6 ideas for leftover bread

At this time of year, I don’t know about you, but I seem to gravitate towards bread sticks and French baguettes. They scream lazy SUMMER lunches or light evening meals; last minute picnics and no dip platter is complete without a few lightly toasted crostini or sticks. Whether neatly sliced or stuffed with fresh produce, they are the perfect accompaniment to many a summer meal.

Left over bread

But what to do with the leftovers? I somehow end up with ends, slices or whole loves where I’ve perhaps bought a bit too much and because they only stay fresh for about 24 hours, quite a lot can go to waste.

As I can’t be the only one faced with this dilemma, I’ve decided to share a few of my ideas about what to do with the leftovers.

Assuming you have sufficient freezer space, it’s always an option to pack them straight into the freezer and deal with them later, but once thawed, you do need to use them all in one go as they can’t be re-frozen. If you have the time, I would suggest dealing with them before you freeze them as that way, they’re already prepared and you have a selection to choose from when you really need them.

  1. Croutons:
    Slice and chop the bread into little squares, about 1 – 2 cm square. Place them into a plastic bag that seals, taking care to remove as much of the air as possible and pop them into the freezer. When you want to use them, leave them to defrost on the bench top.To “cook”: switch on the oven grill and prepare an oven tray and spread the croutons out. Season them with salt and freshly ground pepper plus a little fresh herbs or spice to add some “zing”. Sprinkle with a little olive oil so coated but not wet/soggy.  Place the tray into the oven and watch it like a hawk! Do not move or they will burn in the split second you turn away. When lightly golden, remove the tray from the oven and turn the croutons using a spatula. Return the tray to the oven for a few second more to colour the other side. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Add to salads as a crunchy garnish.
  2. Crumbs:
    Probably the easiest idea is to chop or tear into bits and place into a food processor for a few seconds, reducing the bread to find crumbs. This can also be frozen in an air-tight container or bag and defrosted on the bench-top. Use to coat chicken or fish or add to meat balls or fish cakes for some extra bulk.
  3. Slices:
    Slice into thick-ish slices and freeze. Slices can be removed individually as needed and are great for making light meals like oven toasted cheese. Get adventurous and add tomato, garlic, ham or chocolate and grill in the oven – a favourite in our home. They also work well on soups like French Onion or as side accompaniments – a little bit fancier than ordinary everyday slices!
  4. Bread and Butter Pudding:
    An old favourite and very out of vogue at the moment, but kids love it and it takes only minutes to prepare. Once defrosted, lather the slices in the jam of your choice, I love using Apricot or Raspberry. Nutella chocolate spread also works a treat! Sprinkle a few raisins or blueberries throughout or leave them out completely, do what works for you. Pour over a little full cream, sufficient to soak most of the bread, or use milk if concerned about your weight, but cream is by far the best I think. Drizzle a little honey over the top or sift over icing sugar or brown sugar – makes a semi-crunchy crust and bake in the oven at about 180°C until cooked through, most of the sauce has been absorbed and the top is golden and a little crunchy. Enjoy with a dollop of custard – who knew stale bread could taste so good?
  5. Garlic bread:
    Keep the bread loaf whole and slice thickly, taking care NOT to slice all the way through. You want to have one complete loaf that can be wrapped up at the end but it isn’t a huge problem if you’ve been a bit too enthusiastic and sliced it into bits. Soften butter until easily spreadable and add a little chopped garlic and fresh herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and spread thickly between the slices. Wrap the loaf in tin foil and either pop straight into the oven to heat up or warm on the braai grid. Or, put the wrapped loaf into the freezer to be used at a later date. No need to thaw fully before reheating, just leave it in the oven a few minutes longer until soft to the touch – be careful not to burn on the hot tin foil.
  6. Feed the ducks:
    OK, so you need to have or be close to ducks or geese in order to make this one work, but we’re lucky enough to live a few hundred metres away from a lake which is home to Pukekos, Seagulls, Swans and Ducks – oh, and don’t forget the Eels! It’s always fun to sit on the bank and break the bread into small pieces and feed the local population. They don’t care if it’s stale as they squawk, flap and splash to get to the treats. A great family activity which costs nothing.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other uses, but these are my  favourites. Never throw left over bread away again. Feel free to share your ideas and I’ll look forward to trying them too.

Enjoy!
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Festive Christmas Log

Only one more sleep until Christmas! Looking for that last minute easy solution to a Christmas Pudding? This is it! I love this time of year but the older I get, there always seems to be so much to do and the Magic of Christmas can get lost among the To Do lists, year end school and sporting events, holiday programmes, meal planning, gift buying and wrapping…wow, tiring just writing that!

Festive Christmas LogLast night as I lay in bed going over the events of the day and thinking about what still needs to be done, I found myself reminiscing about Christmases at my Gran’s house in the beautiful city of Port Elizabeth. My paternal Grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. She brought 6 children into this world, worked hard, taught Speech & Drama and generally ruled with an iron fist – all 5ft of her, if that.

I remember being a little scared of her when I was very young, but Christmases were always magical, especially when the whole family got together. Always a real tree sparkling with multi coloured lights and making the house smell like Christmas. These were the days when decorations, streamers and all manner of twirling shapes were draped in patterns from the ceiling. Adding my Gran’s brother’s family, as well as my Grandpa’s three sisters and their families, not to mention all the Grandchildren and cousins, Christmases could probably have looked more like a riot to an outsider, but tables were set up alongside one another, everyone brought food – the tables groaned under the weight of the food – and we ate, laughed, argued, discussed, rested, ate some more after which all the kids moved across the road to the park while the adults tidied up and rested some more. At one such gathering we took a photo of all the Grandchildren and I think there were 17 of us there that day.

Sadly, those days are long gone with the majority of the older generation having passed on and even a few of the younger generation no longer with us. Our family seems to have moved all around the world so these gatherings don’t happen anymore quite like they used to, but each generation takes a piece of their history and experience and passes it on to their own families.

Since moving to New Zealand, our Christmases have been much quieter, more relaxed affairs, more often than not opening our home and hearts to new friends, but the one thing we don’t compromise on is a real Christmas Tree. My family “surprise” me with a specially chosen tree each year and we spend an afternoon decorating it beautifully. The smell, the lights, the glass coloured decorations always remind me of my Gran and the privilege and pleasure of happy childhood memories. I think she would have liked this Christmas Log recipe too, glace cherries are another reminder of her so here’s to you Gran. A wonderful example of a strong, loving, energetic slightly eccentric lady. I wish I’d made the time to learn more about your cooking and baking while I had the chance. xxx

I copied this recipe from a magazine a few years ago and although the recipe calls for Amaretto liqueur, feel free to substitute with an Irish Cream to give it a “softer” flavour or leave the alcohol out completely.

It literally comes together in under 10 minutes and then you leave it in the fridge overnight to set.  Ice with a ganache or simply smear a good helping of melted chocolate over the top.  Allow that to set and slice before serving

Another simple and delicious Festive treat.

ingredients:
100 g butter, cubed
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup dark chocolate melts
1 tsp Amaretto liqueur (optional)
75 g crushed Amaretti biscuits (shortbread work well as a replacement)
75 g white chocolate drops
1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup raisins
½ cup whole cherries
70 g hazelnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Icing: 1 cup dark chocolate melts

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the butter, condenses milk and ½ cup chocolate into a bowl in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second intervals, stirring well (or just use the Melting Chocolate setting if your microwave has one – mine does, yay!)
  3. Allow to cool slightly and add the remaining ingredients, mixing well to combine.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a log shape ± 10 cm x 30 cm and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Melt the remaining chocolate and ice the log. Allow that to set before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!

 

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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Sauce

As far as Christmas goes, I still think home-made gifts are the best. None of us really has a fortune to spend on gifts and to be honest, are they truly appreciated? You might say that home-made presents may not be appreciated either, but for me, personally, I would far prefer something that someone has taken the time and energy to produce than a re-gift or looks like it was left over from a garage sale!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Sauce

Fudge, cookies, recipes-in-a-jar, candy – they’re all easy to whip up and you’d be surprised by how a little goes a long way. Last year I was given a copy of Annabel Langbein’s “A free range life”, her Summer must-have recipe book. It is stuffed with recipes and pictures that make your mouth water. One of these was a chocolate sauce which can be prepared in 3 minutes and cooked in 5 – honestly, it will take you longer to decide what to buy for someone and wrap it than preparing this delectable gift from scratch. Trust me, it’s delicious. I made so much of it I had to share a few bottles with friends and as I’ve received no negative feedback, I’m taking that as confirmation of just how good it really is. The only downside is that I can’t tell you what it’s shelf life is. It’s always gobbled up long before the ingredients have a chance to go off.

Another plus for  me is that it immediately reminded me of a chocolate sauce you used to be able to buy in South Africa when I was a child. It is still quite possibly available, but I haven’t seen it in years and that could be because I’m halfway round the world in another country, but a glorious childhood memory all the same. The kind where you (well, me if I’m being honest) used to sneak to the fridge, open the lid and ooze the delicious thick black liquid straight into my mouth – eeek! Hope my parents don’t read this now! The recipe as listed below makes about 1½ cups but you can double or triple it and make as much as you like.

ingredients:
2 Tbsp cornflour
3 Tbsp cold water
4 Tbsp cocoa
1 cup sugar
½ cup boiling water
2 Tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Combine the cornflour and cold water in a pot or microwave-proof bowl and stir.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring constantly, or microwave for 5 minutes, stirring every minute (I just do it on the stove as can’t be bothered to keep stopping the microwave).
  3. While still hot, pour into sterlilised bottles and seal with lids.
  4. Please don’t touch the glass bottle as it will burn you!
  5. Once cool, decorate the bottle or cover the lid in coloured paper or material and share with those you love.

Enjoy!

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Liebster Award – to do or not to do…

Last weekend I was very kindly nominated for a Liebster Award, well, not me personally, but my blog.  I have been blogging for a year and a half now and my blog is a little like a journal, sometimes personal but most times just a way of sharing my favourite recipes with people who love food, family and friends.

Liebster Award

As I work 5 days a week and am a busy mom and homemaker, blogging is a hobby I wish I could spend more time on but sadly, a weekly entry is about all I get to so I was really flattered when I received this nomination from a fellow blogger. As I had never heard of the Liebster Award, I set about trying to learn more. My initial reaction, after being surprised, was a feeling of awkwardness. Did I really want to accept this award? Did I really deserve it? Is it something I want to share on my page? And then I was horrified by my feelings and felt guilty about not being immediately overjoyed. Turns out the Award is passed on from blogger to blogger, creating awareness and presence for new blogs to be able to find new audience and showing appreciation for the time and effort they put into their blogs. So what to do…? Did I really want a list of questions on my blog about me that  may or may not be of any interest to anyone happening upon my blog or my very kind and faithful readers? Would it “cheapen” this lovely site with all it’s beautiful recipe photos or would it actually enhance it and help to spread the word.

How can something so kind and generous from a complete stranger cause me such stress? Probably cos I’ve had one of those weeks where even my boss said yesterday that it felt like there could possibly be hidden cameras in our office and we were just unknowing participants on some sort of game show where we were being pushed to our absolute limits and the prize would go to the one who managed to fall apart completely in a state of stressed out self-combustion. And then today, being Friday, I decided to plaster a smile on my face, breathe deeply and face whatever the Universe chose to throw at me with diplomacy and grace – until I got into my car ready to set off for school drop-offs and then on to work – only to have the battery be completely dead so you know what I did? I burst into tears and sat in the driver’s seat and sobbed.

A helpful neighbour, an unexpected and expensive battery purchase and an arrival at work an hour late only to find the problem at work wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, I decided to spend a few peaceful moments this afternoon trying to decide about my Liebster Award.

When all else fails, turn to Google, where I happened upon a fellow blogger who, to my absolute delight, felt exactly the same as me! I wasn’t alone! And then I read the comments and realised there were others in our anti-Liebster Award secret society. Well, not “anti” as it is a great honour and I thank my nominator from the bottom of my heart for wanting to promote my pet project, but I’ve found the strength to decide that I won’t be passing it on. I don’t want to list the questions on my blog as my blog is all about scrumptious food and sharing recipes with friends.

So to the lovely Karen from Mummydoit, I thank you most sincerely from the bottom of my heart for your nomination, but if I am to stay true to my feelings and the purpose of my blog, albeit still with a touch of “the guilts”, I have to say that I won’t be passing on the award.

To Meredith from Perfection Pending, I thank you for your frankness and honesty, and humour I could so easily understand – I get you – as it gave me the courage to admit I feel exactly the same way as you: humbled and grateful for the nomination, but with a hint of uncomfortable-ness. And yes Grammer Whizzes, I know that isn’t even a word, but it works for me on this day of days, forgive me.

And I have a beeeeooootifulll chocolate sauce recipe to share with you in the next day or so – a perfect Christmas gift – it is one of Annabel Langbein’s recipes and reminds me of the chocolate sauce of my youth.

Enjoy!

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Christmas Nutty Fruit Slice

As a parent, it’s hard watching your children grow up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the most wonderful and rewarding adventures many of us will have the privilege to participate in, but standing by while watching them learn life’s lessons is tough.

Christmas Nutty Fruit Slice

This week one of my son’s friends tricked him into doing something that affected a third party, then reported what my son had done to the third party and then lied about his part in it to class friends and his teacher. My poor child became the centre of a situation he had not created, nor asked for and certainly didn’t deserve, but he has learned a valuable lesson about trusting people and making wise decisions.

Eventually the other child admitted his deception and was made to apologise to both parties so in their little world everything is once more hunky-dory and they’re all friends again, but we’ve had some very serious discussions in our home about this and what lessons need to be learned so something like this can’t happen again.

Standing on the sidelines and watching, guiding, advising and most of all, loving unconditionally humbles me every day. I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but then, who does? It’s tough when the instinct to protect is so strong and every cell in your body wants to jump in and solve the problems for them but that is the worst thing to do. Open honest communication and unconditional support and love is what’s needed. We all trust our children and want to believe the best of them, so it’s hard knowing they’ve been hurt, embarrassed, annoyed or learned first hand about life’s harsh disappointments. But isn’t that what shapes us as human beings and gives us wisdom and experience?

I was really proud of him because he consistently told the truth, to me, to his teacher, to the friend that had been wronged. The following day I stood with my son and his teacher while he faced the poor child who had unknowingly been involved due to the prankster and I delighted in his strength and courage – apologising to another person is not easy, looking someone in the eye and asking for forgiveness takes courage. I am so very, very blessed!

It’s been a long term, an even longer year and we’re all ready for our Christmas holidays and celebrations. I personally can’t wait to have a few weeks off work so I can spoil myself with time in the kitchen and potter around with my recipe books once again. This delicious Christmas slice recipe comes from a magazine I bought a few years ago and it’s a wonderful festive standby. If a Christmas cake seems like too much hassle don’t worry, you can whip this up in under an hour and it makes a perfect gift, sliced into squares and packed carefully into a beautiful tin.

ingredients:
2 cups dried mixed fruit
410 g jar/bag fruit mince
125 g butter, chopped
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
100 g dark chocolate bits
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup self-raising flour
1 cup coarsely chopped Brazil nuts

  1. Place the dried fruit, fruit mince, butter, sugar, zest and juice in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan forced. Lightly grease a 30 x 20 cm (base measurement) and line with baking paper, extending the paper over the long sides to be used as handles.
  3. Stir the chocolate and egg into the fruit mixture. Sift the flours over the mixture and stir to combine. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and top with the nuts.
  4. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, testing with a skewer or tooth pick from about 40 minutes onwards to see it it comes out clean.
  5. Leave to cool in the pan, then lift out onto a board and slice.  You can dust with a little icing sugar if you like to give it a “snowy” effect, but it isn’t necessary.

Enjoy!

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