Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole

Since moving South, Ben and I have been exposed to many new things. From language [y'all] to restaurants [meat and threes] to just a slower pace [though Nashville isn't quite as sloooow as other places in the South], life here is different. We love it here, but have become pretty proud of our Northern roots. Case in point: my birthday is coming up next month and I am begging Ben to get me a super sweet Indiana-shaped pendant necklace from an etsy shop. Gotta support Indiana from afar!! Though there are some areas/stereotypes of Southern culture that we don’t embrace, there is one MAJOR one that we do: the food! And what is more Southern than grits?

Lightened Up Sausage Cheese Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

I actually [willingly] ate grits before moving to Nashville, but they are all over the place here, but these… oh my… THESE are the best I’ve ever had! It’s probably because they were made in the South. :) I don’t think it was the cheese that helped, do you?

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

This breakfast casserole is a fun alternative to the traditional potato-based breakfast casserole. The leftovers fed us breakfast [and lunch and dinner] for days, which is absolutely wonderful for busy weekday mornings. Though it seems pretty funny to call this recipe “lightened up” because it’s so indulgent, it is light compared to many recipes.

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

Serve this casserole with fruit, potatoes, toast, or any other traditional breakfast sides and I can guarantee you this meal will be absolutely devoured, day after day! It is so good. Enjoy!

one year ago: Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
two years ago: Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
three years ago: Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole [adapted from South Your Mouth]
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking grits
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage [regular or turkey]
  • 6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 5 egg whites, beaten
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring water and chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Brown sausage in a large skillet, breaking apart with a wooden spoon to crumble. Drain well and set aside.

Add cheese, milk, butter, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne to the grits. Stir until the cheese melts, then stir in sausage and eggs/egg whites.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Time: 90 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 16 servings.

Notes: 6 whole eggs can be used instead of the 5 egg whites/3 egg combo that I chose. To make ahead, prepare casserole as directed then cover and refrigerate overnight. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed above.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.

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SRC: Chili Relleno Casserole

Finally! Time for another edition of the Secret Recipe Club! We took a break in January, but now we’re back and it feel sooo good. :) I just love being part of this club. It’s fun to get to try out new recipes and get to know new bloggers.

Secret Recipe Club

This month for SRC, I was assigned to Ilona’s Kitchen. Ilona shares tons of recipes on her blog every month that are family tested and approved. She loves to feed her family new recipes and old classics… a great combination, I think! She’s also loves to shop, bake, and go to the gym. A woman after my own heart!! Well, I run, but you get the idea. :) When perusing her blog, I found quite a few recipes I wanted to make: Blueberry Popovers, Chicken & Spinach Tortilla Bake, and Coconut Tea Cake. The last option sounds AWESOME! She just posted the recipe, otherwise that is definitely what I would have made. But alas, Chili Relleno Casserole it was. And it did not disappoint, even though it’s not the most photogenic recipe ever!

Chili Relleno Casserole | thepajamachef.com

Ilona has about three Chili Relleno recipes on her blog… some have been flops and others have been great. Ilona claimed this was the best of the three, and we found it to be pretty wonderful. It seriously tasted great! I’ve never had a real chili relleno, so I can’t testify to the authenticity [it is a casserole after all], but the flavors are phenomenal. It’s just a simple mix of ground beef and vegetables, topped with eggs, oregano, garlic, tomato sauce, and cheese. What’s not to like? Plus, it’s quick and easy to throw together–perfect for those busy weeknights. Ben actually made the whole dish and it was ready waiting for me one night after work. That must be why I like it so much. :) I have no doubt that we’ll be making this again soon! Thanks, Ilona, for introducing me to this great recipe! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes. :)

Chili Relleno Casserole | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Baked Jalapeno Popper-Ranch Dip
two years ago: Fried Eggs on Pesto-Parmesan Toast
three years ago: Mini Meatloaf

Chili Relleno Casserole [from Ilona's Kitchen]
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Ingredients:

  •  1 pound ground beef
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cans [4 ounces each] chopped green chilies
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded mexican blend/taco cheese, divided
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a skillet, brown ground beef. Drain fat and then add green pepper. Cook until tender, then stir in oregano, garlic, and chopped green chiles. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.

Layer half of the meat and 1/2 cup cheese in prepared baking dish. Top with the rest of the meat and another 1/2 cup cheese. Pour egg mixture on top of everything,

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove and spread tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top and return to oven for 7 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting, then slice into squares to serve and enjoy.

Time: 40 minutes [10 minutes active].
Yield: 8 servings.

Be sure to check out other recipes from this week’s Secret Recipe Club reveal here:

Pizza Frittata

So, what’s better than pizza? If your answer is pizza, you are definitely right. And if you’re confused, look no further than this AWESOME breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brinner recipe for PIZZA Frittata! Woohoo. Welcome to deliciousness, folks!

Pizza Frittata | thepajamachef.com

Whenever I’m in a bind with my menu plan for the week, I turn to one of my standbys: black beans and rice [cheap and tasty], breakfast for dinner [indulgent because this usually turns into pancakes for dinner], or a frittata [easy, cheap, and totally customizable]. What do these dishes have in common? They are all cheap [read: so I can spend more cash $$$$ on fun ingredients like mini chocolate chips], all things that I love [convenient, right?], and made from pantry staples that I always have around. Problem is… Ben gets really tired of all those dishes, really fast. Especially frittatas. Probably cause I stuff them full of my favorite veggies like kale and bell peppers. Ha ha, poor guy. But because I love him so, sometimes I experiment.

Pizza Frittata | thepajamachef.com

Experiments can be good or bad, and occasionally, they can be excellent, as was the case with this PIZZA Frittata. Sorry for shouting, I’m just excited. This frittata tasted just like a pizza, except instead of a chewy, carb-licious crust, you’ve got a soft egg base. It doesn’t taste like eggs, so don’t you worry–these aren’t pizza eggs. All you can taste are the flavors of pizza: garlic and onion, herbs, tomatoes, and cheeeeeseLots of flavorful cheese! Our pizza toppings included fire roasted red peppers and pepperoni, but feel free to sub out for your favorites. I think italian sausage, bell peppers, mushrooms, or ham would be pretty tasty in the future too.

Pizza Frittata | thepajamachef.com

Though this frittata is a bit more work than the typical frittatas I make, it’s definitely worth it and makes a great anytime meal with some fruit or a salad. Hope you enjoy! :)

one year ago: Pumpkin Cornbread
two years ago: Honey Whole Wheat English Muffins
three years ago: Pumpkin French Toast Sandwich

Pizza Frittata [adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine, July/August 2012]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fire roasted red peppers, chopped [from a jar]
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano [or several tablespoons fresh oregano]
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley [or several tablespoons fresh chopped parsley]
  • 3 ounces grated Mozzarella cheese, halved
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese, halved
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce, halved
  • 12 pieces pepperoni

Directions:

In a 10 inch skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat.

While oil is heating, whisk together eggs, milk, oregano, parsley, half of both cheeses, and half of the tomato sauce.

When oil is hot, add onion and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Season with pepper, then add red peppers to skillet.

Pour egg mixture over vegetables, then evenly top with pepperoni. Allow to cook for a couple minutes, until the bottom of the frittata starts to set, then use a thin spatula to lift the edge of the frittata. This allows the uncooked egg to transfer below to cook. Cook for 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.

When eggs are almost set, drizzle with remaining tomato sauce and top with remaining cheese. Place in the oven to cook for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Cool briefly before cutting, then serve warm.

Time: 40 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I had the honor of being assigned to Jane’s blog, The Heritage Cook.

Secret Recipe ClubJane does so much for the SRC every month, including serving as the hostess of our group [group A, that always posts on the first Monday of the month] so I definitely wanted to do a good job with her blog. :) Jane lives in California and has been into cooking and baking forever–ever since her Easy Bake Oven. How fun! She has tons of great recipes on her site, including lots of chocolate recipes from her Chocolate Mondays posts. So if you need a chocolate recipe, like puddingpeanut butter-chocolate cookie dip, or cake, Jane is your girl! :) But I didn’t make a chocolate recipe today. I made baked french toast. And it is delicious!

Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup | thepajamachef.com

This was one of the last, if not the last meal we made in our old apartment. TEAR! Ha. But I digress… this baked french toast is soft, sweet, super simple to put together. You can mix everything together the night before you want to serve it, and then just bake it up in about 30 minutes in the morning. We topped ours with walnuts and strawberries, and then an absolutely epic strawberry maple syrup. Jane is a genius, I tell ya!

Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup | thepajamachef.comThe original recipe used blueberries and pecans instead of my strawberries and walnuts, but I was using up what I had. And it was excellent. I wished I had an orange to grate in some zest–that would have made a great dish even better. The moral of the story is that you can use any fruit and any nut you’d like, and you can have a great, company worthy breakfast in a jiffy. Thanks, Jane! Enjoy! :)

one year ago… Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
two years ago… Pumpkin, Sausage, & Spinach Lasagna 
three years ago… Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup [adapted from The Heritage Cook]
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Ingredients:

for french toast

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen

for syrup

  • 1 1/2 cups real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen

Directions:

Spread bread crumbs on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour over bread, then cover and refrigerate overnight. It will appear to be very liquidy–that’s okay.

In the morning, top with remaining brown sugar, walnuts, and strawberries. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

While french toast is baking, combine maple syrup and strawberries in a small saucepan and heat on low until warm. Gently press berries with a wooden spoon to break up.

Cut french toast into squares and serve with strawberry maple syrup.

Time: 1 hour + overnight.

Yield: 12 servings.

For more great recipes from this edition of the SRC, check out the links below!

Creamy Shells and Yogurt

A few years ago, I made Avocado Soup. It was a cold, gazpacho-esque soup made with yogurt, avocados, and seasonings. Hardly any liquid and served cold, it has gone down in history as one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever served for dinner. Nowadays I would have revamped it as a dip or a sauce, but four years ago it just went in the trash. And with it, my desire to use yogurt as anything more than something to eat with granola or occasionally in baking.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

With that history of yogurt as a dinner ingredient, it came as a surprise to me when I saw this Creamy Shells and Yogurt recipe online and decided to make it. I know warm yogurt sounds weird, but hear me out. This is totally not what you think. Here, Greek yogurt makes a surprisingly delicious rich pasta sauce when combined with eggs and cheese.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

As the sauce comes together, it is almost reminiscent of a rich macaroni and cheese. It is truly one of those dishes that you just have to taste to truly understand.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

The eggs, cheese, and yogurt come together to make a tangy sauce that tastes rich while being actually pretty light, but the true star of the sauce are fresh herbs and lots of lemon zest. I used lemon thyme and mint for my herbs, but you could use whatever you have on hand. I think parsley, basil, oregano, or any of the usual suspects would work perfectly–but do try the minty lemon combo if you can. It is divine! For a little extra something-something I added some kale to the mix. You know how I love my kale!

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

Everything about this dish screams summer, and even though I only made this pasta a couple weeks ago, I’m craving it so badly now and am wondering if I can justify dirtying up the {clean} kitchen at 10:30 pm just for a small bedtime snack. Of yogurt pasta. And this after making Pumpkin Soup for dinner and telling Ben how I just cannot WAIT for apple picking, apple cider, pumpkin chocolate chip mini muffins, and all the joys of fall [which do NOT include football, thankyouverymuch. That's Ben's department.]. I am so seasonally confused. I want it all, summer and fall. But most of all, I want a big bowl of Creamy Shells and Yogurt. It is totally a bright and cheery summer comfort food. I am sooo glad to have tried this pasta–hope you will too!

a year ago… Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
two years ago… Chorizo and Potato Tacos
three years ago… Taco Casserole

Creamy Shells and Yogurt [adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen]
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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces shell pasta
  • 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt [whole or 2%]
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon thyme, chopped
  • 3 green onions
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 ounce Mozzarella, shredded or cubed + more for serving
  • 1 large handful kale [~1.5 cups]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • salt

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add shells and cook to al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt, eggs, mint, lemon thyme, green onions, lemon zest, and Mozzarella. Wash kale, remove thick stems, and tear into small pieces.

When pasta is ready, drain and reserve ~ 1/2 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and stir in kale. Then add 6 tablespoons water to yogurt sauce and whisk well to temper egg. Pour yogurt sauce over pasta and kale and stir vigorously to coat. Keep stirring until Mozzarella melts, then season to taste with peppers and salt as desired. Serve with additional mint and cheese as desired.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings.

Linked up with: What’s Cookin’ Wednesday.