Thursday, April 6, 2017

Making Memories and Easy Breakfasts

My daughter sits on the counter, the light streaming through the window picking up the gold in her hair as her feet dangle below her gently tapping on the counter as she wiggles.

She picks up the spice jars one at a time, gently opening them and breathing in lightly to take in the aromas.

When she first began this ritual she would ask me questions from across the house.

"Mom, what does coriander smell like?"
"Why doesn't cream of tartar smell like anything?"
"What's dry mustard?"
Watching her, its hard not to draw parallels to the memories of time spent on the floor of my grandma's house in Wisconsin digging through her button jar, asking questions about all of the interesting pieces in her collection.

At this point she knows them all by heart.  Their scents, their colors, where they belong in my cabinet.  She knows the stories behind the older jars and which spices it will soon be time to restock.
Her questions these days are less "what is this?" and more "how do I use this?".

Goodness she's getting big.
They both are.

I make a conscious effort to instill an enjoyment of time spent in the kitchen within my children.
It's not just that I hope that they will enjoy the art of cooking, the nuances of flavor, the joy of feeding those you care for- it's that I want them to have warm kitchen memories of me when they are grown and have babies of their own.

I remember grating cheese for my mom's enchiladas- and being chastised for nibbling too much of the cheese as I went.
I remember cutting out leftover pie crust with cookie cutters and dusting it with cinnamon sugar mix for a fun snack after a day of baking.
I remember the smell of soup on the stove and freshly baked bread on the counter.

I want my children to be independent, self-sufficient, not reliant on take-out...but the thought of them having warm memories and a deep-seated love of cooking just makes me happy.

A few evenings ago my son told me that he was going to help me make dinner- and that he needed a chef's hat STAT in order to assist me.  Thank goodness for card stock, tissue paper, and a little bit of scotch tape!  My little chef may have only been helping me get chicken and french fries in the oven on a busy night, but you can be sure that we had a blast in the kitchen making it happen.

Lately my son has been showing quite an interest in what actually happens in the kitchen- which of course I love.  As soon as he sees me opening cabinets and pulling out pots and pans he comes running and asking me what I'm making.  Preparing dishes that my little monkey will actually eat can be difficult with his extremely selective eating.  He loved making his own pizza at his sister's birthday party and I've tried to involve him in making his other meals as well.  Honestly though, his recent culinary interests don't seem to be contained to things he will actually eat when we're done- he just enjoys being in the kitchen with me.
I love being in the kitchen with him too.  :-)

When it comes to cooking with kids, simple recipes are a great place to start.  Recipes like this one!
We had company come into town to visit last weekend and, as I've mentioned before, stratas are one of my absolute favorite things to make when we have visitors.  They come together quickly the night before and only need to be slipped into the oven in the morning.  Before you know it your guests are noshing on a delicious, warm, home-cooked breakfast!

This month as an Allrecipes Allstar I had the opportunity to work with Ball Park® Buns and use their product in some unexpected ways.  In this case, they were used in a strata.
A delicious strata.

Spinach-Mushroom Brunch Casserole is satisfying, and loaded with flavor.  I used Ball Park®'s Tailgaters Gourmet Buns as a base.  Sandwiched in between the soft, fluffy buns are sautéed seasoned onions, mushrooms, wilted spinach, bacon, and cheese.

Sounds delicious, right?

I know!

After it's all placed in a baking dish it's topped with an egg and milk mixture and allowed to soak in the fridge overnight.  All that's left to do is to bake it in the morning!

This recipe makes a lot.  I actually halved it and still had 6 very good-sized servings for my guests.  I honestly can't wait to make it again!

6 Ball Park® Hamburger Buns
2 tablespoons butter, or more if needed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
2 teaspoons garlic granules
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
6 slices bacon - cooked, drained, and chopped (I used ham, sausage would work as well)
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk

1. Place the bun tops, top down, in a buttered, 13- x 9-inch casserole dish. Set aside the bun bottoms.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat, until sizzling.

2. Add onion and saute until they're just softening. Add mushroom slices and stir, reducing heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in herbs, garlic, paprika and salt and pepper to taste, then add spinach and cook another 3 minutes, stirring to wilt the spinach. Remove from heat.

4. Spoon half the vegetable mixture evenly over the bun tops in the casserole dish. Scatter half the bacon and cheese evenly on top.

5. Place the bun bottoms, with cut side up, in the casserole to form the top layer.  Spoon the rest of the vegetable mixture, bacon and cheese over the top layer of buns.

6. In a bowl, stir together eggs and milk until blended.  Pour the mixture evenly over the casserole. Using a spatula, press down firmly on each of the buns to submerge in the liquid. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

7. In the morning, let casserole sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until firm at the center and a toothpick inserted comes away clean. Serve warm.


I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com.

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews on Sunny Days With My Loves. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of Nora.

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