Spring’s pending arrival got you feeling domestic?  Have some time to devote to cooking prep this weekend? Here’s a tasty one-dish meal that was a huge hit with girls and dear husband alike.

When I think of strata and its cousin, baked French toast, I usually think of breakfast and brunch foods. But when my mother-in-law served us a tasty strata from an online recipe on the morning after Christmas last year, I remember thinking, This is yummy! – but with some veggies, I bet it would make a tasty and easy one-dish dinner.

So I began experimenting in January, and this is what I came up with. My kids, husband, and I all like it even better than the original.

If you often find yourself with more food prep time in the morning than the evening, or choosing between dinner prep and quality time with your kids at the end of the workday, then give this dish a try. Because the prep takes place ahead of time, you have plenty of time to relax or do other things while it bakes. Add a tossed salad, and you’ve got a meal that’s simple and healthy.

Anytime Strata

Serves 6-8; Prep time = 30 min, Sitting time = 8 hrs 15 min, Cook time = 45-60 min.

whisking eggsThe basic idea:

Nonstick cooking spray

8 large eggs

2 ½ c. 2% milk

1 T Dijon mustard

1 t smoked paprika

1 ½ t cumin

1 t salt

1 T olive oilsaute veggies

1 c. each chopped onion, celery, and frozen peas (thawed)

1 loaf day-old bakery bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices

½ lb. cooked ham, chicken, or turkey, cubed (optional)

5 scallions, chopped

1 c. shredded cheese

  1. Coat the inside of a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and spices.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and celery approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in peas.layer the bread
  3. Spread vegetable mixture across bottom of baking dish. Top with a layer of bread slices. Scatter the ham, scallions, and cheese over the top, pressing down as necessary.
  4. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight (if serving for breakfast), or all day (if preparing in the morning for an evening meal).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the strata from refrigerator while oven preheats and allow it to come to room temperature for 15 min. Bake the strata, uncovered, until puffed and lightly golden brown, approximately 45-60 minutes. Let rest 5 min. before serving.

Mix it up:strata

  • This is another dish that is made for your leftovers. Use whatever leftover meat you’ve got lying around for the protein; vary the vegetables depending on what you have to use up (or what your family likes to eat); use up that leftover half-baguette or other bread-going-stale-on-your-counter for the bread layer.
  • If you don’t have leftover meat from last night’s supper, consider other options. For example, our grocery store puts the end-pieces (the parts that are hard to put through the slicer) of its gourmet deli meats into separate packages that sell for $2/lb, instead of the $10-$12/lb the same meat originally cost. This is my favorite way to pick up a half-pound of, say, honey ham for a recipe like this one, and the meat is higher-quality and tastier than the prepackaged luncheon meats. Same goes for the bread; if your family loves toast (and bread therefore doesn’t have time to sit around going stale in your house), pick up a gourmet artisan loaf from the day-old clearance pile, which is what I usually end up doing.
  • Vegetarian? Omit the mustard, and substitute a can of black beans for the meat; serve topped with salsa. Or try small cubes of firm tofu stir-fried in olive oil, pressed or minced garlic, and low-sodium soy sauce; serve with additional soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil.
  • Try making an extra one to freeze. Either cook fully, cool, cover tightly, freeze/thaw, and then reheat for ½ hour at 350 degrees or until warmed through; or freeze uncooked, allowing to thaw/warm for up to 24 hours before baking.

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