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Banana Chocolate Chip French Toast Casserole

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My mom makes the world’s best banana chocolate chip pancakes and they have become the centerpiece all of our best family celebrations, especially holidays such as Christmas or Mother’s Day.  As we approached last Christmas I started to feel sad that E wasn’t going to be able to eat the pancakes.  I had tried to do a dairy free version the year before (when I was avoiding dairy while I was still breastfeeding) but they didn’t come anywhere close to my mom’s and that was before we were eliminating soy and egg, which are of course major players in the deliciousness.

As I scoured the internet trying to find an allergen-free substitute I came across Strawberry Banana French Toast Casserole on C Mom Cook.  It wasn’t too hard to make it a little less healthy by switching out the strawberries for Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.  And it was amazing!  It’s definitely not the same as pancakes but it provides the right flavors and the proper amount of carbs to serve as a base for any good celebration.

This recipe also holds a special place in my heart because our trial of it was E’s first taste of chocolate.

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December 2013: E’s first taste of chocolate!

It is also a really easy recipe to put together.  E helped me make it for the Mother’s Day Brunch that we hosted this year and we both had a ball.  He was able to help me put everything into the blender and loved watching it get pulverized. The sneaky little boy also stole tastes along the way, which was fine because it was completely safe for him!

The casserole held its own on a table that was covered in quiches and pastries, which is a testament to its yumminess and E had something that he could enjoy with the rest of the family.  I hope that you and your family enjoy it as much as we do

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E was not interested in waiting until the end of the photo shoot to enjoy this breakfast treat!

Banana Chocolate Chip French Toast Casserole (Egg-Free, Dairy Free, Soy-Free)

Ingredients

  • Approximately 4 cups safe bread cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk (or any other safe milk, coconut milk would be awesome)*
  • 1 banana*
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground chia seed*
  • approximately 1/4 cup enjoy life chocolate chips
  • 2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar (to taste)
  • Soy Free Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread to grease the casserole dish

Directions

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.

In a blender, combine the milk, banana and ground chia until smooth and creamy.

Pour the milk mixture over the bread and gently mix to coat all of the bread.* 

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Grease a casserole dish with Earth’s Balance and carefully pour the mixture (and any of its extra liquid) into the baking dish, cover and set it aside.

Allow the mixture to 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 and bake for 30 minutes.

*Depending on the type of bread and amount of bread that you use, you may want to double or triple the milk mixture part of the recipe.  I recommend making it a batch of liquid at a time and then adding more if it looks dry.  We prefer it a little on the wet/mushy side so I tend to use more of the liquid mixture.

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The pictures really don’t do this recipe justice 🙂

This recipe was (very slightly) adapted from the Strawberry Banana French Toast Casserole on C Mom Cook.

 

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Fruity Quinoa Porridge

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I’m trying to psych myself up to wake up to a scene like this tomorrow morning (again).  This winter has totally taken all the fun out of snowstorms.   We’ve already had nearly 60 inches of snow, making it Philadelphia’s third snowiest winter ever.  We are pretty much over it.  And we are expecting another 4 to 8 inches tonight along with near record lows.  Our charming old stone house with its original windows is not up for the challenge.  Tomorrow morning will be like many others this winter – really, really cold.  The kind of morning that makes you long for a nice, steamy bowl of hot oatmeal that warms you to your core and leaves you with that full, happy feeling.

But, alas, E is allergic to oatmeal 😦

This actually doesn’t bother him because he’s never really had it (except to thicken his bottles, but that’s a whole other post) and he doesn’t know what he’s missing.  I, on the other hand, feel awful as he submerges his chubby little fingers into a bowl of Corn Chex smothered in cold applesauce.  So you can only imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across a recipe for Apple Cinnamon Quinoa on Pinterest.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it.  Quinoa was one of E’s first safe foods, back when we were still pureeing everything.  In fact, my unscientific observation is that many FPIES kiddos do well with quinoa and it’s often one of the first safe foods, perhaps because it’s actually a seed, not a grain (who knew?).   Anyway, as we added more safe foods and moved onto finger foods, we kind of abandoned quinoa.  It hadn’t even occurred to me to use it for breakfast.  Another bonus was that the recipe cooked the quinoa in almond milk instead of water.  Another lightbulb moment.  I’ve been trying to get more calcium into E’s diet and almond milk is a great safe source for him.  It’s just difficult to get him to drink more milk on top of his Neocate formula, so cooking with it is an excellent option.  I couldn’t wait to try it!

The recipe (with a couple tweaks to fit E’s diet) was a huge success (you should definitely check it out at FitnessRx for Women)!  More exciting, it got me thinking about other ways to prepare quinoa.  I happened to have a bunch of strawberries on hand, so I started experimenting.  I pulled out my new favorite toy, my electric pressure cooker, and threw the strawberries in with the quinoa, almond milk, vanilla, canola oil (to prevent foaming) and brown sugar.  I thought the result was delicious and E agreed!  It’s so wonderful to find a fast (3 minutes at pressure!), easy, healthy, and safe way to give E that warm, full, happy feeling.

I also love the versatility of this recipe!  We use almond milk because that’s safe for us, but I’m sure you could use soy, cow’s milk, or even water.  Right now I can sometimes get Plant City (FL) strawberries at our local supermarket so I love throwing them in the cereal, but I’m sure you can use any fruit.  In fact, I had a bag of frozen sliced peaches on hand that I used the other day and it worked great.  I’m a pretty big fan of brown sugar, but use whatever sweetener works for you. This is a perfect pressure cooker recipe but I assume it would work on the stove top too, it’ll just take longer to cook.  This recipe makes about 4-6 servings, which lasts us several days.  I store it in the fridge and then reheat it in the microwave.  I just pour a little almond milk in the bowl before nuking it so  it doesn’t dry out.  Let me know if you try something different and how it worked for you.

I hope you enjoy it as much we do!

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Peach Quinoa Porridge (we ate the strawberry before it occurred to me to take a picture)
 

Fruity Quinoa Porridge

1 cup white quinoa

2 cups unflavored, unsweetened almond milk

2 heaping tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp vanilla extract

Approximately 1 lb strawberries, hulled and cut in half (or any other fruit)

1 tbsp canola oil

Throw everything into the pressure cooker, give it a quick stir and cook at high pressure for 3 minutes.  When time is up, let the pressure release naturally.  Make sure you stir it well when it is finished to distribute the strawberry juices and complete the breakdown of the strawberries (warning – it might look a little gross when you open the lid and see the deflated strawberries but they should fully dissolve after stirring).  Enjoy!