Food, Garden

Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole

Italian Garden Casserole (1)

It was a cold Sunday morning in January.  We didn’t have any games. We went to mass the night before, and we were in the mood for a big breakfast, a big Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole. I checked the refrigerator.  I had a ton of eggs and some bulk Italian sausage. Next I found some green and red peppers. I always have cheese in the house…always!  A bag of hash browns were in the freezer so it was then, the making of the Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole came to fruition.

Growing up, I never cared much for breakfast unless it was pancakes, french toast, or cereal.  Of course, I loved the sweeter side of breakfast as a kid.  I didn’t eat eggs…any kind of eggs. My Dad loved eggs…any kind.  He liked them prepared any way.  In fact, everyone in my house liked eggs, but me. Finally in my twenties, I slowly started to try some egg casseroles and omelets. I figured the cheese, veges, and meat must help with the taste. Well, I was right. I liked it. I married my husband, who, by the way, loves eggs…any kind, so I started to cook them.  I still do not eat eggs over easy, scrambled, or poached.  But, I have definitely grown quite fond of omelets and casseroles. On this particular weekend, I decided to make a casserole without the bread and use the hash browns as a base.  It really worked out well.  The Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole was a huge hit.  Plus it can be a Make Ahead Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole. Check it out!

Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 pound of bulk Italian Sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped Onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 3-4 cups of Frozen Shredded Hash Browns (country style)
  • 3 cups of Shredded Cheese (I use the Kirkland Costco Mexican blend)
  • 1 cup of diced Green Pepper
  • 1 cup of diced Red Pepper
  • 1/2 cup of diced Green Onions (from about 6-8)
  • 12 Eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup of Nonfat Milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Dried Parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt
  • Add Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper
  • Bacon Bits (Kirkland Costco brand – best bacon bits around)


  1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic.  Stir the mixture to break up the sausage into smaller pieces.  Cook until sausage is no longer pink about 10-12 minutes. Drain any liquid.
  2. Coat a 9×13 glass pan with cooking spray. Layer potatoes (unthawed), sausage mixture, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, green/red peppers, and green onions.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole.  Season with pepper and crushed red pepper if you like. Sprinkle the top with some of Costco’s bacon bits. If you are planning to make this in the morning, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  4. Ready to bake casserole immediately or in the morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Bake casserole for 70-80 minutes or until egg mixture is set in the middle and the edges are lightly golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting.


Family, Food, Garden

Stuffed Zucchini on the Grill

Zucchini Boats

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables especially in the summer. I grew up eating zucchini all the time, but I have never eaten them stuffed.

On this particular night, we had one of those great meals…marinated, grilled flank steaks, pasta salami salad, and stuffed zucchini on the grill or zucchini boats.  It was our first time making them.  I must admit they were so easy.  Plus, we love it when the majority of our meal can be grilled.

Last year I could have used this recipe, because I had an abundance  of zucchini from the garden.  However, this year the moles took over and decided they liked my zucchini 😦  I had to buy this batch from our local grocery store, Dierbergs, but they always have wonderful produce.

Stuffed Zucchini on the Grill

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 4 medium Zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped Bacon (we prefer real bacon as opposed to bits)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Black Olives
  • 1/2 cup diced Green Chiles
  • 1/2 cup minced Red Onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Tablespoon of fresh Basil from the garden


  1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp to about 1/4 inch from the skin.  Chop the pulp.
  2. In a bowl, mix the zucchini pulp, bacon, black olives, green chiles, onions, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese.  Season with fresh basil and salt and pepper.
  3. Stuff the zucchini halves with the mixture. Seal each half with aluminum foil.
  4. Prepare the grill. Place packets on the grill over indirect heat. Cook approximately 15-20 minutes or until tender.

With stuffed zucchini, you can get creative with the mixture but I don’t think we will deviate from this recipe.  It was so delicious – stuffed zucchini or zucchini boats whatever you prefer to call them!


Garden, Snacks


Spicy Guac

Avocado‘s are something we have never bought or used at home.  I don’t know why. We love guacamole.  We eat it in Mexico all the time.  We order it out when dining at a Mexican or Southwestern restaurant, but we have never made it at home until now.

Fresh Cilantro
Fresh Cilantro

It was so easy and simple to make guacamole.  It was so good especially with our fresh cilantro from the garden. I can’t say the kids loved it.  They do however prefer guacamole vs. avocados solo.

Also, I think back to my childhood.  We never ate guacamole or avocados.  My first experience with avocados was in my early 20’s when I began to travel for work.  It was also when I learned to love so many other different types of food. I grew up in a “meat and potatoes and pasta” kind of family (which was awesome), however we didn’t eat a lot of different kinds of foods.

At our house today, we make the kids taste everything. We eat a lot of different types of food. Our kids have quite a sophisticated palate except Nick, the five-year old, but we are working on that!


  • 3 avocados peeled, pitted, and mashed
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro chopped (from the garden)
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup of diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Stir in cilantro, onion, tomatoes, and garlic.  Stir in cayenne pepper for desired taste. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

This is super simple and easy for anyone to make. It was our first time eating the fresh cilantro from the garden too.  Yummy!

Family, Food, Garden

Pasta Salami Salad

Salami, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Asparagus, and fresh Basil
Salami, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Asparagus, and fresh Basil

Last week, my husband was in the mood for a cold Pasta Salad.  I was super excited because I love Pasta Salad.  Since he was grilling the flank steaks and making the vegetable, I figured making the salad was the least I could do.

I approached this recipe with some practicality and a little creativity. I used all the ingredients that I had at home.  That is the beautiful thing about cold Pasta Salad, you can use a ton of different vegetables/meats, and use many different types of dressings.

Pasta Salami Salad

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Box of Pasta (spirals, mostaccioli, bow ties) – cooked and drained
  • 25-30 slices of Hard Salami sliced in slivers
  • 5 Roma Tomatoes diced
  • 20 Asparagus Spears cooked and sliced
  • 1 large Cucumber diced
  • 1 cup of sliced Red Onion
  • 3/4 cup of Italian Dressing of your choice (less or more)
  • 1/4 cup of Fresh Basil from the garden
  • Italian seasonings to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Fresh shredded Parmesan Cheese or Feta Cheese


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  I do not rinse my pasta.  I drizzle a little olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick. Let cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta with all the other ingredients.  Add the seasonings last.  Stir until fully coated with dressing.  Add Cheese last or with each individual serving. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

This dish is a perfect summer salad that’s ideal for any large get together. I must admit that I really like the salami in this Pasta Salad.  It adds a lot of extra flavor. Also, I would have added some black olives too, but no one likes them like I do in this family.

There’s so much you can do with Pasta Salad.  I swear that I make a different one every time I make it.

Enjoy this one for now!

Family, Food, Garden

Zucchini Squash Parmesan


A family favorite from my Mom
A family favorite from my Mom

When I’m in the mood for a different vegetable, zucchini and yellow squash is always my “go to” vegetable, especially in the summer time.  You can do so many fun things with squash.  Of course, we love to marinate squash and grill it. You can put them on kabobs or eat them raw as a snack with your favorite dip.  My kids are fans of ranch and zucchini, although my kids will eat almost anything dipped in ranch.

This recipe is a long time family favorite from my Mom, Carol DeFrancesco.  With many recipes, I may tweak it a bit for personal preference.  For this particular recipe, I use olive oil to brown and sauté my squash.  My Mom used butter for the most part.   The olive oil seems to be an easier and healthier alternative.  This side dish is great with any meat of your choice.  It’s easy to make, but it does take a little time to sauté the squash so be sure to plan accordingly.

Zucchini Squash Parmesan

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Meanwhile, chop both the zucchini squash and yellow squash in large 1 inch pieces.  (If you cut them too thin, they get mushy.)
  2. Brown and sauté the squash approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once finished, remove squash and add more until all finished.
  3. Next, put all the cooked squash back into the pan over low heat.  Spread the Rotel tomatoes or diced tomatoes evenly on top of the squash.
  4. Season the squash with fresh basil and/or Italian seasonings and salt and pepper.
  5. Last, sprinkle the fresh parmesan cheese all over the squash.  Cover the pan to melt the cheese.  Serve and enjoy!

Like with any recipe, you can alter this to your preference or what you might have at home.  In the past, I always used Italian seasoned diced tomatoes, but then I tried a can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles.  We love the extra kick from the Rotel.

Stay tuned for some more recipes using squash!