2016-12-15 / Life in Leelanau

Christmas cuisine made easy

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


THIS EASY strata is a Christmas go-to for Kelly Walter. The version shown is topped with breakfast sausage and bacon. THIS EASY strata is a Christmas go-to for Kelly Walter. The version shown is topped with breakfast sausage and bacon. Easy, easy, easy is the name of the game for many local cooks when it comes to those busy days leading up to the holidays.

And enjoying Christmas morning while saving energy for the big meal may just start with preparing a breakfast or brunch casserole the day before.

Pop it in the oven and then sit down and enjoy the day with family.

Kelly Walter of Suttons Bay says a relative gave her a recipe for her strata, also known as brunch casserole, about 24 years ago. Since then, she said, it’s been one of her go-to, easy recipes for the holidays.

“It’s great because you make it the night before, let it sit in the refrigerator over night and bake it in the morning,” said Walter, who enjoys cooking meals for her family.

The strata is a versatile dish too, as just about anything you would put in an omelet or quiche can be put on top of the strata, she said. Mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli are three, but Walter said any vegetable would do.

If broccoli is used it should be steamed a little first, she said.

“I haven’t tried potatoes yet, but I thought that would be really good,” Walter said.

The size of the bread cubes the recipe calls for can also be adjusted according to the size of the pan being used.

Walter buys her French bread a few days in advance, as dryer bread will absorb the eggs and milk better.

The cheese can also be changed according to your likes and dislikes, she said.

“I never skimp on the cheese,” Walter said. “It calls for cheddar, but I’ve used Raclette from Leelanau Cheese as an alternative, and it was delicious.”

For Ken Tietje, who admits that his wife, Sandy, does most of the cooking, a recipe of baked beans that can be made ahead of time and put in the fridge until needed is just the ticket for the busy holidays.

It’s also great for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and nearly any random day, says Tietje, a Leland resident.

“It’s real easy, just bake it when you need it,” Tietje said.

He and Sandy, in fact, had the tasty dish just last week, he said.

Tietje submitted the recipe several years ago to the “More Tasty Treasures” cookbook published by Leland Immanuel Lutheran Church. But Tietje said he can’t take credit for it.

He got the recipe from the late Rich Schlueter, who used to live next door to the Tietjes.

“I can’t take the credit,” he said. “All I did was submit it. It’s nothing special, but it’s the one we always make now.”

Mac Finch, who lives in Leland and Florida, discovered Australian Delight while visiting down under.

Made with whipped cream and meringue, the light and frothy dessert can be topped with slices of kiwi or strawberry, nuts or chocolate.

It’s also very easy to make.

“It must be easy because I can do it,” Finch said. “There’s nothing to it. It’s easier than a cake.”

The dessert is also sometimes called Pavlova, after ballerina Anna Pavlova.

“They wanted something that was light because she was light on her feet,” Finch said.

The dessert was a favorite of his two daughters, now both grown and living in Poland and in Australia.

STRATA (BRUNCH CASSEROLE)

4 c. cubed firm textured white or French bread
2 c. shredded cheddar
10 to 12 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper
10 to 12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 c. whole milk
Chopped, seeded tomato (optional)

Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Arrange bread cubes in the dish and sprinkle with grated cheese. Beat together eggs, milk, dry mustard, salt and pepper; pour evenly over cheese and bread. Sprinkle with bacon and tomato. Cover and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake uncovered casserole until set, about one hour. Tent with foil if the top begins to brown. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

By Kelly Walter, reprinted from the “Tasty Treasures” cookbook from Leland Immanuel Lutheran Church

AUSTRALIAN DELIGHT

5 egg whites
1 c. sugar
3 drops vanilla
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 c. whipping cream
Kiwi slices
Strawberry slices
Nuts or grated chocolate

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Beat egg whites, salt, vanilla and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar, a little at a time. Continue to beat until sugar is dissolved and peaks stand alone. Draw about a 9-inch circle on parchment and place on cookie sheet. Spread meringue within the circle. (Hint: Draw circle on the opposite side of paper you put the meringue on.) Bake for one hour. Turn off heat and let cool in oven for at least two hours (very important). Invert on plate. Using one cup whipping cream, whip to taste and spread on meringue. Top with kiwi or strawberry slices, nuts and/or grated chocolate.

By Mac Finch, reprinted from “More Tasty Treasures” from Leland Immanuel Lutheran Church

RICH’S BAKED BEANS

1 qt. Randall beans
1/2 c. catsup
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tbsp. molasses
1 finely chopped small onion
4 strips uncooked bacon

Combine beans, catsup, sugar, mustard, molasses and onion. Pour into 1 1/2-quart flat baking dish. Place uncooked bacon strips on top of beans and bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.

By Ken Tietje, reprinted from “More Tasty Treasures”

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