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Overnight Breakfast Casserole

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Traditionally, this is the breakfast casserole that I make for early morning holiday meals throughout the year. What I really like about this dish is that it’s prepared the night before the occasion. I assemble things just before heading to bed, pop the dish in the fridge and pull it out early in the morning with little fuss or cleanup involved. Early the next day, I usually head into the kitchen well before anyone else is up, make myself a piping hot cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet first light of the new day.
This Easter was no different when prepping for the holiday brunch. A special treat, I was pleased to have our K home for the weekend. We will drive her back to campus later today but it’s always a blessing to have the family together on these special mornings.
Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are enjoying the warmth of the sunshine wherever you may be this lovely blessed day.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
8-10 slices white bread, cubed
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 13×9″ baking pan. Crumble sausage into a medium skillet. Cook until evenly browned; drain.
In a medium bowl, mix together mustard, onion and garlic powder, salt, eggs and milk; set aside. Layer ingredients into prepared 13×9″ baking pan as follows:

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Evenly distribute bread in the bottom of pan. Next, layer in the sausage and then the broccoli. Pour egg mixture over entire dish, making sure to saturate all of the bread. Top with shredded cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover with foil and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover, and reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for an additional 15- 30 minutes, or until set.

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Old Fashioned Vanilla Pound Cake

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You probably recognize this cake shape from an earlier post. Yup, it’s the Mickey Mouse cake mold that we purchased in Disney World a couple of weeks ago. My twins, M and P just celebrated a birthday and M requested this delicious vanilla pound cake with cream cheese icing and strawberry topping. I usually use this recipe to make my Easter Lamb Cake. I use a special two-piece mold for a three dimensional cake. I am happy to say that this flat mold worked out just as well. Follow the recipe below for instructions to fill a more traditional pan size. A good rule of thumb when using a pan other than suggested in the recipe is to make sure that you don’t fill the pan too high or you’ll have a real mess on your hands! The pan will often overflow or you’ll end up with a lopsided, domed cake that often needs to be shaved down for a uniform shape. For a moist, dense cake, try to set your kitchen timer a few minutes less than the suggested time so that you can check out the cake before it becomes too well done. Ovens vary in temperature so get to know your oven. This way, you can avoid an over-baked cake that will most likely end up dry and crumbly. I must admit, this is a great pound cake recipe. I hope you have a chance to try this old fashioned favorite. It’s certainly isn’t a figure friendly recipe but it’s sure to please when baking for a special occasion.

Old Fashioned Vanilla Pound Cake

2 2/3 cups sugar
2 cups butter
8 eggs
8 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 cups cake flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Reserve the yokes. In a stainless steel bowl, beat the whites to form stiff peaks.
In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter thoroughly. Beat in egg yolks. Stir in milk, vanilla and almond extract. Add flour, 1 cup at a time. Carefully, fold in egg whites. Pour batter into well greased 10″ tube pan and bake for 90 minutes. Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting. Optional: Top with fresh fruit before serving.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

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While St. Patrick’s Day is long past and Easter is just around the corner, I recently searched the freezer to see what kind of inventory I had available in the way of meat products for the coming holiday. (I often have a supply of ground beef, ham, pork, or prime rib roast left from thrifty bulk purchases when I find a great deal at the supermarket.) To my surprise, I had several corned beef roasts set on the top shelf. I quickly remembered that I had bought a boat load of corned beef around St. Patrick’s Day because the price was too good to pass up. Five roasted were neatly stacked in the freezer so I put one in the fridge to thaw for Monday’s dinner.
Before I headed to work on Monday morning, I lined the bottom of my crockpot with potatoes, carrots, and onions, then laid the roast among the vegetables.

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I sprinkled the seasoning packet over the corned beef and poured in some water and a half can of beer before shutting the lid and setting the dial to low.

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I arrived home to the delicious aroma of the complete dinner. There is nothing quite so wonderful as having dinner ready when walking in the door after a long day at work. I have quite a few recipes to successfully cook corned beef. I often bake it or boil it, but this is one of my favorites…very little time or effort produce a magnificent meal. If you like Reuben sandwiches, add thousand island dressing and sour kraut to some toasted rye bread and you have quite a sandwich.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

2 1/2 cups baby carrots
3 potatoes, diced
1 onion, peeled and rough cut
4 cups water
1 (4-5 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet
6 ounces beer

Place the carrots, potatoes, and onion into the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Pour the water and beer over the brisket. Sprinkle on the spices packet, cover, and set the cooker on High.
Cook the brisket for about 8 hours. Cool slightly before cutting into thin slices.

PB&J French Toast

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Lately, M has been using the Ninja blender to make her very own homemade peanut butter. She loads up the machine with lots of unsalted peanuts and pulses the motor until the mixture forms a smooth, creamy spread. When we pair the freshly made peanut butter with our Concord Grape Jam and favorite French toast recipe, the combination makes for a killer breakfast treat.

PB&J French Toast

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
12 thick slices of bread

Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk until well combined. Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, almond, butter, and vanilla extract and sugar until smooth.
Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until completely saturated. Cook bread on each side until golden brown.
Slather your favorite peanut butter over one slice of French toast. Spread your favorite jam or jelly on a second slice of French toast. Combine to make a sandwich and slice diagonally for corner to corner.

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Cooking in Disney World

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The often unpredictable price of eating out while on vacation can be quite costly. My advice to friends is always the same when choosing a hotel for a family vacation; choose one that offers, at the very least, an efficiency kitchen to cook basic meals for the family while enjoying time away. Sure, it sounds great to spend a week away from the daily grind of preparing meals and cleaning up the kitchen, but a week’s worth of family meals eaten out can be mighty costly. And its always disappointing to find that when my family is ready to eat, the chosen restaurant has a line out the door that seems to be a mile long. Once inside and finally seated, the food never seems to measure up for the cost put out. Don’t get me wrong, we have our favorite restaurants in Disney World and we always make reservations at ‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort and the Hollywood Brown Derby. We absolutely wouldn’t miss the Polynesian inspired foods served throughout ‘Ohana’s Dinner Show and the incredible combination of flavors carefully mixed together in the Cobb Salad served at the Brown Derby. But, my oh my, things certainly add up quickly. I remember a time when it was common practice to have a soup or salad accompany a main dish or a basket of bread was given before the meal. Nowadays, everything seems to come with an added cost.
This week, our family spent our spring break vacation in Disney World. We are Disney Vacation Club Members and have ownership in Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Purchasing this property over twenty years ago certainly has been a great vacation savings for us. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain how I manage the food budget while on vacation. While we have a few favorite restaurants that we always visit while in Disney, for the most part, we really try to commit to eating “in” for the majority of our meals throughout the week. The vacation home that we stay in comes equipped with a sizable kitchen so I can prepare anything from the basic peanut-butter and jelly sandwich to a delicious pork roast dinner for the family. As mentioned earlier, finding a hotel room or suite with a small efficiency kitchen can really save money in the long run. You may have to pay a little more for the room up front but the food savings can be incredible for a family.
Here are some of the basic meals that I usually prepare when traveling with the family. They’re often prepared with convenience mixes or prepackaged ingredients but they fit the bill for a week away from home on a budget.

On day one, I usually buy groceries for the week. (I also bring from home lots of commonly used dry spices.)

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Some of our favorite vacation meals include…

Spaghetti with meat sauce, crescent rolls and Caesar salad,

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Cheeseburgers with crispy pickles and chips,

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Tacos with homemade salsa and guacamole,

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And finally, pork roast with corn and mashed potatoes,

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It’s a great idea to look at the online weekly sale flyer for the local grocery store where you intend to shop. This way, you can plan ahead to shop for deals. This week, as I grabbed my shopping cart and sale flyer at the front of the store, I noticed pork roast and ground beef were on sale for a great price. I picked up both for separate meals. The ground beef was used for the tacos, spaghetti, and hamburgers. The pork roast was used for the pork roast dinner and pulled pork sandwiches. (I shredded the left over pork and slathered it with barbecue sauce, then topped the extra hamburger buns with the tender shredded meat.)

Now, a vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without some sweet treats…

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J and I will be celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary tomorrow so I made a Mickey cake for our after dinner dessert.

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Some of the other food items purchased for the week include:
Old Fashioned Oatmeal
Greek Yogurt
Breakfast Cereal
Milk
Orange juice
Fruit
Peanut Butter
Bread
Jelly

For Dinners, I purchased:
Ground Beef
Pasta
Ragu- Chunky Garden Style Sauce
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Taco Shells
Taco Seasoning Packets
Tomatoes
Onions
Shredded Cheese
Cilantro
Lime juice
Avocados
Pork Roast
Barbecue Sauce
Instant Potatoes
Frozen Corn
Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Salad Dressing
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Hamburger Buns
Pickles
Doritos
Chocolate Cake Mix
Ice Cream
Chocolate Frosting Mix

I paid a little over $150.00 for a week’s worth of food and was really able to stretch my food dollars.
Each of these basic meals can be prepared quickly with very little effort. Convenience mixes and prepackaged food items help to cut down on time spent in the kitchen. Paper plates and disposable tableware can certainly save time on clean up. Thankfully, our vacation kitchen is well equipped with a set of dishes, a full fridge and a dish washer.

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I’ve been cooking in Disney World for years and these meal ideas have been long standing family favorites. My crew seems to enjoy staying away from crowded restaurants and having a few home cooked meals while enjoying our time with Mickey Mouse in the bright Florida sunshine.

St. Patty’s Day Pistachio Pudding Cake

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This weekend we celebrated the holiday with the South Side Irish, St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago. We attended the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon/Carry In and celebrated the holiday with family, friends and neighbors. Every year, I bring along a big tray of Mary’s Irish Scones and this delicious Pistachio Pudding Cake. It’s oh so easy to make and it’s beautiful light green color makes for a festive addition to any spring table.

Pistachio Pudding Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 10″ tube pan.In a large bowl mix together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, water, oil, and almond extract. Blend ingredients, then beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Ice with Powdered Sugar Glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Crazy Delicious Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake

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We celebrated J’s birthday with this wonderfully delicious Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake. After the birthday boy blew out the candles, the cake received rave reviews from the birthday crowd. This rich, chocolatey cake served along with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream makes for a delicious birthday treat. With just a few convenient ingredients, this outstanding dessert can be assembled in no time at all. It will disappear quite quickly so be sure to keep the basic ingredients on hand for another round of deliciousness!

Crazy Delicious Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake

1 box Devil’s Food Chocolate cake mix
(Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box)
1 box milk chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix (4 serving size)
2 cups cold milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 13×9″pan. Mix and bake cake according to package directions; cool completely. With the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake every 1/2″. In a medium bowl, beat instant pudding mix and cold milk with a whisk as directed on package. Pour pudding evenly over cake. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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