Jessica Mehl’s theme with entertaining is doing the work ahead of time.
Her Amish Breakfast Casserole can be made a day ahead and the Crock-Pot Sausage can be started the night before.
“When you have somebody over, you can just relax and enjoy yourself,” Mehl said.
She said she “lucked upon” the casserole recipe a long time ago as a newlywed.
“It’s pretty easy. It feeds a lot of people,” and her family likes it, Mehl said.
For this interview, she said she made the casserole the day before, kept it in the refrigerator and then baked it just before the meeting.
Mehl used sausage but said bacon or ham can be substituted.
She adapted the recipe by adding two additional eggs.
“That’s the other thing about my cooking — I don’t follow recipes very well,” Mehl said.
She said she likes to save money and since she doesn’t live near a grocery store, she finds herself substituting ingredients like yogurt for cottage cheese or applesauce for vegetable oil.
It’s fun to go through the pantry or fridge and decide what can be fixed with what’s inside, Mehl said.
The casserole includes Potatoes O’Brien (for the peppers and onions). The cottage cheese and shredded Swiss and sharp cheddar cheeses make it very creamy.
“It’s so easy. You mix it in one bowl,” Mehl said. “I’ve taken it camping, I’ve taken it to Christmas brunch.”
She put fresh oregano and basil on top from her own plants, but that is optional.
Mehl learned to cook in 4-H.
“I did all the baking projects and cooking projects and I just really loved cooking.”
Her grandmothers also loved cooking and entertaining. Everyone in her family farmed, and cooking, canning and gardening was a part of life.
Mehl said she still cans tomatoes from her own garden for tomato juice.
There are also apple and peach trees on the property. She freezes much of the fruit for smoothies.
She fixes a lot of meals in a slow cooker, which allows her to set it in the morning with the meal ready when the family gets home.
The Crock-Pot Sausage is a great alternative for Crock-Pot meatballs, made with chili sauce and grape jelly.
“It’s like candy,” Mehl said about the dish.
For the sausage, she travels to Brookview Farm Meats in Archbold, a place she is familiar with after growing up on a pig farm in Lucas County.
“It’s the only sausage I was used to growing up, so I still drive out there a couple times a year to get it,” she said.
This is her mom’s recipe.
Mehl does not recommend using smoked sausage but said meatballs could probably be a substitute.
The sausage turns dark, due to the brown sugar. Don’t be alarmed at the use of the entire bag of brown sugar. It’s not eaten and just acts as a marinade, she said.
Mehl is a Whitehouse native and graduate of Anthony Wayne High School.
She and her family moved to their home on River Road in 2016.
She and Andy have two daughters who attend Otsego Local Schools.
Mehl has served on the Otsego Board of Education for three years. She works for Northeastern University in Boston as part of the admissions team for graduate school. She travels to Boston four to six times a year, but the job is remote.
Having the flexibility to work from home is ideal as Andy is a director of financial planning and analysis for Libbey Inc., she said.
Mehl said Andy is the breakfast cook and the Amish Breakfast Casserole is the only breakfast she makes.
Mehl enjoys both baking and cooking.
She has taught her daughters, who are also in 4-H, to bake and they have taken over that task in the kitchen.
“I think it’s so helpful for anyone,” Mehl said about cooking. “It’s a life skill. … I want them to be able to make themselves scrambled eggs for breakfast.”
Mehl’s Amish Breakfast Casserole
Marie Thomas-Baird | Sentinel-Tribune
Amish Breakfast Casserole
8 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups Potatoes O’Brien (or hashbrowns)
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound sausage (crumbled), bacon (crumbled) or ham (diced)
1 teaspoon minced onion
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat oven to 350F. Beat eggs then add remaining ingredients. Mix, then transfer to a greased 12×9 baking dish.
Baked uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
Can be made in advance and kept in refrigerator. Serves 12.
Mehl’s Crock-Pot Sausage
Marie Thomas-Baird | Sentinel-Tribune
4 pounds fresh casing sausage
1 can pineapple chunks
1 bag brown sugar
Cut sausage into desired sized links. Add sausage, brown sugar and pineapple with juice to slow cooker and stir.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir, then serve.