Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Daring Bakers' Challenge - Crisp Flatbreads

Oh my gosh, I am so sorry that I have been so quiet this past week. And I can't even believe that it's the end of the month already! But, the best part of the end of the month is that I get to share the results of another Daring Bakers' Challenge!

Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!

When I first read the challenge, I had to laugh. Because we had just announced the February Sourdough Surprises challenge, which, if you saw my last post, was flatbreads! A very flatbread-y month! It also reminded me a lot of the Daring Bakers' Challenge from last July, when we made crackers.

The mandatory aspect of this challenge was to prepare a crisp flatbread, but other than that, we were given complete freedom.  I didn't want to make anything too similar to last summer's crackers, so I decided to try, well, a basic crisp flatbread.  I found a basic recipe over at smitten kitchen, which I then adapted to the specific flavor that I had in mind. Rather than a savory, herbed flatread, I wanted to go for a sweet crisp.

As is usually the case these days, little man was very excited to help me.

The dough for this flatbread was simple, being a combination of flour, baking powder, salt, water, oil, and whatever spices you choose. For me, that was cinnamon and sugar.

Once the dough was prepared, I rolled it out, brushed on a bit of melted butter substitute (I kept these dairy free for little man) and sprinkled on a bit more cinnamon sugar.

I don't think that I rolled the dough quite thin enough, as the resulting flatbreads were not as crisp throughout as I'd expected, but they were delicious. They did have a crisp crust and a good flavor, they just weren't as cracker-like as I'd expected.

But I wasn't quite done. I wanted to try a different kind of cinnamon-sugar crisp, as well.  So I prepared another batch of sourdough tortillas and turned them into tortilla chips.  I simply cut the tortillas into wedges, sprayed a foil-covered pan with non-stick cooking spray, spread out the tortilla wedges, a little more spray, then a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

12 minutes in the oven, flipping the pieces over halfway through, and they were done!

Okay, so they didn't look much different, but they were completely crisp and deliciously sweet.

I served both chips, side by side, with some fruit salsa.

It was a unanimous decision in our house - the tortilla chips were definitely our favorite, but I definitely want to play around with crispy flatbreads and absolutely plan on making them, in a variety of flavors, more often.

To see the delicious recipes that Sarah provided us this month, you can check them out here.

And to see the other amazing flatbreads prepared in the kitchen this month, you can check them out here.

Cinnamon-Sugar Flatbread
(adapted from smitten kitchen)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon melted butter (I used butter substitute)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (to taste)

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.
Stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.
Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out 1 piece at a time (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 8-10 inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).
Lightly brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Slide rounds (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool.
Break into pieces.
Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips
(my own method)

5-6 tortillas (I used these sourdough tortillas)
non-stick cooking spray
cinnamon sugar (to taste - but be generous!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
Cut the tortillas into wedges and spread them in as even a layer as you can on the prepared baking sheet.
Spray the tops of the tortilla wedges with a bit more cooking spray.
Sprinkle the tortilla pieces with cinnamon sugar.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 6-7 minutes. Take out the tray and flip over all of the pieces. Sprinkle the other side with a bit more cinnamon sugar and return them to the oven for an additional 6 minutes.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises #11 - Flatbreads

This month's Sourdough Surprises was a fun one. Sourdough, being wild yeast, is generally used as a leavening agent, to make baked goods rise. But this month we focused on flat bread. 

And, believe it or not, the choices were endless. There are so many varieties of flatbreads, and most of them can be made using sourdough. I had a lot of trouble choosing.  But when I found this recipe for sourdough tortillas and I knew I'd found my flatbread. 

The dough comes together super easily. While the recipe I found called for the dough to be made in a food processor, I prepared mine in my KitchanAid stand mixer. The resulting dough was impressively smooth. So much so that little man had some trouble keeping his hands off of it.

Honestly? That was no problem - I took advantage of his desire to help and enlisted him in the next step of the process - dividing the dough and rolling it out!

But when it came time for cooking, I took over. The tortillas cook on a hot, dry pan, and each cooks pretty quickly - about one minute per side.

And soon I had a delicious stack of tortillas ready to be turned into yummy soft tacos.

And, once again, little man had some trouble keeping his hands off...

It's a good thing the recipe made way more than I needed for dinner - I had no problem letting him snack away.

These were great, and so easy to make. So easy that I made them again. If I keep it up, I may just have to consider a tortilla press!

And now I can't wait to see what other flatbreads were made this month! So link up!

Sourdough Tortillas

2/3 cup sourdough starter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup very hot water

Place starter, flour, and salt in food processor or the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Work until combined. With machine running, slowly pour in oil first, then hot water until dough is formed and elastic. If you are using a stand mixer, you will need to switch to the dough hook once the water is incorporated. You may need a few extra tablespoons of hot water to loosen the dough up a bit. The dough is ready to roll out now, but it is best to let it rest. Cover it with a dish towel, and let it sit for about 30 minutes or so.

Divide the dough into 12 balls of equal size. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each ball with a rolling pin (starting in center and rolling outwards, turning often) to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thickness. Place each tortilla on a DRY medium-high hot cast iron griddle or skillet. Cook for about 45 to 60 seconds on each side, or until the tortilla does not look doughy. Try not to overcook them.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Gingerbread Spread - One More SRC Bonus

The call goes out, and I can't help but volunteer. For this week's Secret Recipe Club reveal, there were a couple of missing posts, so I offered to help out. And when the hostess sent me the blog that needed "rescuing," I was in heaven.

While I had never seen it before, Mele Cotte may just be one of my new favorite blogs. Christina, the blogger behind Mele Cotte, is amazingly talented and has so many mouthwateringly delicious looking recipes. Within minutes of scanning the blog, I already had half a dozen earmarked to try.

For the sake of getting a post up quickly, I chose a quick recipe, but one that I would have bookmarked to try during the holiday season (yes, planning way ahead...) - gingerbread spread.  As you may have noticed, I love just about anything gingerbread, and this simple cream cheese spread looked too good to pass up.

The first thing that I did was to measure out all of my spices - brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, I placed one block of softened cream cheese and two tablespoons of molasses.

Now, the recipe, as it is written, calls for all of the ingredients to be mixed together in a food processor. I didn't feel like pulling out my mini-food processor, nor making that much noise (it was bedtime for the kiddos), so I mixed everything together by hand. While I am sure the food processor makes it quicker, it really wasn't difficult to get everything incorporated and smooth.

The results were delicious!

The sharp spices and the cool cream cheese come together deliciously, and spread on my graham crackers, I almost felt like I was eating gingerbread cookies!

I think I am going to have this on a bagel for breakfast tomorrow!

Christina, while I don't ever wish for anyone to be orphaned, I am so glad to have been introduced to your blog, and I can't wait to make lots more of your recipes!!

Gingerbread Spread
(from Mele Cotte)

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

In the bowl of a food processor, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.
If you don't have a food processor (or need to make this more quietly...), you can mix everything together by hand.
Transfer the mixture into an airtight container and let chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Makes about 1 cup.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

January-February Daring Cooks' Challenge - Sausage

I don't know if you noticed, but there was no Daring Cooks' post last month. It's not that I skipped a month - it's that the challenge had an option of being so involved, of requiring a significant amount of time, that we were given two months to complete it.

For the January-February 2013 Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Carol, one of our talented non-blogging members and Jenni, one of our talented bloggers who writes The Gingered Whisk, have challenged us to make homemade sausage and/or cured, dried meats in celebration of the release of the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn! We were given two months for this challenge and the opportunity to make delicious Salumi in our own kitchens!

I am not going to lie. This challenge scared me. A lot.

I have never made sausage. I don't have the proper equipment to grind meat or to stuff sausage. In fact, I didn't even know where to find sausage casings.

But I couldn't sit it out. So I had to get over it and just... try!

The process of preparing the meat actually went much more smoothly than I'd expected.  I took one pound of boneless pork sirloin and one pound of boneless chicken breast and cut them into cubes.  I froze the pieces for about half an hour so that they wouldn't be too soft, then began grinding the meat in small batches in the mini food processor attachment of my immersion blender.

It took a while, but it worked - I soon had two pounds of nicely ground mixed chicken and pork!

The next step was spicing.  From everything that I'd read, it seems that there's a general guideline of about a tablespoon and a half of spice for each pound of meat, so I created a spice mix, using salt, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary and prepared Italian seasonings to equal three tablespoons.

Then I had some expert help stirring it all together.

Once the seasonings were mixed into the meat, I let the whole thing rest in the fridge while I prepared myself mentally for the next step.


I was able to find casings at a local butcher shop.

Apparently that little bag contains enough casing to make 30 pounds of sausage. Hopefully that would be enough for my inexpert fumblings...

The casings are packed in salt to keep them preserved, so they need to be rinsed and soaked in order to be used. 

Now, I waited until little man was napping to get started, to ensure that I would have both of my hands free for the stuffing process. Unfortunately, this means that I don't have any pictures.  But let me just say, it was... definitely an experience. As I mentioned, I don't have the proper equipment to stuff sausages. Several people on the forums had indicated that they'd had success stuffing their sausages using piping bags. So I tried using zip-top bags with a corner snipped... I burst two bags. I tried waxed paper. I tried parchment paper. I tried using a spoon. Oh, man, it was comical. I ripped more than one casing.

After just over an hour, I'd used only half of the prepared meat, and had only four sausage links.

I decided that the rest would be made into patties, and hoped that I would get points for effort.

The results, though, were pretty good. I think my spice mixture needs some tweaking - it was too salty and I think it needed a slightly better balance, but I was honestly really proud of how it turned out.  On a roll with peppers, onions and a slice of provolone, it made a delicious dinner.

Carol, Jenni, thank you so much for pushing me so far outside of my comfort zone. I am not sure how often I will repeat this in the future, but I am really proud of myself for trying.  And I am amazingly impressed with the results of the other participants this month - check them out here.

And if you are interested in trying your hand at making sausage, check out the challenge recipes here. If I find a spice mix that works for us, I'll be sure to share it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Caramelized Butternut Squash - A Secret Recipe Club Bonus

After yesterday's Secret Recipe Club posts went live, it was discovered that we had a couple of orphans - members of the group who, for some reason or another, did not have someone post from their blog that day.

I am never one to be able to turn down an opportunity to "meet" a new blogger, so I immediately volunteered to help.  And I was super lucky to be given the opportunity to "adopt" Danielle from Mostly Food And Crafts, an awesome blog with a super, creative and talented blogger.

There were so many things I wanted to try, but when I saw the recipe for Caramelized Butternut Squash, I couldn't concentrate on any of the other awesome looking recipes.  I am a sucker for butternut squash, and for caramelized anything, so combine them and I am sold.

The recipe is pretty simple, actually.

Start by peeling a butternut squash, then start cutting...

...until it's all cubed up.

Then a sauce of melted butter substitute (Danielle used Country Crock spread, I used a non-dairy butter spread so that little man could try some of this..), sugar, salt and a touch of pepper is drizzled over the squash pieces.

Lightly toss the squash to make sure it's all coated in the sauce, then spread it all out as evenly as possible on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray, just to be on the safe side).

Then the whole thing roasts at 400 degrees, tossing it occasionally, until the whole thing smells amazing and looks like orange heaven.

Oh. My. Gosh. This is like candy. I ate half of it right from the pan with that fork right there.

So. Freaking. Delicious.

Danielle, I can't wait to make many more things from your awesome blog.

Caramelized Butternut Squash
(from Mostly Food And Crafts)

1-2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
6 tablespoons butter substitute spread, melted
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Cut off and discard the ends of the butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them into a large bowl. Combine the melted butter spread, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour the butter mixture over the squash pieces and toss gently to coat. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, making sure to spoon any extra syrup over the squash pieces. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize. While roasting, turn the squash a few times to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Sesame Beef Stir Fry

Today's Secret Recipe Club post, much like episodes of Sesame Street, has been brought to you by a letter of the alphabet.  In this case, the letter "O".  As in Oh my gosh, it's a very small world!

You see, when I received my assignment, It's Good To Be The Cook, I noticed that the author, Beth, was born and raised and still lives in and around Philadelphia, where I grew up. She went to college at the same university from which I earned my MBA. And, well, she's a total foodie.  Trying to decide which of her recipes to choose for this post was hard because there are so many delicious options.

And then a new member was added to the Secret Recipe Club's member-only Facebook page. Her name was Beth. And her last name sounded really, really familiar.  So I sent her a message to see if she's who I thought she was.


And that's the second reason that this post is sponsored by the letter "O".  Because I suddenly felt really, really Old.

I used to babysit for Beth and her sister. 20 years ago. We sent a few messages back and forth, smiled over the small-worldness of it, then exchanged blog urls so we could check each other out.  But I already knew what I'd find when she sent me hers. It was my February assignment!

And then there's the final reason that "O" comes into play - Oops! There were a lot of new members added to the Secret Recipe Club recently, which is absolutely awesome. But it caused a little bit of confusion, and posts were going up with other groups' reveals. But the lovely hostesses worked it all out, and I got to keep Beth's blog as my assignment, which means I get to share this delicious recipe with you.

While there were some amazing recipes from which to choose, when I saw this one for Sesame Beef Stir Fry, I knew it was the one.  Originally from Cooking Light magazine, it is a fast, simple and absolutely delicious alternative to takeout Chinese food.

I started by preparing the sauce - a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, freshly minced garlic, freshly mincend ginger and crushed red pepper flakes.

And then it was as easy as, well, stir frying!  The first thing into the pan is stir-fry-sliced beef, then cut green onions.  Then the sauce is added to flavor everything.

And then, for good measure, you add a healthy heap of baby spinach.

The spinach wilts down and you are left with absolute deliciousness.

The recipe calls for sesame seeds to be sprinkled over the dish still in the pan, but I knew that the kids would prefer their servings without them, so I sprinkled seeds on the individual servings for those who wanted them (ie: me and daddy).

While the recipe used a little more ginger than we usually like, it tasted fresh and delicious and really was a breeze to make. I prepared the sauce and sliced the beef in advance and the whole dish was done in less time than it took me to cook the rice with which I served the stir fry.

Beth, it's so great to re-connect with you and I look forward to making many more dishes from your blog!

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry
(from It's Good To Be The Cook)

1 tablespoon minced ginger (minced or freshly minced)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (bottled or freshly minced)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound pre-sliced stir-fry meat (such as flank or boneless sirloin steak) (I found thinly sliced bottom round steaks for sale and sliced them up myself)
8 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (white and light green parts only)
4 cups bagged baby spinach leaves (I used a 6 ounce bag of pre-washed)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (or to your own taste)
½ teaspoon hot chili garlic sauce (optional… I omitted this)

Combine the ginger, garlic, soy, sugar and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat the sesame oil in a wok or saute pan.  Once the oil is heated, stir in the sliced beef and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until browned evenly (Mine took a little bit longer, about 6-7 minutes).  Add the green onions and saute for one more minute.
Pour on the prepared sauce and stir for 30 seconds.  Pile on a bag of spinach.  Let it sit for a minute until it starts to wilt down, then stir until it shrinks completely.  Add the sesame seeds, stir, and serve!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Healthier Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Have you checked out Pinterest yet? It's a great site for bookmarking anything and everything that you find online. And, more than that, you can browse through the bookmarks (pins) of others - either the people you follow or everyone on Pinterest, by category or as a whole.  

As you can imagine, the majority of the links that I pin are recipes that I want to try. And since I can browse the ideas of so many people, I often come across ideas that I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

Which is how I came across a recipe for "clean eating," healthy chocolate-chocolate chip muffins. They had me at "healthy chocolate," so I decided to make them right away. 

The recipe is flour-free, and includes apple sauce and greek yogurt (I used coconut milk greek yogurt to make them dairy free for little man), which, I'd imagine, contribute to their "clean" status. The recipe also calls for a sugar substitute, but I used regular sugar.

Little man had a lot of fun helping me measure, scoop and stir. And he did a really good job!

Then the mixture is blended (I used an immersion blender) until smooth, divided into a muffin tin and baked.

As the muffins were baking, I started washing the dishes. As I finished up and was wiping down the counters, after the muffins had been in for about five minutes, I realized that I'd made a mistake. I'd forgotten an ingredient. The recipe calls for a cup of hot water. Which, as I wiped the counters, I realized was still sitting in the microwave. But the batter was already divided into 24, among two muffin tins, and had been baking for five minutes. Shoot.

I decided to keep going and just see what happened.

Now, aside from the forgotten water, there was one interesting thing about this recipe... it called for the muffins to bake most of the way, then to sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top, then to finish baking them I wasn't sure how that would work, but tried it anyway.

And then they came out of the oven and cooled for a bit.

Okay, those are pretty flat muffins. And those chocolate chips did not want to stay on them.

But, believe it or not, they were pretty good!

And little man really liked the melty chips on top.

But I wasn't done.

I wanted to try them the "right" way - using all of the ingredients. I was curious as to how they would be different, and if they would be better!

Once again, little man was happy to help me measure and mix.

(and yes, we kept the computer close this time, and checked, double checked and then rechecked the listing many, many times!)

I also decided to include all of the chocolate chips in the batter, rather than sprinkling some on top.

So what were the results?

These muffins looked so much better! They did need a couple extra minutes to bake, due to the extra moisture, but the results were definitely better. Not that they were bad the first time, but the texture was so much smoother this time.

One final note. When I first made this recipe, I followed the link provided on Pinterest. When I went to make them the second time, the Pinterest link was no longer valid. Same link, but it told me that the specific url was no longer valid. Weird. So I turned to Google, where I found what looked like the same recipe. There were a couple of minor differences - I thought that the original recipe called for a whole cup of sugar (substitute), but the second only called for 1/2. They didn't taste any less sweet the second time, so I may just have remembered wrong. The other difference is that the original recipe said to prepare and divide the batter between two 12-cup muffin tins, and the second said to use just one. In reality, the second time I made it, there was more batter than could fit in one 12-cup muffin tin - it made 17 muffins.  Either way, chocolate muffins I can feel good about and that the kids enjoy are winners in my book!

Healthier Chocolate Chunk Muffins

(from Dashing Dish)

1 3/4 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
3 egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup greek yogurt (or regular plain low fat yogurt) (I used greek-style coconut milk yogurt)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 2 tsp. vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute that measures in the same way)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil cupcake liners or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a blender, food processor, or in a bowl with an immersion blender, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.
Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop the mixture into prepared muffin pan.
Place muffins tin in the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Alternatively, when you mix in the chocolate chips, only mix in half of them. After the muffins have baked for 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute the other half of the chocolate chips on top of each muffin, then return the muffins to the oven for the final 2-5 minutes. When I tried it this way, most of the chocoalte chips fell off from the tops, but if you can get it to work, it looks super cool.
Allow the muffins to cool before removing them from the pan.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crock Pot Honey Chicken

Remember last month's Secret Recipe Club post, when I made the chocolate banana fake ice cream? Remember how I mentioned that there were tons of other recipes on that blog that looked awesome?  I wanted to share one of them with you, since my family really loved it.

While it's nice to prepare and cook a big, full dinner, there is also something really nice about a delicious, easy dinner.  Like, one that requires only a couple of minutes and as very, very few dishes.  Like this awesome honey chicken.

How easy is it?

Just put all of the ingredients in a bowl...

...and let your nearest sous chef whisk it all together.

Then just pour the sauce over some chicken right in the crock pot. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  After three hours, when the meat is cooked through, just cut or shred it and toss it with the sauce in the crock pot.

And that's it.

And it's absolutely delicious.

We will definitely be making this again.

Honey Chicken
(from Join us, pull up a chair)

2 chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb of chicken) (I used 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup  soy sauce
1/8 cup chopped onion
1/8 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I omitted these)

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and place into a slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil and garlic. Pour this mixture over the chicken. Cook on low for 3 hours.

After 3 hours remove chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return back to the slow cookerand toss in the sauce to coat. Serve with rice or noodles.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Strawberry-Banana French Toast Casserole (Egg Free/Dairy Free)

Working around little man's food allergies takes a bit of getting used to, but, for the most part, is pretty easily workable.

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 banana
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.


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