Cooking with Lauren: Breakfast...the only meal

By Lauren Hallow Published:

If I ever became President, Queen, or some other Ruler of the World, my first order of business would be pretty simple.

I would require every restaurant, from McDonald’s to Serafini, to have a breakfast menu and serve it all day. 

I just feel like everyone would be happier if they could get a sausage biscuit whenever they wanted. 

I think the reason why I love breakfast so much is because I never really ate it as a kid. I was an incredibly picky eater, so I used to not like any of the main breakfast foods: eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fruit or cereal. I didn’t even eat Pop-tarts. 

That all changed after I turned 16 and I got a job as a hostess working for a restaurant called Aunt Sally’s in Calumet City, Ill. The restaurant was only open until 3:30 p.m. and it specialized in breakfast.  

At first, I (idiotically) stuck to my non-breakfast ways, opting to eat a hotdog and fries on my lunch break instead of Eggs Benedict or biscuits and gravy. But after seeing how tasty all the food looked and how delicious everything smelled (and being berated by the waitresses every time I ordered a hot dog), I eventually broke down one day and ordered French toast and hash browns.   

‘Changed my life’

That day changed my life. I had no idea bread dipped in egg yolks could taste so good. Slowly, I began to broaden my breakfast horizons, trying cinnamon rolls, bacon and biscuits and gravy. 

Fast forward to today and now I’m eating eggs and potatoes for dinner. I’m still angry at child and teenage Lauren for being so stubborn and ignoring the wonderful world of breakfast for so long. 

This past weekend, I was asked to help make breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House in Lexington. I graduated from Ohio State and am a member of the Bluegrass Buckeyes alumni group, and one of the group members had signed us up to volunteer at the house on Saturday. 

As you likely know, Ronald McDonald House is a place where families with sick children can stay while their child receives treatment at a nearby hospital. The one in Lexington has 20 rooms and served more than 400 families last year, according to its website.

When I heard the Bluegrass Buckeyes were volunteering, I wanted to make sure these families had a nice, hearty breakfast to help them get through their day. 

I thought about what kind of foods I like to eat for breakfast – eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon and veggies – and decided to throw that all together and make one big breakfast casserole.

I had some of the Bluegrass Buckeyes be my taste-testers, and they approved of the hefty casserole. But when I saw a family with kids that was staying at the house feed this to their children, I knew I had passed the picky-eaters test. 

Here’s what you need: 

Sausage Veggie Breakfast Casserole

1 cup half and half

4 eggs, beaten

1 tbs flour

½ tsp salt

6-8 small tortillas (or 3-4 large tortillas)

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

12 sausage links, sliced

¼ cup of real bacon bits

One 16-20 oz bag of shredded hash browns

Paprika

1 tsp pepper

Shredded cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, or whatever variety of cheese you prefer)

2 tsp Sriracha sauce/hot sauce (optional)

Non-stick cooking spray

Using a skillet, cook the sausage links on the stove until brown. Blot with paper towels to get rid of excess grease, then slice. Set aside.

Spray a 9x11 baking dish (or something of a similar size) with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the dish with tortillas. 

In a large bowl, mix the chopped vegetables, sausage, bacon bits and hash browns. Add pepper, and sprinkle paprika for taste. Scoop mixture into the pan and spread evenly over the tortillas.

In a small bowl, lightly beat 4 eggs with a fork and mix with half-and-half, flour and salt. If you want more of a kick to the casserole, add a few drops of Sriracha sauce or hot sauce to the egg mixture. Pour mixture evenly into the pan over the veggies, meat and potatoes. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

If you have time, cover with foil and stick it in the fridge overnight or for a few hours to let everything blend together and the egg mixture to settle into the potatoes and veggies. If you’re just trying to make a quick breakfast though, you can skip this step.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Keep the dish covered with foil and cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil, then cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until cheese and potatoes start to brown. Then serve!

This is a very flexible recipe. I used tortillas because I had a stack in my fridge, but I think this would also work with biscuits or crescent roll dough. You can also use ham instead of sausage, or just omit the meat to make it vegetarian friendly.

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