Sausage Mushroom Egg Bake

unnamedGood egg bake” is often an oxymoron, but this recipe with sausage, mushrooms and roasted red peppers isn’t the usual tasteless mush served at potlucks across the Heartland. I found this recipe called “Patsy’s Egg Casserole” on the Midwest Living website when I was looking for brunch recipes to serve at my son Mitchell’s high school graduation open house a few years ago (a tradition unique to Minnesota, I hear). My mother, sister Susan, and a couple friends all made a pan or two of this and the bacon/asparagus variation, and every single dish was delicious! It’s truly a fool-proof recipethere were no differences in outcome between cooks. You could even say this is Judy easy! (For my sister Judy who doesn’t love cooking like I do…)

My trick to keep it from slipping into soggy, is to use french bread loaves instead of a sliced loaf of white bread. French bread is stiffer, and the fact that it has more crust helps too. The other reason I love this recipe, is that there’s no butter in it. Not that I have anything against butter—it’s often a staple ingredient in my recipes!—but I’ve had so many egg bakes that were positively swimming in melted butter, and that’s just diary overkill. 

Just made this recipe for a birthday brunch for my daughter-in-law Jessica, and we all remembered how much we liked it, so I thought it was about time to post this breakfast, brunch, or brinner winner. My husband loves it so much, that the first words out of his mouth this morning were, “Is there anymore of that egg bake left?” Good morning to you too, sweetheart.

Serves 6-8

1 pound uncooked Italian sausage or ground pork
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh cremini or button mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1 (8 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
8 cups cubed French bread
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs
3 cups milk
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Lightly coat a 9″x13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms on high until sausage is no longer pink. Drain off fat and extra moisture. Stir red peppers into mix and set aside. Place half of the bread cubes in prepared baking dish. Top with half of the sausage mixture, and half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, sausage mixture, and cheese.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with whisk attachment. Slowly pour in milk and whisk again. Sprinkle dry mustard, salt, and cayenne over eggs and milk, and beat one last time to combine. Carefully pour egg mixture over the layered bread mixture in dish. Gently press down the bread using the back of a large serving spoon to get it to absorb some of the egg and milk. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 24. (NOTE: The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it ahead! I love to make this the night before serving. Quick and easy party the next day…)

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Prepare as above, except replace sausage with 8 strips of crisp-cooked bacon. Cool bacon, and crumble or chop. Replace mushrooms with one bundle of fresh asparagus. Cut asparagus into bit-sized pieces (snapping off tough ends), and drop into salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain asparagus, then toss in bowl with bacon and chopped roasted red peppers. Use 2-3 cups shredded Swiss cheese instead of cheddar cheese.

Baked Northern Beans with Rosemary and Mustard

FullSizeRenderTake a break from basic baked beans with this bacon-laced white bean side dish. I’d clipped the recipe from the May 2007 edition of Better Homes & Garden magazine, and had yet to try it out. Since it called for rosemary, and I’m trying to find ways to use up my fresh herbs before the first frost, I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I liked it, but it isn’t a “star” dish. Not everything on the table has to take center stage though, does it? It’s also not terribly gorgeous to look at, as you can see from my sad photo attempt. (I’m really selling you on this one, aren’t I!) It would work for summer barbecue with brats or burgers, and it would also pair well with a winter meal of roast pork, beef, or whatever meat you choose. It’s got that homey, comfort-food vibe going on, so tag this one to make this winter.

The original recipe called for four 16-ounce cans of butter beans or Great Northern beans, but I wanted to use a bag of dry Great Northern beans I had on hand. I’ve also heard that the canned beans are rather high in sodium, so thought it might be a healthier dish if I used the dry beans instead. Directions below include overnight soaking of a bag of beans—which required pre-planning, but wasn’t a ton of prep otherwise. My husband didn’t think the dish was zippy enough, but he’s burned out his taste buds by constantly dousing his food with cayenne pepper. Consider the source. My taste-tester Emily and I thought they were tasty, so I’ll be making these again some time—when my husband’s not home for dinner.

Serves 6-8

1 bag dry Great Northern beans
1 teaspoon salt
8 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container dairy sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or Namaste® gluten-free perfect blend
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used 1, but I think it could have used 2)

Rinse dry bean in cold water, and then put in Dutch oven. Cover with cold water, and let soak overnight. Drain off water and add water to 1-inch above beans. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and bring beans to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Line plate with paper towels, and place bacon on towels to drain. Let cool. Drain skillet of all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rosemary, parsley, and black pepper and sauté until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl. Crumble cooked bacon and add to beans.

In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, chicken broth, flour or gluten-free flour blend, and Dijon mustard. Add to beans and stir until all ingredients are combined. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Serve.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Can make bean dish and not bake, and then store covered in frig for a day or two. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.

BLT Salad

FullSizeRender-1My mother has been blessing us with buckets of tomatoes from her garden, and the red orbs are threatening to take over the kitchen—so I’m kinda on a BLT roll. My husband was grilling brats one evening, and I wanted a side salad that we hadn’t had a gazillion times already. So I came up with this BLT combo and taste-tested it on our guests Andy and Nancy, and their daughter Emily, and they all thought it was da bomb. Thankfully, there was a little leftover so I could have it for lunch again the next day, ’cause I thought it was delish, too. I think the trick to infusing the greens with the “BLT” flavor, was sautéing the leeks in a little bacon fat. They really held onto the nuance of the bacon (if bacon has a “nuance,” that is…it’s sort of the bully of meats as far as taste.)

I considered a vinaigrette dressing for this salad, but since BLT’s are all about the mayo, thought I better stick with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. It was a good decision! It really enhanced the other ingredients, without over-powering. My only concern was that it was a little thicker than I would have liked, so it may need more vinegar to thin it down. I’ve given a range here, but I used just 1 tablespoon. More might make it too tart—try it and let me know!

Serves 6-8

For dressing
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh basil pesto
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For salad
1 leek, sliced thin to all but toughest green part*
1-2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 head Romaine lettuce, julienned
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ of a cucumber, sliced and quartered
2 ripe avocados, cubed
2 large tomatoes, diced, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered
6-8 slices of bacon, fried crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled

To make dressing: Whisk together mayonnaise, pesto, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Add more vinegar if needed to thin. Set aside.

To make salad: Saute leeks in bacon fat over medium heat, until leeks begin to caramelize (turn light brown on edges). On large serving platter, layer lettuce, parsley, cooked leeks, cucumber, and avocados. Drizzle with dressing, then top with tomatoes, and crumbled bacon.

*NOTE: It’s best to chop leeks, then soak in a bowl of cold water, in order to let the sand and dirt settle to bottom of the bowl. Then scoop out the leeks and let them thoroughly drain in a colander before frying in the bacon fat. Leeks tend to hold on to a lot of dirt and sand between their layers as they grow. It’s rare to purchase a leek that has been thoroughly rinsed enough to cook it without soaking first.

Super BLT with Pesto Aioli

FullSizeRender‘Tis tomato time, and if you’ve got them coming out of your ears like we do, this twist on the classic BLT sandwich will help you use up your ‘maters. The pesto aioli gives it extra zip, and adds another layer of flavor to the fresh tomato, smoky bacon, and crisp lettuce. So I used up my stash of tomatoes AND my fresh basil pesto that I just made again—a win-win. I also added sliced turkey, and white cheddar cheese to these sandwiches, because I feel like a sandwich with just bacon for meat isn’t really a sandwich. (My husband would disagree—he fried up half a pound of bacon for his two sandwiches the night we made these. When I questioned his quantity, he called me a Bacon Nazi. Ouch. First time I’ve heard those two words together in a sentence…how about you?)

I thought that this might be too simple of a “recipe” to post, but I actually get the most response from all of you when I post stuff I think is too easy to bother sharing (aka: “Judy easy,” in the scale used previously). I used pumpernickel bread for the sandwiches pictured here, but I also like Trader Joe’s 100% rye bread, which I’ve been told is gluten-free. Either of those options gives you more flavor in your bread than straight up white bread. Another bonus! 

Serves 2-3

For pesto aioli
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise (or make your own, recipe below!)
1 tablespoon fresh basil pesto

For sandwiches
Deli turkey, sliced thin
White cheddar cheese, sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Bacon strips, cooked (2 per sandwich, unless you’re Rich)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
Pumpernickel or rye bread, toasted

Slather toasted bread with generous amount of pesto aioli, then layer on turkey, cheese, lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes. Prepare to be amazed.

*NOTE: Aioli has come to be the name given to any flavored mayonnaise. Traditionally, it’s been an emulsified oil combined with fresh garlic. At least that’s the Spanish version. The French version of aioli has an egg added into the emulsifying process, which makes it more similar to mayonnaise than the Spanish recipe. Use the word “aioli” when you want to impress your dinner guests with your mad kitchen prowess.

To make your own mayonnaise (recipe courtesy of Whole30):
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

Crunchy Cauliflower and Pea Salad

IMG_0963Trying to get kids—or picky adults—to eat their veggies? This crunchy salad loaded with fresh cauliflower, celery, and peas might just convert some veggie-haters into lovers. Ranch is the base of the dressing, and then there’s bacon…so I rest my case. I think I got this super easy recipe from a women’s magazine ad promoting Ranch dressing, from when Ranch was new player on the food scene (80’s or 90’s?). I will say that the cashews are delicious in the salad, but if you’re not going to consume the whole bowl in one sitting, they soften and take on the texture of mushrooms by the next day. So only add the cashews to the amount of salad you think will be eaten first time around. Otherwise, the salad is fine leftover the next day!

This is a nice year-round recipe, as the ingredients are available any time. It’s especially good with spring and summer menus, as a side to grilled meat, burgers, or brats, and even better if you’re bored with beans and slaw. And as excited as we Midwesterners are about summer when the first blades of green grass appear, we do get to that point. Am I right, people?

Serves 6-8

10 ounces fresh shelled peas, or frozen
2-3 cups fresh cauliflower florets, in bite-size pieces
1 cup diced celery
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced scallions
6-8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cashew halves

For dressing

1 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove fresh garlic, minced

If using frozen peas, rinse in cold water in strainer, and allow to drain. In large bowl, combine cauliflower, celery, red pepper, and scallions. Once peas are drained, add those as well.

In medium bowl, combine Ranch dressing, sour cream, Dijon, and garlic. Beat with wire whisk until dressing and sour cream are smooth. Pour over vegetables, and toss to combines. Add crumbled bacon and toss again. Add cashews just before serving.

NOTE: If using a gluten-free Ranch option, this recipe is gluten-free. Leave out nuts if you’ve got nut-allergy folks in your circles, and it tastes just fine without them. The bacon gives it enough flavor so you won’t really miss the cashews. The bacon also removes it from the vegetarian dish category…sorry.

Baked Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Baked-Beans-IMG_0676I had you at bacon, right? This baked bean dish is one I came up with through years of tweaking, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken or ribs, burgers or brats. The trick is to bake it low and slow—then the flavors really blend together. Next time you’re invited to your friends or neighbors for a barbecue, offer to bring these. You can make ahead a day or two, refrigerate, then bake an hour or two before the event. No last minute prep needed. 

If you want to try to appear classier than you actually are, you can put the beans in individual ramekins for your dinner guests. Then bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6-8

4-6 pieces of bacon
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans Bush’s baked beans, do NOT drain
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, rinse and drain
1 (14 ounce) can butter or cannelloni beans, rinse and drain
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup full-flavored molasses
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon dried mustard (or 1 tablespoon prepared mustard)
Dash each salt and pepper

IMG_0668Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Fry bacon in large frying pan until crisp. (If not cooked until crisp, bacon will turn soft when baked with beans.) Remove cooked bacon to plate lined with paper towels; cool. Add onions to bacon fat and sauté on medium to medium-high heat until onions are golden and caramelized (see photo). Add minced garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes longer, until garlic is golden brown. Drain off any excess bacon fat.

In large bowl, combine all the beans, catsup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper. Add in caramelized onion mixture, and crumble bacon on top. Stir again until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into 3-quart baking dish (casserole dish is better than 9″x12″ baking dish), and bake uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until sauce has thickened and darkened in color.

NOTE: If making ahead and refrigerating, let stand at room temp for an hour or so before baking, if possible.

And this recipe may not be low-cal, but it is gluten-free!