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For no-fuss breakfast dish, a strata fits the bill

If you have 20 minutes to spare you can put together a breakfast casserole. All it takes is a little prep work, then assembly. Cover the casserole and refrigerate overnight and pop it in the oven in the morning.

Stratas are time-savers because they are easy to prepare and assemble a day ahead. Whether you are looking for a no-fuss, tasty recipe or need something to feed out-of-town company, this breakfast dish fits the bill. This strata uses sweet Italian sausage, but you can substitute any mild or hot Italian or other breakfast sausage. You also can use Italian turkey sausage.

Strata with Sausage, Cheese and Herbs

You can use turkey sausage or mild or hot Italian sausage in this recipe. Or you can use frozen vegetarian crumbles.

20 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if in links

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, chopped into-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, optional

1 cup heavy whipping cream

ø cup half-and-half

10 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

ø teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

16 ounces egg bread or country bread (preferably 1 to 2 days old), cut into ø-inch- thick slices

2ø cups shredded Fontina or Swiss cheese

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large skillet over medium heat, break up sausage and sauté until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside on paper towel to drain. Add the 1 tablespoon butter to the same skillet and melt. Add the onions, mushrooms and bell pepper and sauté until they are tender. Remove from the heat and cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk the thyme if using, with the cream, half-and-half, eggs, salt and pepper, and set aside.

Lay half of the bread in the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with half of the sausage mixture, half of the mushroom mixture and about half of the cheese. Repeat layering with remaining bread, sausage, mushroom and cheese. Slowly pour egg mixture over top. Press down on the bread so it gets covered with the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the strata from the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. Uncover and place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch overflow. Bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 12 (generously).

438 calories (61 percent from fat), 30 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 23 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 929 mg sodium, 269 mg cholesterol, 214 mg calcium, 1 g fiber.