Real Maple Syrup

IMG_1190This year, I really wanted to go to Vermont on vacation. I wanted to visit Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory and to tap a Maple tree to get syrup. I learned though that you can’t really just tap a tree to get syrup. During our trip, we visited a visited a Sugar House. img_1186.jpgWe learned that getting sap from a tree requires a very extensive string of plastic tubing to be drilled to the trees. When the temperatures in the spring first reach above freezing, the sap drips from the tree as the temperature drops below freezing at night. This usually happens in late March or early April. The sap runs through the tubes to a giant collection container. Those containers are then transported to process IMG_1187the sap through a boiling process to produce maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap and about 45 minutes of boiling sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Wow, now you know why really Vermont Maple Syrup cost so much. We also learned that Maple Creemes (soft serve ice cream with maple syrup swirled in) is very popular…and delicious. It’s actually pretty cool to meet the families who run these Sugar Houses.

IMG_1157The syrup excursion was part of our Maple and Wine Tour with Greg. Following our visit to the Sugar House, we went to Boyden Valley Winery. This family farm has people producing maple, grass feed beef, and wine. In addition to ice and maple wines, Vermont’s oldest winery produces maple syrup aged in oak barrels. I learned I like oak ages syrup better than I like oak aged wine.

The state of Vermont only has a population of around 620,000 in the whole state. Despite a drought, this 14th state to the union lives up to its name which mean green mountains. The IMG_1154state is very proud of local business. In fact, this is the only state in the country to not currently have a Target store. One lady at the airport was telling us that she traveled via fairy boat to New York with her daughter to return an item to Target. (Now that’s dedication to Target shopping.) Vermont is also home to the Green Mountain Coffee (Keurig maker), the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, and Cabot Cheese.

For this morning breakfast, I wanted to use a little of our new real maple syrup.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole from Pinterest
FullSizeRender (16)1 package of Grands biscuits
1 package of frozen hash brown
1 lb. of ground sausage
8 eggs
¼ c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
maple syrup

Bake biscuits on a baking sheet for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cook hash browns until golden brown on the stove top. At the same time, brown sausage on the stove top. You’ll also need to cook the scrambled eggs and milk in that skillet. Place hash browns in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Top with ½ c. of cheese. Sprinkle with sausage. Top with scrambled eggs and remaining cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Plate and drizzle with maple syrup.

Note:

  • I did not overly cook the hash browns. I’d suggest maybe cooking them in the 13 x 9 plan for make 10 minutes before added other ingredients or removing them from the recipe. I don’t really think the hash browns are necessary ingredient in this recipe.
  • If you can get it, Cabot cheese would have been a great addition. Perhaps, even a Vermont White Cheddar.
  • I think the biscuits might have also been delicious with some Maple sugar sprinkled on top. We are still waiting for ours to be delivered.

Hash Brown Lasagna

My mother-in-law is the queen of biscuits and gravy. Nobody can even compete with her recipe. It sounds like she has been perfecting it over the last 30 years. I saw this recipe and wasn’t sure how my husband would feel about it. I made this delicious Biscuits and Gravy Casserole dish from an old coworker. He told me the jar country gravy was “too salty”. For this recipe, I made the McCormick Country Gravy. I think he was ok with this gravy in a dish that is very different than his mother’s original. We did like this dish but I think I like a few other breakfast recipes better like Breakfast Sliders, Weight Watchers Breakfast Quiche, Mini Maple Bacon Rolls, Creamy Biscuits, or Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Ring.

Hash Brown Lasagna from Pinterest
img_00341/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
shredded hash brown potatoes
salt and pepper
sausage crumbles
bacon
cheddar cheese
mozzarella cheese
McCormick Country Gravy packet prepared
1 Tsp. butter, melted

Bake bacon in the over at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cook sausage according to package.

In the meantime, pour gravy packet into a medium pan. Slowly pour two cups of milk over mix while whisking. Cook over a medium heat to a boil, stirring frequently. Then, reduce your to low and simmer for 1 minute.

Spray 8 x 8 pan. In a bowl, mix hash browns, Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper, and eggs. Pour half of mixture into pan and even out. Top with a layer of cheese, gravy, and meats. Repeat with other cheese, gravy, and meats. Top with remaining remaining hash browns. Pour melted butter on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting.

Notes:

  • I used a 13 x 9 pan because it appeared to be too much for the pan.
  • I used skim milk to prepare my gravy mix. It cut the fat and salt in country gravy.
  • I thawed the hash browns slightly in the microwave. This helped them break-up easier. Looking back, I wish I had baked the bottom layer for 10 minutes before topping to give me a slightly cruncher crust. 
  • I used turkey sausage.
  • I only used four slices of bacon. I really couldn’t taste it so you either need to use more bacon or opt it out. Sausage can be an overwhelming meat flavor.
  • The recipe suggested both mozzarella and cheddar. They suggested a prosciutto wrapped mozzarella and Velveeta cheese slices. I used shredded cheese. I’d suggest just mozzarella because I think it matches the flavors of the country gravy better. 
  • Make sure you have a lot of time to cook this recipe. I think I took me a good 40 minutes to prepare before backing. 
  • If I made it again, I think I might create a crust with something different like crescent rolls.
  • Jar gravy and precooked meats can save you time. 

 

 

Post Easter Recipe

Not sure what to do with that leftover Easter ham? Here is a make-ahead recipe that you can throw in the oven while you are getting ready for work.

Amish Egg BakeAmish Egg Bake from Pinterest
1 lb. cooked bacon (or ham)
1 medium, sweet onion
6 eggs, beaten
1 (30 oz.) package of hashbrowns
2 c. cheddar cheese
1 ½ c. cottage cheese
1 ¼ c. Swiss cheese

Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used about ¾ of pound of ham. I thought it was plenty.
  • I used low-fat, small curd cottage cheese.
  • I used 1 ¾ c. cheddar cheese and 1 c. Swiss cheese. I didn’t miss the ½ c. of cheese. I also used 2% cheese.
  • I used about ½ onion. When diced small enough, you can’t even taste it.
  • I had to bake it for 1 hour to fully cook the egg.

National Soup Month

When I think of Beer Cheese Soup, the first thing that pops into my mind is Lazlo’s Brewery. It’s a restaurant in Lincoln, NE. The original location is located in the Haymarket District. When I was in college, my friends and I used to walk down there to eat a lot. To this day, I could still tell you what everyone would order. Dan would get the Lazlo Burger and an Empyrean Amber Ale (made in Lazlo’s owner’s brewery). Rob wasn’t a drinker. He always got the French Dip but added Swiss Cheese and sautéed onions. He also ordered a side of ranch dipping sauce for his fries. Lazlo’s makes these great fries. They are crinkle fries with seasoning salt. And Ben always ordered a cup of Beer Cheese Soup. Ironic because Ben was the baby of the group – just 17 years old his first few months attending college.

After college graduations and break-ups, I ended up working for the owners of Lazlo’s. I worked in their neighboring restaurant entitled Jabrisco’s. It was an unusual Italian restaurant named after the owners Jay, Brian, and Scott. (They also had a financial partner who was a dentist but I can’t remember his name.) They had things on the menu like a PB&J wood-fired pizza, homemade spinach pasta, and this to die for chocolate dessert. We also had this amazing patio where I would sell coffee during the weekly Farmer’s Market. I worked there for about eight months as a host/head host. I could sell the bar area better than most on a busy Friday night or Saturday home football game. Following my college graduation, I left to pursue AmeriCorps full-time. But during the time I worked at Jabrisco’s, I learned some great customer service skills, importance to details, and a lot about the hospitality industry.

Today, Lazlo’s has doubled in size and now occupies the space that was once Jabrisco’s. The food is still delicious, reasonably priced, and the service is top notch. The Haymarket has also turned into this major entertainment district.

Although this recipe is very different then Lazlo’s Beer Cheese Soup, it did make me think back to some pretty cool people and an experience that greatly impacted my life.

Beer Cheese SoupBacon Beer Cheese Soup with Chicken from Pinterest
6 slices of bacon
1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ c. butter
¼ c. flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 c. beer
1 c. chicken broth
2 c. half and half
8 oz. mild cheese
1 tsp. Worchester sauce
chives
croutons

Cook bacon and chicken. In a large sauce pan, cook butter, flour, and spices. Add beer, broth, and half and half. Whisk to combine and bring to a bubble. Add cheese and stir until smooth. Add Worchester sauce, chicken, and bacon. Allow to simmer. Garnish with chives and croutons.

Notes:

  • This recipe is good but spicy. One bowl had me drinking three glasses of water, blowing my nose, and dotting my watering eyes. My recommendation is to cut the spice at least to half or maybe a third of the recipe listed above. That’s my plan for the next time I cook it.
  • I didn’t have chicken stock so I used water and put in about 2 oz. more of beer. Veggie stock is also an option.
  • When I make a soup like this I know I am sharing with vegetarian friends, I make meat more of a topping. Canned chicken is another option. I used about a ½ lb. chicken and pre-cooked bacon.
  • I used fat free half and half. I think our Nutrition Manager at work also said that Fat Free Evaporated Milk is another substitute option to make a creamy soup healthier.
  • I used light beer.
  • I used Velveeta cheese.
  • I added parsley instead of chives.

On the second day, I picked up some chicken stock and frozen hash browns. I added about 1 cup of hash browns and ¾ c. chicken stock. I also added homemade croutons. It decreased the water consumption.

Top 10

I was thinking about a recipe the other day that was one of my best. I thought I would share with all of you – the best of the best. Below are my top 10 in no particular order.

spaghetti1. Grandma Reith’s Spaghetti Sauce – I lied, this is probably my favorite recipe.
2. Mom’s Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes – This is the best cheesy potato recipe and I’ve sampled quiet a few.
3. Concord Lutheran Church Cookbook Meatballs – These go great with the potato recipe.
4. Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa Con Queso – This recipe has a nice little kick.
5. Chocolate Crinkles – My mother made these when I was a kid but I love my recipe even more. These are probably my signature item.
6. Grilled Shrimp & Basil Orzo Pasta – Fresh basil and feta cheese nicely accent this dish.
7. Canyon Chicken – Chicken, ranch, cheese, and bacon. You can’t go wrong this recipe.
8. Lasagna Twist Around – Reminds me of my Grandma Reith Spaghetti Sauce.
9. Aunt Linda’s Slushies – I’ve made and drank a number of drinks over the years. This is my absolute favorite.
10. Cheesy Potato Soup – It’s as close as you can get to the O’Charley’s soup. I miss that restaurant so much.

Breakfast Pizza

I’m sure you were all starting to wonder if I dropped off the grid or had given up writing this blog. I assure you, neither is the case. One of my favorite things to do it try new recipes and share them with others. Part of the reason I haven’t been writing for awhile is because work became quite consuming.

I work for the Greater Kansas City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Our biggest fundraiser was last weekend. The 19th Annual Susan G. Komen Kansas City Race for the Cure is Kansas City’s largest race (nearly 21,000 participants) and one of the top fundraisers in the city (over $1 million). With a staff of eight, that means LOTS of extra hours this time of year. And even then, we still couldn’t pull it off without our amazing team of volunteers. Working 7 days a week at 12-14 hour days which often included writing new content, I barely had time to do laundry let alone the creative energy to write a blog. In fact, I think I bought Chipotle for lunch four times the week before Race because I wasn’t even allowing myself enough time to cook meals. I guess that is better than constant midday snacking on Twizzlers, M&Ms, and coffee. But I am very proud of the fact I still made it to the gym for 30 minutes of cardio every day!

Tonight, I am sharing a recipe from Wayne, NE County Cookbook – Roostin’ in Wayne 1884-2009. This is one of the new recipes I did manage to try one morning. I was able to throw it in the oven while getting ready. The original recipe calls for it to be baked on a pizza pan. I cooked it in a 9 x 9 dish so it took a little longer than the original recipe said. I hope you enjoy another crescent roll recipe.

Breakfast Pizza by Jan Liska

8 refrigerated crescent rolls
1 c. frozen hash browns
1 lb. browned/drained sausage
5 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped green pepper, green onion, black olives, etc. (Optional)

Arrange rolls on pan (or stone) for crust. Top with potatoes and sausage. Mix eggs, milk, and pepper with a pinch of salt. Pour over potatoes and sausage. Sprinkle with cheese and additional toppings if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Note: It took an additional 10 minutes to cook the eggs cooking it in a 9 x 9 pan. I also made without the optional items.

Everything Breakfast

A few weeks ago, I woke up really early for work and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Since my gym wasn’t open, I decided to make myself useful and cook up a new recipe. I got this recipe in my August/September 2011 issue of Simple & Delicious magazine.

You know sometimes when you don’t know what to order at IHOP you order one of those everything platters, this is perfect for that craving. It combines eggs, hash browns, and biscuits & gravy into one dish. Nothing is overpowering so you will love it.

Breakfast Biscuit Cups by Debra Carlson

1/3 lb. bulk pork sausage
1 T. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
3/4 c. plus 1 T. milk, divided
1 T. butter
1/2 c. frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 eggs
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
1 can (16.3 oz.) large refrigerated flaky biscuits
1/2 c. shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Brown sausage. Then, add flour, salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper until blended; gradually add 3/4 c. milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another skillet, cook butter and potatoes until tender. Whisk eggs, garlic salt, and remaining pepper and milk; add to skillet. Cook and stir until almost set.

In a sprayed muffin tin, place biscuits and push up the sides. Spoon egg mixture, half the cheese, and sausage mixture into cups; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Notes & Recipe Modifications:

  • Cost per serving is $.61 (if you make eight biscuits)
  • I substituted the small biscuit can (10 regular size muffins).
  • I also substituted cheddar cheese for Colby-Monterey Jack cheese.
  • I used 1/4 lb. of reduced fat Jimmy Dean sausage, fat free cheddar cheese, and skim milk to save a few calories.
  • I think this would be a good recipe for a brunch.