Berry French Toast Bake

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Well, hello! It’s been approximately eight million years since I posted a recipe. This possibly has to do with the insanity of having four children and the added bonus that right before I had Hannah in October, my real camera decided to stop working.

(I’m pretty sure it has sand in the lens and won’t retract … but it would probably cost more to fix than to replace it. Argh.)

My husband keeps telling me my iPhone will take pictures that are just as good. I don’t really think so, but they’re good enough for me, for now.

This is one of the recipes I’ve probably made the most over the last six or seven years. It’s my go-to when I want to take a meal to someone; I find that when there’s a meal train, people usually bring chicken casseroles or pasta. And that is fine and AWESOME, but I think breakfast for dinner mixes it up a little.

This Berry French Toast recipe comes from Cooking During Stolen Moments, which was one of my VERY favorite food blogs ever. Almost everything I ever made from there was a hit. Unfortunately, the site is not accessible any more. I am so glad I had this one written down in my recipe book so I didn’t lose the recipe! I’ve only adapted it slightly – mostly I just skimp on the berries because I like a lot of chewy, eggy bread. It’s delicious with fresh berries of any kind, but you could also use frozen ones – or peaches!

Serve with a side of bacon or sausage for a delicious meal any time of day.

Berry French Toast Bake

Yield: about 8 servings

Berry French Toast Bake

Delicious berry-enhanced French toast casserole is taken over the top with a brown sugar drizzle.


  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread
  • 2 to 3 c. berries
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Start with day-old bread, or cut bread into large cubes a few hours before you want to start making this and let them sit out to get slightly stale. Slice strawberries into quarters. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries can be left whole.

Place a layer of bread cubes in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add most of the berries, reserving about 1/2 cup. Top with the rest of the bread cubes.

Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Pour evenly over the bread. Top with remaining berries, then dot with cream cheese pieces. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375F. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk together until the sugar begins to melt and the mixture is smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon. Drizzle sugar topping over the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, covered, until egg is set.

Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving.


To make dairy-free, use almond milk instead of dairy milk and leave out the cream cheese. If you are taking to a new mom who is breastfeeding, you might ask if she is avoiding dairy. (I usually am.)

What’s your favorite breakfast for dinner?


Recipe Redux: Cheesy Black Beans and Brown Rice

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Black Beans and Brown Rice

Many, many years ago, I shared a favorite recipe from Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods Bible study, which I worked on when I was at LifeWay. It was high time to update this recipe with my own proportions and instructions!

We decided this summer to eat beans and rice once a week. My kids are so spoiled when it comes to food, given that we eat in the dining hall nine months of the year. They can pick and choose whatever they want, and definitely have never considered we or other people might not be able to afford meat or fresh ingredients. So this “beans and rice plan” has been a way to talk to them about people in other countries and how they eat. Not to mention it doesn’t hurt for us to eat meatless and save a few dollars, too. Mr. V and I love beans and rice and hope our kids can learn to love them.

(Verdict from week 1: David ate rice. Joshua ate one bite of avocado. Libbie found she could eat beans with a lot of rice and cheese, although she thought the texture was strange. I am proud of her for trying something new.)

Kelly’s original recipe calls for 4 whole cups of cheese on top of the beans. I used about 2 1/2 cups and our beans were swimming in cheese, so I think that’s plenty!

Black beans with cheese

I realize the cheese increases the price on a beans-and-rice meal, but it’s a good place to start if you have kids who are scared of beans. I like these with avocado and sour cream, too, but they’re just as good as written (or with a runny egg for breakfast).

Cheesy Black Beans and Brown Rice

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings


  • 3 15-ounce cans black beans
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced small
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 to 4 c. cooked brown rice
  • optional for serving
  • avocado slices
  • sour cream
  • chopped cilantro


Drain two cans of black beans. Add those beans and one can, undrained, to a large saucepan. Heat beans, uncovered, over medium-high heat.

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a small skillet over medium heat, warm one Tablespoon olive oil. Sauté onion, garlic, and cilantro together until onion is soft. Add this mixture to the beans and stir well.

Spread bean mixture in a 9x13 pan lightly coated with olive oil. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve beans over rice with any optional toppings.

You can cook the brown rice however you like; I use Alton Brown’s method of oven-baked rice often, but the oven temps on this won’t match up. For this recipe, I used my brand-new Instant Pot to make the rice, and I was really happy with the texture and outcome! For brown rice, you use a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cup water or liquid and cook for 22 minutes on high pressure. It’s like magic!

Farmer’s Market Soup: A Take on Ribollita

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I always thought ribollita had to be made with stale bread. Wikipedia tells me that is not so. It’s simply a “next-day” kind of soup, made with leftovers. That makes sense, as this recipe I was given is pretty much vegetable odds and ends. It was sent to me as “ribollita,” but I’m dubbing it Farmer’s Market Soup. Just to be different.

This is a delicious and simple soup, chock full of vegetables. Right now is the perfect time for finding zucchini and carrots at the farmer’s market; you might also be able to search out some ripe tomatoes to puree slightly to replace the crushed tomatoes from a can.

Farmer’s Market Soup


  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 celery stalks, finely sliced (I always add some of the inner celery leaves for flavor)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped (this post from Orangette has a good tutorial for cutting fennel)
  • 2 large zucchini, cut into thin half-moon slices
  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 4 c. vegetable stock
  • 14 oz can cannellini or Great White Northern beans
  • salt and pepper
  • grated Parmesan cheese and Texas toast — optional


Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, garlic, celery, and fennel. Saute slowly for 10 minutes. Add zucchini and saute an additional two minutes.

Add tomatoes, basil, stock, beans and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, simmer 25-30 min. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with Texas toast and Parmesan cheese sprinkled lightly over the top of the bowls.

The rest of the family may not have even tried it–but I enjoyed two big bowlfuls while the two sickies in our house slept.

Added to Mouthwatering Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Ingredient Spotlight: Zucchini and Yellow Squash, and What’s on Your Plate?


Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes – $5 Dinner Challenge

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After hearing Jo-Lynne talk all the time about her love for Ina and reading somewhere that most of the Barefoot Contessa recipes are whole foods, I knew it was about time I tried an Ina Garten creation.

I’d snagged a copy of Barefoot Contessa at Home from Paperbackswap (after being on the wait list for about three years!) a few months ago. But with the hubbub of moving, I had yet to try a recipe.

I like lentils but I have had issues knowing how to prepare them. The one time I tried to make them like I had them in Brazil, my final product really fell flat.

These stewed lentils, though, did not disappoint. Aromatic, deeply flavored, and singing with thyme, I could eat them every week! We ate them as a side with a little bit of leftover London Broil, but they would be a fine main meal as well.

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. large-dice yellow onions (.40)
  • 2 c. large-dice carrots (.44)
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted with garlic, and omitted garlic above) (.40)
  • 1 c. green lentils (.39)
  • 2 c. homemade chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. mild curry powder
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (.24)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T white or red wine vinegar


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and carrots and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onions start to brown, stirring occasionally. Add garlic (if using) and cook for 1 more minute.

Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones in the package.

Add tomatoes, lentils, chicken broth, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 40-50 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 more minutes. Stir in vinegar and season to taste.


slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Total Cost: $1.87 + trace amounts for items I always have on hand
Leftover London Broil: $2.67 (about 1/3 of the beef I bought)
Grand Total: $4.54 for a whole lot of deliciousness, and plenty of leftover lentils for lunches!

As a bonus, Libbie LOVED them! For a girl who only a week ago would eat just bread, cheese, bananas, and applesauce, that’s definitely saying something!

Linked up to the $5 Dinner Challenge, Ingredient Spotlight: Tomatoes, and Tasty Tuesday.

Family Recipe Fridays: (Somebody’s) Grandma’s Mac and Cheese

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A couple of years ago I had the privilege of working on a Bible study called No Other Gods by Kelly Minter (as I may have mentioned once or perhaps a dozen times on this blog). It was a new thing for LifeWay, both a young adult and women’s study, complete with recipes and a Web site. I loved it and was so excited to throw myself into the project.

I led a test group for it, I wrote the leader’s guide, I was the copy editor of course, and then I cooked every single recipe in the book. It took me a day and a half and then I served a gigantic and varied buffet to some co-workers.

And then I cried at the dishes.

Anyway, this macaroni and cheese was my favorite recipe from NOGs (although the black beans and brown rice are a close second!). We had a big family dinner at my grandma’s apartment this summer the night before my grandpa‘s funeral and I offered to cook. I made apricot pork loin, salad, green bean casserole, and this mac and cheese. The family then decided I am never to show up without it again. So I think that makes it a family favorite.

macaroni and cheese

(Somebody’s) Grandma’s Mac and Cheese


  • 1 lb. ziti or penne rigate
  • 2 10 oz. bars of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (like Cracker Barrel brand)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs


Slice cheese to medium thickness. Slice butter about the same width as the cheese. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray.

Boil the pasta for 3-4 minutes–you only want to cook it partially. Test by biting one piece: once you can leave an imprint of your teeth, the pasta is done. Drain.

Take the baking dish and place half of the pasta on the bottom of the dish. Dot with half of the butter squares and half the cheese. Add some of the milk–come up to about the pasta layer or a little bit above. Repeat layers once.

Put the dish on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes.

After this, top the dish with Italian bread crumbs, then cook for another 10 minutes.

Recipes for Black Beans – Black Beans and Brown Rice and Smothered Black Beans

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I shared on Twitter yesterday that I was eating the most fantastic black beans for a late lunch at my desk (yesterday was INSANE, y’all. Just insane). I had several “please post the recipe!” comments so here you go. Yesterday I was eating the No Other Gods black beans, made with Vidalia onion for extreme yummyness.

I can’t decide which of these recipes is my favorite, but I’m probably going to have to go with No Other Gods because it is much easier and quicker.

black beans

See the updated recipe for No Other Gods Black Beans and Brown Rice here.

Smothered Black Beans

Yield: 3 cups beans


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. ham hock or diced ham
  • 1/2 c. chopped yellow onions
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped carrots
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 lb. dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce, to taste


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ham hock, onions, celery and carrots, and cook, stirring until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the beans, cilantro, cumin, and enough water to cover by 1-inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the beans are very tender and beginning to break down, about 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming any foam that rises to the surface.

Remove from the heat. Discard the ham hock. Add the lime juice, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the hot sauce, to taste, transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Posted to the Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge.