FOOD WISE: Try something special during ‘Hot Breakfast Month’

Breakfast Bread Pudding

By Chef Renee Morgan

Happy National Hot Breakfast Month, everybody! I know it’s totally dorky that I keep track of this kind of stuff. It’s just that I think it’s hilarious that someone somewhere in time thought it was important to actually decide to celebrate hot breakfast for an entire month. Furthermore, we already have regular ‘ol Breakfast Month in September. So what’s the deal about hot breakfast? Who is responsible?

Well, it turns out the folks over at Jimmy Dean, yeah the sausage people, created the hot breakfast month celebration. Seems they did some research and figured out that around 60 percent of Americans usually eat cold foods for breakfast, such as cereal. Jimmy Dean makes breakfast sausage, which is meant to be served hot. They also make heat-and-serve breakfast foods. So some marketing person decided they could increase the hot breakfast food consumption by devoting an entire month to hot breakfast. Pretty smart, huh?

All this breakfast talk got me to thinking about where this idea of breakfast came from. I mean, we all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah. But more often than not, people tell me they don’t eat breakfast a lot of times. Oh, they have all kinds of excuses. They are in too much of a hurry in the mornings. They aren’t hungry in the mornings. (Now, that’s just crazy talk.) They don’t like breakfast food. It makes them sick to eat early in the morning. You name it, I’ve heard it.

Betcha didn’t know there was no such thing as a breakfast meal until medieval times, and even then it wasn’t always a regular thing. It pretty much depended on the person’s class level. Nobility usually ate a leisurely breakfast around 10 or 11 in the morning, meant to “break the fast” since the elaborate dinner the evening before. The poor peasants serving them, however, usually only ate one or maybe two meals a day, if they were lucky. Breakfast wasn’t one of them, since that was a fairly new and luxurious concept. When breakfast did finally catch on for the common folk, it was mostly for men who had hard, physical labor vocations, the very elderly and weak, and young children. Even then they recognized that the extra nutrition first thing in the morning would provide extra strength.

And now for the Mom lecture….breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. First of all, your metabolism is generally higher in the morning, so your body can handle burning off more calories then. Eating a meal early in the day, in turn, revs up your metabolism, helping you burn calories more consistently all day. Also, if you can get some lean protein and healthy carbs in your system in the morning, it staves off hunger throughout the day, helping you maintain or even lose weight easier. Breakfast eaters generally have lower cholesterol and more level blood glucose levels. They also have better concentration and memory skills and better hand-eye coordination.

Not convinced yet? Still hate breakfast foods? Who says you have to eat eggs and bacon at breakfast? I love having breakfast for dinner. If it means you’ll get some nutrition in your body in the morning, eat what you like. Now, let’s use some common sense here. I’m not talking about junk. But, why couldn’t you eat the healthy sandwich you planned for lunch as a breakfast? Eat your omelet for dinner. Mix it up. Go crazy! I promise the food police will not show up at your doorstep.

Sometimes, I find folks just don’t like certain foods because they don’t like the sound of it or they have never had it properly prepared. Eggs are a prime example. A lot of people tell me they don’t like eggs. I didn’t like eggs either for most of my life. Here’s a suggestion: try eggs cooked all the ways they can be cooked. Fried, hard and soft scrambled, sunny-side up, poached, hard and soft boiled, western and French omelets. A scene from the movie “Runaway Bride” comes to mind. Julia Roberts’ character always eats her eggs the way her man eats his. When she finally breaks away and finds herself, she sits down to eat eggs prepared every which way and discovers the way she likes them made. It sort of symbolizes her finding her own personality.

I, myself, thought I hated eggs. When we were forced to prepare eggs all different ways in culinary school, I figured out that the reason I thought I didn’t like eggs was because all the eggs I’d ever had, had been overcooked for my taste. Just some food for thought…this is a good exercise to try anytime you have an aversion to a particular food.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good with mornings. I can get up early and put a smile on my face if I’m forced to, but I won’t like it. So, I find I do a better job with breakfast if I don’t really have to think about it much. I like things I can do-ahead, maybe the night before, and just pop in the oven the next morning, especially if I’m having company. My friend, Charlotte Martory, who is the Director of Research and Development for Emeril Lagasse, shared this recipe for Breakfast Bread Pudding with me. It has turned out to be one of my favorites. I made it for my Sunday school class last Sunday and they loved it, too. It’s also a great way to use up some leftover stuff. Enjoy!

Breakfast Bread Pudding

Serves 8-10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup finely chopped yellow onions

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black

pepper

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

6 ounces bacon, diced and cooked

1 tube regular ground pork sausage,

cooked and broken up

8 large eggs

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning

8 cups (1-inch cubes) croissants or

Italian bread

8 ounces grated Gouda cheese

(about 2 cups)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Lightly grease a 3-quart (9 by 13-inch) baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. In a medium skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the parsley, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, cream, Creole seasoning, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper and whisk to combine. Add the bread cubes and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the cooked bacon and sausage, the onion mixture, and the Gouda cheese and stir to incorporate the ingredients.

3. Pour into the prepared dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until almost completely set, 50 to 55 minutes. Uncover the pudding and return to the oven, increase the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until the pudding is completely set in the center, puffed, and golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

(Alternatively, the bread pudding can be assembled up to this point, covered, and refrigerated 8 hours or overnight, and then baked. Let sit at room temperature while preheating the oven, before baking.)