Easter Tree & A Strata

I had never heard of an Easter tree until I moved to Germany. I think it may be a tradition for some here, but for me growing up Easter was all about Easter baskets, egg hunts, matching dresses with my sister and a few family get-togethers. However, when we grew out of the candy and filled plastic eggs, there wasn’t much celebrating done.

The year I lived in Germany, celebrating Easter returned with two small kids in the house and I learned about the easter tree. SO cute! Hanging dyed eggs from fresh spring branches is so festive and adorable, I had to continue the tradition when I returned home. Of course, it is essential to have a good egg recipe on hand to make use of all the blown out eggs. A frittata would be perfect or perhaps some soft scrambled eggs, but this strata is one of my favorites.

I’ve been making this strata for a few years, and usually reserve it for Bay to Breakers, but it has also made an appearance on New Year’s morning, at my birthday brunch one year and Christmas morning. It’s a fantastic option for hosting morning events, including Easter brunch, because it can be made the night before and just popped into the oven the morning of. I love the eggy bread on the bottom and crispy texture on top, and the fact that it’s loaded with flavor from sausage, mushrooms and spinach. I made it along side with a bacon and cheese recipe, one time for a larger crowd, and this one won out by a mile. It’s a must try the next time you need a hearty breakfast!

And now for the Easter Tree! I made eggs a few years ago, when I first moved back to San Francisco, and decided this year was the year to make some new ones. I have a lovely bunch of twigs in my apartment that make the perfect tree and made the dyes on my own with food coloring. It’s all the rage to be making dyes with natural foods, beets, etc, but I used what I had on hand and am really pleased the result. I went with just off primary colors, simple linear designs, some over lapping colors and left bits of white for contrast, resulting in an elegant Easter Tree. I love love love it.

The process:

  • To blow out the egg, I poked each end with a push-pin, and cracked the holes a bit bigger so my needle would fit through
  • Let them rest and dry out for a period of time before dying
  • Dye per the instructions of the dye you are using – note: the eggs do not sink! You have to submerge with pressure from a spoon or something to get the whole egg one color
  • When they are dry, you can begin threading per the below image instructions.

After this point, tie a knot in the end and rotate the string so that the knot ends up inside the egg

Final result: simple, elegant Easter eggs

Sausage, Spinach, Mushroom Strata

  • 4 links mild Italian sausage
  • 1 pkg (~10 oz) crimini mushrooms
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pkg (~9 oz) baby spinach
  • 8 cups sourdough bread cut in 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 7 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt & Pepper

Coat 13″x9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Heat a bit of oil in a skillet and brown sausage, transfer to a bowl. In the same skillet brown onions and mushrooms until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add spinach and cook until wilted, season with salt and pepper. Add spinach/mushroom/onion mixture to sausage and mix to evenly distribute. Place half of bread on bottom of pan. Top with sausage mixture and 1 cup cheese. Place rest of bread cubes on top. In a separate bowl mix eggs and milk, season with salt and pepper. Pour liquid over bread. Press down to make sure all bread is submerged. Cover and refrigerate 8 hrs or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50-55 min until top is slightly brown. During last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over strata. Let cool 10 min before serving. Serve warm.

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