A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook recently, and I thought it was both lovely, and true. It does seem that the sun is well and truly setting on the year now.
These days I’m waking up in darkness, and finding it harder and harder to drag myself out of bed. A stark contrast to the blazing light we deal with all summer long, and soon we will have only a few hours of daylight each day. I attempted to remove the blackout sheet we hang over our bedroom window to keep out the midnight sun in the summer months, and it turns out it’s stuck. Such is life.
I’ve been reaching for comfort foody things more and more these days, and this is a good one. I was inspired by the bubbly corn and cheddar strata posted on Smitten Kitchen a while back, which Deb claimed to make the perfect packed lunch, even frozen in foil-wrapped squares. I was skeptical about freezing and reheating the strata as I find that eggy things often have a questionable texture upon reheating, but she was right, it was great. I should have known better; in Deb we trust.
If you’re looking at the recipe and thinking that nine is a lot of eggs, yes, yes it is. But this recipe makes eight healthy portions, so it’s not much more than one egg per person. Same goes for the quantity of milk, cheese, and bread in this recipe. I do believe a strata makes an excellent meal. It’s got pretty much everything we need: carbs, protein, and a good dose of vegetables. Plus that excellent layer of bubbly cheese, which tricks us into thinking we’ve had a meal more indulgent than we actually have.
I’ve started with the basic framework of cubes of whole-grain bread and an eggy custard, then layered in some of my favourite fall flavours. This strata stars the ubiquitous sweet potato, together with smoked gouda and thinly sliced leeks.
When the idea for this strata first started to germinate in my brain I thought I’d roast the sweet potatoes, and I still think that would be very, very good. But I wanted to make this as easy as possible, and so instead I ended up grating it into little slivers that soften into the strata as it cooks.
The brilliant thing about stratas is you can (and should) prep them way in advance. An overnight soak in the fridge is preferred. If you’re serving it as a brunch item all you’ve got to go is get up in the morning and pop the strata into the oven. If this is dinner, leave it soaking until you get home from work.
And if its destiny is packed lunches, bake the strata whenever you have time. Let the strata cool and firm up, then wrap slices of it in foil and toss ‘em in your freezer. I like to pack strata with me still frozen, I just toss it in the office microwave when lunch rolls around. If you prefer you can let it thaw overnight in your fridge, or heat it in your oven before you head to work or school.
Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta-carotene. In fact, some studies, have shown sweet potatoes to be a better source of bioavailable beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables. It is a good idea to include some healthy fat along with your sweet potatoes as a part of a balanced meal in order to fully reap the benefits of beta-carotene. Recent research has shown that a little bit of healthy fat (such as butter, olive oil, or coconut oil) along side your sweet potato significantly increases uptake of beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes also have storage proteins called sporamins, which have unique antioxidant properties.Their ability to help sweet potato plants heal damage is significantly related to their role as antioxidants, and when sweet potato is being digested inside our gastrointestinal tract, we may get some of these same antioxidant benefits. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with fiber. In fact the high level ofdietary fiber in a sweet potato is definitely a positive in terms of blood sugar regulation, as it helps steady the pace of digestion. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
One year ago: Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Ricotta Muffins with Cinnamon Roasted Apples
Three years ago: Pumpkin and Black Bean Taquitos
- 8 cups cubed whole grain bread in one-inch cubes (I used a sourdough rye)
- 3 cups shredded sweet potato (about one large)
- 1½ cups thinly sliced leeks (about one large)
- 2 cups coarsely grated smoked gouda
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 9 large eggs
- 2 Tbsp smooth dijon mustard
- 2¾ cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Generously butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Layer one-third of the bread cubes over the bottom of the dish. It won't fully cover the bottom, but this is ok.
- Layer one-third of the shredded sweet potato over top of the bread, followed by one-third of the leeks, one-third of the smoked gouda, and one-third of the Parmesan.
- Repeat these layers two more times.
- Whisk eggs together with Dijon mustard, then whisk in the milk, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the custard over top of the strata layers. Cover with plastic wrap, and set in the fridge overnight or for at least one hour, but up to one day.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C.
- Bake the strata for 45-55 minutes, until it is puffed and golden on top, and no longer so jiggly in the middle (a little jiggle is ok as it will continue to cook as it cools).
- Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Allow the strata to cool completely. Slice into squares and wrap with foil. Place the foil squares in the freezer until you are ready to eat.
You can either remove from the freezer the night before and reheat in the oven in the morning, or pack frozen and re-heat in a microwave.