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Recipes to feed family and visitors over the holidays

Wednesday - 12/18/2013, 7:49am  ET

Strata.jpg
Strata is an Italian baked egg and bread dish, and it's a great thing to make ahead of time and serve to a hungry holiday crowd. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - With Christmas just one week away, many households will soon be infiltrated with grandparents, in-laws, cousins and kids.

There's no doubt that having family and friends visit for the holidays fills the house with joy and excitement -- but what can you fix to fill their stomachs?

Local cookbook author and founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble Aviva Goldfarb has some ideas, starting with breakfast.

Spinach and Cheese Strata

This dish can be made in advance and then reheated to feed the hungry masses. Or, just assemble the dish the night before and pull it out to bake in the morning.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
  • 6 slices ciabatta bread, about 1/2-inch thick, or use any day old bread (about 4 cups)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cups nonfat or low fat milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence, or use dried thyme or other Italian herbs
  • tsp. garlic powder
  • tsp. salt

Defrost the spinach (I put it in a saucepan without any added liquid and steam it over medium heat, covered, until it is thawed, about five minutes). Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes and spray a 9 x 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the milk. Whisk in the cheeses, herbs, garlic powder and salt. Stir in the spinach and bread cubes until the bread is completely moistened.

Pour the egg mixture into the baking dish, smoothing it with the back of a spoon, if necessary. Refrigerate it, covered, for at least four hours and up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to bake it, remove the strata from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake it in the center of the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes until it is browned on the edges and cooked through in the center. Cut it into squares to serve it.

Eggplant Pie with Parmesan Crust

If you're in need of another warm, one-dish meal for lunch or dinner, this pie is a great option. Serve it with a green salad, and you are good-to-go. This is another dish that can be made ahead of time -- up for four days -- and pulled out and reheated for company.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 eggs, as needed
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat or white flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 cups red pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl just a little bigger than the width of the eggplant. Put the flour in another shallow bowl.

In a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Coat a slice of eggplant with the flour, allowing excess to fall back in the bowl, then dip it in the egg, letting the excess drip back in the bowl, then dip the slice back in the flour to coat it lightly.

Put it in the hot oil and repeat with as many slices as can fit in the pan without crowding them (four or five). Cook them until they are lightly brown, then flip and repeat on the other side, one to two minutes per side. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and blot the tops with a towel, too. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

Layer the eggplant in the pie dish (it should be almost full), then top it with the tomato sauce then the cheese. Bake it, uncovered, for 25 minutes until it is nicely browned on top.

Serve immediately or refrigerate it for up to four days or freeze for up to three months. The eggplant is also great as a filling for a sandwich.

Editor's note: Aviva Goldfarb is founder and author of "The Six O'Clock Scramble." She is also a contributor to "The Today Show." the You can follow Aviva on Twitter and Facebook.

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