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Friday, December 13, 2013

8 Awesome Gluten Free Cookies for Holiday Swapping

In anticipation of the 3rd Annual Cookie Swap for a Cause on Sunday, we asked some friends to share their favorite cookie recipes. This roundup comes from Melissa Massello of Shoestring Magazine.

Holidays can be hard if you're gluten free. Thankfully, our pal Melissa has had a year to practice and perfect the wheat-free life and has come up with 8 awesome alternatives to conventional cookie recipes:

 1. GF, Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat2Run
Still have leftover cans of pumpkin sitting around in your pantry post-Thanksgiving? Put them to work in these yummy cinnamon-spiced, chocolate-infused, gluten-free pumpkin drop cookies. Apparently they're also good for you!

2. GF, Vegan Cranberry Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies from La Casa de Sweets on The Pretty Bee
If you follow Tara and I on DIY Boston, then you know how obsessed I am with cranberries this year, but they're also a New England holiday classic.  While this recipe calls for oat flour, I find that Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour works pretty well in almost any recipe needing 2 cups or less of flour.

3. GF Quinoa Coconut Cookies from GMO Free Girl
Drooling…right, writing. These soft drop cookies combine shredded coconut and soft cooked quinoa with drizzles of dark chocolate, sort of like a macaroon but lower in sugar and gluten free. YUMMO.

4. Paleo Snickerdoodle Cookies (Egg, Grain, Gluten & Dairy Free) from The Urban Poser
St. Nick came early this year with this recipe for a classic Christmas favorite that really can meet ALL of the dietary restrictions. Gluten free, vegan, and dairy free, perfect for Paleo friends or those of us just lucky enough to get multiple food allergies.

5. Gluten Free Thin Mints from Gluten Free on a Shoestring
Oh yes, you will win prizes and many, many new friends if you make these gluten-free alternatives to everyone's favorite Girl Scout Cookie. They're a little more involved than other cookies (baking + dipping in chocolate), so take note if you're planning on making 8+ dozen, but definitely will be a total crowd pleaser.

6. Dark Chocolate Trail Mix Bites from Undressed Skeleton
Who says Christmas cookies have to be cookies? I love how the green of the pepitas (or pistachios) and the reds of the dried fruits make these gluten-free dark chocolate drops seasonal, timeless AND healthy, yet super yummy.

7. Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Cookies from My Darling Lemon Thyme
Chia is the new healthy culinary hotness, and I love how this recipe uses them like you would in a traditional lemon poppyseed baked good. Again, this recipe calls for brown rice flour, but you could easily swap out for Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour (it's only 1/3 of a cup), and the almond meal is easy to make from scratch using whole almonds and your food processor. Bonus: these cookies are also dairy free!

8. Gluten-Free Peanut Butter & Nutella Sugar Cookies from Shoestring
Last, but IMHO not least, these super easy, super quick, and super cheap drop sugar cookies take the classic peanut butter cookie, remove the flour, and add Nutella. I've now made them at least two dozen times to nothing but rave reviews from even my non-glutarded friends and family.

Thanks, Melissa!

(Images: as credited above)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipe: Maple Banana Oatmeal Cookies (Gluten free + Vegan)

In anticipation of the 3rd Annual Cookie Swap for a Cause on Sunday, we asked some friends to share their cookie recipes. This one comes from Laurel of One Small Patch.

For those of us who eat even a little bit differently (whether by allergy, sensitivity, or choice) this time of the year can be tricky.

Not because we feel left out. And not because of the "temptations" around us. (After a while, delicious things that make you sick just aren't so delicious anymore.)

It's really just about awkwardness. In the flurry of dinners and parties and food gifting that is December, it can be hard to navigate and not offend. "Oh thank you… what's in this?" just never comes out quite right.

Luckily, the lovely ladies of the Boston Food Swap have removed the awkward for us. When you purchase your ticket for this Sunday's cookie swap, you can select whether your recipe is nut free, gluten free or vegan.

Even if only by happy accident, noting whether your cookies are without nuts, wheat, eggs or dairy will make them all the more swappable. And that's a good thing for everyone.

I hope to see and swap with you on Sunday.

One Small Patch

Maple Banana Oatmeal Cookies  
(Gluten free + Vegan)

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 2 Tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil 
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with natural parchment. 

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in almond butter, maple extract, agave and melted coconut oil. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, combine oats, baking powder and sea salt. Pour into wet mixture and stir well. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Why YOU should RSVP for Sunday's Cookie Swap for a Cause

 The 3rd Annual Cookie Swap for a Cause is this Sunday!  We can't wait for all of the holiday cheer and yummy cookies.  If you're on the fence about whether to go, we have the top 10 reasons why you should register today:

2011 Cookie Swap for a Cause in progress

  1. BIG blue monster said so, and if there is one thing this guy knows, it's cookies!
  2. You're looking for something festive to do after Sunday brunch or holiday shopping in the South End. 
  3. You're getting cabin fever from chilly weekends spent at home. 
  4. You haven't made your holiday season charitable donation yet. This is the easiest, tastiest, and most fun way to support as cause as worthy as Cookies for Kids' Cancer
  5. You like complimentary swag and refreshments from Narragansett Beer, Polar Beverages, America's Test Kitchen, Equal Exchange, Food Should Taste Good, Zipcar, and UNREAL candy courtesy of Eventbrite Boston.
  6. You're a great baker and think you can compete for prizes from Eat Boutique, Locally, or America's Test Kitchen with your kick-ass cookie recipe.
  7. You're a good baker and you're willing to bake like mad for a chance to compete for prizes for most cookies swapped.
  8. You don't even know what an oven is but you like to eat cookies, go to fun parties, get free stuff and go do things for kids with cancer.
  9. You forgot that you have a big holiday party coming up (work, friends, family, you name it!) and want to bring the coolest selection of treats to the festivities. (Nobody has to know you didn't bake them all yourself.) 
  10. You just love holiday cheer!

Eventbrite - 3rd Annual Cookie Swap for a Cause - #BOSCOOKIESWAP13

Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!  Also, you can join us at our next swap by checking out our Eventbrite page.

Boston: A Dessert Paradise!

As we roll out our stand mixers, cookie sheets, and parchment paper for this Sunday's Cookie Swap for a Cause, the folks at Marriot have put together a little infographic detailing the importance of desserts in the history of our sweet city.  Check it out and maybe look for some historical cookie inspiration!  Boston Cream Pie cookie, anyone?

The Breakdown of the Best Desserts in Boston - Powered by Marriot.
Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!  Also, you can join us at our next swap by checking out our Eventbrite page.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sponsored Post: Locally Founder Jessie Angell on Eating Local

When Locally founder Jessie Angell approached us about a potential sponsorship, we immediately saw the connections between Locally's mission of making locally produced food more accessible and our mission of creating community through home-cooking, baking, canning, pickling, and so on. Many of our swappers already use locally sourced ingredients (in fact, some of them are lucky enough to have backyard fruit trees or kitchen gardens for growing their own produce), and we love seeing how creative they can be in using those ingredients. Locally sounds like the perfect way to supplement our supply of produce and the items in our pantries. 

Boston Food Swap recently chatted with Jessie about why local food matters, what Locally offers, and how to incorporate local food into your cookie baking. Here's an excerpt of that conversation. 

Boston Food Swap: Why is local food important to you?
Jessie: Food has been a part of my life since I graduated from college. Since I started having to cook for myself, it was really important to me that I find the best and the most healthful foods. I got really interested in where our food was coming from. The more I researched, the more that I found that eating locally from sustainable producers was really more in keeping with the spirit that I was looking for than eating organic. To me, it tastes better. It’s more healthful because it hasn’t had to travel for so long. Vegetables, in particular, lose a lot of their nutrients in transport and it’s just a simple math equation. The less time they are out of the ground before they get to your plate, the more nutrients they have.

Then you have all of these issues like local economy. That’s a lot of what we’re trying to focus on: making sure that the dollar is spent on food coming within a local economy, and how that can impact communities. There’s a lot of fuel and a lot of resources being expended to move foods thousands of miles when it’s just not necessary.

Tell us more about Locally and how it works.
We’re in the very early stage of the company, and it’s changing all the time. We’re an online farmer’s market so we’re making inventory from farmers or artisans that provide our food available online to different communities around Boston. We deliver to people’s homes, their offices or what we’ve termed community pick-up locations. These can be a place of worship, a school, retail stores that want to this element as part of their neighborhood, any place that’s central to a community.

Is it just produce or is it other locally produced items as well?
No, it’s essentially anything that you could expect to find at a current farmer’s market. What we’re trying to replicate, ultimately, is the grocery story experience but with everything local. We spent the summer bringing on partners who would fulfill our needs for a perimeter of the grocery store, so all of your fresh foods. That’s your produce, your fruits and veggies, meat. Now we're doing the middle aisle of the store with pasta, candied yams, granola. The idea is that ultimately somebody this year will do probably 80 to 90 percent of their shopping with us.

How is Locally the same or different from a CSA?
We’re the same probably only in the respect that our food is local. We define local somewhat broadly, which is 300-400 miles that you could travel in one day, is what I’ve generally seen out there. Most of our products come from Massachusetts, probably within 70-100 miles of Boston.

We’re different from a CSA in that there is no upfront commitment, and there’s no requirement for purchase. People can buy what they want, when they want, in the quantities that they want.

With the Cookie Swap coming up, how can bakers incorporate local food into their cookies?
It’s a great question because I think that some of the elements that go into baking tend to fall by the wayside. But there are farms in Massachusetts that are starting to grow their own grain. I have a baking cookbook at home that’s really fantastic called Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich and she basically incorporates almost every type of flour or grain. She really turns a lot of the ingredients on their heads.
I think squashes and pumpkins are always a good addition to desserts. I like warm, mellow and a little savory dessert, and so it’s great to use some of the sweeter squashes and pumpkins in a recipe. I just read about incorporating beets into a chocolate cake recipe to make it nice and moist. 

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe or a favorite type of cookie?
It's a peanut butter cookie with toffee, and then I make salted caramel and drizzle it over. Anything that has caramel is probably going to get me, and anything with chocolate or peanut butter. I’ve always loved those, the really old-fashioned peanut butter cookies where you can put a Hershey kiss on top. I also really like the jumble cookies that has everything that we have in the cupboard. Those are awesome!

Is there anything else that you’d like readers to know?

One of the things that it would be great to see is not only people eating more locally, but also getting more out of the produce when it’s in season. I would actually love to learn more from your swappers about canning and freezing and those other techniques because I’m just starting to get into it myself. If anybody has any advice to give, please come up and talk to me about it at the cookie swap.

Photos courtesy of Jessie Angell / Locally 

This post is sponsored by Locally, an online farmer's market that started here in the Boston area. Check out their website or follow them on Twitter: @locallyco. Be sure to chat with Locally founder Jessie Angell at Cookie Swap for a Cause on December 15, too. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Recipe: Taza Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies

Need recipe ideas for Cookie Swap for a Cause? Or just holiday baking in general? Local favorite Somerville-based chocolate-maker Taza Chocolate has graciously shared this recipe for Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies. 

Taza makes delicious Mexican stone-ground chocolate and adds fresh, organic ingredients like almonds or chipotle chili. Stone-ground chocolate has a slightly gritty texture that many people (including yours truly) love, and Taza's flavor is sweet but never overpowering, so it's a favorite among local chefs and bakers who work it into their culinary creations. 

Taza Chocolate is available from the Factory Store in Somerville and at specialty stores all over Boston (in fact, I even spotted some as far south as Palm Harbor, Florida over Thanksgiving weekend!). This recipe is republished by permission from Taza Chocolate. 

Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies (makes 24 large cookies)

  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Taza Chocolate Mexicano Extract
  • 1 8 oz. can Taza Chocolate Covered Almonds
  • 1 c. dried cherries


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  • In a larger bowl, cream together the softened butter, both sugars, and Taza Chocolate Mexicano Extract until creamy. Incorporate eggs one at a time until well combined.
  • Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, combining well after each addition.
  • Stir in Taza Chocolate Covered Almonds and dried cherries.
  • Drop *very* generous tablespoons of batter onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on baking sheet for a minute or two, and then cool on wire racks.

For more recipe inspiration, check out our Cookie Swap for a Cause Pinterest board or visit the Taza Recipe Library

A huge thanks to Taza Chocolate for donating a gift box for our Cookie Swap for a Cause on December 15. Our goal is to swap 10,000 cookies, raising $10,000 for Cookies for Kids' CancerPledge your cookies now

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pear Cocktail Recipes from Polar Seltzer

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, holiday party invites will swiftly follow. In fact, we're hosting our third annual Cookie Swap for a Cause on December 15, and Polar Seltzer will be among our generous sponsors helping to make the event extra festival. This is your chance to try Polar's limited edition winter flavors like Butter Rum and Strawberry Champagne (my personal fave).

Of course, we also love classic flavors like Raspberry Lime and Vanilla Pear, which are great for sipping on their own or adding to cocktails. Polar was kind enough to share two different twists on pear cocktail recipes for your holiday entertaining inspiration. Cheers!

Vanilla Pear Martini (low carb/low calorie recipe)
  • 1 part Pear Vodka
  • 1 part Vanilla Vodka
  • Polar Vanilla Pear Seltzer
Combine vodkas with copious amounts of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake to chill and then pour into a festive glass. Top with at least an equal amount of Polar Seltzer. Stir gently.

Smokey Pear (pictured above)
  • 2 ozs Smokey Scotch
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 0.5 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Polar Vanilla Pear Seltzer

Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice, then strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with Polar Seltzer.

A huge thanks to Polar Seltzer for sampling seltzer at our Cookie Swap for a Cause on December 15. Our goal is to swap 10,000 cookies, raising $10,000 for Cookies for Kids' Cancer. Pledge your cookies now

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cookie Swap for a Cause FAQ

Even if you've attended a cookie swap in the past, the Cookie Swap for a Cause will likely be a different experience.  To help you maximize your scrumptious fun, we are providing a list of frequently asked questions and their answers.
Carrot Cake Cookies from the 2011 swap.
Photo by www.adamtowner.com.

Can I park at 40Berkeley?  Take the T?  Street parking at meters is free in Boston on Sundays.  There are also two parking lots near the venue with reasonable weekend rates are located on Berkeley and E. Berkeley. The Back Bay stop is .3 miles away, and Copley is .6 miles away.

What time should I get there? As close to 2:00 as possible. Swapping will start between 3:30 and 4:00 and will be over in the blink of an eye. The earlier you arrive, the more time you will have for sampling, socializing, recipe sharing and the craft table.

Will the cookie swap be similar to a regular food swap?  Not exactly. Although it will be fun and delicious, the cookie swap will not be a 1-to-1 exchange. Instead, everyone will display their cookies and, when swapping starts, fill a Gladware container with cookies.  If you've never been to a regular swap and want to try it, you can RSVP to the January event today!  If you want to get a sense of the scene at a cookie swap, check out the photos from last year's event.

What will happen when I get there?  For bakers at check in, you'll be assigned a number that will go with you, your swap cookies, and your sample cookies. Volunteers will take your swap and sample cookies and set them up while you enjoy the vendors, sampling, festive atmosphere, and our photo booth. At swap time, an announcement will be made to line up.  At that point, Gladware containers will be given to attendees who can then fill their container with cookies.  Afterward, you claim the container that held your original cookies and enjoy a huge variety of holiday goodies!

I see you have a best cookie contest. How will that work? We will have a separate area where swappers and snackers will sample cookies and vote on the best cookie. If you'd like to enter the contest and potentially win super-awesome prizes, please allocate one dozen of your cookies for sampling and include these sample cookies in your tally. A volunteer will chop the sample cookies into smaller pieces so that as many people can sample them as possible. 

What will happen to my container? If you need your container back, please make sure your name is prominently written on it. Boston Food Swap and 40Berkeley are not responsible for lost or stolen property.

Will there be anything to drink?  We recognize that so many cookies can leave you parched so we have secured beverage vendors for the event.  For thirst quenching, Polar Seltzer will be on hand sampling their holiday flavor line. For the grown-ups, Narragansett will be pouring.

Do I get to take anything else home besides cookies? YES! We have swag bags stuffed with great local, food-related fun. We'll also have a table of raffle prizes, and prizes for Best Cookie and Most Cookies. Do you want to showcase your business as a raffle prize or in our swag bags?  Contact us at bostonfoodswap@gmail.com for more info.

What do I need to bring besides cookies?  Your smiling face and possibly a large tray.  For people taking the T or biking, we will have many trays on hand.  However, for the volume of people we expect, we will not be able to provide a tray for everyone.  If you have the means to bring a tray, please do. 

Can I bring other people?  Yes, but only if they are registered for the event.  We have limited space and want to cram a LOT of cookies in so we want to be sure that people are not excluded from baking in favor of unregistered guests.

I registered for the event but can’t show up.  What do I do?  Let us know at bostonfoodswap@gmail.com ASAP. We do anticipate selling out. Not only can your spot be given to someone else but telling us means more cookies and, therefore, more money for Cookies for Kids Cancer.

Can I buy a ticket at the door?  Only if there is space available the day of the event.  There is a risk that we will not be able to accommodate day-of ticket sales so register now!

Do I need to individually wrap my cookies? No. 

I’m stumped about what cookies to make.  Do you have any ideas?  YES!  We have spent the past couple years building an incredible Pinterest board for this event.  You can find lots of inspiration there, and follow us via RSS, Google+, Facebook, Twitter for notice when they are posted.  

I either can’t or don’t bake.  Why would I want to attend a cookie swap? Because you like to EAT!  We hope to swap 10,000 cookies at the event and can fit about 150 people in the room.  Needless to say, we are going to need troopers to eat all of these cookies.  So if you aren't a baker, you can take home a Gladware container of cookies for the price of a ticket and tell your family, friends,  and coworkers that you slaved over an oven just for them.  We won’t tell!

Can I donate even if I can't attend? Yes! Please donate through our event fundraising page.
Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Food Day is Almost Here - Let's Eat Real!

Food Day

It's almost Food Day!  We have been inspired since the beginning by the Food Day message of eating real to improve our health and food system.  We even had an awesome year-1 potluck to celebrate the campaign's launch!

Boston Food Swap Community Sourced Potluck in 2011

We're celebrating Food Day in 2013 by doing what we always do - swapping homemade, home grown, and home foraged food made with quality and love!  Even if you can't make it to the swap this Sunday, we've put together a list of other great Boston-area Food Day events you can enjoy this week.  Have (delicious) fun!

 Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!  Also, you can join us at our next swap by checking out our Eventbrite page.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Recap: September Food Swap

This weekend marked the official beginning of fall. The forecast didn't look too promising, but the weather ended up being gorgeous and we wound up hosting the swap on the patio at 40 Berkeley. We love how creative our swappers are and this month did not disappoint. Here's a look at some of the delicious goodies we sampled including cupcakes with buttercream frosting, dukkah, quinoa granola, beet chutney, mint chocolate syrup, pumpkin doughnuts (a fall classic in our opinion), and garlicky white bean dip. 

Details on our October swap coming soon, but in the meantime, we hope you'll mark October 27 on your calendars!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recap: July Food Swap

The end of the summer just flew by us and now we're gearing up for our September food swap this weekend! But before we do usher in the fall with seasonal goodies, we wanted to share a quick recap of our July food swap, which we enjoyed on the sunny patio at Collaboratory 4.0 in the South End. What a nice way to spend a summer afternoon, right?

As usual, we enjoyed a delicious array of baked goods. This time, that included lavendar shortbread cookies, brownies, and chocolate coco-nutty cupcakes (I'm not sure how many cupcakes made it home as they were eagerly consumed on the spot!).

In addition to baked goods, we sampled savory treats like quinoa, tomato sauce, spice mixes (which I used to make croutons - yum!), veggie dip, and bean salad.

Check out more photos on our Facebook page. And be sure to RSVP for our next swap, which is scheduled for Sunday, September 22. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Swappable Spotlight: Clothing Swap at Crompton Collective

Much as we love to swap food, we're equal opportunity when it comes to swapping other goods like clothes. After all, clothes swaps are a good excuse to clean out the closet and get some new (to us) stuff without charging up a storm. Just like food swaps let us reduce food waste and incorporate some new flavors into our pantry, clothing swaps reduce the need to produce new clothes and add some style to our closets.

It had been awhile since we attended the Fashion Week 2011 Sip & Swap event at the Microsoft NERD Center, so Lyn and I were psyched to head out to Worcester for a clothing swap at Crompton Collective. This super-cute antique and artisan mall just happens to be owned by Amy Lynn Chase, a Swapholic who partnered with us on our very first cookie swap in 2011! Lyn had already visited Crompton, but it was my first trip, and I was completely enchanted by the rows of handmade baby bibs, antique typewriters, and vintage Coke bottles.

The clothing swap itself didn't disappoint either. Amy and her crew had it well-organized with sections for jeans, shoes, dresses, and so on. I spotted a pair of brand-new leather boots in the original box, but alas, they were a half-size too big so I left them for someone else to enjoy. I also tried on a pair of white Lily Pulitzer Bermuda shorts, but they were just teensy bit too small. (I know, I sound like Goldilocks here.) I did go home with a like-new embroidered tunic from the LOFT and a pair of perfectly distressed jeans. We got one ticket for reach item we brought, plus extra tickets for visiting a few local stores, so I wound up giving Lyn one of my extra tickets. Then, on the drive home, we stopped at NU Cafe for a late lunch.

Tell us! Have you ever attended a clothing swap? What was your favorite find? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Announcing Can-it-Forward Day 2013!

The beauty of canning is that you can take a surplus of, say, sun-ripened tomatoes or Maine blueberries and preserve that fresh, delicious taste for later in the year, minimizing food waste and maximizing your ability to enjoy produce year round. One other nice perk is that you can make strawberry jam or apple butter in advance and have something ready to grab for a swap, even if you don't have time to cook or bake something fresh that weekend.

As part of National Can-It-Forward Day on Saturday, August 17, we're hosting a canning event at Niche Urban Garden Supply in the South End. For $15, you get to spend an afternoon learning to can or refining your preservation techniques and enjoying snacks with like-minded foodies. You'll also go home with a can of newly preserved goods!

Sign up for Can-It-Forward Day on Eventbrite and please share this event with your fellow canners!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 Ways to Use Leftover Bread

One of the reasons we founded the food swap is to ensure that home chefs who don't cook for a large family have a way to share resources and minimize food waste. But sometimes a swap can bring a surplus of delicious, homemade goodies.

Take last Sunday's swap. I bought a baguette for sampling my raspberry lime jam and brought home a half loaf of hearty granola bread. I still had a good portion of the baguette leftover after the swap and I knew I wouldn't finish both breads before they got stale or moldy.

So, I chopped up the rest of the baguette and sprinkled the pieces with a little EVOO and the salt/garlic/basil mix I'd also gotten at the swap. After about 20 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees, voila! I had a batch of homemade croutons and continued eating the granola bread with almond butter for breakfast.

Here's a look at several ways to use leftover bread instead of simply tossing it.
  1. Freezer. 
    The granola bread was simply too tasty to freeze but most breads can be stored in the freezer for 3-6 months. I wouldn't defrost bread and eat it plain but if you toast it, you can hardly tell the difference. I've also heard that frozen bread can be turned into bread crumbs (see #4) using a cheese grater. 
  2. Bread pudding.
    I love the carb-filled gooeyness of bread pudding, and Cooking Light's recipe for bread pudding with salted caramel sounds divine! Once the bread soaks up the egg, sugar, and spices, it's nearly impossible to tell if it was once a teensy bit stale. 
  3. Croutons. 
    True story: my parents used to reward me for good behavior as a kid with croutons. I loved that savory crunch and still do. In fact, I'm just as likely to eat croutons as a snack or in a soup or salad. As you can tell above, making your own croutons is super-simple. 
  4. Bread crumbs.
    To make your own bread crumbs, toast the bread and pulse in a food processor until you achieve the desired texture. You can add spices or use them plain. It's that simple. I love baking eggplant in the oven with a little egg and flour to bind the bread crumbs to the eggplant slices. Add a little marinara sauce (bonus: I scored some at the last swap) and some pasta for an easy Italian dinner. 
  5. French toast. 
    Stale bread is perfect for french toast because it nicely soaks up the egg and milk mixture. I adore Fitness Magazine's slimmed recipe for stuffed French toast. Yum! 
Your turn! How do you use leftover bread? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Recipe: Magic Bullet Spinach Pesto

I love living in the city but I don't love the postage stamp-sized kitchens that come with most urban apartments. My current kitchen has very limited cabinet and counter space, so I had to store bigger kitchen implements like the food processor and slow cooker on a high shelf in the closet. Not the most accessible place for spontaneous cooking.

However, my fiancĂ© has introduced me to the versatile, chopping and pureeing awesomeness that is the Magic Bullet. It's much more compact than my Cuisinart food processor, easier to clean, and does many of the same things. I've dabbled with Magic Bullet smoothies but when I discovered that you can also make pesto in the Bullet, I was officially hooked.

While browsing recipes online, I discovered that you can make pesto with spinach instead of basil. Mind blown. (A swapper brought parsley pesto to an event a year or so ago, and that was also pretty tasty.)

Now, some people recommend adding a dash of vanilla, blanching the spinach, or mixing with other herbs to neutralize some of the bitterness in the spinach, but I think it tastes just fine on its own. In fact, the garlic and olive oil give it that distinctive pesto-like flavor, so I suspect you could sneak it into a pasta dish and serve it to someone who claims to hate spinach without their knowing. Or you could try variations like using an infused olive oil instead of regular EVOO or adding a dash of lemon juice. I made one batch of pesto with the lemon-infused olive oil that Tara gave me for Christmas, but as it turns out, I actually prefer lemon olive oil on salads.

Here is my recipe adapted from a Food.com recipe for speedy pesto:

Magic Bullet Spinach Pesto
makes about 2 cups

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, well-washed, stemmed, and torn into small pieces
1/2 cup toasted nuts (I used almonds)*
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves (more if you like garlic)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Add ingredients to a food processor or Magic Bullet and process to a fine paste. You may need to mix it around using a spoon between pulses. Keeps refrigerated for several weeks, longer if frozen.

*Toasting nuts in the oven is tricky. If you don't watch them like a hawk, they will burn. That's why I usually toast a little more than I need, set the oven to 350 degrees, and check them often.

I served the pesto on rotini pasta with feta cheese and grape tomatoes, then delivered the dish to Community Cooks, a Somerville-based nonprofit that uses volunteer home chefs to help feed the food insecure. If I have time, I'll make another batch to swap at our next food swap on Sunday, July 21 in Boston. If you'd like to share your own homemade goodies, then RSVP for the swap through Eventbrite.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Heat Wave Canning: Slow Cooker Ginger Peach Butter

The last thing anyone wants to do during hot and humid weather is turn on the gas. If you have fruit to put up, take some of the stovetop out of the equation and prep your preserves in the slow cooker. That way, you'll only need to turn on the burner to process the cans!

Slow cookers aren't just for soups, stews, and fall fruits. Almost any fruit butter can be made in a crock pot. Here, I took juicy peaches and combined them with some brown sugar and grated ginger for butter with a bit of bite.

Slow Cooker Ginger Peach Butter
makes about 7 half pint jars

5 lbs peaches (about 10-12), pitted (no need to peel!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1/4 cup peach juice (or orange juice)
pinch salt

Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Cook on high for 6 hours, or overnight on low for 10 hours. With an immersion blender (or transfer to a food processor), pulse until you reach a desired consistency (I prefer it a little chunky). Turn slow cooker on high for 1-3 hours depending on how wet your peaches are, until desired thickness has been reached. Transfer to sterilized jars, seal, and process in a water-bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!  Also, you can join us at our next swap by checking out our Eventbrite page.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ways to Upgrade Your Canning Jars

We can a lot around here, which means we often have a lot of mason jars hanging around. They can do double duty when you turn them into decor, kitchen tools, travel mugs, and more. Here are our favorite ways to upgrade the canning jar:

 We can often be found rocking our Cuppows at monthly swaps. A simple, BPA-free lid goes under a canning ring and turns any jar into a travel mug. Made right here in Somerville, Cuppows come in wide or regular mouth size. Add a Holdster, a leather cuff and handle, to your jar, and you can travel anywhere.

For the cocktail lover, the Mason Shaker is the perfect gift (Father's Day is in a week!). With a quart jar being larger than a traditional shaker, you can mix drinks for four or five at once instead of one or two.

"Put it in a mason jar" is definitely the new "put a bird on it." So it's natural that this french press from a 24-ounce jar is made in Portland. The Portland Press is made from USA-sourced materials and comes with a lifetime warranty. 

Two new books are out that are filled from cover to cover with mason jar crafts. DIY Mason Jars is currently available, while Mason Jar Crafts releases in July. 

While you're adding crafty jars to your decor, why not turn one into a lamp? Yes, there's a kit that turns a mason jar into a lamp. What would you fill your jar lamp base with? Marbles? Plastic figurines? Glitter?

Help us buy more mason jars and keep swapping free by buying through one of the affiliate links in this post.

Boston Food Swap is a community organization funded entirely by donation. Support us through Paypal or BFS merchandise, and by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!  Also, you can join us at our next swap by checking out our Eventbrite page.