Ham & Cheese Strata

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Ham & Cheese Strata photo by: Janet Moore

Glenn and I are hosting a Boxing Day brunch tomorrow morning and I’ll be assembling this ham and cheese strata before tucking in tonight. It will come right out of the fridge and pop into the pre-heated oven a half hour before we plan to eat. This recipe serves six but can easily be scaled up or down to suit the number at your table. It might sound odd, but I use Sweet Thai Chili sauce in the strata for added zing! Give it a try – you’ll find it adds a unique flavour to a tried and true brunch favourite.

Ingredients

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 6 stale croissants cubed
  • 3 C of shredded old cheddar cheese (225 gm)
  • 2 C  of baked ham cubed
  • 3 oz of cream cheese cut into small chunks
  • 12 eggs
  • 1½ C milk
  • ½ C Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp salt (omit if ham is salty)
  • Grinding of pepper

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 F

  1. Sauté onions in melted butter until softened and beginning to brown – remove from heat and cool slightly.
  2. Spray large casserole or individual ramekins with cooking oil
  3. Place half of the cubed croissants into a large casserole dish or 6 individual ramekins. Add half of the ham, sprinkle on half of the sautéed onions, ½ of the cream cheese chunks and half of the grated cheddar cheese. Repeat this layering process ending with the rest of the grated cheddar cheese.
  4. Wisk the eggs, milk, Sweet Thai Chili sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, thyme, salt and a grinding of pepper together in a large measuring cup.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over the casserole (or spread evenly amongst the ramekins) and cover with plastic wrap. The strata(s) can now be refrigerated overnight.
  6. In the morning pre-heat the oven to 350F and place the strata on the middle rack once the oven is hot.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes (20 – 25 minutes for individual ramekins).

To test for doneness insert a metal skewer into the centre of the strata. If it comes out clean the strata is ready to serve.

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Nuts & Bolts

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Nuts & Bolts photo by Janet Moore

My Mom and aunts used to make these every Christmas when I was a child. It was the only time of year this tasty snack made an appearance in our household. The recipe has been tweaked by my cousins and I over the years so a unique version exists in each home come the holiday season. I like a deep buttery flavour so my Nuts & Bolts are a little richer than most but what the heck… It’s only once a year!

Ingredients

  • 8 C Cheerios
  • 8 C Crispix
  • 1 box Bugles
  • 4 C pretzels (use the mini version)
  • 1 lb peanuts
  • 1/2 lb butter (1 C)
  • 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 1 T Worcester sauce
  • 1T garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp hot smoked chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste!)

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 F

  1. In a large roasting pan mix together the Cheerios, Crispix, pretzels, Bugles and peanuts.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high until the peanut butter and butter have melted. Give it a stir before pouring it over the dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
  3. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 200 F. Bake stirring every 15 minutes or so until the Nuts & Bolts are dried out and toasty. Let cool completely and then store in several airtight containers.

The Best Fudge Ever!

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Caramel Fudge

Glenn and I LOVE fudge, so I rarely make it … too hard to control ourselves. However, with the holiday season ahead I’ve made several batches for friends and family members also afflicted with the sweet tooth syndrome. I always thought the fudge I made was top notch. However, this year I’ve discovered an even better fudge recipe, made using Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche sauce. You can get the recipe for this caramel flavoured Dulce Fudge on the Eagle Brand website. It’s simply the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. If you are a fudge fan then give this recipe a try. You can make it using the microwave and it never disappoints!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whenever I eat a chocolate chip cookie I always think of Gilda Radner and the Saturday Night Live crew from back in “them” days. Saturday night in front of the TV with a freshly baked batch of Toll House cookies ready to handle the munchies, was a weekly tradition. We made the cookies that never failed, from the recipe that was printed right on the Nestle chocolate chip package, Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the old days the recipe was pretty much the same as it is today except an additional 1/2 tsp of water was called for. The one thing we did differently was to change out this ½ tsp of water for ½ tsp of almond extract. To this day I can’t resist the flavours of chocolate and almond when presented together in a sweet confection!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lb butter (1 cup) softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz package)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Mix flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl cream the softened butter together with the white sugar and brown sugar. Add the sugar a bit at a time until it is well incorporated with the butter. You can use a mixer for this job or do it by hand (this is the way I usually do it!).
  • Add the vanilla and almond extracts followed by the eggs (one at a time) and beat this mixture until light and fluffy.
  • Do this next step by hand. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture a bit at a time until everything is evenly incorporated. The dough will be stiff by the time all the flour mixture has been added.
  • mix in the chocolate chips
  • Using a teaspoon, drop rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake on the middle oven rack for 8 – 11 minutes. I like to make larger cookies that are soft and chewy when done so usually leave the cookies for around 10 minutes in the oven.
  • Repeat until all the cookie dough is used up.
  • The cookie yield varies. You will get around 60 cookies if you make them using only a rounded teaspoonful of dough. I use more dough per cookie and get about 25 cookies when I use this recipe.

My old recipe book is falling apart now but I still use the the recipes so carefully clipped from magazines or copied by hand when I was younger. Here’s a photo of the old Toll House recipe that I carefully scocth-taped onto a page about 36 years ago!

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