Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole

Christmas morning is pretty sacred around here.  We feel lucky to have both sides of family living close to us, and the holidays can be busy with lots of time with extended family.  So we stay put on Christmas morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon when we head over to my in-laws.  I want to make the most of that time and play with the kids rather than staying in the kitchen the whole time.

For the past few years, my Christmas breakfast menu has been these cranberry-orange scones I bake a day or two before, my favorite breakfast casserole, and mimosas.  It’s a meal that is simple, but it feels special despite the fact that I prepare all of it the day before.

This breakfast casserole is my absolute favorite.  The bread gives it some structure and crunch, so it doesn’t feel like eating a plate of scrambled eggs.  It’s from an old church cookbook my grandmother gave me.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole

6 slices of toast, cubed

1 lb of sausage (I’ve used pork and chicken), browned and drained

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups milk

4 eggs

crushed cornflakes (optional)

Brown sausage and drain well.  Layer sausage, bread cubes, and grated cheese until it is all used.  (I manage 2 layers in a 8×11 pan.) Beat eggs with milk and some salt and pepper.  Pour over other ingredients, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, bake it for 45 minutes at 350.  When you’ve got about 15 minutes left, feel free to add a few crushed cornflakes (or extra cheese!) on the top if you have them.

It’s delicious and super easy.  A holiday tradition around here.

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I hope to be back in a few days to collect my thoughts on 2013.  Happy end of the year to you and yours!

our favorite baked oatmeal

We eat a lot of oatmeal around here, but never the soupy kind in a bowl.  I know there is a bit of convenience with the store-bought instant kind, but when I look at the ingredients, I see maltodextrin, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, and some other weird things.  (The peaches and cream variety contains no peaches??)

My solution is baked oatmeal.  I prep it the night before, and I make a large batch that lasts all week.  I wish I had a real photo I took with a real camera and edited, but I leave my house at 7:30 with two kids in tow.  So that would never happen at the breakfast table. I don’t even have a cell phone picture, so you will just have to make it yourself to see what it looks like.  You won’t regret it!

The recipe is so simple, and I wanted to share it.  I’ve tried a variety of baked oatmeal variations, and I eventually blended a few different recipes to create this one.  It is flexible and can be changed to suit whatever you have on hand.  Right now, it is my absolute favorite breakfast, and my four-year-old will ask for seconds and thirds!  I’ve started buying the huge box of oatmeal at Costco to keep up with our habit around here.  It does contain eggs, so I’m not technically in line with my VB6 attempt when I eat this, but I usually make it with almond milk so that it is dairy-free.

Basic Baked Oatmeal

3 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup milk (or almond milk if making dairy free)

1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or butter if you’d like)

at least 1 cup fruit of choice (I use whatever is on-hand – bananas, blueberries, peaches, apples.  Fresh or frozen.  I occasionally add shredded coconut or a few pecans if the baby isn’t going to eat it.)

**optional: 1/2 cup Chia seeds (great tasteless source of Omega-3)

The night before:

Combine oats, sucanat, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and coconut oil.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and then stir in fruit and chia seeds.  Spoon into a baking dish.  (I use my long pyrex pan most of the time, but square would work, too.)  Place dish in the refrigerator.

The following morning:

Preheat oven to 350, and remove dish from refrigerator.  Bake for about 40 minutes, and it’s perfect.  You can eat this plain or with milk on top (how Jude likes it).  Enjoy!

VB6 Challenge

I always thought veganism was pretty strange.  I mean who doesn’t eat eggs or cheese!?  I understand vegetarianism in many ways, but vegan diets just felt like a step too far and extreme.  Then I saw Forks over Knives and Food Matters – both on Netflix now, by the way.  Both documentary films really made me rethink my prior assumptions.  There is a lot of research to suggest that eating a plant-based diet is the way to go.  But full-time veganism?  Ha.  Not going to happen here.

Then I found a more moderate philosophy.  Have you heard of Mark Bittman’s VB6 habit?  The basic premise is that you eat according to vegan rules until 6:00 in the evening, and then you eat whatever you want in moderation.  I completed my dietary cleanse last spring, which really was just my way of trying to be more watchful of the food I eat.  It was amazing the difference it made on how I felt and how I viewed food.  As usual life gets in the way, and I’ve not been so careful on my fruit and veggie consumption lately.  I need a reboot.  I have no interest in doing that particular cleanse again right now, but I’m thinking VB6 is something I could get behind.  I can still enjoy the same dinner dishes with my family and not impose my own habits on them.  I’m going to give it a try this week.  I have not done a meal plan post in ages (or any post really!) so here’s my plan this week.

Breakfasts: green smoothies, pumpkin baked oatmeal (My kids LOVE baked oatmeal, especially Jude.)

Lunch: chickpea wraps, lemon pepper broccoli pasta, detox salad  I’ve also got hummus and crackers and various fruit to throw in.

Sunday Dinner: fish tacos with shredded cabbage and creamy sauce

Monday Dinner: sun-dried tomato chicken, mashed potatoes, and more of that detox salad 

Tuesday Dinner: Martha Stewart’s Tofu and Broccoli (Jude and I love this, and Scott is away that night. He is not a tofu fan.)

Wednesday Dinner: stir-fry cabbage cups

Thursday Dinner: grilled fish, potatoes, Pioneer Woman’s Grilled Zucchini 

Friday Dinner: something ready-made from my freezer stash with a side salad (Jude’s speech therapy has us home later on Fridays, so my freezer is usually the solution.)

Saturday Dinner: I’m having friends over, and one of them is eating dairy-free right now with a nursing baby, so I think I’ll give this pasta dish a try.

We have a ridiculously busy weekend ahead with three different social functions today including a get-together with the new neighbors which I’m sure will be fun but is always a bit awkward at first.  I did my grocery shopping last night after the kids were in bed to get it out of the way before the busy weekend.  I’m looking forward to diving back into healthful eating.  I’ve been bringing my lunch at work, but I’m realizing half the time I have NO fruits or veggies other than an occasional banana or something.  None.  So embarrassing, but true!  So wraps with deli meat, baby bell cheese, chicken salad on a bagel, etc. are not cutting it anymore.  We’ll see how this goes.  I’m posting it here in writing , so I have to do it, right?

Happy weekend, friends!

late to the party

I know I am the last person to give this a try, it seems.  We had spaghetti squash last week for the first time.  Recipes are all over Pinterest and FoodGawker, and it’s seemed intriguing for a while.

For our inaugural run at this, I did something simple and traditional and made these Spaghetti Squash Boats.  They were a hit!  I didn’t get a real photo, but everyone had their own little half, and it was a winner with a sometimes-picky toddler.  He loved the idea of his own little “boat” for dinner.

Other recipes I’m dying to try with this…..

Spaghetti Squash with Broccoli

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Summertime Spaghetti Squash Pesto

Breakfast Quinoa

I’m plugging right along on the health challenge, and it’s getting both easier and harder in ways.  Adding gluten-free grains and lean meats solved my problem with consuming enough calories for breastfeeding, and it’s helping a little with the monotony as well.

In my quest to break up the repetition, I discovered quite a few breakfast quinoa recipes, and there are varieties all over the internet.  The version I ended up trying was a welcome break from my smoothies.  Filling and warm and tasty.

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Breakfast Quinoa

  • Boil one cup of almond milk
  • Add 1/2 cup of quinoa
  • Return to boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Add teaspoon of sucanat (could use brown sugar), dash of cinnamon,  and a handful of raisins
  • Cook for 10 minutes longer
  • DONE

I did add a splash (maybe 1/4 cup?) of water in the last 5 minutes to make it a bit looser and less gritty, and I decided to throw some coconut on top.  This is a flexible idea that you can adapt to anything.  I’m thinking maple syrup and pecans would be great, too.  Endless possibilities!  Quinoa serves up a lot of protein and makes a filling breakfast.  I never would have thought to serve it as anything other than a savory side dish if it weren’t for my whole detox plan.  If nothing else, I love that this is showing me a few new ideas to add to my usual rotation.

For the most part, I have stuck to my pledge.  I think the teaspoon of sucanat is against the rules technically.  And of course, I am still hanging on to my morning coffee.  But I’ve been truly dairy-free for five whole days, and that’s miraculous for this cheese fiend.  Ha!

Days 4-5

Breakfasts: oat flour banana pancakes, breakfast quinoa

Lunches: leftover broccoli soup (That recipe made a ton!), my favorite tuna salad over lettuce

Dinners: Grilled chicken with roasted cauliflower and asparagus, chicken with rice

Snacks: smoothies, apples with cashew butter

Cashew butter has been another blessed discovery with this plan.  Where has it been all my life!?

the beginning of 32

I turned 32 years old on Saturday.  It was a fun day with family and a fun weekend.  Spring weather is peeking out a bit here in Georgia, and I’m so ready for it.

As I look back at the past year, much of it is a blur really.  Adding another to the family has been perfect and wonderful, but the amount of busy in my life multiplied more than two times over.  (How is that possible, by the way?  It seems like the work should just double, but it feels like more.)  We’ve had so many changes with Jude growing up a bit and beginning preschool.  And our decision to sell the house.  And Norah’s constant changes as a baby of her age when every moment seems so different from the day before as she grows so fast.

I think the major lesson I have learned in my last year is that of self-care.  You know it’s important and you think you understand it, but it’s only when you ignore it that you really feel its weight.  An hour of knitting after kids are in bed, a night out with Scott or with friends, a long bath, a good book, a new pair of shoes.  There are so many little things that add up to help me stay sane and healthy and productive.

In relation to all of this, I decided to kick off my 32nd year with a dietary detox, and even as I type that, I can hardly believe I am going to try it.  I have no will power when it come to food. NONE.  I feel lucky that, genetically speaking, I might have an area or two I’d like to work on with body image of course, but on the whole I can eat what I want without too much showing up on my figure.  I’m not at all doing this for weight-loss, but for overall health.

I’ve complained here about the kids being sick a lot, and most of 2013 has been nursing their illnesses.  Now we are on a well streak, and spring is coming, so I feel like we are nearing the end of this preschool sick season.

But I don’t feel like myself, physically speaking.  Not at all.  I am sluggish and tired and lacking a predictable appetite and just plain blah.  I had to have an antibiotic for a sinus infection last month, and I guess that was the final straw with my tummy because despite taking probiotics and eating yogurt, I am more yuck than ever.  Bloated, sluggish, not healthy.  This is not at all how I want to begin my 32nd year.  The kitchen being such a mess with renovations lead to our eating fast food and frozen pizzas and such far too much recently.  To say I need a detox is an understatement!

So I’ve read a lot about the Whole Living Detox Program, and I decided to jump in.  I can do anything for 21 days, right!?  Week one is super strict – only lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, and I started it on Sunday.  I quickly realized that my caloric intake was not at all compliant with breastfeeding a baby.  So I’ve sort of tailored it to my own thing, and I’ve more or less just jumped in on week two of the cleanse rather than week one.

The main idea is no added sugar (fruit is okay), no gluten, and no dairy for 21 days. Very limited lean animal proteins.  This is not a Paleo diet where you can pig out on bacon but not eat rice.  Not at all.   I’m working on 80% of what I eat being fruits or vegetables for the next 21  19 days.

And I know this is only day three, but I am feeling results already, you guys.  Meaning I am not craving junk food as much, not falling asleep on the couch at 8pm, and not feeling like I need a gallon of coffee to get me going in the mornings.  So I intend to keep plowing right ahead with it, and logging my food and recipes here.  It might be totally boring to anyone reading (sorry!) but it could be of interest to some of you, and I want it as a resource for me as well when I do this again.  And I say “when” because I know I will.  We service our cars, we reboot our computers, we spring clean our houses, but we tend to let the bad habits in our own bodies just build-up over time.  It feels good to have a reboot every now and then.  More later.

Raw Broccoli Salad

I’ve intended to write here the last week or more, and I’ve had a hard time sitting down to do it.  We are having some work done before we put the house on the market, and while I am grateful for the contractors and their hard work, I am SO READY to not have strangers at my house all day every day.  I mean I know that selling the house means a lot of traffic as well, but at least it’s scattered a bit and I get a little notice.  As it is now, I’ve had people here for the past nine days, not including Sunday, I guess.

I’m posting a recipe that has been useful to me this week.  It’s adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, and it’s a favorite for me.  The best part is that it keeps in the fridge for a while, so you can have it available when your kitchen is completely inaccessible as mine was for part of last week!  (Or of course, if you are busy and just want a quick snack or a side to a sandwich.)

I wish I’d photographed it before I ate it, but I didn’t.  No real pictures to share this week really.  Except this jewel.

Remodeling

Yep, that’s a toilet on my porch.  Ah, renovations.  It’s been an adventure and an annoyance.  Without further rambling, here’s the recipe.  It takes about ten minutes to throw together, and I keep it in the fridge for three or four days.

Broccoli Salad with Garlic and Sesame

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours. Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.