In Fairbanks, Christmas usually means a few things: 1) you’re guaranteed a white Christmas, albeit COLD. It reached -40 today! $#!+. 2) Unless you’re one of the few lucky people who has freakish genes, every moment you’re not working or busy with something else, you’re wrestling with the urge to crawl into bed and go to sleep or just be lazy. Christmas prep is placed on the back burner and before you know it, the holiday is a day away. 3) Spending Christmas with your blood relatives is almost impossible if you weren’t born and raised here, unless you’re willing to spend an arm and a leg on airfare. When I talk about expensive airfare, I’m talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000 to get to the East Coast.
Because of all these things, I spent a freezing cold, unorganized Christmas Eve with my dearest friends (my Fairbanks family) eating wonderful food, drinking copious amounts of wine, and, thanks to those friends, relishing the feeling and spirit of Christmas. Okay, Okay. We were celebrating the winter solstice, too! Trust me, two extra minutes of daylight a day is something to celebrate.
Christmas Day started early. Chris and I woke up around 5:30 a.m. to Skype/”exchange gifts” with my family on the East Coast. As tradition has it in my family, exchanging gifts is usually followed up by a big breakfast of nothing other than breakfast casserole and sausage balls (i.e. cheese, sausage, bread, fat, and more fat). I can’t let go of that tradition, though I did come up with a different breakfast casserole recipe I will share with you today, one that is not terribly unhealthy and delicious any time of day.
Before I get to that, I’d like to share this picture with you; it is one I took on a walk/ski on Christmas day of the hills around our cabin. This is “peak” sunlight, and it’s very short lived (3.5 hours at most), but the colors sure are beautiful.
Now, on to the recipe! It’s quick, easy, and delicious. I have done this several time with and without meat, with and without various veggies, and with different cheeses. You can treat it like a quiche.
Skillet Breakfast Casserole
With quinoa, sausage, eggs, and cheddar
3 cups of cooked quinoa
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups of grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 T fresh sage, chopped
pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper
- Brown sausage in cast iron skillet (or in any oven-proof skillet) until cooked through. Once cooked, take skilled off stove to cool.
- Meanwhile, beat eggs in large bowl. Mix in half and half, milk, cheese, spices, and cheese. Once mixed, fold in quinoa until all ingredients are combined.
- Once skillet and sausage have cooled, pour in quinoa mixture and mix well.
- Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
- In the morning, preheat oven to 350 and cook for 30 minutes.
You can just as easily cook this immediately after it’s prepped. However, if you allow it to sit overnight, the quinoa absorbs all the milk and flavors of the casserole and it puffs up nicely when cooked.
- For a sweeter taste, chop 2 leeks, dice half of a peeled apple and throw in with the sausage as it’s browning, omit the sage.
- For a vegetarian option, omit the meat. Saute chopped onions, bell peppers, and minced garlic in 2 T of olive oil. Once onions are translucent, add a couple big handfuls of spinach or kale and cook until leaves are wilted. Complete steps 2-5. Top with salsa and sour cream before serving.