Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What to do with old bread?

Does anyone else have the problem of too much bread in your freezer? I rarely ever buy bakery bread anymore, but when I did we never seemed to use all of it before it got old or hard. So, I'd throw it in the freezer for some later use. Now I tend to make my own (check out the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day) or my grandma gives me day old Panera bread from the senior center. The Monday after Christmas she picked up a ton of bread because there weren't many other seniors getting bread that day. She gave me a grocery bag full of bread. Awesome, now what do I do with it? Some of it I shared with other family members and some of it I froze for future use. One loaf was a gigantic whole grain bread that immediately made me think of French Toast. The first batch of French Toast was greatly lacking, so I started looking for more ideas. I had just picked up two pints of blueberries that were on sale so that helped me in my quest for a great recipe! I found a wonderful Overnight Blueberry French Toast recipe on, but of course it needed some tweaking to make it healthier.

If you don't happen to have a ton of old bread in your freezer, you can usually find day old bread at a reduced rate in most grocery stores or at bakeries if you ask. For this recipe try to find something that has at least a bit of whole grains in it. Wheat, oat, quinoa, etc. The first time I made this it was just for our family, so I cut the recipe in half. It was so incredible that I had to make it for MOPS. But when I made it for MOPS something seemed different. I later realized that when I cut the recipe in half for our family, I did not cut the syrup recipe in half. So it essentially needed more of the blueberry syrup. I'm going to give you the half recipe because the full recipe is more than you would need for a typical family on a weekday. But for special occasions or guests, you may want to double my recipe below. And yes, you can make this in the middle of the week! Do the prep the night before, keep it in the fridge overnight and when you wake up take it out of the fridge to warm up to room temp and then throw it in the oven. My son (21 months) loved this so much he licked his plate clean! (He doesn't know that's bad manners yet.)

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast (1/2 recipe)
6 slices day-old bread (1-inch thick)
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup egg whites (about 5 large eggs)
1 cup low fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tbsp maple syrup
dash or two of cinnamon

4 oz cream cheese (I use lowfat/neufchatel)
1/2 cup cottage cheese (1% or 2%)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsps maple syrup

2 Tbsp water
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup

Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish. Combine filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Arrange half the bread slices flat on the bottom of the dish, and top with filling. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese filling, and cut remaining bread into 1-inch cubes before covering the blueberries.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover with plastic wrap, weight down and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix the water, blueberries and maple syrup. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes or until blueberries begin to split. Pour over the baked French toast or reserve the syrup on the side to be poured over individual pieces.

Side Notes: I tried both flat slices of bread and cubed bread for the bottom of this dish and I would recommend the flat. When I did the cubed bread I had three different kinds of bread I was using, so I wanted to mix it up, but it was harder to spread the filling over the bread cubes. I did, however, find that the bread cubes made for a nicer presentation on top than the bread slices. I also thought about trying orange zest or lemon zest in the cream cheese filling in place of the vanilla, but haven't done this yet. Let me know if you try it.

You may have noticed that I eliminated all white sugar from this recipe and replaced it with real maple syrup (not corn syrup) - my preference is Grade A dark amber, but whatever you can get a hold of at a good price is best. I have found that Sam's club has the best price per ounce and since we use it often I don't mind having a large bottle around.

I have not tried this with frozen blueberries, but it might work just fine. We have had some amazing sales on blueberries lately - and in the middle of winter I jumped on these even though they were not organic (I try to stick to organic on the dirty dozen). When I don't buy organic I try to soak my fruits and veggies in cold water with a bit of vinegar. And I recently came across a Do-It-Yourself Veggie Wash, but in place of the fresh lemon juice I like to use four drops of lemon essential oil. That way you don't have to keep the spray in the fridge.

And if this is the first recipe of mine that you have checked out, you are probably wondering why the cottage cheese? Well, it's available in low fat and has lots of protein compared to cream cheese, sour cream, or even yogurt. I whip it up in my food processor and use it as a filling, a spread, a dip, or in place of sour cream on tacos. If I want a sweet filling I add maple syrup, if I want to use it as a spread on my bagel I might combine it with some all fruit preserves, as a dip you could add Ranch seasoning or try making your own (less preservatives that way) and for a sour cream replacement add a bit of fresh lemon juice. Today the kids had it as a snack on some graham crackers - YUM!

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