Sunday, January 26, 2014

Brunch Party with Recipes

We play water volleyball every week and sometimes we go out for brunch with other players afterwards. Today, we hosted a brunch party for the gang. The menu included sausage, green chilies, & cheese mini quiches; broccoli almond mini quiches; breakfast meatballs; my sister Joyce's hugely popular, often requested, and outrageously delicious cheesy potatoes; sausage patties and sausage mini links; ham, turkey, cheese, croissants, and assorted rolls sandwich platter; pickles and olives; raspberry kringle from Wisconsin that my other sister Nancy sent me; pumpkin muffins; blueberry muffins; fruit; truffles; mimosas, coffee, and tea. Yum.

I've been making and serving mini quiches for years; they're easy to make and because they're bite-sized, easy to serve at parties. Sometimes I make up a batch, and then grab a few for breakfast. They can be served hot, warm, room temperature, or even chilled, so they're very versatile. About 5 years ago, I submitted the recipe to our local PBS station for one of their fund raisers. Not only were they published in their Appetizer Cookbook, I was asked to demonstrate making them on TV during their promotion. The TV station runs repeats of these cooking demonstration shows every now and then and someone will say, "I was flipping through channels and I heard your voice! And there you were, cooking on TV!" I hope you enjoy these recipes.

Broccoli Almond Mini Quiches
Makes 30 - 32

2 (9") unbaked pie crusts - use your favorite recipe or buy refrigerated unbaked crusts
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup cooked broccoli cut into tiny florets
1/2 cup sliced almonds
vegetable oil to prepare muffin tins

  1. Prepare muffin tins by lightly oiling each cup with vegetable oil
  2. Roll out pie crusts a little thinner than for a pie
  3. With a 2" diameter biscuit cutter, cut out 30 - 32 circles; press each one into a prepared muffin cup; refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to chill dough. Note: you can make these up to a day or so ahead of time - cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  5. Place the broccoli in each muffin cup using all the broccoli
  6. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine 2 eggs, milk, and sour cream and whisk until well mixed
  7. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the broccoli in the muffin cups
  8. Sprinkle almond slices on top of each quiche
  9. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until the egg is set and the pie crust is golden brown
  10. These may be served hot, warm, room temperature, or even chilled

Breakfast Meatballs
Makes 72 meatballs

2 (16 ounce each) Jimmy Dean bulk sausage - 1 hot and 1 regular
1 1/2 cups Bisquick
4 cups (16 ounces) finely shredded cheese - sharp cheddar or Colby Jack
1 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. In a large bowl, combine sausage, Bisquick, cheese, and garlic powder - mix well; note: wash your hands thoroughly and mix by hand - really get in there and work with the mixture and eventually, it will be well-mixed
  2. Roll into small-medium balls; at this point, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Place balls on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan; if you prefer, bake on parchment paper in a shallow baking pan, turning once during baking; the cheese makes the balls sticky, so using a wire rack is preferred
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, turn off oven and let stand another 5 minutes
  6. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Milk, eggs, and chicken - oh my!

My Dad grew up on a farm in the Upper Midwest. After WWII, he and my Mom married and settled into Minneapolis. I was born there and moved to the suburbs when about 6 years old - and lived there until I got married years later. So, my early years were urban and the rest of my youth was shaped by living in suburbia. I knew that milk came in glass bottles from the milkman. I knew that apples and oranges came from the green grocers. I knew that beef and chicken came in cook-able portions on cardboard or Styrofoam and was covered with plastic wrap. We visited my Dad's parents on their farm - where they had chickens, cows, beef cattle, sheep, and a large vegetable garden. But I never connected the food we ate with what they had on the farm. Except, in the late summer, I'd help Grandma pick vegetables and she'd cook them up for dinner. And oh! what dinners! Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, green beans, tomatoes still warm from the sun, pie, and homemade ice cream.  We kids loved the ice cream but hated having to hand crank the ice cream maker - it was hard work and we just wanted to play; threatened with the prospect of no ice cream we "cheerfully" cranked away.

One thing my Grandparents made me do was feed the chickens; I hated that, even though I had to do it infrequently. I was scared of those things: they made so much noise, would cluster around me, and would peck at my feet and legs. I mostly just threw the chicken feed at them and got out of there as fast as I could.

I remember the summer when I started paying attention to the workings of the farm. I saw a chicken lay an egg and was totally grossed out. And then I saw my Grandpa milk the cows and thereafter refused to drink milk from the pail. What were those things hanging down from the underside of a cow and why would one drink anything that came from there? My Grandma, probably a little amused by the suburban prissiness of my sister and I and probably a little aggravated too, kept a glass milk bottle in her refrigerator. Unbeknownst to us, she'd pour the fresh milk from the milk pail into the glass bottle and then when we were watching, into drinking glasses for us - and then we'd drink it. Eggs went from the barn basket into cardboard egg crates because that's where we knew eggs came from. But I gotta tell you - it wasn't until I was a teen that I figured out that the chickens I was so scared to feed were the chickens she'd kill, butcher, and fry for our delicious Sunday dinners. I almost became a vegetarian, but those  chicken dinners were so good!

Not too long ago, I spent a long weekend at a special summer camp. The weekend was a food writing workshop (hi to all my friends from that weekend; we still keep in touch with each other!); it was led by Greg Atkinson, a local chef with writing chops. We cooked and ate together, wrote, and critiqued each other all weekend. For example, for one lunch, Chef Atkinson took us on a little hike and taught us how to pick Stinging Nettles without getting stung. We brought them back to the kitchen and while Chef was preparing the kitchen, we wrote about that experience. He then showed us how to make a delicious lunch with Cream of Nettle Soup as the highlight. After watching him cook, eating it all, and cleaning the kitchen, we wrote about that and then critiqued the writing. It was a fabulous workshop.

Why I just told you this story was because this camp specializes in retreats and workshops and uses that money to partially support summer sessions for underprivileged urban kids. We were told that some of these kids, brought up on fast food and school cafeteria food, were amazed that their French fries originally came from underground and that their pickles originally grew on a vine on top of the dirt along with salad greens and tomatoes. When you're an adult, it's easy to be shocked by kids not knowing where their food comes from - but really, that was my experience too!

How about you folks? Any stories out there about where you thought food came from when you were growing up?

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Potluck has two basic meanings - they're not the same, but they are related. The first way of thinking about potluck is to think, literally, about the luck of the pot. My Mom used to invite people over for lunch or dinner at the spur of the moment. She would always say, "you'll have to take potluck," meaning that whatever she finds to cook and serve is what the meal will be. Often, those potluck meals were leftovers and little dibs and dabs of this and that. These potluck meals were only served to relatives and very good friends - they were meant to emphasize the company and conversation, not the food.

The other and more common meaning of potluck involves a meal where people bring food to share with others. It's customary to bring enough of a dish for nearly everyone attending, but you need not plan to feed everyone full servings of your dish. This way, you don't have a lot of leftovers but people get to try a variety of foods during the meal.

Now, how to organize a potluck depends on the organizer. I've been invited to potlucks where not only was I told exactly what to bring, but was given the recipe to use. Other potlucks have involved signing up for a category of foods, such as dessert, breads, entrees, vegetables, or salads. That is a good way to organize your party because you're pretty sure to get a good variety of foods. I've also been to potlucks where we're asked to bring whatever we want. Once, I went to one of these potlucks; 12 women attended. And we ALL brought shrimp! I recall that there were about 8 chilled peel-and-eat shrimp platters, 1 shrimp dip, and 3 shrimp salads! Our hostess scrambled in her kitchen and found some assorted crackers. I had a tin of Altoids in my bag, and so that's what we had for dessert. We had lots of good shrimp, a good laugh, and a resolve to organize it just a wee bit more the next time.

This blog will involve both of these: some weeks it will be a little bit of this and a little bit of that; other weeks, it will be more organized and I'll attempt to give good variety throughout the life of this blog. And, as always, I'd LOVE it if any of you have something you want to say. After all, the very best potlucks involve everyone contributing something!

See you next Sunday.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Welcome to Cindy B's Potluck blog

This is a food-related weekly blog. Each week, I intend to write about whatever strikes my fancy - it might be what I cooked that week, a favorite restaurant or a newly found one, recipes that excite or intrigue me, gotta-have-it kitchen gadgets, newly discovered foods from farmer's markets, 
farm stands, or grocery stores, cookbooks, etc. Along the way, I'll include kitchen disasters I've created or favorite food-related memories and stories. As typical with potlucks, you never quite know what to expect. And as also typical, I invite any of you to also share your food-related items or just comment on what's been published or what you'd like to see in the blog. So, welcome - grab a favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy the conversation. The blog will be published every week, Sunday evenings.