Main Dishes--Sweet and Savory

Eggs are always on special somewhere the week before Easter, so they were an easy choice for the basis of two main dish offerings I would be taking to our congregation's annual Easter breakfast.

Frittatas and French toast are always good budget main dishes, and both can be scaled up or down pretty easily, so it wasn't hard to decide on the following two dishes to take to breakfast.

The next question was what to add to the basic ingredients, so I started looking through the pantry and refrigerator to see what was available. Out of those forays, I came up with the following main dishes, both of which were quickly eaten--always a sure sign of a food everyone likes.

With the eggs and cheese both on sale and lots of raspberries still in the freezer from last year's garden, I was able to make both dishes for less than $7 total--not bad for so many servings!

Raspberry French Toast

Since I still have a lot of raspberries in the freezer from last year's garden, I can be pretty generous with them. You could probably substitute other berries or even spread some berry jam in place of the sugar and frozen raspberries.

2 T butter
Approximately 12 slices dry bread
1 c raspberries
1 apple, diced--or more
Sugar and cinnamon
1/3 c chopped walnuts--or more
8 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 c dry milk powder
Approximately 2 c water
1/3 c sugar
Maple syrup (I used "maple-flavored" pancake syrup rather than the "real" thing for this recipe, but it still turned out with a pleasing flavor)
1/3 c raspberry syrup
1 c raspberries

Melt butter in bottom of 9 X 13 casserole. Spread broken up pieces of dry bread over to make a thin layer. Spread with 1 cup of raspberries, apple, walnuts and sugar and cinnamon. Cover with another layer of bread pieces.

Beat together the eggs, dry milk, water, and sugar until well blended. Pour over the bread, making sure all areas are moistened. (If necessary, beat another egg or two with a little milk and add.) Drizzle the top generously with maple and raspberry syrups. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Remove cover, spread with another cup of raspberries and sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon.

Put in microwave (loosely covered) for about 11 minutes on power level 7, until center is set. Check for doneness by inserting a table knife near the center; the knife blade should come out clean.
(If using conventional oven, bake at 350 degrees about 45 to 55 minutes.)

NOTE: The raspberry syrup was made from the juices drained from an earlier package of frozen raspberries. Combine about 1/2 cup raspberry juice with 1/2 cup water and about 1 c sugar. Cook in microwave or on stovetop until mixture boils and cooks down to a syrupy consistency. If desired, omit this syrup and increase the amount of maple syrup drizzled over the top.

Savory Eggs and Vegetables

These were the vegetables I had on hand, so these are the ones I used this time. The nice thing with frittatas is that you can make a different dish every time, just by varying the add-ins based on what you have on hand.

4 carrots, thinly sliced
Approximately 4-5 c shredded cabbage
1 large onion, diced
1/2 large green pepper, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves minced garlic
Mixed herbs, black pepper
18 eggs
12 ounces shredded cheese—Mozzarella and taco cheese
Additional cheese for topping

Saute vegetables in a little oil in a large skillet, until carrots are crisp tender and onion is translucent. Transfer to a large (11 X 14) baking dish. Sprinkle with herbs and pepper.

Beat eggs together as for scrambled eggs. Stir in cheese. Pour this over the prepared vegetables. Sprinkle with a little more cheese.

Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until center is set. If the casserole begins to brown before completely done, cover with foil.

NOTE: The dried herbs I used were a mixture of rosemary, thyme, basil, and marjoram, pounded together in a mortar and pestle. I used a generous teaspoon or so of the mixed herbs for this recipe.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Black-eyed Susan Cake

Tonight we had a much delayed corned beef and cabbage dinner, and I wanted to make a dessert that would be a little festive after this rather peasant-y kind of main dish. I ended developing a variation on the Lazy Daisy cake my mother often made for meals such as this; it seemed like the flower in the title should reflect the addition of cocoa to the cake, so we now have a new family favorite, Black-eyed Susan Cake.

Though the cake looks a little like German Chocolate, it has a deeper chocolate flavor. It can also be made using chopped nuts instead of coconut, but I prefer the coconut, perhaps because that was my mother's choice.

This is a relatively economical dessert, especially if you buy the coconut when it is on sale (which it often is before the Christmas and Easter holidays). You may substitute margarine for the butter in the cake, but the topping really is best if you use real butter. As noted, I did not use half and half but instead cut costs (and only slightly made the cake a little healthier) by using dry milk powder added to milk--which in my house is always nonfat. If you have whole milk or even 2%, you could leave out the dry milk.

And the apple? I added that mostly because I had one that was starting to get a little soft at this end of winter storage. While it could be omitted; it added to the overall moistness of the cake and I definitely recommend including it.

Since the cake is really quite rich, it can easily be cut into 24 pieces, another way to stretch the budget--though it will be hard for many to stop with just one serving!!

Black-eyed Susan Cake
1 1/2 c boiling water
1 c oatmeal
1/2 c butter or margarine
1/2 c cocoa
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1 1/3 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 medium apple, cored and finely chopped or grated--about 3/4 to 1 c (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Immediately stir in the butter, cocoa, and oatmeal. Stir to combine and melt butter.
When the mixture has cooled a little beat in the sugar and chopped apple. Meanwhile, sift the flour, soda, and cinnamon together.
Add the eggs to the sugar and butter mixture and beat well. Then stir in the flour and beat until smooth. Immediately pour into a greased and floured 13 X 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees about 25 minutes, until just done.

Take the cake out of the oven and use a fork to poke small holes all over the surface. Spread topping evenly over the still hot cake and return to the oven—set on broil—for two to five minutes, just until the topping is bubbly and starting to turn golden. Watch closely because this begins to darken (and then burn!) very quickly.

1  c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
3 T milk plus 1 T dry milk powder for added richness OR 3 T half and half)
1 1/2 to 2 c shredded coconut

Combine butter, brown sugar, and milk in a large bowl and microwave on medium power about 4 minutes, until very bubbly. If you try it in a two cup measure as in the picture, you will need to watch the mixture VERY closely to avoid a messy boil-over!


(If cooking on top of the stove, allow to boil about two to three minutes.)
Remove from microwave or heat and stir in the coconut. Spread evenly over cake as noted above.