For years my running group and I would gather on Sundays for a long run, afterward treating ourselves to muffins the size of an infant's head, divine muffins that were nonetheless loaded with sugar, fat, and empty carbohydrates. We rhapsodized about our breakfast treats, but always left feeling a little guilty, no matter how many miles we logged.
On race days we would up the ante. After we raced, we'd get together at one of our houses and have a potluck brunch. In addition to the mutant muffins, there were other sinful treats. My specialty was a Breakfast Strata -- a lazy person's version of quiche -- with eggs, cream, and cheese, layered over bread and topped with sausage or bacon. The strata was rich, dense and flavorful...and a festival of fat and cholesterol. Again it was true, the effort during the race mitigated some of the effects of the ingredients, but as an athlete committed to healthy eating, I knew I had to find a better way.
A recent post on Twitter reminded me of how much fun it was to get together with my friends after a hard workout. City Running Tours posted a tweet announcing they were offering a five mile running tour of New York City combined with bRUNch. A run followed by brunch at a local restaurant -- what a great concept. Their tweet reminded me that I wanted create a newer, healthier version of a great idea.
Last Sunday I invited a group to meet and run or walk along my favorite six-mile route, ending at my house. When everyone made it in, we dived into my own take on bRUNch which included a revised, heart healthy version of the Breakfast Strata accompanied by fresh fruit and yogurt. The Strata traded bacon for fresh, sauteed veggies, the cream for fat-free half & half. The eggs were the Omega 3 enriched type and I substituted Cabot's 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar for the regular cheese. Even the base layer, formerly bread cubes or even cubed bagels, got a healthy makeover. For the new Strata iteration I used fiber-added whole grain English muffins.
In spite of its name, bRUNch doesn't have to be about running. There's a real feeling of almost festive accomplishment when you get together with friends after a good workout, weather it's running, 18 holes of golf, or a killer doubles match.
Following is my bRUNch Strata -- healthier, yes, but every bit as delicious. Hope you like it!
8 large eggs, organic, Omega-3
2 cups fat free half & half
2 cups Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar, shredded (I used 1 1/2 cup 50% regular and 1/2 cup 50% Jalepeno.)
4 multi-grain, fiber-added English muffins, toasted & cubed
2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. bag baby spinach
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
8-10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In 9 x 13 cassarole, add first layer of cubed English muffins.
Sautee onions and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Add spinach and wilt. Remove from heat.
In bowl whisk together eggs, half & half, mustard, salt, pepper, and basil.
Spread vegetables over English muffins.
Top with all but 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Pour egg mixture to cover and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese to top.
Bake for approximately 30 - 45 minutes, until top is golden brown.
Let stand for 10 minutes and serve with fresh fruit drizzled with Cabot Greek Style Honey Yogurt.