fisher column

(left) Sausage-Cheese Bake, (right) Overnight French Toast

During the winter months, we tend to crave a hearty breakfast. Grits, gravy, oatmeal, waffles, and breakfast casseroles are appealing this time of year. During the work week, we often eat on the run; it typically involves grabbing a biscuit from a fast-food place or taking a granola bar to chew on while stuck in traffic. For some, breakfast is often overlooked in favor of lunch, and brunch does not exist for most of us during the 5-day week and is not something we “go all out for” on the weekends. This “first meal of the day” almost doesn’t seem to have a place in the fast-paced, modern American way of life, but weekends and holidays are a perfect time for cooking and serving a big breakfast. Invite people to breakfast? It is not as common as a dinner party, but it is a fun way to cook and serve “morning foods” and satisfy our breakfast cravings, a welcome treat for many. The baked sausage and cheese tart and croissant toast are dishes you prepare the morning of, and the grits and sausage casserole and overnight French toast are dishes you place in the refrigerator the night before. Plan to skip lunch one day soon and just serve breakfast or brunch to family or friends—have simple syrups, flavored butters, fresh doughnuts, coffee punch, pecan muffins, or scones on the table along with your favorite meats, casseroles, and egg dishes.

Sausage-Cheese Bake

Prepare this the morning you serve it. Great with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.

1 lb. pork sausage

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Dash of cracked black pepper

2 TBSP. flour

1 cup milk

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Mexican Style 4-Cheese Blend, shredded

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brown sausage until no longer pink, add garlic powder and pepper; drain on a paper towel. Return to skillet and add flour and cook for one minute. Add milk and mix well over medium-low heat until bubbly, about 3 minutes. Roll out puff pastry onto a sheet pan, and roll edges slightly inward. Spoon sausage mixture over puff pastry. Spread cheeses over sausage. Bake for 20 minutes, until browned and cheese has melted; remove from oven and cut into pieces.

Strawberry Croissant French Toast

Use any size (day-old) croissant you have on hand for this twist on a classic dish.

5 large croissants or 7 small croissants

¾ cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Dash or two of cinnamon

Butter for the pan

Powdered sugar

Slice the croissants in half lengthwise. Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour into a shallow dish. Dip bread slices into the egg mixture and coat well. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half of the croissant halves and cook about 3 minutes each side until golden brown. Repeat with butter and remaining croissant halves. Serve warm. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry syrup.

Strawberry Syrup

1 cup (canned) strawberry pie filling and topping

½ tsp. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl; stir well.

Ranch Grits and Sausage Casserole

To make ahead, just cover and freeze, and when ready to bake, place in refrigerator and let thaw overnight. Remove from refrigerator about 45 minutes before baking.

1 lb. pork sausage

1 cup prepared Ranch dressing

6 cups chicken stock

2 cups quick-cooking grits

12-ounces Velveeta, cubed

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9x13 pan, set aside. Cook sausage until no longer pink; drain well and mix with ranch dressing. In a large saucepan, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the grits and reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add Velveeta cubes and butter; stir until melted. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the milk. Slowly stir in egg and milk mixture into the grits. Stir in the sausage mixture, reserving about ¼ cup for the top. Transfer grits to the prepared pan; sprinkle shredded cheese and remaining sausage on top. Bake, uncovered, for about 40-45 minutes.

Overnight French Toast

You can use a whole-grain bread for a healthier version.

1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar

¾ cup butter

¼ cup plus 2 TBSP. light corn syrup

Large loaf of French bread, sliced into 10-12 slices, 1 ½ inch-thick

4 large eggs

2 ½ cups milk

¼ tsp. salt

1 TBSP. vanilla extract

3 TBSP. sugar

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup butter, melted

Garnish: sliced strawberries or sliced bananas

In a saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, ¾ cup butter, and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir constantly and cook for 5 minutes, until mixture is bubbly. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Arrange bread slices over the syrup. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and vanilla extract. Pour this over the bread slices. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Take the French toast out of the refrigerator, and stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the bread. Drizzle with the melted ¼ cup butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until golden and bubbly. If desired, serve with sliced fruit; sprinkle with more cinnamon-sugar if needed.

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