French Toast Casserole

Why does the Standard American Diet make us sick? Sometimes I think it’s not as much the food as it is the additives and preservatives contained in the food. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has kept a database over the last decade which has progressively shown steady up-ticks in obesity, and further forecasts that 32 million more Americans will be obese by the year 2030. It’s important to recognize that nutrition is not an ideology; it is not simply meal planning, but rather, a word indicative of the integrated effects of countless dietary and lifestyle choices, all acting together in harmony. Even the biochemical and physiological effects of stress illustrate yet another dynamic linked to nutrition which is part of overall wellness. Stress has become so interwoven into everyday suffering that we as a society have come to accept it as normal. I’m optimistic in that today more than ever before, people are continuing the discussion about wellness and the links between nutrition and disease, as well as rediscovering the importance of the mind-body connection.

Additives, or chemical concoctions that the average person can’t even pronounce are just some of the culprits preventing us from achieving balance. When combined with stress, these imbalances can wreck havoc on our system. Life balance can be very complex. It equates to different things for different people at different stages of their lives. Whatever the circumstances of your life may be, understanding how to achieve balance is truly the purest form of harmony and wellness within you. Choosing whole foods over foods with additives can help us achieve balance in other dimensions of our life, and this balance brings inner contentment, and a sense of calm, peace, and happiness. It is for this reason that I encourage you to try my simple, home-baked breakfast casserole instead of opting for the ‘standard American’ can of cinnamon rolls.

This year, 2018 marked a decade since I lost my mother to cancer. Losing a parent is not easy for anyone at any age. It’s compounded a bit when you loose your mom and her namesake is only 2 weeks old, but the one legacy she left with me was her resolve. Joe is now 10 and I happily see my mom’s personality reflected in him. She taught me that if you want to make a difference in your own life, you have to start with yourself. This is such an important lesson and involves all four of the fundamental wellness categories: nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental balance. This summer I encourage you to be patient, let go of your bias, and give plant-based nutrition a chance to jump start your journey toward wellness. It’s something I remind Joe of daily…every bite is an opportunity to get healthy, and achieve balance. When you ditch the additives and preservatives, your body will start to notice!

1 loaf of french bread, sourdough bread, or challah bread
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 large eggs
2 and 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Optional: fresh fruit & maple syrup

Grease a baking dish and place cubed bread inside of it. In a separate bowl, add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract to the cream cheese, and then dollop the cream cheese around the bread cubes. Whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl and then pour it over the bread cubes. This can be refrigerated overnight. For the streusel, whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cube cold butter and use your fingers to incorporate it into the cinnamon mixture. When ready to bake, sprinkle the chunky, buttery streusel topping over the top and bake at 350 for about an hour.

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