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Asparagus, Caramelized Onion, and Mushroom Bread Pudding

Posted Oct 25 2009 11:02pm

Friday was one of those challenging days when nothing really went wrong, per se, but not much went exactly right, either.

I woke up still recovering from a nasty stomach bug that had kept me from work on Thursday night, forcing me to call in sick for the first time since I started my career as a nurse five months ago. After huddling with a cup of tea until the sun finished it's leisurely late October climb up the horizon, I decided that it was high time I started feeling normal again, and thus I can now offer the following piece of advice - based upon personal experience, it is Not a Good Idea to attempt to mow the lawn while you are feeling ill.

After dragging myself and the mower about for an hour or so, I succumbed to the temptation of a warm shower and then marched off to search for fabric for some of my holiday projects... Only to be met with torrential rains as I attempted to dash across the uncharacteristically crowded parking lot dressed entirely inappropriately in a transparent cotton blouse and a tank top.

Meanwhile, poor Zach left his oncology rotation early so he could bring a bunch of paperwork to the hospital where he begins his robotic surgery rotation next week, driving all the way there in the beginnings of rush hour traffic only to discover that he'd left said paperwork all the way back at the oncology practice's main office. When he turned around and began to return to where he started, he found the exit was blocked, and he had to drive about for another hour to find an alternate route. Then, after he finally arrived at the hospital, paperwork in hand, his staff card for the parking garage didn't work, so he had to get that fixed too.

By the time we both arrived home on Friday evening, we were damp and bedraggled... However, how boring indeed would life be without the occasional little irksome moment? Without days that challenge us, we would never be granted the opportunity to rise above the murky temptations of frustration and realize how fortunate we are that the problems at hand are so temporary, so minuscule in the face of a lifetime...

And thus, as I slipped into the kitchen to prepare our dinner that night, I decided we needed some culinary elegance and comfort - a dish to transform the day into a triumph after all. Perhaps some end of summer asparagus, with some earthy mushrooms, caramelized onions, and tangy Swiss cheese... perhaps, a bread pudding.

From that first bite, with one deep sigh, the previous hours dissolved... Friday night, and all day Saturday, everything was right with the world again. We arose refreshed and energized on Saturday morning, fixed a luscious batch of onion and white cheddar stuffed turkey burgers for lunch,

and positively celebrated the chilly, properly Autumnal day awaiting us. Even the kitties were very relaxed...

Perhaps it was just the natural progress of time that brought us a metaphorically more luminescent day on Saturday, but I like to think the magic of a simple bread pudding can change everything...

Asparagus, Caramelized Onion, and Mushroom Bread Pudding

1 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
12 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
1 lb asparagus, with the woody stem ends snapped off (and saved for asparagus soup!) and the remaining tender ends cut into 1" pieces
6 slices whole wheat bread, cut into 1" cubes
2 cups 1" milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil
4.5 oz low-fat Swiss cheese, grated

~ In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion is golden brown.
~ Add the mushrooms and asparagus, and saute for a few minutes more, until the asparagus is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
~ In a medium bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and basil.
~ Coat a medium-sized baking pan (I used a 5"X10" pan, but this may be an atypical size) with olive oil cooking spray.
~ Scatter half of the whole wheat bread cubes in the baking pan, and spread the asparagus mixture on top.
~ Spread the remaining half of the bread cubes on top of the asparagus mixture.
~ Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes, pressing down gently on the top layer of bread cubes to make sure they are well submerged.
~ Cover the dish, pop it in the fridge, and let it soak for around an hour (it can soak overnight, as well, if you'd like to make it well ahead of time).
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread pudding for 35 minutes.
~ Remove the bread pudding from the oven, sprinkle the top with the grated Swiss cheese, and bake for 10 more minutes - until the cheese on top is nicely melted.
~ Let the bread pudding sit for 10 minutes, then serve warm...

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