By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
Wesley Lassen, owner of the Cook Store in Mountain Brook Village, knows her way around the kitchen.
That doesn’t mean she wants to spend all her time there, especially during the holiday season.
“My philosophy is to use make-ahead recipes so I can enjoy the party,” Lassen said.
Pre-party prep is particularly useful if you’re hosting a brunch — lest you want to rise, shine and cook at the crack of dawn.
Lassen said her Frozen Cranberry Salad has become a brunch favorite for her family.
“It’s an easy do-ahead recipe,” she said. “It cuts great with a serrated knife.”
Even biscuits, the bane of many an inexperienced cook, can delight guests when they’re made with her simple three-ingredient recipe.
“These can be prepared ahead of time, cooked and then frozen,” Lassen said. “They’re a winner every time.”
Luscious Gruyere cheese grits are another boon for busy cooks. Put them together the day before your brunch and bake them just before serving, Lassen said.
She found the cranberry salad, biscuit and cheese grits recipe in “Magic,” she said. The Junior League of Birmingham’s cookbook has been a staple in most Over the Mountain kitchens since it was first printed in 1982.
Naturally, Lassen bakes and serves her creations in pretty pottery dishes from the Cook Store.
Frozen Cranberry Salad
1 16-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, unsweetened and drained
1 8-ounce carton of sour cream
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Mix all ingredients together and freeze in an 8-inch square pan. To serve, let stand about 15 minutes and cut into squares. Serve on a bed of lettuce.
Sour Cream Biscuits
2 sticks of butter (no substitute)
8-ounce carton of sour cream
2 cups self-rising flour, un-sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in microwave. Add sour cream and flour to butter and mix. Drop batter into an ungreased mini muffin pan. Fill to the top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Makes 24 small biscuits.
Gourmet Cheese Grits
1 quart milk
½ cup butter
1 cup uncooked grits
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3 cup butter
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Bring milk to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add ½ cup butter and grits. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is about the consistency of oatmeal, about 5 minutes. Remove grits from heat. Add salt, pepper and egg, beating until well combined. Add 1/3 cup butter and Gruyere cheese. Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Can be made the day before and baked just before serving. Makes 10 servings.
Sweet and Spicy Bacon
1 ½ tablespoons packed brown sugar
Rounded ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Rounded ¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound thick-cut bacon (12 slices)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together brown sugar, cayenne and black pepper in a small bowl. Arrange bacon slices in one layer on a large broiler pan and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn slices over and sprinkle evenly with spiced sugar mixture. Continue baking until bacon is crisp and brown, about 15-20 minutes, and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Lassen got this yummy recipe—and the dish got its name—from her friend Jane Bluestein.
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
16-ounce container of cottage cheese
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup melted butter
½ large onion, grated
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix remaining ingredients and add to egg mixture.
Pour into casserole dish and top with two sliced tomatoes. Bake about 1 ½ hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.