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So the Danish. The Norwegian. Scots and Canadians and Alaskans. How in the world do these nearly-Arctic people survive winter? Not only are the temperatures rock-bottom, but it’s so dark, so very dark. I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter, and I see the sun on a near-daily basis. I’ve been doing some reading on Scandinavian happiness, which is consistently off the charts. The Danes in particular have been getting a lot of press for their concept of “hygge,” (pronounced ahh-choo and gesundheit, I’m pretty sure). It seems our chilly friends have figured out the secret of blissful winters, even in their very cold climate. Candles, fireplaces, light, soft blankets, lots of books, friendly feasts and mulled wine all have a little something to do with it. It’s fascinating, especially for a Southern girl who misses summer nights on the front porch. I’m on a campaign to hygge-up my winter routine and break the winter blues this February, but I’m no expert. My best suggestion for happy winter nights? Brinner.

Mmm! Breakfast for dinner is always a favorite round here. I’ve successfully roped my friends in for lots of brinner nights, and the smorgasbord (see what I did with the Swedish there?) of baked goods, bacon, steaming sausages, cheesy eggs, and bowls of fruit is happy enough for Pharrell and Bobby McFerrin both. Throw in some coffee and have yourself a merry little midwinter.

The best thing about brinner is you aren’t running out the door to get to work, so you get to go a little above-and-beyond with your breakfast dishes. I’m not one to get up at the crack of dawn and make pastry, but I can do it in time for supper. Do a little savory and a little sweet, or better yet, invite some friends to contribute their favorites, and brinner can be a beautiful feast. Good enough for hygge-loving Danes!

Here are some of our favorites:

German “Puff Pancake” with Butter Syrup, recipe credit:

This is really good with a warm fruit compote or jam if you want to skip the syrup, but that butter syrup is kind of to die for, too. It turns the whole thing into something reminiscent of gooey butter bars.

  • 2 T. butter
  • 6 large eggs (about 10.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup milk (I use 2%)
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put two T. butter in a glass 9X13-inch baking dish and pop the pan in the oven to melt (but don’t let it burn).

Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla in a blender and process on low speed until smooth, 10-20 seconds. Add the flour and salt and blend until just combined; the batter should be smooth but not overblended.

Take the preheated, buttered pan out of the oven and swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter into the pan and immediately return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until the pancake is puffy and lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

Butter Syrup:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup (8 T.) butter
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. baking soda

In a big old saucepan (it will foam and triple in volume at the end), combine the sugar, buttermilk and butter and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and baking soda until well-combined. Serve warm over pancakes.


Polenta and Mexican Eggs

Polenta isn’t something I grew up with, but it is essentially a mixture of ready-to-fry grits. It comes in a tube; simply slice like you would slice-and-bake cookies, and fry. The key to this dish is timing. Start by getting the toppings ready to spoon on while the eggs are hot. You can set the table with bowls of beans, salsa, avocado, cheese, and cilantro and let everyone serve themselves.

  • 1 tube polenta
  • eggs, 1 or 2 per person
  • black beans
  • salsa
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • shredded cheddar
  • cilantro

Fry up the sliced polenta and pile on beans, a dollop of salsa, and a sprinkle of cheddar.  Top with fried eggs over easy.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with avocado slices on the side.


Banana Cottage Cheese Pancakes

This recipe is quite flexible and can be modified to suit your needs.  The pancakes are delicious — moist and dense, with a consistency somewhat like crepes.  Best served with maple syrup or fruit preserves.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 T. cooking oil
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 small overripe bananas
  • 1 c. flour
  • milk, as needed

Combine eggs, cottage cheese, oil, and salt in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add bananas, one at a time.  Slowly add flour, by tablespoonfuls, until well incorporated.  If the mixture is too thick, add milk, by the teaspoon, until it blends smoothly.  Cook on a lightly greased skillet or frying pan until golden.


Baked Oatmeal

I have made this with almond milk to satisfy a non-dairy request and it was great!  You can mix up all of the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately the day before and combine just before baking if you want to prepare ahead.  Serve with whipped cream if you want to be decadent (or yogurt if you don’t) and fill up on a big bowl of fruit salad.

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in dried cranberries. Spread into a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.


Baked Blueberry-Pecan French Toast

This is meant to be soaked overnight and baked in the morning.  If you are having it for brinner, throw it together in the morning and soak all day, then bake before supper.

  • 1 French bread baguette
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • ½ stick plus 1 t. butter
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Cut 1 ½ inch slices from the baguette and arrange in one layer in the dish (about 6-8 slices). Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and ½ cup brown sugar in a large bowl and pour evenly over the bread. Refrigerate mixture, covered, until all liquid is absorbed by the bread, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

When you are ready to bake and serve, preheat oven to 350 F. Toast the pecans in a skillet in one layer over medium heat, stirring often. Toss with 1 t. butter.

Sprinkle pecans and blueberries evenly over bread mixture. Cut remaining ½ stick butter into pieces and heat with remaining ¼ cup brown sugar in a small saucepan, stirring, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake mixture 30 – 40 minutes or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling.


Quick Cheese and Sausage Grits

I use the basic recipe for cheese grits from the Quaker Instant Grits box, with a few changes. They recommend fake cheese, like Velveeta; I always use sharp cheddar. I tend to eyeball, it, too—white grits ought to turn a nice pale orange if you have enough cheese. Quaker omits pepper, I use it generously. And in this case, I have listed crumbled sausage as an optional ingredient.

  • 4 c. water
  • 1 c. instant grits
  • 1-2 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1 c. cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage (optional, but yummy)
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper

In a heavy saucepan, stir grits slowly into boiling water. Beware, grits will pop and spatter as they heat up. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 4-5 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Add sausage, cheese and spices, stir until cheese melts.

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Cold Weather, Hot Food

So I’m making my grocery list and it was such a happy menu, I thought I’d share.  Lotta bowls involved this week, lotta spoons.  Lotta happy, happy kids!  Save this one for your next shopping trip and voila!  A week of suppers.  Yeah, you’re welcome.  Grocery list at the bottom of the post.

Menu:  Taco Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, Greek Feta Chicken, Turkey Clubs and Tomato Bisque, Jambalaya, Brinner: Omelets and Fruit

Taco Soup

This soup just feels dirty.  It’s a potluck standby, the kind of food your picky niece would eat with fritos.  It’s like nachos you eat with a spoon.  Guilty pleasure!

  • 1 1.2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
  • 2 cans rotel
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can beef broth
  • small block Velveeta, cubed
  • small tub sour cream
  • tortilla chips

Brown beef and onion.  Combine all ingredients EXCEPT sour cream in a large soup pot.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook and stir occasionally until cheese has melted.  Before serving, stir in sour cream.  Cook until heated through.  Do not boil.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Chicken and Dumplings 

So this is one of those recipes I use when I have plenty of time, not because it is difficult, but because there are several steps.  It makes a lot of food, perfect for a cold and drizzly kind of day.  Winnie the Pooh would like this if he didn’t have any honey available.

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 lb. chicken (you can use whatever parts of a chicken you want)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pkg. frozen egg noodles
  • 2 c. Bisquick
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. thyme

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Brown in batches, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; reserve the pot.

Add the celery, carrots, onions, thyme, and garlic to the drippings in the pot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken, bay leaves, and 10 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water to cook the egg noodles.  Consult the package directions for cooking times.

Make dumplings.  Stir Bisquick, 1 t. thyme, and milk until soft dough forms.  Set aside.

Return your attention to the stew.  Discard the bay leaves and transfer the chicken to a plate. Shred it and return it to the pot (discarding the skin and bones, if necessary).

Drop dumpling dough by spoonfuls onto boiling stew; reduce heat. Cook uncovered 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes.

Scoop bowlfuls of noodles and top with stew.

Greek Feta Chicken 

This is a pretty darn easy, super tasty chicken dish.  I like to serve it with hummus and pita bread on the side, preferably with a good Greek salad. 

  • 8 oz. plain yogurt
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • 1/2 t. rosemary
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into palm-sized pieces
  • 1/3 c. feta
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley

Combine first 6 ingredients in a heavy-duty plastic bag and shake.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Reserve marinade, and place chicken in a broiler pan coated with cooking spray.  Broil 5 1/2 inches from heat (with oven door ajar), 7 minutes.  Flip chicken pieces over and spoon the reserved marinade over the top.  Sprinkle with feta cheese.  Broil 7 more minutes or until done.  Sprinkle with parsley.

*recipe adapted from Low Fat, High Flavor Cookbook

Bubba’s Jambalaya 

I haven’t tried this one yet.  Just feeling kinda Cajun, and this one got good reviews.

  • 6 slices bacon, crumbled
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. cubed cooked ham
  • 1/2 lb. cubed cooked chicken
  • 1/2 lb. cubed smoked sausage
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • 2 t. Cajun seasoning
  • 2 c. uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 lb. salad shrimp

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Add celery, bell pepper, and onion to the bacon drippings, and cook until tender.  Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil and separate the grains.

Add the ham, chicken and sausage to the pot, and pour in the tomatoes, beef broth and chicken broth. Season with thyme and Cajun seasoning.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender.

Stir in the shrimp and bacon just before serving, and heat through. If you use uncooked shrimp, let it cook for about 5 minutes before serving.

* adapted from

Turkey Clubs and Tomato Basil Bisque

How about an easy soup and sandwich night?

The Bisque:

  • 2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Toppings: fresh basil leaves, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan cheese

Cook first 5 ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

The Clubs:

So this is easy-peasy.  You know how to make a sandwich, right?  A couple tips:  use the best bread you can find and the best turkey if this a main course for supper.  Pull out some good potato chips to go with.  And you can’t go wrong with fancy toothpicks and pickles!

  • 1 lb. deli smoked turkey
  • 1 loaf hearty white bread or torta rolls
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, cooked
  • 1 tomato
  • lettuce leaves

Toast the bread.  Assemble double-decker style if you wish, or just make a regular sandwich.


Because brinner is always a good idea, at least once a week.  


You should have everything you need left over for a nice omelette — eggs, cheddar, ham, green pepper, and onion.  Or go crazy and use feta and tomatoes for a nice Greek twist.  Serve with a bowl of fruit for a complete meal.

Your Grocery List:  


  • 4 sweet onions
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 1 bag carrots
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • lemon
  • garlic
  • fresh parsley and basil (to tell the truth, I’m just going to use dried)
  • fruit — your choice


  • 1/2 pound salad shrimp
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 pound ham
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 2 more pounds chicken parts— your choice
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. deli smoked turkey

Dry (Canned/Bottled)

  • 2 cans rotel
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 jar Kalamata olives
  • 24 oz. beef broth
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Dry (Boxes/Bags)

  • 1 box Bisquick
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg. ranch seasoning
  • Fritos or tortilla chips


  • 1 loaf hearty white bread or torta rolls
  • pita bread (optional)


  • small block Velveeta
  • small tub sour cream
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb. shredded (or not) cheddar
  • 8 oz. plain yogurt
  • 1 cup feta
  • milk
  • buttemilk
  • hummus (optional)


  • 1 pkg. frozen egg noodles

Check Pantry:  Do you have…

  • dried spices: thyme, oregano, rosemary, pepper, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves
  • cooking spray
  • white rice
  • olive oil

To Die For

Shall I tell you about two of my favorite things?  One is a good mystery.  Two is to-die-for pie.  That “to-die-for” part is where they come together:  Diane Mott Davidson, who writes “culinary mysteries” set close by in Colorado, includes recipes in her books.  Her sleuth, you see, is a caterer by day.

Anyway, Davidson’s books are reliably fun and fast reads, great for a weekend when there’s not much going on.  But tucked inside are recipes.  Now, I’ve only made one of them.  I always wondered if they were any good (after all, the books aren’t really cookbooks.)  But this one looked so delish…

Oh my goodness.

I make this pie every summer.  It is seriously my favorite fruit pie of all time.  Except possibly the blueberry pie at the Camden Deli in Maine, which is ridiculous.  My sister-in-law requested it for a family get-together today, and I thought it worth sharing, so here you go.  One last strawberry grand slam of summer, then on to pumpkins.

Strawberry Super Pie

3/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp confectioners sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 pounds strawberries, divided
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch

1 1/4 cups whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla extract (I used clear to keep the filling pure white)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


Directions for crust:
Preheat oven to 375°.  Mix the butter, flour, confectioners sugar, and pecans.  Press into a buttered 10-inch pie plate.  Bake 25 minutes or until light brown.  Cool completely.

Directions for Topping:
Mash enough strawberries to equal 1 cup.  Cut the tops off the rest of the strawberries and set aside.  Place the cup of mashed strawberries and water in a saucepan.  Mix sugar and cornstarch together and add to the strawberry mixture.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Boil until mixture turns clear and thickened, about a minute.  Let cool completely.

Directions for Filling:
Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Carefully fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Spread filling into cooled crusts and refrigerate.

When berry mixture is cool, the pie(s) can be assembled.  The recipe calls for whole or halved strawberries to be stood on top of the cream filling, cut side down.  When the entire filling is covered with whole strawberries, spoon cooled berry mixture over filling.  Refrigerate pie until ready to serve.  Any leftover topping can be served on toast or English muffins.

Makes 8-10 large servings

From Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson.  Bantam Books, 1992.

Make-Ahead Meals

Just for kicks — here are the five make-ahead meals we made at Stepping Up Sabbath today.  (You can read more about that here.)  I really don’t know the origin of all of them:  probably,, family friends…  They’ve been tweaked and reworked a bit, and you might be able to find the originals online elsewhere, but this is what worked for us.  Enjoy!



Cranberry Chicken

*Note:  Onion soup to taste — you may omit this entirely or use a whole packet.  Our family likes it without this ingredient, or with only a half packet.

  • 1 15. oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • *1/2 packet onion soup mix
  • 1 small bottle Catalina salad dressing
  • 1.5 lb. chicken breasts


  1. Make sauce packet by mixing first three ingredients.  Freeze along with a package of chicken breasts.
  2. For Serving Day, be sure you have thawed the sauce packet ahead of time.
  3. Spray your crock pot with nonstick spray, and put in the chicken.  Pour your sauce over the top and cook on low for 6 hours.  (You could also thaw and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes if you don’t have a slow cooker.)
  4. Make rice to serve with your chicken.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired.


Lettuce Leaf Tacos

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. chicken stock (optional)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 T. taco seasoning
  • 2 large roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped, or salsa
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 12 large romaine lettuce leaves
  1. Dice pepper and onion.
  2. Cook and stir pepper and onion in a skillet over medium heat with olive oil and chicken broth until onion is translucent.
  3. Cut up ground beef into small pieces; place into a separate skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir ground beef with taco seasoning until beef is browned and crumbly. Drain excess grease.
  4. Combine beef, onions, peppers, and freeze.
  5. On Serving Day, reheat meat packet.
  6. Create “tacos” by using lettuce leaves for your shell, a scoop of meat mixture, a sprinkle of cheese, and some tomatoes.


Honey Garlic Chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. ketchup (you can also use low-sodium ketchup, if available)
  • 1/2 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 2 T. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 T. toasted sesame seeds


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, oregano and parsley; whisk until thoroughly combined.
  2. Freeze.
  3. For Serving Day, be sure to thaw your sauce packet ahead of time.  Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs in a slow cooker.  Close with a lid and cook for 6 to 7 hours on low.
  4. Make rice to serve with chicken.  Spoon extra sauce over the top of each serving.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


White Lightning Chicken Chili and Cornbread

This is a quick and easy chili, but like all good chilies, you can go low and slow if you want. 

  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 c. cooked chicken
  • 3.5 t. chicken bouillon
  • 2 cans diced green chiles
  • 1 package white chicken chili seasoning mix
  • (McCormick makes one)*
  • 3 cans navy beans

Optional Toppings for Serving Day:

  • low-fat sour cream
  • shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • cilantro
  • lime
  • diced avocado
  • chips or corn bread
  1. Shred or coarsely chop chicken.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a large Dutch oven, about 5 minutes, or until onion is tender.
  3. Stir in chicken with next 3 ingredients, 28 oz. water, and 2 cans of navy beans.
  4. Coarsely mash remaining beans and stir into chicken mixture.
  5. Freeze.
  6. Reheat in slow cooker, or thaw, bring to a boil, stirring often; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer about 10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, avocado, lime wedges, and chips, if you like, and a batch of cornbread on the side.

*If you cannot locate a package of White Chicken Chili Seasoning, use extra garlic, 2 T. cumin, 1 T. coriander, and a cup of green (tomatillo) salsa in its place.


Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

I dearly love this vegetarian lasagna.  It’s not that carroty veggie lasagna with no hint of cheesy tomato goodness; it really satisfies a good Italian craving — with no meat!  Break it out for your cow-conscious friends.  They’ll thank you.

  • 2 cups bottled red pasta sauce
  • 6 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 15 ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 6 ounces mozzarella*
  • 1 T. red wine
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup roasted red sweet peppers, drained well and sliced
  1. Lightly coat a 2-quart square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Spoon 1/3 cup of the sauce in the dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles.
  3. In a small bowl stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, and wine. Spoon half the mixture over the noodles in the dish.
  4. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with half the red pepper strips.
  5. Spoon half the remaining sauce on the pepper layer.
  6. Top with 2 more noodles, the remaining ricotta mixture, and remaining peppers.
  7. Add 2 more noodles and the remaining sauce.
  8. Sprinkle top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  9. Cover with foil.
  10. Freeze.
  11. Thaw overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes. Let stand, covered, on a wire rack for 20 minutes before serving.  Serve with caesar salad and french bread if desired.

*Super good with goat cheese instead of mozzarella!