About Nana Clare

Cookie baker, brownie maker for 50 years. Mom to three, Nana to five. Married to Mr. Right for 36 years. I'm also a sister to seven women - no brothers - and daughter to parents who have been together for 64 years. I love to bake breads, cookies, muffins, rolls, bars and did I say cookies? I make all kinds of jams and jellies and have a killer hot fudge recipe that goes back several generations in my family. Paired with my husband's homemade ice cream it's always a winning combo. Oh Yes! I also enjoy making soups, stews, stir fries and other munchies. I worked full time when my children were young and discovered many short cuts so that I could still provide healthy meals (most of the time). Catholic for life and loving it. BA in theater and speech, costuming/ Broadcasting school graduate/ MS in journalism and mass communication, emphasis in public relations/ Graduate of the Institute for Children's Literature - beginning and advanced classes - yes, I love to learn. And a graduate of many decorative painting schools. See my page on decorative painting in my home.

Easy Updated Breakfast Casserole

Ah weekends – time to relax, read, nap, ride bicycles, walk, pursue a hobby or catch a movie. Right?
Who am I kidding?

This is the time to clean and maintain our castles and stock the pantries with food. Hardly relaxing.
But wouldn’t it be nice to start with a good breakfast? If you are like me, weekends are the only time you really enjoy breakfast. Something besides my usual oatmeal or smoothie.

This is a new twist on a breakfast casserole I used to make years ago.

perfect breakfast

perfect breakfast

The difference is that I used to layer whole wheat bread in the bottom and along the sides. And getting the triangle of toast to sit still during baking was always an issue.

Now that several family members are sensitive to gluten (bread), I’ve swapped out shredded potatoes. I don’t have to balance them along the side of the pan and they are beloved by everyone in my family.(However, in the interest of full disclose, Vegans should now stop reading.) I found a variety in the store called Mr. Dell’s that have nothing but potatoes with a few onions and peppers. No preservatives. Personally, they’re a little short on the onions, but you can remedy that.
b line pan with potatoes
I make this up the night before, but you don’t have to. It helps the potatoes to thaw and decreases baking time. I have learned that it’s best to let the food spread out, so I use either an 8″ square pan or an 9″ x 13″ cake pan (for 8 eggs and a bit more milk and cheese.)

This would be perfect for Mother’s Day. Even if you are the mom and the cook, all you’ll have to do is bake it in the morning.
brown sausage
First, a word about the meat. Yes you can skip it. However, I have made it with Italian sausage, bacon and ground sausage. All with great results. Just make certain the meat is fully cooked before you put this together. Oh yes, I added chopped mushrooms to the ground sausage for this one and cooked them together, then drained the fat off.

Ingredients for Layered Breakfast Casserole
Butter to grease the pan
2 cups shredded potatoes (I use frozen)
12 oz cooked sausage or bacon crumbled, or kielbasa chopped into bite sizes
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 cup chopped spinach
Optional – frozen onions and peppers
6-8 eggs (remember to use a larger pan if you use 8 eggs)
1/2 cup milk of choice (almond milk works just as well.)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp white pepper (or black pepper if you prefer)
2 cups shredded cheese – I use Gouda or Cheddar or a mixture
b sprinkle spinach
Butter your pan on the bottom and sides.
Dump in the potatoes evenly over the bottom.
Sprinkle optional onions and peppers if you choose.
Sprinkle spinach.
In a bowl, crack the eggs and whisk with the milk and spices.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Do not stir.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and again, do not stir in.
egg over all
Cover with foil and leave overnight. You can bake right away, but it’s nice to have it all ready in the morning, so we pretend we are people of leisure.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F,
Bake covered about 20 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue baking until the eggs are set – another 15 – 20 minutes.
cheese on top
Meanwhile you can sit and sip tea and work the crossword puzzles.
Oh if there is any left, warm it in the microwave the next day or so. Delicious once again.
Mothers everywhere – you are welcome!and done

Spring Vegetable Medley

veggies on platterMedley – another name for “Hodgepodge” or “Motley” but far more polite. Hodgepodge sounds as if I dug in the back of the bottom shelf of the fridge and threw together whatever I found (which I did). Motley sounds as if they might not get along with each other, which wasn’t true. So I named this yummy side dish a medley. Sounds harmonious, melodious – and delicious, which it was. Spring Vegetable Medley – you can almost imagine the asparagus holding hands with the Brussels and dancing around the onion.

If you follow this blog, you know that I love Brussels sprouts. I have learned that if you boil them for just a minute you remove some of the bitterness. So do this before you cut them up. And before you stir fry them.

I’ve paired the bulging Brussels with spring asparagus and sweet onion. Simple. Nutritious. Almost vegetarianous. OR NOT. I turned to the dark side. Here in Iowa we love our bacon. The first time I made this I added the bacon in with the vegetables and they turned soggy. So this time, I cooked it first and set it aside. Much better.
bacon resting
Tip for cooking bacon: Take the package of bacon right out of the freezer and cut it across the rows into 1″ strips. Toss into a frying pan on medium-high heat. Stir away and the little pieces will separate themselves. You also won’t have to carefully pull each bacon strip away from the pack into the pan. This is faster and even the fatty pieces get brown and crispy. Use a bit as garnish and then store in the fridge for tossing on a salad or into eggs.
Ingredients for Spring Vegetable Medley
1 pound Brussels sprouts – washed and sliced
½ pound asparagus – cut into small pieces
½ sweet onion – diced
1 tbsp. butter or oil of choice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove crushed garlic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional – Bacon pieces for garnish
boil brussel sproutsDirections
Boil sprouts for one minute, then slice.
Cut off bottom 1/3 of asparagus and pitch or put into stock pot. Cut the rest into small pieces
Dice ½ of a sweet onion. (Store the rest in the freezer for next time.)
If you are using bacon, fry that first and remove from pan.
Clean pan and add whatever fat you are using.
Add onions first and let them caramelize for 4-5 minutes on medium-low heat.
chopped sproutsAdd Brussels and asparagus and the seasonings.
Stir fry about one minute.
b medley
Garnish with bacon, if you like. Sunflower seeds would work too.
Spring Vegetable Medley went together quickly and was just as good the next day warmed up for lunch.

Peach Mango Skinny Fro Yo

Frozen Yogurt loses its appeal during our months in the deep freeze, but life is beginning to thaw and I am dreaming about sweet, succulent peaches.
fro yo

During peach season, in late summer, I become addicted to this delectable treat. And I am nearly as fond of mangos, which pair beautifully with peaches. Because peach season is a few months away, I wandered into the land of frozen food and snagged bagged peaches. Hey no pitting and peeling the fruit!
I headed next to the health food section and found fresh mango juice in a carton.

At home in my play room (kitchen) I whipped them both into a frenzy with Greek yogurt. Score! This will be a summer addiction and the bonus is that this treat is sugar-free. My initial experiment made four tidy servings, which I poured into ramekins and popped into the freezer.
fro yo2

Late, I made a smaller serving and added protein powder for breakfast. Also delicious. But for now, let’s focus on frozen yogurt.
Ingredients for Peach Mango Skinny Frozen Yogurt
1/2 cup pure mango juice (no additives)
1 cup Greek Yogurt (I used a “light” version that also had vanilla flavor, but plain would be fine.)
1 1/2 cups frozen peaches
10 drops liquid Stevia (Nu Naturals was the brand) or sweeten to taste with your favorite.

Place them all into a blender or food processor and blend for 10 – 15 seconds. If you blend less, you will get little bites of peaches, which was quite refreshing.
4 cups
Pour into containers and freeze.
Before you serve, you might want to thaw it for 15 seconds in the microwave.

Think of the possibilities – different fruits with juices and yogurt flavors. It’s going to be a refreshing summer!

English Scones with Currants

tea and scones3Scones – the quintessential British breakfast. I needed to bake them to soothe my anguish – the next season of Downton Abbey will be their last. Like many of you, I have become addicted (in a sweet, marshmallowy way) to the British Masterpiece series that started at the end of WW I. The series hooked us with gritty plots, likeable characters, romance, beautiful costumes all set in the real life Highclere Castle. I appreciated the historical accuracy of the upstairs-downstairs movements as we jockeyed from the servants to the pampered princesses…the starched aprons to the afternoon tea gowns and jewels.
tea and scones1
With a sigh, I had to do something with my angst. So I baked – English Scones with Currant – those tiny raisins.
Not the world’s best pastry, but still, festive on a cold morning. I got the inspiration from an episode of Cook’s Country, a favorite public TV cooking show. Naturally, I changed a few things and recommend a few more additions to make them tastier. It was a fun experiment.
food processorIngredients for English Scones with Currants
3 cups flour
2 TBS baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
8 TBS butter (1/2 cup or one stick) – softened and cut into pieces
2 eggs
1 cup milk (Reserve 2 TBS for egg wash)
¾ cup currants (Try soaking them first in a liquor or brandy)
Zest from one orange
1 additional egg for egg wash
Turbinado or sanding sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. When you are ready to bake them, turn the heat down to 425 degrees F.
If you have a food processor, start by pulsing the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt about 5 times.
Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture resembles crumbs. (20 pulses)
If you don’t have a food processor, whisk the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter.
Whisk the milk and 2 eggs together and then stir into the dry ingredients.
Stir in the currants and orange zest.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 25 times.
The dough should be about 9” round and about 1” thick.
At this point, either cut the scones into rounds using cookie cutters or, more simply, cut the round of dough into 12 – 16 pieces like the pieces of a pie. In the second method you use all the dough at once so you don’t have to rework the dough again and again.
Place the scones on a parchment covered baking sheet.
dough ball

cut into wedgesWhisk the last egg with 2 TBS milk. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg mixture over the top of each scone.
Sprinkle each with the Turbinado sugar.
Remember to turn down the heat to 425 before you put them in the oven.
Bake 10 – 15 minutes
egg wash
Suggestions for changes:
Instead of sanding them with sugar, you may want to make a light icing of orange juice and confectioner’s sugar and lightly frost them after they cool.
Swap out real raisins or blueberries, chocolate chips or a fruit of your choice.
Try soaking the currants or raisins in brandy or a liqueur. Reduce the milk by the amount of liquid you soak the fruit in.

I realize I cannot drown my disappointment with scones, but for a few moments, I can imagine that I’m at Highclere Castle having tea and scones with Lady Mary.
tea and scones3