Category Archives: Cooking

On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

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The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

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On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

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The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

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Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

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Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

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OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

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We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

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Olive Tapenade Tart Soleil

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love Smitten Kitchen. It is my favorite food blog and is as much a pleasure to visit for the writing as it is for the recipes. When I wanted to make something special to bring to the memorial for my sister-in-law, this is where I looked.

I didn’t follow the filling recipe, though it looks tasty. I used an olive tapenade recipe I’ve served on little toasted French bread rounds. The recipe made a lot more filling than needed for the tart, so I’ve scaled it down here.

If you have leftover filling you can spread in a sandwich or add it to a salad.  As Deb Perelman mentions in Smitten Kitchen, you could try other savory fillings, such as pesto or something with sharp cheese, or try a sweet version with Nutella.

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Olive Tapenade Tart Soleil with Lemon Feta Dip

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tart Ingredients:

2 packages puff pastry (thawed overnight in fridge)

1 clove garlic, peeled

leaves from a sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 can (7.5 oz.) ripe olives, drained
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/4 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes (I was out so used a few tablespoons of tomato paste)

about 1/4 cup olive oil

1 egg yolk

water

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Dip Ingredients
6 ounces feta, crumbled (Trader Joe’s sells Pastures of Eden brand feta. It is creamy and a little less salty than some – I love it)
2 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste

Directions:

Make the filling: Blend all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor with the chopping blade until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly pour in olive oil until smooth and spreadable. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Assemble the tart: Roll one package  of puff pastry flat and cut a 12-inch circle; use a 12-inch round platter (I have a mesh screen splatter guard that worked well) for a guide or cut a pattern from parchment paper. Repeat with second dough, setting one aside in the fridge until needed.

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Put first round on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread filling on dough, leaving 1 inch margin around the edge. Dab edges with water and place second round on top.

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Set a small glass (about 2.5 inches across) upside down in the middle of the tart. Using scissors, carefully cut through both layers of dough and the filling, cutting it into four sections. Leave the center, under the glass, intact.

Now cut each section in half, making 8 pieces, and again, making 16 strips and finally one last round ending with 32 strips of pastry.

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Remove the glass and twist each strip of pastry carefully.

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Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of water and brush over pastry dough, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown all over.

While tart is baking, make Lemon Feta dip. Combine all dip ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with a chopping blade and process until smooth. Place in bowl for dipping.

Remove tart from oven, let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter.

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I’d barely gotten it onto the buffet table when my youngest brother sampled it, twisting off a spiraled ray of pastry and olive. Before I could take a picture, he had another on his plate.  I cropped the photo to show the rest of the tart.

Thanks for the visit.

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Overnight Oatmeal

 

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Getting out the door in the morning shouldn’t be such a challenge for me. I don’t have kids, I don’t have pets and Rem helps me make my lunch for work. But the pull of just one more page of a book, or all too often Facebook, means I’m usually short on time.

Putting together no-cook oatmeal in the evening means breakfast is ready and waiting in the morning. For people who like grab-and-go recipes, you can assemble it in a mason jar to eat it at work. As the weather warms up, hot oatmeal is less appealing to me. I like the cool, creaminess of this version, but if you like a hot breakfast, this can be warmed in the microwave.

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The basics for the dish are rolled oats, Greek yogurt, fruit and milk. I like to include something sweet in it too, usually honey. Recently I’ve started adding ground flaxseed and some Trader Joe’s Super Seed & Ancient Grain Blend to boost the nutrition content. I’ve seen chia seeds in some recipes and I’m planning on trying a version which replaces half of the oats with quinoa.  Toasted nuts and coconut are both welcome toppings to add  just before eating.

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I saw the recipe on several sites and in magazine articles, but I think it was after reading The Yummy Life post with different flavors that I finally tried it myself, and I love it. Going back to get the link I realized I need to try some of Monica’s suggested recipes: Cocoa Banana sounds delicious. She also writes about the many variations she and her readers have tried, such as gluten free oats, almond milk, coconut milk, agave syrup, and maple syrup, as well as yummy additions like peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut or toasted nuts, which are easy to sprinkle on just before eating.

When I make it, I don’t usually measure the ingredients, just grabbing handfuls and eyeballing as I go and each time it comes out a little different. But I took a few more minutes to measure it out so I could share it with you.  I will also include some notes at the end for making it using steel cut oats.

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Overnight Oat
Adapted from The Yummy Life and Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients (1 serving)

1/3 cup rolled or quick cook oats

1 tablespoon Ancient Grains Cereal Blend or Chia seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon ground flax seeds (optional)

1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I love Fage brand and the whole milk yogurt is delicious in this dish)
(I use 1/2 of a single serving tub. Different brands of yogurt are different sizes, so don’t sweat it if you have a little less or a little more than 1/3 cup. It should be fine.)

drizzle of honey (optional)

1/2 to 3/4 cup fruit, such as frozen blueberries

1/3 cup milk (I use 2%, but use what you like)

2-3 tablespoons toasted pecans or almonds, or shredded coconut (optional, added just before eating)

Directions:
In a bowl or pint-sized jar, layer the ingredients in order: oats on the bottom, any other grains or seeds you are using, yogurt, honey if using, fruit and milk. Some recipes direct you to stir or shake all the ingredients into a homogenized mixture, but I prefer having the variation of ingredients in each bite. I do poke a spoon or chopstick down through the frozen fruit, yogurt and into the oatmeal a few times to make sure the milk finds it’s way to the oats.

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I use the frozen fruit right from the freezer without defrosting it first. It hasn’t make a difference.

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Cover dish or jar and put in the fridge overnight.

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The next morning, the oatmeal is ready to eat!

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The first two times I tried this with steel cut oats, it was much too chewy for me to enjoy. A little online research and two trail runs later and I’m happy with it.

Overnight Oatmeal with Steel Cut Oats

Ingredients:

Same as in first version with these changes:

1/3 cup steel cut oats to replace rolled oats

1/2 cup of milk to replace 1/3 cup milk

Directions:

Combine oats and 1/3 cup of the milk in a microwave safe bowl or jar and heat in microwave for 1 minute. (If you use the full amount of milk, it may spill over in microwave.)

Remove bowl or jar from microwave and stir, than let cool on counter for 30 to 60 minutes. Add yogurt, honey if desired, fruit and remaining milk. Cover and refrigerate as in original recipe.

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I tried this with both a bowl and a jar and found the mixture in the jar soaked up all the liquid and even after a second night in the fridge, the one in the bowl was still a little milky.  They are quite similar and I found both to be quite tasty; I would be happy with either. But I admit I prefer the more tender texture of the rolled oats to the steel cut oats.

Thanks for stopping by.

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May 1, 2016 · 9:11 pm

Really Good Granola

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Happy New Year! Thanks for reading this, even though I don’t post as often as I’d like.

I had the idea of making granola as a Christmas gift for some friends and family.  I wanted something that would be a bit of a treat, but not quite the guilty pleasure of  cracker toffee. I read a few recipes and set out to make a toasty granola that would have lots of clusters, be a little but not too sweet and have plenty of nuts.

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My Smitten Kitchen Cookbook has a recipe for Big Cluster Maple Granola that seemed like a good place to start. I was also inspired by Nigella Lawson and the olive oil granola she made on Simply Nigella with lots of seeds and nuts.

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I fiddled around and made two batches, each slightly different than the other. I didn’t achieve the big clusters I was seeking, but I also didn’t follow Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman’s recipe to the letter. I was kind of disappointed, but with the holiday hustle and bustle I just shrugged it off and went on to the next project. I didn’t have the time or energy to fiddle around with granola. I didn’t give away as much as I’d originally planned, but that was ok too.

In fact, I tossed the notes and didn’t have any photos of the granola. I wouldn’t be sharing it here now except my friend, Lisa, wrote to say it was some of the best granola she’d ever had! In my focusing on the lack of clusters, I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the flavor. She was right, it was really good granola. And, good news, I still had ingredients enough for another batch.

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This recipe uses golden syrup: I’ve seen this ingredient mentioned in some British recipes but I’d never tried it. Than I happened to notice a bottle at Cost Plus World Market and decided to give it a try. It is an amber syrup that is made in the process of refining cane or sugar beets into sugar. It has a delicious sweet flavor that reminds me of toasted marshmallows and is worth seeking out. I’ve already gone back to purchase more.  However, you can use maple syrup or honey instead.

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Really Good Granola

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 cup rolled oats

1 cup nuts or combination nuts and seeds – I used whole and sliced almonds, pecans and pumpkin seeds for this batch. Walnuts and sunflower seeds would also be good choices.

1/2 to 1 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut

1/4 cup chia and/or flax seeds – Trader Joe’s sells Ancient Grains Seed Mixture that has both of those as well as millet, buckwheat, hemp, quinoa and amaranth. I used this mixture.  In the Smitten Kitchen recipe, she uses 1/4 cup of wheat germ here, so feel free to use that in place of the seeds. Maybe you will reach granola cluster nirvana if you do.

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup golden syrup – maple syrup or honey would also work, each adding a different flavor and level of sweetness. If you like it sweeter, go to 2/3 cup.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

1 large egg white

1 1/2 cup dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries, golden raisins, or goji berries

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Instructions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the oats, nuts, coconut, seeds, salt, olive oil, vanilla and golden syrup and toss together. Beat the egg white until foamy and combine with the mixture until coated.

Spread on a parchment covered rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about 50 minutes. Turn with a spatula about halfway through the baking for more even browning.

Granola will be moist while warm, but will become more crisp as it cools.

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When cool, add dried fruit.

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This is a delicious snack alone or I like it with coconut Greek yogurt. It is also a great bowl of cereal for breakfast.

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Thanks for the visit.

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Recipe: Thai-Style Seven Flavor Salad

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After nearly two weeks of juicing fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch and eating vegetarian meals for dinner, Rem and I went our for Thai food on Friday evening and ate a yummy appetizer that inspired this dish. At Thai Smile in San Rafael, the dish is called MIANG KHAM (Spinach Wraps).

Instead of a bowl or plate of salad this is assembled in small lettuce leaves and eaten out of the hand like a mini lettuce taco. Each person assembles a wrap with the seven different ingredients, plus the chutney to pull it all together. It is very flavorful.

I used lettuce leaves instead of spinach and cooked shrimp meat instead of dried shrimp. Peanuts were replaced with almonds, but only because I didn’t want to buy a large bag of peanuts.  Either would be great. It was a refreshing supper on a hot summer evening.

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I also cheated by using chutney for the sauce, but it was fairly similar to the sweet, gingery sauce we enjoyed the other night.

I’m going to offer suggested amounts for two servings, but to be completely honest, I didn’t measure as I was making this. So feel free to ad-lib and adjust as you see fit.

Thai-Style Seven Flavor Salad

2 baby gem lettuce, leaves pulled apart and washed and dried on paper towel or in lettuce spinner

1/3 lb. cooked shrimp meat

about 1 cup dried shredded coconut, toasted in a dry pan until a bit brown, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn ( I got plain, unsweetened shredded, dried coconut at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts or almonds (I used rosemary and salt Marcona almonds – yum!)

1/2 lime with peel, thinly sliced, each slice cut into about 6 small squares

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very small dice

2 inch piece of green onion, finely sliced or chopped

1/2 jalapeno chili cut into very thin slices, than cut those in half or quarters

1/2 to 3/4 cup of chutney

Arrange all ingredients in small bowls or in piles on a platter.  Each person assembles their own individual wraps.

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The coconut and almonds or peanuts are crunchy, the chili, onion and ginger add their own zing and the lime is bright and tart. The dried shrimp we had in the restaurant was kind of chewy and salty.  But for our summer dinner (with half an avocado on the side), the cool, sweet shrimp were delicious.

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In my #30DayJournal project today, the prompts asked about how I bring creativity into my life, and experimenting with recipes is one of the ways I do that.

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Thank you for stopping by (sorry for the early draft that went out by mistake to my subscribers).

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Breakfast Strata with Sausage

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I fell in love the first time I had a breakfast strata.  I think the person serving it called it Breakfast Bread Pudding and it was similar but different from other egg dishes, and I found the combination of eggs, cubed bread, sausage and cheese wonderful. Another reason to love this dish is that most of the work is done the night before so in the morning it just has to be baked.  This is perfect if you are serving brunch to guests and would rather be sipping mimosa’s with them than whipping eggs in the kitchen.

This particular recipe is adapted from Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman: Sausage-Kale Breakfast Strata.  I tweaked it just a bit and the results are delicious.  I made it for our family potluck Easter Brunch.  This makes a big 10×13 inch casserole, and could be halved, but it’s so good, and it reheats well so you may as well bake up the whole pan.

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Breakfast Strata with Sausage

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

1 16 oz loaf of French or Italian bread (I used ciabatta)

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely minced

olive oil for cooking

about 10 oz. of greens, such as kale, spinach, chard or a combination, any thick stems removed.  (I used a 5 oz. bag of baby kale and a 5 oz. bag of spinach)

12 eggs

2.5 cups milk (I used 2% and whole would be great. I would not recommend all skim milk for this recipe)

6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

nonstick spray

salt and pepper

Optional: about 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese for the top of the strata

Directions:

Cut the bread into cubes and set aside.

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Cook the sausage; squeeze it out of the casings if it is in links, break it apart as it cooks. Drain on paper towel.

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Wipe pan and heat a little olive oil to cook the onions.  Sprinkle in the rosemary when the onions are nearly done.

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If your greens are in bags, you can open the bag, fold it over and microwave-steam the greens right in the bag for 1 to 3 minutes.  If you are using greens sold in bunches or in bulk, chop coarsely and saute until just wilted.

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After allowing the cooked greens to cool, squeeze out excess moisture.

Beat together eggs and milk, and season with salt and pepper.

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Spray 10 x 13 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray and put in half the bread cubes, layer with half the greens, half the onions, half the sausage and half the Gruyere cheese.

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Layer the remaining bread cubes, greens, onions, sausage and remaining Gruyere.

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Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture over the casserole, moving around to get the whole casserole covered.  If desired, sprinkle with optional grated Parmesan cheese.

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Cover casserole with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight.

Remove casserole from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees,  Remove plastic wrap from the dish and replace it with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown and becoming crisp around the edges.

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This would make a lovely Sunday night supper. Thank you for stopping  by.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a guest blog entry. Today’s guest blogger is Rem. Rem will wash any animal, any size for only $19.95. So if you have a huge pet, let’s say an elephant, you win!

 

I decided to bake cookies this morning and Dianne suggested I do a guest blogger entry. So here is my story about these delicious chocolate chip cookies.

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I decided to make cookies for Dianne’s family Easter brunch. I first made these cookies a couple of weeks ago but I don’t remember why. Then again I’m not bothered as ever since I landed on my head I forget a lot. So it doesn’t matter why I made them but that I made them and people liked them.

I found the recipe on Martha Stewart’s website. I was surprised to see her as one of the guests Roast of Justin Bieber. Did anyone else see it? Man did he get dragged over the coals! I can’t imagine a more deserving person. You could even make cookies while laughing and watching it.

So I was looking for a soft chocolate chip cookie recipe and found this one. I discovered it wasn’t far off from the Nestle’ Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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The chocolate chip cookie ingredients.

The batter goes together quickly. I made sure to add the flour with baking soda mixture gradually into the butter, sugar and eggs mixture. I also added the chocolate chips gradually into the dough.

Gradually add the flour into the dough.

Gradually add the flour and mix into the dough.

Add the chocolate chips. Taste testing is encouraged.

Add the chocolate chips gradually. Taste testing is encouraged.

Ghirardelli chocolate, a San Francisco food!

Ghirardelli chocolate, a San Francisco food!

The recipe directions says to, “drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about two inches apart.” I found that size to make cookies too big for my liking. The 15 large cookies it yielded needed to be baked longer than the directed eight to 10 minutes.

Chocolate chip cookie dough awaiting baking.

Chocolate chip cookie dough awaiting baking.

Allow plenty of space between cookies so they do not touch when done baking.

Allow plenty of space between cookies so they do not touch when done baking.

Tasty cookies but too large for my liking.

Tasty cookies but too large for my liking.

The second tray of cookies were slightly smaller and the third sheet made 25 cookies which I thought was the right size to pop in your mouth and have a drink of milk.

Take the cookies out once the edges are golden brown.

Take the cookies out once the edges are golden brown.

The dough is pretty addictive so the amount of cookies made will depend both on the size of the cookies as well as how much dough you eat.

If you make these cookies, post a note and share how they came out.

Happy cookie dough

Happy face cookie dough. Who says you can’t play with your food?

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