This hearty and healthy vegetarian version of the classic dipped sandwich contains part-skim ricotta, which provides bone-building calcium, and choline, a vitamin that has been linked to lowering breast cancer risk. Red peppers provide a burst of vitamins A, to help fight infections, and C, which boosts iron absorption. (Note: you can make a more traditional Monte Cristo with turkey, but be sure to reheat deli meat slices to piping hot before adding them to the sandwich to reduce your risk of contracting listeriosis, which can cause premature birth and miscarriage during pregnancy when you’re more susceptible. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the slices reach 160° F.)
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¼ cup 2% milk
¾ cup pasteurized part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon dried basil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch salt and pepper
8 slices rustic bread
2 small avocados, sliced
1 cup roasted red peppers, patted dry
4 cups baby spinach leaves (about 4 ounces)
1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together ricotta, mustard, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.
3. Spread one side of each bread slice with 11⁄2 tablespoons ricotta mixture. Top four bread slices (cheese side up) evenly with a layer of avocado, roasted red peppers and a handful of spinach. Top with bread, putting cheese side down.
4. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. One by one, dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture and place in the pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden and a little crispy at the edges. Serve immediately (especially if you’ve prepared the turkey allternative version).
Per serving: 460 calories, 21 g protein, 49 g carbohydrate, 20 g fat (5.5 g saturated fat), 302 mg calcium, 5.3 mg iron, 300 mcg folate, 7 g fiber