Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This Breakfast Ensures You Won't Miss the Bus

by 
Jenny Vanderberg
October 12, 2021

I listened to a podcast recently where a woman calmly explained how her “family mornings” were a lot calmer and more organized when she was dressed and at the stove making breakfast before her little cherubs awakened from their slumber on their own by the intoxicating smell of bacon and freshly baked blueberry muffins. 

First of all, if my children ever “awakened” on their own it would be a miracle (or they’re sick with some sort of exorcist-type stomach bug they picked up from school). Secondly, if I’m not running up and down the stairs half-clothed, mascara smeared down one side of my face, sloshing hot coffee all over the carpet while screaming my typical, “GET UP! YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS!” as the bus does indeed drive right past our house, my kids would be confused. Who body-snatched their mother?

While I resented this image of Betty Crocker at the stove by 7 a.m., I had to admit, a calmer and more organized morning did have a certain appeal. Also, Target’s two-for-one deal on brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts was over and I was out of breakfast alternatives. 

So I committed to figuring out a make-ahead breakfast that wouldn’t take an awful lot of time or energy, and since I was already all-in on this endeavor, I figured I’d add an extra element and attempt to make it healthy to boot - knowing that my kids pick parsley sprinkles off of their chicken fingers. 

Enter: The Strata.

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Strata is just a fancy word for savory bread pudding. There are really only two components, the bread and the custard, which is great because who has time for more than two components in a breakfast? Not me.  

Stratas are also great because they’re so flexible. A crusty bread really works best with this kind of thing (like sourdough or a baguette) but you can use whatever leftover bread you’ve got and toast it up before adding the custard mixture. And though “strata” means “layers,” I mix all the elements together - it doesn’t affect the taste, but it saves a chunk of time.

The night before The Great Breakfast Experiment, I poured myself a second glass of Malbec and took 20 minutes to assemble the strata. The chances of my kids eating something covered in cheese is greater than not, so I added white cheddar and gruyere to the custard and because “make it healthy” was a self-mandated part of this, I tossed in some sauteed leeks, spinach and fresh dill for good measure. I popped the whole casserole dish in the fridge to wait overnight and felt like I just got away with something.

The next morning, I was my usual hot mess self, but I remembered to turn the oven on and put the strata in before pouring hot coffee down my gullet.  Wouldn’t you know? In ten minutes, the whole house smelled like our favorite breakfast spot. I heard little, grumpy voices on the stairs.“What IS that? Did you COOK?” 

“Yes,” I smiled, lipstick from yesterday rubbing off on my chin, “ I made breakfast.  It’s like eggs and toast, except all in one pan. Try it.”

And you know what those little monsters did? They tried it. And they asked for seconds. And I was so caught up in the fact that I successfully pulled off a calm and organized morning while simultaneously feeding my children something Nabisco didn’t manufacture that we missed the freaking bus again.

But this time, I think it was worth it.

Don't-Miss-the-Bus Strata

 | 
Cook Time: 1 Hour
 | 
Serves 5

Ingredients

10 Eggs

1 ½ cups milk ( whole works best, but use what you have)

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, diced

One small leek, chopped

2 cups greens (I used spinach but swiss chard or kale are also great options)

½ cup fresh herbs ( parsley and dill work well)

2 ½ cups cheese (cheddar, gruyere, feta, parmesan, gouda; mix and match according to taste.)

6 cups torn or chopped bread

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsps butter (one to sauté the vegetables, one to grease the pan)

 | 
Cook Time: 1 Hour
 | 
Serves 5

Ingredients

10 Eggs

1 ½ cups milk ( whole works best, but use what you have)

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, diced

One small leek, chopped

2 cups greens (I used spinach but swiss chard or kale are also great options)

½ cup fresh herbs ( parsley and dill work well)

2 ½ cups cheese (cheddar, gruyere, feta, parmesan, gouda; mix and match according to taste.)

6 cups torn or chopped bread

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsps butter (one to sauté the vegetables, one to grease the pan)

Ingredients

10 Eggs

1 ½ cups milk ( whole works best, but use what you have)

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, diced

One small leek, chopped

2 cups greens (I used spinach but swiss chard or kale are also great options)

½ cup fresh herbs ( parsley and dill work well)

2 ½ cups cheese (cheddar, gruyere, feta, parmesan, gouda; mix and match according to taste.)

6 cups torn or chopped bread

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsps butter (one to sauté the vegetables, one to grease the pan)

Directions

1. Grease a 9x13 pan. 

2. Melt the butter in the sauté pan and cook the greens and leeks to desired doneness. Set aside to cool when done.

3. Whisk eggs for 1–2 minutes. Whisk in milk, mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir in sauteed greens and leeks, 2 cups of cheese, and fresh herbs. Fold in the torn/chopped bread. (If you want a traditional strata and have time, layer half of the bread, half the grated cheese, and half of the vegetables, then repeat. Pour the seasoned custard over the layers.) 

4. Pour into the prepared pan and cover with foil. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours; can be left for 24.

The Next Morning: 

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 

2. Bake strata, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Remove foil, top the strata with last ½ cup of cheese, and bake for 15-20 minutes longer. (Or until the strata’s interior temperature reaches 155F.) 

3. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving (it will deflate a bit as it’s resting - you didn’t do anything wrong!). 

About the Author

Jenny Vanderberg

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