This weekend Katrina took part in the University of Kentucky’s graduation commencement. It was done a little different this year because all of the colleges went at once. This added to much confusion, but it was still quite the occasion. Beforehand, we met her family at her mother’s house for a light brunch with fruit, raisin bread, and my take on a veggie Farmer’s strata (see recipe below).
We started the day off baking the Farmer’s Strata and then transported it to Katrina’s mom’s for a light brunch where Katrina was able to open her graduation presents. Every time we arrive at her place we are greeted by the welcoming committee, mostly Roxie the playful Shepard mix and Heidi the coon hound. Rose joins in from time to time as they all compete for everyone’s attention. Greenlee, the beagle-chihuahua mix mostly tries to say out of the way while following Heidi, but sneaks in some rubbing time every now and again! Most of the time the animals are the center of attention and everyone gets a laugh or two out of the whole ordeal. I only wished that I was able to have pets at my small apartment!
After we had finished with gifts and brunch, we all traveled downtown for the graduation ceremony at Rupp Arena. Since they had it all together this year it was hectic finding a parking spot, but after about 20 minutes of driving around we were able to find a close spot almost a block away. The ceremony was typical – an opening address from President Todd, all of the names read off, a few handshakes as everyone walks across the stage, and some fireworks at the end (much like the UK basketball games!). I managed to get a good photo of Katrina shaking the dean’s hand as she accepted her ‘diploma’.
After the commencement, we met Katrina for a reception of the College of Agriculture in a ballroom in Rupp Arena. The whole thing was a mad rush for the little food and drink provided by the caterers and was not very enjoyable – also they had very little choices for vegetarians. It seems that the whole ceremony, reception and all was meant to save the university money, which I commend, but at the expense of streamlining such a memorable event! However, it was a big deal and a worthy moment for Katrina – after 7 years she graduates with a degree in Music and Landscape Architecture, probably two of the most intense degrees at the University of Kentucky. So a huge congratulations is in order!
Vegetarian Farmer’s Strata
I enjoyed making this dish because it is easy and feeds a lot of people. In this case, there were several servings left over for during the week. The dish is prepared the night before so all the flavors can mix and the eggs can soak into the bread. It also means minimal work in the morning. It would be a great addition to a potluck or holiday celebration – and making it with the veggie bacon cuts back on the fat, but leaves the taste.
10 slices of Morning Star veggie bacon strips
4 green onions, diced, keep tops for garnish
10 slices white bread, cubed
1 cup frozen hashbrowns
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 large tomato, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. canola oil
- In a large skillet, cook veggie bacon according to directions until crisp. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Add canola oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeno and cook until lightly brown. Add tomato and continue to cook for 2 -3 minutes until tomato is soft. Remove from heat.
- In a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish, layer half the bread cubes, hashbrowns and cheese. Crumble all of veggie bacon over the top and spread tomato mixture over the top. Repeat layers of bread, potatoes and cheese.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs; add milk, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over evenly over all of baking dish. Cover and chill overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 65-70 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. During last 10 minutes top with diced green onion tops for added garnish and flavor.
If you give it a try, let us know how it turns out!