Garden Vegetable Breakfast Casserole

 

About this time of year, anyone with a back yard garden is looking for creative ideas to use up the abundance of zucchini, fresh tomatoes and herbs. Here’s a wonderful Saturday morning recipe for breakfast casserole, loaded with color straight from the back yard and a perfect recipe for a brunch. This makes for 12 servings, so cut it down as needed for a smaller family.

  • 1 12oz package of bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 eggs lightly beaten
  • 4 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 2 fresh zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Tabasco sauce

In a saute pan, cook the bacon and onion until the onion is tender and the bacon has browned.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the hashbrown potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes and toss well. Add the bacon and onions along with the pan drippings to the potato-vegetable mixture, then mix in the cheeses, Tabasco, beaten eggs and the fresh basil.

Spoon mixture into a 9″x13″ glass baking dish sprayed lightly with PAM. At this point I usually salt and pepper the top of the casserole as well.

Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, until casserole has “set” and is just beginning to brown.

Serves 12 but can easily be cut down to 6 or 4 by equally dividing the ingredients.

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Heirloom Tomato & Grilled Corn Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Here’s a great recipe using some of the fresh vegetables available these days! Nothing like the taste of roasted corn and fresh heirloom tomatoes to scream SUMMER!

  • 3 tbsp champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 ears of fresh corn in husks
  • 1 1/4 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 10oz container of small heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

In a glass mixing boil, whisk together the vinegar and garlic. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly to incorporate, then add the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fill a large bowl with water. Mix in 1 tsp sea salt. Add the corn and soak for 1 hour.

Prepare your barbecue or gas grill (medium-high heat). Drain the corn. Grill the corn in the husks until the outside is very charred and the corn kernels are tender, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Cool the corn. Remove the husks and cut the kernels off the cobs into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Corn & Zucchini Salad

Summer is finally here and for us, that means a lot of time spent at the lake where we dine al fresco on the pier with friends. My normal contribution to the meal is a composed salad of some sort, be it pasta salad, potato salad (check out Bacon Parmesan Potato Salad in the blog archives, redneck caviar (Hoppin’ John Salad in the archives) or homemade salsa. I haven’t made corn and zucchini salad in a couple of summers but now that fresh corn is cheap and plentiful, it will be on a future menu at the lake.

This recipe can be made with raw corn, like many corn salad recipes are, but I like the corn a little more tender and a little less starchy. That’s why I blanch the corn. Canned corn is over-cooked, and while it will work if you need a quick salad for a last minute party, it won’t be as fresh tasting. You can also used grilled corn for a smokier flavored salad (perfect with BBQ), and you can change the whole flavor profile from southwestern to Italian simply by using fresh chopped basil instead of fresh chopped cilantro!

  • 5 ears of fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 cups zucchini chopped into a small dice or quartered lengthwise and then sliced thin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (for southwestern style) or chopped basil leaves (for Italian style)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic (or 1 clove)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stovetop and cook the corn for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and then immerse the corn into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Once the corn has cooled enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob into a large bowl.

Add to the corn, the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. The longer it marinates in the refrigerator, the better it will taste, so you can make it an hour before eating, or make it the day before.

 

Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken

I’ve been asked to offer more pasta dishes at the Chef’s Table in the cafe at work, so this week I’m making a rich and creamy tomato basil pasta with a small side salad dressed with my great grandmother’s simple Italian dressing. This is a one-dish dinner for those of you looking for something quick and easy to prepare after work.

  • 3 cups uncooked Penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (in bottle on dressing aisle of grocery store, Kraft makes one, I prefer the Publix brand)
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken tenders
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth (from can)
  • 1 tsp each black pepper and garlic powder
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 4oz Neufchatel cheese, cubed (Philadelphia makes one that’s available near the cream cheese on the dairy aisle of the grocery store, comes in an 8oz block so you can make this recipe twice from one)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside in a large bowl (or I personally just put it back in the pot I cooked it in and use that in place of a bowl for easy cleanup).

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken tenders and cook 4-6 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through. Remove the tenders and dice them into bite-size chunks. Add the wine to the pan to “deglaze”, swirling around and scraping up any burnt bits that are on the bottom of the pan. Add the vinaigrette, spinach, grape tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken broth and the Neufchatel cheese in that order, then add the garlic powder and black pepper. Turn heat down to medium low and cook, stirring constantly, until a creamy thick sauce is produced (3-4 minutes). Add the diced chicken to the sauce and combine.

Pour the sauce/chicken mixture over the pasta and toss well to combine. Sprinkle each plate with the shredded Parmesan just prior to serving.

Serves 4

Simple Italian Vinaigrette:

This is how my great grandmother made a simple Italian vinaigrette to dress salads on a daily basis.

Put 1 clove of garlic in a coffee cup. Add 1/2 tsp salt and crush the garlic and salt together with the end of any kitchen tool that’s blunt enough to do so. Add the juice of 1 lemon and enough olive oil to incorporate.