Are you all ready for the upcoming holiday weekend? Based on what I see out my window I would guess said holiday would be Christmas....I would be wrong. Despite the temperatures lingering in the 20s/30s and the daily snowfall, we are actually coming up on Easter weekend. I always associate Easter with the start of Spring, flowers blooming, birds chirping, windows open and kids playing outside. Ahh.....this year I guess we'll all have to wait just a little bit longer.
The dish I have for you today doesn't mind the weather. Nope, it's delicious any season for any reason! Carbo-licious, Cheesy-licious, with a teensy bit of healthy. That's how I would describe this dish. I've made this strata a few times over the past year and it's so indulgent that it just has to be saved for holidays around here! Health food this is NOT! This is a perfect dish to make for an Easter brunch because you need to prepare it the day before and bake it the next morning. Just toss it in the oven amid the Easter-morning chaos. It feeds at least 8 and looks quite impressive when brought to the table - which also makes it great for hosting overnight guests! Sometimes I add some roasted red peppers to it, which is great for Christmas morning since it adds an extra layer of flavor while upping the festive look to make it more Christmas-y.
I have found that this monster of a casserole needs some extra lovin' time in the oven. We usually let it bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes to make sure the eggs are cooked in the middle. Trust me, it's totally worth the wait!
Spinach and Cheese Strata
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
8 cups ciabatta bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
9 large eggs
2 3/4 cups milk
Melt the butter in a large saute pan, over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and cook until heated through, about another 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Combine cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Coat a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place 1/3 of the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish. Top bread cubes with 1/3 of the spinach mixture. Top spinach mixture with 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layering 2 more times, finishing with a layer of cheese on top.
In a medium bowl place eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour egg/milk mixture evenly over top of entire casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350° F. While the oven is pre-heating, allow the strata to sit at room temperature. Bake uncovered for 60-75 minutes or until strata is no longer runny in the middle.
How was your St. Patty’s Day? Did you celebrate with green beer? Or Irish food? Or a local parade? How about all three?? I didn’t indulge in any green beer this year and (sadly) didn’t make it to Pittsburgh’s awesome St. Patty’s Day parade. I DID, however, attend a fun St. Patty’s Day party and enjoyed some good Irish food! My contribution to the party was this Guinness and Cheddar Dip. Come to think of it, I may have brought this exact same dip to last year’s party….hmmm…no one seemed to mind! I’ve actually made this dip several times over the past year and it’s always quite popular! I’ve tweaked the original recipe a little so that the Guinness flavor really stands out. I like to serve it with hearty crackers or some veggies. So, even though the celebrations are over for this year, please don’t wait until 2014 to give this recipe a try!!
Guinness and Cheddar Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1/4 cup Guinness
1 scallion, greens and whites, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In the bowl of a food processor, combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mustard and half-and-half. Blend until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly pour the Guinness through the pour spout and blend until combined. Add the scallions and parsley and pulse a few more times to combine. Adjust flavor by adding salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a bowl and cover. Chill at least one hour before serving. Serve with crackers, pretzels or veggies.
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!