Heart Ministry Center

The Junior League of Omaha is thrilled to be working with our community partners! This year, the League is partnering with Heart Ministry Center, The Big Garden, No More Empty Pots, The Union for Contemporary Arts, and Together Omaha. This blog series will take a closer look at each of the League’s community partners and discuss who they are, what they do, and why we’ve chosen to partner with each organization.

Heart Ministry Center began as the Sacred Heart Human Needs Door Ministry. They are based in North Omaha, and focus on providing essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter. They began as a small organization focusing on the families of children attending Sacred Heart, but overtime have expanded their reach, notably becoming the first “choice” pantry in Omaha that allowed the public to choose their own foods, and expanding the services they provide. 

According to their website, more than thirty-three percent of Heart Ministry Center’s clients are children, and ten percent are seniors. Over forty-six percent of their clients are below the poverty line. They provide meals for more than 60,000 families and medical assistance for more than 2,000 individuals each year, and estimate that within the last twelve months, they have provided case work and social services for over 6,800 individuals. 

Heart Ministry Center provides a lot of excellent services to the community. Their programs include the Choice Food Pantry, the Laura and Dan Monen Healthcare Clinic, the Fresh Start Job Placement Program, and the Gary L. Maag Dental Clinic, as well as other programs. The Choice Food Pantry was the first pantry in Omaha that allows families to choose their own foods. The Laura and Dan Monen Healthcare Clinic, in partnership with Creighton University, provides free basic medical care, and accepts walk-in patients. 

The Fresh Start Job Placement Program teaches job skills including workplace communication and customer service skills to members of the community, and assists in job placement for its graduates. The Gary L. Maag Dental Clinic partners with volunteer dentists to provide dental care, as well as extractions and fillings, and is available by appointment only. Heart Ministry Center also provides other services including meeting with case managers to meet other needs, working with local attorneys to provide free legal advice, and hosting special events throughout the year such as holiday parties, back-to-school events, health screenings, and block parties.

Heart Ministry Center is a wonderful organization that provides a lot of valuable resources to the community, including not only the ability to choose the foods they receive from the pantry, but access to basic health care, as well as job training skills. The League looks forward to an educational partnership!

History of the Junior League Cookbook

Did you know the first recorded Junior League cookbook was printed in 1930? It’s titled “The Junior League Recipe Book” and was privately printed by the Los Angeles league. The oldest Junior League cookbook still in print was published initially in 1950! Since their inception, any profits from cookbook sales were used to support community projects and programs – which is still happening today. In Omaha, JLO’s A Century of Serving cookbook supports the League’s training and community initiatives.

We are lucky to have access to a small cookbook library through the JLO Cookbook co-chair Katy Spratte Joyce!  Of her collection of 100+ books, more than 60 are Junior League offerings from around the world. Some of her favorites are “Colorado Cache” from the Junior League of Denver (1978), “And Roses for the Table: A Garden of Recipes” from the Junior League of Tyler, Texas (1997), and “Fresh from the Valley: A Harvest of Recipes” from the Junior League of Yakima (2003). 

What are your favorite Junior League cookbooks? Be sure to pick up our newest one, A Century of Serving, online or at any of our partner retail locations! https://www.jlomaha.org/cookbook/

Below are the cookbooks photographed:

  • “California Fresh” The Junior League of Oakland-East Bay (1985)
  • “Tuxedos to Tailgates: A Celebration of the Seasons” Dallas Junior Forum (2003) “Beyond Parsley, Beautiful Food Presented by the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri” (1984)
  • “Stop and Smell the Rosemary: Recipes and Traditions to Remember” The Junior League of Houston (1996) 
  • “Pig Out: Selected Recipes from the Junior League of Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa” (1986)
  • “Atlanta Cooknotes”, Junior League of Atlanta (1982)
  • “Sassafras: The Ozarks Cookbook”, The Junior League of Springfield, Missouri (1985)
  • “Seaboard to Sideboard: A Collection of Recipes from the Junior League of Wilmington, North Carolina (1998)
  • “Pomegranates & Prickly Pears”, flavorful entertaining from The Junior League of Phoenix  (2005) 

The Big Garden

The Junior League of Omaha is thrilled to be working with our community partners! This year, the League is partnering with Heart Ministry Center, The Big Garden, No More Empty Pots, The Union for Contemporary Arts, and Together Omaha. This blog will discuss our partnership with  The Big Garden.

The Big Garden was created by United Methodist Ministries in 2005 as a new program. The goal was to create 12 community gardens over the following five years. They went on to create 26 gardens in Omaha over the following five years, in addition to a sister project, The Big Rural Garden. There is now a network of over 150 community gardens in Omaha, as well as small communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas.

The Big Garden’s mission is to “cultivate food security by developing community gardens, creating opportunities to serve, and providing education on issues related to hunger.” They are unique in both the large number of sites, as well as their emphasis on local partnerships. Community agencies own the land where all Big Garden sites are located, and the Big Garden partners with sites to assist with initial start-up costs, ongoing program support, garden and nutrition classes for children, and by brokering collaborative relationships in the community.

The Big Garden has several valuable programs. These include providing online gardening education, community gardens, Growing Gardeners Workshops, the New Roots internship, Grow-Your-Own, Farm to School, and Garden to Table. The online gardening education was an adaptation of some of their education programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provide other online resources, such as recipes, a list of recommended reading, and a skill library that includes information on various topics such as how to start seeds at home, a guide to edible wild plants, and more. 

The Growing Gardeners Workshop is provided each season, and is low-cost, available to budding gardeners of all ages, and is open regardless of availability to pay. There are four educational tracks that the workshops cover: urban ag school, herbal medicine cabinet, culinary & nutrition, and craft & lifestyle. The New Roots internship is a 12-week summer internship for young adults interested in organic gardening, food security, local food, and working with children. The interns receive training in gardening, food security and classroom management and often go on to have careers in these fields. Grow-Your-Own, Farm to School, and Garden to Table are all programs that teach students how to grow, tend, harvest, cook, and preserve the produce they grow. Grow-Your-Own classes are held at The Big Garden, while Farm to School and Garden to Table are held at school gardens. 

The Big Garden is a fantastic organization that provides a lot of valuable training to community members interested in learning to grow their own produce. The League looks forward to a fruitful partnership!

Breakfast Casserole Recipe

Let’s face it, breakfast casseroles are perfect when you need to feed a crowd right away in the morning. Eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns, layered in a casserole dish and placed in the oven – does it get easier than that? Serve this with fruit (and a mimosa or two), and you are guaranteed to start the day off right with this recipe!

Now I do not pretend to be a professional chef or photographer so I apologize in advance for my amatuer skills here, but I started by prepping all of the ingredients. 

The recipe calls for a bag of hashbrowns. The store only had about 498 options, so I went with a 30oz bag and was happy with the results!

*Disclaimer* This recipe calls for garlic and onion, so onion is featured in the photo, but due to dietary restrictions neither were used in the casserole that is photographed (I know, it’s the saddest thing ever). Good news – this recipe tastes just as great without it!

Start by browning Italian sausage over medium heat, then remove with a slotted spoon and place to the side in a bowl. Saute the chopped peppers, onion, and garlic in the grease remaining in the skillet. Again, I’m not able to cook with onions or garlic so you won’t see them in any of my photos, but my goodness the red pepper smelled amazing cooked in the Italian sausage grease! 

You know that part when you’re cooking where you wonder if it’s supposed to look like that? Yeah, well this is that part for me. 

I added the peppers to the hashbrowns and cheese, mixing them together in a large bowl. As I whisked the eggs and milk together I was 150% convinced there was no way that would be enough to cover all of those hashbrowns – but it does! Top with the remaining cheese and it’s ready for the oven. 

This was baked covered with foil at 375 for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. I don’t have a 7×11 pan so I used a 9×13 instead and felt it worked just fine. 

Overall, this recipe is really easy and delicious!  I was surprised how much egg there was considering there are only 6 in the whole recipe. The Italian sausage adds a ton of flavor so if you have dietary restrictions but can tolerate breakfast sausage, this recipe is great! From start to finish it probably took an hour, including cook time, and it was a hit with my family so it will definitely be made again! If I can make it and have it turn out well, I promise you can too.

…and I wasn’t kidding, this pairs really well with a mimosa 😉

Breakfast Casserole is one of the recipes in the Junior League of Omaha’s A Century of Serving cookbook, available online and in stores now: https://www.jlomaha.org/cookbook/


  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 package frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Sliced green onions to taste (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro to taste (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat, pressing and stirring with a wooden spoon to crumble. Remove the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Pour off most of the skillet drippings. Saute the onion and red bell pepper in the remaining skillet drippings for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic. Saute until tender. Add the onion mixture, hashbrowns and 1 ½ cups Cheddar cheese to the sausage and mix well. Whisk the eggs, milk and black pepper in a bowl. Stir into the sausage mixture. Spoon into a 7×11 inch baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Serve with salsa.