Blueberry Mascarpone French Toast Casserole

This is an overnight recipe that makes wonderful use of fresh blueberries. Slices of French bread are stuffed with the blueberries, smeared with sweetened mascarpone, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Make this the night before and let it soak up the milk and eggs, and after baking in the morning, it comes out crispy on top and deliciously gooey inside.

I have this recipe for classic French toast, and I have another recipe for French toast casserole that involves chunks of brioche soaked overnight. It’s wonderfully messy and served in big scoops. (I’m happy to share that by request.)

For this recipe, you lay the sliced and stuffed French bread in loaves in the pan. After baking, you just cut a couple of slices and lay them on the plate.

It calls for three loaves and serves 12. I made the whole thing so I could test it out, but also to have as breakfasts for several days to come. I’m sure you could easily scale it down.

This comes from a Better Homes & Gardens book of 13×9-inch one-pan meals. But I had to use a much bigger pan to accommodate the size of the loaves — a 15×12-inch roasting pan. So use whatever size works with the loaves you buy.

3 8-oz. French baguettes
8 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups fresh blueberries
6 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided

Grease the baking pan and set aside. Cut each loaf into 1-inch slices, cutting to but not through the bottom of the loaf.

For the filling, in a medium bowl mix the mascarpone with 1 teaspoon vanilla until well blended and smooth. Mix in powdered sugar. Fold in blueberries. Spoon filling between bread slices (I found it easiest to lift up the bread with one hand and smear a spoonful into the open slice with the other). Arrange the loaves side by side in prepared baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour over loaves, cover the pan, and chill overnight.

Heat oven to 350F/175C degrees. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over loaves.

Bake 45 minutes or until egg mixture is set, covering with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

One-Pan Roasted Vegetables and Sausage

When I found this recipe, I was looking for an easy dinner to make that night, one that was reasonably healthy with something I knew my children would enjoy. This ended up being just right. They especially loved the sausage (not so much the vegetables, which I loved, but we’re working on that!).

I used the veggies called for in the recipe, but you can use any variety you’d like. The recipe also calls for smoked sausage that you roast in the pan with the vegetables. I used a chicken sausage that I cooked separately on the stovetop and then cut into pieces when I served it, and that worked really well.

Serve this on top of rice, quinoa, or couscous.

2 small red potatoes
12 oz. green beans (I used chopped frozen green beans, straight from the
freezer)
1 large head of broccoli (for about 1 1/2 cups florets)
2 bell peppers (try to use bright colors like yellow and red, but green is just
fine!)
9 oz. smoked sausage
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Grated Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.

Prepare the vegetables: Chop the red potatoes (chop into small pieces so they will be tender in time), trim the green beans and halve, chop the broccoli, chop the peppers into thick squares, and cut the sausage into thick slices.

Place the vegetables and sausage on the sheet pan. Pour the olive oil and all the spices on top. Toss to evenly coat all the veggies and meat.

Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and stir the vegetables. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sausage is browned.

Cook the rice, quinoa, or prepare the couscous while the vegetables and sausage are roasting.

If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the vegetables and sausage as soon as they come out of the oven.

Recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

Homemade French Dressing

20200829_194844This is a tangy-sweet dressing, not too thick, that works really nicely with crunchy salad leaves. Though it doesn’t have the creaminess of the bottled kind, this homemade version tastes much more special. And you can always add more mayonnaise than called for here if you prefer a thicker dressing.

This recipe makes enough for one bag of salad leaves, or 4-6 servings.

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. agave syrup or honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • A scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • Freshly ground black pepperto taste
  • Tip of a knife of mayonnaise, or more to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients with a whisk until blended.

Adapted from a recipe at the blog Five Heart Home.

Make-Your-Own-Sandwich Night

This is one of the most popular dinners at our house. It never fails and I can’t quite figure out why, because it takes so little effort. But I get good-quality ingredients, like deli salami and real ciabatta rolls, and maybe that’s part of it. We can make whatever sandwich we want from a really tasty buffet. And bonus: We’ll have leftovers of everything, so if we make sure to buy enough bread, we can do it all again the next night.

Here’s how I plan it:

Bread

  • Individual ciabatta rolls, toasted
  • Sliced loaf of rye or sourdough, toasted

Meats

  • Salami
  • Ham
  • Turkey

Cheese

  • Provolone
  • Mozzarella
  • Swiss
  • Buffalo mozzarella, sliced

Greens

  • Baby spinach leaves, arugula, or crunchy salad leaves
  • Basil

Vegetables

  • Sliced plum/Roma tomatoes
  • Sliced rings of bell peppers or baby peppers

Spreads

  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • Yellow mustard
  • Ketchup

Extras

  • Basil pesto
  • Olives
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil

Creamy Orange Popsicles

Even having made these gourmet-tasting popsicles, it can be hard to believe they’re made with just two wholesome ingredients: freshly squeezed orange juice and vanilla yogurt. My children and I giggled to think these could actually qualify as breakfast food.

You can use popsicle molds or paper cups with popsicle sticks. One trick to keep the sticks upright as they freeze is to cover the top of the cups with foil and make a slit for each stick. Once frozen, you can peel off the paper cups.

Credit for this recipe goes to my friend Laura Rodriguez, who put a lot of work into a great series of recipe videos for children this summer. This one was our favorite.

1 cup juice from fresh oranges (we used about 3)
1 cup vanilla yogurt

Whisk the ingredients together, then pour into popsicle molds or paper cups. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

If you’re using popsicle molds, you’ll have to run the plastic part under lukewarm water for a few minutes to loosen the popsicles before removing.

Ham and Egg Cups

This recipe is just two ingredients, but it’s how it looks that makes it special. It’s easy to serve and it leaves room on your plate for other yummy things. We had this as part of breakfast for dinner with homemade hash browns, breakfast sausage, and fruit salad. (The hash browns, though tasty, were an utter failure. They will not be homemade next time.)

8 slices good-quality deli ham
8 eggs

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Use cooking spray or butter to grease 8 cups of a muffin tin. Put a slice of ham in each cup, then carefully break an egg into each one. Bake 15 minutes, then lift them out individually and serve.

20200619_222656

Ginger Honey Salmon

salmon Baking is one of the easiest ways to cook salmon. It’s not complicated, and you don’t need to do much to make it delicious. Dress the fish with sauce, seasonings, or even just lemon juice, then pop it in the oven for a quarter of an hour and you have the basis of a fantastic meal.

This recipe has been in my cookbook from nearly the beginning, clipped from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sometime in the very early ’90s. I taped the recipe to the page next to a full-page clipping of six ways to serve lemon garnishes.

You need only a handful of ingredients for this. I served the salmon alongside jasmine rice and a side salad with a sesame-soy sauce dressing. Fresh minced cilantro makes a nice garnish, if you have some.

Serves 4

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. soy sauce
20 oz. salmon fillets
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, ginger, and soy sauce.

Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking pan and spread half the honey mixture on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Halfway through the cooking time, spread with the remaining honey mixture.

Does shortening go bad?

Yes, shortening can go bad. You can tell because it will have a bad, rancid smell. In making a cake, I once used an opened container of shortening that I had stored in our pantry for at least a year. I had thought shortening lasted much longer on the shelf, but I was wrong. It smelled bad when I mixed it, bad in the oven, and bad as the cake cooled. I smelled the container and that was even worse. So you will know! Shortening that is still good should have almost no smell.

So how long can you keep shortening? Crisco has a helpful guide, which says that once opened, a can of shortening should be used within a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends even less time — three months. So use your judgment (and your nose). It’s helpful to write the date that you opened it on the lid with a permanent marker.

Keep shortening in a cool, dry place once opened. For easier spreading, don’t refrigerate it.

An unopened can keeps for two years from the manufacturing date, according to Crisco.

Collard Green Soup with Sausage

soup
This is a soup for cold days and warm. It’s comforting and filling, just the thing when the nights are chilly. But in the spring, when we’re starting to get back to fresher, healthier dinners, this soup can be just right. It has wonderfully healthy collards in a delicious broth, with sausage for extra flavor.

Southern chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis had this recipe in a November issue of Southern Living a few years ago. She noted the sausage is easily replaced by an equal amount of shredded turkey — great for using up Thanksgiving leftovers — or a combination of the two.

It’s easy to make, especially if you have all of the ingredients prepared before the cooking starts.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 lb. Italian pork sausage, casings removed, broken up by hand into small pieces
3 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts unsalted good-quality chicken stock, divided
1 1/2 lbs. collard greens, ribs removed, chopped (or just over 1 lb. pre-shredded)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Hot cooked rice

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, until sausage crumbles and is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to a sieve set over a plate to drain.

Stir in flour and remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns golden. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add 1 quart of stock, stirring to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil.

Stir in collard greens and cooked sausage, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 45 minutes. Add more stock as needed.

Stir in salt and pepper just before serving. Serve cooked rice on the side for everyone at the table to add themselves.

Banana Bread

We all know baking has become really popular over the past couple of months as people around the world try to fill their quarantine days with creative pursuits they may not have had much time for before. Banana bread is the latest obsession. It evokes comfort and warmth. And when it’s made by you, in your own kitchen, it’s even better.

But why is it popular right now? Maybe we’re looking for something just a little quicker than homemade bakery-worthy bread — and yeast is out of stock at the store, anyway. Maybe we just want to indulge in a dessert, and banana bread sounds much better for you than, say, three-layer chocolate fudge brownies with toasted mini marshmallows and melted toffee drizzle… you know, just as an example.

Plus, banana bread is thrifty. We’ve all had bananas that get too brown before we’ve had a chance to enjoy them. Mashing them up for banana bread gives them new life and reduces waste. It also makes us feel good. Hey, just mashing them in the first place is pretty satisfying.

Chrissy Teigen’s version is so popular at the moment that people are having trouble finding its secret ingredient, vanilla pudding, in the store. But there’s nothing wrong with going the classic, non-pudding route. It’s easy to make, you know it will taste good, your kitchen will smell amazing and the result keeps for months in the freezer.

You can add any number of mix-ins, too. Have you got blueberries that are going soft? Repurpose those, too, by throwing them in the batter at the last minute. Add some chopped walnuts or pecans. Chocolate morsels. Shredded coconut. Lemon zest.

banana bread

Banana bread is one of my specialties, but the recipe I use is not my own. It’s this one from James Beard. You can see the well-worn printout of it that’s pasted in my cookbook. I don’t change a thing (that note about the baking temperatures was because of an oven we used to have — the heat was always a touch off).

Yes, you need baking soda for banana bread. Sorry, you just do. The mashed bananas are heavy and you’ll need something to get the bread to rise. That’s also why you need buttermilk, or something acidic like lemon juice along with the milk — the chemical reaction with the baking soda creates the bubbles that make the cake rise.

Oh, did you catch that? “Cake.” Not bread. Because really, banana bread is too good to be called just a bread. Now go and have fun mixing up a batch.