Happy mother's Day! (This is also a show about Casserole's.)
Welcome to Sugar Happiness the Happy Home Cooking Blog! Please join me Sundays, 3pm, on RadioKAir.com!
We’re talking about Mother’s Day, the day to thank and celebrate all the Mom’s in our life.
I’m featuring some easy recipes that pack big flavor that will have your house smelling like a cinnamon roll, and at the end, I'll share a link to a beautiful poem written by Maya Angelou.
Time with my kids, time to myself, time that’s not in front of the sink washing dishes and cleaning up after a delicious meal - that's my kind of Mother's Day. I want to be present during family time and not thinking about preparing a nice meal and cleaning up.
Enter in the convenience of a casserole, and even better, a casserole that can prepared the night before so all I have to do is pop it in the oven in the morning for a delicious family meal, little to no cleanup needed. (Because it was all done the night before.)
I've created two potential menu's for your Mother's Day Breakfast or Brunch that will have Mom and the whole family happy and satisfyingly full.
Overnight French Toast, Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole, and an Orange and Pineapple Mocktail or Cocktail
Spinach and Cheese Strata with a side of Balsamic Strawberries and Whipped Cream, accompanied by an Orange and Pineapple Mocktail or Cocktail Mimosa.
Add your perfect cup of coffee, espresso, tea, Bloody Mary, water, whatever fills your heart that day, and you’ve got an impressive brunch that’ll have everyone excited to eat.
First up: Menu #1
Starting with Ree Drummond's "Overnight French Toast Casserole."
I’m a big fan of Ree, made many of her recipes, and watched a lot of her cooking and reality TV shows. I can count on her recipes to taste great, look amazing, and hit the mark.
This Overnight French Toast is similar to bread pudding, which I never used to eat. Soggy bread, or so I thought that’s what bread pudding was, did not sound appetizing, but this recipe has won me over time and time again, and you can bake it a little longer if you don’t want it as soft in the middle. It’s more like creamy and custardy, so divine. Especially because it's topped with cinnamon, sugar, and butter.
Stale bread is your friend in this recipe. Consider the kind of bread you'd use for stuffing during the holidays such as croutons.
However, if you do not have stale bread, you may have to leave the French Toast in the oven a little longer as it may not absorb as much of the liquid.
Tear the bread into chunks or cube it up- it’s up to you. If it’s pre-sliced that’s okay too, just make sure it’s stale sourdough or French bread, something from the bakery department, not thin, soft sandwich bread.
The recipe also calls for whole milk and heavy whipping cream. I always use almond or oat milk, but keep in the heavy whipping cream. It’s a small amount, and I guess that’s my way of making it a bit more dairy-free friendly without losing too much of the consistency. But if you need to go full dairy-free, go for it, including substituting the butter. I have not tried it with a dairy-free butter sub but if you do, let me know!
The night before, you’re going to tear the bread and put it into your buttered pan. Combine your egg mixture and pour it on top of the bread. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Then, make the topping with a pastry blender, which you’ll then put in a container or zip lock in the fridge overnight. That’s it for that recipe!
In the morning you’ll preheat the oven to 350, sprinkle on the topping, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour for a firmer, crispier texture, or until a thermometer inserted in the middle reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
I overbaked mine accidentally, and it was still absolutely delicious! Even the leftovers the next day!
French Toast Casserole Video Below!
To accompany our French Toast is a lovely Spinach and Mushroom Casserole.
Prepare all the ingredients the night before, pack into containers, and leave in the fridge. Everything will be ready to assemble the morning of Mother's Day!
This dish is colorful and versatile in that you can include whatever veggies you have on hand. I followed the recipe with spinach, mushrooms, garlic, green onion, and a garnish of chives, and added diced red pepper, which really made it pop.
After you’ve prepped your Overnight French Toast and it is resting in the fridge, prep your breakfast casserole. Wash and dice your veggies or buy them pre-cut. Sauté them in some olive or avocado oil, set this mixture aside to cool, then put in a container in the fridge. I include the green onions in my sauté but the recipe suggests to add them to the casserole, uncooked. Go with your preference.
The recipe just says “milk,” so I use almond or oat. I substituted feta for the goat cheese, even though I like goat cheese, but had feta on hand, and us home cooks use what we have until it’s gone.
Next, pre-mix your eggs and milk together, then put that into a container until tomorrow. I know it may seem weird to pre-mix your raw eggs and milk, but as long as they stay cold they’re good to go until the next day.
The morning of Mother’s Day, during your French Toast’s first 30 minutes in the oven, assemble the components for your Spinach Mushroom Casserole. Put veggies in the bottom of an 8X8 or 9X13 depending on if you do half the recipe or use the whole, sprinkle goat cheese, in my case feta, on top of the veggies, then add salt and pepper to your egg and milk mixture, pour on top, and add more cheese if you desire.
Pop into the oven 30 minutes into your French toast bake, (your house will start to smell like a cinnamon roll), and in another 30 minutes both will come hot out of the oven, bubbling, and almost ready for your Mother’s Day Brunch! Your eggs will be set with a whisper of a jiggle in the middle and be slightly golden around the edges. The more jiggly your mixture, the less done it will be. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving, and garnish with chopped chives.
Here's the Spinach Mushroom Casserole Video and link to credit recipe:
Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole
Topping off this delicious meal is an Orange and Pineapple Mimosa Mocktail or Cocktail!
Mimosa's are definitely a brunch-y kinda thing! They’re fruity, bubbly, and come in many variations. This Orange-Pineapple Mimosa has a splash of Grenadine, and is topped with champagne, sparking wine, sprite, or sparkling mineral water.
Mocktail or cocktail, this is a fun drink that everyone can enjoy.
Directions: Grab your fave champagne flute. Take orange and pineapple juices, and champagne, or sparkling mineral water out of the fridge. Pour ¼ of the glass with orange juice, and ¼ with pineapple juice. Squeeze a few dashes of Grenadine in to taste and for some pretty color. This should fill half your glass. Top the other half with champagne or sparkling water and enjoy!
Menu #2: Spinach and Cheese Strata with a side of Balsamic Strawberries and Whipped Cream, accompanied by an Orange and Pineapple Mocktail or Cocktail Mimosa.
The Strata has the look of a puffed up casserole, and a texture similar to a souffle, which gives it a wow factor that is easily achieved. Unlike the frittata, which is more like an open-faced omlette, the strata has layers and will deflate slightly as it cools.
Just like the Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole on Menu #1, the Spinach and Cheese Strata will need the same type of evening prep.
Grate your gruyere and parmesan or buy them pre-shredded. Or use what you have on hand, we like that!
Then, saute your onions and make your spinach mixture. Let is cool.
Take your loaf of bread… Your STALE loaf of bread, and cut it into cubes, or tear it. The recipe calls for French or Italian Bread because they dry out quickly when exposed to air. Stale bread helps the dish hold it’s structure with all it’s eggy goodness.
If you skip this step and use fresh bread, I suggest cutting it in half and drying it out in the oven at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Don’t be afraid to get some toasted color on there. Other suggestions I haven’t tried but would like to – cut into cubes and make croutons in the oven, or take it out of the packaging and leave it wrapped loosely in cheesecloth for a day or two in a dry place.
Lay your bread in a well-buttered or oil-misted 9X13 pan (don’t forget to line with foil for easy clean up), top with 1/3rd of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat 2 more times with remaining bread, spinach, and cheese.
Finally, whisk your eggs, milk, mustard, and salt and pepper, then pour it over your beautiful layered strata. Cover tightly with foil and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Spinach and Cheese Strata Video below:
Our second dish of Menu #2 is the Balsamic Strawberries and Cream.
This simple dessert is beautiful and delicious with the brightness of the strawberries, depth of the balsamic vinegar, and the sweetness of the cream.
Wash the berries, hull out the stem and core, and slice in half. Place in a container and send them off to sleep in the fridge till the following day.
Next, whip up your whipped cream with 1 cup of heavy cream, 1-2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract until it’s thick and fluffy. Whip it good, give it a quick taste test as you won’t be able to resist, and pop that pillowy sweet goodness into the fridge to rest.
Now you’ve got your strata, and strawberries and cream nestled in the fridge.
And that’s it! Done! You’re prepped and ready to go!
In the morning you’ll remove the strata from the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to baking, which is a good time to get your oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 45-55 minutes and let stand 5-10 minutes before scooping that goodness onto your plate.
Pull your strawberries out of the fridge and toss with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Let sit and get to know each other in the bowl while you bake the strata. Spoon marinated strawberries into bowls, top with delicious, whipped cream, and enjoy alongside your strata for a sweet and savory brunch experience.
Still sounds like a bit of work? It does, but it saves you from having to remember to make reservations, wait for tables, or deal with crowds. No matter which menu you choose, prep will take you between 60-90 minutes. That’s how long it took me and I was adjusting my camera and taking video and pictures. With help it will take you even less time, and the next day you’ll get to eat your own food in the comfort of your own home, knowing how much you’re gonna love it.
Balsamic Strawberries and Cream Video below:
Finally, I'd like to share a poem by Maya Angelou. If you're looking for a message that brings all the beautiful feels about Mother's Day, you can read this poem to yourself, your Mom, or send it to anyone who needs a heart-filled message today.
Mother, A Cradle to Hold Me, by Maya Angelou
It is true I was created in you. It is also true That you were created for me. I owned your voice. It was shaped and tuned to soothe me. Your arms were molded Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me. The scent of your body was the air Perfumed for me to breathe. Mother, During those early, dearest days I did not dream that you had A large life which included me, For I had a life Which was only you. Time passed steadily and drew us apart. I was unwilling. I feared if I let you go You would leave me eternally. You smiled at my fears, saying I could not stay in your lap forever. That one day you would have to stand And where would I be? You smiled again. I did not. Without warning you left me, But you returned immediately. You left again and returned, I admit, quickly, But relief did not rest with me easily. You left again, but again returned. You left again, but again returned. Each time you reentered my world You brought assurance. Slowly I gained confidence. You thought you know me, But I did know you, You thought you were watching me, But I did hold you securely in my sight, Recording every moment, Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns. In your absence I rehearsed you, The way you had of singing On a breeze, While a sob lay At the root of your song. The way you posed your head So that the light could caress your face When you put your fingers on my hand And your hand on my arm, I was blessed with a sense of health, Of strength and very good fortune. You were always the heart of happiness to me, Bringing nougats of glee, Sweets of open laughter. During the years when you knew nothing And I knew everything, I loved you still. Condescendingly of course, From my high perch Of teenage wisdom. I grew older and Was stunned to find How much knowledge you had gleaned. And so quickly. Mother, I have learned enough now To know I have learned nearly nothing. On this day When mothers are being honored, Let me thank you That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery Did not bring you to Discard me like a broken doll Which had lost its favor. I thank you that You still find something in me To cherish, to admire and to love. I thank you, Mother. I love you.
Thank you so much for joining me today! I hope you make this for Mom, or anytime you're looking for an easy brunch to prep for family and friends. Wishing you a Happy Mother's Day! - Laurie