Category Archives: Baked Goods

Savory Meat Pie

From empanadas to pasties to pastel, the world loves a good meat pie.  This version, though similar in construction to the French Canadian tourtiere, is all its own – a hearty blend of meat, vegetables and spices that produce a pie that looks gourmet.  And yet, it only takes a few minutes of actual work – the meat becomes meltingly tender from simmering in milk and wine for a little under an hour, which you can leave bubbling away while you take care of other things.  Not a bad deal at all.

I use all beef in this version, but the pie holds up to absolutely any type of protein or game.  Pork works exceedingly well, as does bison or buffalo.  Venison, too.  You can even make a blend of what you’ve got on hand – ground turkey would be exceedingly happy in this pie when combined with beef or pork.  When you seal up the pie, you brush it with a simple egg wash to elevate store-bought pie crust to photo-worthy culinary majesty.  Truly, it’s a couple of little tricks that make this pie something worth keeping on hand for a rainy day.  Comfort food at its best :)

Recipe for

Savory Meat Pie

Ingredients
2 lbs. of ground beef
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme

1 tbs. of worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. of ketchup
1/4 tsp. of allspice
1/8 tsp. of cloves
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of dried sage

2 c. of milk
1/2 c. of dry white wine

1 c. of bread crumbs
3 eggs
1 tbs. of milk or cream
2 pie crusts (can be store bought)

In a dutch oven, brown the beef (or ground meat of your choosing).  When it’s no longer pink, add the onion, celery and garlic and stir.  Add the bay leaf and thyme and let cook until the vegetables start to release liquid, which should take about a minute.  Add the worcestershire sauce, ketchup, allspice, cloves, salt, white pepper, black pepper and sage and stir.  Pour in the milk and white wine and let simmer away on medium heat until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 45-60 minutes.

Take the meat off the heat and let cool slightly.  Stir in the cup of breadcrumbs and let sit while you prepare the pie crust.

In a 9 inch round cake pan that’s at least 3 inches high (this is a deep crust pie) and grease with cooking spray.  Press one of the crusts on the bottom and sides of the pan.  Tear a slight bit of crust off the second pie crust and press into the pan so that there is more dough to cover the entire pie pan.  If you have slight tears, mend them by easing the dough together to repair.  Take your meat mixture and stir in two of the eggs.  Pour the meat into the pie crust.  Top with the second pie crust and crimp the edges.  In a small bowl, beat together the remaining egg with the milk or cream.  Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.

Bake in a 375° for 25 minutes or until the top is gloriously golden.  Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Simple Gingerbread Cookies

Not gonna lie, I wholeheartedly think Sandra Lee is a hot mess.  Most of her recipes strip the fun out of cooking, replacing fresh ingredients and unique spices with prepackaged, frozen ingredients, all for the sake of saving time.  Which I believe is reserved for getting drunk, based on the heavy emphasis on “cocktail time” in each and every one of her episodes.  A group of us were watching her show Semi Homemade (aka Semi Disgusting) like a horror film – a friend turned to us all and said that she couldn’t get over how batshit crazy she seemed.  Watching her show is like a car accident in slow-motion – from recipes for Kwanzaa cake to jello shots (Um, we need a recipe for jello shots? How old are we?), Food Network Humor has a wide array of just the recipes and techniques that make me groan every time I see her trying to teach people how to cook.

So with all of the vitriole above, and my straight up disgust with Sandra Lee, maybe I need to put down the haterade for a second in that her gingerbread recipe is damn good.  I found the recipe in passing while getting together my list of Christmas goodies to bake, and to my horror, the one that seemed like some majesty was hers.  With a few tweaks made by my expert baker of a sister, this recipe absolutely goes into the pantheon of keepers for all time.  Given that there’s no shame in my game, I do have to give her (or, more likely, whatever peon employee of Food Network Test Kitchen who wrote the recipe) credit where credit is due.  But I can’t forgive all transgressions as your Espresso Martini featured on the Today Show was like a cloyingly sweet White Russian in a martini glass.  Plus, the chapter about you in Anthony Bourdain’s “Medium Raw” is truly cringeworthy.  I guess I’ll just focus on the gingerbread and pretend to forget about your many other transgressions in the kitchen.  And I’m Sandra Lee doesn’t care about any of us haters out there as she cashes those fat checks from her media empire and kicks back with myriad vodka tipples in the Governor’s mansion.

Enough of the negativity – Lexi and I had a hell of a time decorating with the help of some strange Swedish animal shapes from IKEA cookie cutters and some well-placed decorative candy.  We warmed Starburst with our hands and rolled it out like fondant to cut into ribbons and bows.  We sliced red and green fruit roll ups into strips and pressed them together to make a Christmas striped sheet for cutting into scarves, sweaters and top hats.  We used cinnamon candy dots to make necklaces and eyes.  And rather than making royal icing from scratch, we used the prepackaged muffin glaze in a squeezable tube (found in the baking aisle at the supermarket) to stick on the decorations.  I’m sure Sandra Lee would approve.

Recipe for

Simple Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients
1 package of dry sugar cookie mix
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tbs of crystalized ginger, finely ground in a coffee grinder or pulverized in a food processor
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 tbs. of maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. of almond extract

In a standing mixer, blend the mix, egg, flour, butter, pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger, crystalized ginger, molasses, maple syrup, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Once a dough forms, remove from the bowl, wrap with plastic and chill for about an hour.  If you chill for longer than an hour, make sure to remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to roll out the dough.  Flour a board and rolling pin and roll out the dough to around 1/4 of an inch thick.  Cut cookies with cookie cutters and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Bake in a 350° oven for 7 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack and let cool.  Decorate as you see fit and store in a tupperware to keep soft and chewy.

Lemon Curd Muffins

These suckers are stupid easy to make, which is up my alley as you know that I am no baker.  One of my greatest failures in the kitchen, and a dish that lives on in infamy, were the Wolfgang Puck Lemon Bars I attempted to make many years ago.  My grandmother had brought us a bounty of grapefruit-sized lemons from her garden, and I knew I had to do something other than a million citron pressés with the mess of citrus.  Why not lemon bars?  Wolfgang Puck is kinda awesome – this must be a good recipe.  Ugh, they were so bad – too tart, not entirely set, just awful.  I don’t blame Wolfgang so much as myself for not being able to pull things off.  Worst of all, I kept on making my sister eat them so that we could get rid of them.  To this day, she is terrified of the words “lemon bar” – I take the blame.

Fast forward to this Christmas and I myself was stuck with a bumper crop of lemons from my tree in the back yard.  I found a recipe for Lemon Shortbread Bars on Chow that featured an ever so easy lemon curd with no precooking or tempering of the eggs and lemon.  Just mix, bake and go.  I planned to tackle the recipe with my sister, but after a marathon of baking and decorating gingerbread, it was time to keep things simple.  Using sugar cookie dough out of the Pillsbury tube, I pressed out mini tarts into a muffin pan and topped them with the lemon curd.  A short bake later, and we were all treated to chewy, lemony goodness with a snowy topping of powdered sugar.  I didn’t even have to get my sister to eat them – she just went to town on a truly good thing.  Here’s to the little victories in life, to include my ability to actually bake something awesome.

 

Recipe for

Lemon Curd Muffins

Ingredients
1 tube of pillsbury sugar cookie dough
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
3 tbs. of flour
pinch of salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with large cups (mine has 6) with cooking spray, preferably the kind for baking with flour mixed in.  Cut the sugar cookie dough into 6 chunks and press each chunk in the bottom of the muffin tins, slightly raising the sides to form a mini tart. Place tarts in the stove and bake dough for 12 minutes.

In a mixer or a large bowl with an egg beater, beat together the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, flour and salt.  Take the dough out of the oven and prick with a fork to release the air from the dough.  Pour the lemon curd over the dough and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes in the oven.  Let the muffins rest for a few minutes and then remove to a plate.  Using a sifter, sprinkle powdered sugar over the muffins.  Serve warm or cold.

Southern-Style Mac and Cheese

I grew up below the Mason-Dixon line, which often manifests itself in my love of good, Southern cooking and a tendency to say “y’all” when I get angry or excited.  As such, on occasion you can find me whipping up dishes that get a low brow reputation, but are truly high in deliciousity.  And/or high in calories, but whatever to that.  The hardest decision one should have to make when tucking into comfort food is whether the Country Fried Steak should come with scrambled eggs and grits or mashed potatoes and corn.

Southern-Style Mac and Cheese © Spice or Die

Down south mac and cheese is all about the simple ingredients – no artisan cheese blends here.  Just straight cheddar, jack and velveeta to round things out.  The recipe is similar in preparation to my classic (more upscale) baked mac and cheese, with the exception of the velveeta to round out the sauce.  The pasta softens right up in the bubbly, creamy goodness and comes out so gorgeous, Aretha Franklin herself would sing bars of joy over a bite or two.  And I don’t just say that because we used to share the same last name…

Southern-Style Mac and Cheese

1 lb. of elbow macaroni
4 tbs. of butter
4 tbs. of flour
1 grated shallot, juices and all
4 c. of whole milk
2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
2 tsp. of worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. of deli mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
10 oz. of velveeta, cubed
2 c. of sharp cheddar, shredded
2 c. of colby jack, shredded
1/2 c. of plain bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente and drain.

While pasta is boiling, make your sauce. In a large sized pot, melt your butter on medium-low heat. Add the grated shallot and stir. Whisk the flour into the butter to form a smooth paste.  Add the cubes of velveeta and allow to melt.  Slowly add the milk in a steady stream, whisking the whole time to prevent lumps. Add the salt, paprika, black pepper, white pepper, worchestershire sauce, mustard and cayenne. Turn up heat and continue whisking until sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add the 2 c. of cheese and whisk until melted.

Dump macaroni into a buttered 13x9x2 inch pan, pour the sauce over the pasta and stir.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the 2 cups of colby jack, panko, paprika, black pepper and garlic powder. Top the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Turn the oven up to 500° and bake for another 5 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden. Let sit for 4-5 minutes and then serve.

Sweet Tomato Tart

Tomato lovers rejoice, for now you can celebrate these delicious orbs of sweet majesty at all meals.  This is truly the ultimate tomato dessert given that a) there aren’t too many others in competition and b) it is as simple as it is wondrous.  “Tomatoes for dessert?!?” you scoff.  What better way to enjoy the sweetness of a tomato than in a simple tart brushed with currant jam until a rich, garnet color and then baked just enough to release the natural juices and crisp up the delicious tart crust?  You’re welcome.

Sweet Tomato Tart © Spice or Die

I first had this dessert with my mom at the restaurant Tosca in DC, and after the first bite, we totally understood how commonsensical it was to use tomatoes for dessert, particularly heirlooms.  For those that don’t know – there are two main types of tomatoes: heirlooms and hybrids.  Hybrids are the most common – they grown all year round and produce several crops of tomatoes throughout the growing season.  The tomatoes (and sorry if I am getting dorky here) are created through self-pollination, meaning that a farmer/scientist/botanist/whatever can control what specific traits that the tomato’s offspring will harbor.  This has resulted in hardy, disease-fighting tomatoes that can be enjoyed whenever and wherever.

The rarer heirloom tomato is created through open-pollination, as occurs in nature – bees and other pollinators pass on genetic traits from various types of tomatoes, resulting in wild cross breeds that are hard to genetically track and control.  The tomatoes come in wild arrays of colors, shapes and sizes, and typically only give off a single crop per growing season.  They can be bumpy, even ugly on the outside (some grocery stores actually call them “ugly tomatoes”, but cut into one and you’ll find the juiciest, sweetest flesh that you could possibly imagine.  These are the tomatoes that make people fall in love with them.  They are our oldest tomatoes as well – many of the strains were grown by the indigenous peoples of not only the continent of North America, but also around the world.

For this recipe, I encourage you to go out and find some heirloom tomatoes that look special to you – pick a fun color like the dark purple of a Black Krim, or the sunshine bright Brandywine Yellow.  You could even try one of the striped varieties for a best-of-both-worlds situation.  They’re really worth a trip to the Farmer’s Market just to check them out.  Of course, if you can’t find heirlooms, you can absolutely make this tart with a juicy, meaty hybrid tomato – just find the best ones available and treat them lovingly when assembling the tart.  It’s all good at the end of the day!

 

Sweet Tomato Tart

1 pie crust (can also use puff pastry)
2 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes (any color, can also use hybrid)
5 tbs. of red currant jam
4 tbs. of raw sugar (can substitute light brown sugar)

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Slice tomatoes as paper-thin as possible (thick tomatoes won’t cook properly) and carefully lay them on a paper towel to dry them a bit.  You’ll want enough slices to cover the pie crust in one even, semi-overlapping layer.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the currant jam.  If the jam has pieces of currants in it, strain them out.  You can actually save these little currant pieces as a topping for ice cream or a sweet treat.  I actually use them like caviar (ha!) on top of a cracker spread with my mock boursin cheese recipe for a little taste of sweet and savory combined.

Roll your pie crust out into a 9″ tart pan, making sure not to tear any holes.  Lay your tomatoes out on the crust in overlapping concentric circles, making sure that the whole thing is pretty and even.  Using a pastry brush, apply a generous layer of the melted currant jam over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle the sugar on top.

Place the tart in the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the tomatoes are bubbly and a lovely red, about 15-20 minutes.  Let rest until warm and serve with ice cream – maybe a lovely scoop of basil gelato?

Nyquil-Induced Trishy Lou Brownies

Say, What’s in These Brownies? Um, Deliciousness…

Nyquil brownies…yeah, I said it.  You look a little sick and also a little skinny, so I thought I would do you a favor.  You’re welcome.

This recipe is actually a hack of the clutch recipe of my best friend Kate’s mom’s brownie recipe, combined with the idea of Nyquil Brownies as featured on Bittersweet Blog.  Let me tell you this, if ever there were two recipes that were meant to be combined, it’s these two.  I stumbled upon the Nyquil Brownie recipe on FoodBuzz and laughed my ass off – they were touted as a way to get rid of unwanted house guests, but for me, they proved a way to get rid of the noxious green swill in my medicine cabinet.  I hate that shit with a passion and yet it still ends up next to the Mucinex every winter.  WTF, Nyquil?  Bittersweet has you whip up a lovely cheesecake topping for boxed brownie mix, and spikes the creamy goodness with a shot of the mint Nyquil.  Genius, I thought, and I immediately tucked the recipe away.

Nyquil Brownie © Spice or Die

Though I’m no baker, I recently fell in love with Pat O’Malley’s super fudgy, failproof brownie recipe.  They taste like gourmet, are easier than box brownies and satisfy an addict’s level of chocolate craving.  I don’t know why I just thought of the song Constant Craving, but if K.D. Lang came over, I’d serve these brownies.  But I digress – these brownies deserved some sort of crowning glory, and I decided what-the-hell, how about Bittersweet’s Nyquil topping.

I liken them to Thin Mints in taste.  The hubby said they remind him of Andes Mints.  I didn’t really get a definitive response from my other buddies munching with me other than “mmmmmmmm”.  Best of all, they didn’t make us sleepy so much as blissfully happy that we thought to put all of the goodness together in a pan.  So I’m sorry if you’re looking for a way to kick people out of your house – this doesn’t seem to work as quickly as I had hoped.  But it does seem to work to make some culinary excellence, so I’m fucking fine with it.

The cream cheese topping was thick for me, so rather than bake in a rectangular pan, I cooked mine in a 9 in. round pan (3 in. tall) just like a cake.  This works REALLY well and looks gorgeous when you cut into it – like a giant chocolate mint cheesecake.  If, however, you’d like to go with traditional brownie squares, use a 13×9 pan and cut the cooking time down a bit to keep the brownies moist – about 10 minutes.

Nyquil-Induced Trishy Lou Brownies

Ingredients
1 package cream cheese softened
1/2 c. of sugar
1 egg
1 shot of green Nyquil (or 1 tbs. of creme de menthe, or 1 tsp of peppermint extract plus 4 drops of green food coloring)

1 stick plus 3 tbs. of butter (11 tbs.)
4 oz. of baking chocolate (4 squares)
1 1/3 c. of flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 tsp. of vanilla
1 tsp. of peppermint extract
4 eggs
2 c. of sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Using a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer and a bowl), cream together the sugar, cream cheese and Nyquil (or mint flavor of choice) until smooth.  Add egg and blend until creamy.  Set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, add butter and then the chocolate on top.  Microwave until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes) in 30 second intervals, taking mixture out to stir in between.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar over the melted chocolate.  Stir.  Add the vanilla, peppermint extract and eggs and stir.  Do not overmix.

Pour brownie batter into a buttered (or cooking sprayed) 9 in. round baking pan.  Pour the cream cheese mixture on top and spread evenly to cover the brownie batter.  Bake for 45 minutes until the edges are cooked through and the middle of the brownies are just set.  When cooled, cut into wedges and serve.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

Sesame Street has been brought to you today by Guinness Stout.  Oh my goodness!  Actually, this guest post is brought to you by Jennifer White, self-proclaimed foodie, and soon-to-be culinary school star.  When she’s not inventing majesty, such as this incredibly decadent cupcake recipe, she can be found scouring restaurants, food + wine festivals and hopping around the globe eating well.  She get’s a big virtual hug for this one – it rocked my socks to the point that we didn’t actually eat dinner the night we made these.  Just cupcakes and Patron XO on ice.  Now if that ain’t a party, I don’t know what is.
-Ange

Guinness Chocolate Cupcake © Spice or Die

I thought I would contribute a recipe that is a sort of ritual between myself and some friends in Miami, but also extremely you-can’t-get-enough-of-it tasty. When I lived in South Beach, there was a group of us dedicated to drinking Guinness. The fridge was always packed and the corner store always sold out. Finally, one day I had an epiphany and thought of what else can we do with Guinness to spice things up, and started making these Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes. The recipe is not for the lighthearted, but you can be sure that when all those unhealthy things come together, it’s going to be nothing but goodness. So here is my sacred Guinness Chocolate Cupcake Recipe. You should definitely try it out. Although my original group of friends all live in different parts of the world these days, we always manage to make these cupcakes when we get together.

They even look like mini Guinness’ and pair wonderfully with (you guessed it) a nice cold glass of Guinness.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
2 cups sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of fine salt
1 bottle Guinness
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.

In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes on the top rack of the oven and then rotate the pan(s) to the bottom rack. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

While the cupcakes are cooling, you can make your icing.  In a medium bowl with a hand mixer (or using a stand mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled.

Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

Note (from AG)

Jenn uses muffin tins, but for easy cleanup, you may want to pick up some of the standing foil muffin cups from the baking aisle and the grocery.  You don’t have to worry about the cupcakes sticking and there aren’t any dishes to clean when you’re done.  Cheers!

Green and Gold Quiche (Quiche Florentine with Mushrooms)

I tend to hold on to recipes that have a “more the merrier” quality – this is certainly one of them.  If mushroom quiche is delicioso, and Quiche Florentine is equally lovely, what happens when you put the two together.  This recipe is based on one of my favorite omlettes, Elephant and Castle’s Green and Gold.  It combines gently cooked eggs with spinach and sharp white cheddar – I let my eggs cook delicately in the oven and add mushrooms for a little more veggie action.  It’s so delicious and so very easy, and you don’t have to stand over a pan to cook it.

All cheddars aren’t created equal, and in this recipe, you want as sharp as you can get it.  Sharp cheeses are good in that you can use less cheese to impart flavor, saving you calories in the process.  I use a good artisinal cheddar, but in a pinch, you could grab some Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White Cheddar and go from there. Continue reading Green and Gold Quiche (Quiche Florentine with Mushrooms)

Quiche Lorraine

Real men don’t eat quiche?  Garbage.  Since when do men not like bacon, eggs and cheese in portable form?  Quiche Lorraine is the ultimate symbol of breakfast majesty – it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night trips to the fridge when you want a bite of a little something savory.  I’m all for serving this quiche with a plate of mixed greens (maybe in some Tarragon Lemon dressing?) but in actuality, I end up eating it still in the kitchen over the pan after it’s cooled to room temperature.  I’ll pass on standing on ceremony – if it’s good, I’m tucking in.

Quiche Lorraine © Spice or Die

This quiche recipe is incredibly versatile – if you’re so inclined, replace the 1 1/2 c. of ham with whatever filling you’d like.  For you vegetarian lovelies out there, try mushrooms, spinach, swiss chard, shallots – anything you put in an omlette can go in a quiche.  In fact, for a vegetarian delight, try my Green and Gold Quiche, a tasty blend of mushrooms, spinach, shallots and sharp white cheddar.  It’s not at all traditional, but equally grubworthy as this Quiche Lorraine. Continue reading Quiche Lorraine

Savory Breakfast Strata

I’m a bacon and eggs girl all the way, and I believe in the savory goodness of a breakfast served 24 hours a day.  And given my proclivities to resurrecting leftovers with simple ingredients lying around, a strata is a glorious combination of toasted bread and eggy custard, studded with your favorite toppings.  Bacon, mushrooms, spinach, chard, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, you name it – if you can put it in an omlette, you can most likely include it in a strada.

Savory Mushroom Strada  © Spice or Die

I love this recipe for brunch guests for a couple of reasons.  It’s a great make ahead recipe that requires little to no babysitting.  Assemble leisurely and pop into the oven an hour before you want to eat.  Drink mimosas until it’s time.  Another thing I love is that this recipe rarely involves a trip to the grocery store – if you save your old bread when it gets too hard to eat, and just pluck some choice toppings from the fridge, you are in business.  Worst case scenario, you have to go to the store for eggs and cream.  Lastly, and most importantly, when this comes out of the oven, it looks incredibly impressive for being absolutely no work.  The best kind of recipe there is.

If you are watching your waistline, you can absolutely make this recipe with egg beaters in lieu of eggs and fat-free evaporated milk instead of the cream.  It is not as luxe, but it tastes damn good for having little to no fat.  You’ll just need to figure out what you want to do about the 2 c. of cheese and 1 c. of filling – if you use full fat cheese and say, bacon, don’t assume that it’s full fat.  Canadian bacon, good veggies, and a bit of sharp cheese (you need less because the taste is stronger) are good alternatives.  I don’t even want to talk about fat-free cheese – why waste the calories on tasteless drivel.  Lemme tell you how I really feel (ha!)

Ok, breakfast time!

Savory Breakfast Strata

3 c. of old bread, cubed (or fresh bread, cubed and toasted with a bit of olive oil)
4 eggs
1 1/4 c. of cream
1/8 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of nutmeg
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
1/8 tsp. of black pepper
2 c. of grated cheese (sharp cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella, fontina, etc. – definitely blend types)
1 c. of cooked meat and/or veggies (chopped bacon, ham or prosciutto, spinach, swiss chard, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a medium sized casserole or small ramekins with cooking spray or butter (I used some el cheapo parchement rounds from Sur La Table for the version in the photo above).  Sprinkle 1/2 c. of the cheese on the bottom of the ramekins or casserole.  Place on a cookie sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the one cup of your choice of meat and veggies, and 1 c. of the cheese.  Dump into the casserole dish or split amongst the ramekins.  Using the same bowl, beat the eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt, black pepper and white pepper.  Pour the custard over the bread, pushing down on the cubes to make sure that they are all saturated with the liquid.  Let sit for about 5 minutes and then gently push the cubes down a second time.  Top with the remaining 1/2 c. of cheese and then put the pan in the oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the center is no longer jiggly and the strata has puffed up like a soufflé.

Serve hot, or wait a bit and eat at room temperature.