Crock-Pot Breakfast Casserole

A delightfully variable recipe came into my kitchen from a family reunion a few months ago. It’s taken all this time for me to try it out, and I’m sorry I waited!

The concept is simple – set it up the night before, so that it is hot and ready when you wake up the next morning. It’s great for parties when folks stay over, family gatherings, and for kid’s sleepovers. With the kids, it can be a great group activity to set up the meal.

Here is the basic recipe as I received it:

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1 bag (2#) hashbrowns
1 jar salsa
1 bag real bacon bits
1 small bag shredded cheddar (2 cups)
1 dozen eggs
1 cup whole milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Spray crock pot with non-stick spray. (Or use a bag liner – your choice)

Layer 1/3 of hashbrowns evenly into the bottom of the crock pot, 1/3 bacon bits, 1/3 salsa and 1/3 of cheese. Repeat twice, ending with cheese.

In a separate bowl, scramble eggs and milk. Add salt and pepper. Pour mixture evenly throughout the crock pot.

Cover and cook overnight 8-10 hours. Serve!

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Of course, my partner in food and I could not leave this alone.

Noticing the similarity between this recipe and a quiche (which we love and play with regularly), we picked up fresh eggs and cubed ham. Everything else needed was already in the kitchen.

We dutifully layered the hashbrowns, ham, and an excessive amount of cheddar into the pot, skipping the salsa for this first experiment. The eggs got a nice uplift of season salt, garlic and dill. We decided the salsa would be better if served cold and crisp on top of the hot and lovely casserole.

Two more friends joined us the next morning for breakfast. As we cracked the seal on the crock pot, the captivating aroma of melted cheese wafted playfully about the kitchen. Our attention, all four of us, was instantly riveted on the food.

We served up the gooey stuff from the crock-pot with a sprinkle of yet more cheese, a bit of salsa (hot sauce was also available), and, as if the cholesterol content wasn’t bad enough, a side of bacon.

This was a wonderful nosh! The possible variations for “next time” was the primary topic of conversation in between mouthfuls and moans of foodie pleasure.

Ham, sausage (pork, Italian, sage, chicken, etc.), crumbled bacon, and shredded turkey were all offered as possibilities for the meat ingredient. The cheese might need to be adjusted to compliment the meat, such as Mozzarella with Italian sausage, or Swiss for turkey.

Including the salsa in the crock-pot will give a nice flavor, though I personally prefer using as a condiment rather than a spice.

The “salt and pepper to taste” is an excellent base spice choice. Our use of garlic and dill rather than pepper gave the dish a mild flavor, enhancing the cheese rather than taking over. Spicing to match the meat/cheese combination is the way to go.

Experiment with this “super-quiche” and let us know what you come up with!

— Ann Cathey

Cheesy Pinto Bean Dip courtesy of ALDI

Some of you are already aware of a little grocery chain called ALDI. They only take cash or debit, make you bag your own groceries, and get you to return your shopping carts properly by charging you a quarter to use one – which you get back when you return the cart.

They also maintain a website that offers recipes using products available in their store. Some items may only be temporary, so if you want to try it exactly the way it’s published, make haste with your ingredients. You can always figure out substitutions later. One such recipe that caught our eye while we were visiting the sore is the Cheesy Pinto Bean Dip, made available the week before the Superbowl. Good marketing on ALDI’s part.

Of course, we had to pick up all the ingredients we could find that we were interested in, and substitutions for what was not available. We did leave out the green chilies and onions, and bought Mexican Bland cheese rather than the Quesadilla Cheese, which we could not locate. Mild salsa was used in place of Medium to allow the flavors rather than the heat to be sampled. Black olives replaced the green chilies to good effect, both as a layer and sprinkled on top.

Their Test Kitchen Photo

Following the recipe was quite simple. We went step by step, building the dip in layers. By the time it went into the oven, we were more than ready to try it! The anticipation in the kitchen was not overwhelming, though definitely present. When the oven opened, the drooling began. The cheese on top had melted into a lovely golden layer. We knew what it was hiding beneath and couldn’t wait to try it. We let it cool a little so as not to burn ourselves too badly before digging in, chips first.

The chips we prefer are a thinner, crispier style that threatened to break in dense depths of cheese and beans. The flavors made us not worry about the chips. The two types and textures of cheeses, one very melty and gooey while hot and the other very creamy, made a lovely contrast while complimenting each other with cheesy goodness. The beans offered two different textures, one creamy re-fried style and the other whole beans, that again complimented one another and the cheeses. The seasoning in the beans was enough to enhance the flavors without overpowering them. The salsa was a little underplayed in the flavor, but lent the crunchy texture of peppers, onions, and tomatoes in the middle of the layers.

Our Test Kitchen Photo

Our compliments to Chef Alyssa from the ALDI Test Kitchen for this simple and tasty recipe. We will be checking out more recipes from ALDI in the future!

-Ann Cathey