Monthly Archives: August 2013

OAMC Hashbrown Casserole With Chicken Sausage

After a weekend get together with a large group of friends last month, my refrigerator was overflowing with several pounds of chicken sausage and 36 (!) eggs. We’ll work on the grocery-shopping coordination a little more before our next go-round. Anyway, when it was time to come up with my freezer club meal, I went the fairly obvious route and made a breakfast casserole to use what I already had available.


Breakfast for dinner is one of our favorite things, and I love how easily this came together. I found a few OAMC breakfast casserole recipes, but I largely followed this one from We Gotta Eat. The original recipe called for a quarter cup of butter to be mixed in with the potatoes, but it was too greasy for us, so I cut that in half here. You probably could even omit it completely.

I also added some dried onions. I’ve found that the dried onions available in the spice aisle of the grocery store work much, much better in freezer meals than fresh, since they don’t add any extra water to the dish. Their flavor isn’t perfect, but decent. And let’s be honest, we’re eating from the freezer here and no ingredient will be quite as tasty as a fresh counterpart.

There’s nothing terribly exciting about this casserole (and I will admit it’s not the healthiest), but it is satisfying, filling, and hits the spot if you’re looking for a savory meal. What else do you need?

Hashbrown Casserole with Chicken Sausage


1 pound diced chicken sausage (We like Aidells Chicken & Apple)
3 eggs, cracked and beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. freeze-dried/dehydrated chopped onions
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup shredded cheese (I either use medium cheddar or pepper jack)
2 1/2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
2 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces

Assembly Instructions

  1. In a gallon-size freezer bag, combine the sausage, eggs, milk, onions, worcestershire sauce, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and cheese. Seal bag securely. Knead gently to mix and set aside.
  2. In a second gallon-size freezer bag, combine the shredded hash brown potatoes and butter. Seal bag securely. Set aside.
  3. Insert all bags into a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag, seal, and label with cooking instructions.
  4. Place in freezer.

 Cooking Instructions

  1. Thaw completely in refrigerator.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Spray bottom of 8×8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Knead bag to mix potatoes and butter. Spread potatoes evenly in bottom of the dish.
  5. Knead bag to mix sausage and egg mixture well. Pour over top of potatoes.
  6. Cover and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until cooked through and top is brown and bubbly.

Nectarine Love

For me, it’s not summer without an abundance of fruit. I can say without exaggeration that my little family of three has eaten no less than 100 nectarines in the past two months. I know, kind of ridiculous.


We also are big fans of all types of berries, watermelon, pineapple, kiwi, etc., but the nectarine definitely reigns king around here. We’ve enjoyed nectarine caprese a few times each week since I discovered it last month — it just doesn’t get old. I’ve also been adding nectarines to a simple spinach salad with blue cheese, thinly sliced red onions, candied pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette. So yum!

I know a big portion of the country is partial to the nectarine’s cousin, the peach. For everyday eating, I personally prefer the crispness of the nectarine, its resilient texture, and the smooth, edible peel. (I do choose the peach for baking purposes, though.) Like the peach, the nectarine comes in both freestone and cling varieties. So here’s my gripe. Why can most American grocers not label nectarines according to their pit variety, just as they do with the peach?!

I have asked multiple produce people at various grocery stores, and no one ever knows. Even at our local fruit stand, where they seem to be experts on every other produce item — no matter how rare — the dudes have absolutely no idea what kind of nectarines are in their bins. It varies week to week.

Since I find nectarines much more enjoyable to eat sliced, I am practically giddy when I end up with a freestone batch and can pop the fruit clean off the pit. They’re just so messy and sloppy when you try to eat them whole. And freestones also make a much nicer presentation in salads, etc. I tend to end up with mangy-looking fruit after slicing a cling nectarine. But you never know what you’ve purchased until you slice into the first one … It makes me feel like a small child on Easter, opening up those plastic eggs, excited to see what’s inside. A freestone nectarine is comparable to finding good chocolate. A cling nectarine is similar to finding a temporary tattoo that your mom takes away from you because she’s afraid it’s laced with LSD. (What? Did that never happen to you?)

Anyway, this really needs to be remedied. What do I need to do? Petition the National Grocers Association?

Is there some kind of trick to determine what kind of nectarine you’re getting and I’m just in the dark? If you know, please let me in on the secret!!

Thrifty Thursday: Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Going forward, I’m dedicating Thursdays at Easy Peasy Kitchen to cost-saving ideas and recipes. I hope these posts will help you stash some savings for the things you really care about, like college funds, vacations, cute shoes, and wine. You know, important stuff like that.


I’ve been making my own all-purpose cleaner for several years. It’s cheap, doesn’t have any ingredients I’m uncomfortable using around children, and works incredibly well. I especially like it on mirrors — it’s completely streak free. Safeway carries an in-house brand of multi-surface cleaner that I used for a long time and preferred to any big-name cleaner. Looking at the ingredients, I knew I could make it myself and save some money. I’ve been reusing the bottle in the photo for a long time. Now, I know you’re not supposed to reuse cleaning-product bottles to avoid chemical reactions. But since I’m not using any ingredients not included in the original contents, I figure it’s OK. Please be cautious about this if you choose to reuse an old spray bottle.

I like to scent my cleaner with essential oil. My favorites are grapefruit-peppermint and lavender, but feel free to leave out the oil, too. And don’t worry about the vinegar smell taking over your house. It completely evaporates within minutes and really adds to the cleaning power as a grease- and grime-cutting agent.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Makes 1 quart


1 1/3 cups each:

  • White vinegar
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Water
  • 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil


Mix together all ingredients in pitcher with pouring spout. Pour through funnel into spray bottle. Use to spray any soiled surface, allowing the product to penetrate grease, grime and dirt. Wipe clean with paper towel or cloth.

Extra-Fluffy Pancakes and Head Bonks

We were having a relatively uneventful morning around here today — you know, taking twice as long as should be necessary to get out of the house, trying to wear winter coats in August, and insisting that 357 stuffed animals come along with us to our playdate at the park, those kind of things. Anyway, we finally reached our destination and were having a great time, when, in a split second, my heart stopped. Lucas fell straight back off a picnic bench, bum over tea kettle, and bounced his poor little noggin on the concrete. It was possibly the worst noise I’ve heard in my life.


We’ve had our normal toddler’s share of scrapes, falls, and bruises with him, but thankfully no head injuries up to this point. I felt relieved that he was able to calm down after about 10 minutes, his eyes weren’t dilated, and he didn’t seem to feel sick. He’s got quite the goose egg on the back of his head, but I’m hopeful that’s the extent of the damage. In fact, he gobbled down lunch and told me that he was “all better, mama, stop looking at my head” no fewer than five times. I think that’s a good sign. He’s napping now, but I still feel kind of upset about it. It also dawned on me just how much I take for granted that I have such a healthy little boy. The mere thought of something being wrong with my baby was overwhelmingly frightening.

Recently I’ve been following the story of a five-month-old baby boy named Caleb on Facebook. He was born with a severe congenital heart defect and received a heart transplant last month. (His family’s page is called Pray for Caleb, if you’d like to read about his journey and lend support.) On Sunday, his mama was able to hold him for the first time in nine weeks. Nine weeks! The picture she posted of them together was beyond touching. I simply can’t imagine what they’ve faced during this unimaginable trial. Today, when I scooped up Lucas the second he fell, I thought of Caleb’s parents. How they haven’t been able to hold their baby while he’s been hurting and through so much. SO much. It made me say a big thank you for the worries we haven’t had with our child.

I suppose it sometimes it takes moments like this to realize how truly good you have it. I plan to squeeze my Boo a little tighter (and probably more than he wants) for the rest of the day, and spoil him a bit, too. Because I can. He asked for “regular [American] pancakes” for dinner, and I will be granting his wish. (We also like to eat the Swedish variety at our house.) Here’s our favorite recipe. I like it because we enjoy buttermilk pancakes, but I never have buttermilk on hand. The vinegar solves that problem by “souring” the milk, and the result is an extra fluffy pancake.

What do your kiddos request when they’ve had a rough go of it?

Extra-Fluffy Pancakes

From; Makes 8 pancakes


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Cooking spray


  1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour.”
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into soured milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

OAMC Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Shells

Do you subscribe to EatingWell magazine? If not, you should. Especially if you’re trying to serve healthy food in your home and are a fan of publications like the more well-known Cooking Light. I particularly like EatingWell because their recipes focus on real, whole ingredients and seasonal eating.


I make something from EatingWell once or twice a week and very rarely have any of their recipes failed me. (I am sorry to say that Hamburger Buddy was a horrible crash and burn, but we actually got a good laugh out of how bad it was and still chuckle about it years later. So if you come across that one, take a pass.) Aside from the [usually] great recipes, their photography is stunning and I always find their feature stories on nutrition and health interesting and informative.

I recently made the EatingWell spinach and cheese stuffed shells for my OAMC freezer club (a recipe I’ve made many times as a regular dinner around here). My favorite type of OAMC meals are of the one-pan variety that can be pulled straight from the freezer, shoved into the oven, and make the whole family happy. I mean, the whole point is to save time, right? This one definitely fits the bill.

I ordered a package of these foil pans with oven safe lids for the club, and they are perfect for meals like this one — each pan holds three-to-four servings of an average adult-sized entree. I fit 12 shells into each pan. At about $0.60 each, they are so worth buying if you’re going to start your own freezer club (or if you already belong to one). They’re especially nice because the lids are sturdy to protect the food, and you can stack meals in the freezer without them tipping over and making a mess or taking up excess space.

As for the stuffed shells, the only variations I’ve made to this recipe are the additions of garlic and mozzarella cheese. I know the mozzarella isn’t really in the spirit of EatingWell, but it’s not that much cheese, and it really does take this recipe from four stars to five. Enjoy!

OAMC Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Shells

Slightly adapted from EatingWell magazine.

Makes: 6 servings


  • 24 jumbo pasta shells, (8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed and washed, or two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (Hillary’s note: Getting the spinach as dry as possible is very important. I once left too much moisture in the spinach and the shells were watery and yucky. Don’t make the same mistake! Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze that spinach!!)
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably low-sodium


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling water, stirring often, until just tender, about 15 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using fresh spinach, add it in batches and toss with tongs until wilted. Drain in a colander, pressing out excess moisture with the back of a spoon. Let cool. If using thawed frozen, add it to the onions and toss to mix well. Set aside.
  3. Combine ricotta, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan and nutmeg in a bowl; mix well. Add the reserved spinach and season with salt and pepper. Stir in egg white.
  4. Stuff each of the reserved shells with a generous 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture. (Note: This recipe is for one large pan of shells. Before moving to step five, if you use the type of pans mentioned above for freezing, divide the recipe in half and split between two foil pans.)
  5. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells in a single layer. Top with the remaining 2 cups of the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake until the top is golden and the shells are heated through, about 30 minutes. (If the top browns too quickly, tent loosely with foil.) Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. If baking from frozen, place foil pan on cookie sheet and bake covered at 375°F for approximately one hour. Remove lid and continue baking until the top is golden and the shells are heated through, about 20 to 30 additional minutes.

Construction Cake

Lucas turned two back in April, but I just came across these pictures of his construction party and realized I hadn’t yet shared them with you.


I was so completely overwhelmed by his first birthday party (I went a little overboard with handmade decorations, party favors, etc.), that I decided to take a step back this year and keep things relatively simple. Anything truck related is very popular around here, so we went with a construction theme.

I Googled “construction cake” and found inspiration looking at pictures from A. Party Style and Fredellicious. Since I went very light on the decorations and we kept the guest list quite small, I wanted to make him a really cool cake. For how simple this cake actually was to make, I thought it looked pretty darned good and was really pleased with myself when all was said and done.

I started by baking two nine-inch round layers of my favorite chocolate cake from Hershey’s — recipe below — along with their “perfectly chocolate” chocolate frosting (throwing in eight ounces of cream cheese for good measure). If you don’t feel like making cake or frosting from scratch, go ahead and use a boxed cake mix and canned frosting. Your guests still will be impressed. Promise.

After your cake rounds cool, you’ll want to level them. For the “excavation,” take a long serrated knife and carve a large chunk out of the top cake layer, cutting at about a 45-degree angle. You’ll just need to eyeball it and go with your gut for the shape. Flip the cut piece/chunk over so the flat sides of the cake meet. Then frost the whole cake, treating the excavated piece like a third cake layer. For the “dirt,” run a package of Oreos through your food processor and lightly press them into the frosting to make them stick. If you don’t have a food processor, you can place the Oreos into a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin. (A big shout out to my friend Kim who talked me through the cutting — I was super nervous about wrecking the cake!)

For Lucas’ name I used Wilton fondant cut outs and Wilton neon colors fondant. Using the same fondant, I hand-shaped the construction cones. The candy rocks are sold in bulk at my local grocery store, but you also can buy them on Amazon. I found the small digger for the top of the cake at the dollar store — they came in multi-packs, and I used the others as a party-favor component.

I kept the decorations simple and printed these letters on orange construction paper using Microsoft Word (!). We affixed them to the wall using painters’ tape. So simple, and I think the banner turned out pretty cute.


But most importantly, my boy thought everything was extra special and he had a great day! Four months later and he’s still talking about his “excavator party.”


Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake about 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting. 10 to 12 servings.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cream-Cheese Frosting


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa.
  2. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium with a hand mixer. Beat in cream cheese.
  3. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About three cups frosting.

Chicken Enchiladas (and Freezer Club!)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my super-awesome, life-saving, couldn’t-live-without-it freezer club. If you are a time-crunched parent who all too often finds yourself scrounging around for dinner at the last minute, I highly recommend you start a freezer club.


There are four of us in my club, including me. We each pick one freezable recipe every month and make four family-sized meals (about three to four adult-sized portions each). We keep one for ourselves, and give one to each of the other members. This works out to one freezer meal per week, and everything is so much better than any pre-packaged, frozen food from the grocery store. Thankfully all of my friends in the club are excellent cooks, so it’s fun to try what everyone comes up with. And none of us are picky eaters or have particularly finicky children or spouses, so it’s always open season for ingredients. We also have an “honesty policy” and let each other know if a meal wasn’t particularly delicious to prevent it from showing up again. Everyone’s cool with this, so no hurt feelings.

I’ll be sharing these recipes under the OAMC (once-a-month cooking) category and I hope you find them useful. Everything in this category should keep well in the freezer for three to four months. They’re great recipes to make for people with new babies, or to stock up in your own freezer before a new little one arrives.

First up is one of my family’s favorite meals — freezer club or otherwise. A couple years ago, I randomly tried the enchilada sauce recipe in my Vitamix cookbook and was hooked. We haven’t had canned sauce since then. I’ve made a few small changes to suit our tastes (the additions of cayenne, cinnamon, and onion). It’s definitely worth the time to make your own! Of course, if you’re in a time crunch, you always can use your favorite canned variety, too. I won’t judge. Happy freezing!

Freezer Chicken Enchiladas

(A combination of several recipes; mainly from Cook’s Illustrated and Vitamix)
Serves 12-16

Some tips before you get started (courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated):

  • Freeze the rolled enchiladas and sauce separately; otherwise they will turn into a mushy mess.
  • Spray the tortillas with vegetable oil cooking spray and briefly heat them in the oven to make them pliant enough to roll easily.
  • Bake the enchiladas while still frozen. Defrosting them leads to a dried-out texture once baked.
  • Partially bake the enchiladas “naked,” or without sauce. A light coat of vegetable oil spray will keep the tortillas from drying out too much.
  • For a simple fix, use leftover cooked chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken in this recipe. Serve with avocado, pickled jalapeños, shredded lettuce, and/or sour cream.

Enchilada Ingredients

  • 8 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 8 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. frozen corn kernels (one bag)
  • 20 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray

Sauce Ingredients (makes about six cups)

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ white onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour


  1. To make the sauce: Place all sauce ingredients into large blender or food processor in order listed and secure lid. Turn machine on high and blend thoroughly. Pour into saucepan and bring to boil on the stove over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. Transfer to heat-safe bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
  2. To begin making the enchiladas, toss the shredded chicken with two cups sauce, four cups cheese, beans, and corn.
  3. Place five tortillas on baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake tortillas until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Working quickly, transfer one tortilla at a time to work surface, fill with 1/3 cup chicken mixture, and roll tightly. Transfer, seam side down, to large plate or cookie sheet. Repeat warming and rolling process with remaining tortillas. Place plate in freezer until enchiladas are frozen, at least one hour.
  4. Divide remaining sauce and cheese into four portions each and package separately in quart-size Ziploc bags (eight bags total — about one cup of cheese and one cup of sauce per bag). Tightly wrap enchiladas in bundles of five, first in plastic and then in foil. Place one portion each of five enchiladas, one bag of cheese, and one bag of sauce into a gallon-size Ziploc. You will have four meals total. Freeze for up to three months.
  5. When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. To remove sauce from bag, run warm over the bag for about a minute, then break up sauce and place into a saucepan. Warm on stove over medium, stirring frequently.
  6. Coat 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange frozen enchiladas in single layer in baking dish and coat tops with cooking spray. Bake until tops of tortillas are just beginning to flake, about 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, top enchiladas with sauce, and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle enchiladas with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts and center of casserole is hot and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Dungeness Crab Quiche

How is it Friday already?! I meant to have this recipe to you earlier in the week, but then life happened. You know how it goes … Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m married to quite the fisherman/crabber/shrimper. He is constantly filling our freezer with a bounty of delicious seafood, and it’s up to me to figure out what we’re going to do with it. Not that I’m complaining.


Of everything Morgan typically catches, dungeness crab is my absolute favorite. Most of our crab-loving friends think any freshly caught crab should be eaten purely by itself, fresh out of the pot, on the beach. I will confess, however, that I actually prefer my crab in things. To channel my inner Bubba Blue, well, there’s crab quiche, crabaroni and cheese, crab and artichoke dip, crab toasts, crab louie, crab cocktail, crab cakes, crab croquettes … I could go on for days. The favorite (and easiest) dish at our house is crab quiche. This recipe is super simple and always a crowd pleaser. It also works well as mini quiche (just use a mini muffin tin) for a delicious appetizer.

Sure, you can make your own crust, but I really don’t mind store-bought crust. I am picky about brand, though. I only buy Marie Callender’s frozen 16 oz. deep-dish pie shells. There’s a big difference when you stray — and not in a good way. If you make mini quiche with this recipe, here’s a little tip: use an oversized wine glass to cut circles for each individual crust. They are the perfect size!

Dungeness Crab Quiche


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups lump crab meat (I don’t really measure. We just use the meat of two average-sized crab.)
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 Marie Callender’s frozen 16 oz. deep-dish pie shell


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, mayonnaise, flour, garlic powder, seasoning salt, cayenne, and milk until thoroughly blended. Fold in crab, cheese, and onion. Spread into pie shell.
    Bake for about one hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is well browned. Enjoy!