Holiday breakfast casserole and other Floridian tales…

A few days ago, I was asked to share a holiday memory and a recipe. Of course, the recipe part was easy- sort of. Deciding on which one to share was a bit hard- because honestly, there are so many tasty things that show up only this time of year- from flavored coffees in the morning, to decadent desserts in the evening. I have to say that the time spent between October and January fill me with culinary bliss. (and my jeans, but I won’t go there right now.)  Like most people, when I am stumped and can’t decide- I asked for guidance from my most trusted household members, and without hesitation- they stated:  “That  breakfast casserole.”  In this case, the word “that” precedes something tasty… not like that fruitcake  or that outfit. You get my drift….

As far as memories go- funny thing about memories… sometimes there is one main memory; like when you got your first bike or a BB gun. But for me… there wasn’t that main “thing” that stuck out.. it was more years of hot casseroles and cold “naked” turkeys, and hoping it wouldn’t be 85 degrees.

Yes, I said naked turkey.

I grew up in south Florida, without air conditioning in a tiny house built in the 1950s. One of the great “selling points” of these old homes back then were “wall ovens” – ovens that were built into the wall so that you didn’t have to bend over to bake.  Great concept  but did I mention that these ovens were tiny?! My mama had to purchase special pans because standard pans didn’t fit.  I suppose I also should add in that this was before microwave ovens also.  So, every Thanksgiving my mother would wake up at the crack of dawn and begin to cook the bird. My sister and I would watch the parade and usually right about the time Santa would show up at the end, the house would be filled with the buttery aroma of roasted turkey and the fresh rosemary she’d strategically place in its cavity.  I remember we would linger in the tiny kitchen…hoping to get a bit as my father gently carved snippets from underneath “so mama wouldn’t notice”.  My sister and I would ask for “just a little more… and just a tiny piece of skin,  always ending in a high pitched whiny-song “pleeeeease?” You know, that “please” kids use…

Wait. I still use it sometimes.

As the afternoon progressed, my mama would get more antsy about us milling around the turkey. I can still hear her now, saying “Get away from it! Put that knife down! You’re going to mess it up!”  She put out platters of cream cheese stuffed celery, carrot slices and colossal black olives.  Olives are one of the greatest “strategy” foods to keep kids busy, as my sister and I would be very well entertained with our olive fingers and crudites, while my dad would begin snacking on his pecans toasted in melted butter on the stove top. Somehow, she knew the perfect finger foods to pacify her turkey thieves.

The side dishes were in the oven as the turkey cooled, and cooled… and cooled. Once everything was “ready” my mom would hurry us to the table. “So the turkey doesn’t get any colder!” she’s always say.  ( Cold turkey had an entirely different meaning as I grew up. ) And as the years progressed… more and more of the turkey was nibbled at while it was warm. “Since it’s warm” we’d say. And my poor mama, every year would fret about us ruining “the presentation”. There was one year in particular,  where an extremely large piece of skin was removed, rendering a naked turkey and my dad quickly carving the remaining bird before my mom saw.

Once microwave ovens were introduced and our family was lucky enough to get  one we all exclaimed: “The turkey can be hot this year!” and, for the remaining years, the turkey was roasting away until dinner and unattainable for my dad and his girls.  We had to suffice with our olives and celery and the occasional buttered pecan given to us.

Now that I am grown and have a house (with a standard sized oven!)  and family of my own, I have my own holiday cooking routines similar to my mother’s.  I put out plates of celery and cream cheese, the giant black olives, my mother’s buttered pecans and my breakfast casserole.  The breakfast casserole is usually made the night before, and popped in the oven as I prep my turkey.  As the casserole comes out, the turkey goes in, and the feast begins.

I wish I could remember how or where the recipe originated or even when I first made it. What I can say about it- is that it’s great even if it’s a little cold, the kids devour it and my husband requests it for every holiday… even Labor Day. I have been making it for years. I hope you try it and enjoy it… and maybe it will save your turkey from being rendered naked at the table.

So, do you have a awesome recipe and memory, too? Of course you do! Everyone’s story is interesting! Well, now is your chance to share it and maybe even win something in the meantime. Macy’s is hosing a contest on their Facebook page where fans can share their favorite recipe and memory and have the chance to win a dinner with a renowned Macy’s Culinary Council chef, including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Cat Cora or Todd English!  How cool is that?!

Now, I’m not big enough to offer an awesome prize  like that, BUT the awesome folks at Macy’s are sponsoring a giveaway for my readers! (Yaaay- thanks Macy’s!)

One lucky winner will be chosen at random and the prize is:

a choice of one of three Martha Stewart Professional Cookware items:
–          Ceramic Covered Casserole Dish
–          Hand Anodized Fry Pans (set of 3)

To enter, all you have to do is  answer this question in the comment section below:

What are your plans this holiday season?

For  extra entries, make sure you’re a fan on facebook and a follower on twitter.

Contest open to folks in the US, only. (sorry!) Winner will be chosen on Monday, November 21, 2011

Good luck!

I hope everyone has a wonderful, blessed holiday!

Holiday Breakfast Casserole
Recipe Type: breakfast
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 35 mins
  • 1 small can evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 slices cooked crisp bacon, chopped (or you may use cooked sausage)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups (thawed) frozen hash brown potatoes
  1. In a bowl, combine the milk, flour, seasonings and eggs. Mix well.
  2. Add the vegetables and bacon and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
  3. Pour into a buttered 9×13 casserole.
  4. Top with hash browns and remaining cheese.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 20-30 minutes, or until eggs are set.
  6. Cut into squares and server.