the breakfast casserole formula

This week I’m sharing my ‘formula’ for making breakfast casseroles with what you have in the fridge and freezer. One thing I’m really trying to do more of is cook with what I have on hand versus always following a recipe. Recipes are great for new ideas, but they also tend to be more time consuming and more expensive. I’m not much of a cook, so this is definitely a process as I begin to better understand flavor profiles, ratios, etc.

Before I share my formula for creating a breakfast casserole, here are a few highlights from last week’s menu.

Breakfast. During the week we ate the breakfast casserole I describe below, usually topped with sauerkraut and hot sauce. On Sunday I made baked eggs with bacon, sweet potatoes and spinach for girlfriends (we went away for the night and I volunteered to do Sunday breakfast).

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Lunch. Now that it’s freezing out, I’m craving warm comfort foods at lunchtime. Salads aren’t cutting it when it’s in the 40s all day. First up this week was a new Stuffed Pepper Soup recipe that turned out delicious. What I’m even more excited about is that it’s a great base soup recipe that I think I can play around with to come up with a soup ‘formula’. Formulas might just be my new thing.

IMG_8447_edited-1I’m working on finishing up the last of our beef and pork shares from this year before digging into the 2015 shares. I had chuck steak that I wasn’t sure what to do with until I came across a broccoli beef recipe. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, but this tasted so much like Chinese take out without the greasy feeling that you know will lead to a stomachache in twenty minutes. I skipped the maple syrup and upped the chili peppers. We ate it plain but next time there will definitely be either white rice or cauliflower rice to soak up the sauce.

Dinner. We ate a few takeout meals this week (Pho and Thai); it was just one of those weeks where long days turned into late nights and a lack of planning last weekend meant a lack of options in the fridge. We had leftover pork belly that I made last weekend (not worth sharing the recipe) and I tried a new spare ribs recipe in the crockpot that both Greg and I loved. The ribs were a little on the salty side and I’ll likely cut back to 1/2 teaspoon when I make it again. Otherwise, this was incredibly easy (we’re talking five minutes to prep) and delicious.

The Breakfast Casserole Formula

As I mentioned, I’m trying to create meals with what I have on hand to save both time and money. One of the ways I’ve found to use leftovers and common freezer staples is to create my own breakfast casserole. I mentioned my two favorite breakfast casserole recipes last week, which I still make, but here is a simple formula (not qualified to be called a recipe!) for making your own breakfast casserole.

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Figure out your protein. I like to make each breakfast casserole six servings (and I usually make two at a time for efficiency). You can change these ratios based on those you are feeding, but I go with a serving being equal to three eggs or 1/3 pound of uncooked meat (slightly less for cooked meat). Since a casserole is a combination of eggs and meet, to get six servings I use 9 eggs (3 eggs x 3 servings) and one pound raw / slightly less cooked meat (3 more servings to make a total of 6). Meat ideas include ground, sausages, cooked leftovers, anything really.

In this example, I used cubed pork from a roast I had made in the crockpot that was pretty dry. Not wanting to eat it plain, I chopped and froze it to use in recipes where the dryness wouldn’t be that big of a deal. 

Track down leftover veggies and seasonings. These can be pre-cooked or raw veggies that need to be used soon. You want a cup or two total, but the amount really isn’t going to make or break the casserole. Pick seasonings that will pair well with your veggies and meat choice. This has taken me some time and I still don’t always get it right, but I’ve yet to make an inedible breakfast casserole. Always include an onion. (Unless you don’t have one, in which case don’t go buy one, that defeats the point.)

I used kale and tomatoes from my CSA and half a white onion. (Pictured is a shallot, but I ended up finding an already diced half onion in the fridge and used that instead. I also added extra chopped peppers from soup making.) I have an old jar of Southwest seasoning that I don’t want to waste so I’ve been using it for most meat flavoring lately. 

Cook your meat. If your meat is raw, the first step is to brown it. If you have cooked sausage, I would also chop and sauté it as well. I skip this step if using already cooked meat other than sausage to keep it from drying out.

Preheat your oven. While you’re at the stove, preheat your oven to 350.

Chop the veggies. While your meat is cooking, chop you veggies. They don’t have to be finely diced, but I find somewhat on the small side is best for a casserole.

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Heat a fat (or use the meat juices). If you are cooking your meat, set aside the meat but leave the juices in the pan. If you aren’t cooking meat, heat a pan and let your cooking fat of choice melt. IMG_8419_edited-1

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Cook the veggies. Starting with the heartiest (longest cooking) veggies, add veggies to the pan and cook until softened. I usually start with the onion and anything denser like a sweet potato. I add greens just for the last minute to wilt.

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Grease your baking dish(es). I use a stick of butter to grease dishes while the veggies cook. If you’re using ground meat or sausage you can skip this step, but I recommend not skipping it if you are using already cooked meat or meat with less fat. IMG_8425_edited-1

Add meat back to veggies and season. Dump your meat back in the pan and give it a good stir to mix. Finally, add your seasoning. This is the most subjective direction; I’ve been using one tablespoon per casserole (so in this example I used two), but you will need to play around to find what works for you. It also differs by seasoning and there’s no real right answer. Let it all cook through for a minute or two while you… IMG_8427_edited-1

Whisk your eggs. Crack your eggs into a large enough bowl (nothing worse that trying to scramble in a small bowl) and give them a good fork whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Add the meat and veggies mix to baking dish(es). If you’re making a double batch, split it evenly between your two dishes (unless one is significantly larger). Press down and try to flatten the mixture across the dish. IMG_8434_edited-1

 

Pour in the eggs. Again, split evenly between the two (or more!) dishes if making more than one casserole.

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Bake the casserole. Cover dish(es) with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes or so, until you can jiggle the pan and the eggs are no longer runny. Save the foil! IMG_8438_edited-1

Let the casserole cool. Give the casserole twenty minutes or so to cool as this will make slicing much easier. IMG_8443_edited-1Slice and store. Slice (each) into six servings. I like to wrap mine in foil (reusing the covers from baking) but Greg prefers his in tupperware. I put three days worth in the fridge and the rest go in the freezer. They taste best when thawed overnight in the fridge and then reheated (as opposed to reheated from frozen).

 

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