Ellie Krieger's Vegetable Cheese Strata recipe. / Renee Comet / USA WEEKEND
I enjoy the season’s festive parties and elaborate dinners, but hands-down, my favorite holiday meal is breakfast. I treasure the time when the whole family — including those from out-of-town who stay the night — can all drowsily linger in our pajamas and enjoy relaxed time together.
This savory egg casserole is top of my list for those merry mornings. You fix it the night before and let it sit overnight, so all you need to do when you roll out of bed is pop it in the oven. It comes out, a little more than an hour later, puffed almost like a soufflé, with a crisp golden brown crust outside, tender, egg-y, and loaded with melted cheese inside. The aroma alone gets everyone swooning.
Unlike most breakfast bakes, which are full of cream, fatty meats and white bread, this one is satisfying and healthy, thanks to its delicious assortment of vegetables, crusty whole-grain bread, milk and just the right amount of cheese. It is a dish worthy of its place at the center of a holiday table.
Savory Vegetable Cheese Strata
• 4 tsps. olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tb.)
• 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
• Cooking spray
• 1 whole-wheat baguette, cubed (about 5 cups)
• 8 large eggs
• 8 large egg whites
• 2 cups non-fat milk
• 1 Tb. Dijon mustard
• 10 ounces broccoli, steamed until tender but still firm, cooled and chopped, or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
• ½ cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), soaked in hot water until soft, then drained
• 1 Tb. minced fresh thyme
• ½ tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Heat 2 tsps. of the oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl and let cool.
Heat the remaining 2 tsps. oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat and cook the mushrooms, stirring a few times, until their water evaporates and they begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Coat a large baking dish (about 9 x 13 inches) with cooking spray. Arrange the bread cubes over the bottom. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs, egg whites, milk and mustard together until incorporated. Add the mushrooms, onion-garlic mixture, broccoli, both cheeses, the sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure the liquid saturates the bread. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the strata and bake until the top forms a light brown crust, 60 to 70 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving (1½ cups): 255 calories, 17g carbohydrates, 21g protein, 12g fat (3.5g saturated), 4.5g fiber, 215mg cholesterol, 605mg sodium
Contributing editor and registered dietitian Ellie Krieger is best known as the host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. Her most recent cookbook is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy.