Believe it or not, breakfast is the hardest. The easiest breakfasts all include either eggs or milk or both. And while there are plenty of good milk substitutes, as well as substitutes for eggs for baking purposes, it's still not the same.
Over the last year or so, I have tried several different versions of egg free/dairy free (ie: vegan) French toast, but none of them were real winners. Little man didn't like them, little miss wouldn't touch them, and I wound up eating most of it, but not enjoying it.
But I never let that stop me from trying.
Today I happened to have quite a bit of leftover bread - a couple of ends from a sandwich loaf and one and a half long rolls leftover from what I made with a dinner last week. I decided that I wanted to try to turn all of that bread into a French toast casserole (similar to a bread pudding, but with a breakfast-y name) that little man could enjoy.
I started looking around online for recipes, but didn't see anything that really spoke to me. The long and short of it, though, was that you can omit eggs from a bread pudding pretty easily. So I made up my own recipe.
I started by cutting all of my bread into cubes.
I wound up with about four cups of bread cubes. For the custard portion, I blended a cup and a half of coconut milk (high fat content, nice and thick) with a banana, some agave nectar and some ground flax with my trusty immersion blender.
Little man then helped me mix the milk mixture into the bread cubes, making sure that all of the bread was soaked.
And then, for good measure, we folded in those cut strawberries you see in the above photo. And once we transferred it to the baking dish, we also sprinkled on some brown sugar. Because... why not?
I then let this rest. I had only intended to let it rest for about fifteen minutes, but then it was time for little man's nap, so I let it rest a little longer, while I tried to settle him down for his nap.
Then this baked for half an hour, until it no longer looked or felt really wet.
Then all that was left to do was let it cool! I know this is a breakfast dish, but this was my dry run of it, so I made it in the afternoon. So instead of having it for breakfast, we tasted it as our afternoon snack once little miss returned home from school.
Let's just say that the kids can't wait for breakfast tomorrow - they loved it! I didn't tell little miss that this was egg free and she couldn't tell the difference - score!
Egg-Free, Dairy Free Strawberry Banana French Toast Casserole
(my own recipe)
Approximately 4 cups bread cubes (whatever day-old bread you have on hand)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk substitute)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/2 - 3/4 cup cut strawberries (I used about 8 strawberries)
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar (to taste, optional, for sprinkling on the top)
Place the bread cubes into a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the milk substitute, agave nectar, banana and ground flax with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy (you could do this in a regular blender if you have one!).
Pour the milk mixture over the bread crumbs and gently mix to generously coat all of the bread. There will be just a little bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Fold in the strawberries.
Spray a baking dish (I used a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish) with non-stick cooking spray and carefully pour the mixture (and any of its extra liquid) into the baking dish, cover with foil and set it aside.
This should rest at least 15 minutes, but, if you wanted, you could prepare this the night before and put it into the refrigerator at this time.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you refrigerated your casserole overnight, remove it from the refrigerator about half an hour prior to baking.
Sprinkle the top with light brown sugar (if you choose to) and bake for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.