Ever since we became friends a few years back, Gretchen has laughed a lot.
Generally while also shaking her head with that expression of wide-eyed disbelief that says “I think you might actually be certifiably nuts, but you’re pretty fun to hang out with, so I’m just gonna humor your latest insane idea/crazy suggestion/I-seriously-don’t-know-where-you-come-up-with-this-stuff comment.”
Although, to be fair, I guess I probably spend just as much time giggling and shaking my head right back at her.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with a blog. We have no idea anymore whose you’ve-got-to-be-kidding idea this originally was, but apparently the other one decided to go along with it.
So here we are.
And isn’t that just one of the very best things about good friends?
They give you an entirely different perspective on the world, without ever judging your own views and ways of doing things (even if they do think you’re a little bit crazy!). And sometimes you actually learn a lot along the way.
I especially notice this with Gretchen since we spend so much time working together in the very personal spaces of each other’s kitchens (rooting through each other’s cupboards and refrigerators), discussing what flavor combinations taste terrific, and chatting about our families’ food preferences and traditions.
For example …
- She organizes things in her kitchen totally differently than I do (as in, she actually organizes things).
- While it seems completely clear to me that the fastest way to deal with a clove of garlic is with a chef’s knife, it has always been absolutely obvious to her that the best way to tackle garlic is with a garlic press. Huh. Go figure.
- Oh – and that amazing little contraption she calls a can opener still remains a mystery to me no matter how many times she shows me how to use it … but I have to admit that it works like a charm (and I kinda covet it). Who knew?
- Yeah, and she fastidiously pre-rinses every dish before it goes in the dishwasher. I pretty much figure that’s why I bought a dishwasher in the first place, and only worry about any food particle bigger than an entire hamburger. We’re just different that way, ya know?
And really, our differences make us – and this blog – so much better. We’re constantly questioning and pushing each other to retest and perfect recipes, or to clarify techniques that might not be clear to anyone else, even though they seem crystal-clear to one of us.
This all leads us to the story of this breakfast casserole.
Because … holiday food traditions? Well, we’ve learned a few things from each other there, too!
I mean, in my family, holidays like Easter and Christmas involve gaggles of family members and generally require multiple parties. At least one gathering’s always a brunch (gotta start early if you’re gonna cram in that much partying!). And it’s always just been a no-brainer for all of us that this meant make-ahead breakfast casseroles.
As much as we love cooking, we sure don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to do it! (We may start our parties early, but we’re for sure not crack-of-dawn people!) And, seriously – who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when there are Easter eggs to hunt and raucous laughter emanating from the next room?
Gretchen’s side of the family doesn’t live quite so near, so morning festivities and massive brunch parties aren’t really their thing. And she was a little surprised when I passionately explained how (obviously!?!?!) everyone absolutely needs make-ahead breakfast casseroles for holidays. I mean … it just seemed so clear to me that everyone did!
But, of course, she loves any recipe that’s an easy make-ahead. So, it wasn’t actually all that hard to convince her that if she ever begins hosting brunch bashes, overnight casseroles are the only way to go!
And she was totally on board when I said that we’d clearly, therefore, need to do a round-up of make-ahead breakfast ideas for last Christmas! As we were compiling those recipes, I was sure I’d find a recipe Just.Like.This.One. It seemed perfectly obvious – the typical hearty egg casserole made fresher, lighter, healthier, yummier by tons of great veggies. It was the recipe I really wanted to find – surely everyone had a recipe Just.Like.This.One. Right?
If you check out our THK round-up of make-ahead breakfasts, you won’t see this recipe, or even one just like it.
So, since I didn’t find it, I created my own.
And I love it. We all love it!
It’s got all the hearty, fuel-you-up-to-finish-hunting-down-that-last-impossible-egg ingredients you’d expect from an egg casserole, but with leaner sausage and cheese, plus tons of delicious and nutrition-packed veggies.
It’s like a farmers’ market in your baking pan (you know … hence, the name …).
Make-Ahead: Best part of all? You can prep the entire casserole the night before (and much of the work can be done even further ahead than that!), so you don’t miss one second of the action on the morning of your brunch! Perfect! Your oven does all the work while you discover the last, impossible-to-find egg (what was the Easter Bunny thinking on that one????).
More Make-Ahead Options: Also perfect? Leftovers reheat beautifully for easy breakfasts all week long! I often make this just for my family of four on the weekend, and then enjoy quick, ready-to-reheat breakfasts for days! Honestly, I was truly surprised how well this reheats – it’s just as good warmed up three or four days later! It also freezes beautifully. Just portion out individual servings, wrap them in plastic, and freeze them in a zipper bag. A quick tango with your microwave, and they’ll be scrumptious all over again!
Grab and Go: And for all those on-the-go mornings, just rewarm some of this breakfast casserole and wrap it inside a whole-grain tortilla. You’re out the door in a flash, with a fantastic, portable breakfast to power you through your busy day.
When it comes to easy, delicious, healthy make-ahead breakfasts (and particularly this fantastic overnight egg casserole), Gretchen and I definitely agree … fabulous, all around!
But it for sure won’t be long before she finds some other reason to giggle and shake her head at me.
Or until I stare in wide-eyed wonder at her as she organizes something that doesn’t actually need organized, or elaborates on the next crazy scheme that she will somehow eventually talk me into!
That’s just how friends are.
We’d Love to Hear From You!
We’re dying to know … what’s the craziest thing your bestie ever talked you into? Come on now … you can tell us … :D Just hop on down to the bottom of this post to find our comment box and tell us all about it! And while you’re there – let us know what you think about this breakfast casserole … and don’t forget to stop back after you’ve made it to tell us how it went! E-mail addresses are never published (we respect your privacy too much!) and last names are optional! We can’t wait to hear from you!
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Want More Easy, Healthy Breakfast Recipes? We’ve got ‘em!
- Try our Easy, Healthy Applesauce Granola …
- Or our super-fast, 10-minute recipes for Almond Joy Oatmeal or Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.
- Check out our Top 10 Healthy Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes.
- Or, how about muffins … like our Blueberry-White Chocolate, Praline Peach, Apple Cobbler, or Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip … yum!
- 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
- 1½ cups diced sweet onion (from about half a large onion)
- 8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes (sometimes labeled “country style”)
- 2 cups shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup diced green pepper (from about 1 small-medium pepper)
- 2-3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (to equal about 1 – 1¼ cups)
- ½ cup chopped green onions (from about 6 onions)
- 12 eggs
- 1¾ cup non-fat milk
- 1½ teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onions, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink and mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, about 10 minutes. Throughout cooking, stir to crumble sausage and break up mushrooms. (You can leave the mushrooms in larger slices or break them into almost unnoticeable little pieces as you crumble the sausage.) Drain the liquid.
- In a 9×13 pan coated with cooking spray, layer potatoes (there is no need to thaw them), sausage mixture, 1 cup cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, and green onions.
- In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, parsley, salt, basil, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine, then add remaining 1 cup of cheese and whisk again. Pour egg mixture evenly over other ingredients in baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Alternately, you can bake this casserole immediately.)
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake casserole, uncovered, for about 60-70 minutes, or until egg in middle is just set and edges are lightly golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
If you need to start on this recipe even earlier than the evening before your brunch, you can cook the sausage, onions, mushrooms, and garlic earlier in the day or a day ahead, and also chop the green peppers and green onions. Refrigerate the sausage mixture and the chopped peppers and onions in separate containers until assembling the casserole.
After the casserole is baked, you can refrigerate leftovers and reheat individual portions in the microwave for quick breakfasts all week.
This also freezes wonderfully. Pre-portion leftovers, wrap each portion individually in plastic, and store in a zipper container in the freezer. Microwave on several layers of paper towel to reheat as needed. After being frozen, the veggies let off water when reheated, but this casserole is still surprisingly terrific, so don’t let that liquid worry you.
For Breakfasts On the Go (Or Snacks and Dinners on Busy Evenings): Nestle re-warmed slices of the casserole into a tortilla for a wrap.
Breakfast for Dinner: You can make this in the morning and refrigerate until baking, or prep it in the afternoon and then cook it immediately, for a fun “breakfast for dinner” option.