Welcome, and Happy Easter
Do you like our little Nook on our Lanai?
This has always been an area of our lanai that we never actually got around to utilizing until recently. We have the lovely fountain, the large urns filled with beautiful Ape’s (Peace Lilly’s). Our lanai door opens out to this nice area. I always wanted to put a table and some chairs in this spot for Gordon and myself to use whether it be a place to eat, or a place to have coffee on the weekends, or a place to work.
I finally found a table that I liked that was a very good price. The woven chairs as well.
Now our Nook is complete!
Happy Easter Bunny
The lovely chandelier we never got around to hanging up so we just plopped it on the table and now we kinda like it that way.
I think they look like little birds in their nests which reminds me of spring.
The Riper They Get, The Better They Taste
Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Brunch Casserole
(Recipe Down Below)
Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Casserole was a collaboration between Gordon and Myself. I wanted to make something as an homage to the story, Peter Rabbit, and I wanted it to include the vegetables that Mr. McGregor grew and Mrs. McGregor cooked. So, we came up with something really delicious.
We will feature a few recipe brunch ideas on this post and hopefully add to in the future.
Here are a few Easter Brunch Ideas for you to try as well:
First up is our:
Italian Pasta, Sausage, and Cottage Cheese Timbale
The Presentation is Beautiful to Me
When we Plated it and Cut into it, it Looks a Bit Dr. Seuss, Doesn’t it?
Easter Brunch out on our Lanai
Gordon and I have been so busy lately that there really wasn’t the time to cook a big Easter Dinner as we always have in the past. Usually our son, and daughter, and their partners and friends will come over for lots of food but this year I called them and told them to look elsewhere for their Easter sustenance. I told them that we have just been so busy that we were going to pare it down to just a nice brunch for us.
They responded with their typical, “Who will FEED US? How can we spend Easter alone? How can you do this to us? Don’t you LOVE US Anymore???”
(They do get their flair for the dramatics from me!)
And because we are mean parents, we pushed them further out of the “nest” and into the real world of Independent Cooking on their Own.
So, we’ll see how that goes. 🙂 Although I may not be getting much for Mother’s Day this year. 🙁
My Easter Timbale Inspiration
Gordon bought these candle holders from a yard sale and I immediately saw potential in them. Just not as candle holders. I saw them as Timbale Holders.
I had in my mind a Timbale that I wanted to do where it was something of a nest of pasta with a filling of sausage and other things, I just didn’t know what all I wanted inside of it? Cottage Cheese did come to mind, as well as the sausage, but it was Gordon that was able to bring my food vision to fruition.
The Plated Pasta, Sausage and Pesto Cottage Cheese Timbale
The nice thing is that you can eat it either way. Inside the candle holder, or plated like so!
1 Cup Jarred Bruschetta Sauce – We used Tomato and Basil (Casa Di Oliva Brand)
You can use any that you prefer.
5 Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage Links (you can use any sausage or meat that you prefer such as hamburger, or ground turkey, or ground chicken)
3 Tbsp Olive Oil – (to cook the sausage with)
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil – for the pasta
1 tsp. Salt for the pasta water
1 Cup Sundried Tomato Bruschetta in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Leonessa Brand)
Or any brand or kind that you prefer.
A Few Decorative Vegetable Flavored Bow Tie Pasta (Optional)
1/4 tsp. Salt for the pasta water
3-4 Helpings of Long Multi colored Vegetable Maestri Pasta
Or any type of long pasta you prefer that could be fashioned into a “nest”
2 Tbsp. Basil Pesto (Rana Brand)
1 Tbsp. Grated Parmesean Cheese
1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – Chopped
1/2 Tbsp. Parsley – Chopped
2 Cups Cottage Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
~5 Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
Basil Leaves for Garnish
Parsley Leaves for Garnish
1 tsp. Olive Oil to lubricate glass molds
Italian Sausage HOT!
This was a great sausage and added some nice HEAT!
To start, add enough water in a large pot to boil your longs strands of pasta (~ 3 quarts)
Add your Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Sauce to a small pot to heat on very low.
This was the BEST brand of Bruschetta that I, Julie, have ever eaten! I bought it at Tuesday Morning and I’m going to see if they have any more and snatch them all up. 🙂
Prepare your sausage links…
Slice the links lengthwise to help in removing the casings
Add some Olive Oil to a large saute pan and heat to medium high
Pouring Olive Oil into 3 Pots and Pans
By pouring just a little in the water to boil the pasta helps to prevent the pastas from sticking together and also helps to flavor the pasta. Also you add a bit of salt that will help to heat up the water quicker.
Add your sausage and begin to break up the sausage as it cooks
When done, it should look like photo below.
Use a splatter shield to remove the grease.
Be sure to hold the pan and shield tightly together as shown below.
Careful not to loose any of that delicious sausage down the sink.
Add your Sundried Tomato Bruschetta to the cooked sausage
Turn the heat off and mix in the Bruschetta
I, Julie, have to say that this Bruschetta in the HOT Italian Sausage was sooooo good!
To top off this creation, we used vegetable flavored bow-tie pasta.
There are a huge variety of lovely Italian pastas out there that can just brighten up a dish. We are always excited when we come across some.
Boil the bow tie pasta in about 2 qts. of salted water until al dente… this takes about 8 min.
Boil your long strands of pasta as well. They take a little longer to cook, about 10 min.
This is a beautiful mutli-colored pasta. They didn’t use food coloring, they are actual veggie pasta’s.
I do believe that it is viewed as something of a sin by Italian’s to break pasta apart before cooking, but the strands were too long to maneuver into nests like we wanted to. And besides, we break pasta apart all the time. Shh….
I always taste the pasta to ensure it is cooked properly. Remember to add your salt to the pasta water.
Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse to cool.
Draining The Bow Ties
When done drain the strands of pasta, but DO NOT rinse.
If you don’t work quickly, (Adding your pasta to the mold) you may need to rinse it slightly as the pasta will start to stick together.
While the pasta has been cooking….Make your Pesto Cottage Cheese mixture
Chop up your fresh Basil and Parsley, being sure to keep some of the better leaves or tops for garnishing.
In a medium bowl, add your fresh Basil and Parsley
Now, add the Parmesean Cheese, Basil Pesto, and Cottage Cheese
Mix all the ingredients well.
Add salt and pepper to taste…and taste the mixture.
Adjust the mixture to your liking.
Adding Pepper and Salt
Assemble your ingredients and molds
Add a touch of Olive Oil to each mold and using a paper towel, coat the inside of the glass mold.
Taking about 5 strands of pasta, maneuver them in a circular fashion around the mold making a sort of nest. You could also use a wine glass or a wide mouth jar for this project.
Now, add a Tbsp. of your sausage mixture to the top center of the pasta, then add more pasta around the outer edge of the mold.
Compress the mixture down to pack it, while completing the following steps.
When the pasta is above the meat sauce, add your pesto cottage cheese mixture on top of the sausage mixture.
Then place more pasta strands in a circular fashion around the edge of the mold.
You don’t want to cover either one of your internal mixtures while placing your pasta in the mold.
Continue the above steps until you have filled the mold, being sure to compact the ingredients down.
Gordon Working on our Pasta Nests
Here is a great shot of the final steps.
I used a large spoon to press down and compact the mixture of pasta and sauces into the mold.
They are Starting to Take Shape Beautifully!
Below, is also a great way to serve this.
You can garnish with some fresh slices of heirloom cherry tomatoes and Basil Sprig to top.
They are lovely to eat just like this.
Served with a nice drink and bread sticks… looks GREAT!
To serve this dish another way, we chose to un-mold the pasta onto a plate.
Take your serving plate and turn it upside down, then place your pasta within your mold under it touching the plate.
Right your plate holding the pasta mold down, then gently move the glass side to side using a twisting motion to un-mold the pasta.
Garnish with one of your cooked bow tie pasta…
then place some of the Tomato Basil Bruschetta on the plate.
Garnish the plate with a sprig of basil, parsley leaves, and sliced heirloom tomatoes.
Be creative with your garnishes… being sure you use edible garnishes which let the guest know what they are in for.
Mound of Pasta
You only need a fork to cut into this.
You could eat this as is or with some bread and a salad.
Gordon’s Carrot and Ginger Cocktail
Making the drink!
2 Tbsp. Sugar
2 Tbsp. Water
4 Basil Leaves – sliced to a fine chop
1 Tbsp. Honey
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
3 Cups Carrot Juice
3 shots Ginger Liqueur
2 shots Pineapple Bacardi Rum
6-7 Ice Cubes
Making the Garnish for the Glass…
Add equal parts of sugar and water to a small glass bowl.
Stir the ingredients together and place them in the microwave for ~60 sec. to dissolve the sugar.
While the sugar is dissolving, slice your Basil to a fine chop.
Rolling the Basil together makes it easier to chop all the leaves at once.
Place the sugar water in a small saute pan and cook on medium high heat for about 5 min. or until the mixture has a syrup consistency.
Dip your glass partly into the sugar syrup, then into the chopped Basil.
The Basil will stick to the sugar syrup, decorating your glass.
You don’t want Basil all over the entire rim of the glass, just half way.
Making the drink….
Pour your carrot juice into a large bowl.
Add your honey to the bowl,
then your ground cinnamon.
Now, add your shots of ginger liqueur…
and pineapple Bacardi to the mixture.
mix all the ingredients well with a wire whisk, being sure to incorporate the honey, which is likely stuck on the bottom of the bowl.
Add ~6-7 ice cubes to a shaker and a good amount of your Carrot juice drink.
Close the shaker and shake the mixture until the it it almost to cold to hold onto it.
Remove the cap, and pour the drink into your glasses, keeping away from your garnish.
The aroma of the herbs as you dip your nose into the glass to take a sip is pure HEAVEN!
Our Happy Easter Brunch
If the weather is good outside then take advantage of it and enjoy your brunch al fresco.
Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Casserole
Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Casserole
We Doubled the Ingredients and made one in a cast iron skillet to eat with our Peter Rabbit Easter, and one to freeze in a casserole dish and eat for our Brunch here.
Mrs. McGregor uses vegetables that her husband grows in his garden to make her delicious and healthy foods.
Here she created a garden casserole for their dinner.
What a great meal!
(This Recipe Made Two Casseroles.
One to eat and one to freeze.)
30 Brussel Sprouts
6 Tbsp. Seasonings – Any you like
2 Gallon Baggies that you Seal (You will divide the Brussel Sprouts, Seasonings, and Olive Oil into separate Baggies to marinate.)
1 Cup Olive Oil – 1/2 Cup in each bag
4 Cups Small Carrots
1 Large Head of Broccoli
4 Cups Pasta (we used Fusilli)
2 Large Sticks of Margarine/Butter, or 1 Cup thereof
1 Cup Flour
~4 Cups Milk
3/4 Cup Parmesean Cheese for the Mornay Sauce
3/4 Cup Fontina Cheese
3/4 Cup Pecorino Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesean Cheese for the Casserole Topping
1 Cup Whole Wheat Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)
You can use regular bread crumbs in place of the Panko.
1 Cup French’s Fried Onions
What I, Julie, love about casseroles is that you are given a medley of many things all together and all that is ever required to eat it with is some bread.
To start, prepare your Brussel Sprouts the day ahead… or in our case 3 days ahead. You want to marinate them in your spice mixture.
Cut 15 Brussel Sprouts in half, then wash them. Per Bag!
To the right below, is the seasoning we used.
You can use something with herbs, garlic, with a touch of salt and pepper or you can use an already prepared seasoning as we did.
Place your cut Brussel Sprouts in two large zip lock bags.
Add about 1/2 Cup Olive Oil to the bag and your seasonings.
Zip the bag shut and toss to mix the ingredients.
The oil will help distribute the seasoning.
Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight to let the sprouts marinate.
We left them in the refrigerator 3 nights before cooking. That extra time with the marinade made them extra tender and delicious.
Here, we marinated the two bags of sprouts with different seasonings.
You could freeze one for later use if you like.
BUT FIRST, allow them to marinate for a day or two so that all the flavors can blend together before you place them in the freezer.
After 24 hours or so, place the sprouts on aluminum foil laid over a large sheet pan.
Ensure the sprouts are cut side down.
Roast them in the oven for ~35-40 min. at 350’F
Here is a great picture of what they should look like when done.
The tops are well browned and the cut side caramelized.
While the sprouts are cooking you can go ahead and steam your carrots and broccoli.
Place your steamer in a large pot with ~1 inch of water
Wash your carrots…
Place your carrots down first, then top with the broccoli, as the carrots will need more cooking time than the broccoli.
Wash your large head of broccoli
Then cut off the stalk and slice the stalk into florets.
Our Pasta’s for our Casseroles
Try to make a statement with your pasta choice.
The pasta on the right, really fits this dish! We had both left over from meal’s past.
After about 10 min of steaming, remove the broccoli florets while they are bright green and still have some bite to them. Place them in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.
Cook your carrots about 5 min. longer, so they too still have some bite to them and not at all fully cooked.
Remove the carrots from the heat, and place them in a colander and run cold water over them as well.
Broccoli and Carrots Ready
In the meantime, cook your pasta to al dente, or a little less as there is still some cooking to do when combined in the casserole dish.
We used the Flowers in One Casserole and the Fusilli in Another
Prepare your (Mornay) or cheese sauce.
This is basically a Bechamel sauce with cheese added to it.
We used Fontina, Pecorino, and Parmesean cheese in this sauce.
Slice Your Cheeses into Smaller Chunks
When the pasta is done, pour them into a colander and rinse with cold water.
Here, I used two full sticks of butter for the sauce.
Melting the Butter….
Melt your butter over medium heat.
Add equal parts of flour to the melted butter and mix well.
You will then have a roux.
Add enough flour until the mixture looks like wet sand.
Just about like wet sand.
Now, it’s just right!
Cook the roux for about 3 min.
Doing this will remove the flour taste to the roux.
Add milk to the roux and whisk.
You will have to add about 4 cups of milk, but add it in 1/2 cup stages.
The flour will absorb more and more as it cooks, so stop when it is as thick as you like. As it sits, it will likely become thicker, so just add a touch more milk.
You now have a Bechamel sauce.
This is great on biscuits with just some chopped sausage added to it or have it as it is. It is also nice on mashed potatoes or baked chicken.
Add your sliced cheese to the Bechamel sauce.
Whisk until fully melted and combined.
You have now made a Mornay Sauce!
Now, combine all your cooked items together to make the casserole.
The Ingredients Here are Enough for TWO Casseroles
Here we are using a Casserole Dish, and a Cast Iron Skillet
Place some of your Mornay sauce into your casserole dish or your cast iron skillet.
Here, we are starting with the cast iron skillet.
Then add some carrots, broccoli, and pasta.
Then add your sprouts and then add more sauce, and repeat.
Place your vegetables and pasta into the skillet in a decorative fashion.
Ladle in more sauce.
Adding more pasta to the mix, then finish with some Mornay sauce.
We topped one with Whole Wheat Panko…
You can see the Panko Bread Crumbs on Top
then topped with French’s Fried Onions…
(A childhood favorite of mine. Julie) 🙂
and a little shredded Parmesean cheese!
(I do think that Gordon went a little overboard with the Parmesean cheese. Although the taste was wonderful I would have liked to see more of our beautiful vegetables peeking through and having it look a bit rustic.)
Bake in the oven at 350’F for ~30-45 min. or so…. depending on your oven.
Here we used the same process using the casserole dish as we did the cast iron skillet.
Again, strategically place your vegetables and pasta into the dish.
Add your Mornay sauce and repeat.
We froze this one to eat for our nice brunch.
Adding those delicious French’s Onions
And now here comes all the cheese! 🙂
Bake in a 350F oven for about 35 minutes.
Absolutely Delicious and it HIT the SPOT for Easter
Julie and Gordon