Simple Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole

My favorite aspect of this Simple Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole is that I can get it completely ready the night before, then slide it into the oven in the morning without having to think, measure, talk, or care. Allow me to share with you a bit about myself and how mornings work for me.

pumpkin spice french toast3

I typically get up at least an hour before my family rolls out of bed in the morning. Do you know what that means? That means that for at least one hour every day no one talks to me, asks me questions, makes a request, or assumes I actually know the time of today’s soccer game. Once the people wake up, my brain must be on full power, ready to answer all the questions, write all the sentences, make all the reminders, plan all the meals, and remember to add toilet paper to the list.

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For the first several years of my married-with-kids life, I woke up and immediately hit the ground running. My quiet time in the mornings meant I could actually accomplish something before a small child unraveled my efforts with his sticky but adorable hands. I could get work done without interruption and perhaps enjoy some productivity – in the quiet.

This was all well and good, except that I missed out on one very important aspect needed in life: actual quiet.

I was deceived into thinking that productivity meant checking tasks off my to-do list. Now I know the truth, that productivity can look like rest. Productivity can mean that I’m sitting, savoring, breathing, and simply being loved by the Father in the moments of quiet. Nothing in this world is more productive.

Do I miss out on that precious and much needed hour of work time? No. I absolutely do not. The work is still there. The work still gets done (no it doesn’t). There’s peace in my heart that didn’t exist before I started giving my days to God in the quiet, and this means much, much more than a house full of completed check-lists.

All that to say: Making this French Toast Casserole at night, then effortlessly slipping it into the oven first thing in the morning means that I can still present an amazing breakfast to my family while still enjoying my quiet morning with the Lord. (Though to be clear, sometimes I present a half-hearted breakfast of stale cereal because as easy as this recipe is, I don’t have time to do something like this every night. No one ever died eating the stale cereal and everyone is happier when Mom starts her day with Jesus.)

Simple Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole

Simple Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf whole grain bread
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar or sucanat
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Spice*
  • Topping:
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar or sucanat
  • ⅓ cup pecan
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Spice*
Instructions
  1. Cut bread into cubes and spread them into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk milk, sugar, eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and pumpkin spice.
  3. Pour liquids over the bread cubes.
  4. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight (or all day if you plan to make this in the evening for dinner).
  5. Before baking, stir together the topping ingredients.
  6. Sprinkle topping over the prepared casserole.
  7. Place casserole into a COLD oven, then turn it on to 350 degrees.
  8. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned.
  9. Serve with real maple syrup.

*Find the recipe for our Pumpkin Spice mix here. Or substitute: 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg in this recipe.

Simple Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole

 

Have you been able to find some quiet moments with the Lord in your day? What time of day works best for you to do this?

Make-Ahead Pumpkin Donuts (How to Cook Fresh Donuts in Minutes!)

Introducing a perfect idea for this fall: Make-Ahead Pumpkin Donuts!

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After learning that it works well to make and freeze unbaked Giant Breakfast Cookies, Homemade Poptarts, Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars, and all varieties of Muffins so that we can bake them fresh in the morning without any trouble, I thought, “Why not try this idea with my Whole Wheat Pumpkin Donut recipe?”

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One of these things is not like the the other. Someone, who shall remain nameless,
forgot to cut a donut hole in one of the donuts. Hmmm…

Indeed. We can mix up the pumpkin donuts, roll out the dough, cut the shapes, then freeze the uncooked dough on parchment paper or silicone mat-lined cookie sheets. We transfer the frozen dough into freezer bags, then any time we want fresh donuts (and when would we not want fresh donuts?), we can grab some out of the freezer and fry them up fresh to eat while sipping a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

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Can you think of a better breakfast treat to enjoy this fall than fresh homemade Pumpkin Donuts?

The best part is that the mixing, rolling, cutting, and clean up will have already been taken care of! Well, clearly the best part is eating the fresh donuts. But eating the fresh donuts without looking at a messy kitchen that you’ll have to clean up afterward? Fabulous.

Make-Ahead Pumpkin Donuts

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Make-Ahead Pumpkin Donuts (How to Cook Fresh Donuts in Minutes!)
 
Author:
Serves: 15-20
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard or soft white wheat)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup sucanat or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • Oil for frying (I recommend coconut oil or palm shortening for healthy frying)
  • GLAZE:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (I use unbleached powdered sugar)
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder, sea salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and sucanat. Add melted butter, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree – mixing until all ingredients are well combined.
  2. Roll dough on a well-floured surface.
  3. Cut out donuts and donut holes (makes about 30 of each).
  4. Lay the cut outs on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours.
  5. Transfer prepared donuts to a freezer bag to store in the freezer until ready for use.
  6. To Cook: Set donuts out of the freezer at room temperature for about 15 minutes before frying.
  7. Fry dough in hot oil for about 3 minutes or until donuts are golden brown.
  8. Whisk glaze ingredients together and drizzle over warm donuts before serving.

Make-Ahead Pumpkin Donuts (Whole Grain, Low Sugar, Easy!)

Concerned about the fact that these treats are fried? Don’t be! Coconut and Palm Oils can withstand high temperatures without becoming harmful to us. So instead of fearing the fry, we can actually enjoy the healthy fat we’re getting while enjoying these donuts.

Wow. Who knew we would ever be able to say, “I need some healthy fats in my diet. Please pass the donuts.”

But of course, let us not ever eat more donuts than veggies, yada, yada. You know the drill.

WAIT. There are veggies in these donuts (thank you, pumpkin, for being there for us when we need you). So I guess we can enjoy these to our heart’s delight, all while enjoying the fact that you can make them ahead and freeze them for ease in the kitchen.

This is what I call one happy fall recipe!

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven, Freeze, and Warm up Fast!

Recently I have discovered the amazingness of baking several pounds of bacon, freezing it for later use, then pulling it out to reheat and serve in about 2 minutes.

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Where has this tip been all my life?

I already knew how to make Bacon Bits ahead of time for ease in making salads and bacon-cheesy eggs. But strips of bacon? Well, I’d never tried making it ahead before. I will make bacon this way from now on because it is an incredible time saver!

Also, it keeps my hair from frequently smelling like bacon, so I think we can all be grateful for this delightful bonus.

How to Cook Bacon Ahead, Freeze, and Warm Up Fast

  1. Lay bacon on a a broiling rack in a single layer.
  2. Place the rack of bacon on a baking sheet to catch the grease as it bakes.
  3. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-30 minutes (time varies based on thickness of bacon).
  4. Pull bacon out of oven just before it has reached the crispiness level you prefer.
  5. Allow bacon to cool on paper towels.
  6. Transfer cooked and cooled bacon to a gallon-sized freezer bag. (I leave the cooked bacon on the paper towels when putting it in the freezer bags. That way I can do two-pounds at once with a paper towel in between layers of bacon.)
  7. Freeze up to three months.
  8. Rewarm bacon by taking desired amount of cooked bacon slices directly from freezer and heating them in a skillet for about 1 minute on each side.

Can you believe how easy this is?

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I recommend that you lay the bacon on a broiling rack like this and place it on a baking sheet like this. This will allow the bacon grease to drip into the pan and prevent a mess.

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Once the grease has cooled and thickened, I recommend transferring it to a jar in your fridge. Bacon grease stirred into green beans or other veggies makes for a super flavorful side dish!

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Being able to offer my family bacon with zero effort on a busy morning has been a life saver. After all, as my men will tell you, bacon is a necessity of life.

Do you usually cook bacon on the stove or in the oven? Ever tried making it ahead of time and freezing it as described above?

More Bacon Posts You’ll Want to Check Out

This post contains affiliate links.

Hey, what’s for dinner?

It’s the question of the day, right? The frustrating part is when I’m asked this question while in the middle of five other tasks…and I haven’t yet figured out the dinner plan. Ugh, sorry kids. Dinner is…something. I’ll have to get back to you on the specifics.

Enter: Simple Meals. It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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How to Make Healthier Corndogs for the Freezer

Of all the recipes I share, this one is not the healthiest. Just whatever though, because corndogs taste amazing. (With a salad. And fruit. And digestive enzymes.) I’m providing a homemade option so that at least we’ll know these are better than store-bought.

Homemade Corndogs

First – try to find hotdogs that are nitrite free. Also, beef. Always beef hotdogs. Fine, turkey is okay too. Just try to avoid the hotdogs that are only pretending to be meat. I can’t even believe I’m still trying to convince myself that any form of a hotdog is healthy. But for real, at least try to find some that aren’t terrible. Why I like hotdogs is beyond me.

Now that we’ve covered the sacred topic of the hotdogs, allow me to share another compromise I make. This. We bought this fun corndog maker for one of our sons a few years ago as a gift because he is the ultimate corndog lover. (I have no idea where he gets this.) I think having dozens of appliances that only do one task each is fairly ridiculous. But shucks if having a corndog maker isn’t a lot of fun, so there. We’ve used it for more than just corndogs (like muffins and cookies – who knew?!) so hallelujah for an appliance that is actually multi-functional.

I will tell you that this machine makes the effort of creating homemade corndogs so easy and mess free that a few days ago, I made 48 corndogs in less than an hour – while I was making tomato sauce, French toast, and frozen yogurt. The corndog maker allows me to multitask while making food for my freezer. And here you thought that appliance was pointless.

Anyway….

The long and short of making homemade corndogs is that you simply use your favorite cornbread recipe, add a bit of extra milk so the batter will coat the dogs, then you either fry them in oil or bake them in the above mentioned corndog maker.

What about sticks?

Life is too short to poke sticks into hotdogs. Do the stick poking if you must, but as for me and my house, we will skip the sticks and just eat the dogs.

How to Make Healthier Corndogs (in Bulk) for the Freezer

How to Make Healthier Corndogs for the Freezer
 
Author:
Serves: 24-48
Ingredients
  • 2⅔ cup Homemade Jiffy Cornbread Mix*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 24 hot dogs
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together cornbread mix, eggs, milk, and butter.
  2. If using a corndog maker, cut hotdogs in half.
  3. Dip hotdogs in batter to coat thoroughly.
  4. Fry until golden brown, or cook in a Corndog Maker**
  5. Serve right away, or cool and freeze in freezer bags.
  6. Rewarm corndogs by placing them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.

*Homemade Jiffy Cornbread Mix recipe

I put these homemade cornbread mixes together and have them on hand for convenience. I highly recommend this!

** I cut my hotdogs in half, then cook my corndogs in this fun Corndog Maker. It saves a lot of time and mess!

Homemade Corndogs for the Freezer

If you make these to freeze, all you have to do at mealtime is pull them out and warm them up while you’re getting out all the actual nutritious parts of the meal (fruits, veggies, and more veggies with a side of another vegetable).

‘Fess up. Do ya like hotdogs?

Easy Homemade Poptarts for the Freezer

Just like our Giant Breakfast Cookies, it would seem that a fresh, hot homemade poptart beats a pre-baked, room temp poptart any day.

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Let’s not even talk about the kind that come out of a box. For all of the reasons, let’s just not talk about it.

Now regarding Homemade Poptarts (that are very easy to make, by the way): My family could eat the entire batch in one meal. I prefer to make them stretch though, and I prefer us to eat more balanced instead of filling up on carbs in the morning.

That’s why, just like the Giant Breakfast Cookies, I’ve been making these poptarts and freezing them before I bake them. On a day I declare to be a Poptart Morning, I pull a few out and bake enough for each person to have a couple with our eggs and fruit. They taste amazingly better this way and help my poptart making efforts stretch into several meals.

Frozen Poptarts

Can I tell you how delicious a warm, fresh poptart tastes with a cup of coffee? It’s one of my favorite treats (and it’s naturally very low in sugar!).

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I encourage you to double this recipe so you can make a couple bags full of frozen, unbaked poptarts for quick breakfasts and snacks!

Easy Homemade Poptarts for the FreezerYum

Easy Homemade Poptarts for the Freezer
 
Author:
Serves: 15-20
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • About 5 ounces of 100% fruit jelly or jam - any flavor you like!
Instructions
  1. Begin by mixing the flour, salt, butter, and yogurt.
  2. Knead the dough just a little bit to make it nice and workable.
  3. Roll out the dough on a large, well floured surface.
  4. Use a knife to cut the dough into the desired poptart size you would like.
  5. Place about a ½ teaspoon of jelly on ½ of the dough rectangles (squares?).
  6. Spread the jelly around, leaving the edges free.
  7. Find a second square or rectangle or thingamajigger that matches closely with each jellied one.
  8. Place it on top and use a fork to seal the edges.
  9. Lay each poptart in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  10. Bake in a 350° oven for about 25 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.
  11. TO FREEZE UNBAKED:
  12. Create poptarts as directed, but instead of baking right away, freeze them on a baking sheet for about two hours. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.
  13. At baking time, pull desired number of frozen, unbaked poptarts out of freezer and bake as directed, allowing for a few additional minutes of baking time.

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Here’s to one of the most delicious breakfast treats ever!

Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls ~ Freezer Edition

stir and pour rolls 1Guess what? 

One of my darling readers, Vicki, experimented with the Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls to see if we could make them even more convenient by making them ahead and freezing the dough. I won’t keep you in suspense!!! —–>

Okay, maybe just for a little bit.

I’m wearing a new sweater today. I got it on sale, of course. I got it the same day I got all the butter on sale. That was a great day for sales, no doubt. I sure do love good sales. And butter.

So how about those dinner rolls? Does it work to make and freeze the dough, just like we make and freeze muffin batter? Vicki tried it. She reported back. Drum roll please…

It worked!! This is great news, and much more relevant than pointless talk about my new sweater. Although the sweater led me back to talking about butter; and butter and rolls go together. Therefore everything I’m writing today makes sense and is on topic.

You must be wondering, is there even a way to make this very easy recipe even more convenient? I mean, how can it get easier than the Stir-and-Pour Bread and Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls recipes? But actually, it does. It gets easier. Vicki proved it.

Make and Freeze Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls

1. Mix the ingredients as normal.
2. Scoop batter into muffin pans. I super love my new silicone baking cups. I use them alllll the time.
3. Freeze dough immediately.
4. Remove frozen dough from muffin cups and transfer them to a freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months.
5. To bake: Place frozen dough into muffin cups. Cover with a cloth. Thaw on the countertop for 4-6 hours.
6. Bake as directed.

Vicki said that these taste just as good prepared this way as they do when prepared fresh. I mean, these are still fresh. They’re just frozen first before baking them. I love this time-saving tip!

This is especially helpful for days such as…I don’t know…Thanksgiving maybe? That day we’re putting forty-seven ~ give or take ~ other dishes on the table all at the same time? If there is a way to dirty up fewer dishes and execute fewer food preparation steps, by all means, let us do it!
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Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls ~ Freezer Edition
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons active rise yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons sucanat or sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 2 cups warm water
Instructions
  1. Stir all ingredients together.
  2. Cover and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Pour contents into buttered muffin tins or silicone muffin cups.
  4. Place filled muffin cups in freezer immediately.
  5. Once frozen, transfer frozen dough to freezer bags, storing for up to three months.
  6. To Bake:
  7. Place frozen dough back in prepared muffin cups.
  8. Cover and allow dough to thaw 4-6 hours on the counter-top.
  9. Bake in a 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
  10. Serve right away.

Make and Freeze Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls

Vicki said she used the leftover rolls to make Stuffing Muffins. I did the exact same thing a few days ago!

Let’s hear it for another great make-ahead tip!

This post contains an affiliate link.

How To Make Your Own Frozen Pies

Last I checked, Sara Lee charges over $3 for her frozen pies. I don’t blame her. I’d charge $5. But when I make my own pies, it can cost as little as $1 and I know what ingredients I’m including. Plus I’m making mine with love and all that. (Priceless, no doubt.)

Making a frozen pie is as easy as making a not frozen pie. Not that making a pie is easy. Nor is it really hard. You just have to commit, you know? You have to be like, “Today I am going to mix together and roll out pie crusts. I’m just going to do it and get this job out of the way. Everyone will love the pie. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Let’s do this.”

Then, after you mix and roll your crusts, you add whatever filling you want (pumpkin, apple, etc). You wrap them well, and you freeze them.

This is exactly how Sara Lee does it. Only she puts hers in a box. We’ll skip that part.

This post is chuck full of pie-making tips, recipes, and instructions. Shall we begin?

How to Make a Whole Wheat Pie Crust

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How To Make Your Own Frozen Pies
 
Author:
Serves: 1 crust
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup Palm Shortening (or butter)
  • 4-5 Tablespoons cold water
Instructions
  1. Place flour, salt and shortening in food processor.
  2. Blend until shortening is cut throughout the flour and the mixture resembles crumbs.
  3. Drizzle in the water while the food processor is still whirling.
  4. Continue until a ball of dough forms.
  5. Roll out your dough into a circle on a well floured surface.
  6. Fold the circle in half. Then fold it in half again.
  7. Place your dough in your pie dish with the folded corner in the center.
  8. Unfold the dough, shape it into the dish and make the edges pretty. (see tutorial video below)
  9. Poke your dough a few times with a fork to keep it from poofing up in the oven.
  10. Bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Or, fill it with pie filling and bake as directed in specific pie recipe.

How to Shape a Pie Crust

You can look through a picture tutorial on this post to see the specifics of how to roll a pie crust and place it in a pie pan.

Want to watch me shaping a pie crust a few years ago? Watch the video below. (Click here if the video doesn’t show up for you.)

How to Make a Frozen Pie

How to Make Your Own Frozen Pies

To make a frozen pumpkin or fruit pie, make it according to the directions but do not bake. Wrap the unbaked pie very well in plastic wrap. You might even consider putting the wrapped pie into a freezer bag for extra freezer protection. Label the pie. Freeze for up to three months.

To bake your frozen pie, take it out of the freezer and put it directly into a cold oven. Turn on the oven and bake as directed allowing a little extra baking time if necessary. See how easy this is?!

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If you plan to make a cream pie, bake your crust as directed, allow it to cool, then wrap and freeze. Thaw crust and add your cream filling before serving.

Holiday Pie Recipes

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

2 cups canned or frozen pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup heavy cream

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Freeze if desired. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pie comes out clean.

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Apple Pie Recipe

5-6 apples (any variety)
1/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wash and slice apples. Stir in sucanat and cinnamon. Make a double pie crust recipe. Place one crust on the bottom of a pie pan. Spread apple pie filling into the unbaked crust. Place the second pie crust on top. Seal and shape as shown in the video above. Freeze if desired. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes.

I usually have prepared Apple Pie Filling in my freezer, making this super simple.

Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

Make as directed above, only make a single pie crust. Top apples with crumb topping recipe found here.

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If you’re hoping to Get Ahead for the Holidays, I highly recommend making your pies soon and putting them into the freezer to pull out for easy baking the day before your meal!

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Real Food Green Bean Casserole (a Make-Ahead Dish)

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If I had to choose a favorite holiday dish, it would have to be Green Bean Casserole. It’s not something I remember eating when I was growing up. I discovered it sometime after Matt and I got married. So yum.

The recipe I learned to make? It was the one with canned cream of mushroom and french fried onions. Man, I loved that stuff.

Once I learned more about cooking with real food ingredients, I knew that the canned cream of mushroom soup and French fried onions didn’t make the cut. But this casserollllllle! How to make a real food version?

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I learned long ago how to make cream soups. French fried onions had me stumped though – mostly because of the time I felt it would take to create them. Then all my plans to keep my real food kitchen simple would be out the window.

Finally I figured out how I could make this casserole without mushroom soup or French fried onions. It goes without saying, then, that this casserole is very easy to make. Just wait until you see how easy!

Green Bean Casserole

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Real Food Green Bean Casserole (a Make-Ahead Dish)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen green beans
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 3 Tablespoons butter (if needed)
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Steam green beans until tender. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, saute onion and butter together until the minced onion is lightly toasted.
  3. Turn heat down to low.
  4. Stir in cornstarch, then add milk.
  5. Turn heat up to thicken cream sauce, stirring constantly until sauce is thick and bubbly.
  6. Stir in cooked green beans, salting liberally.
  7. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  8. Top with grated cheese.
  9. Cover and bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more.
  11. Serve.

To Freeze Green Bean Casserole:

Make the casserole as directed in the recipe above. All it to cool completely. Cover and freeze for up to three months.

To bake and serve, thaw casserole in the refrigerator and bake as directed. OR, cover the frozen dish with foil. Place it in a cold oven*. Turn the oven on to 250° and bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven up to 350° to continue baking to heat through.

*Be sure your oven is cold when you put in the frozen dish! Otherwise, the pan will crack because of the extreme temperature change.

Real Food Green Bean Casserole ~ a Make-Ahead Dish!

There is a One-Dish Meal version of this casserole in my Oh, For Real Cookbook called Hearty Green Bean Casserole. It includes hamburger and it is awesome.

Note that if you use corn starch instead of wheat flour to make the sauce for this recipe, it will be completely gluten free.

I think this will soon become one of your favorite holiday dishes! Then, of course, you will find yourself making it many times all year round. No need to wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas for this one!

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Can You Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time?

Oh yes. You can. You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time.

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Now, there are some things you’ll need to avoid. Here are two mashed potato tricks that do not work:

1. Do not boil potatoes with the plan to mash and serve them later.

While this seems like such a good idea, this will turn them into a sticky, gooey mess.

2. Do not make mashed potatoes and freeze them as-is.

I’ve never had success with this. Plain mashed potatoes freeze fine but thaw weird. They are always watery and unappetizing. These are not the kind of potatoes I want to include on my holiday table. If you do freeze them as-is, you must cook the frozen/thawed potatoes in a pot to steam off excess water that has formed in the freezing process. More info to come.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes ~ What Works, What Doesn't.

Ways to prepare this side dish favorite ahead of time:

1. Scrub or peel the potatoes and put them into a pot of cold water.

Want to get the prep work out of the way on a busy day filled with meal preparations? Typically I pull my family into the kitchen the night before the holiday meal. Together, we scrub and chop potatoes. We put them into a large pot, cover them with cold water, put on a lid, and leave them until boiling and mashing time the next day.

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2. Make mashed potatoes, then use your crock pot to keep them warm.

What I find very helpful is to follow all the instructions detailed in #1 to prep the potatoes the night before. The next morning – hours before our meal – I cook, drain, and mash. I then put them into a crock pot (with butter, always) on the “keep warm” setting until serving time. In the meantime, I can wash and put away the potato pot, then focus on other meal prep that needs to be done.

3. Embellish the mashed potatoes before freezing them.

While mashed potatoes don’t freeze well as-is, they do freeze well if you add some goodies to them. Take a look at the recipe below for all the specifics! When made like that, they do freeze well. Or, at the very least, you can make them a few days before your holiday meal, refrigerate them, then bake them on serving day. This is the method I plan on using this holiday season.

cheesy_mashed_potatoes

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes are always a huge hit. You can’t go wrong with sour cream and cheese right?

Make-Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

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Make-Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1 cup milk (more or less as needed)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
Instructions
  1. Scrub and cube potatoes.
  2. Boil them in water until tender.
  3. Drain water and mash potatoes with milk and salt until smooth.
  4. Stir together the mashed potatoes, butter, and sour cream.
  5. Spread into a 3 quart casserole dish.
  6. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  7. Refrigerate until you are ready to bake this dish.
  8. Bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes.

Freezing Instructions:

Make the potatoes as directed in the recipe above. All it to cool completely. Cover and freeze for up to three months.

To bake and serve, thaw potatoes in the refrigerator and bake as directed. OR, cover the frozen dish with foil. Place the frozen dish of potatoes into a cold oven*. Turn the oven on to 250° and bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven up to 350° to continue baking to heat through.

*Be sure your oven is cold when you put in the frozen dish! Otherwise, the pan will crack because of the extreme temperature change.

What has been your experience with making potatoes ahead of time?

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

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Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Yes You Can!

There are people who wake up in the middle of the night to begin cooking their turkey for a holiday meal. There are people who baste and stuff and rub down their bird. These people are so very nice and dedicated to poultry perfection.

And then there’s me.

huge turkey 1

That is one huge bird.
Read the whole tale here.

I cannot find it within myself to do any of this to my turkey. I’m just not as devoted of a holiday baker as some. I’m a plop the bird in a pan, add nothing to it, cover it, put it in the oven, and take it out a few hours later kind of girl.

And…my favorite turkey baking tip of all: I cook my bird before the holiday. Like, two days before, usually.

I bake it, de-bone it, prepare all the broth, dispose of the carcass – basically I do all the messy, tedious, laborious turkey work ahead of time. Then on the day of the holiday feast, I take out my big dish of cooked meat, pour on a little broth, cover it, rewarm it, and we eat it. This is stress-free turkey baking.

My turkey always still tastes delicious.

That’s why I keep doing it this way.

No, our table doesn’t hold a big un-carved turkey. There is no turkey carving tradition at our house. For those who love traditions like this, I say go for it! Baste and carve and enjoy that special tradition.

But for those who find the turkey to be tedious, you might instead consider making it ahead of time.

But won’t the meat be dry?

Not if you don’t over-bake it in the first place.

The trick is to drizzle broth over your cooked, de-boned meat (I’d say one-two cups of broth per 9×13 inch dish full of meat), then cover the dish well. I warm it on Thanksgiving day for 30-45 minutes in a 300-350° oven along with other dishes that are baking. I pull it out and have a steaming, moist, delicious pan of turkey.

Make-Ahead Turkey

Yum

4.7 from 3 reviews
Make-Ahead Turkey
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 Turkey
  • 1 Large Roasting Pan
  • Foil if necessary
Instructions
  1. Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until thawed.
  2. Remove the bag of giblets from the inside of the turkey.
  3. Empty the giblets into your roasting pan as they help make a good, rich broth.
  4. Place the bird, breast side up, into a large baking pan or roaster.
  5. Cover with foil or with your roaster lid.
  6. Cook at 325° for 15-20 minutes per pound.
  7. You know your turkey is done cooking when the red thing pops up, or when the legs start to pull away from the body. It should be golden brown and slightly crisp looking.
  8. Be sure to save the broth that formed naturally!
  9. Allow the turkey to cool, then de-bone completely. Store meat in baggies or in covered pyrex dishes in the refrigerator.
  10. Save turkey carcass to make another round of broth for gravy, soup, and other nourishing meals.
  11. On serving day, drizzle a liberal amount of broth (one-two cups per 9x13 inch pan of meat) over turkey, cover and warm in 300°-350° oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is hot and steamy.
  12. Serve right away.

Simple Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Easy, Moist, Delicious

Additional Turkey Tips:

  • Adding a few onions to the turkey while baking is an effortless way to add more flavor.
  • Be sure to save the broth that forms naturally while your bird bakes.
  • Do not wait until your turkey is cold to take the meat off the bones. This makes the job much harder!
  • After you’ve taken all the meat off the bones, save the bones and put them into a stock pot. Fill the pot with water, carrots, onions, and any other veggies you like. Salt liberally. Cook on low for 4-6 hours to create a wonderful broth. Strain out bones. Blend the veggies until smooth and stir them back into the broth for added richness.
  • Use turkey broth for gravy. Use it to make Turkey and Noodles a few days after Thanksgiving. Use it for any soup or recipe that calls for chicken broth.
  • While making your turkey ahead of time is wonderfully helpful in cutting down work on your holiday meal serving day, you don’t want to make it too far in advance! I recommend making it on Tuesday or Wednesday, then serving it on Thanksgiving Thursday.

What’s your turkey tradition? To carve, or not to carve? To baste, or not to baste? Ever made a turkey ahead of time?

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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