Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home-baked Memories

I feel very fortunate to come from a long line of good cooks.

Growing up, my mom and grandmother were excellent in the kitchen, and shared their recipes and cooking techniques with me over the years. My mom was (and still is) a great cook. You can truly feel the love in her cooking and she is always looking for new recipes to try. My grandmother was equally talented in the kitchen, and I feel very fortunate to have inherited her recipes. It is particularly special to see her handwritten notes about each dish. She had an uncanny ability to identify ingredients in something at a restaurant, and then she'd go home and perfect the recipe, usually adding her own flair.

The holidays make me think of these special recipes and how much I have enjoyed them over the years. It is my hope that I can re-create some of these special memories with my children.

Below you'll find a couple of recipes that we enjoy during Christmastime -- one is a souffle that we prepare every Christmas Eve so that we can place in the oven Christmas Morning to enjoy after opening presents. The other is a shortbread recipe that we love. I have received several requests for this one over the past several days and thought I would share with all.

What recipes make you think of the holidays?

Never Fail Cheese Souffle
12 slices white bread
1 pound grated cheddar cheese
cooked sausage or ham, if desired
6 eggs
3 cups milk
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dried mustard
dash of cayenne pepper

Beat six eggs in a medium mixing bowl and then add the milk, salt, dried mustard and cayenne pepper. Take 12 slices of white bread and remove the crust and butter both sides of each slice of bread. In a 13 x 9 inch size baking dish, spray the bottom of the dish with Pam cooking spray. Then place 6 slices of buttered bread into the bottom of the dish and then pour half of the egg mixture over the bread. Then add ham or sausage, if desired and top with half of the grated cheddar cheese. Then place a second layer of the ingredients -- the remaining 6 slices of buttered bread, egg mixture, ham or sausage and then top with the remaining cheddar cheese. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning bake in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour.

Classic Shortbread
1 cup salted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar

In a large bowl, combine softened butter and sugar. Beat at medium speed until fluffy. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Pat the dough into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees until light golden brown for 30-40 minutes. Remove shortbread from the oven and pierce with a fork in a zig zag pattern which allows the steam to escape and make a crisper cookie. Cut the shortbread into bars while still warm and let cool in pan.

Michelle Vanderburg is a Sr. Marketing Specialist for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two busy kids.

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