Want to learn a cool magic trick?
No funny business, I promise. Just tell the fam you’re going to be making tomorrow morning’s breakfast while you sleep. Watch them all scratch their heads. Then whip up one of my overnight breakfast bakes.
You may have thought that the “set-it-and-forget-it” lifestyle was irreconcilable with your choice to eat organic, but you were wrong. All that stands between you and a Sweet French Toast Casserole or Savory Strata is a little planning and some sleight-of-hand.
I’m talking about cutting up a few slices of bread, whisking around some eggs, dreaming up the most delightful of add-ins, and popping the whole thing in the refrigerator to marinate its way to Delicious Land. It’s just that easy. And the extra slice of wonderful here is that letting these casseroles sit overnight actually improves their flavor and texture. I just finished my first full weekend with B&B guests and they gave my strata and French toast rave reviews, in writing actually, in one of my guest books. So I thought I’d share.
When I write a recipe, I’m all about giving people the power to customize, so I’d like you to think of these as formulas rather than recipes. Strawberries not in season? Blueberries are perfect. Family doesn’t like sausage or bacon? Dig through that veggie bin and experiment. You can borrow a tip or two from my suggested variations, but using up what you have on hand works every time.
Sweet French Toast Casserole
12 slices bread
16 oz. cream cheese
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen fruit
2 cups milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Place half of the cubes in a buttered 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Cut cream cheese into 1/2-inch cubes and layer on top of bread. Top with fruit and remaining bread. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk and syrup. Pour over bread mixture. Use a spatula to press ingredients down into liquid. Cover pan and refrigerate eight hours or overnight. Remove half-hour before baking, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and mixture is set in center, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with maple or fruit syrups and vanilla yogurt.
— Ginger Peach: Use peach chunks. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to egg mixture before pouring over bread. Optional: Top casserole with 1/2 cup chopped cashews before refrigerating.
— Compote Style: Use 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit (like apricots, prunes, raisins, and cranberries) rehydrated for 20 minutes in 3/4 cup hot apple cider. Proceed with recipe as usual.
— Blueberry Spice: Use fresh or thawed frozen blueberries. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to egg mixture before pouring over bread.
— Cherry Almond: Use pitted cherries. Add 1 teaspoon almond extract to egg mixture before pouring over bread. Optional: Top casserole with 1/2 cup sliced almonds before refrigerating.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced meat
1 1/2 cups vegetables
12 slices bread
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add meat and vegetables to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Place half the cubes in a buttered 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Scatter half of cheese and all of meat and vegetables over bread. Top with remaining bread. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard. Pour over bread mixture. Use a spatula to press ingredients down into liquid. Top with remaining cheese. Cover pan and refrigerate eight hours or overnight. Remove half-hour before baking, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and mixture is set in center, 25 to 30 minutes.
— Farmhouse: Use Gruyere cheese, bulk sausage, sliced mushrooms and onions. Add 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme to egg mixture before pouring over bread.
— Rueben: Use Swiss cheese, corned beef cubes, sauerkraut and dark rye bread.
— Greek: Use crumbled feta cheese (drained), chopped spinach and chopped red onion. After casserole is finished baking, top with chopped Kalamata olives.
— BLT: Use cheddar cheese with cooked, crumbled bacon, diced tomatoes and chopped red pepper. Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce.
COPYRIGHT 2011 MaryJane Butters
DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL UCLICK FOR UFS
1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106; (816) 581-7500