Second Life for Stale Bread

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The idea and recipe below are great ways to turn stale bread and week old dry donuts into something yummier than its original purpose. You may want to skip my narration this week as it has a more somber tone as the ability to have stale bread is something some people literally die wanting. The motivation behind my narration this week is a combination of growing up being a thrifty cook and a recent reminder from my mom to be thankful for everything I have.

Our dinning room table is more than a place to gather for meals. Fresh bread, tomatoes, and apples can be found there as well as a bowl of treats, a pile of “homework” and sometimes my purse. We probably do less eating at our table as we do talking. Our dinning room table is a social place. We gather around it to talk about our day, get chores done, as well as to see what is new and yummy.

Sadly our dining room table also collects things. With our busy schedules we do eat less there as a family and more as individuals. As such one end of our table collects pastries and breakfast items.

At least once a week I go through the items on our table to make sure they are not stale or moldy. About a week after going apple picking with my family in October I was handling this task when I found two very dry apple fritters. I was about to throw them away when I sat down and had a good long think.

My mom and I had recently been talking about the state of affairs around the world in connection to how things were when she was a child. Technology has changed so much but things like hunger and starvation not so much…

As a child living on a US base in Morocco my mom witnessed the local children eating out of their garbage because they did not have food. My grandmother already thought she was a savvy and thrifty cook as she grew up during the great depression. She saved her bacon fat and used drippings to make gravy. When it came to removing meat from bones to get the most out of a meal my grandmother was meticulous. So any food scraps that got thrown away were not much of anything but there were still children digging for them trying to make a meal out of next to nothing from their trash.

Whether you can or can’t imagine this scene let me tell you it has stuck with my mom through her whole life. When asked about her life in Morocco she will tell you how amazing it was. In the same breath she will also tell you about the abject poverty she saw and what we (Americans) take for granted. Something else she will tell you is how she did a lot of growing up while she lived in Africa.

After my mother, her sisters and my grandmother witnessed children eating out of their garbage they were determined to find out what they could do. My grandmother spoke to the children and their parents asking them to knock on their door instead of eating out of the garbage.

What my grandmother decided to do was create scrap bags that could be picked up at her back door. Everything was separated out from used coffee grounds to potato peels she decided not to fry up. Sometimes, rarely, it also involved stale bread. It may have shocked them that the very tiny food waste they had could still be used for someone else’s meal but it also opened their eyes as to what true poverty was.

As a child when my mother would tell me to eat my food because there were children in the world starving she knew first hand. If I would “hmmm and haw” she would share her experience. I know this sounds extreme but it helped shape me into a socially conscious person because I would ask her about the homeless in our country. Since I was a young child we would participate in programs that fed the homeless and collected much needed items to create Christmas shoebox gifts…

After I had my good long think I said a pray for those who don’t have much, thanked God for what my family has, and decided the stale apple fritters maybe had a second life in them after all.

If you want to learn more about giving your meals and stale bread a second life just do so cautiously and consciously. Taking week old stale bread and turning it into bread pudding is much safer then trying to give a week old pot-roast new life. Some food MUST be thrown away. Some things are way too moldy and gross to even contemplate something other than the garbage bin.

Reading this may spark thoughts and ideas about socially conscious eating. There is no one good definition to what this movement means. For most people it is about knowing where your food comes from or the impact it has on the environment. For our family it is about having a LARGER view of life from being thankful for what we have to making an effort to cut down on our carbon footprint or attempting to reign in excessive consumerism.

 

So what did I do with my week old apple fritters?

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I made fritter toast of course! Sometimes my family likes a little “crunch” with their ice cream dessert. I sliced my fritters thin enough to toast and lightly toasted each slice. While the fritters were toasting I pulled out my already made deconstructed apple pie. I heated enough for three servings, gave each bowl a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice-cream and added the fritter toast, sprinkled on powdered sugar and topped off with caramel sauce.

Using the week old apple fritters this way was a success!

 

My mom’s favorite recipe for stale bread is:

Bread Pudding and Brandy Sauce

Ingredients:

2 c. sugar

4 cups low fat milk

5 eggs

2 tbsp. vanilla

1 loaf/French baguette (enough stale bread to fill rectangular baking dish)

½ cup raisins

1 tablespoon powdered cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

1 teaspoon powdered clove

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon coriander

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs until creamy. Add vanilla, spices, and milk. Cut the bread into pieces. Add bread to mixture and let soak, about 5 minutes, until soft. Fold in raisins.

Grease 9×13-inch pan. Pour mixture into pan. Cook in preheated oven (350 degrees) for 30 minutes.

NOTE: For softer raisins pre-soak raisins in boiling water for five to ten minutes. Drain liquid and fold in raisins to the pudding.

 

Brandy Sauce:

1 stick butter

1 c. confectioners sugar

1 oz. brandy

On low heat, melt butter. Once melted add 1 cup of confectioners sugar mixing thoroughly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp before adding the brandy. Suggested use: The sauce will harden like royal icing as it cools. Poor entire mixture over the bread pudding within 20 minutes of bread pudding being removed from oven.

this one

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While I give credit to the original recipe of these meatballs to my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, this is NOT your mama’s Porcupine Meatballs recipe.

At least once a year I see a post or hear a friend saying they are tired of the three recipes they know how to make with ground beef: hamburgers, meatloaf and chili. By this point these friends are asking for different recipe ideas of what to do with ground beef that their family will enjoy. Our family has a half dozen different go to recipes for ground beef from our homemade Sloppy Joe Bake to Shepard’s Pie. We even have different takes on making the tried and true three. That said the very first recipe I like to share with my friends is one that is often over looked but is so easy to make: Porcupine Meatballs.

This was one of my favorite childhood meals to eat. The only problem I had with this meal as a child was that there was never enough for left overs and my mom only made it once or twice a year. Generally one of those times would be for my birthday as I would beg for this to be my special birthday dish. Yes that is how much I have loved porcupine meatballs. The reason why we had this dish so infrequently was because my mom struggled on what to serve with the meatballs other then rice and either green beans or spinach. Neither of those vegetables were anyone’s favorites but mine so it was always easier to just make meatloaf because everyone enjoyed the vegetables and mashed potatoes she made up.

As an adult I have made this meal so often that I have made my own version of the recipe and have turned it into a meal option everyone loves.

Several years back Branden read an article that said if you combine brown rice with black beans you are creating a super food packed with nutrients that make you feel fuller longer. I am always keen on combining foods I love so trying brown rice with black beans didn’t bother me. At that time we would eat this on taco night as a side dish and add salsa and cheese.

Then one night when I really wanted porcupine meatballs but did not want my green beans or spinach Branden suggested the black beans because I was already cooking up rice as my side dish. It clicked and made perfect sense. Since then the side dish of choice with our meatballs and sauce is brown rice and black beans. Sometimes Branden even adds cheese to his bowl. It is a wonderfully simple meal that the whole family loves. For the kids who are not as fond of rice you can always put the meatballs over pasta or even serve with mashed potatoes and call the meal done.

 

Gluten Free Meatballs & Rice Recipe

Meatball Ingredients

1 egg (or egg substitute)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce

½ cup of instant white or brown rice

¼ cup plain instant oatmeal (optional)

¼ cup of minced onion

1 to 1 ¼ pounds of lean ground beef

4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon of basil

½ teaspoon of Italian spices

½ teaspoon of thyme

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Other Ingredients to finish off the meal:

2 servings of rice

Black beans

Shredded cheese

 

Meatball Mixture:

Combine egg, ¼ to ½ cup of spaghetti sauce, instant rice, minced onion, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire and spices. Add beef and mix thoroughly. Purchasing exactly one pound of ground beef is always a difficult task so this recipe will need adjustment depending on how much ground beef you purchase. If the mixture is too wet (liquid squeezes out of the meat mixture) either add more instant rice or you may add ¼ cup of instant oatmeal. If the mixture is too dry (hard to form meatballs because the mixture breaks apart too easily) add a little more of the spaghetti sauce (or egg substitute).

Shape into 2” meatballs and place into an unheated skillet. Mix the remaining spaghetti sauce with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Pour the sauce mixture over the meatballs. Let the sauce come to a boil and remain boiling for five minutes before turning each meatball over. Reduce heat to low and cover the pan with a lid letting the meatballs cook on low heat/simmer for about 20 minutes. Check often to stir the sauce and make sure the meatballs are not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

While you are waiting for the meatballs to finish cooking prepare 2 to 4 servings of white or brown rice and mix with 1 can of black beans. When the meatballs are finished serve meatballs and sauce over the rice and bean mixture. Adding shredded cheese over the meatballs is a nice garnishing touch.

Rookie Gravy Mistake

Posted by Nicci | Recipes

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While I was growing up the only time of year when we had 100% homemade gravy was for Thanksgiving. The rest of the year if we had gravy with our meal it was generally made from a store bought packet. But at Thanksgiving the gravy was made from turkey drippings. Some years the gravy was lumpier then others. My mom always tortured herself over that gravy. She would be busy around the kitchen trying to make the dinner perfect and just right. That gravy sometimes would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. If she got the gravy just right she would be really happy but if there were any lumps she would see it as “she ruined our holiday”. We would tell her that the gravy was fine and yummy as it always was lumps or no lumps. She would smile and dinner would go on.

So how do you make lump free gravy?

That was a question I knew never to ask my mom on Thanksgiving and forgot to ask her the rest of the year. I generally didn’t care because I liked packet gravy just fine. Then sometime in my early twenties I asked my mom one Sunday morning as we were making biscuits and gravy and sadly there were not country gravy packets in her pantry. So she showed me how to make from scratch corn starch gravy like her grandmother showed her years before.

After breakfast I asked her the dreaded question. That if she could make great from scratch gravy that morning with no lumps, then how come her Thanksgiving gravy was not always consistent.

Her answer was “nerves”. When you are nervous you do dumb things. That no matter how many times you have made a recipe from scratch before the minute you add in a deadline or jitters it’s like all those years of experience just fly out the window.

That made perfect sense to me. After all not only had I been cooking since a young age, I had been sewing since I was in the eight grade and I knew from experience that when I have a headache I need to just walk away from needles and thread and sewing machines. I have sewn the clothes I am wearing to what I am trying to create, I have cut patterns wrong, and I have put needles through my finger before just because I don’t feel well. So yes I knew exactly what she meant.

So how do you make lump free gravy?

Well the correct way is a variation of the two recipes below. You can make gravy either with corn starch or with flour. When you make it with flour the base of the recipe is called a roux. With a roux (butter and flour) you can create not just gravy but cheese sauces and have the base for creating a creamy soup. When you make gravy with corn starch you MUST mix the corn starch with cold water before mixing it into what you want to thicken up. If you don’t do this one simple step, if you forget you are using corn starch and try to create a roux like you would with flour well then you will have the lumpiest gravy ever. The moment corn starch powder hits hot liquid it immediately begins to react and turn into gooey misshapen tasteless lumps. If you somehow forget this with flour and add flour to a hot liquid sometimes you can stir fast enough to get rid of any lumps. Sadly with corn starch you are just out of luck because no amount of fast stirring has ever saved me when I get flustered and make this rookie mistake.

Quick Tip: If you are trying to thicken a soup and don’t want to use either corn starch or flour, add a few table spoons of instant mashed potatoes and stir till smooth. Potato starch is another type of thickening agent used in a lot of processed foods. This tip has saved me a lot when I haven’t used enough corn starch or flour for the base of my creamy soup. Adding in the instant mashed potatoes is a quick and easy no lump fix.

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Gluten Free Sausage Gravy Recipe

Sausage Gravy Ingredients

½ pound of breakfast sausage or 4 pre-cooked turkey sausage patties

2 tablespoons of corn starch

2 cups of milk (water or broth)

¼ cup of water

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Step one: Brown the sausage

Breakfast Sausage: Grease your skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil and put on medium heat. Once the pan is hot enough brown the breakfast sausage. Set aside the browned sausage. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the sausage grease from the pan.

If you choose to use the pre-cooked sausage patties heat for 30 seconds to one minute in the microwave. Place patties in the food processor and grind until it resembles sausage crumbles. Use 2 tablespoons of butter in your pan.

 

Step two:

Melt the butter in the hot skillet. Add the 2 cups of milk.

 

Step three:

Mix the cornstarch with the ¼ cup of water and add to the milk and butter that is heating. Stir constantly over medium heat.

 

Step four:

As the mixture begins to thicken add the sausage, mix and serve with your favorite breakfast items such as biscuits or grits.

 

 

Regular Sausage Gravy Recipe

Sausage Gravy Ingredients

½ pound of breakfast sausage or 4 pre-cooked turkey sausage patties

3 tablespoons of flour

2 cups of milk (water or broth)

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Step one: Brown the sausage

Breakfast Sausage: Grease your skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil and put on medium heat. Once the pan is hot enough brown the breakfast sausage. Set aside the browned sausage. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the sausage grease from the pan.

If you choose to use the pre-cooked sausage patties heat for 30 seconds to one minute in the microwave. Place patties in the food processor and grind until it resembles sausage crumbles. Use 2 tablespoons of butter in your pan.

 

Step two:

Either use the 2 tablespoons of sausage grease or melt the butter in the hot skillet. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and mix with the melted butter. The butter and flour will clump. This is called a roux.

 

Step three:

Slowly add the 2 cups of milk continually stirring the mixture. The mixture will begin to thin out. Keep over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken up again. Then turn the heat down to low.

 

Step four:

As the mixture begins to thicken add the sausage, mix and serve with your favorite breakfast items such as biscuits or grits.