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Olympics, McDonald’s, Michelle Obama, and Savory Bread Pudding

The beginnings of Savory Bread Pudding -- the addition of some Winter Greens pesto makes this dish even better.

I love watching the Olympics, that is, I love the actual races, performances, personal stories and all the emotion and physical rigor and determination that culminates in these two weeks. I tend to go on longer runs myself during the games. I stay up too late watching just one more qualifying speed skating race, and I read the sports section every morning.

I do not like the staggering number of commercials (actually it’s not a staggering number, it’s the staggering frequency with which the same dozen are broadcast). And I particularly dislike the McDonald’s commercials that say things like, “Eat like an Olympian!” and have smiling, sporty children running around their swanky apartments with little red happy-meal boxes! I’m sure some Olympians do eat fast food but I would imagine that the majority of them do not.

My three-year-old has been watching the coverage with us sometimes and so he is seeing these commercials for the first time which brings me, somewhat indirectly to Michelle Obama’s recent unveiling of her fight to end childhood obesity. She has an ambitious plan and the President has pledged 1 billion dollars to get better food into schools and fund other areas of access and education that really could make a difference. These issues are close to my heart and the work I and many others have been doing through Slow Food for years and through our current Time for Lunch campaign. I am excited to see more national attention paid to this issue that affects all of us in one way or another. And this brings me back to my very own kitchen and the daily routine of cooking dinner.

I’m not surprised that parents take their children to McDonald’s. It’s cheap (in some ways), and it’s there, everywhere, in fact and children devour it. My son turns his nose up at the food I prepare all the time and I know he would devour french fries and hamburgers every night if the opportunity arose. But when he exclaims (after some perseverance on the parents’ part) “I DO like beans!” with a big smile on his face I am reminded of what constant exposure to vegetables and fruits and home-cooked food does for children, and parents. I could write a book on this but to wrap up this post and get to my final point, let’s briefly talk about a dish my son needs no encouragement to devour. Savory bread pudding! It is the answer to my 5:30pm-what’s-for-dinner? prayer when I have two hungry “men” circling the kitchen. The stale half-loaf of bread in the fridge, the carrot and onion, the remainders of a bunch of cilantro and a few cups of milk and maybe a handful of grated cheese. These humble and almost ever-present ingredients turn into a moist, savory dinner in no-time and no-one needs convincing to clean their plate!

Oh and if you want to take a cooking class on other kid-friendly meals, check out my Sunday, Feb. 28th class!

Savory Bread Pudding

Bread soaking in the custard of eggs and milk

You can use almost any vegetable you have on hand and you can add bacon or sausage if you like as well. You can make it drier with more bread or more custardy with more milk and/or eggs.The point is don’t feel you have to follow the below quantities and just use the technique to use up whatever you have or use your favorite veggies/herbs.

Serves 4-6.

5 eggs

3 cups milk

5-6 large slices bread, cubed (or varies ends for a total of about 5-6 cups of cubed bread)

½ an onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

couple of sprigs of parsley, chopped

grated cheese (cheddar, or parmesan or crumbled feta or goat cheese) (optional)

salt and pepper

I had leftover chard stems (from making Winter Greens pesto) and chopped those up with the onion and carrot to saute and add to the custard.

Preheat oven to 375 (or 400 if you’re in a hurry). Cube the bread. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and milk. Salt and pepper generously. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan, add onions and carrots and sauté for a about 10 minutes until golden and the carrots are cooked through—the finer you chop the carrots the faster that will be! Chop the parsley and add parsley and veggies to bread mixture. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, top with grated or crumbled cheese, if using and bake for about 30 minutes, or until set and slightly browned on top. Again if you’re in a hurry turn on the broiler for the last few minutes to get the cheese and top nice and crusty.

P.S. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of the pudding right out of the oven. We must have  been in such a hurry to eat it that I forgot to take a picture. It was nice and golden-brown and bubbly!

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. I had a bunch of coconut flour bread leftover from a cooking class I taught, and I just made a savory bread pudding with salmon and shallots, fresh thyme and fresh basil – wow! I’d forgotten how great bread pudding is! My kids kept saying it was frittata, only better 😉

    Great blog, great business!

    February 17, 2010
  2. Richard Daniels #

    Katherine, I appreciate you attitude toward children’s nutrition. I’ve been watching documentaries lately about the sorry nature of our food supply. Films like Food Inc., King Corn and the like don’t paint a pretty picture. The food industry is so strong, it really controls what our children eat in the school lunch program. The food is not inspired or particularly healthy. Thanks for your perspective.

    February 18, 2010
  3. I love this post, Katherine and can’t wait to try the recipe. McDonalds….when Tim was sick we used the Ronald McDonald House a lot which is a tremendous gift to the community from a corporation. Before his illness he had only had McDonalds once or twice but it became our routine after his clinics to go through the drive through and get a Happy meal. It certainly is not a healthy option and may seem strange to give a child battling cancer but the case was also to be made just to get food into him….anyway, after a recent checkup he asked to go through the drive thru again and I thought, ok, why not? He ate part of the meal and got sick. The next time I told him ahead of time that we would not be going there again, that I know he likes the idea of getting a Happy Meal (mostly because of the toys which is another huge problem!) but I don’t think he really likes the food and it isn’t good for him anyway. He had no problem accepting that. I’m glad we are done with it too!
    I love your passion for good, nutritious food!

    February 18, 2010
    • Thanks for your comment Laura. What a wonderful story. I love being in touch with you this way. And feel free to vary the savory bread pudding as much as you want. It really is a work-horse for whatever you have around (as long as you have bread, milk and eggs, that is:)!

      February 18, 2010

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