Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Frugal large family meals -- strata

I know people are interested in what we eat and also in preparing inexpensive meals and I've been asked that question directly a time or two. The trouble is, when asked, my mind immediately goes blank and I have absolutely no idea what I fix and the things I do fix really don't seem remarkable. Yesterday as I was fixing dinner, I realized that I need to write down these meals as I think of them. So this is the beginning of a very sporadic series on frugal large family meals. As I think of them, I will share them with you.

I don't know about you, but I really love recipes that make use of items that in other situations might be thrown away. You know... chicken soup, banana bread, and what I made last night: strata. I love strata because it makes a wonderful casserole using all that bread that my children try to avoid eating (aka the heels). It uses the same premise as French toast, but with a savory, main dish twist.

How to make it:

First you need a bunch of old bread. I save all the heels or other odds and ends and put them in bags in the freezer. When the bread starts to threaten to take over the freezer I know it's time to make strata. (You could also use a nice new loaf of bread, but that would kind of defeat the something from nothing aspect of the dish.) So now you have your bread. Take it out in the morning and let it thaw on the counter. You could even do it the night before... you just want the bread completely dry and stale is even better.

I will give you the amounts for one 9 x 13 pan (though you know I always at least double it). In a large bowl, whisk 4 eggs and 3 cups of milk together. (If you use more eggs is will be more custard-like.) Cube the bread and add it to the egg mixture and stir it up. Now you are going to let it sit for a while so that the bread cubes can absorb the egg and milk. (I gets pretty mushy.) I take care of the other ingredients while the bread sits.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

You can make the filling out of several things. I currently like using sauteed onions, but you could also use slices of ham or leftover chicken. Or pretty much anything else you think would taste good.

For the onions:  Slice 4 onions and saute them until soft in olive oil. Add a little bit of nutmeg (1/4 tsp.?) to the milk mixture.

For the chicken: Cube the cooked chicken or cut it into thin slices. Add some diced green chilies to the milk mixture.  (I would add two cans, but I like green chilies.)

For the ham: Slice or cube the ham.

Spray the 9 x 13 pan with canola oil and layer half the bread mixture. Put the filling on top of this and top with the remaining bread mixture.

On top of all this put shredded cheese. I use cheddar, but you could also use any other type. For the chicken I would probably use cojack. Swiss would be good for the ham.

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

And I'm not going to let you forget Joseph. It is now May and he will be turning 13 this month. That gives him exactly ONE YEAR before he forever loses his chance at having a family of his own. A family to show him what it is like to be loved unconditionally. I will not believe that there is not one single family in the US who is willing to take a chance and give this sweet boy a family. If there is not, then we must all be truly ashamed.

And while we're on the subject of advocating (not that some of us ever leave... seeing an orphanage changes you in profound ways), let me tell you about a little girl known as Beth. She has spina bifida which has never been repaired, because her orphanage has decided it is not worth it. Which pretty much means they don't see her as worth it. She will die if she is not adopted soon. This is not hyperbole, but a matter of fact. You can read more about her at Children's House International's blog or at No Greater Joy Mom. You may not be her family, but even if you are not, share about her with everyone you know. Her life is at stake.

And I nearly forgot! The winner of my 1000th post giveaway was Stephanie Krueger. Congratulations! I know I should have your email address somewhere, but I can't find it at the moment. Can you send it to me again?

I'm linking to Raising Olives 4 Moms series talking about leftovers. These ladies also have large families... it might be worth checking out.

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