French Toast Bake

We have been making this French Toast Bake for many years as it is a much-loved family favorite.  It is an easy oven baked French Toast Casserole that is soaked overnight in an egg custard.  Real maple syrup and butter are a required topping.  A great recipe for a holiday gathering or special weekend breakfast.

French Toast Bake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 stick (1/2 cup ) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 loaf of St Pierre Brioche Cinnamon Twist Bread, 14.1 ounces*

Spray a  2 1/2 quart sized baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside,

Add the light brown sugar and cinnamon to the melted butter and stir until mixed.  Pour the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, spreading in an even layer.

Arrange the bread in two layers over the brown sugar mixture.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, and vanilla  together; pour over the bread.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 30-40  minutes.  Serve with butter and real maple syrup, if desired.

Notes:
I used St Pierre Brioche Cinnamon Twist Bread for this recipe.  However, other breads such as Texas Toast, Challah, sour dough or Brioche can be used.

My Bee Balm has faded fast but the butterflies did enjoy it earlier in the summer.

 

Chicken with Fresh Apricots

This recipe is a take on the Sweet and Sour Chicken made with Russian dressing.  The chicken is covered in a flavorful sauce made with Russian dressing, onion soup mix, and apricot preserves.  It is a sweet and savory chicken dish that uses common ingredients.

I used fresh apricots that I got from nearby Robinette’s orchard,  I look forward to this beautiful fruit every summer.  Most of the apricots grown in the USA come from California.  However, we can find apricots here beginning in midsummer at a few Michigan orchards.

Chicken with Fresh Apricots

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
1 (8 oz) bottle Russian dressing, Wish-Bone brand
1 cup of apricot preserves
1 package Lipton dry onion soup mix
6 fresh ripe apricots, halved and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chicken thighs into a sprayed casserole dish and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the Russian dressing, preserves, and dry onion soup mix together.

Pour the mixture over the top of the chicken.  Arrange the apricots around the chicken.

Bake uncovered at 350°F  for 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is done.  Serve over yellow rice if desired.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.  

Notes:
1.  I served the chicken over yellow rice.
2. Lipton onion soup comes in a box with 2 packages inside.  Use 1 package for this recipe.
3.  USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Below is a photo of a young deer that was in my yard early in the morning.  Probably looking for plants to eat.

 

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits is a classic comfort food dinner.  The creamy chicken filling is topped with cheesy biscuits for a hearty and delicious dinner.   This is comfort food and also a quick and easy recipe to prepare.

I made the recipe twice.  The first time I used 8 biscuits and the next time 6 biscuits.   I think I prefer only using 6 biscuits.  The original recipe calls for topping with 6 biscuits.

Using rotisserie chicken and frozen biscuits make this recipe even easier and quick to make.

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 (10 1/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pimiento
4 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese, divided
6-8 frozen biscuits, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray the bottom and sides of an 11×7 inch baking dish. Set aside.

Heat butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until melted.  Stir in diced onions.  Saute until tender but not browned, about 1-2 minutes.

Combine the onion, soup, sour cream, milk, and pimiento in a large bowl and mix well.  Stir in the chicken.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Bake for 15 minutes; remove from the oven.

Sprinkle baked layer with 3/4 cup of the Cheddar cheese.  Arrange biscuits in a single layer over top  and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese.   Bake until biscuits are golden brown and the sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.  

Notes:
1. I used rotisserie chicken for this recipe.
2. Leftovers can be warmed up in the microwave.
3.  Adapted from a Grandma’s Kitchen recipe card.  I found the card tucked inside one of my old cookbooks.

Below is a photo of a little red squirrel that stopped by for a visit.

 

 

 

 

Pasta Meatball Stew

Spring may have arrived, but that that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy hearty stews or soups.   Pasta Meatball Stew is a delicious stew that I enjoy year-round.  It is very easy to prepare and makes for a perfect dinner.

Using frozen meatballs are a great time saver.  I prefer the Cooked Perfect Brand, but feel free to use your favorite brand.

If you are looking for a delicious and easy stew, give this one a try.

Pasta Meatball Stew

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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32 Cooked Perfect Frozen Meatballs, Bite Size

1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper

2 cups cooked fusili pasta

Sauté the onions, carrots, zucchini, green and red peppers in the olive oil, just till onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in flour.

Gradually add beef broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, stirring constantly.  Cook  and stir 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and basil and stir to combine.  Add in the frozen meatballs, making sure they are covered with the sauce.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat; cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the cooked pasta.  Serve hot.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Notes:
1.  I used half of a bag of the Cooked Perfect Meatballs.
2.  Inspired by a recipe from Taste of Home.

Below is a photo of one of the first robins spotted in my yard a few days ago.    Always glad when they return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Potato Casserole

This Cheesy Potato Casserole is an easy and delicious side dish to prepare.  It uses the convenience of prepared shredded potatoes. I did use a block of Michigan Colby Cheese that I shredded myself but that took less than 5 minutes.

I really like the mild flavor the colby cheese adds to this casserole.  Colby cheese seems to be readily available in local stores here, but if you can’t find it substitute with a mild cheddar.

This Cheesy Potato Casserole is now my favorite way to prepare cheesy potatoes for family gatherings.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 package Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns ® (20 ounces size)

Colby cheese, (8 ounces), shredded and divided
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream (8 ounces)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 2 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Reserve about 1/4 of the colby cheese for the topping.

In a large bowl combine all of the hash brown ingredients except the reserved cheese; mix well.  Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle the reserved cheese evenly over the hash browns.  Bake 45 minutes or until hash browns are tender.

It seems we just get a handle on one world crisis than another one unfolds.  This time the invasion of Ukraine.  The World Central Kitchen founded by Chef Jose Andres is on the ground in Ukraine and in nearby border towns feeding thousands of people since the crisis started.  A big thank you to this wonderful humanitarian and his workers.  For more information see this article on World Central Kitchen in Ukraine.

Below is a photo of a small hawk that was in my backyard a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Grape Jelly Meatballs

These easy and delicious Grape Jelly Meatballs are a perfect appetizer for game day.  They are also great served with rice as a main dish.  I made the ones in this post for today’s Super Bowl Sunday game.

You only need three simple ingredients to make this delicious appetizer: grape jelly, chili sauce, and frozen cooked meatballs.  I used the Cooked Perfect brand of meatballs.  They are flame broiled and bite size and taste homemade.

Some recipes use BBQ sauce or ketchup instead of the chile sauce, but I prefer the flavor of the chili sauce.  I used the Heinz brand but you can use your favorite brand.

Grape Jelly Meatballs

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 jar (18 ounces) grape jelly
1 bottle (12 ounce) Heinz Chili Sauce
32 ounces frozen fully cooked meatballs such as Cooked Perfect Homestyle Meatballs

In a small bowl, combine the grape jelly and chili sauce.  Set aside.  Place the frozen meatballs in the slow cooker.  Add the grape jelly and chili sauce mixture.  Stir until the meatballs are coated in the grape jelly and chili sauce mixture.

Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking.  Serve as an appetizer or over rice as a main dish.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.

I’m not a fan of football, but I do enjoy the food we make and entertainment for the Super Bowl games.  One of the entertainers this year Is rapper Eminem (Marshall Mathers) a Detroit native and star of the movie, “8Mile”.  The rest of the entertainment lineup sounds great also.

While it will be hot where the big game will be played, that is not the case here in West Michigan.  The current temperature here is 19°F with a lot of snow still on the ground.

Below is a photo of a squirrel that comes around almost daily looking for peanuts.

 

Pecan Bars

Pecan pie in a bite-sized bar is perfect to serve as a holiday dessert.  These pecan pie bars have a tender shortbread crust and all the flavor of pecan pie.  The filling contains some of the classic ingredients from a pecan pie.

The Pecan Bars are great any time of the year but are especially good for Christmas desserts.  Dipping one end in chocolate makes for a tasty and beautiful presentation.

I have made these bars several times in the past.  Always, before I used Ina Garten’s recipe from her cookbook The Barefoot Contessa.

The recipe in this post is still adapted from Ina’s cookbook but it has been halved by food blogger everydayannie.com.  The halved version uses less butter and pecans.  The original recipe uses 9 sticks of butter and 2 pounds of chopped pecans.

If you are looking for a new dessert for this Christmas, I recommend these bars.

Pecan Bars

  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Crust:

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose-flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lb pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch baking pan with baking spray.  Line the pan with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out.  Lightly spray with baking spray and then set aside.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined.  Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.

The dough will be sticky, so you can use a piece of plastic wrap (or plastic baggie) around your fingers to help prevent the dough from sticking to you.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned.  Allow to cool.

For the toping, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir.  Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the heavy cream and chopped pecans.  Pour over the crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool.  Cut into bars.  (Dip one side of the bar in melted chocolate and place on wax paper until set, if desired.)  Makes approximately 20-25 bars.  

Have a safe and Merry Christmas.  Below photo is from my archives.

 

 

Libby’s New Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving in the USA is fast approaching.  A favorite Thanksgiving dessert of many families is pumpkin pie.  Chances are the recipe for the pumpkin pie is the one from the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin.  It is a vintage recipe dating from the 1950’s.

However, Libby’s has a new pumpkin pie recipe, “New Fashion Pumpkin Pie”.  It is a change from their vintage 1950 recipe.  The new recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk in place of granulated sugar and less evaporated milk.  It also slightly increases the amount of ground cloves,  The new version also has a shorter bake time.

The recipe makes a lot of filling.  I had about a cup of filling leftover which I discarded.

I have made the pie on three separate occasions, back in April and then a couple days ago  I baked two pies for this post.  I gave one to my grandson who loves pumpkin pie.  He said the pie was very good.

This new version pumpkin pie is very quick and easy to make and bakes up a very tasty pie.  I can recommend it if you are looking for a pumpkin pie recipe for your Thanksgiving dessert.

Libby's New Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell, thawed if frozen

1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 (14-ounce can) Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.  Beat eggs in large bowl.  Stir in pumpkin and dry ingredient mixture.  Gradually stir in sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.  Carefully pour into pie shell.  Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350°F; bake for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate. 

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Below is a photo of the Grand River that I took about a week before our first snowfall.

 

Easy Chili

Cooler weather has finally arrived in West Michigan which makes it a perfect time to serve up a big bowl of chili.  Although, soup or chili is good anytime of the year (in my opinion).

This is a mild and easy to make chili that can be ready in less than an hour.  However, if you want a spicier chili, add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne powder when you add in the Seasoning Mix.

Quick and easy, this recipe uses a packet of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix,  The sautéed diced onions and green bell peppers add a taste of freshness to the chili.

If you are looking for a quick and easy Chili recipe, this is the one to try.  Cheddar cheese is a great topping for the chili.

Easy Chili

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 pound ground chuck or beef
1 package McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, undrained
1 can  (16 ounces) Bush’s Chili Beans, medium chili sauce, undrained
Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, sauté the onions and diced bell pepper just till softened.  Add the ground beef.  Break it apart with a wooden spoon.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.  Drain the fat, if needed.

Stir in the Seasoning Mix, tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot with assorted toppings, if desired.

We are starting to get some color here in the Grand Rapids area.  Below is a photo of a pretty country road not too far from my house.

Plum Cake

Michigan plums are a delicious fruit whether fresh, frozen or canned.  The harvest season for Michigan Plums begins in August and ends in September.  While most of the plums are eaten fresh some of the plums are canned and frozen.  A few Michigan Plum Facts:

Michigan produced 2,000 tons of fresh and processed plums in 2009, generating $1.3 million.  Most Michigan plums are of the Stanley and Damson variety.  Stanley plums are larger, elongated freestone European-type plums with blue-black skin and yellow flesh.  Source is michigangrown.org.

This Plum Cake is an easy to make and rustic looking cake that is sure to become a family favorite.   It  is a delicious cake that can be enjoyed warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with whipped cream.  It is also good with a morning cup of coffee.  It is a light cake and not too sweet.  I had enough plums that I baked the cake twice.  I used Michigan grown Stanley plums for this recipe.

Plum Cake

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 pound plums, pitted and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and beat on low speed until smooth.  The batter will be thick.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Arrange the plums on top, skin side up, in a circular pattern so that they mostly cover the batter.  Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar over the plums.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden on top and set in the center.

When the cake is hot out of the oven, run a knife around the edges of the pan and then remove the springform edge, leaving the base in place.  Let the cake cool on a rack completely.  Slice and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge.  

Recipe is adapted from one of my favorite food bloggers, Once Upon a Chef, Jennifer Segal and can be found here.  Jennifer is also the author of two cookbooks.

      Once Upon a Chef: Weeknight/Weekend: 70 Quick-Fix Weeknight Dinners + 30 Luscious Weekend Recipes: A Cookbook and Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook: 100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes.  

Both cookbooks are available from Amazon and also from Apple Books.

I purchased both cookbooks from Apple Books and highly recommend both of them.

 

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