|Aunt "Skeeter", Mama, and I in 2010|
My Aunt Skeeter is the epitome of Southern Lady. She is one of the best cooks I know, a wonderful example of true southern hospitality, and a warm, kind-hearted woman. She and my Uncle Riley are great people and I love them very much. They live in Niceville, Florida which is a fitting name for the town as its residents really are nice people!
Every spring, mama and I take a "girls trip" to Niceville to visit Aunt Skeeter and Uncle Riley. By the end of the trip we are sad to leave as we always have too much fun together. We like to shop in Destin, go to the beach, take cooking classes, and eat, eat, eat! But probably what we enjoy most is reading and sharing recipes. We always say that we are "fools" for a new cookbook or cooking magazines so we often resort to Barnes and Noble for the latest Southern Living, Paula Deen, or Taste of the South special issue. In April when mama and I went down for our annual trip, one night we found ourselves sitting in Aunt Skeeter's HUGE pantry (yes, the two of us we able to sit comfortably and move about in her pantry!). We had a blast plundering thru her cookbooks and the various unusual canned food items that we'd never think of buying. That led to having Uncle Riley copy multiple irresistable recipes that we not leave Florida without. After that, Aunt Skeeter gave us a peek into one of china cabinets that housed some of the random entertaining pieces she has collected over the years. I had the opportunity to say "I would love to inherit that piece if your children don't want it." !!!
Like I mentioned earlier, Aunt Skeeter knows hospitality and she is a wonderful hostess. Usually when we arrive at her house, she is busy preparing dinner which likely is a dish she's been wanting to try; we proudly serve as her guinea pigs. Each night we are presented with a delicious meal that far exceeds that of any local restaurant around.
So as I began thinking about this post, I experienced a problem--well, sort-of. When I began thinking about which recipe of Aunt Skeeter's I wanted to share, I became overwhelmed with all of the great food we had on our most recent visit and those prior to. Everything was so delicious I didn't know what to choose. Then I had an "ah ha" moment and her Puffy Cheese Cloud popped into mind. Although we did not have this dish in April, we have made it multiple times for brunches, showers, Sunday school breakfasts, etc. It is a never-fail, crowd-pleasing recipe. And it is perfect for this post as each time I make it I always think about my Aunt Skeeter and how special she is to me. I love her very much and am blessed to have her as an aunt. Aunt Skeeter, I love you (and your delicious recipes!).
Puffy Cheese Cloud is a breakfast/brunch recipe that is a spin off of your run of the mill breakfast casserole. It's superb and its level of difficulty equals "easy". Don't let the water bath intimidate you because its what makes this casserole stand apart from the rest. Enjoy!
Puffy Cheese Cloud
16 slices white bread
8 slices American cheese
4 oz shredded sharp cheese
1 pound sausage (or ham), browned
1 quart whole milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Cut crusts off of bread. Spread 8 slices with margarine. Place in lightly greased 9"x13" baking dish butter side down. Lay cheese slices on top of bread. Top with browned meat. Sprinkle this layer with shredded cheese. Top with remaining 8 slices of buttered bread, butter side up.
Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until combined. Pour egg mixture over bread (pour slowly to give the bread time to soak in mix). Cover and refrigerate over night. Remove from refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking. Bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes in water bath* in preheated oven at 350 degrees. Let set 10 minutes before serving.
*Directions for water bath (basically it's just a larger pan/dish, filled with small amount of water, that holds your casserole-filled dish during baking):