Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whole Grain Zucchini Bread


My whole grain zucchini bread, pictured here with a gentle smear of cream cheese and a lazy drizzle of maple syrup, represents the fruits of a most propitious discovery: while rooting around in the freezer the other day looking for who-knows-what, I found two whole bags of shredded zucchini from last summer’s garden. And so, helping them to fulfill the measure of their creation (which I’d apparently wiped from my mind), I used one of them last night to concoct a whole grain recipe that is full of goodness. You always know a recipe is a success when Chris repeatedly, in between meals, slices the product, pours milk over it, and eats it with a spoon.

2 C grated zucchini

1/2 C olive oil

1/3 C honey

1/3 C real maple syrup

1/2 C thick plain yogurt (or 1/2 C silken tofu + 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for dairy-free version)

2 eggs

1 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C brown rice flour

1/3 C barley flour

1/3 C oat flour (grind oats in your blender or food processor)

1/4 C wheat germ

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 Tbs cinnamon

optional: 1/2 – 3/4 C walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together oil, syrup, honey, yogurt and eggs. (If using tofu, puree first, and add lemon juice/vinegar along with other ingredients.) Stir in zucchini. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet, stirring until just combined. Add walnuts if desired. Ok, this is where things get sketch. Since I just made this recipe up as I went along, following my instincts, I wasn’t sure if I had too much batter for a single pan, or how that whole scene was going to play out in the oven. To be safe, then, I split the batter into two 9-inch loaf pans. I baked them for 30 minutes, and they were perfect, but made loaves that were only about 2-inches tall. If you’re worried about portion control maybe this is the best choice for you. But in retrospect, I think it all could have fit into one 9-in pan…but you’d have to bake it for, gee, I dunno, 40-50 minutes, I would guess. You’ll have to figure that out on your own. I think two 7-in loaf pans would also work well. Anyway, some experimentation to be undertaken still with this particular recipe, if anyone has nothing to do in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 21 Comparative Shots

The weeks are flyin’ by now! I wish that were true, but it is once again time for the belly comparison shots, so here goes--

Sawyer Francis makin’ waves at 21 weeks…


…and Witherford Gumperstoff rounding me out at the same number of weeks:


Amazing Spring Asparagus Sauté

serves 4IMG_6917

I love the springtime (despite the unexpected, debilitating snow storms that it brings to Colorado) because those early vegetables start to come out in all of their delicate, miniature loveliness. You can get the tiniest, most adorable little stalks of asparagus in spring, whereas during the rest of the year asparagus tends to have about the same circumference as my thumb…and is just about as tough and woody as I imagine my thumb would be, were I to undertake to eat it. This little sauté that I whipped up last night was a genuine delight—sweet, salty, tangy, slightly caramelized; I was on the road to eating the whole plate by myself for dinner when Chris snatched it out of my hands.

1 bunch thin asparagus stalks

2 Tbs olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 tsp French mustard (such as Maille)

1 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs water

2 Tbs broth

1-2 Tbs half and half

Wash asparagus and chop off tough lower third of stalks. Cut the remaining stalks in half (widthwise, obviously). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the minced shallot 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Add the asparagus and cover. Cook 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, occasionally removing the lid to stir and flip the asparagus. In the meantime, whisk the mustard, vinegar, water and broth together in a small bowl. When the asparagus is softening and beginning to brown slightly, add the sauce. Continue to sauté, stirring frequently, another 2-3 minutes. At this point the tips should be starting to get slightly wilty, and the vegetables should be starting to caramelize. Add the half and half, stir or toss until combined with the rest of the sauce. Garnish with fresh ground pepper and serve.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cornmeal Crepes with Spicy Filling and Sweet Chili Creme

Serves 6


It’s funny how the idea for a meal comes together: it’s always one part craving (or “inspiration”), one part “what’s already in my fridge/pantry.” In this case, I’d seen a recipe online somewhere with a taco-y, chili-y thing in a casserole dish with a cornbread topping. For some reason it really grossed me out, but it got me thinking about cornmeal. What about some kind of cornmeal pancake…? I surfed around a little, but everything I was seeing just seemed too bready. And then I thought of cornmeal crepes—perfect! A slight sweetness to enrobe something spicy, without all the fluff and density of an actual pancake. From there, the something spicy just became a function, like I said, of what was in my fridge/freezer, in which case I imagine that you could substitute any number of different vegetable combinations (but don’t skip out on the edamame—it’s too good and too good for you!). Chris and I enjoyed this creation immensely for dinner last night. And then when he and our brother-in-law came home from playing racquetball later in the evening, they each enjoyed another serving or two. Btw, you’ll probably have a few extra crepes: Sawyer enjoyed them with butter and honey, and I’m going to enjoy one for lunch today with ham, spinach and melted swiss.


1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

more olive oil for greasing the skillet

Put all the ingredients in the blender and whirl away until batter is smooth.


Transfer batter to a bowl and let it rest while you prepare the filling and sauce. I ended up adding another 1/2 C of milk or so before cooking the crepes because the batter had gotten a bit thick. But then I live in the driest place on earth practically, so check your batter consistency before cooking; it should be just thicker than heavy cream.


1 lb ground meat of your choice or tofu

1 medium-sized red onion

1-2 cloves garlic

5 oz. sliced mushrooms

1 zucchini, halved and sliced

1 yellow squash, halved and sliced

1 C shelled edamame (frozen ok)

1/2 C corn kernels (frozen ok)

1/2 C finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 tsp taco seasoning

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp salt

juice of 1/2 lemon

Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil 5 minutes. Add the meat or tofu, breaking it up as you stir (the reason it says ‘meat of your choice’ is because I, curiously, had several nubbins of miscellaneous ground meat that I needed to use up—so mine was a combination of Italian sausage [removed from casings], seasoned ground turkey and meatball “mix”—if all of your meat is unseasoned you’ll probably need to add a little extra salt). When the meat/tofu is nice and browned, add the zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. Cover and let the mix stew away for 6-8 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the squash is starting to soften. Finally add the edamame and corn, and stir to combine. It should look about like this:


Transfer this mixture to a large bowl, and using the pan lid, drain out the excess juices (you could save them for stock, if you were industrious). Juice the 1/2 lemon into the bowl and toss in all of the fresh and dried spices. How pretty is that??


Stir it all up and let the flavors meld while you cook the crepes. Heat a 10-in skillet to medium low (let it heat completely before starting the first crepe). Brush the skillet with olive oil and pour about 1/2 C batter into the pan as you use the handle to swirl it around, coating the bottom of the pan, like so:


When the crepe starts to form bubbles from underneath it’s ready to be flipped. Warning: the first crepe pretty much always is a disaster, I don’t know why. Just pour some honey on it and enjoy it while you try the next one. After that first sacrificial crepe they should turn out fine. I use a regular rubber spatula to flip mine (loosen the edges first), and let it cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes. Transfer cooked crepes to a plate and keep them covered with a clean dish towel.

In between crepe pouring and flipping you can make the chili cream:

1/2 C sour cream

1/2 C buttermilk

2 whole canned green chilies

2 Tbl sliced chipotle peppers

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in the blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

When everything is ready, start assembling: put a cooked crepe back into the frying pan (same temperature), sprinkle a little cheese of your choice (we used colby jack; pepper jack would also be good, as would queso fresco), and cover with some of the spicy filling.


Fold the two sides over, like a burrito, and let the filling warm and the cheese melt for about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the crepe to a plate and spoon over the chili cream.

Monday, March 22, 2010

More and more reasons to eat real food...

Read this important study from Princeton and reconsider how you read labels (if you do):


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream; a dream a year in the making


About a year ago a little cafe and ice cream shop called Snowcap opened their doors down the street from us. I normally don’t care that much about ice cream, as desserts go, but I think everyone in Erie was thrilled to see that some legitimate commerce was finally moving in. So we made the requisite pilgrimage over there with our neighbors to check it out, and what did I see on their flavors board but “Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream.” “What could it mean??” I wondered aloud. “Is it chocolate ice cream with regular cookie dough? Or vanilla ice cream with chocolate cookie dough? Or could it be…*gasp*…chocolate ice cream with CHOCOLATE cookie dough????” So I went to the counter to ask about it and the employee replied, “Yeah, we’ve been getting lots of questions about that, sorry. It’s mistake on the sign, it’s just regular old chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.” I would say that my dreams had been crushed, if it weren’t for the fact that I had just gotten an ice cream maker for Christmas, and that, while I’m not so crazy about going out for ice cream or buying store bought ice cream (no matter how good it is), I become completely possessed (seriously, by DEMONS), when I conceive of a homemade ice cream flavor that I want to try. So a year later, with company coming tonight, I decided to realize the dream.

Ice Cream:

2 C cream

1 C half and half

3/4 C sugar (I’m thinking about cutting this down next time…it is REALLY sweet)

6 Tbs cocoa powder

pinch salt

Puree ingredients in blender until well combined. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Cookie Dough:

4 Tbs butter, softened

6 Tbs sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 Tbs milk

2 Tbs cocoa

3/4 C flour

1/2 C mini chocolate chips

Mix butter and sugar with a fork until well combined. Add vanilla and milk and stir well. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined (dough will be stiff)—I found it easier to use my hands to get a homogenous dough.  Chill for 20 minutes.

During the last few minutes that the ice cream is churning, break the dough into little chunks (about 1/4-1/2 tsp each). I spread them over my ice cream tupperware like this:


When the ice cream was done I poured a layer over the chunks in the tupperware, then put the chunks on the lid on top of that. Then I covered it with the rest of the ice cream, and any chunks that I had left over. At the end it looked like this:


We ate this with friends tonight that were over for game night, and they adored it. We agreed that walnuts would be a divine addition.

End of Winter Meatball Soup with Kale

Serves 8


Originally this recipe was for Portuguese meatball soup, but I admit that I’ve jimmied it so much that it would probably be a genuine travesty to call it Portuguese. Nonetheless, it is truly delicious, and you should hurry up and try it because the spring weather is rolling in and there won’t be many chilly days left during which a bowl of this thick, flavorful loveliness will be just what you’re looking for!


For now, use your favorite meatball recipe. I’m really kicking myself because these meatballs were something special—the recipe came from the real-live ITALIAN MAMA of my office mate Sylvia, and I can’t for the life of me find the piece of paper that she scrawled the recipe on ! So stay tuned; hopefully it will turn up, or Sylvia will have the gentillesse to reproduce it for me. However, I'm pretty sure that her meatballs were fundamental to this soup flavor, so I'll tell you this: there was about a cup of finely grated parmesan mixed into the meats, and the balls were cooked with sauteed onions and bell peppers (I used yellow and orange), that cooked long enough that they nearly broke down into a light sauce. I put ALL of this goo into the soup along with the meatballs. Anyway, MAKE your meatballs, and set them aside until you’re almost done with the soup. Here are my Italian lovelies:



2 Tbs olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 C diced celery

1 1/2 C sliced carrots

1 large russet potato, cubed (original recipe said to peel it, but I like the taste of the peel so I just scrubbed it well and put it in as is)

6 C broth (I used vegetable and chicken)

1 lb kale, stems and center ribs removed, thinly sliced

1/2 recipe of above meatballs

1/2 C fresh Italian parsely, chopped

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and cook 4-5 minutes longer. The deep flavor of the soup comes from letting these vegetables caramelize a bit, so don’t scrimp on the time here. Add the carrots, potatoes and broth. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes:


Here are the sliced kale and meatballs, ready to go. Add them to the pot and simmer 7 more minutes.


Add the chopped parsley and simmer 4-6 minutes longer until the flavor permeates the soup. Serve with some seriously crusty, delicious bread!


Even Sawyer liked this soup (well, parts of it)—and that’s really saying something.

Serbian Cheese Bourek

Serves 8 as an appetizer


Once again, I neglected to get a proper photo of this after I cut it up, but this is more or less what it looked like. Bourek/borek/burek is a savory pastry that one finds all over Eastern and Central Europe, which Chris and I ate loads of during our trip in 2006. It was like our lingua franca, because every nation that we visited had it, and it was always about the tastiest treat to be found on the side of the road. It is most often filled with either cheese or seasoned beef and onions. When I got the hankering to make some recently, I started looking around online before remembering that, DUH, my Serbian friend Danica was just an email away, and she was bound to have a great recipe. Hers was different than any I’ve ever seen, which was part of what made trying it such fun. And now that I’ve done it once, I’m going to recommend a few changes here that I think will make it more compatible with American cookware and measurements.

1 pkg filo dough (thaw in fridge 24 hours before undertaking this project)

2 C water

2 Tbs butter

3 Tbs olive oil

3 tsp salt

1 small container cottage cheese

1 C feta cheese crumbles

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease two 9x13 pans and set aside. In a medium saucepan bring the water, butter, oil and salt to a boil, then let simmer a few minutes. While this is in the works, puree the cottage cheese in the food processor until it is completely smooth. Add the feta and pulse to break it up within the cottage cheese. Transfer cheese mixture into a small mixing bowl:


Step one: place a sheet of filo in the 9x13 pan and coat it with the liquid. Cover this with another sheet, which you also coat with liquid (it worked best for me to just pour it on straight from the pan, then spread it around with a pastry brush).

Step two is to cover this first layer of filo with crumpled “balls” of cheese-dipped filo. So take another sheet of dough and dip it in the cheese mixture, twisting and picking up cheese as you drench it.


It should look about like this when you pull it out:IMG_6813

Place this in one corner of the 9x13 pan. It should take about six or eight of these total (two across, three/four down) to more or less cover the area of the pan.

After all the cheesy balls of dough are in place, slather them liberally with the liquid mixture, “car le bourek ne doit pas etre sec!” says Danica.

Step 3: Now do another two sheets on top of the balls, just like you did on the bottom, nicely coated with liquid, and then repeat the step with 6-8 more cheesy balls (wish I could think of a better word for that), ending with another two flat sheets of filo dough. Be sure to pour any leftover liquid over the top. On my first try I did two 9-in round pans, and they looked like this after all of my layers were done:


Step 4: Pop the pan into the oven for 20 minutes. It looked like this when I pulled it out:


Step 5: Now you have to flip it…hence that other greased 9x13 pan. Loosen the edges of the bourek with a knife before starting. Invert the second pan on top of the first, and with a quick flip, turn the two pans over so that the bourek lands “upside-down” in the new pan. Here’s what mine looked like after the flip.


Step 6: return the new pan with the flipped bourek to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. Cut into rectangular wedges to serve.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bulgarian Cucumber Salad

serves 4 as a side dish


My Flavors of Central Europe tour continues, and it’s driving me wild. When Chris and I got back from our trip in 2006, one of the first things I tried to recreate was the cucumber-yogurt salads we’d had in Bulgaria. This is a significant departure from those simple, refreshing summer salads--which were not much more than cucumbers and thick, creamy yogurt—but, I LOVE it! I cobbled the recipe together from a few others that I found, and right now it is dancing in my mouth, making me possibly the happiest woman that ever ate cucumber salad while typing on the computer and watching ‘Follow that Bird’ with her toddler. Why else is this salad great? Because it’s full of excellent sources of fat and protein, as well as fibrous, water-packed cucumber. I’m pretty sure this will be on regular rotation this summer—especially when the garden gets going.

1/2 C minced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 C finely chopped dill pickle

1 1/2 C coarsely chopped cucumber (I like English cucumbers best)

3/4 C thick plain yogurt

1 tsp vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried dill (I wish I’d had fresh, but…)

ground walnuts to garnish

Combine the onion and garlic in a bowl of water and let them soak while you prepare the rest of the salad—the water bath will neutralize the acids and help prevent extreme garlic-onion breath. Combine the pickle, cucumber, yogurt, vinegar, salt and dill. Drain the onion and garlic and add to the mix. Stir until well combined. Garnish each serving with about 2 Tbs ground walnuts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Polish Stuffed Cabbage (Golabki) with many a healthy revision

serves 6

As I said in a recent post, I’ve been on a bit of an Eastern/Central European cuisine kick, and the only complaint that one could possibly have about that is the potential heaviness of such food, particularly in the meat department. In fact, this whole idea is taking me back to traveling through Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1996. I was a vegan at the time, which is about the most hilarious thing I can think of now—I mean, a vegan that doesn’t speak a word of either language, trying to negotiate the only recently democratic (and by that I am merely making a reflection on the availability of foodstuffs) land of meat, sausage and cheese. I can’t tell you what a hard time my traveling partner and I had trying to find things we could eat. Luckily I knew how to say in German “kein Fleisch, keine Kase!” Of course, it was a totally different world (for us and for Central Europe) when Chris and I spent a month there in 2006. I would eat about anything, and there were fresh vegetables everywhere. But back to the topic at hand: heavy cuisine. Most golabki recipes that I found included a mix of pork and beef. I opted for beef and turkey to cut out a little of the fat. They were about half and half as to whether one should use tomato sauce or beef broth in the pot—I opted for broth, because I’d never tried it before. And then I added—blasphemous, no doubt—some vegetables to the filling that are not ordinarily there. I wonder if I’ll be hearing soon from the Society for the Preservation of Golabki. I’m going to forward this post to my dear Polish friend Anna, and she can make the judgment for or against my freewheeling deviations from tradition.

Update: I've just had an email back from Anna, and she gives my recipe the thumbs up!

1 head cabbage

1-15 oz. can sauerkraut, drained

1 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground turkey

1 1/2 C cooked brown rice or barley

2 Tbs whole wheat bread crumbs

2 tsp salt

fresh ground pepper

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 C chopped bell pepper (I used orange and yellow)

2 C fresh spinach, coarsely hopped

2 Tbs olive oil

2 C beef broth

3 bay leaves

To core the cabbage, make slits deep into the center around the nubbin of the stalk, then remove the core, like so:


You should have a nice hole, like this:


Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and submerge the cabbage; cook for 10 minutes until leaves begin to detach. Drain and cool.

In a large skillet sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add peppers and cook 3 minutes more. Add chopped spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Pretty!


While the vegetables are cooking combine the meats, rice, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper (quantity is up to you, I probably put 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper). Add cooked vegetables and mix well (hands are great for this).


Once the cabbage is cooled, remove the outer 18 or so leaves. here’s my flaccid pile:


Chop the rest of the cabbage and combine it with the drained sauerkraut in a large ovenproof pot/dutch oven/casserole dish, like so:


The only sauerkraut that I had on hand was seasoned and cooked with apples, hence its dark brown color.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Now it’s time to stuff your cabbage leaves! Take a glob of the meat mixture (1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on the size of your leaf) and place it at the base (near the stem):


Fold the bottom flap over:


Like a burrito, fold the two sides over:


Roll the filling up in the cabbage leaf:


Until everything is contained:


Place your completed cabbage rolls on top of the cabbage-sauerkraut mixture. Pour beef broth over and slide a few bay leaves in between the rolls. Here’s my pot, ready to go in the oven:


Bake for 1 hour. Drain out the juices and mix with a little sour cream. Serve the rolls on a bed of cabbage/sauerkraut drizzled with juice:                


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Irish Soda Bread


I get into phases of baking Irish Soda Bread whenever I see buttermilk on sale at the store. The first time I’m sure I consulted a recipe, but afterwards I just tossed things together each time, tweeking this and that (especially with my whole grain obsession), making, apparently, blasphemous variations on the real thing. Or at least this is what I learned when I discovered the The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought I should go back to the source and make something more or less authentic, and I discovered that:

“If your "soda bread" has raisins, it's not ‘soda bread! ‘ It's called ‘Spotted Dog’ or ‘Railway Cake!’  If it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it's called ‘cake,’ not ‘bread.’  All are tasty, but not traditional Irish Soda Bread! (…)  If one searches the internet using the term ‘Traditional Irish Soda Bread’ about 63,500 sites are listed. 98% of them aren't even close to being traditional.  Google ‘Irish Soda Bread’ and you will find 126,000 sites. Would ‘French Bread’ (15th century) still be ‘French Bread’ if whiskey, raisins, or other random ingredients were added to the mix?  Would Jewish Matzo (unleavened bread) used to remember the passage of the Israelites out of Egypt still be Matzo if we add raisins, butter, sugar, eggs, and even orange zest?   So why is traditional ‘Irish Soda Bread’ (19th century) turned into a dessert and labeled ‘Traditional Irish Soda Bread?’”

If you’ve been wandering through the wilderness of life for decades looking for a cause, the preservation of Irish Soda Breads seems to be a good one. Or, if you’re like me, enjoy the traditional one day and the hybrid fruits of modernity and blessed invention another day. Today I went somewhere in between, because when I'm riffin' on 'Traditional Irish Soda Bread' I DO DO DO add sweetner and raisins; dear Irish, I hope you'll absolve me. So, I used the recipe from the above society for Brown Irish Soda Bread, but I added some butter (which they allow “if you must deviate”) and some sweetener. Is it less of a travesty if I’m actually part Irish (a very, very, very small part)?

3 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 C white flour

2 Tbs butter

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbs brown sugar

1 3/4 C buttermilk

2 Tbs molasses

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease and flour a small corning ware dish or a cake pan. If you have a food processor, combine the flours, butter, salt, baking soda and sugar and blend until mixture resembles fine crumbs. If not, use your fingers to blend the butter into the flour, then add the other ingredients. Add the buttermilk and molasses until a thick, sticky dough is formed.


Form the dough into a ball and turn into the greased pan/dish, and score the top with a knife.


Cover with the corning ware lid, or with another cake pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5-10 minutes more. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack, and let cool 20-30 more before cutting. Here’s my slice at breakfast this morning, toasted and spilling o’er with butter and honey. No one has said yet how much of an adulteration that is, but it’s freaking good.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

19 week comparative shots

Sawyer in utero at 19 weeks…in the mountains…that was a great summer.


And here is baby Gorgar…in the hallway.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Best Pregnancy Breakfast 6: The Blue-Green Shake

makes 2 medium-sized servings


I know what you’re thinking: that’s not blue-green at all. In fact it looks just like all the other shakes I make with blueberries. I was surprised, actually, that a shake with a cup of fresh spinach in it didn’t have more of a green tinge. But maybe that’s a positive thing, because it will convince you even further that a breakfast shake with spinach will offend neither your taste buds nor your aesthetic sensibilities. Truth be told: you really can’t taste it at all.

1 C thick plain yogurt (you can’t beat my recipe!)

2 Tbs real maple syrup

1/2 C soymilk (vanilla soymilk would be especially good)

1 banana, peeled and broken into chunks

1 overflowing C frozen blueberries

1 generous cup fresh (preferably organic) baby spinach

Look at this beautiful, stratified portrait of health! Hit the button and blend it all up!


Spinach Mushroom Strata

serves 6-8


Whenever I have leftover heels of bread that no one wants, or inedible slices that sat too long and are no longer even toastable, strata is my first thought. Strata is a savory bread pudding that is wildly flexible in its ingredients—whatever flavors, meats and vegetables you are craving, you can put them in a strata (though I don’t recommend putting broccoli in a breakfast strata—that didn’t go over very well, even with me). The basic premise is that you break your stale, leftover bread into cubes, cook up some meats and vegetables, make an egg-milk-cheese mixture, then toss it all together and bake it. Many people love stratas (strati?) because they are great make-ahead foods: assemble it the night before, bake it in the morning. Though the bread is able to soak the juices up better overnight, I don’t find that omitting this step does any harm to the native deliciousness of the dish. So try the recipe below, and next time choose your own meats, vegetables and cheeses. And when you’re craving a sweet bread pudding, go here.

1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid

1 large onion, chopped

1 package sliced mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 C cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (I use whole wheat because that’s all we ever eat at home)

2 C grated gruyère or jarlsburg cheese

1 C grated parmesan cheese

1 3/4 C milk

1 C half and half

8 large eggs

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook (I like to cover it) until mushrooms release their juices (6-8 minutes)  Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

While this is cooling, whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 9x13 pan or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese. Pour the egg-milk mixture evenly over strata. Or you can just mix it all up in the stinkin’ bowl like I did (and always do):


But then, technically, we can’t call it strata (“layers” in Italian). This would be the time to cover it and stick it in the fridge if you’re planning on baking it the next day. If so, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. If not, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.