Here’s a lovely menu for Mom. Strata is one of those almost alchemical dishes — the messy-looking baking dish of bread and eggy milk that goes into the oven and emerges an hour later as a gorgeous, golden-puffed creation. It tastes delicious — and it’s easy to assemble the night before.

Children can help get the strata ready, and if you put them on fruit salad duty, they’ll be in heaven. Assign the marvelous muffins to the baker in the family. Then put it all out, along with a bowl of lemon yogurt and some good granola.

And if you want to add a veggie, how about asparagus, blanched, chilled and drizzled with vinaigrette?

MENU

Cheddar Strata (*)

Martha’s Marvelous Apple-Walnut Muffins (*)

Fun Fruit Salad (*)

Lemon Yogurt

Homemade-style Granola

*Recipes provided.

 

CHEDDAR STRATA

This dish, variously known as cheese scallop, cheese bread pudding or modestly, cheese casserole, makes a sensational brunch dish.

Servings: 6

12 slices good quality firm white sandwich bread, preferably day-old

4 tablespoons softened butter

2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups milk, preferably whole milk or 2 percent

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, preferably coarsely ground

Paprika for dusting top

Butter a 9-inch square glass baking dish.

Cut off bread crusts and spread each slice with butter. Cut each slice into 3 strips. Layer half of the bread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with half the cheese and half the scallions. Repeat with the remaining bread, cheese and scallions.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over bread, pushing bread down into the milk to make sure it is all well saturated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and lightly dust top of casserole with paprika.

Bake in the preheated oven until strata is evenly puffed and golden, and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Serve immediately.

MARTHA’S MARVELOUS APPLE-WALNUT MUFFINS

My sister Martha, who lives in Portland, is an excellent cook and baker. But it’s her muffins, which the entire family calls “Martha’s marvelous,” that have achieved legendary status. Martha started tinkering with a basic muffin formula several years ago when she was trying to sneak a few extra whole grains into her children’s diet. Her recipe has taken on a life of its own, morphing into a moist, fruit- and nut-filled muffin that is scrumptious in its own right. Makes 12 muffins.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup wheat bran (see note)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons wheat germ

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt, regular or non-fat

1/3 cup light vegetable oil such as safflower or canola

1 cup finely chopped cored but unpeeled apple, any type

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Grease a 12-mold muffin tin, or line with paper liners and spray the liners with vegetable oil spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, bran, two sugars, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the yogurt and oil.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg mixture and stir until no specks of flour remain. Do not overmix.

Stir in the apples and walnuts. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling about three-quarters full.

Bake in a preheated oven until tops are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes.

Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Muffins can be put into heavy zip-lock bags and frozen.)

NOTE: Wheat bran can be found in the whole foods section of your market.

FUN FRUIT SALAD

Servings: 6

1 quart strawberries, hulled, halved if large

1 large bunch green grapes

1 cantaloupe, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes or balls

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

1/2 pint large blueberries

1 to 2 star fruit, thinly sliced

Tangerine sections, apple slices or cubes, other fruit optional

Lemon juice

Prepare fruits. Assemble in one of the following ways for serving:

• Toss all together in a large bowl.

• Even better, toss in a glass bowl or a footed glass compote.

• Make a styled arrangement in a glass bowl. Either arrange each fruit separately in horizontal layers so the effect is like a trifle, or build each separate fruit vertically so the result is like colored stripes up the sides of the bowl.

• Put each fruit in a separate bowl and then start playing with your food. On a large flat platter, create shapes of any kind — faces, people, animals or abstract designs. Let your imagination be your guide.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.