Tired of plain eggs, toast and cereal for the morning meal? Afraid it will take too much time? Jan Barrett of The Ware Street Inn in Lewiston says you don’t have to sacrifice quality meals because of lack of time.

“Don’t be afraid to use off-the-shelf prepared foods in your own creations,” Jan says. “People are busy … if you find something to prepare a good tasting, healthy meal that saves you time, use it! I use Bisquick and people rave about my pancakes all the time. Also, pre-shredded cheese and bags of salad are a must these days.”

Jan started cooking as a stress reducer. “As a young wife and mother, I used to spend my weekends cooking for the week. It was therapy more than necessary. I could get lost in the process and de-stress from work etc.”

Later, she was trained by a chef at Southern Maine Technical College when she went back to school to get her degree in hospitality management. With her husband and friends encouraging her, Jan learned to experiment with cooking.

“The bottom line is ‘the nose knows,'” Jan advises. “When I’m seasoning something I’m throwing together, whether it’s soup, a casserole or stir-fry, I smell the herbs and/or spices before adding them. If they smell good together, they’ll taste good together.

Cooking seems to be in Jan’s genes. She grew up with her grandparents: Her grandfather cooked the meals while her grandmother was the baker. They owned Dupont’s Sonny Boy Bread Bakery in Auburn. “They weren’t fancy cooks by any means, nor was my mother. I started experimenting with soup and casseroles early. I used up the leftovers that way!”

Jan also says that presentation is important in preparing a good meal. “It has to look good on the plate! Pale chicken needs bright orange carrots (try tossing them with a little honey and powdered ginger to spark up the taste) or vibrant green broccoli (a squirt of lemon whisked through melted butter and then drizzled over it gives it a bit of zing) next to it to bring out its appeal for picky eaters.

Jan co-owns the Ware Street Inn in Lewiston with her husband, Mike. Their daughter, Della, is getting married to her fiancé, Matt, this summer at the bed and breakfast. Della is also starting to share Jan’s interest in cooking. Their other “children” Sadie and Maxwell, two Shih Tzus, are always ready with a friendly greeting for visitors.

Toffee-Banana Rum Bread
2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

3½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about three medium)

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons rum or 2 teaspoons rum extract

1 egg

1 cup chopped nuts
1¾ cups (10-ounce package) Hershey’s Skor English Toffee Baking Bits, divided
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8½-by-4½-by-2½ inch loaf pans. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add bananas, milk, vegetable oil, rum and egg; stir with spoon until well blended. Stir in nuts. Spread 1¼ cups batter in bottom of each prepared pan. Top each loaf with ½ cup toffee bits. Gently spread about 1 cup remaining batter in each pan. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits over batter. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into centers comes out clean. (Breads will sink slightly in centers.) Remove from oven to wire rack. With knife, loosen breads from sides of pans. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Makes 2 loaves or 5 small ones.
Egg Casserole
5 eggs

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup cottage cheese

8 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese

½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

½ cup broccoli florets (can use zucchini, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, cauliflower, onions, etc.)
Salt, pepper, herbs to taste.

Beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the flour and baking powder, mixing well. Stir in cottage cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, mushrooms and broccoli, and pour into a greased or sprayed 8-inch square baking dish (a pie plate works just as well, or you can use four or more small individual baking dishes). Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven until set, about 25 to 30 minutes (Jan says it can be closer to 40 to 45 minutes). Serves 4 to 6.

Jan’s note:

I usually put a total of 2 cups chopped vegetables in the casserole to create a hearty bulk. Garnish with a nest of sprouts and grape tomatoes. Serve with a crusty flavored or whole grain bread, toasted, and a small parfait of layered freshly cut up fruit, vanilla yogurt and granola.

Baked Peach Pancakes
¼ cup margarine or butter

1 cup baking mix (Bisquick)

¾ cup milk

4 eggs

2 medium peaches, peeled and thinly sliced (or 1½ cups drained canned peaches, or frozen (thawed) sliced peaches)

¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 2 tablespoons margarine in each of 2 pie plates, 9 by 1¼ inches. Heat in oven until margarine or butter is melted and remove. Beat baking mix, milk and eggs in small bowl, using wire whisk or fork, until smooth. Arrange half of the peach slices in each pie plate. Divide batter evenly between pie plates. Mix sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve with Honey Raisin Syrup. Makes 8 servings

Honey Raisin Syrup ingredients:
½ cup honey

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup margarine or butter
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Heat all ingredients over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.

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