Having kids changes just about everything in your life – in a good way! It’s just that sometimes it takes you a little while to figure out how.
Take New Year’s Eve, for example. As new parents, we struggled with how to maintain our friendships and celebrating around this event, staying up late and caring for a little one who doesn’t care what day it is: when it’s time to wake up, it’s time to wake up.
Last month, we started wondering what to do to ring in the new year. Moreover we were having difficulty remembering what we did to ring in the last new year. And as I started mentally juggling the various scenarios of offering to host late into the night, finding a party where it would be okay to bring along a sleepy toddler or finding a babysitter on fairly short notice, it started feeling like a chore to celebrate the new year.
Celebrating should never be a chore.
And that’s when I shifted my thinking: what if we celebrated the new year beginning rather than the old year ending? Ooh. I shot a note out to a couple other friends who were also parents. And they liked it, too. And so, we began planning a New Year’s Day brunch as lazily as possible: pot luck, pajama-wearers were welcome and encouraged, and I looked around for recipes that wouldn’t require that much work the morning of.
With friends bringing fresh fruit, banana bread, bagels and lox, and my husband kind of demanding we try out a new home fries recipe, I found the perfect entree that blends classic with crock pot. It smelled wonderful as it cooked, and since it needed about 4 hours to do the cooking it was easy to assemble, walk away and do a few other brunch-related things and come back only when we were ready to eat. Loved that…
Classic Breakfast Strata with Sausage (from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook)
- 3/4 loaf supermarket French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and completely dried – you can leave them out overnight to do this, or slide a baking sheet of cubes into a 225-degree oven for about 40 minutes.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 1/2 cups half and half
- 9 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Line back side of a slow cooker pot with an aluminum foil collar (use enough foil to make a 12-inch by 4-inch collar, folded 6 times over) and construct a sling using enough foil to run lengthwise then width-wise with a few inches overhang on all sides. Spray generously with cooking spray and set aside.
Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown sausage, breaking it up into large pieces using a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl. Remove fat from skillet, leaving about 2 tablespoons behind. Add onions, garlic and thyme and cook over medium-high heat until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with sausage and lightly toss together.
Spread half of the dried bread cubes into slow cooker. Top with half the sausage mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat again with the remaining ingredients. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper, and pour over the bread mixture, gently pressing the bread into the mixture.
Cook on low until the custard is set approximately 4 hours. Do not overcook as the strata will dry out.
Scoop from the slow cooker, or remove and serve using the foil sling.
Only one of the other guests took up the pajama challenge, but I loved hosting a party in my jammies! (I can see why Hef loves to do this all day.) It was delightful to visit, nibble, play, and just enjoy the company throughout the afternoon. And, there was just enough left over to make another breakfast this morning. I’m hoping we can make this a new tradition among all our friends…at least maybe for the next few years…