My wife and I are both on vacation this week. We schedule this every year to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Every year previous, we would book a hotel room at a resort on the beach somewhere in Florida. 2019 was a fine time at Amelia Island, The Omni Amelia Island Resort was are destination which proved to be everything that we had heard. Due to the time of year, there are no crowds and the Florida humidity is lower. We stayed at a wonderful section of the resort that is actually condos that snow birds rent out when they are living up north. Our room came complete with a fully stocked kitchen, a living room and a very nice bedroom. I would say, probably 1000 square feet. and we paid around $179 a night. Yes my friends, it pays to live and grow up 1 hour from several beach’s in Central Florida. It’s precisely the reason I have never left this area.
Fast forward to 2020, the scenario this year has changed quite significantly. I have always said that the best vacation I ever had is the year I wasn’t at work and this cycle is no different. I did, however, want to have a few special moments for my wife considering we have been on lockdown since mid March. A few days ago I began planning a special breakfast complete with all our favorites. I chose to have breakfast on Sunday morning because I am always at work on Sunday. I figured that an awesome breakfast, followed by a nap, and then an afternoon of NFL football would be just the ticket for my wife and I. Did I mention that my wife is more into football than I am. That’s right, I hit the wife lottery. In more ways than one. The breakfast menu was an easy to list to prepare. We had been to breakfast at several fine restaurants here locally and with most things, we are creatures of habit. So here is what I planned for……
Biscuits and gravy, hash brown casserole, blueberry pancakes, bacon on the side and our favorite Orange Juice – “Simply” (which just happens to be headquartered in a town just 20 or so miles from us to the west, Apopka, FL. Easy enough menu, right. Well for starters, if you grow up in the south, biscuits and gravy has to be presented a certain way. Too loose and it’s basically milk on biscuits, too heavy and its plaster for drywall. The hash brown casserole is a recipe we do almost every year at Christmas. It is a copycat of the Crackle Barrell classic.
The flapjacks are a different story. I have always made pancakes from a box. Never in my life have I made pancakes from scratch. This morning would be different. Scratch made is much more fun and I can control the thickness and fluffiness. The recipe I came up with is certainly fluffy and thick…
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 TB sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs lightly beaten, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 TB unsalted butter melted and cooled
2 cups Fresh Blueberries
❶ In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, until well-combined.
❷ In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together buttermilk,, eggs, and vanilla extract.
❸ Take your melted butter and slowly drizzle it into your wet ingredients while whisking, stirring until well-combined (the butter may separate and curdle if your other ingredients are cold, this is OK, just whisk to combine).
❹ Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined — do not overmix your pancake batter or your pancakes will be flat. Use a light hand when stirring, and a few flour streaks in the batter are fine.
❺ Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray or lightly brush with canola oil and place on burner on medium-low heat.
❻ Allow skillet to preheat before adding batter (about 5 minutes, it’s good for your pancake batter to sit several minutes as well, which is why you prepared that before preheating your pan), and once skillet is heated scoop pancake batter into pan (I use about 1/2-2/3 cup of batter per pancake). Batter will be thick, spread out to a circle that fits your needs.
The hash brown casserole was an adventure in research. It appears that the recipe’s on the internet that claim to be copycat, actually are not. It seems clear that Cracker Barrel does not use sour cream in their recipe and it appears they use Colby cheese rather than cheddar. Having said that, my wife and I like and prefer the version on the internet. The only change that I made was to cut the sour cream in half. We did, in fact use, use cheddar rather than Colby…
1 Stick of butter
8oz of sour cream
10 ¼ oz can of Cream of Chicken soup
32 oz (2 lb) frozen country style shredded hash browns
2 cup shredded cheddar or colby cheese.
½ cup chopped yellow onion.
❶ Melt the stick of butter and then mix that with the sour cream, cream of chicken soup, shredded cheese and chopped onion.
❷ Pour the shredded hash browns into a 9×13 glass casserole dish (salt and pepper a bit) and pour the mixture over it mixing it throughout gently.
❸ Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and bake uncovered at 350 for about 45-55 minutes or until slightly browning on edges and bubbly.
Biscuits and gravy is a southern staple. Been eating it as long as I have been alive. I prefer a certain texture and flavor. Big on pepper, thick sausage gravy but not too. Thin gravy is not an option. Hard to give an exact recipe because there are so many variables. The type of sausage will produce a certain amount of drippings. The drippings will determine the amount of flour and milk. It really is an eyeball thing. This is what I did and it worked out very well. Changes from the recipe below are as follows. I added 2 TB of butter to the sausage after it was browned. There wasn’t enough drippings for the equal amount of 1/3 cup flour. I also ended up adding an additional cup of milk, adding 1/3 cup at a time until I had the right consistency…
1 lb Jimmy Dean pork sausage
1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1-2 dashes hot sauce
Salt and pepper
2 TB butter or bacon grease (if needed)
❶ Over medium high heat crumble the sausage into a pan and let it brown for a minute, turn down to medium heat. Continue cooking until no pink remains. Stir in the onions and cook until they are transparent.
❷ Add enough butter (or bacon grease) to equal about 3 tbsp of drippings, on medium heat sprinkle the flour over the sausage. Stir in the flour and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the mixture starts bubbling and turns golden brown.
❸ Stir in poultry seasoning, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and salt – cook for 1 minute to deepen the flavors.
❹ Slowly add the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 15 minutes).
And the crowning achievement of this magnificent breakfast, a new recipe – Peanut Butter Maple Syrup. My wife put this one together. She loves peanut butter. I did not have this delight with my blueberry pancakes, but she claims it was “out of this world”…
6 TB unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
❶ In a large saucepan over medium heat, add all of the ingredients except the peanut butter.
❷ Stir until completely melted and combined
❸ Stir in the peanut butter and bring to a boil
❹ Turn down to simmer for one minute and serve immediately over pancakes (we chose to do milk and white chocolate chip
pancakes and it was awesome!)