Entertaining with Ease: Holiday Brunch Strata w/ Ham, Spinach and Cheese

Holiday Brunch Strata Hero1

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and that means plenty of parties, get-togethers and entertaining with family and friends which is why this is my favorite time of year! I always love to get together with friends and family and have a holiday brunch where we all bring a lovely dish, and sit around the table eating, drinking and talking for hours as we catch up on each other’s lives and laugh a little. That’s what the holidays are all about in my opinion. Sharing, laughing, loving, eating and drinking.

Holiday Brunch Strata Ingredients


One of my favorite things to make for brunch is a Holiday Strata, a delicious breakfast casserole, made with bread, milk, cheese, eggs, ham or bacon, and some fresh sautéed veggies all baked in to a big pot of goodness. It’s rich, creamy, hearty and incredibly delicious, a savory bread pudding, if you will – and a great way to use some of your leftover holiday ham, veggies and cheese! It goes great with a green salad, some fresh fruit and mimosas (and of course lots of coffee, tea and holiday pastries on the side!)

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer Shot3

This recipe is really easy to make, especially with my amazing KitchenAid® Artisan® Series Stand Mixer. The best part about making a Strata is that you just throw all the wet ingredients and spices in the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk it all together on low speed for a few minutes to beat the eggs, milk and cheese together. Then you layer all the ingredients in the casserole dish the night before, allowing the bread to soak up all the luscious custard and flavors overnight, and then you just pop it in the oven and bake it in the morning. (And maybe even get to sleep in a little or go back to bed while it’s cooking!)

Holiday Brunch Strata Hero2

I used a baked white loaf for the bread, but you could also use whole wheat or even Challah bread for a touch of sweetness. You can also substitute crumbled sausage, bacon or pancetta for the ham, and experiment with using some different cheeses if you like (I used shredded mozzarella, but any cheese that melts well like a Gruyere, Swiss or Cheddar will work great). You can also substitute broccoli instead of spinach, or throw in some colorful peppers to add some extra color – the possibilities are endless, and all tasty using the same base recipe I created.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE AND STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS ON THE KITCHENTHUSIAST BLOG BY KITCHENAID!

Other Brunch Casserole and Strata recipes you might enjoy:

Martha Stewart’s Fontina, Speck and Onion Strata

House Beautiful’s Strata Recipe

Southern Living’s Brie and Veggie Breakfast Strata

Taste of Home’s Brunch Strata Recipe

Williams-Sonoma Bagel Strata with Sausage and Spring Vegetables

Sinfully Good: Pierogi Casserole

Pierogie Casserole

Pierogie Casserole

Today is one of those dreary Fall days where it’s cold and rainy and I’m in need of a little pick me up from some classic comfort food. One that involves BACON. And CHEESE. And PASTA. And all those yummy yums that aren’t that good for you. I was looking through some of my family recipes and this one came up that looked perfect for the mood I’m in today. It’s a sinfully good baked Pierogi casserole that my family used to make around the holidays – I remember sitting around the table with my family devouring this tasty dish with absolutely no shame. It’s not fancy. It’s easy to make. Has layers of flavor from the crispy bacon, earthy mushrooms, creamy sauce and tangy sauerkraut. And it’s so darn GOOD.

Traditional Pierogies are like Polish or Ukrainian Ravioli, made with fresh made dough that is filled with potatoes and cheese, meat or sauerkraut, and usually boiled or sauteed in butter with golden brown fried onions. This recipe takes the main ingredients of Pierogi (butter, mushrooms, sauerkraut, bacon, fried onions, pasta and cheese) and blends them together into a bubbling baked one-pot dish of goodness you’re gonna die for. It’s the ultimate comfort food perfect for a chilly dreary day that will keep you coming back for more…trust me.


Sinfully Good: Pierogi Casserole

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. spiral pasta or Girelle (little spiral tops)
  • 6-8 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia), chopped
  • 1 stick (8 ounces) butter, divided
  • 4 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1-14 ounce package sauerkraut, rinsed well
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta 7-9 minutes and drain, set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan, fry bacon over medium heat about 6-8 minutes until crispy, drain and crumble, set aside.
  4. Sauté onions in same saute pan with 1/2 stick of butter for another 7-8 minutes until soft and translucent. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the other 1/2 stick of butter and and sauté mushrooms about 8 minutes until tender.
  6. Stir all ingredients together in large mixing bowl, adding soup and 2% milk, sauerkraut, sautéed onions and mushrooms, shredded cheese, and fresh ground pepper to taste.
  7. Pour mixture over cooked pasta into a greased rectangle casserole dish, mix thoroughly and cover with foil.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 mins.
  9. Remove foil and turn up oven to 500 degrees, bake for another 5-10 minutes until top gets golden brown.
  10. Let cool before serving.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/10/11/sinfully-good-pierogi-casserole/

Bacon

Fry the bacon until crispy.

Saute Mushrooms

Saute the mushrooms in some butter until soft and golden.

Bacon with Mixture

Mix together crumbled bacon, sauteed mushrooms, sauerkraut, mushroom soup, milk and black pepper, stir.

Mixture

Add the shredded cheese and mix together well. Pour over cooked noodles in the casserole dish and stir it all together.

Pierogie Casserole

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes on 500 until it gets crispy and golden on top. Let cool.

Devour.

—–

Other recipes you may enjoy:

All Recipes Pierogi Casserole

How Sweet Eats Pierogi Casserole

Kraft Easy Pierogi Casserole

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup
Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

Last year in January, it was cold, dark, rainy, and downright miserable and depressing. Not to sound negative, but we all know that’s what winter in NYC can feel like at times. ENDLESS. I pretty much hibernated away in my apartment, and decided I needed to entertain myself somehow – what better way than to cheer myself up with some homemade creamy tomato soup?

When I was a kid, I used to love staying home sick from school – why? My Mom would wrap me up under blankets on the couch and make me a grilled cheese sandwich smothered in Campbell’s tomato soup in front of the tube, which made the misery of being sick almost OK (and kinda fun!) – and to this day, I still crave this combo for a cozy day on the couch at home.

This recipe is sure to warm you up with its creamy roasted tomato flavor. Serve it with some grilled or toasted bread with olive oil and herbs or mini grilled cheese bites for dipping in the soup (or smothering!) and maybe even a glass of red wine to warm you up even more.


Maybe Spring can wait a few more months after all.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs fresh heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fines herbes (parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable, if you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 c heavy cream or half and half

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until tomatoes are soft and skins are dark brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, remove skins from tomatoes and garlic and discard.
  3. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat. Add butter, shallots, fines herbes and salt and pepper, saute until the onions are soft. Add the roasted tomatoes and garlic, chicken or vegetable broth and tomato paste and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. After 20-30 minutes, puree the soup with an immersion blender in the pan, or remove from pan and puree in a blender and pour back into the pan.
  5. Stir in heavy cream or half and half, blending thoroughly. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a sprinkle of fines herbs (or julienned basil leaves).
  6. Serve in soup bowls with crusty garlic herb bread (or over a grilled cheese sandwich on a plate!) and a glass of red wine.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/10/06/roasted-cream-of-tomato-soup/

Tomato-Soup-1

Other Tomato Soup recipes you may enjoy:

Kalyn’s Kitchen Tomato and Cilantro Soup

Michael Chiarello’s Homemade Tomato Soup 

Pioneer Woman’s Sherried Tomato Soup

Michael Symon’s Blue Cheese and Tomato Soup via The Amateur Gourmet

Average Betty’s Creamy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Amazing Macaroni + Cheese > There’s No Place Like Home

Mac and Cheese

So here is my award winning Mac and Cheese recipe that I am proud to share with all of you! I was awarded as a Grand Prize Winner in the Challenge Dairy Real Heritage Recipe Contest for my Amazing Macaroni and Cheese! Although this was a few years ago, I am still so grateful for this opportunity to submit my winning recipe and to be a part of this amazing recipe contest. Check out the story I wrote and winning recipe below, and more contest winners on Challenge Dairy’s website.

There’s No Place Like Home

Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.


That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into
a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabar’s (my favorite gourmet store on the Upper West Side) with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, heavy cream, premium real butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta – this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese. Definitely not your Mama’s.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

Amazing Macaroni + Cheese > There’s No Place Like Home

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: Yields 6-8 servings.

Serving Size: 1 cup

This is a super luscious and decadent grown up Mac and Cheese! Filled with Gruyere, Fontina and Mascarpone for extra creaminess, a little cooked bacon and a Parmesan buttery bread crumb topping for extra crunch. Definitely worthy of a special occasion or the holidays to impress your guests!

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon or pancetta, cooked and crumbled
  • 5 ½ tablespoons Challenge European Style Butter (salted), divided
  • ¾ cup Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • dash of nutmeg (? teaspoon)
  • dash of ground cayenne pepper (? teaspoon)
  • 1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte cheese, grated (3 oz.)
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, chopped into small pieces (5¼ oz.)
  • 1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 ½ cups dry elbow macaroni (6 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine, plus extra for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook the bacon or pancetta, drain and crumble and set aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt 2½ tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, do not let the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cream; cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, Gruyère, Fontina , Mascarpone. Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente (7 - 8 minutes). Drain the macaroni and combine with the cheese sauce. Add crumbled bacon and parsley; mix well.
  6. Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot immediately and garnish with additional fresh parsley, if desired.

Notes

You can also substitute the meat using some baked ham or prosciutto, or make it vegetarian and just add extra cheese or some veggies like zucchini, squash, brussels sprouts or mushrooms.

This recipe is also delicious with a little drizzle of truffle oil in the cheese sauce or topped with white or black truffle salt as a garnish.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/03/08/amazing-macaroni-and-cheese-theres-no-place-like-home/

Luscious Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Spezzatino D’Agnello E Finnoccio (Lamb and Fennel Stew)

Lamb and Fennel Stew

 

In the dead of Winter, there’s something comforting about cooking on those cold, dreary days. One-pot dishes are ideal when you don’t want all the fuss and they’re easy to make too. Just throw all your ingredients in a big pot on the stove, and then cook slow and low… the end result is a big pot ‘o goodness to warm up your toes. This lovely dish is a slowly cooked Italian stew made with lamb and fennel, onions, garlic and wine – it’s also perfect for the holidays to feed a big crowd..enjoy!


Spezzatino D’Agnello E Finnoccio (Lamb Stew with Fennel)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces (can substitute beef if desired)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
3 fennel bulbs, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy casserole, heat ¼ cup of the oil over high heat. Add the lamb and brown on all sides, 5-7 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl.

Add onion to casserole, reduce heat to medium and sauté onion until softened, 7-10 minutes. Return lamb and its juices to the casserole, add the wine and deglaze until reduced. Season the meat and onion with salt and pepper, transfer casserole to the oven, cover and braise for 1 hour.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add fennel and sauté until browned, 10-15 minutes. Transfer fennel to a plate, add the garlic to the skillet and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and mix well.

After meat has braised 1 hour, add the fennel mixture to the casserole. Cover and braise until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Serves 6. 

Recipe by Institute of Culinary Education, NYC



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