old favorites

Mom’s potato salad

Summer’s here, and the time is right—for the old family recipe potato salad. The Queen Mum (this would be Dad’s mother-in-law) has a great recipe for potato salad that has been a family favorite for decades. She can’t recall where it came from and has “modified” whatever the original was, but she can’t quite recall how. This is no doubt the story of many old family recipes.

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Grandma’s stuffing

It’s what makes our Thanksgiving menu such a special, family-favorite menu. It is everyone’s favorite—back when I was a kid, when our kids were little, and now. It’s the #1 choice when we ask, “so, what should we have for Thanksgiving this year?”

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Italian breakfast casserole

Made with fresh tomatoes and basil bought this morning at the farmers’ market, this version of one of our favorites, the breakfast casserole, helps us appreciate paying a little more for locally grown, organic produce.

Breakfast casseroles are really healthy and satisfying. Always a crowd pleaser, like if you’re having a morning-time birthday party or a day-after-the wedding family hangers-on brunch until it’s time for the relatives to get on their way home. The versions with bread are great, but this one and its variants taste just as good and are low-carb.

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Dad’s Italian breakfast casserole

a fresh and lively riff on the eggy breakfast casserole
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Resting time15 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cheese, eggs, Keto, sausage, vegetables
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 653kcal
Author: dad

Equipment

  • 12" skillet
  • 8" x 8" baking dish

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage Use ground or links, sweet or hot to your taste.
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil or 1/4 cup dried. Half for the casserole, half for the garnish.
  • 1/2 tspn dried red pepper flakes use more, less, or none to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz grated cheese cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey Jack — any one or a blend works fine.
  • 1 large fresh tomato slice into half-moons, 8-10 pieces

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • Heat the skillet on medium-high, add olive oil and watch until it shimmers.
  • Add sausage and break it up into small bits with a spatula or large spoon. Cook until evenly browned. Turn down the heat if this seems to be happening too fast.
  • Mix in onions and saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
  • While the onions cook, break eggs into large bowl and whisk in heavy whipping cream until you have a nice, smooth mixture.
  • To the skillet, add garlic, red pepper flakes (if used), and half the basil. Mix in and cook a minute.
  • Lightly butter or grease the baking dish.
  • Add half the meat and veg mixture to the baking dish. Spread evenly.
  • Add half the grated cheese (4 oz) as a layer in the baking dish.
  • Add the rest of the meat-veg and then the rest of the cheese to the dish.
  • Slowly pour the egg-cream blend (eggs and cream like this is what custard is) over the stuff in the baking dish.
  • Top the casserole with the sliced tomatoes and the rest of basil.
  • Into the oven for 35-40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and keep checking until the jiggling just about stops. Remove from oven and place on an empty burner or better, on a cooking rack for 15 minutes. A bit of baking will continue to happen for a while. Then the casserole will cool and become easier to cut.
  • I think cutting into six pieces makes for good-sized servings. I use a spatula with a sharp edge for this.

Nutrition

Calories: 653kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 59g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Cholesterol: 362mg | Sodium: 884mg | Potassium: 336mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1293IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 344mg | Iron: 2mg
Nutrition Facts
Dad's Italian breakfast casserole
Amount Per Serving
Calories 653 Calories from Fat 531
% Daily Value*
Fat 59g91%
Saturated Fat 28g175%
Cholesterol 362mg121%
Sodium 884mg38%
Potassium 336mg10%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 28g56%
Vitamin A 1293IU26%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 344mg34%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Crumbleburgers

In my little suburban, growing-up neighborhood in the 1950s, there was a food fad called “crumbleburgers” that was a favorite sandwich (besides PB&J) during my Boy Scout and “church kid” years. All the moms made them—my mom’s version was really great.

I don’t know if crumbleburgers are exactly the same thing as “sloppy joes” or not. As I remember, they were simplicity itself: ground beef and Heinz Chili Sauce. I don’t remember if my mom added fresh onion and bell pepper like I have. It doesn’t matter. It’s the memory that counts.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chuck (80-85% fat content)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 bottle (1/2 cups) Heinz Chili Sauce
  • salt and pepper

How to

  1. Heat the skillet to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon oil.
  2. Add ground beef and break it up into crumbles as you cook for 8-10 minutes until thoroughly browned with no pink remaining.
  3. While the beef is cooking, create 1/4″-1/2″ dice from the onion and green pepper.
  4. Lower heat to medium, stir in diced onion and pepper and cook 8-10 minutes until vegetables are very soft and golden.
  5. Lower heat, add Chili Sauce, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered.
  6. Spoon over hamburger bun(s) to create an open-face sandwich. Nutrition info below doesn’t include a bun.

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Crumbleburgers

Simple, delicious "sloppy joes" from the 60's.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ground beef, sandwich
Servings: 4 sandwiches
Calories: 396.61kcal
Author: dad

Equipment

  • 12" skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp fat for browning olive oil, canola, butter, etc.
  • 1 lb ground beef 80-85% fat content
  • 1 medium onion 1/4" dice
  • 1 medium green pepper 1/4" dice
  • 12 oz Heinz® Chili Sauce
  • 1 each hamburger bun

Instructions

  • Heat fat over medium-high heat.
  • Brown the ground beef, onion, and green pepper for 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in chili sauce, bring to boil, lower heat, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove cover, add salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you must decide how sloppy you want your joes. If necessary, cook off some of the liquid over low-medium heat until desired thickness happens.
  • Serve on or over your favorite hamburger buns and pretend you're on a picnic.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwich | Calories: 396.61kcal | Carbohydrates: 19.07g | Protein: 20.08g | Fat: 26.29g | Saturated Fat: 8.99g | Cholesterol: 80.54mg | Sodium: 769.22mg | Potassium: 398.39mg | Fiber: 0.97g | Sugar: 1.89g | Vitamin A: 110.08IU | Vitamin C: 25.96mg | Calcium: 29.71mg | Iron: 2.36mg
Nutrition Facts
Crumbleburgers
Amount Per Serving (1 sandwich)
Calories 396.61 Calories from Fat 237
% Daily Value*
Fat 26.29g40%
Saturated Fat 8.99g56%
Cholesterol 80.54mg27%
Sodium 769.22mg33%
Potassium 398.39mg11%
Carbohydrates 19.07g6%
Fiber 0.97g4%
Sugar 1.89g2%
Protein 20.08g40%
Vitamin A 110.08IU2%
Vitamin C 25.96mg31%
Calcium 29.71mg3%
Iron 2.36mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Chili as you like it

I’ve made a lot of chili and written about it here on DRB. I never make it the same way twice, usually because some ingredient or other is not in the pantry this time. Chili is an any time, any season food. It can be made in an hour or a day. Eaten fresh or from frozen, in a coffee mug or a fancy bowl. It can be endlessly customized from the get-go or just before eating. And it keeps getting better in the fridge for several days.

For Dads: Kids can help gathering ingredients, stirring, setting the timer and checking when it goes off, even slicing veggies if you dare. Can be a longer project that builds lots of good memories.

I’m no chili purist, as will become obvious. I know that for the pure in heart, chili is meat and, well, chilies. I don’t think I’ve ever had it that way, but keep thinking I will.

So, get out the Dutch oven and let’s go….

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Dad’s Chili As You Like It

A flavorful, straightforward approach for chili to personalize to your heart's content.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili, Keto, meat, vegetables
Servings: 8 hungry people
Author: dad

Equipment

  • Dutch oven
  • chef's knife

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp fat To sauté the meat and vegetables. Use bacon fat, EVOO, butter, or combination.
  • 2 lbs meat Ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, ground Italian sausage even. Mix and match.
  • 1 large onion 1/4" dice
  • 2 stalks celery Thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper 1/4" dice. Any color bell pepper is fine.
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced I get mine out of a squeeze bottle—great invention.
  • 1/4 cup Dad's Spice Mix Shameless plug. Since American chili has its origins in Western Americana, use chili powder, taco spice mix, or similar. Dad's mix is mighty good, though.
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste Really enriches your sauce.
  • 16 oz salsa Use your fav. We like Rick Bayless's Frontera Roasted Tomato, but I also think Old El Paso brand is really good.
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes with juice I use canned unless I have some summertime fresh off the vine.
  • 12 oz beer If you need more liquid to cover, use water or broth (beef or chicken). Homemade is always best.
  • salt and pepper As you like them, to finish before serving.
  • sour cream Optional garnish when serving.
  • cheddar cheese, grated Optional garnish when serving.
  • green onions, chopped Optional garnish when serving.
  • cornbread or crushed tortilla chips Optional, except a no-no for low-carb folks. Serve the chili over any of these.

Instructions

  • Sauté meat in oil or fat in a pre-heated skillet over medium heat. Take your time. The idea is to cook off the water in the meat—yes, water in the meat—and develop lots of browning, aka flavor. I've made chili with ground turkey and chicken, back before we starting maxing out the fat, and these meats especially contain lots of water.
  • Reserve the meat in a bowl and sauté the veggies, adding more fat/oil if needed. Give this at least 5 minutes. I call for the onion-celery-green pepper "trinity" here, but have also used onion-celery-carrot (a mirepoix) and have subbed red pepper for green…even roasted reds out of the jar. I am particular to Mezzetta, being a longtime California guy. All good.
  • Add garlic to the sauté, stir in, and cook for a minute.
  • Add the spices and tomato paste, stir in well, and cook for two minutes.
  • Add the salsa, diced tomatoes, and beer. Up the heat to high and stir well.
  • Add back the cooked meat and stir in thoroughly.
  • Lower heat. Cover the pot and simmer for two hours, checking and stirring every 30 minutes or so, just to drink in the aroma.
  • After two hours, remove cover. If there's too much liquid, continue cooking at a bubble until the sauce is thickened to your liking. If this seems to be going too slowly, up the heat, or if there's just way too much liquid—or you just can't wait—remove some with a big spoon. You won't be sorry later.
  • Taste for richness. Add salt and pepper and sample until you're satisfied, starting with a teaspoon each. Careful with the salt—folks can always add more if they like.
  • Finally, serve in bowls with your favorite garnish(es) and starchy additions.

Notes

Make a big batch with two pounds of meat and freeze what you can’t finish in a day or two. Freezes well and also tastes better after sitting a day.
If you use Dad’s Spice Mix, you’ll get some heat at the back of your throat, but not too much, we don’t think. To spice things up, add diced jalapeños to the veggie mix or add you favorite hot sauce as you consume. 
The garnishing is very important to the eating. If you’re Keto-conscious, sour cream, green onions, bacon bits, and/or grated cheddar are all great. I used to love serving chili over crumbled cornbread or crushed tortilla chips, but don’t do this now as we’re low-carb’ers. And, of course, that’s why there are no beans in this recipe. I am getting along just fine without them…I suppose.
Hope you’ll enjoy crafting your own version of this favorite. Make it; enjoy it; freeze it. enjoy it later. It’s one of those dishes that gets better for several days after making.

Dad’s classic cook-off chili

The Queen gave me a great cookbook for Christmas some years ago that was full of the Best Recipes of 1999, according to someone. About the only thing I’ve made more than once is a chili recipe, although I’ve played with it to the point where it’s now a classic item in Dad’s Recipe Box. You, too, can play with it to your heart’s content. Just make sure to include the most special ingredients and techniques, and you’ll have everyone ooohing and ahhing for more. This recipe is meant for you to con­fig­ure to your palate’s con­tent. There are all kinds of ways you can tweak it to make it your very own. Maybe we can spawn a whole new gen­eration of great Chili Cook-off recipes. Have at it!

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Coffee crunch cake

Coffee crunch cake is the Queen’s absolute favorite birthday treat. Picking one up at Stickney’s restaurant in Palo Alto (sadly, now long gone) was part of the drill for her big day each year. This year, Dad (not much of a baker), is finally making one from scratch to help us celebrate, although now far from California.

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Cookoff chili

Mom gave me a great cookbook for Christmas some years ago that was full of the Best Recipes of 1999, according to someone. About the only thing I’ve made more than once is a chili recipe, although I’ve played with it to the point where it’s now another “standard fare” item in the Recipe Box. You, too, can play with it to your heart’s content. Just make sure to include the most special ingredients and techniques, and you’ll have everyone oooh-ing and aah-ing for more. Recently, a friend who just won a chili cookoff told me never to enter any contest he was in! High praise.

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Dad’s scrambled eggs

Everyone (even the kids) say these are really good scrambled eggs. Tasty, fluffy, buttery…etc. So, they have become the gold standard around our house. The technique is the most important thing here.

Update 2019: Better eggs really do taste better. Better = organic, really free-range. Larger, darker-yellow yolks, no animal stuff in the feed, no antibiotics. I keep trying out different brands from the store. My current favorite is Pete & Gerry’s, noticeably better all around.

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Clam chowder

Keys to greatness: The bacon base, the herbal accents, and just the right thickening for that great, not too thin or thick, texture that everybody likes.

Keto upgrade (2018): Our clam chowder is a great Keto deal from the get-go since we use bacon and heavy whipping cream and add butter for even more richness and fat. But since potatoes and wheat flour are Keto no-no’s, another solution had to be found to thicken the chowder.

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