Egg-In-A-Hole Avocado Toast for National Toast Day

Today is National Toast Day. Just how creative can you get with toast? As a fan of Avocados, I for one was glad to see the Avocado Toast craze we enjoyed a while back. It was amazing to see all the different ways there were to spread avocados on toasted bread.

I like this particular recipe for Egg-In-A-Hole for two reasons. First, it’s a different approach to the whole avocado toast thing, so I get my avocado fix. Secondly, you could skip the avocado part all together, going straight for the Egg-In-A-Hole toast instead, still observing National Toast Day, just without the mashed green stuff. That makes Hubby and Kiddo happy. Serve this along side some crisp bacon, fresh orange juice and piping hot coffee and you’ve got yourself a wonderful breakfast.

Egg-In-A-Hole Avocado Toast
2 medium ripe Avocado
4 tablespoons Lime Juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh Chives, finely minced
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper, freshly ground to taste
4 slices Artisan, Rustic or Sourdough Bread, thick
4 tablespoons Butter
4 large Eggs

Peel, seed and dice the avocado. Place in a bowl with the lime juice, kosher salt and a few turns of the black pepper mill. Coarsely mash the avocado with a fork to desired consistency. Add chives and mix to blend together. Set aside.

Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut a 2.5 to 3-inch circle from the center of each bread slice.

Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan to spread the butter around nicely.

Add the bread and bread rounds into the skillet with the melted butter. Cook until the bread is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Flip all the bread. Crack one egg at a time into a bowl and carefully pour the egg into the hole of each piece of bread. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook until eggs are as set as desired, about 3 to 6 minutes.

Note: The bread rounds will cook faster than the eggs (in about 1 to 2 minutes); remove them from the skillet as soon as they’re golden browned and place on a plate.

Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, carefully remove egg-in-a-holes and place on the plate with the rounds. Evenly spread the avocado mixture over the bread and bread rounds and serve immediately.

Adapted from Averie Cooks

Buttermilk Biscuits with Sawmill Gravy

Today is National Toast Day. I think Joan Rivers said it all with her recipe for toast, so I thought we’d talk about my favorite breakfast, Biscuits and Gravy.

Biscuits and gravy is a popular breakfast dish in the United States, especially in the south.. Early European settlers brought with them a simple style of cooking, most often based on meat, ground wheat and gravy. After the first pigs were carried from England to Jamestown, Virginia in 1608, they quickly became the popular home-grown edible animal.

After the American Revolution, Biscuits and gravy emerged as a distinct regional dish. Breakfast was by necessity the most substantial meal of the day in the south, where plantation life was physically demanding. Additionally, meals designed to fuel large groups of men meant that the first meal of the day (and possibly the only meal) needed to be cheap. While popular throughout the south, Sawmill gravy earned its name in the logging camps. Today gravy is made with finely milled flour and the gravy is rich, thick and creamy. Not so in the past. Often a gravy was made using what was readily on hand and that was whole grain cornmeal. At times, especially in the logging camps, if there were a shortage of milk or other liquid,  the gravy would be coarse and thick. The lumberjacks were known to accuse the cooks of substituting sawdust for cornmeal. That speaks volumes as to the flavor and consistency of early biscuits and gravy. I suppose we could make authentic Sawmill Gravy by using cornmeal instead of flour. I just don’t think I’d care much for the gritty texture. What about you?

Buttermilk Biscuits with Sawmill Gravy
Biscuits
2 1⁄2 cups flour, plus more for cutter
3 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, plus 2 tbsp. melted
1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk

Make the biscuits: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Place flour mixture in the bowl of your food processor fitted with a blade. Add chilled butter, a few pieces at a time, and pulse until pea-size crumbles form. Remove bowl from processor. Add buttermilk, and stir with a fork until just combined.

Transfer to a floured work surface. Gently form dough into a rectangle 6-inches by 4-inches, about 1-inch thick. Dip a 3-inch round biscuit cutter into flour, and cut out rounds of dough. Press scraps together, and repeat with remaining dough until you have about 6 rounds.

Brush a 9-inch cake pan with melted butter, arrange biscuits in pan, and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Sawmill Gravy
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
8 oz. pork breakfast sausage
1⁄2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, for serving

Make the gravy: Place bacon in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat renders, about 3 minutes.

Add sausage and, cook, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add milk and cream, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until gravy is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add vinegar, cayenne, and salt and pepper, and stir until combined.

To serve, split biscuits in half, and cover with gravy. For a truly Southern experience, serve with hot sauce.

National Margarita Day and Frozen Margarita Pie

Hey there everyone. Did you know that today is National Margarita Day? My first thought was to post Hubby’s recipe for a Cadillac Margarita – strictly top shelf all the way. Then again, Hubby doesn’t really have a recipe. It’s all a matter of eyeballing, tasting and adjusting. So skip that.

Then I thought I’d share a few of our favorite Mexican dinners that would go great with a butt-kicking Margarita. You know, things like Spicy Beef and Chorizo Tacos or Shredded Pork Tacos would be good. Or maybe even a bit pot of Pork Salsa Verde . . . but then again, it’s the dead of winter and not much is happening in my garden. Besides, I’d bet you have a treasure trove of your own favorite Mexican Dishes, right?

How about a Margarita Dessert? While this is a recipe I shared with you once before, as part of a Cinco de Mayo menu, it’s worth sharing again. This way, instead of being buried beneath a collection of recipes for things like Jalapeno Deviled Eggs and Chorizo Enchiladas, this awesome pie can take center stage to strut its stuff. Hope you enjoy!

Frozen Margarita Pie
Crust
1 cup Pretzels, crushed
1/4 cup Sugar
1/3 cup margarine, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix pretzels and sugar together in a bowl; stir in margarine until evenly incorporated. Spoon mixture into a 9-inch pie plate; press into bottom and up sides of plate to form a firm, even crust.

Bake crust in the preheated oven until edges are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Filling
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons tequila
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
3 drops green food coloring, or as needed
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Mix sweetened condensed milk, limeade concentrate, tequila, orange liqueur, and green food coloring in a large bowl.

Beat cream in a glass or metal bowl until soft peaks form. Lift your beater or whisk straight up: the whipped cream will form soft mounds rather than a sharp peak. Fold whipped cream into sweetened condensed milk mixture. Spoon filling into cooled crust.

Cover pie with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Add garnish just before serving.

Finishing
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 lime, sliced

Chill mixing bowl and whip attachment for mixer in freezer for at least 1 hour.

Remove bowl from freezer. Pour heavy cream into chilled bowl. Attach whip and begin whipping cream on medium speed until soft peaks form.

While cream whips, sift powdered sugar and set aside until ready to use. When soft peaks form, slowly add sugar and continue to whip on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

Transfer whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a star. Pipe decorative stars around margarita pie. Add sliced limes and serve.

Beautiful Florence and Spaghetti Carbonara

Florence Bridge 2Hubby, Kiddo and I have been talking about our next family vacation. We want to return to Florence (on the Oregon Coast). There is something about the rugged Oregon coast, with its wild beauty that is unparalleled. Oregon’s beaches are clean and open to all. Unlike some of the western beach towns, Florence is not one of the more popular destinations for tourists, and that has allowed the town to retain some of its simple beauty. The town is situated between miles of sand dunes and the Siuslaw River. One of my favorite spots is the Siuslaw bridge across the mouth of the river. Oregon has some of the most spectacular bridges in the country, and Florence is no exception. Thinking of Florence brings to mind another Florence – in Italy. And that makes me yearn for Northern Italian dishes with their rich sauces.

One of my favorite Spaghetti dishes is Carbonara. So much so that I have several recipes that I have numbered to keep them straight. Hence the title of this post Spaghetti Carbonara 1. This is by far the easiest and least expensive of my recipes, using thick slices of good old American Bacon rather than the more traditional, more expensive pancetta.

One word of warning – while the egg yolks are “cooked” by the heat of the bacon drippings and hot pasta, this might not be the best dish for young children or the elderly due to food sensitivity.

Spaghetti Carbonara
1 Lb Spaghetti Noodles
6 Bacon Strips, diced.
4 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
½ Cup Fresh Italian Parsley (flat-leaf parsley), chopped

In a large pot, bring salted water to a full boil. (Remember, pasta loves to dance about – so make sure you give your pasta plenty of “dancing” room).

While water comes to a boil, chop parsley and make ready Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated Parmesan works best. (Note: Shredded and grated are not the same thing – grated cheeses are much smaller and blend easily into a sauce. A microplane cheese grater is the best tool for the job). Set the parsley and Parmesan cheese aside in small bowls until ready to use. The Parmesan Cheese will integrate best if at room temperature. DO NOT use Parmesan Cheese straight from the refrigerator.

Use clean kitchen scissors to cut bacon into pieces. Set aside until ready to fry.

When the water has come to a full boil, add pasta and cook al dente according to package directions, about 10 minutes. While the pasta is boiling, cook up the bacon.

In a large skillet, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain using a slotted spoon. Reserve the drippings and keep warm.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks. While whisking constantly, add 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings to the yolks. Add half of the Parmesan cheese to the egg yolks,

Working quickly, add drained pasta to egg mixture while the pasta is still steaming hot. Toss quickly to coat pasta with egg and cheese mixture. Add salt, pepper, bacon and toss again. Add remaining Parmesan Cheese for one final toss. Garnish with parsley and serve at once.

Tips: Try to time the bacon and pasta so that the drippings are warm and ready when the pasta is drained. If not, simple sip the wine and keep drippings warm until pasta is finished. This is easiest when working with a partner who knows your rhythm

Long Grain and Wild Rice is Easier Than You Think

Uncle BenHave you used Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice packages? Come on, fess up. After all, these rice packages come in a variety of flavors – everything from plain white rice to Rice Pilaf. Convenient? You bet. Shake/mix contents of package, slit corners to vent and pop in the micro-wave on high for 90 seconds. That’s it – quick and oh so easy.

When I’m trying a new main course recipe for the first time, the convenience of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice often graces our table. Cooking times of many recipes vary – the recipe may say “30 minute”, but this timetable is often followed by those words of dread when preparing the first time around – “or until done”. Does that mean it could take 25 minutes if your oven cooks quick, or 45 minutes to reach that magical “until done” classification? With so much uncertainty, the convenience of a side dish that is zapped in the micro-wave for 90 seconds takes all the guess-work and potential side dish disaster out of the picture. After all, when bringing a meal to the family table, timing is a key factor. You don’t want your chicken to dry out while waiting for the rice to finish cooking, or for the side dish to become cold while waiting for the pork to reach temperature. Zip, zap, 90 seconds from pouch to table.

Still, nothing beats a side dish without the packaged, preserve riddled additives. Once I’ve mastered the time of the main entrée, I like to cook up the real deal – such as this delicious Long Grain and Wild Rice dish. The rices and seasonings can be mixed together days in advance, stored in your pantry in an air-tight container. All you need do is to dump everything into a pot, add the liquid, a kiss of butter and let ‘er cook for about 15 minutes or so. (See there it is again – the uncertainty factor).

Long Grain and Wild Rice
1 teaspoon dry chopped onion flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon dry parsley flakes
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dry long grain white rice
1⁄3 cup dry wild rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter

In a bowl, combine all of the spices.Add both kinds of rice. Stir to blend the rices with the seasonings. This dry mixture can then be stored in an air-tight container along with cooking instructions for later use or cooked up right away.

When ready to cook, place rice mixture along with all the seasonings into a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add chicken stock and butter.

Bring to a boil, stirring to combine seasoned rice with broth.

Cover pan, reduce heat to a simmer and gently cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed into the rice.

Remove from heat and fluff with a fork before serving.

This rice is delicious with such main entrées as Grape-Stuffed Kahlua Game Hens or Herb Rubbed Italian Pork Roast.

 

Broccoli and Cheez Whiz Baked Potato

Many moons ago, you could order up what had to be the most unhealthy yet delicious baked potato on the planet. You could do so in the middle of the night. You could do so without leaving the comfort of your car. You could have a craving for gooey Cheez Whiz and get your fix on top of a baked potato. Way back in the early 1980s, Wendy’s Fast Food offered a baked potato smothered in Cheez Whiz and broccoli. I can only assume they felt throwing in limp broccoli somehow made this potato “healthy”.  I’m not sure when Wendy’s stopped offering this particular potato. While they still have a nice selection of baked potatoes, everything from plain to chili topped potatoes, their Broccoli Potato had disappeared from the menu. At least here it has.

Once upon a time, I loved those potatoes. I can remember making it an almost weekly ritual. Drive to Wendy’s, order a Broccoli Potato, head home to curl up on the sofa, watch the latest episode of SNL and enjoy my midnight treat. While I don’t eat baked potatoes in the middle of the night any more, it’s nice to know that I could still get my fix if I wanted to simply by making them myself.

Broccoli and Cheez Whiz Baked Potato
4 large russet potatoes
1 can cream of celery soup
1 jar Cheez Whiz – (8 oz)
1 tablespoon dry minced onion
1 package frozen chopped broccoli – (10 oz) cooked, drained

Cut an X in the top of each potato. Rub with a little olive oil. Bake in the oven until cooked through and fluffy, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, split in half and fluff.

Meanwhile, make toppings. Cook the broccoli according to package directions. Drain well so that there is no extra moisture.

In top of double boiler combine soup, Cheez Whiz, and minced onion, stirring until smooth. Stir broccoli into cheese sauce.

Split baked potato in half lengthwise. Using a fork, fluff the pulp. Place baked potato in a bowl. Spoon over baked potatoes. Let Cheez Whiz run all over the place.

No Muss, No Fuss Rigatoni with Meatballs

Of all the types of pasta on the planet – at lease of those we’ve actually tried from the 350 or so in existence – Hubby’s favorite pasta has to be a toss-up between Penne and Rigatoni. If I had to pick between the two, I like Rigatoni for the ridges that seems to help whatever sauce used to cling to the pasta better.

Rigatoni

While we tend to think of pasta as Italian, noodles made from different kinds of grain have been a part of Chinese cooking for more than 7,000 years.

With a few simple ingredients that you might already have in your pantry, in the time it takes to boil noodles, a satisfying supper can be on the table. Add some warm garlic bread and a very basic salad of leafy green with tomato wedges, and the meal is complete.

What to do with leftovers? Spread this pasta dish out in a casserole dish, add more Italian tomatoes, cover and bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. It’s two meals in one. You could even freeze the casserole and have much later. Just bake until bubbling and heated through, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Rigatoni with Meatballs
1 bag (16 oz) Rigatoni Pasta
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Bag Frozen Meatballs(Johnsonville makes a great Italian Meatball)
1 Jar Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce
1 Can Dice Italian Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Red Wine, more if desired
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, more if desired (Not the powdery stuff in the green can)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, stir until dissolved.

While water comes to a boil, empty frozen meatballs into a large stockpot. Pour pasta sauce over meatballs. Empty tomatoes, juice and all, over meatballs. Pour wine into the now empty jar of pasta sauce. Secure with lid, shake well to gather any remaining sauce into the wine. Pour into stockpot.

Bring meatballs and sauce to a low boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and allow to simmer until ready to serve. (Meatballs need to simmer in a low boil for 20 minutes to heat through).

Once water is at a strong boil, add pasta and stir well to encourage “dancing about” in the water. Pasta should be cooked through while still firm to the bite in about 15 minutes.

Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Pour meatballs in sauce over pasta. With a large serving spoon, gently mix sauce into pasta.

Serve with more grated Parmesan Cheese to pass at the table.