Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Used bread" bread pudding

We try to live frugal -- when you live on a fixed income these days, you don't have much choice in that.

One of the ways we try to keep our grocery spending within our means is to shop for the marked down things. My mother has been doing this for years -- she refers to it as "used food".

Recently a trip through the "used bread" in my local market yielded up a loaf of frosted cinnamon raisin bread -- it made great breakfasts, but it was a big loaf, so it started to get stale before we could eat it all.

My solution was to turn it into dessert!

Here's the ingredient list:

For the pudding
3 to 4 cups of bread cut into about 1 inch cubes -- I've used left over cinnamon rolls for this too
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins or craisins
1 recipe of hard sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Select a glass baking dish that will hold at least 1 1/2 quart, spray with non-stick spray, set aside

In a small sauce pan, bring the milk and the butter just to a boil and remove from the heat

Lightly beat eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon together, add a small amount of the hot milk to the egg mixture and beat again, then pour the egg mixture and the milk together in a bowl to mix (caution: don't skip that adding hot milk to the eggs step or you'll end up with scrambled egg which is not what you want here -- this is called "tempering" and it's an important technique to know when you do baking or working with chocolate)

Add bread and raisins or craisins and mix well -- let the bread soak up the liquids

Pour into prepared baking dish

Place baking dish in a pan (I use a 9 by 12 inch metal baking pan) that will hold water 1 inch deep around the glass dish.

TIP: put the two pans in the oven and use a large measuring cup to add the water to the pan while it's on the oven shelf -- when you take the pudding out, let the metal pan sit in the oven until the water has cooled before you take it out -- this may be a bit "fiddly" but it will keep you from getting a nasty scalding burn

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes -- until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean

Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or hard sauce

Recipe for hard sauce:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
5 tbls milk or cream
1/2 tsp almond extract

Beat cream cheese until fluffy

Add sugar gradually, beating after each addition

Add milk and almond, and mix well

Cover and chill

(this is great used on banana nut bread or just about any other sweet bread too)


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gum Drop Bread

most of the family recipes I use came from my mother or my grandmother, but this one is from the DH's side of the family

the DH is a first generation American, and his English family brought this recipe with them

it's sort of like fruit cake -- but not quite!

and this year, for the first time in quite a few years, I decided to make up a batch, both for our eating pleasure and to share with friends

Here is the ingredient list:

1 pound walnuts or pecans, rough chopped (we prefer pecans)
1 pound dates, rough chopped (do yourself a favor and buy the packages that are already cut)
1 pound fruit flavored gum drops (no black ones, and the spice ones are not the right thing)
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla

this year our obstacle was we could not find anything but spice gum drops!

my local Sunflower market, however had jellied fruit slices in the bulk bin, so I brought home a little over a pound of those and used my kitchen shears to cut them into "gum drop" sized pieces

(if you need to do this, it helps a lot to dip your kitchen shears in sugar frequently to keep the blades from becoming too sticky)

this is what they looked like when I got done

while you're cutting things, if you need to cut the dates, use the same technique for them

and do the rough chop on the nuts

turn on your oven to preheat -- only 300 degrees for this recipe

this can be done in two standard loaf pans, but I usually use this pan plus one more pan the same size (it's really nice to be able to put these all in like one pan!)

to prepare your pans -- cut parchment paper (or brown paper) to fit the pan (I use a strip that is the width of the pan and long enough to go down the long side, along the bottom then back up the other long side plus about another 2 inches on each end that can be a "handle" when removing the loaves from the pan)

grease the pans (or use non-stick spray), fit the paper into the pan, then grease or spray again

set the pans aside and mix the dough
put all of the chopped ingredients (gum drops, nuts, dates) into a large bowl and stir to mix well

in a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder

sprinkle this dry mixture over the chopped ingredients

stir and "toss" to coat everything well with the dry ingredients

separate the eggs, beat vanilla into the egg yolks

using a mixer, beat egg whites until light and foamy (not too stiff)

pour egg yolks over fruit and mix, then add the egg whites and fold to combine all of the ingredients (be sure all of the dry stuff at the bottom of the bowl gets mixed in)

divide and press batter into pans (make sure there aren't any big gaps)

bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes

as soon as they come out of the oven, use a flat spatula along the un-papered side of each loaf, then use the paper "handles" to lift each loaf out of the pan to a rack

peel off the paper carefully and let set on the rack until totally cooled

wrap in foil and tie with a bow for gift giving, or slice and eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Spicing things up

over the weekend I had the chance to visit a Savory Spice Shop

it is an experience not to be missed

sure, we've all bought spices at the grocery store -- and even at the fair from the Watkins booth

but it just doesn't compare with the experience of being able to walk in and see all the spices and herbs and blends in the jars and using the little shaker bottles to taste before you buy

unless you've done that, how do you know if you want the Vietnamese cinnamon which has a sharp, hot feel on your tongue, like eating those red hot fireball candies -- or if you'd prefer the mellower Chinese cinnamon?

do you want the St Louis pork rub? the pan pork sausage blend?

how about a REAL vanilla bean?

or 4 ounces of powdered cheddar cheese --- my "best of the day" find so I can make my own version of "quick" mac 'n cheese -- a version of this stuff used to be available from my local grocery store, but Kraft doesn't do that any more --- and this stuff tastes better!

if there isn't one of these lovely stores near you, you should at least check out their website -- here's the link

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Quick Chicken Soup

Back in the days when the DH and I both worked full time jobs and needed sometimes to come up with a meal in a hurry, this was one of our favorites.

Quick, easy, inexpensive -- all good things!

Yesterday my daughter asked me to remind her again how we did this -- now that she and her husband sometimes need to do this.

Happy to do it


32 ounces of chicken broth -- more or less -- homemade or from a can
large (12.5 ounce) can of chicken meat or equivalent of left over chicken
1 cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables
1 cup raw noodles

How to:

Pour the broth and the chicken into a pan (if you are using left over chicken, add a bit of water, if you are using the can, pour in the liquid from the can too)

Bring to a boil

Add vegetables and noodles

Cook until the noodles are to the desired doneness -- about 10 minutes


Friday, February 05, 2010

Tuna Cassarole

a couple of weeks ago my daughter asked me to post the recipe for this, and I couldn't believe I hadn't already done it!

and of course that also meant that I had to actually make one so I could write down the recipe!

so this is last night's dinner --- and one of the best ones ever

here then is the recipe:


1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
2 cans (12 ounces total) tuna in water (or the equivalent in pouch tuna)
12 ounces (uncooked weight) medium shell macaroni
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbls butter
1 Tbls flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 1%)
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed potato chips

How to:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large sauce pan, cook the pasta to al dente (about 9 minutes after it returns to a boil check the package) -- don't overcook -- it is going to be baked too (and remember to salt the water)

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce:

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat
Stir in the flour to form a roux and cook for a couple of minutes to take out that "paste" taste (be careful not to let it burn)
Using a whisk, stir in 1 cup of the milk, blend well and turn the heat down slightly
Add the can of condensed soup, mixing well, and use the remaining 1/2 cup milk to "rinse" the soup can into the pan
When the sauce starts to thicken up, add the shredded cheese and turn the heat down to low
Continue whisking occasionally while you prepare the rest of the parts

Open and drain the cans of tuna

(I have one of these nifty plastic gizmos that just fits in the top of the can and lets you drain out the liquid without loosing any of the solids)

I don't try to squeeze out the liquid for this recipe -- there is some good flavor in that packing water, but you just don't want ALL of that liquid

Pour the frozen peas in the colander that you are going to use to drain your macaroni

When the pasta is done, pour it right in on top of the peas

It defrosts the peas without using any additional water

Return the drained macaroni and peas to the pan you cooked the pasta in, and add the tuna
Pour the sauce over the top and mix well

Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray and pour in the mixture

Top with crushed potato chips

Bake for 30 minutes

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

bread and cherrios

this has to be the most beautiful loaf of bread I've ever made

so nicely shaped

so evenly browned

amazing given the total piece of junk that my oven is

the recipe for this is the Light Whole Wheat out of the cookbook my daughter gave me for Christmas

this is about the fourth batch of this particular recipe I've made (remember I said no store bought bread here!), but there has been a real learning curve in making bread without using a bread pan -- just a flat steel cookie sheet

the book recommends that you use a pizza stone, but in my feeble little oven it would take FOREVER to heat that up (the book says about 20 minutes, so we're talking about 45 here) and our electric bill can't stand the shock

but the steel cookie sheet with a good layer of cornmeal works really well

now that I've really gotten the hang of this recipe it's time to try another one

yesterday, when we went to get milk there was a huge display of these on an end cap

you remember Cherrios? the ever present healthy snack you carried around in little containers to occupy your kids in church

let me tell you, these are not your "church cherrios"

not only do they really taste like chocolate, they are faintly sweet and super crunchy

as a snack that is

I brought the box home, broke right into it and ate a little container full while I was working at my sewing machine (just being careful not to drop any to the dog!)

I think they'll be really good with milk on them too -- and raspberries --- mmmmm, chocolate and raspberries --- yum!

time for breakfast!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bubble Rolls

We've had a longstanding tradition of having some kind of homemade sweet rolls with bacon for Christmas morning.

This year, we were celebrating at our daughter's house, so we did a recipe that came from her husband's mom.

These are real tasty, and so easy you don't have to wait until Christmas to do them!


24 ounces of frozen roll balls (about 18 rolls)
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 package butterscotch pudding (the small size, NOT INSTANT!)

How to:

The night before you want to eat these, put the frozen rolls in a bundt pan

Sprinkle the pudding mix over the frozen rolls

Melt sugar and butter together, pour over the rolls

Set the bundt pan on top of the refrigerator (or some other warm place) until morning

The next morning, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

Turn out onto serving tray as soon as they come out of the oven.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Bread Book

I got this book for Christmas from my daughter

in the past the bread making in this house has always been done by my husband, whose hands are much much stronger than mine to do kneading

but with this book, you don't knead

you mix up the dough

you let it rise -- and FALL! -- once

then you stick it in the refrigerator and use it in pieces for the next week or so

I was sceptical --yeast dough -- a whole week or more -- in the cold?


and it works -- you can go right ahead after that first rise and finish off a loaf, but it is actually BETTER if you stick in in the 'fridge

so far I've had 4 different kinds of bread out of this book, and I'm planning on making more

I'm seriously considering making pumpernickel, which I really like but has always seemed so incredibly difficult that I couldn't begin to do it at home

it's truly amazing what you can get from four little (and cheap!) ingredients --- flour, water, salt, yeast --- that's "bread on the hoof"

we haven't bought a loaf of store bread since I got the book -- a package of pita this week, but there's a recipe for those too, so I may not be buying those again either

I'll let you know how that pumpernickel comes out