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.
I know I've said this before and I know I'll say it again, but, it's time for me to get healthy in my diet! I am a runner and I've always loved to exercise, but when it comes to eating healthfully I definitely don't always practice what I preach. My love for cooking, baking and eating always wins over in the end. So I'm constantly on a quest to find recipes that I can have fun creating in the kitchen AND not feel guilty if I accidentally eat half the batch! Ooops! Last night I broke open Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Healthful Cooking and this recipe caught my eye instantly. I've made meringues before and I know a few things about them - 1. they are very low in calories 2. they require very few ingredients and 3. they are the perfect sweet and crunchy treat any time of day. This recipe had me particularly excited because it calls for Dutch process cocoa powder and I finally scored myself some while on vacation in Richmond, VA at For the LOVE of Chocolate. I had heard about this store on my favorite blogger's site, Annie's Eats, and I'm so glad I stopped in! I could have bought a ton of stuff to bring home but since the temperatures were near 100° and we were nowhere near our hotel I decided not to. I did, however, treat myself to a Dark Chocolate and Bacon Truffle. Oh. My. Gosh! So rich and smoky. I'm a huge fan of bacon in/on my sweets so this was a real treat for me! Back to the meringues, I'm not sure if it's the cocoa powder or what, but these are so yummy! I've had, oh, um, maybe 6 since they came out of the oven an hour ago and the girls have probably had 3 each. No worries though, because the recipe makes a ton!
6 egg whites (make sure to have NO egg yolk remnants in the egg whites or you will never get stiff peaks)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
Pinch of kosher salt
Position 2 racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift together the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of the sugar into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until very frothy, about 1 minute. Add a pinch of kosher salt and continue beating until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and begin to gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing sugar to fully incorporate between each addition, about 10 seconds. Once all the sugar has been incorporated continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 1-2 more minutes.
Sprinkle 1/3 of sugar/cocoa mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sugar/cocoa mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the egg whites. Once the sugar/cocoa is fully incorporated, repeat with another 1/3, then the final 1/3 of the sugar/cocoa mixture.
Once all the sugar/cocoa is incorporated into the egg white mixture, transfer to a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe meringues onto the prepared baking sheets in the formation of a ladylock, about 2 inches long. (You can get creative here and pipe any shape you like, really!) Space the meringues about 2 inches apart.
Bake until meringues are completely dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Transfer pans to wire racks to let them cool completely. Once cool, carefully lift off trays and place in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Barely adapted from Essentials of Healthful Cooking by Williams-Sonoma
As promised, today I will bring you a non-cupcake recipe! This is a recipe I found a few years ago in some magazine. I don't have a clue which magazine it was because I tore the page out, trimmed it down and neatly taped it to an index card. Yes, I know, I'm a dork. The original recipe called for heavy cream and some dots of butter. Once I started Weight Watchers last year I omitted those two ingredients in favor of a healthier breakfast I can have any day of the week. This recipe is for one egg cup. If you are cooking more than one, keep a close eye on them after 15 minutes so your egg yolks don't overcook!
Zesty Egg Cups
Makes 1 Egg Cup
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tsp plain breadcrumbs
2 tsp salsa
salt & pepper to taste
1 stick of low-fat string cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray the inside of a 2 ounce ramekin with cooking spray. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs into the ramekin, turning to coat bottom and sides. Gently spread the salsa over the breadcrumbs. Crack the egg into a small bowl, being careful not to the break the egg. Slide the egg into the ramekin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the string cheese on top of the egg. Place the ramekin onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted. If you are baking more than one egg, check on them every minute or so after 15 minutes.
Highly adapted from a recipe card found years ago :)
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!