Fall is really here…the leaves are changing and the weather is cooler. This has to be one of my favorite times of the year. Sundays seem to be filled with lots of football games (as long as you have the right cable stations) and baseball season is winding down. Here are a few suggestions for casserole-type dishes that feed a lot of people. As for the pumpkin bread, this is my friend Debbie’s signature dessert. Fast, easy, and delicious!!

Savory Strata with Caramelized Onions

(adapted from “Perfect Recipes for Having People Over” by Pam Anderson)

Serves 12 to 15

2 tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil, or 1 tbsp. of each
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced thin
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
½ cup white wine
1 quart half-and-half *
12 large eggs
1 tbsp. dry thyme
1 tsp. salt
12-14 slices hearty white bread
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)

* Can substitute low-fat half and half, or whole or 2% milk

Carmelize onions: Heat butter/olive oil in a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven. Add onions and cook over medium heat until they just begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the wine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 25 minutes.

Remove cover, raise heat to medium, sprinkle with sugar, and cook, stirring more often, until well browned, 25-30 minutes. As onions cook, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the brown bits and incorporate them back into the onions. When done, set aside.

While onions cook, whisk half-and-half (or milk), eggs, thyme, and salt to taste in a large bowl until smooth.

Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Line bottom of baking dish with 6 slices of bread. If necessary, cut strips and fit them into any gaps. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Pour 1 cup egg mixture over bread. Sprinkle half of the caramelized onions. Make another layer with remaining bread, cutting strips of bread to fill any spaces as necessary. Top with remaining cheese. Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over bread and sprinkle with remaining caramelized onions.

Cover strata with plastic wrap. Lightly weigh strata down with a book (or the like) and let stand for at least 15 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake strata until custard is just set, about 50 minutes. Leaving baking dish on oven rack, turn on broiler and broil until strata is spotty brown and puffy, about 5 minutes (watch closely- do not burn). Remove from oven and let stand for 8 to 10 minutes. Cut into portions and serve.

Lasagne with no-bake lasagne noodles

1 box lasagne (no boiling required) uncooked
2 eggs
15 oz. ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
2 ounces parmesan cheese
2 jars tomato basil sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 X 13 inch baking pan with vegetable spray.

Beat eggs, stir in ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and half of the mozzarella cheese.

Pour half a jar of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay four sheets of no-bake lasagne noodles. Put in 1/3 of the cheese mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1 cup tomato sauce. Layer 4 more lasagne sheets,1/3 of ricotta mixture, and 1 1/2 jars of tomato sauce. Top with 4 sheets, remaining ricotta cheese mixture, 1 cup sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake covered with aluminum foil, 50 minutes. Cook 10 more minutes until cheese is melted.

Remove and let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

This freezes well. You can also prepare the day before. First cover with saran wrap before the foil. Remember when you put it in the oven, to remove the saran wrap.

Pumpkin Bread

-Debbie Barbash

1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cups oil
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup water

In small bowl, blend flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Set aside.

In large bowl, blend sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin, mix well. Add water, mix well. Add small bowl mixture, mix well.

Pour into two small, greased loaf pans (8 X 4) and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.