NYC Breakfast Strata (or Strata take 2)

Tray of strata

Tray of strata (click to enlarge)

Serving of strata

Serving of strata (click to enlarge)

The best thing about stratas is that they are an awesome vehicle for leftovers. In this case I had left over bagels that we weren’t going to eat, some cheese, some leftover bacon, and a generous gift of leeks and kale from Chica’s farm share! It made for a yummy breakfast or brunch meal. Make sure you let it set after baking, don’t serve hot for the best flavor.

6-8 slices of bacon (these were pretty thin slices)
2 tbsp butter
3 leeks (sliced thinly and washed)
1 bunch kale (stripped, chopped and washed)
8 eggs (large)
2 cups 1% milk (any milk will do, that’s what we had)
1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used edam because it was open but gruyere or cheddar work well too)
2.5 large bagels, cut into 1 inch cubes (Staten Island bagels are REALLY large)
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano (to sprinkle on top just before baking)
salt, pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 F.
After leeks are washed and left to dry a bit, chop bacon and cook it in a dutch oven. Remove bacon and place it on paper towel to dry; leave grease in the pan, add 2 tbsp butter and melt. Add leeks, season, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add cleaned chopped kale, season, and cook until the kale breaks down, another 10 minutes.
While vegetables are sautéing, beat eggs in large bowl, add milk, shredded cheese and bacon, salt and pepper to taste, and stir all together. Throw bagel cubes into mixture and let sit to absorb.
When veggies are cooked (and kale has broken down and is more tender) take pan off heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Then stir veggies into bread/milk mixture in bowl. Grease a 9 x 12″ baking pan and add mixture. Top with pecorino romano cheese.
Bake for 60 minutes. Check at 50 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter until top is golden brown and center doesn’t have much liquid well up when you separate it in the center (some can well up, just as long as the strata doesn’t seem soppy).

It really tastes much better after it cools for a while and the flavors blend especially left over hours later or the next day.


August: Peach and tomato season!

Chica gave me 8 quarts of peaches from Battleview Orchards (yay!) so I had to make jam. I also saved about 2 quarts of them to eat fresh and later on I’ll make a peach crisp, or peach bellinis, mmmm…..


Anyway, this time I used more sugar because giant batches of peach jam don’t work out for me (they don’t set well) unless I use more sugar. This recipe made 8 pints of jam (which I put into various size jars).

13 cups of peeled, chopped peaches (about 6 quarts before cutting up)

10 cups sugar (I know, too much, but it’s still less than the Ball Canning book calls for!)

1 packet liquid pectin (probably could have used a box of the low sugar pectin instead and a little less sugar?)

Peach jam is a labor of love. Lots of labor in fact, but worth it!

First: Prep the peaches. Cut a cross in the bottom of each whole peach. Boil whole peaches in a big pot of water for 30 seconds and then drop them into ice water, then peel them and chop.

I then mashed them with a potato masher. Toss them Into a dutch oven (at least 7.25 quarts, that’s the size of mine), and cook down over medium heat.

About 30 minutes into it I realized that with such a large batch it would be better for the peach pieces to be smaller and broken down better to allow for more uniform cooking, so I took out the handy dandy immersion blender (best invention ever) and blended them while they cooked, leaving some larger chunks for fun.

Total cooking time was about 2 hours. You have to cook it until it’s at what seems like a slow-motion rolling boil and looks like lava- large, slow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory candy-like bubbles. Then add the pectin and bring back to a lava-like rolling boil. Once you’re done and ready to fill the jars it may look runny on the spoon when hot but it’s ok.

I boiled the jars and lids and rings while I was cooking the jam (nice and sanitized). Then fill the clean jars (made 8 pints of jam, which I put into various size jars, quarter pints, half-pints, and full pints) and then process them for 10 minutes. After that I let them sit on the table until they cool (you’ll spend the evening listening to the lids pop and ping when the vacuum seal sets), and then I keep them in the fridge to set up and thicken further.

So delicious! We finished a half-pint that I had put in an old commercial jelly jar that I reuse… that’s the one I keep for the jam we’re going to eat in the next day or two.

We also have a ton of tomatoes (as you can see in the photo) that Chris and I have harvested. It’s amazing how much fruit you can get from only 4 tomato plants! The photo has only a few. The table was covered in them before we gave some away to Dad, Mom, Chica, and the nerds.

We grew grape tomatoes (and already harvested about 5 quarts of them but they have tough skin), tasti-lee hybrids (a prolofic medium round tomato, dense but decent), tye-dye yellow-red tomatoes (which are cute but not as tasty or prolific), and black krim, which are my favorite! They are ugly and purplish green, and they are delicious! Heirlooms are always the best. Next year I’m only going to grow ugly heirlooms, especially since I’ve found out that the popular seed companies that I used to use are evil and supporting the big “M”. Next year I’ll buy my plants from organic farms and nurseries in NJ!

Chard Strata

The rainbow chard was ready for harvest today and we had 1/3 of a long loaf of day-old italian bread but not much else in the house. It’s tough coming up with dishes in which to hide chard from Chris. He’s not a big fan of it even though it is mild and tasty and healthier than spinach.


Today’s harvest for the strata… I love rainbow chard’s colors!


Ready to harvest… the vegtrug is filled to bursting! The arugula has gotten very peppery and has started to bolt, but it has pretty flowers!

What better way to appeal to Chris’ appetite than a bread pudding? Even better, something with cheese and a custardy texture? Strata to the rescue!

I found a number of chard strata recipes online (Martha Stewart, NY Times, Williams-Sonoma), but I settled on this one because it had fewer ingredients and better matched what I had in the house (the others called for sausage or mushrooms as well). Of course I still made a number of changes to the original. It came out great and would have been even better had Chris not been so famished… we ate it before it had time to get to room temp but it was still delicious (and heavy). I served it with a chickpea, tomato, and cucumber salad (nice and light).



Here is my recipe:

  • 2 bunches chard, chopped, separate thicker stems from the rest
  • 1/3 long loaf italian bread or baguette, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra to butter casserole dish
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded or diced (gruyere would probably be delicious, we only had cheddar in the house)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1% because that’s what we had)
  • 6 large eggs
  • kosher salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and butter a 9×9 casserole dish.
  2. In 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil saute onions and chard stems until soft and translucent, season with salt and pepper
  3. Add garlic and bread and saute for a minute or two, season a little more
  4. Put bread mixture in casserole dish
  5. Add another tbsp butter to pan and saute chard leaves until wilted and soft
  6. Add 3/4 of cheese to casserole and add chard. Mix all together.
  7. Top with remaining cheese and egg/milk mixture
  8. Bake for 40 minutes until golden on top
  9. Allow to cool before serving (slightly warm is fine but allow time for it to set and flavors to blend, room temp better)

I’ll update this post tomorrow to let you know how it is leftover. Photos of the process below.

breadonions   chardcooking




Mother’s Day weekend – a gardener’s favorite weekend!

Hooray! The spring veggies are growing so fast! The arugula is almost ready to eat and is soft and delicious. The rainbow chard is about 5″ tall and looking great, and the slow-to-start leeks are coming along.


Arugula close-up… soft and delicious!


Rainbow chard is taking off and looking good


Everything is coming along in the veg trug. The netting is great for keeping the squirrels out! (They dig big holes in all of my beds and pots and uproot my plants to plant their peanuts!)


The flowers I planted last week are doing very well too (cosmos, snapdragons, and lobelia).


Rosemary surrounded with snapdragons and variegated vinca.


Snapdragons close up. My favorite old fashioned flower.


Snaps and blue lobelia. I love the variety of colors.

The beds are coming along. I cut down the knockout rose again as it had gotten huge and was crowding out the lady’s mantle and hosta. Plus I added some cosmos so they will grow nice and tall and will need the light.


The yellow tulips in the bed below are a late variety so they always come up after I’ve forgotten all about tulips. That bed now has lavender, tulips, cosmos, sweet peas (only about 3″ high so far, too short to reach the trellises), and purple day lilies.



I also planted tomatoes and herbs this evening (once the third day of deluges this week finished). Too dark for photos, I’ll take them tomorrow and log the herbs and tomatoes that I planted.

Shiitake mushroom harvest and scallions

Day 8… harvest time! Yay!

Chris cooked some of them with the chicken thighs…. delicious! I think I’ll saute the rest tomorrow night. They are so flavorful and soft.

shiitakes on day 8 after harvest

shiitakes on day 8 after harvest

I forgot to mention that the scallion reboot that I found on pinterest really works! Cut organic scallions down to 2-3″ above the roots and you can stick them in water to regrow them!

Here is mine after 2 days… the tall one is after 5 days (I tested that one first)… the shorter ones, only started 2 days ago were older and staring to wither but this still works! So cool…

tall scallion after 5 days, others after 2 days

tall scallion after 5 days, others after 2 days

Shiitake Mushrooms

7 days after receiving and soaking the mushroom kit, lots of mushrooms are growing! They might have started earlier but I had to buy a spray bottle to mist it daily.


close up

sideview longview

I found a website that explained when to harvest:

Harvest when white, cottony veil beneath the cap has fully broken away from the stem or, if you want really large mushrooms just let them grow….

that sounds easy enough.  🙂


Pickled Asparagus and Sprouting Things

Tonight I made pickled asparagus with 4 bunches of organic asparagus.

Chris and I recently went to New Hope and I found a book called Food in Jars in a local book shop. I can’t resist books with titles like that, so I picked it up, and it has great recipes. There are so many that I want to try this summer.

Since spring is here and the asparagus is starting to pour in I thought I’d make a pickled version. The author recommended using Penzey’s pickling spice, which is a mail-order company. It’s amazing. It arrived today and their herbs and spices are so fresh… they smell incredible! I can’t wait to use it again. I also ordered ground anise (so that I can bake anisette toast) and they sent us a free lemon pepper spice blend. Yum. That will be great on the fish that I plan to make more often.

Penzeys pickling spice - it smells so good! Pretty too.

Penzeys pickling spice – it smells so good! Pretty too.

As far as this recipe is concerned, next time I have to but the asparagus shorter, the tips bent over because I didn’t factor in the thickness of the slice of lemon on the bottom of the jar when I trimmed the asparagus. I also had to leave out the dried chili because I forgot to buy it. Hope it still comes out ok. I’ll know in 24 hours… I might let it sit a little longer to let it get more pickly.

waiting for spices and pickling juice

waiting for spices and pickling juice – they’re too tall!

4 bunches made 4 pint jars. Adapted from Food in Jars, by Marisa McClellan


  • 4 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your pint jars and blanched in boiling water for approximately 10 seconds
  • 3 cups vinegar (half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar) – I only had white
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons Penzeys pickling spice
  • 1 tablespoon red hot chili flakes I forgot this
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 slices of lemon
  • 4 pint jars (it would have been better if I had the taller jars so I didn’t have to cut them short)


  1. Put a lemon slice in the bottom and pack the trimmed and blanched asparagus into the jars. Tuck a garlic clove down into the asparagus spears.
  2. Bring the vinegar, water and spices to a boil. Pour into jars on top of asparagus, leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space.
  3. Process jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (skip this step if you plan on just putting your pickles in the fridge).
  4. Wait at least 24 hours before eating, to give the asparagus spears a chance to get sufficiently pickly.

UPDATE: These were delicious, but I would cut the amount of pickling spice. The herbs were so fresh in the pickling spice mix that they were super strong. The flavors are amazing… next time I’ll cut the spice down to 2 tsp per pint jar.


Notice the slice of lemon in the bottom? Great idea!

To get to the sprouting things I mentioned in the title, the arugula and chard seeds are sprouting! I peeked under the greenhouse cover of my vegtrug, and there they were! Yay spring!


arugula – itty bitty sprouts!


swiss chard has sprouted too!


the chives are just shooting up so fast!


A rogue daffodil… I only planted tulips!… so I thought. 🙂


The only remaining tulip with a head… Scruffy bit off all the others!