Holiday Brunch: Savory Sausage Bake

Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to start thinking about the next round of holiday guests that will be invading visiting your home.

Every Christmas we have this amazingly flavorful, savory bread pudding style casserole. It is perfect because it feeds a crowd, is easy to put together and literally everyone will like it- cheesy, fluffy like a souffle and just down right delicious.

Crispy edges, nom nom nom

We unwrap presents on Christmas morning while this bakes in the background. Generally Santa brings us some chocolates in our stockings that we nosh on during the festivities, so we are just about crashing from a sugar high when this baby is ready to come outta the oven.

Bread pudding is notoriously forgiving, so you can really add whatever you like to the dish as long as you use the same base of eggs, milk and bread.  I’ve toyed with the idea of using old bay or Cajun seasoning instead of  the dry mustard– but I’m such a traditionalist I just can’t bring myself to do it!

I really recommend trying the recipe as outlined below before tinkering… you probably won’t even want to once you’ve had a bite. 😉

Sausage Bake

  • 8 slices of bread, crust removed and cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs Bob Evans sausage links, cooked, drained and cut in thirds
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk (just before baking)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Put in bread cubes, cheese and sausage pieces- mix with your hands. In a separate bowl, beat the 2 1/2 cups milk, eggs, cream of mushroom soup and dry mustard. Pour over the bread and press it down gently with a spatula. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for several hours of overnight.

Preheat oven to 300°. Before baking, remove from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over the bread.  Bake for 1 hour and 3o minutes (up to 2 hours), remove when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and casserole puffs up and is fluffy.*


*Note: I have cooked this for 1 hour 15 minutes in a 325° oven and was successful, but it didn’t retain it’s fluffiness quite the same.

Rosemary and Pink Salt Sweet Potato Fries

My husband came up with the idea of doing brown sugar sweet potato fries. This sounded awesome, and it was even awesomer that he was thinking about dinner.

I wanted a savory variety to pair with the sweet fries, so I sprinkled dried rosemary and Trader Joe’s Pink Himalayan Salt onto some of the potato wedges. Yummy, when the fries bake in the oven the rosemary becomes so fragrant and delightful!

Brown sugar fries on the plate, rosemary and pink salt fries in the paper

This was a fun way to eat one of the season’s most plentiful root vegetable. Since these were cooked in the oven and not fried, I feel like they are a healthier way to eat fries so you don’t have to feel guilty about them.

So which flavor was the best? Honestly, the few fries that got a mix of both the  brown sugar and rosemary were by far the best! Hum, so what does that tell you; two heads are better than one? 🙂

Brown Sugar or Rosemary and Pink Salt Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 very large sweet potatoes or yams
  • 3 tbl brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbl dried rosemary, to taste
  • coarse salt, such as Pink Himalayan
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°. Line two baking sheets with tinfoil. Peel the potatoes and slice into wedges, about 1/2 inch wide (not to thick or they won’t cook evenly).  Spread the fries in a single layer on both baking sheets. Do no pile them onto each other or they won’t crisp up properly.

Drizzle the potatoes generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Then sprinkle salt over the potatoes, toss to coat. Sprinkle the rosemary over one tray of potatoes and sprinkle the brown sugar over the other tray (or combine!). Toss to coat. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and flip all fries. This ensures the fries can get crispy on both sides. Bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.


– Erin

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Heavy cream infused with cinnamon sticks makes this silky smooth ice cream warm with the taste of cinnamon. It is so good and so rich, you will find yourself sneaking some from the freezer whenever you walk by the kitchen.

According to my husband, this “ice cream is so good oh my God it tastes just like Captain Crunch- you know the milk leftover after the cereal’s been soaking in it. This is so good!!” That is high praise coming from him, he doesn’t dole that out without good cause. 🙂 I used to work at a restaurant called Bill Knapps that served cinnamon ice cream and I ate a small bowl after many a late night shift. The restaurant also served their pies a la mode with the ice cream.

I cannot recommend a hot slice of apple pie topped with this cinnamon ice cream enough.  Serve pecan, pumpkin or any of your usual Thanksgiving pies with this ice cream and you will be grinning from ear to ear.  Vanilla ice cream and pie is good, but why not mix it up with something whimsical and different like this ice cream.  Plus, you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it, so no excuses not to try it at least once.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

  • 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup   honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp

Combine the cinnamon sticks and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cook for 2 minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a container and refrigerate for 6 hours. This will infuse the cream with cinnamon.

After the cream has fully infused, remove the cinnamon sticks. Put the bowl of your electric mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes (a cold bowl helps the whip cream form). Meanwhile, separate your eggs, reserving the yolks. Once the bowl has chilled, beat the heavy cream and 3/4 tsp cinnamon on high speed until stiff peaks form; transfer to a new bowl and refrigerate.

In a small saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Meanwhile, beat the eggs yolks on high in your electric mixer until they are pale yellow.  While the mixer is running on high, slowly pour in the hot honey. Continue to mix on high speed until the egg and honey mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. The mixture will start to thicken and increase in size too.

Next, fold the chilled whip cream into the cooled yolk mixture. Spread into a 9×5 loaf pan (or similar size) and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 3 hours, or until the ice cream is firm and frozen through. I froze mine overnight.


– Erin

Related Posts:

S’mores Ice Cream

Frozen Honey Cream

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

The apples I picked with my sister in law were begging to be made into a pie. Apple pie is really the vanilla ice cream of pies- delicious but boring. I spiced this one up with cardamon in the filling and fresh lemon zest in the crust.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream

We’ve been battering down the hatches to make it through Hurricane Sandy and this pie has been a comfort to have around. When it’s dark, rainy and windy, a slice of hot apple pie is just the ticket. Just the ticket? I’ve been watching too much Downton Abby.

Being off work due to the hurricane has essentially put us in vacation mode. We sometimes eat pie for breakfast when in vacation mode…. 🙂 This is excellent breakfast pie!

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

For filling:

  • 7 cups very thinly sliced, peeled apples (I used Winesap and Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbl tapioca
  • Juice of half a small lemon

For crust:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • zest of half a small lemon
  • 6-8 tbl cold water

Prepare the crust:  Mix the flour, salt and lemon zest together. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until small pea-sized crumbs exist. Add in the cold water one tablespoon at a time, fluff with a fork after each addition to help the dough come together. As large pieces of dough come together, remove them from the bowl and set aside to make it easier to work the rest of the small crumbs.  Divide the dough into two even discs and  roll out, one for the top and one for bottom. I made a large basket-weave pattern for the top crust using 3 1/2 inch wide strips.

Prepare the filling: Thinly slice the peeled apples. In a large bowl, combine with the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Then mix in the sugar, spices and tapioca.

Assembly:  Put the bottom crust layer in a pie dish, let the extra hang over the edges. Layer the apples onto the crust, evenly. Roll the top layer of crust onto your rolling pin, then unroll over the top of the pie, letting the extra hand over. Cut the extra top and bottom crust, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches to roll under to make the crust edge.  Flute the edge with a fork.

Bake in a 425° oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400° and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. If the crust gets to brown, loosely tent with aluminum foil.


– Erin

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of fruit pie?

Apple Cider Cake

Fall and hot apple cider go together like chocolate and peanut butter, so how about hot apple cider cake! Yes please.

I went to go visit my sister in law this past weekend in Charlottesville and brought her and her husband some of this cake. My father in law snuck a piece before we got there and happily proclaimed “It’s so appley!”  I doctored a spice cake mix with my homemade chunky applesauce and cinnamon apple butter in place of oil.

My whole apartment  smelled heavenly while this baked :-). Right after you pull the cake out of the oven, you pour a glaze of apple cider and brown sugar on top. This makes it so moist, I almost want to call this a spoon cake!

Moist, delicious, and oh so appley.

What else is there to say? You’ve got to try it!

Apple Cider Cake

  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup chunky applesauce
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 tbl brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13 pan and lightly flour the bottom.  In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, applesauce and apple butter and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour batter into the greased pan and bake for 32-35 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly pour the hot apple cider glaze over the cake.

For the glaze: While the cake bakes, mix the apple cider and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Heat through and keep warm until ready to use.


– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite way to doctor cake mix?

Skinny Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Chilly weather, falling leaves, a steaming bowl of comforting soup.

This is a soup you can feel good about. It is rich and full of flavor from homemade chicken stock, not from heavy cream or cheese that can weigh down so many other chicken and rice soups.

Pair with a hunk of country sourdough bread.


Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making your own chicken stock. It is easy, honestly. Just follow these simple instructions, and you will be so happy you did- the homemade stock is so much richer, darker and flavorful than store bought! Your soups will start tasting even more amazing. 🙂

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock (see below)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (or 2 tsp granules)
  • 1 cup turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 3 cups roasted chicken (see below)
  • optional: bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste

Combine the stock, turnips, carrots and celery in a large pot. Boil the water and dissolve the bullion cube in it, add to the pot. Simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice- I used 1/2 cup dry wild rice and cooked it in water, salt and butter. During last 10 minutes, add in the chicken. Just before serving the soup, stir in the cooked wild rice.

Homemade Chicken Stock (yield 4 cups)

  • 1 large leek, washed
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large celery stalks
  • 8 cups water
  • Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
  • One 5-6 lb roasting chicken (yield 3-4 cups)

To make stock, you need bones. I like to roast a chicken in the oven and use the roasted meat in the soup and the leftover bones to make stock. Prepare a 5 or 6 lb roaster chicken by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with rosemary and thyme. Roast at 400° for 25 minutes, then reduce temp to 350° for another 30 minutes, total time depends on weight of the chicken. When finished, let cool to the touch, then thoroughly pull all roasted meat off the bones. Set aside for the soup.

Strip any excess skin or large hunks of fat from the carcass and place into a large stockpot, along with the carrots, leek and celery. Pour in 8 cups of water. The chicken and veggies should be mostly covered, add in some more water if they are not.  Set a lid askew onto the stockpot and turn the heat to medium-low. When the water begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Cook for 5 hours at this temperature; the bubbling should be very slight, like 1 or 2 bubbles per minute. It will look like it isn’t cooking at the super-slow bubble, but it is.

DO NOT BOIL OR SIMMER.  Doing this will ruin the stock by incorporating the fat, resulting in cloudy greasy broth. When finished, pour the stock through a cheesecloth into airtight containers and refrigerate overnight. The fat will rise to the top; skim off with a spoon or by gently laying a paper towel over the top surface.


– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you have any tips on how to make good meat or vegetable stock?