A Pilgrims Day Breakfast Casserole

December 3, 2019

“Just take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being”   ~ Mr. Rogers

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A few weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband fell ill with a terrible sickness.  Doctor's visits, inexplicable fevers, all night coughing fits that he just couldn't shake.  “He's finally turned a corner,” we'd think.  Only to realize that no, no he hadn't.  A particularly nasty strain of whatever's going around, it was said

Our instructions: cold compresses to the forehead, mightly strong cough syrup, fluids, antibiotics, and lots of rest.  While each seemed like a small attempt to rush the wild vacancy from his eyes, I do know this: there's nothing small about rest.

By late afternoon on Thanksgiving day, he felt well enough for something more substantial than toast.  Luckily, he was able to muster enough power for a short outing, and we went to see the new Mr. Roger's movie.  There were big snowflakes in the air and it felt festive

Mostly, over the long Thanksgiving break, we laid low, read books on the sofa, and declared it the weekend of Netflix movie marathons.  Of rest.  The pets rallied for snuggle duty.

“He's not feeling well,”  I told them

“Sad puppy,”  they seemed to say

Like winter, like a power outage, there is a certain beauty to be found in the midst of illness; nature’s ultimate pause button.  Rising to the occasion, hunkering down, starting another pot of soup, taking turns logging medicine dosages, and late-night puppy needs

I visited my son's family on Saturday, and Sam asks if he can be sick too, chatting emphatically about his love for sleeping on the sofa with his toy skeleton.  I hope not, I tell him, but we both know what he means.  The togetherness is really nice.

— — —

Still, I often forget the worst part when someone we love is sick.  Aside from feeling utterly helpless, aside from watching this once lively, human struggling, aside from the sleepless nights and coughing fits, it's also the sequestering.  The aloneness.  The need for quarantine.

We canceled all plans.  Sadly, this included his multi-year ritual of making mashed potatoes for 700(!) at Food at First.  We didn't see a soul for days.  Even this introvert was beginning to feel a little stir-crazy.

A small reminder: we need each other (albeit not while contagious)

Other reminders:

1.  Tips for enhancing your flu-fighting strategy    [ via Food Coach NYC ]

2.  Have a few back-pocket soups at the ready.  A few of our favorites – Chicken and Rice + Tomato + Garlic and Bone Broths

3.  When you're trying to fall asleep, Headspace's sleepcasts work wonders  (I've never made it through one all the way to the end)

4.  Two lovely couch reads that pair well with Netflix in the background:  Where the Crawdads Sing + Devil in the White City

5.  Sometimes, the grocery delivery fee is money well spent

6.  A breakfast casserole for your Thanksgiving meal can be a very happy thing

Like most of my favorite recipes, this one came to pass in a round-about sort of way

Knowing I was looking for brunch ideas, a friend told me of a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Strata her family makes every year on Christmas morning.  It's always a huge hit.  She even joked about finding a house full of people who were still willing to eat bread

As we've learned from Spaghetti Saturdays, even when Celiac isn't an issue, odds are pretty good that in any room these days you're going to find one or two people who don't.  And if that room is your living room and you're hosting brunch, it might mean that your brunch standard is in need of an update

— — —

And so it was on a sunny October day that we invited friends from our old neighborhood over for brunch.  They'd recently adopted a baby and it was great fun to meet her.  We debated, do we take them out or host at our place?  Of course, you can imagine which we chose

As always, I practiced my recipe ahead of time.  What I had in mind was a giant crustless quiche with all of the classic breakfast flavors:  hashbrowns, sausage or ham, and cheese.  Along the lines of a baked omelet, but leaning toward a custardy texture.  “Truly, how hard could this be,” I thought, so I threw a bunch of things together in the slow-cooker, wrote nothing down, and didn't take any photos.

Which means the predictable happened.  One, it took a super long time to bake.  So long, in fact, that we had it for dinner.  Two, it was crazy delicious.  Meaning, if I ever wanted to make it again, I was going to have to rely on memory.

(Don't worry, I've fixed all of this)

We've had some variation in the fridge ever since

Thus, on Thanksgiving morning, I started a batch with tater tots, ham, spinach, and a blend of whatever cheeses we had.  If my husband felt like eating, there would be something hearty and bubbly waiting for him.  If not, I'd have my weekly fix.

Friends, this is one to bookmark.  It's rich and rustic, gluten-free, goes spectacularly well on or with toast, and serves a crowd.  Plus, it reheats really well so it can be breakfast or brunch.  Not to mention, making-dinner-is-overrated-anyway several nights in a row, which is our mood this week.

I can't recommend it highly enough



~ Adapted from Jimmy Dean

Slow-Cooker Breakfast Casserole


  • 1 (30 oz) bag hash browns
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, browned and drained
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
  • 6 scallions, sliced, green and white parts
  • 14 eggs (large or XL)
  • ½ cup milk
  • salt + pepper


  • Prep a 6-quart slow cooker with clarified butter (or coconut oil).
  • Layer half of the hashbrowns on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Top with half each of the sausage, cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, and green onion. Repeat layering, except for the cheese on the top layer
  • In a large bowl, add the eggs, milk, a heavy pinch of salt, and pepper. Beat with a whisk until well blended.
  • Pour evenly over potato-sausage mixture.
  • Top with the rest of the cheese.
  • Cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours (or until eggs have set)
Serves: 8
Nutrition + Show
Calories 464
Total Fat 30.4g
Saturated Fat 14.9g
Carbohydrates 22.3g
Fiber 1.5g
Sugars 1.2g
Protein 26g
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