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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.

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