Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's Tradition: Breakfast Casseroles and Food History - Gluten Free!

It's Holy Week here in North Carolina, a time of traditions like Palm Sunday pageants, egg hunts, and Easter brunches. So I was thrilled when Amazon delivered this book about food traditions in the South on Sunday (yes, a Sunday, apparently our area is full of people who can't wait til Monday).

I heard about The Edible South on The State of Things on a program which discussed the history of food in our state as well as the growth and changes over time in our cuisine -click here to take a listen.    

Marcie Cohen Ferris does an excellent job of covering everything from early basic ingredients to the place of food in the Civil Rights movement to the cuisine influence of New South immigrants
and the challenge of hunger in the region. 

I LOVE reading about food in books. Southern girl I am, when I read a food description, I always circle back to the foods I loved growing up visiting my Nanny's farm in the hollers of Southwest Virginia or Grandmother Hilton's home in small town Bristol, Tennessee. Canned goods, recipes, and stories about relatives always made it back to our home in Washington DC, a town folks don't realize is a Southern town! Food, family and history just seem to go together in my mind.  If you are an author and put food descriptions in your book or make a dish a centerpiece of a scene, I'm your fan for life.

I'm also a big fan of make-ahead breakfast casseroles especially around Easter because I'm Southern. Again, tradition, tradition, tradition but a relatively new one. I can remember Mom making them but not further back. Were they a 1970s invention? Or earlier? Googled. Nothing. Hmm. That rabbit hole took me to the history of eggs. When did folks start eating them? Why are they in a dozen? I knew about their symbolism for Easter (New Life) but I wanted to know more. Tah dah! I found a great article here on

Important announcement: For anyone who wants to know the history of a certain food for a certain time period, is one great research site that even includes recipes. 

This year Dear Daughter requested one for her birthday celebration that fell on Palm Sunday.  DD was actually born on Easter so if her birthday doesn't fall on it, it falls near it. A busy time.Thanks, DD, for making it easy for me. Sort of. The ingredient list sure didn't.

Most breakfast casseroles have bread cubes or processed hashed browns as the carb ingredient.  Sausage is an add-in.  But bread's out for me because of the allergies and the texture of gluten free bread just doesn't work for this recipe. Most gluten-free recipes used pre-made hash browns and regular sausage. So we're good, right? Nope, still a problem. With cornstarch to prevent sticking, MSG, and other preservatives, I can't tolerate those ingredients either. So I decided I'd make my own sausage and use roasted potatoes instead of frozen hash browns. I always use small farm or imported cheese. Adaptation here I come.  

Gluten-free, preservative free Breakfast Casserole

The Night Before:

1) Roast three to four pounds of Yukon potatoes cut into one inch cubes (coated in two tablespoons olive oil and dashed with sea salt) at 425 for 40 minutes in a 9X13 pan, stirring midway. After cooling for 15 minutes, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2) Combine 1.5 pounds of ground pork,  2 tablespoons of Penzey's Breakfast Sausage Seasoning and 1 tablespoon salt (optional) in a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook over medium heat. Drain when fully cooked and refrigerate overnight.  You can also add a bit more sage if you like.

Morning of:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Pour cooked sausage mixture over roasted potatoes in their 9x13 pan. Mix sausage and potato cubes until evenly combined and level in the pan.

3) Mix the following with a whisk in  a large mixing bowl until fully combined: 

8 eggs
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar

4) Pour over potato/sausage mixture. Shake until egg mixture fills around the sausage and potatoes. Then stir to make sure fully coated.

5) Cover with aluminum  foil and cook for one hour at 350 degrees.

6) Uncover and cook fifteen more minutes until lightly browned.

7) Top individual squares with roasted red peppers or other garnish.

Folks went back for seconds. I was lucky to get the shot above!  I have a feeling we have a new tradition that will go down in Steele history.

 Have you thought about the place of food in history? Do you have a breakfast casserole you love? Or a special food tradition for Spring or Easter?


  1. Doesn't this look marvelous? I've never roasted the potatoes ahead of time, what a flavor enhancer, Julie! Nor have I ever used sour cream in the egg mix, I've just gone straight eggs... Is the texture of the egg different? More custard-like? Which makes me want custard really badly.

    Has anyone else's dryer shrunk ALL OF THEIR CLOTHES?


    1. Oh, I really hope that's an April fools' joke on you and not the real thing.

      Yes, the casserole does enough up richer. I like it so much better than just adding milk. It's not exactly healthy but for once or twice a year it's great.

    2. I've never thought of adding sour cream either. Love the idea! Thanks for sharing, Julie! I never would have thought of making my own sausage either. Very cool! But I need to stay away from Penzey's for a while. Y'all have gotten me addicted! :)

    3. Missy, I'll tell you a secret. I found a recipe that I had to adapt but I accidently added two 8 oz containers of sour cream when I was putting the final together at 6AM! Other recipes had sour cream and milk but I loved the way this turned out. And Penzey's is addicting!

  2. I love breakfast casseroles so much that we often have them for dinner!

    But your post is very timely, Julie! An Easter tradition at our church is to serve a brunch prepared by the elders and deacons (and their wives). And our little church is growing - but the elder and deacon pool isn't yet - so that means I'm making multiple breakfast casseroles for Sunday morning. But don't think I'm complaining!!! I love it!!!

    I'm adding this recipe to the repertoire!

    1. Oh, that sounds wonderful Jan. So glad I could help out. This recipe takes a bit more work than some other similar was worth it though.

  3. Gluten free breakfast casserole! Thank you, thank you, Julie my GF mentor. So excited to make this.

    1. Cindy, you made my day. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family did. My daughter said the little bit of leftovers they took home heated up great for breakfast the next day. A minute or two in the microwave.

  4. J'adore your casserole. YUMMY. I love eggs and sausage so it sounds delectable to me. The kids will love it too. I haven't made a breakfast casserole in a while. Did I ever tell you I am not a morning person? Thanks for the GF recipe...and a scrumptious sounding one at that. College girl is coming home tomorrow so maybe I'll make it for Saturday morning.

    1. I had guessed you were a night owl! And the great thing about this casserole is it keeps you energized all the way to lunch.

  5. I will not fall down the rabbit hole of the foodtimeline website....I will not fall down the rabbit hold of the foodtimeline website....

    It came from Pinterest didn't it? Argh!!! :)

    1. I thought you might be interested. But you are in luck, I got the timeline from google. BUT I pinned it to Pinterest!!!!

  6. That sounds so yummy! We won't have guests for Easter but we WILL have company in a couple of weeks, and this sounds exactly what I need to make for breakfast one of the days.

    1. Hope you have a great Easter and enjoy the casserole when the company comes rolling in! I just served fruit and pain au chocolat with it and I was done.