a hundred bread puddings

As per requested, here is the recipe for this amazing bread pudding. I will give you the original recipe (that I adapted from who knows where). It makes a huge pan - 9x13, which is perfect for potlucks. You won't have one bite left, I promise.
Today I just made a smaller pan, so I cut everything down, roughly by a third. But it was pretty rough, so I feel it's best to give you the original recipe.
The thing about this pudding . . . well there are so many great things. The bread toasts on top, so it has some crunch. Another great thing is the custard that soaks into the bottom of the pudding. It is eggy and sweet. My favorite thing about this pudding is that you can adapt it however you like. I love to make it with fresh or dried fruit and some kind of nuts. I like throwing in chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips, if that's what's on hand) when the fruit is something like dried cherries or fresh cranberries. If the fruit were banana and/or raisins, maybe you'd leave out the chocolate and just go with walnuts or pecans. You can leave the cinnamon in or not use it, to suit your flavor profile. You can turn this single recipe into a hundred bread puddings.
So without further ado:

Bread Pudding
12 - 16 slices day-old bread (or use a loaf of ciabatta or whatever), cut or torn into chunks
4 Tbs butter, melted
6 eggs, beaten
4 cups whole milk (or half and half, if you dare)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (approximate - use more or less as you like) of any assortment of fruits, chocolate, and/or nuts*

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 glass pan. Fill pan with bread chunks and drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle your chosen fruits and nuts over the bread.
Mix eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon (if using) and vanilla together. Pour this mixture over the bread. Use a fork to push the bread down to make sure it all gets soaked with egg mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. If the top is browning too quickly, tent aluminum foil on top and continue baking.

*the pictured bread pudding has fresh cranberries, chocolate chips, and slivered almonds in it

a new place to call home

The week of Christmas we moved into our new place. Riding high on pregnancy hormones I completely settled us in within a week. We stayed in town for Christmas, celebrating together as a family, first drinking coffee and opening gifts, then eating bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. We took a walk in the blustering cold, then decided to stay in and drink hot chocolate for the remainder of the day. It has taken no time at all to feel at home here, we all love it, even our dog Rufus who has a fenced in backyard to rollick around in.

This winter has been unusually cold, even for Missouri. Tomorrow the high is just 5 degrees! I am hoping and praying that this is our last full winter in Missouri. We keep talking about moving when our lease is up - December 2010 - and that would get us out in time to miss the coldest part of the year. Please, oh please.

In baby news, Finn is almost 16 months old. He is walking, using the signs that we've taught him ('more', 'help', 'dog', 'all done', etc). He really tries to communicate, which is so fun and sometimes challenging. He is just beginning to show an interest in imitating words, so he's been saying "ball", and "boo!", and "thank you", which does not sound like "thank you" at all, but it's pretty cute. In other baby news, I'm almost 18 weeks pregnant, at 20 weeks this pregnancy will be half over. It's really flown by this time, with classes and a toddler. In a couple weeks we'll find out if it's a boy or a girl.
Meanwhile, being snowed hasn't been too bad. Scott made his first batch of soap. It just finished curing so we're handing out soap to all our friends. I have to say, it really turned out perfectly.

And this winter hasn't been as sad as others. Maybe it's that we've found a new place to call home, and it suits us rather well. Or perhaps because I have Finn in my life now, and another baby on the way. Though the days are short, and I spend more days inside than outside, I have enjoyed this winter. I have cuddled with my sweet husband under two comforters. I have eaten incredible clementines every day. I have spent lots of time with very good friends. And I have noticed particularly beautiful sunrises.