Say cheese (soufflé)!

wpid-20150303_163919.jpgAnother week, another riffle through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. (New to this series? The preceding link brings you up to speed.) Having thus far only made sweets and snacks from Helen’s decades-old recipe collection, I wanted to make a main dish.

There was much to intrigue: Rinktum-dity (??). Brazilian chuaracha. Silesiss Chuacaes. (Or was it Slesische Kresetachen? Helen’s writing could sometimes be hard to read.) The Cheese Grits look like fun as do both of her Ratatouille recipes. Mexican Chicken and Chop Suey wouldn’t grab much attention now, but flash back to the ’60s and ’70s and they were plenty exotic. On the flip side are mains I won’t be trying, which include ham loaves, goulashes, and hotdish casseroles. Helen’s recipe collection is Eclectic with that capital E.


Assembled, but unbaked soufflés, resting on a vintage tray also inherited from Helen.

Her Cheese Soufflé seemed the best pick for my first main and I assembled it the night before baking so it could refrigerate overnight per recipe instructions.

I’ve no idea when Helen might have served this, but it was clearly an affordable meatless main dish. Helen lived frugally, not so much out of necessity but because she was a child of the Great Depression. With no spouse or children and by living modestly, she had money to share. Helen gave generously to charities as well as family. Her great-nieces and nephews, of which I was one, were gifted with money for college and I owe much of my education to her. Helen may have been frugal, but she had a big heart and was generous in big ways.wpid-20150303_154747.jpg

Back to the soufflé, then, which is also frugal at first glance, but a generous (though not overly exotic) dish in the end. I’ll admit to taking a few liberties with her recipe, starting with a decision to make two smaller soufflés instead of one larger dish. I still used the six slices of bread (without removing the crust), but divided the eggs, milk, cheese, and seasoning amounts in half.

Each 2-cup mini-casserole was sprayed with nonstick spray, then layered three times with 1 slice bread, a generous sprinkle of cheese, and enough egg mixture to soak. The casseroles chilled overnight, then were baked the next evening in a water bath as directed on the back of the recipe card.

wpid-20150303_163904.jpgExpecting to fall head-over-heels for this recipe, I found that I liked it, but didn’t love it. This was less the traditional lighter-than-air soufflé than it was a cheesy bread pudding. And while I love dessert bread puddings, the savory version didn’t excite me. For one, it seemed a bit one-note. Bumping up the seasonings might have made a difference and I’d use more cheese as well. Using half as much liquid but the same amount of bread surely accounts for much of my disappointment. Some things are best left as-is and this recipe is likely one of them.

Despite its faults, this was a satisfying dish especially on a cold winter evening. A better side than main, it would also make a nice lunch served alongside a tossed green salad. And a lovely cocktail would of course sweeten the deal. We’ll see to that next post!



74 thoughts on “Say cheese (soufflé)!

  1. I think I would have loved to be a guest at Aunt Helen’s table! This souffle looks like another delicious recipe from her collection. I love that your recreating her dishes, Liz! Sounds so yummy!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Nancy. Really not sure what kind of dinner host she was as I only remember birthday celebrations when I was much younger. She was very practical, no-fuss, no nonsense. But she was fun with the kids, too. I remember one Thanksgiving when I was 10 or so she made pilgrim hats for the grand-nieces and nephews. Fun stuff like that. Thinking the sweets will be easier to like than the savory. Still wondering about that rinktum-dity!

    • It struck me as very ’70s, Amy. Fondue and all that. Love how recipes can be like a time machine 🙂 Appreciate you coming over 🙂 Curious what kind of cocktail you’d serve with this. ??? Seems like a crisp white wine would work well, but want to mix a drink for the next post. Open to suggestions!

    • Thanks, Beth. I bet it’d be even better with chopped fresh herbs stirred in, but that’s me messing with the recipe again. Would love your thoughts on cocktail pairings. ??

      • you could go a few ways with this liz. based on good pairings for mac and cheese type of dishes, buttery and rich, they need some balance. 1) spicy bloody marys
        2) a nice, nutty beer – an ale with a hint of fruit 3) an acidic and dry wine – chardonay or pinot noir, again with a slight fruit note. what do you think?

  2. You’ve made me realise I’ve never made soufflé of any type! Shame on me. This looks absolutely divine, and I love cheese so this could be a good candidate to start. I love how you just add the photo of the recipe 🙂

    • Thanks for coming over, Sofia 🙂 Part of the fun for me is flipping through the cards, seeing her handwriting change depending on when she wrote it, the food splatter, a person’s name if someone gave her the recipe. Some are even typed.

  3. Too bad it was boring – I do think your take on this dish as a cheaper main rings true. I wonder if you could throw some spinach or something in there to make it more exciting? Or serve it as an exciting side? Though perhaps not with the hot dog casserole, lol! 😉

    • Yes to the spinach. Or was even thinking fresh herbs or ham, but then I’m messing with her recipe again. Should probably just make it exactly as-is for starters, then goof around. Yep, no casseroles. Not on my watch 😉 Thanks for coming by!

  4. How interesting! Never heard of souffle with bread in it, so I’m guessing this was actually a brunch dish rather than an elaborate dinner item.
    How nice it was of her, to live frugally in order to give to charity and help family members with school. She really sounds like an amazing woman and your tribute to her memory is wonderful. 🙂

    • Yes you’re exactly right–it would be perfect for brunch. With diced ham of course 🙂 Not sure that she lived frugally so she could help other people–just think she wasn’t raised to spend a lot of money. Her brother was my mom’s dad and they stretched pennies, too. Helen had more to share maybe as never any kids to raise. I’ve loved seeing Helen come to life through her recipes. Thanks so much for being here for the journey 🙂

  5. I am absolutely loving your Aunt Helen series. What a beautiful homage and a way to bring her back to life and honor her in a way that says so much about the kind of person YOU are. I’d love someone to do that for me in posterity. What a cool recipe. I’ve never actually made a souffle. I kind of love that you’re doing it in a yellow throwback pot. I love cheese in anything. This looks like a recipe worth keeping. I love that you show us her recipe cards too. So cool. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Amanda. I am absolutely loving that you are here for the ride 🙂 Thanks for all of the encouragement!! The pots were Christmas gifts from my Godmother, who was also Helen’s niece (my mom’s sister). Love the connections.

      I wouldn’t count this as a true souffle since it has bread. More of an eggy strata. But still cheesy 🙂

  6. Ah, Liz, the rise and the fall of the cheese souffle. That’ll teach you to mess with Great Aunt Helen’s carefully measured recipe. True confession: I have never eaten a souffle, not that I can recall, anyway. Maybe I’ve been served one and not been told that’s what I was eating … I must add my congratulations and admiration for the way your great-aunt saved and spread her hard-earned fortune, by the way.

    • Nice souffle pun, Mark! Spoken like a true BoFNite. Souffles are old school, but the more traditional ones are seriously impressive rising to those great heights. Had I made this one properly, this one might have, too. Love that we’ve brought Helen into the blogoshpere -) Thanks for being a part of it.

  7. It does sound more like a savory bread pudding rather than a souffle. It does sound like it was nice and enjoyable. I think it’s great you are cooking your way through your Aunt’s recipes.

    • Thanks, Suzanne. Yay cheese 🙂 And double yay for vintage handwritten recipe cards. I’d bet you have a few in your possession 🙂

  8. Beth is right; it looks delicious because hello–melted cheese. But it being one-note makes sense. Gotta give it a little Bam, as Emeril would say. More herbs or spice or kick. I thought it said “1 esp (as in especially) dry mustard” and I was like, “Where do you get one especially dry mustard?” It’s a miracle I ever graduated. Tsp, not esp. D’oh! Props to Aunt Helen for partially ensuring your college career back when we didn’t all need student loans. BTW, I must admit I’d never heard the term “ham loaf.” Meatloaf, yes, but there is no Ham Loaf who sings, and I’ve never seen it on a menu.

  9. warm cheesy meal! My mom used to make a great cheese souffle and I wish I had spent the time to let her teach me her ways. I love how you are bringing Aunt Helen to life for us; she’d surely be thrilled I am sure! Great idea Liz!! 🙂

  10. I am so enjoying this series, learning about your Aunt Helen memories and seeing her recipes. It is funny now certain foods are tied to certain decades! I love those pots you served them in! Next week is cocktail time, can’t wait!

    • Thanks, Gretchen. I’m touched and thrilled that readers are enjoying Helen’s recipes. Who’dathunk?

      The decade thing is especially apparent with the savory recipes. Sweets seems to be sweets–cookies, muffins, cakes. But the main dishes do seem dated. Will be an interesting journey. Glad you’re hanging with me here 🙂

    • Thanks, Kerry. We don’t have a scanner yet, but eventually I’d like to get a photo of Helen up here. There’s irony as she wasn’t an overly warm person, but you couldn’t help but like her as she was always genuine. Never wondered where you stood with Helen. Appreciate your kind words. Am thrilled to have struck a chord with these posts 🙂

  11. As a reader who knows more about funny names than food, you had me at ” Rinktum-dity (??). Brazilian chuaracha. Silesiss Chuacaes. (Or was it Slesische Kresetachen?”

    These are all amazing sounding things, and I bet they taste delicious!

    • rinktum dity cracked me up, Dave. Turns out it’s a southern sort of egg scramble with bell peppers and cheese. Who knew? Was tempted to send the German recipe to school with my 12-year-old to show her German teacher, thinking maybe she could send some light. But no way no how, never ask a 12-year-old girl to do something that would set her apart from her classmates. “That would be embarrassing, mom!” was what she told me.

      Hope you’re catching the cocktail posts that alternate with these Project Helen posts. Maybe one of these days I’ll whip up a Gordon’s Breakfast? 😉

      Thanks for coming over, Mr. King Dave.

      • Haha, it’s such a delicate age! I haven’t been catching all the cocktail posts (and definitely won’t this weekend because I have a huge exam Monday), but I’ll keep my eyes open for sure! Wishing you the very best on this fine Friday!

    • Thanks, Steven. It’s been fun to dig a bit into Helen’s past. Looking forward to conversations with my mom and her sister to learn more about their trips to visit their Aunt Helen in the Big City when they were young girls.

  12. These recipe cards sound like a fascinating archive, and it’s wonderful that you’re able to remember your great-aunt this way.

    But I’m intrigued about the goulash…! Is there a recipe-specific reason why it doesn’t appeal, or is it just not your kind of dish?

    • lol, Georgina. The “goulash” is less a Hungarian specialty/ethnic dish than it is a Midwest hamburger-macaroni hot dish. And I’m afraid I’ve got just enough food snob in me that I don’t go there 😉 Authentic goulash, though? Sign me up!

      Appreciate your kind words. Good to have you here!

    • Thanks, Princess. This “souffle” is different from most. Still thinking of it more as a savory bread pudding. But maybe back in the day it would have been considered souffle-like?

  13. I admire you for always trying new things. And, yes, a cocktail sweetens any deal. There’s a show I like, Farmhouse Rules; the chef, like you, recreates recipes passed down from family and friends. This episode reminded me of your souffle:
    I have a great grandmother Helen on my dad’s side. Your great aunt sounds like a special lady! She’d love seeing you make her recipe.

    • Thanks, Shanna. Will check out Farmhouse Rules. I am now getting the Food Network magazine so maybe will learn more about the shows I never watch.

      So cool that you have a Helen in your lineage, too. Thinking she’d get a kick out of these posts, but also wonder what all the fuss is about. Wish I’d known her as a younger woman. Betting she would have raised a glass of sherry with us 🙂

  14. I don’t know how I missed this last week. What a great idea. Love the mini-cast iron pans and platter. Too bad the recipe didn’t quite live up to today’s taste buds.

    It’s wonderful that your Aunt Helen played such an important part in your life. What a wonderful reveal–and impetus for your honoring her memory. 🙂

    • The mini-cast iron pans were recent Christmas gifts, so no true vintage there. But they’re cute–thanks for noticing 🙂 She funded my education, that’s for sure. So it only makes sense to use some of my food writing cred to spotlight her recipe box 🙂 Am getting to know her a bit better through these posts. Spent time with my Godmother (my mom’s sister) last week and got a few more Helen stories out of her.

    • It’s an honor to have boxes of Helen’s handwritten recipes. And kind of sad that I won’t be leaving the same thing to my girls as I never write recipes down (outside of chicken-scratch notes). At least they’ll have my blog posts, haha. Thanks for coming over and spending time at food for fun. You disappeared for a bit! Need to hop over and read more about your adventures 🙂

  15. It is great that you are remaking Aunt Helen’ recepies but a pitty it was too bland. I would also suggestie to add spinach or bacon, maybe?
    I thought this was a lovely fun post though! 😉

  16. How great to have a recipe box full of different ideas for you to explore! And a great way to honor your Great-aunt Helen 🙂 It may not have turned out to be the souffle you expected, but I’m sure those that want a dish of denser cheesy goodness would love this 🙂

    • Thanks, Ada 🙂 It wasn’t horrible, no. Just not what I was expecting from the title. It’s an honor to explore her collection and it’s an honor to have you here sharing it with me!

  17. How much fun is this! I would love to get my hands on a vintage recipe box. Especially if it was one of my aunts or grandma! I think I would definitely be making that chop suey. Haven’t had chop suey in years. Fun post Liz. 🙂

  18. I am like you, would add herbs and some onions, maybe even another cheese. I think bacon bits would be delicious. My Mom used to make a ‘mean’ spinach souffle, which she served with pork chops or steak. Yummy! Actually, I do like Stouffer’s spinach souffle.
    I am going to have to travel back into your posts, just dropped by on impulse, followed Mark B. and Kerbey, to find your Great Aunt Helen’s recipes. She seems like one of my two Great Aunts, Dot and Marie. I have written about getting to know them when I spent the summer in Rockport, Mass. as a 16 year old working in my cousin’s pharmacy…
    One last thought, did you ever see the really sweet movie, Julie/Julia with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child and Amy Adams working her way through Julia C’s first cookbook? It is a great movie… Also, I loved the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie, really cannot wait to see the second one when it comes to the redbox. (I saw your comment on Mark’s about going to see the 2nd one soon…) Smiles, Robin

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Robin. You’re so nice to visit so many posts! Appreciate everything you’ve said. I have fond memories of Stouffer’s spinach souffle. My mom made it when I was younger–can see that foil tray coming to the table. Thought I was pretty sophisticated enjoying spinach 🙂

      Yes, did see Julie and Julia. Fun movie. And still haven’t seen the first Marigold. Need to get moving on that. Appreciate your smiles–thanks thanks thanks!

  19. This is an interesting recipe. It looks delicious and cheesy. I agree. Herbs and spinach are great additions and maybe some crumbled bacon on top or between layers. But then again, original recipes are irreplaceable. Lucky you! 😉

  20. Pingback: sherry stirred, not shaken | food for fun


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s