Trisha Pulaski strives to try one new recipe a week. If you try one new recipe this week, make it her breakfast casserole.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Trisha Pulaski makes Breakfast Casserole
Trisha Pulaski knew that if she wanted to escape her recipe rut, she had to set a goal and stay committed.
"I had been trying for quite a while to test new recipes," she says, "but I made it a real firm goal around the beginning of the year: one new recipe a week, at least."
So far, so good.
Among her recent endeavors have been toaster pastries filled with strawberries. A brown sugar and cinnamon version is in the works.
"You can make them at home more economically and fresher - that's a huge difference," she says.
Instead of buying tiny, rolled-up taquitos from the freezer section, she's made them at home, packing them with more filling and baking, not frying, them.
"I was a little afraid of them at first," she says. "But it's only a couple dollars in ingredients, and they were so good."
Ideas pour in from a multitude of sources. She gets e-mail newsletters from such food giants as Betty Crocker, Campbell's Soups, Pillsbury and the Food Network. Cookbooks, including those by her all-time favorite pastry chef, Gale Gand, Sandra Lee of semi-homemade fame and Weight Watchers, add another layer of research.
Planning is critical if she wants to meet her weekly quota.
"It takes me two days on my lunch hour to make a grocery list," she says, adding that she coordinates recipes with the week's store ads.
A full-time employee for an Arlington Heights payroll company, Trisha is often up at 4:30 a.m. and getting dinner like chicken and dumplings or lasagna into the crockpot by 5.
"My friends at work make fun of me," she says. "They say I'm the only person up cooking at 5 o'clock."
They don't criticize, needless to say, when Trisha brings food to work for special occasions.
"I always try to make something different for that," she says. Office favorites include luscious banana coffee cake with pecan coconut frosting, broccoli salad with bacon and red onions and today's Breakfast Casserole, made with stuffing mix and sausage.
"I mix it the night before, and in the morning I can put it in the oven while I shower," she says. It's ready to go to work when she is.
Filling out our menu for this week are two more breakfast items: Trisha's version of Cap'n Crunch French Toast, inspired by a Food Network recipe, and rhubarb muffins.
The French toast is soaked in the usual egg/milk mixture, with artificial sweetener instead of sugar, and dredged in crumbs of the namesake cereal.
"My friend said she's never going to eat French toast without this texture again; it's amazing," says Trisha.
The muffins Trisha developed for a competition last year, and while she didn't win, the sweet-sour profile sounds great to us.