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Exploring Breakfast/Brunch Casseroles With 6 Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

exploring-breakfastbrunch-casseroles

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.”

— A. A. Milne

I Like Easy-to-Prepare Meals

I walk two miles every day. I have an adult child who needs some assistance each day and, when my husband isn't available, part of that assistance is an hour on the road twice a day to take her to and from work. I do all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and bill paying for our family. We live on 1.5 acres, and I do my best to keep those 1.5 acres maintained (some days are better than others).

I quilt. I design church banners. I have a blog, I write online articles (obviously), and I love to cook. So, as you might surmise, I don't have a lot of "free time." That's one of the reasons why I love breakfast casseroles.

But Wait, There's More!

If the only criterion was "easy" we could have toast, or cold cereal, or even a scrambled egg, and we often do. But there are times that we (me) desire something more satisfying, luxurious—yes, comforting. And that's when we enjoy a breakfast/brunch casserole.

Breakfast Casseroles Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

A breakfast casserole can take numerous forms.

  • It might be a quiche; silky, custard-like eggs and cheese baked in a flaky, buttery crust.
  • Or perhaps a Spanish tortilla of herbs and thinly-sliced potatoes sautéed in a splash of olive oil, then topped with beaten eggs and baked in a hot oven until the eggs puff and the potatoes are soft and creamy.
  • Have you ever had an Italian frittata? It's like a quiche without the crust. Eggs and cheese are baked in the oven until the top is golden and the eggs are gently firm.
  • Or, what about strata? A strata is perfect for the thrifty in me—stale bread that would otherwise become croutons is allowed to bask overnight in a bath of beaten eggs, herbs, and cream. When baked the next morning the once stale bread takes on the texture of a rich, savory custard.

Or, we could go back to the origin of the word "casserole". According to the foodiescompanion.blogspot.com:

The word casserole originally referred to the pan in which the dish was cooked. Casserole is from a French word meaning "sauce-pan"; a large, deep dish used either to cook something in an oven or to serve the food cooked in it. The French word "casserole" had been derived from the old Provencal word, "cassa" and the Medieval Latin word, "cattia", both of these words meaning "ladle". This seemed to imply that these words were describing a common pot from which everyone shared.

Time Is Running Out

I don't know when you will read this post, but as I write, Christmas is just days away. Now is certainly the time to think about a breakfast casserole! So is:

  • New Years' Day
  • Valentines' Day
  • Easter
  • Mother's Day
  • Father's Day

You can also think about a morning casserole any lazy weekend when you awake and want to share some kitchen love with your household!

  1. Carb Diva Breakfast Quiche with Tater Tot Crust
  2. Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette)
  3. Italian Frittata
  4. Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole
  5. Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Breakfast Casserole
  6. Italian Sausage-Gouda-Spinach Strata
Breakfast quiche with tater tot crust

Breakfast quiche with tater tot crust

1. Carb Diva Breakfast Quiche With Tater Tot Crust

The Ore-Ida (Oregon-Idaho) Potato Company introduced 'tater tots' in 1953—popcorn kernel-sized morsels of pre-cooked potato seasoned and shaped into tasty little blonde nuggets waiting to be baked, sautéed in a pan, or deep fried to crunchy golden perfection.

Here I use tater tots in place of the usual pie crust to form the base for a simple quiche. You may add whatever meats, cheeses and vegetables you wish (suggestions follow):

Ingredients

  • 3 cups potato puffs (tater tots), thawed overnight in the refrigerator
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced (see note below)
  • 1/2 pound cooked sausage, diced (see note below)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Generously spray a 9-inch pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tater tots in the prepared pan in a single layer. I squish them a bit so that they flatten and form a uniform mass (with no gaps or holes). Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese, the bell pepper, and the cooked meat on the crust. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese.
  4. Whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour over the cheese/bell pepper/meat mixture into the crust.
  5. Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Bake the tater tot-filled crust for about 30 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes then slice and serve.

What makes this recipe work?

This recipe is very flexible and allows you to use whatever you have on hand.

  • Don't have Cheddar cheese? You could use Swiss, provolone, gouda, or smoked cheese.
  • If you don't have or like sausage, you could substitute cooked crumbled bacon or ham, or veggie crumbles.
  • Don't have red bell pepper? What about sautéd sliced mushrooms or zucchini?
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette).

Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette).

2. Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette)

Don't confuse this "tortilla" with the Mexican flour or cornmeal flatbread used to make enchiladas. A torta is Spanish for "cake", so a tortilla is a small cake—in this case a "cake" made of potatoes. The origin of the Spanish tortilla is unclear; some say it was "invented" by Tomás de Zumalacárregui, a Basque general who led the Carlist War in 1833. Another similar tale states that he stopped at a farmhouse, looking for something to eat; the poor housewife had only potatoes, onions, and eggs and made an omelet for him using those humble ingredients.

I like this Spanish tortilla recipe from the Betty Crocker Kitchens because, after sautéing the potatoes (this step can be done ahead of time), the dish is finished in the oven.

Be sure to use Yukon gold potatoes; russet or Idaho potatoes will not hold their shape.

Italian frittata.

Italian frittata.

3. Italian Frittata

Unlike a Spanish tortilla, an Italian frittata is simply eggs, cream, and cheese. OK, you might toss in some vegetables, but no starchy potatoes or tons of bacon or sausage. Think of it as a comforting quiche, but without the crust.

The origin of the frittata, the "where and when" is lost in time; the word itself means "mess." The cook would use whatever bits of vegetable or cheese were in the pantry. This version uses broccoli and fontina, a deliciously melty cheese.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets cut into 1-inch pieces (see note below)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of grated fontina cheese (see note below)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Whisk together eggs, cream, salt, and ground black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil and butter in an 8-inch nonstick oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add the broccoli and saute until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  5. Pour in the egg mixture and then top with the cheese. Cook without stirring until the egg is partially set (on the bottom and sides).
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until set in the middle.

How to be sure if the frittata is done—insert a knife into the center and then pull it out. If the knife comes out clean (no uncooked egg clinging to the sides), the frittata is done. If not, cook for another 5 minutes and check again. Repeat until it tests "done".

Note 1:

Don't like broccoli? You could substitute

  • Asparagus—chop it into 1-inch lengths.
  • Spinach—wash leaves (remove stems) and coarsely chop.
  • Mushrooms—slice thin and then saute over medium-high heat until lightly browned; about 4 minutes.
  • Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes—blot gently before adding to the skillet.
  • Zucchini or yellow squash—slice in half from stem end to blossom end. Cut again into quarters. Remove seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Note 2:

Don't like fontina cheese? No problem. Any melty cheese will do—Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, etc.

Easy make-ahead breakfast casserole.

Easy make-ahead breakfast casserole.

4. Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Sally likes to write (she has two published cookbooks), take photographs, and bake. Actually, she loves to bake—she is a "Grandma taught" baker and creates easy recipes that can be achieved by anyone.

Her make-ahead breakfast casserole is extremely versatile—use whatever vegetables you have on hand to make this your own unique creation.

Slow cooker (crock pot) breakfast casserole.

Slow cooker (crock pot) breakfast casserole.

5. Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Breakfast Casserole

Serene shares her passion for "tried and true" recipes on her blog House of Yumm. Her overnight breakfast casserole is comfort food at its best—imagine waking up to the aroma of sausage, potatoes, eggs and cheese, all hot and savory and ready to eat.

Italian sausage, gouda, and spinach strata.

Italian sausage, gouda, and spinach strata.

6. Italian Sausage-Gouda-Spinach Strata

Strata is the plural form of the Latin word stratum, which means ‘layering’, and that is exactly what a strata is—a dish composed of layers of ingredients. A recipe for strata was first published in the 1984 Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Kevin is the creator of the blog keviniscooking.com and this comforting dish. He has a background in restaurants and catering but his interest in cooking began at an early age. Kevin is dedicated to making delicious foods for the people he loves, sometimes healthy but admittedly sometimes a bit indulgent because “life’s too short to be bland!”

Kevin’s take on the breakfast strata is a bit on the indulgent side—but all of that spinach does ease some of the guilt.

Important Reminder

Keep in mind that, to work successfully, a strata needs to be made ahead and stored overnight in the refrigerator.

© 2016 Linda Lum