Sunday, May 20, 2012

sunday brunch egg bake

I have always loved Sunday brunch. For some, it means an all-you-can eat buffet at your favorite restaurant, a special gathering for Mother's or Father's Day, or an after-church meal following Easter services. It can be any and all of the above... This dish is a variation on that the old brunch standby, egg bake. Prepared with eggs, breakfast meat and hash browns, my version has the main and side dishes all in one.

6 large eggs
4 ounces light sour cream
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped ham, pre-cooked sausage or pre-cooked bacon (or use vegetarian substitutions)
1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (or 1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash if you are watching the sodium)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 cups shredded hash brown potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spay a 9x9 glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

In one bowl, mix the hash browns and 2/3 of the cheese, and pour into the greased baking dish, spreading evenly.

Take the same bowl and add the remaining ingredients (except the extra cheese). Mix thoroughly so the eggs and sour cream are evenly blended with the rest of the ingredients.

Pour the egg mixture over the hash brown-cheese layer, using a rubber spatula to spread evenly and to ensure the eggs soak into the bottom layer. Top with the remaining cheese, distributing evenly.

Bake for approximately one hour (baking times may vary between 45 and 65 minutes), and let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Depending on the size of the portions, you should get 9 - 12 servings. The top and sides should be golden brown, and the inside creamy and fluffy.

Serve and enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

frozen orange ginger sandwiches

Today's hot weather (92 degrees in mid-May...) inspired this quick, two-ingredient recipe. I'm not a baker, I'll be the first to admit. I like to throw things together and play with recipes, so I'm not fond of the precise measurements, temperatures and ingredients most baking requires, especially desserts. So this is quick and easy, with no baking required.


1 box ginger snap cookies
1 container orange sherbet *

With a large tablespoon, scoop out a dollop of the sherbet and place on one ginger snap cookie (flat side up). Place another cookie on top of the sherbet (flat side down) and gently press down until the sherbet is the same size as the cookies. Prepare two or three per person. Serve immediately, or freeze ahead of time. Cover if you plan on freezing quite a bit ahead to maintain the freshness of flavors. The bite of the ginger snap coupled with the smooth, refreshing sherbet makes a great flavor combination. Enjoy!

* You can substitute the sherbet for ice cream or frozen yogurt, and change the orange out for lemon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

what makes you beautiful

I'm back after a looonnnggg hiatus. My first new post is admittedly non-food related (except for the scene below). I have been addicted to One Direction's pop-dance song "What Makes You Beautiful" for several weeks now. Sadly, the video is pretty bland. But lo! and behold, the cast of the current Broadway revival of "Anything Goes" decided to make their own video for the song. Cast and crew alike lip-sync, dance and ham it up for the camera, both in costume and street clothes. This song and this video are a match made in pop-culture (and hottie) heaven!

Watch again - and again - and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

cucumbers & cream

The next few posts will feature great vegetarian recipes that even the most ardent meat-eater will love. With late summer upon us, gardens and farmer's markets have an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.

This is a refreshing recipe to serve as a stand-alone side dish on those hot summer days, or as a potato topper any time of the year. I grew up enjoying different variations of this; I'm not sure if it's a uniquely ethnic Polish dish, but it was always served with other Polish foods on my Dad's side of the family at weddings, reunions, dances and backyard BBQs.

4-5 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 small or 1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 pint (16 oz) half and half
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon fine dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed (optional)

Cut up the cucumbers, onion and chives and add to large mixing bowl; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. If desired, gradually add more salt, vinegar and/or sugar to taste, checking balance regularly.

Pour over cucumber mixture, and mix with a large spoon. Cover and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours to chill and let the flavors mix. Makes enough to fill a gallon bowl/container.

Serve in bowls as a side dish, or spoon over baked or mashed potatoes, as an alternative to sour cream or butter. Refrigerate after serving; can keep for several days in a well-sealed container.

Prep time - 15-20 minutes chopping and mixing, 3-4 hours chilling in refrigerator
Serves - it varies. Lots!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the great minnesota get-together

After posting on my blog "The Urban Pioneer" for a week straight, I realized my real passion involved discussing food preparation, dining and entertaining more than discussing music, books and other things. So I present my re-tooled and re-named blog, "The Kitchen Pioneer."

What better way to kick off the new blog than with a discussion of my 2011 Minnesota State Fair experience. I was there with my friends Kraig and Derek for 6 hours this past Saturday. The weather was perfect; overcast skies with moderately warm temps. No rain or scorching sun. The Fair was fairly packed, based upon our observations compared to years past.

Now I am the first to admit it; I eat my way through the Fair. Machinery Hill is interesting, the Agriculture and Dairy buildings fascinating, the prized pumpkins, cherry pies and German chocolate cakes a delight to view. But I came for the food, so let me at it!

I like the Minnesota State Fair versus many other festivals and fairs for one main reason - no food coupons or tickets. No matter how carefully I plan, I always end up with 2 or 4 tickets I can't use, and can't get a refund for either. So cash for food suits me just fine.

We started the tour with Derek eating a pork chop - on a stick of course. He loves that particular food booth, and purchased 2 seasoning shakers to take home. We then progressed to the dairy barn and looked at the butter sculptures of Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Paula Deen would be very excited to see all that butter...

We next ventured over to the International Bazaar. Kraig had mentioned basil lemonade being served last year at the Holy Land booth. I live near the actual Holy Land restaurant, and it is a favorite of mine. We all ordered the basil lemonade, and Kraig and I also ordered falafel. The falafel was good; not too greasy or salty. The basil lemonade was very refreshing, but was a tad too sweet. More water and less sugar would have made it perfect.

With a sugar rush/gut-ache going on, we looked for something to counter the effects of the sweet lemonade. After touring the vegetables and corn and seed art in the Agriculture building, we spied the cheese curd booth in the food building and ordered these yummy, cheesy treats. Oddly, eating those was the right antidote for the sugar rush.

Kraig and Derek decided to have a corn dog after we debated the merits and differences of pronto pups versus corn dogs. I was holding out for something else, but wasn't sure what. After a tour of the Art Building and a new snow plow that fascinated Kraig, we split an order of corn fritters with honey butter. Delicious! Not exactly the same as the corn fritters my Mom made growing up, but still tasty indeed.

No visit to the Fair would be complete without a stop and the roasted corn booth. Kraig was full, but Derek and I braved the long lines to get a buttery, steaming golden ear of delicious sweet corn. And it lived up to the anticipation.

I finally ended up getting a cheap (only $3.00!) corn dog on our way to our final food destination. The Blue Moon Cafe was serving one of this year's new food creations - sweet corn ice cream. Bits of sweet corn are interlaced in a slightly sweet, creamy ice cream base, and then homestyle toasted corn kernels are sprinkled on top.

I got mine with caramelized cayenne peanuts, and Kraig and Derek got theirs with a blueberry sauce. By far, this was the most delicious thing I had at the Fair this year. I would look for this again.

I'm glad we were done eating, for our next stops were the animal barns. It wasn't until we stepped foot into the Swine Barn had I realized I'm truly a city boy. I don't think I've ever been in the barns before, and one whiff of the smell that permeated my nostrils told me I would have remembered that smell if I had been in there before.

My surprise wasn't over yet. We spotted a large male pig that had to weigh close to 1100 or 1200 pounds. I have never seen a pig that massive. He was on his stomach, eating and filled the entire breadth of his pen. Opposite him was a new mother and about 12 cute little piglets. By then I'd got somewhat used to the smell.

We passed the sheep on our way out, but didn't see any little lambs. We crossed the street and entered into the Cow Barn, where Kraig and Derek were regaled with interesting facts about cows and milking while I looked around on my own.

After all we'd seen that day, the last place i wanted to visit was the Birthing Barn, so I stayed outside while Kraig and Derek toured it. They came out and assured me no births were taking place at that exact moment, but videos of animal births were playing throughout the building.

On that note, we decided we'd call it a night, and went our separate ways to our respective shuttle bus pick-up points. I decided I wanted to have one more try at some unique food, so I made may way around one last time, and I found Sausage by Cynthia. They serve all sorts of ethnic and regional sausages.

I decided upon the sampler, and they prepared a dish of 3 types of sausage, with grilled onions. I chose Swedish potato sausage, Cajun Andouille and a Minnesota wild rice jalapeno pork sausage. All three were amazing! The wild rice sausage was on the spicy side, but in a good way. The potato and andouille sausages had great texture and taste.

I finally made my way to the shuttle bus stop. It was a great day at the Fair, and i ate favorites old and new. I love going to the fair, but I know it's best that I only go once each year. My body and waistline couldn't handle more than one trip!

Minnesotans are known for having food a central part of their social gatherings, and the food at the Fair is no exception. I think the motto "The Great Minnesota Get-Together" aptly describes this, because the Fair really is like one big holiday dinner, family picnic, backyard BBQ and church potluck rolled into one fantastic time and place.