Lighter blueberry baked French toast casserole
This dish could be made gluten-free I'm sure, with the right, hearty gluten-free bread. It could work nicely vegan, if you're happy with egg substitute. And it could definitely be considered "healthy"--quotes probably needed--or more aptly, "healthier", as long as the context is in relation to the original model. I haven't yet made this fitting any but the third criteria, but I have to share the recipe, because I can't help but say so, this dish is delish. And really, it is much, much lighter than one might expect it to be. Fewer eggs, sweetened with gooey honey, and significantly less overall sweetener than is standard. I know I'm making a blanket assumption here, but we all have those things that may not fit into our general philosophy about something, but which get a sentimental pass...don't we? For me for instance, all kinds of Chinese food. Hand me a plate of dim sum and as long as it's (mostly) meatless, I am apt to consciously choose not to question a rich, sloppy, greasy bite. Because, so many things. My mom, trips to Chinatown growing up, the splendor of the reds and golds, the dragon scales, and the stimulating buzz of clicking chopsticks and carts overflowing with steaming wares gently colliding. Love, loyalty, and probably a dash of guilt.
This baked French toast casserole...it isn't the type of thing I usually make for breakfast. It was such a fun opportunity to create for Madhava , and their fabulous Cinnamon Brown Sugar honey made cutting sweetener back to 1/2 cup for the filling, 9 X 13 inch pan a piece of cake. Two cups of almond or other milk, 6 eggs, a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, cinnamon and blueberries combined blissfully to immediately become a go-to company breakfast/brunch. Something that envelops you with warmth and sweetness, and also happens to be so incredibly easy to prepare! Easy to cut bread up and combine in a pan with whisked eggs, milk, honey and vanilla the night before. Twenty minutes max. Easy to cover with blueberries and sprinkle with pecans, then bake, the next morning. Easy, and delicious, and one pan goes a long way.
When I made this, I was so reminded of a strikingly similar brunch dish my mom makes that I felt somewhat chagrined to share and reveal it had been a 'work project' when my parents visited recently. Love, loyalty, and a little guilt again, I guess. Yet when it appeared at the kitchen table she exclaimed, "Ooh, this looks nice, what is it?" Which reminded me of a time in Taiwan, when I prepared a lunch of "Chinese food" (I thought) for a group of friends and my family, visiting from the States. While eating, I overheard Chinese friends asking each other, "Have you ever had American food before?"
It's funny, how the mind frames moments. How we search for the beloved and familiar in ways that may not outwardly make sense, or pack a whole bunch of meaning into one nostalgic bite. It's all down to point of view. But whatever your perspective, chances are good it needn't be very tough to modify this dish into a go-to company brunch for you, too. :)