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Bernie easter brunch.jpg

This make-ahead sausage and egg casserole is perfect for Easter brunch. 

Easter will be celebrated this weekend and you may be planning a special Easter brunch or dinner. There are ways to simplify the preparations involved in hosting a special event for your family and friends. Planning ahead is helpful, and selecting dishes that do not require long hours of preparation or that can be at least partially prepared ahead of time will give you more time to enjoy your celebration.

Sausage and egg brunch bake

Brunch dishes that can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated overnight are always a boon to the hostess, since the menu item is all ready for baking in the morning. There are many versions of the overnight brunch dishes, but this one uses frozen hash brown potatoes rather than the bread that is the base for many of them. The dish is quick and easy to assemble, taking only about 15 minutes to do so. If desired, shredded hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese blend can be used in place of the Colby blend. Try serving the brunch bake with assorted fresh fruit and warm biscuits.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

1½ pounds Italian pork sausage

5 cups frozen country-style shredded hash-brown potatoes (from 30-oz. package)

½ cup sliced green onions

2 jars (4.5 oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained

1 (2¼ oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3½ cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheeses blend

8 eggs

1½ cups milk

½ teaspoons salt

Topping:

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, minced

6 Italian plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Spray 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish and 16-by-12-inch sheet of foil with cooking spray. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Remove sausage from skillet; drain on paper towels. In large bowl, mix potatoes, onions, mushrooms, olives, 1 tablespoon basil and 2 cups of the cheese. Add cooked sausage; stir gently to mix. Spoon evenly into dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1½ cups cheese. Beat eggs in same large bowl. Add milk and ½ teaspoon salt; beat well. Pour over potato mixture in baking dish. Cover with foil, sprayed side down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. To serve, heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake brunch casserole, covered, 45 minutes. Uncover baking dish; bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until center is set. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes and ¼ teaspoons salt; cook about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons basil. To serve, cut egg bake into squares. Serve with warm topping. Source: Pillsbury: “Spring Brunch Most Requested Recipes,” Volume 19, Number 3.

Tangy poppy seed fruit salad

This refreshing fruit salad will make you think of Easter and spring. The tang of the lime juice brings out the flavor of the different fruits rather than masking the flavors with a creamy dressing.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

¼ teaspoon grated lime zest

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 cup quartered strawberries

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1 cup green or red grapes cut in half

1 kiwi, peeled

1 banana, peeled

1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

Whisk together lime zest, lime juice, honey and poppy seeds in a bowl. Quarter the kiwi lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices. Slice banana into ½-inch thick pieces. Put all the fruit into a large bowl; stir gently. Toss with poppy seed dressing. Source: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition “Greatest Hits Allrecipes” Magazine, 2017.

Slow cooker glazed ham

Have you considered preparing your ham using the slow cooker? It is an easy method of preparing it and makes your oven available for other menu items. It is also an efficient way to transport the ham if you are taking it to another home for a shared meal. Cooking the ham in the slow cooker is also a way for the ham to self-baste, rather than needing periodic basting while baking in the oven.

Servings: 18

Ingredients:

1 fully cooked spiral-cut bone-in ham (7 pounds)

1 (10 oz.) jar apricot jam

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Place ham in 6-quart or larger slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray. Mix jam, sugar and mustard until blended; spoon over ham. Cover with lid; cook on low 3 to 4 hours or until ham is heated through. Transfer ham to platter, reserving jam mixture in slow cooker; cover ham to keep warm. Turn slow cooker to high. Whisk cornstarch and water until blended; whisk into reserved jam mixture. Cook uncovered 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Spoon half the jam mixture over ham. Serve ham with remaining jam mixture on the side. If desired, use red pepper jelly in place of the apricot jam. Source: “My Food & Family” by Kraft Heinz, Spring 2019.

Creamy scalloped potatoes

Your slow cooker can also be put to use preparing scalloped potatoes if you choose. It is easy to “fix-it and forget-it” and complete other things on your agenda.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

6 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup milk

1 (10¾ oz.) can cream of mushroom soup

4 slices American cheese, or 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

Place half of the potatoes in the slow cooker. Top with half of onion, flour, salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Mix together butter, milk and soup. Pour over potato layers. Cover. Cook on low 6 to 9 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours or until potatoes are soft. Add cheese 30 minutes before serving. Source: “Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining, Slow Cooker Favorites for All Year Round,” Phyllis Pellman Good & Dawn J. Ranck.

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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