My husband loves “Mustard Seed Pickles” which his mother canned and preserved when he was growing up. The pickles were loaded with mustard seeds. As a boy, he would reach into the refrigerator for a pickle and lick the mustard seeds off with his tongue. Now his mother is 96-years-old. She still managed to locate the handwritten recipe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decipher her instructions. Although I’ve tried countless times, I just can’t seem to make his mother’s mustard pickle recipe likes he remembers. Instead, I’m using a similar recipe from my own mother for “Dill Pickle Spears.” And this recipe is great; I have made it countless times! Today my daughter and I had a “pickling party” preparing the traditional dill pickles which are heat processed so they can be preserved and stored at room temperature for months. We also made a refrigerator version for folks who are a little sceptical of home canning. Both recipes make small batches of pickles — it is easier for a home cook to handle.Continue reading
Category Archives: Family Favorites
Kristy’s Matzah Crack
“Matzah Crack” scores a home run as a sweet treat during the Passover holiday as far as I’m concerned. It is sweet, rich and very decadent. What more can you want in a dessert. Although the seven-day Passover holiday is over for this year, I am guessing that some of us have leftover matzah in our kitchen. Plus, it probably is still available in grocery stores. It can be challenging to think of cakes and pastries to prepare during Passover since wheat flour, leavenings and many other ingredients are forbidden. This dessert — made with matzah — has become a family favorite and now is served every year at the elaborate Seder meal and service.Continue reading
Easy Cook: Best Ever Homemade Pizza
It is “Super Bowl Sunday.” And this one-in-a year football game calls for pizza. I have always enjoyed making homemade pizza and this recipe may be my favorite pizza creations. It is incredibly easy to make and our taste testers decided that it tastes better than any “pizza in a box.” The flavors and ingredients are balanced — you can taste the toppings and not just the pizza crust. Best of all, you can customize the ingredients to each person’s preferences. The recipe is quick–taking about 5 minutes to make the pizza and 10 minutes to bake. Compare that to the time to get a pizza delivered from a pizza restaurant on “Super Bowl Sunday.” To make this “efficient” pizza, I used several convenience products. “Simple” was my objective. Here’s my “way too much” pepperoni pizza.Continue reading
Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale
This year, I’m starting our Christmas celebration with a hearty dish of “Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale.” A strada (meaning layers) is an American brunch casserole made with a mixture of eggs, cheese and stale bread. It is sort of a savory “bread pudding” or “French Toast” — perfect for us here in Louisiana. I still have Red Russian kale growing in my winter garden and am adding the kale, along with sweet white onions and seasonings, to my breakfast strada. It is a colorful, super-charged breakfast casserole. I think it is best to begin Christmas day — or really any day — on a full stomach. This casserole is so easy to make. Plus it can be pre-prepped the prior day. Then it is a simple matter of heating the oven and baking it on Christmas morning
Anything Goes, “Kitchen Sink Dump” Recipe
Of course, if your family is not a fan of kale, then no need to introduce this vegetable on Christmas morning. This is a “kitchen sink dump” recipe.” It is easy to substitute ingredients in or out of the breakfast casserole. For example, use baby spinach rather than kale — or omit both. Other ingredients can be added to this savory casserole such as diced ham or bacon, green onions, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms. Change the type of cheese — use smoked Gouda cheese or cheddar rather than Monterey Jack — or omit the cheese entirely to make a savory baked French toast. In other words, fix something your family will eat.
Fond Memories of Parade Magazine
A “strada” was first popularized in Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1984 by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins. These two ladies were based in New York City. They were some of the big culinary influencers of their age. This was long before the internet and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok– yes, there was life prior to the internet. Our “internet” was the newspaper and perhaps a cooking show on PBS. Rosso and Lukins wrote innovative cookbooks and edited a gourmet food column in the Sunday morning newspaper Parade Magazine insert after Julia Childs left the magazine. Those times — including Parade Magazine — are gone. But I’ll always have the memories of these ladies’ articles — we used so many of their recipes at holiday meals. Here is one of their later cookbooks which I enjoyed to browse through for the latest ideas back in those days.
I love French toast and often make a baked version using either my oven or Instant Pot . A strada is similar to French toast except that French toast tends to be sweeter while a strada is savory and it includes cheese.
I added a sweet, white onion flavor in the casserole — because I love onions and it complements the kale. The diced red pimento adds a red Christmas color. The seasonings in my casserole are salt, pepper and dry ground mustard. My choice for cheese is a mild Monterey Jack cheese. You could substitute Gouda, Parmesan or cheddar cheese or omit the cheese entirely.
We have lots of crumbly, airy French bread in Louisiana. I have also used stale white bread in this casserole or denser French bread. You need about 6 cups of packed bread cubes or 12 oz. I would not recommend a sweet bread such as challah in this casserole as these the sweetness may clash with savory flavors in this mixture.
Making the Casserole
To make the casserole, pre-prep the all the ingredients. Red Russian is a mild kale and can be eaten either raw or cooked. When cooking kale, it still involves removing the center stem which is too tough to eat. To prep the kale, wash the kale leaves, rinse and drain them. Remove the center stem by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting out the stem. Roll up the leaves like a cigarette and slice the rolls Then cut across the segments to make strands of kale.
Saute the onions and then add the kale. Kale will cook down and it seems to evaporate. Even if this seems like alot of kale, it will reduce in volume.
Making the rest of the casserole is simple. Blend the eggs very well with a wire whip. Add the milk and seasonings. Mix in the cheese, chopped pimento, sautéed onions and kale. Gently fold in the bread cubes. Place the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish. Either bake immediately or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.
I baked this casserole in a 9″ diameter deep dish pie casserole in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The casserole will puff up, then fall down as it cools.
Enjoy family, friends and memories this holiday season. I prepare this type of strada or French toast casserole frequently during the year for a substantial brunch. It is extra special at Christmas time. Enjoy.
- 6 oz Red Russian kale (2 cups firmly packed kale which is stemmed, chopped)
- 12 oz (6 cups packed) French bread or stale white bread
- 1 Tbsp oil plus oil for casserole dish
- 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped (about 1 cup, chopped)
- 6 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp chopped pimento
- fresh parsley, optional garnish
- orange slices, optional garnish
Method and Steps:
- Oil 9″ round deep dish pie casserole. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Pre-prep kale. Thoroughly wash kale under running water. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fold each kale leaf in half. Use a large kitchen knife to slice and remove center stem. Then place leaf halves on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette roll. Slice rolls. Then cut through rolls crosswise to make slivers. Set kale aside.
- Cut French bread or stale white bread into 1″ cubes. You need about 6 cups packed bread cubes. Set aside.
- Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Reduce heat if onion begins to burn.
- Add kale slivers to skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until kale wilts.
- Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and beat with wire whip into eggs are blended and creamy yellow.
- Add milk and stir to combine.
- Add in seasonings — salt, pepper and ground mustard.
- Mix in sautéed onion and kale.
- Add chopped pimento.
- Carefully fold in bread cubes, tossing to coat all the cubes with egg/milk mixture.
- Transfer to oiled deep dish pie casserole and toss to combine all ingredients, mixing in any egg/milk on the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Bake in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Casserole should not “jiggle” in center. It will puff up and be browned on top.
- Alternatively, rather than baking immediately, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while oven pre-heats. Then bake for 40 minutes in 325 degree oven..
- If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and orange slices.
Easy Cook: A Small Batch of Air Fryer Granola
Wow, I’ve just made the best and easiest batch of granola possible. It is crunchy and aromatic. And I used my newest kitchen “gadget,” an air fryer, which I purchased around the holiday season. The air fryer was intended as a Christmas present for a relative. But when the relative stated that she already had an air fryer, I decided to keep this Christmas present for myself. Do you ever do that? Although other friends say that they “love” cooking with air fryers, I really haven’t figured out a way to make good use of my air fryer. Today I decided to give this little appliance another try and am pleased to report that I made a very successful batch of granola.Continue reading
Ridiculously Easy One-Bowl Oatmeal & Apple Cookies
My grandmother Ida’s pride and joy was her “Oatmeal Bars” which we helped her bake every summer during our visits to her Iowa farm. She was especially proud that you could make these bars using only one bowl. I decided to bake a variation of her recipe, but making cookies rather than bars. I had a very tart apple to use up and added this to the dough. The cookies turned out great. They are soft and moist yet chewy with plenty of apple and oatmeal flavor. The cookies are very simple to make. I used a large saucepan and “dumped and stirred” in the ingredients — one at a time in order. For further ease, I adjusted the ingredients so that most of them are “one” cup or “one” item. The hardest part of the recipe is peeling and chopping the apple.Continue reading
Aunt Gaye’s Fresh Blueberry Streusel Pie
Here is another absolutely delicious way to use fresh blueberries. I asked Aunt Gaye, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, for recommendations on using blueberries since I had such a large summer crop. (Aunt Gaye is a great cook.) In a second she replied that she indeed had a favorite blueberry recipe: “Fresh Blueberry Streusel Pie.” She promised to mail me the recipe. Mail. Isn’t that great? Everybody likes to get mail. On the down side, now I had to wait several days for the recipe. Well, the recipe arrived as promised and I made the pie. Aunt Gaye showed off her cooking talents again, this is another winning recipe. The pie really highlights the fresh blueberry flavor. The crunchy streusel topping also sets the blueberries off, too.Continue reading
Let’s Make Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats
What is this? These are an old-fashioned ice cream floats which I have named, “Green Swamp Floats.” We are getting to the end of summer — Labor Day is coming up. Let’s celebrate by making “Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Floats.” Sipping an ice cream float in the afternoon used to be a summertime treat when I was growing up. It satisfied one’s sweet tooth and quenched the thirst on those hot summer days. And an ice cream float was so, so easy to make — really just two ingredients — coke and ice cream. When company came for an extended visit, these were sure to be on the agenda. So let’s make a traditional ice cream float using Barq’s Root Beer and also some surprises.Continue reading
Family Favorites: Old-Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes
Mrs. Grossnickle made the best recipe of “Scalloped Potatoes” that I can ever remember. The dish was probably loaded with cream and butter. Not healthy by today’s standards, but very tasty. When I was growing up, the Grossnickles lived across a cow pasture which we could see from where we lived on a small hill. “Scalloped Potatoes” was served at almost every Sunday dinner after church and especially at holidays such as Easter. I am guessing that we were invited to the Grossnickle’s home for some of these meals and this is where I ate the “best” dish of “Scalloped Potatoes.” I consider this to be an old-fashioned “comfort food” and still like the dish after all these years; although with slightly less cream. For nostalgia, I’m making this dish again on Easter Sunday.Continue reading
Meringue Nests with Fresh Fruit for Passover and Easter
I cannot remember a Passover meal without my mother-in-law’s meringue nests for dessert. These are truly a family tradition. The little meringue shells are made from egg whites and sugar with a hint of vanilla extract and are filled with fresh fruit. They are tasty and colorful and truly remind me of spring. Fill them with whatever fruit is in season — blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. Best yet, this dessert is fat-free and healthy. It will surely impress! This is the “perfect” and elegant dessert for spring — serve it for Easter dinner, too!Continue reading