Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Can You Do With... Leftover Rice?

Make "Faux-sotto": saute onions in olive oil, deglaze with white wine. Add chicken stock and leftover rice. Stir like crazy until rice looks creamy. Add anything else you like in your risotto -- peas, mushrooms, cheese, greens, herbs, crispy bacon, cream, etc. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Use it as a binder or filler in meatballs, meatloaf, fish croquettes, etc.

Make rice patties: add a little flour and an egg or two, plus any shredded veg you like (onion, zucchini, carrot, sweet peppers/capsicums), salt and pepper and any seasonings you like. Fry in a bit of olive oil and serve on a salad or with soup.

Freeze it! Rice freezes beautifully, and reheats in the microwave in seconds.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Can You Do With... Stale Bread?

Make bread crumbs. Store in the freezer. I ALWAYS have breadcrumbs on hand, and I use them for a million things.

Make croutons.

Make french toast.

Toast it and pour gravy, chicken broth or soup over it.

Make a sweet or savory bread pudding or a breakfast casserole.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Hey, y'all! I was just making some pickles yesterday and thought of you!

I love canning, but that love does NOT extend to canning pickles.* Instead, I love to make refrigerator pickles, which couldn't be easier or more yummy. The basics are simple: you make a quick brine, add seasonings, and put sliced vegetables (which are sometimes blanched) into the brine. Then refrigerate overnight, and voila! Pickles!

The pickles I made yesterday went a little something like this (all measurements estimated -- this ain't rocket science, y'all):

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
pinch red pepper flakes
few grinds of black pepper

1 large (seriously massive) English cucumber, sliced thinly
1 large carrot, sliced thinly
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced lengthwise a couple times

Throw all that together in a jar. Give the brine a taste -- it should be tangy but not elicit a "whooo." Adjust seasonings, remembering that the spices will become stronger as they steep in the brine. Let it all sit overnight, and then nibble away.

Of course, just about any firm-textured vegetable will work for this: blanched cauliflower, green or wax beans, pearl onions, sweet peppers, roasted beets, etc. Beet pickles should certainly include much more sugar.

It's a frugal way to deal with a surplus of veggies because it extends the life of that veggie, and it's also MUCH cheaper than your average store-bought condiment. Great accompaniment to a simple dinner of bread and cold meat. Mmmm...

*Notable exceptions to this rule include bread-and-butter pickles and cinnamon pickles, which hold up well to canning. Hmmm... those would be good tutorial posts for my mom to do, since I've never made either on my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ANOTHER Bread Recipe -- Round Loaf Herb Bread

Seriously, when there are bread recipes like this, why would you ever be tempted to buy store-bought bread? I've already written a love letter to my favorite ever cookbook, "More-With-Less;" my adoration for it is pretty well-known among my friends. So when I got a baking bug but hit a wall in my "Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking," I turned to the trusty, earthy, frugal goodness of MWL. Here's what I found:

Round Loaf Herb Bread (adapted from the divine "More-With-Less Cookbook" by yours truly)

Dissolve 2 packets of active dry yeast (or 5 teaspoons, or 1 tablespoon of instant yeast) in 1/2 cup warm water.

Meanwhile, saute in a small skillet until golden brown:
  • 1/4 c. cooking oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 3 cloves roasted garlic, chopped)

Add to yeast mixture:
  • 1 can evaporated milk OR 1 1/2 c. milk plus 1/2 c. powdered milk
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 t. dried dill
  • 1/4 t. dried thyme
  • onion mixture

Stir in:
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur because it's very finely ground)

Knead in:
2 - 3 c. additional whole wheat flour, or until mixture is smooth and only slightly tacky, then knead for about 5 minutes. Shape into a round, place in a greased bowl (flip it over so the whole lump of dough gets oiled), cover with a damp towel and let rise about an hour or until it's doubled in volume.

Turn out of the bowl, divide in half, gently shape each half into rounds. Line a sheet pan with parchment and sprinkle parchment with cornmeal. Place each round loaf onto parchment, cover all with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Allow at least 20 minutes for your oven to preheat, regardless of when it says it's preheated!

When loaves are doubled, get about 1/4 cup of water in a cup, put the bread in the oven, and toss the water on the oven floor (unless you have a gas oven -- I don't know if you can safely do this with gas). IMMEDIATELY close the oven door or you'll get a face full of steam! (The steam created by the water helps with two things: the "spring" or initial oven rise of the dough, and the crust -- your loaf will definitely have a sturdier crust this way. Yum!)

Bake 30-45 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when you thump it. Let cool slightly before slicing, if you can bear it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Best. Pancakes. Ever.

So I got my favorite cookbook back from some friends a while back. What's my favorite cookbook, you ask? It's called "More-With-Less" and it's a cookbook compiled from the recipe books of hundreds of Mennonite missionaries around the world. I KNOW, right? It HAS to be the best cookbook in the WORLD!

I grew up with the recipes from this book -- my mom has the first edition from 1976, and that sucker is falling apart, stained, dog-eared, and loved. It's a gold mine of that delicious German-Mennonite home cooking, AND of ethnic recipes from around the world. Kedgeree, chapatis, nasi goreng, moussaka, yakisoba, empanadas, West African peanut stew... right on down to grits casserole, fried chicken, corn fritters, ham and bean soup, shoofly pie, and coleslaw.

And it's not just a cookbook, it's a cooking-philosophy book. It was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee "in response to world food needs." It gives super-practical advice for simplifying our diets, eating less meat, buying unprocessed foods, gardening, becoming adept at traditional cookery, serving guests without breaking the bank, and so much more.

Basically, it's an amazing resource. So when I wanted a kind of sweet breakfast, I flipped through the "Yeast and Quick Breads" section and found Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes. Here's my version:

Blend together in the blender:
1 cup milk
2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt
2 tablespoons cool butter
1 egg

Stir together:
3/4 cup King Arthur whole wheat flour (my favorite brand)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in blender. Blend just until barely mixed, then add:
1 small apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 t. apple pie spice

Pulse 2 or 3 times. Cook on a heated griddle and serve with butter and honey, syrup, or brown sugar syrup. Devour.

Simple, right? You betcha. I cannot over-emphasize what a great cookbook More-With-Less is. You can easily find them used on Amazon and other used bookstores. If you're trying to eat healthily and responsibly while saving money, it's the perfect resource.