Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Block Aid

I have been suffering from an ongoing case of blogger's block recently.Not sure why. I would probably, if pressed, offer up "medicine head" as an explanation.The rigors of working through the side effects my over the counter allergy medicine have on me is my go-to excuse at the moment. I take one teensy pill every evening before going to bed. I do this only in order to keep breathing through my nose (an unattainable goal judging by experience in years past) as the live oak trees here in Central Texas do their best to stretch the limits of how many times in a row one human being can sneeze and survive.

A side effect of this "daily medication to keep breathing" strategy is a certain level of brain fogginess. Add that on top of my ongoing tendency to lapse into senior moments, and there you have it. A ready made excuse for any/every mental lapse for at least the next few weeks.

Despite that cloudy brain situation I did want to share with you a recipe discovered as part of what happened over a reunion weekend recently.

For me, good food is great, but food shared with friends and the stories generated, the memories triggered by a particular dish are what elevates the experience from "eating" to "feasting".Recently I had the delight of gathering with a group of friends, most of whom I met for the very first time in the early 1970s as fellow residents of Kinsolving Dormitory on the UT Campus.
Kinsolving Dormitory, University of Texas at Austin Campus
Although a few of the ladies from the dormitory could not make it this go-round, we have been gathering in varying configurations for several years now. Each year we do manage to get together, we are struck again by how very fortunate we were not only to have been thrown together, but also to have connected, deeply, in ways we were unaware of at the time.

I don't have everybody's permission to share names or stories - most of what we said and did would bore you to tears. But I do have permission to share a simply delicious breakfast casserole recipe that comes along with its own great story. It is a little complicated to pull the strands of the story together, so bear with me while I set the stage a bit.
Inspiration Hill - scenic backdrop for our reunion this  year. 
This is one of those "this led to that led to the other" chains which all circles back around like a necklace with a clasp at the end, in this case that clasp taking the form of a recipe. Not "my recipe" but a good recipe, and one I want to share.

One of my friends who was part of this last reunion is married to an artist who creates absolutely astonishing (to me) watercolors,very many of them reflecting the ranching heritage of Texas.
Mark Kohler, watercolor artist extraordinaire.
This artist, J. Mark Kohler, grew up in my home town of Austin, although he now lives in Yorktown with his wife, my friend from the dorm, Pam.

Mark has his studio adjacent to the home he and Pam have been building together, where they offer, among other things, workshop experiences that include instruction from Mark himself, and a continental breakfast prepared by Pam.

Pam's comfort with fixing food for visitors attending their workshops led to her offering to prepare for us a delicious breakfast as part of our reunion. The particular casserole she fixed for us as part of this breakfast, came along with a story of the woman who introduced her to the recipe.
Mary Sue, photo from her website.
This woman, Mary Sue Koontz Nelson, proclaims not to be a good cook herself, but she has rather collected recipes from other good cooks offering them in a book entitled "Stolen Recipes".When not compiling recipes in a cookbook, Mary Sue is a motivational speaker and a strong Texas woman in her own right.

Here, allow Pam to tell you more.
"The recipe book is full of colorful commentary by Mary Sue, who herself is a colorful character. She is 77 years old and as full of life as anyone more than half her age. She arrived on our doorstep by inviting herself to come view Mark's watercolors, which she had seen at the Hunt Gallery in San Antonio. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer, and drove from her ranch outside Placedo, TX to spend the afternoon with us.

She regaled us with her philosophy on art and life, sprinkled with four-letter words and comic insight. When she left, she presented me with a signed copy of her cookbook, which is full of "down home" recipes and "comfort food". She is honest throughout the book in her declaration that she never cooks, but has enjoyed the cooking of "fine cooks" throughout her life. And it is to these queens of the cuisine that she dedicates her book."
In the photos to follow you will see a doubled recipe prep which Pam discovered requires longer baking times to get the middle cooked. We agreed, the results were well worth the wait. Here is the undoubled recipe based upon the original featured in Mary Sue Koontz Nelson's book "Stolen Recipes":

Breakfast Casserole
6 eggs
1 lb. pkg of Jimmy Dean's maple sausage
2 cup pkg. of shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 cups evaporated milk
4 oz. can of chopped green chiles

Fry sausage into crumbles, and spread as bottom layer in baking dish.Cover this layer with a layer of cheddar cheese. Whisk together eggs, evaporated milk and green chiles, and pour over sausage/cheese layers. Spread another small layer of cheese on the top.Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

This recipe is delicious as written, but those of you with a few years of breakfast experience under your belts will recognize the potential of this as a vehicle for a variety of additions in order to make the dish your own.

To me, a good recipe has always been like a work of art. Both are enhanced when you know the provenance and even more so when you know the artist themselves.

Like to see how your own story and artistry might intersect with these two Texas treasures? Order a copy of the cookbook directly from Mary Sue, or from Cogdells General Store, online.

Then contact J. Mark Kohler at his studio in Yorktown and get information not only on how you can view and purchase an original work of art for yourself, but also to participate in a workshop where Mark will teach you how to create your own watercolor masterpiece. If you are very lucky, Pam might even make some of Sue's casserole for you. Then you can tell her the story about how you first saw that recipe right here.


Flapjacks said...

that's what i'm talking about.

PassivePastry said...

placedo, texas= hmmm.
watercolors= beautiful.
bfast casserole= something i can make!!
writers block=bah!

i take nightly allergy pills too. so i don't break out in to hives daily.