Why not take in the few needed bits of soothing winter comforts before eschewing them for green vegetables and a more slimming diet? I can’t think of a nicer way to use up leftover bread than to make it into a Pilgrim-style pudding.

Is it nearly spring? The recent rains have subsided, clouds parting to reveal a somewhat foreign looking blue sky. Temperatures still plummet by evening, leaving appetites craving carbohydrates although we should know better.

Well, why not take in the few needed bits of soothing winter comforts before eschewing them for green vegetables and a more slimming diet? I can’t think of a nicer way to use up leftover bread than to make it into a Pilgrim-style pudding.

Toss it with cinnamon and vanilla, stir in the makings of a silky custard, and finish it off with apple slices and the last few drops hoarded in the souvenir bottle of maple syrup from that road trip to the Vermont mountains.

Dessert? Sure. But saved until the next morning, this dessert, with its French toast-y flavors, doubles as breakfast. Perfect with a steaming mugs of coffee on the back porch on Saturday morning, or zapped in the microwave on a busy weekday.

And if, by chance, the leftover bread is pumpernickel or rye, then use the same method to turn it into a hearty lunch or supper. Add some scraps of corned beef, sauerkraut, and a bit of grainy mustard, inventing a more economical way to replicate a Reuben sandwich. Pair it with a green salad coated with a tangy vinaigrette.

Now, this doesn’t exactly translate to a low calorie meal, but it certainly lightens the load when compared to the piled-high, deli-style sandwich that you might have polished off instead.

APPLE-MAPLE BREAD PUDDING
Makes 6 servings

3 large eggs
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 of a 1-pound loaf rustic bread, crust trimmed, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes (7 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 Granny Smith apples, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons additional maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra dark brown sugar

1. Whisk together eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and milk in a bowl until well blended.

2. Add bread cubes; press into liquid to cover. Let soak at 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread cubes to keep covered with the liquid.

3. Preheat heat to 350 degrees. Generously butter a loaf pan.

4. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple slices. Cook, stirring, until golden and barely softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the additional maple syrup and brown sugar, simmering gently for 1 minute, until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens. Set aside.

5. Add half the apple slices to bread mixture and transfer to the prepared loaf pan. Arrange remaining apples slices over the top. Spoon any remaining syrup from skillet over apples. Place loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.

6. Bake until puffed on top and apples are deeply golden. Remove from oven; let rest at room temperature 45 minutes. Brush apples on top with any syrup left in the skillet. Serve warm.

REUBEN BREAD PUDDING
Makes 6 to 8 servings

12 slices pumpernickel
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound thinly sliced corned beef
1 cup squeezed drained sauerkraut
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely grated Havarti cheese
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, pepper, to taste

1. Cut bread into 1/4-inch cubes to make 7 1/2 cups. Butter a 4-quart shallow baking dish. Cut corned beef into 1/4-inch wide strips.

2. Layer half the bread in the baking dish. Top the bread with half the sauerkraut, half the onion, half the corned beef and half the cheese in the buttered baking dish. Add another layer of bread and repeat layering the ingredients topping with the cheese.

3. Whisk together eggs, mustard, milk, and salt and pepper to taste, in a bowl. Pour slowly and evenly over bread mixture. Cut butter into bits and dot over the top of the pudding. Cover and chill, from 1 hour to overnight.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake pudding on the middle shelf of oven until bubbling and slightly puffed on top, about 40 minutes. Some liquid may remain in the bottom of baking dish.

Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com.