With this week's record breaking frigid temps dipping down to -14 below, any reason to turn on the oven to do some baking is a welcome way to add some extra warmth combined with a wonderful aroma to fill the home.
We've been busy making sure all of our squirrel corn feeders and also the bird feeders that surround the house are kept filled to assure even the animals have the energy they require to survive such bitter cold. My dad has even started to do a little snow shoveling on the surrounding sidewalks to test out his "new knee" after his total knee replacement surgery in mid-November.
My mother's rule this time of year is it's always nice to have a reason to turn on the oven for some winter baking.
And when morning chores include the addition of lots of shoveling, it's not only the outdoor wildlife that need a hearty breakfast when burning energy out in the snow and cold.
While visiting with the Scamerhorn family over the holidays, the youngest farmer's daughter Amy, who is now a Spanish teacher in Indianapolis, shared a terrific, easy breakfast bake recipe that is prepped the night before and then "slow-baked" in the oven in the morning providing warmth and a delicious, inviting savory scent to welcome the day.
It's also a great way to use up any remaining "leftover" ham from the holidays, if you don't want to use pork sausage.
"Phil, I thought you'd like a great recipe from my file to share with your readers, if you're ever running low on tried and tested menus that don't disappoint," Amy said.
"My 1st period class at school decided they wanted to have a pre-Thanksgiving breakfast a few weeks ago before the break and I brought this in for all to enjoy. The kids loved it! I got this recipe from a former home economics teacher back when I was still teaching at Rensselear High School back in 1998 and it's a definite keeper."
Amy's Easy Breakfast Bake
3 cups seasoned croutons
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese plus 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese (divided use)
1 pound breakfast sausage or 2 cups diced ham
1 (4-ounce) can mushrooms, drained
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk plus 2 1/2 cups milk, (divided use)
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (32-ounce) bag frozen hash browns
DIRECTIONS: Use cooking spray to coat a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Line pan with croutons. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese over croutons, reserving remaining cheese for final topping step. If using pork sausage, brown and drain sausage and spread over cheese. If using ham instead, add the layer of ham over the cheese and croutons. Sprinkle mushrooms over sausage. Mix eggs, milk, salt and mustard. Pour over croutons, cheese, mushrooms and meat layer. Cover prepared casserole with foil and refrigerate overnight. Before baking, mix soup and the remaining 1/2 cup milk and hash browns. Spread on top of earlier prepared layers in the baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Sprinkle casserole generously with ground black pepper and then bake 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. Allow casserole to stand 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Serves 10 to 12. Reheats nicely to serve a second portion later.