Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole

As far as food goes on the Fourth of July, it’s always the cookouts and barbecues that get all the glory. We think of char-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, bright yellow corn on the cob, and wiggly-jiggly Jello salads served at lunch or dinner. Rarely do we think of breakfast as an opportunity to make (and eat) something patriotically themed. Well, it’s time to change that! This Red, White, Blueberry Overnight French Toast features a mix of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries in a sweet-but-not-too-sweet custard that will start your Independence Day off right.

I served this up yesterday at a fun pajama party breakfast (soon to be blogged) that my kids and I hosted for a group of friends. As one item on a menu of several breakfast dishes, it was so nice to know that I could put this French toast casserole together quickly the night before and not stress on the morning of our event. All it really takes is a loaf of French bread, cubed and layered with frozen berries in a baking dish like so…

Then, whisk together a quick milk-and-egg mixture with a bit of brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon, stash in the fridge, and pull out to bake when you’re ready!

Our young guests–a dozen or so elementary-aged kids–certainly approved. And with just a half cup of sugar in the whole 9 x 13-inch pan, I felt pretty good about feeding it to them, too. For a special occasion breakfast treat, this comes in at a surprisingly modest 240 calories per serving (before maple syrup, anyway).

So if you’d like to spruce up your Fourth of July festivities by starting early in the day, don’t forget to whip up your Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole the night of the Third.

Have a wonderful Independence Day!

Check out these other Fourth of July recipes from A Love Letter to Food!

Red, White, and Blue Berry Cheesecake Parfaits

Dysfunctional Family Recipe Salsa

Fresh Blueberry Ice Cream

Garlic Herb Potato Wedges

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Pavlova with Fresh Berries

Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip


Print Recipe
Red, White, and Blueberry French Toast Casserole
Bursting with berries, this French toast casserole is a special occasion breakfast that takes next to no time to prepare!
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
Instructions
  1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Slice French bread into 1-inch chunks and spread half of them in the pan. Sprinkle half the berries on top. Repeat with the remaining half of bread chunks and berries.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar until smooth. Pour over bread, pressing down the top with a spatula to help bread soak up the milk mixture.
  3. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours (overnight is preferable). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. Serve with maple syrup.
Recipe Notes
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Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

I’ll be honest and say I had pretty low expectations when I decided to make sweet potato muffins. In terms of baking, sweet potatoes have always seemed to me like pumpkin’s stringy-haired, less charming step-sister. I have no evidence to back up this notion. Maybe it’s just that in this country, in all the months that end in -ber, pumpkin gets all the glory in baked goods, while sweet potatoes dutifully play side dish. Probably there’s a Pumpkin Baking Lobby at work beneath this phenomenon.

At any rate, sometimes it’s good to get out of a rut, even if it’s just a pumpkin baking rut. So when I realized I had a heaping helping of leftover cooked sweet potatoes nobody in my family was chomping at the bit to consume, I went hunting for a recipe to repurpose them as breakfast. Am I glad I did? Well, I’ll just say, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins, that…

These muffins come out with flavor as bright as their color. A hint of orange zest in the recipe adds just the right counterpoint to the heartier tubers’ taste. And despite the heft of sweet potatoes’ texture, these are light, moist, and even–dare I say–fluffy? With a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top, I’m kind of sad I only made about a dozen.

So there you have it. I’m a sweet potato baking convert. Are you? Next time you have extra cooked sweet potatoes leftover, remember to try out this recipe, and I think you will be in no time!

 


Print Recipe
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins
These Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins will make you a sweet potato baking convert! They're surprisingly light, not too sweet, and only 150 calories each.
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 14 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  4. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, orange extract or zest, oil, and milk. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Williams Sonoma.

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Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins

 

Generally, I’m not much into specialty ingredients. If it can’t be found with relative ease at my local Fry’s or Trader Joe’s, I tend to feel I can pretty well do without it or find a reasonable substitute. We don’t need no hifalutin’ muscovado sugar, soy flour, or buffalo yogurt around here, thankyouverymuch. Especially here on the blog, I like to feature recipes that don’t require excessive effort, whether in techniques used, time spent, or ingredients called for. (And I tend to roll my eyes and click right past when other food bloggers post recipes that want you to track down some vegan hemp matcha flax milk. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and the 2% in my fridge will work just fine.)

But today I’m going to make a small exception to my no-specialty-ingredients policy, because my muffin world was recently rocked by the discovery of whole grain medium-grind cornmeal. (Yes, when you make muffins as often as I do, you can legitimately claim to have a “muffin world.”) My dear husband brought me back some cornmeal from the U.S. to Germany when I couldn’t find any here, and lo and behold, it was whole grain medium-grind–something I had never heard of before, since I always buy the cheapo generic 89-cent cornmeal.

Bob’s Red Mill…the FANCY stuff

When I used this semi-specialty ingredient to make the Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins featured here, I fell in loooooove with the result. The grittier texture it yields might not to everyone’s taste, but I found it super hearty and satisfying, like the kind of cornbread the pilgrims would have had at the first Thanksgiving before we got all technologified with grinding our cornmeal into powder.

Come to find out, there is also a difference between whole grain cornmeal and “regular” cornmeal not labeled as whole grain. As a nutritionist, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never really given whole grain corn much thought, but it stands to reason that, just like with any other grain, when the bran, germ, and endosperm of the corn are left intact, the corn will be more nutritious. Therefore, whole grain cornmeal contains more fiber and B vitamins than non-whole grain. Bonus! Awesome taste and texture PLUS better nutrition. And some mega-tasty muffins to use it in.

So there you have it…not too crazy a special ingredient, but maybe a fun one to give a try. After all, the Bob’s Red Mill brand seems to be sold in most mainstream U.S. grocery stores, so I imagine whole grain medium-grind cornmeal won’t be too tough to find if you want to try using it in these summery, bursting-with-berries muffins. When you taste them fresh out of the oven with a schmear of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar, I think you’ll agree they’re worth it.


Print Recipe
Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins
Medium-grain whole wheat cornmeal gives these summery, bursting-with-berries muffins their hearty texture.
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add melted butter, eggs, honey, sugar, yogurt, and milk, stirring to combine. Gently stir in frozen raspberries.
  4. Divide batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake 18-20 minutes.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

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Spiced Applesauce Bread

Spiced Applesauce Bread

It’s spring break in our household, and in true spring break tradition of lazy days at home (not true spring break tradition of topless in Mexico, if that’s what you were expecting), my kids and I have mostly been hanging out with friends in the neighborhood, lounging around, and enjoying leisurely time on blankets at parks.

resting at the park

And today, as a last hurrah since it’s Friday of our break, we went out to lunch at a ’50s diner, where my kids were FASCINATED by the concept of a jukebox at the table.

kids jukebox

“What IS this ancient artifact?”

With the extra time on our hands, we’ve been able to enjoy some special breakfasts as well, from baked goods to scrambled eggs. (Yes, scrambled eggs is a special breakfast in our house because of how much I can’t stand cleaning the sticky web of egg remnants off my nonstick pan.) As for baked goods, this spiced applesauce bread is a perennial favorite.

Spiced Applesauce Bread

It’s a no-frills breakfast or brunch item that uses a whopping 1 and 1/4 cups of applesauce, an entire grated apple, and half whole wheat flour to make it healthy, and vegetable oil and plenty of aromatic spices to make it tasty. I’ve been making it for years, and it’s a great stand-by recipe for your bread arsenal. Give it a try for your next weekend breakfast or brunch!

Spiced Applesauce Bread

And now, in true lazy spring break fashion, I’m going to stop writing and go watch a movie. 🙂

Spiced Applesauce Bread

Print Recipe
Spiced Applesauce Bread
A better-for-you spiced quick bread that's chock full of applesauce!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix applesauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and milk.
  2. In a separate bowl (or the same bowl, if you want to be lazy like me), mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Stir with wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Using a cheese grater, grate peeled apple directly into bowl, then stir briefly to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 60-65 minutes.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

You know the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Well, you may not think this phrase applies to the humble muffin, but I’m here to tell you it does.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

As a muffinomaniac, I am constantly scouring the internet for new muffin varieties to try, but sometimes, alas, I just can’t find exactly the recipe I want for the ingredients I have on hand.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Thankfully, muffins are the perfect drawing board for recipe experimentation, even for anyone new to the process. If you can’t find a recipe for exactly what you want, you can always take the DIY route. Muffins are like a bake-able paint-by-numbers kit: hard to screw up and with a bit of room for creativity. All you have to do is find a good basic recipe (like this one from King Arthur Flour or this one from Mark Bittman) and tweak it to your liking, or to fit whatever items in your kitchen need using up. You might even use a flavor guide like The Flavor Bible for inspiration on ingredient combinations. That’s how I ended up with these Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins–which, by the way, are no basic muffin.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Popping with lemony tartness both in the batter and in a glaze on top, these little gems also have an undercurrent of the distinctive, mellower flavor of olive oil. They were just what I was hoping for when I decided to roll up my sleeves and figure out a recipe that used honey, lemon, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. Knowing they were awaiting me for breakfast even motivated me to get out of bed in the morning during this week of my kids’ return to school after Christmas break. (How did I get so used to sleeping in after only two weeks?)

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

So tell me, what kind of muffins would you make if you were to create your own recipe? Or what other types of foods do you find easy to experiment with? I’m always looking for new ideas!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Print Recipe
Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins
These lemony muffins get their sweetness from honey and their moist texture from olive oil.
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 10 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, almond milk, and lemon juice until smooth.
  3. Add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest and mix until just combined.
  4. Spoon into greased muffin cups and bake 3 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 15-17 minutes.
  5. Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan. Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking together the remaining lemon juice and powder sugar. Remove muffins from tin and drizzle with the glaze. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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