Many years ago, I was teaching at a small rural high school that was experiencing hard times. Our standardized test scores were less than stellar, and our numbers were declining as students opted to go elsewhere under a new school choice program. Consequently, morale among staff and faculty members was low. The holiday break was coming, but no one had much spirit. One afternoon, as a few teachers were grousing in the lounge about unruly students and unfair administrators, someone, I have forgotten just who, remarked offhandedly that maybe we needed a party to introduce some cheer.
The idea resonated, and a plan was hatched for a potluck brunch to be held on the day before vacation. Since everyone had at least a twenty-minute break for lunch, even those who did not have a midday planning period would be able to attend. We posted a sign-up sheet for food, beverages, paper goods, and utensils, and even organized an anonymous gift exchange, the identities of the givers to be revealed on the day of the brunch. The event proved to be quite a hit, and, despite inevitable changes in staff and administrative personnel, it solidified into a tradition that continued for a number of years.
Although I have not forgotten the homemade red pepper jelly, the mouth-watering chocolate mints, or the gilt picture frames, the most enduring gifts that changed hands among participants did not involve wrapped packages tucked surreptitiously into our mailboxes. Instead, they were the recipes that we shared with each other when our food contributions to the communal meal were warmly received.
My family’s favorite is the scrambled egg casserole that a colleague’s wife sent each year and that I made for Christmas morning at our house for decades. It is a convenient make-ahead dish and one that warms the spirit on cold winter weekends. My daughter and her family now host our holiday brunch, and their one request is always that I bring Ted’s Eggs. Here they are. . .
Scrambled Egg Casserole (serves 6 – 8)
1 medium onion chopped and sautéed until soft
½ lb of bacon cooked until crisp and broken into bits
1 cup of fresh mushrooms thinly sliced and sautéed until soft
1 dozen large eggs scrambled until cooked but still soft
3 cups of light white sauce to which 1 1/8 cups of shredded cheddar cheese has been added.
Bread crumbs and paprika for topping
Assemble in a buttered 13×11 inch baking pan in the following order:
5) cheese sauce
6) crumbs and paprika
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.For reheating, remove a few minutes earlier, and cover with foil. Reheat at 325 degrees until warm.
Note: I cook the bacon on a foil lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crisp and brown.
I use one pan for the onions, mushrooms, and scrambled eggs – wiping it clean with a paper towel after each ingredient is cooked and placed in the casserole dish ending with the scrambled eggs.