Friday, September 28, 2012

Using Bread

I did a demo in the food pantry lobby today on using bread.  I stayed in the soup kitchen yesterday after cooking lunch and made a strata, which I then left in the walk-in cooler.  Unfortunately, there was no real way to heat it up, since the ovens were all in use today.  I had to serve it cold, which was still good, but not as good as it is hot--can't beat the gooey cheese!  Anyway, people liked it and several took a handout.  I put together a smaller pan to show people how to do it and I waited before pouring the egg and milk over it, since I had to wait for oven space.  I baked it and there was a guy who waited there for half an hour after going through the pantry so he could have some hot.  He liked his cold piece and wanted to try it hot. He asked if he could take some home to his wife and said he'd take the whole pan if he could.  By this time I'd been standing there for over 2 hours and there was hardly anyone left in the lobby.  One little girl wanted to try some, so I gave a piece to her, put the rest in containers and sent them home with the guy who wanted them--I figured he might as well have it, since he waited so patiently for the pan to be done!

I usually do these demos on Wednesdays, and I am not usually there at all on Fridays, so I met a bunch of new people--clients and volunteers.  One woman was working in the soup kitchen and she asked what I was doing, so I told her.  She said she had no idea that there were demos at MCHPP and that she does demos for her job.  I suggested she talk to Sue, the food pantry coordinator, which she did.  I told Sue that if this person wanted to take over for a while and do the next few demos, that would work out really well for me, since we are entering the time of year when I like to be hibernating at home with my tea, yarn, and music as much as I can.  I would not give up my Mondays at the food bank or my Thursdays in the soup kitchen--I love doing those things and I would miss them terribly if I was to stop.  And while I also have enjoyed doing the demos, I felt that it was something I could give up without missing it too much.  So as far as I know, there will be a new demo person.  I am glad they will continue because I think they are useful and I would not have stopped if there was not someone there to take over, but I am glad someone else will take over for a while.  Besides, the more ideas that get tossed around, the better for everyone!

I will copy and paste the handout I made for today's bread demo below and then go make a cup of tea!

Using Bread
Grease a baking pan or dish. Tear up some bread and place in single layer in bottom of greased pan. Top with finely chopped veggies, such as onion, pepper, broccoli, chard or spinach, zucchini or other summer squash. You can saute these in a little oil before adding, if you wish. Sprinkle with cheese. Beat eggs and add some milk (how many eggs and how much milk depends on how large your pan is—you will want to have everything almost covered with the egg/milk mixture and you want that to be a kind of pale yellow). Bake at 375 degrees until the sides are set and lightly browned. The center will still look a little loose. Top with a bit more cheese if you want and put back in oven just long enough for this to melt. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes or so until the center is set. Cut into squares and serve. Great hot, cold, or at room temperature. Makes great leftovers, too!

Sweet Bread Pudding (from
6 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional) or use dried fruit of your choice
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13x9 inch pan. Add berries or other fruit if desired. Use sweeter bread for this if you like—raisin or other fruit breads would be great in this. Try using bagels or raisin English muffins if that's what you've got lying around.
Cut bread into cubes or just tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl. Saute some onion and celery in a bit of oil or a combination of butter and oil. Pour vegetables over bread, add some chicken broth (or water in a pinch) and poultry seasoning to taste. You want the bread to be moist, but not really soaked to the point of being mush. Mix everything together well and dump into greased pan. Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes. Serve with chicken, turkey, pork chops, or fish. I have used this to stuff large whitefish and salmon, as well as chicken and turkey. You could place a layer of stuffing on the bottom of a baking dish and top with pieces of chicken or pork chops and bake everything together. To make the stuffing more hearty, omit the oil/butter, and brown the onion and celery along with ground Italian sausage (sweet or hot) or links with casings removed, and some ground beef (or use ground turkey and chicken or turkey Italian sausage, if you prefer). Add this mixture to the bread pieces in the bowl and proceed as above. With some vegetables on the side, this would be a meal by itself.
Other Ways of Using Bread:
I never buy bread crumbs. It is easy to simply grate bread and store the resulting crumbs in a bag in the freezer. Add some herbs if desired for seasoned bread crumbs. You may also be able to simply crumble sliced bread between your fingers and make bread crumbs that way—a great way to have the kinds help in the kitchen! Set out a cookie sheet, give them some bread slices, and ask them to crumble the bread over the cookie sheet. Add dried herbs if you want, transfer to a bag and freeze.
Croutonscube bread and place cubes in a bowl. Drizzle with oil, garlic powder, and dried herbs of your choice if the bread is plain. Toss the cubes around with your clean hands. Bake at 400 until the cubes are crisp. Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or zipper bag. Use in soups and salads or as a snack on their own (when my niece and nephews were small, we would buy lots of salad stuff when we visited and we had to buy extra croutons because they ate them like they were chips or something)
French toast is always an option for bread that needs using—you can make it and freeze it, too, so it can be ready to microwave on busy mornings. If you top with a fruit sauce instead of just syrup, it's a good meal. To make an easy fruit sauce, simply chop up some fresh (peeled or not, as you wish), frozen or canned fruit—or a combination of all three. Place into a pot and cook over medium-high heat—when it starts to bubble, turn it down to medium. Let it cook, stirring frequently until the fruit is thickened. You can add dried fruit and/or coconut as well, if you like. If you like things really sweet, add a little sugar, or add the juice from canned fruit (never throw this juice away—you can use it to cook oatmeal, use it in muffins—it can be frozen for later uses, too). Sprinkle a little cinnamon in the mixture and stir in if you want, or add a dash of vanilla or almond extract. All kinds of berries are great for this, as are apples, peaches, and pears. A very easy way to make a cranberry sauce/jam is to dump cranberries into a pot and use a cup (or less if you like things tart) of sugar per pound of cranberries (this would be ¾ cup sugar for the 12 ounce bag you get in the store) and add a little water—just about halfway up the level of cranberries. Mix everything together and let it come to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it bubble away for 15 or 20 minutes. Spoon into a jar and let cool—it will thicken as it cools. This is great on toast, french toast, pancakes, waffles, and stirred into plain oatmeal.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Soup! Yay!

This morning I woke up feeling like I really wanted to have a nice bowl of soup today.  It was cool overnight and we still have all our windows open, so in the 40 degree morning, soup seemed like just the thing.  In the late morning, I started filling my trusty 7-quart Crock Pot.  I threw in some green beans, carrots, potatoes, onion, a large bell pepper, an Asian eggplant, and some sliced hot turkey Italian sausage.  I got some chopped broccoli stalks out of the freezer and threw those in, too.  I added water and let it cook on high for a few hours.  Then I added chopped baby bok choy, chopped cabbage, chopped parsley, some crumbled dried oregano, crumbled dried thyme, garlic, the rest of the kidney beans I'd cooked the other day, and several chopped tomatoes.  By this time the crock was quite full, so I kept an eye on it for the last hour and a half of cooking time.  I cooked some brown rice and we had the soup ladled over that and topped with some shredded asiago cheese.  It was so good!  And because I made so much, we have leftovers for tomorrow--much appreciated, since Bill will be doing a 10-hour shift at work because one of his colleagues is starting her vacation, and I will be doing a crochet class in the evening.  I also have enough to put some in the freezer--I expect this to come in very handy for those times I have a soup craving.  I almost never have canned soup in the house, so if I have soup in the freezer, I can just take it out and heat it up when I want it.  And Bill can take a container to work to keep in the freezer there--handy for those weekend dinners. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Farm Nachos and Stuff

We went to the farm a while ago--we should have two or three pick-ups left depending on what the weather does.  There were some flowers and herbs still in the U-pick field.  I got some some flowers and herbs-- parsley, dill, basil (it had been touched by frost but I managed to get enough for another batch of pesto for the freezer), rosemary, mint, and cilantro.  Yesterday I brought home oregano from the food bank.  I have bunches of herbs hanging upside down to dry on my kitchen window blind.  It sure smells good!  as I was putting stuff away, I discovered that I still had baby bok choy from last pick-up in the fridge, along with some kind of mystery green leafy stuff that I brought home from the food pantry last week.  No one knew what it was, but we tasted it and it was good, so I figured I could cook it or freeze it.  Instead, I forgot about it!  Sigh.  I will be gone for most of tomorrow, so Thursday I will have to get stuff into the freezer.  I have some green beans, too. Tonight we are having nachos.  The other night I had both Crock-Pots going--chicken in the smaller one and beans in the bigger one.  Today I made myself a pot of chili with veggies in it (I'm the only one who eats it, so it wasn't a huge pot, but enough for several days).  I shredded the chicken and added it to some onion, chili pepper and red pepper that I had cooked in olive oil, and then added chili powder and garlic.  I made chips by crisping extra thin corn tortillas, so we will have those topped with the chicken, some chopped heirloom tomato, cilantro, and jalapeno from the farm, and some chopped onion, along with salsa, guacamole, and shredded cheese.  Yum!

I also brought home a salad mix--there was arugula, hot mustard, lettuce mix, and tatsoi to mix and match, so I just put some of each in the bag.  I have more baby bok choy, a head of cabbage, hot peppers, a green bell pepper, some potatoes, and several tomatoes.  The other day I made some sweet and spicy cucumber slices from some cucumbers that Bill's co-worker gave him and I still have a couple of cukes left.  So with all the greens and stuff, I see a few salads in my near future.  That's good.  I shall enjoy the tail end of salad season--we saw branches full of red leaves on our way to the farm.  Lots of green, too, but more and more red.  I think summer might be just about over.  Yay!  My little freezer is packed with veggies and is ready for soup season!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Advance Cooking

I cooked in the soup kitchen yesterday and at the end of the lunch service, there were still some veggies left in the dining room.  There is a bench along one wall of the dining room where food is placed for people to take--anyone who comes can take the food and there is no income requirement.  The food might consist of fruit and vegetables from a local farm or store, pre-made items from Bowdoin College or a local restaurant, sandwiches and other packaged food from the local store, or whatever else either needs using or is available in abundance.  If there is food left at the end of the lunch service, we are free to take what we want.  Yesterday there were a lot of tomatoes, so most of us kitchen volunteers took some, myself included.  I used a couple last night with supper, but still had four left.  I also had a small bunch of chard in the fridge that I decided to use instead of freezing.  So I made a cream sauce with onions, an orange bell pepper, some peas I had in the freezer from a local farm, the tomatoes, and the torn chard leaves.  We will have this tonight with rice and salmon.
Tomorrow I will be teaching a crochet class up the street from where Bill works, so after my class I will go down there and hang out with him until he's done.  We will either bring salmon salad made with leftover fish or leftover rice and cream sauce for supper.  What we don't bring for supper, we will have for lunch :-)  I have a big batch of brown rice cooking as I type, so later on all I will have to do is throw the salmon into the oven.  Yay!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mittens in September!

Today I got to get out my wool/mohair mittens and wear them!  Yay! 
Bill and I went to hand out food at the monthly food mobile at MidCoast Hunger Prevention and once again we worked the meat station.  The truck's contents are different every month--this time there were lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and ears of corn on the other side of the truck, and some bagged salad.  Another table had cereal and milk and some other non-perishables, and still others had breads and desserts. I figured we'd be doing the meat this time, so I came prepared with my mittens, since it all shows up frozen.  The past couple of months have been much warmer than today, so I thought I might need them.  Turned out to be a good decision because this month was very different than any I had seen--we got almost all deli stuff.  Bill opened box after box with these huge slabs of ham, chicken, turkey, roast beef, corned beef, hard salami, and bologna--it was all the stuff you see in the deli case that they grab to slice for you.  We even had several 13 pound boiled hams--was great for the family of 9 that came through!  We had a few smaller items--lots of bacon--so we gave people a choice between one large slab or two smaller things.  The bacon went fast, even though we probably had a couple dozen packages.  Moving around large frozen hunks of deli meat made my fingertips a bit cold, so I was glad to have my mittens--and glad that I got to preview the most wonderful time of the year, when I will be swathed in wool, mohair, and alpaca from head to feet!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

BBQ and Femwiches

I cooked in the soup kitchen this morning.  I had 40 pounds of ground beef to work with and I had decided last week to make sloppy joes.  The last time I made sloppy joes in the soup kitchen was the first day I cooked.  The soup kitchen coordinator told me it was good and I shrugged and said, "It was manwich.  I didn't do much."  She replied that "manwich" wasn't really accurate since I was the one cooking, so I said maybe we could call them "shewiches."  But she thought that had a kind of evil ring to it, so we left it at that.  When I was leaving that day, she told me that one of the other women in the office had come up with the term "femwich" and we all liked that.  So today I made femwiches for 157 people.  There was very little sloppy joe sauce, so instead of using that, I used plain tomato sauce and added herbs that were harvested and dried last week from the Common Good Garden--a volunteer effort to grow food for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.  I browned the ground beef with onions and bell peppers, added garlic and the herbs, drained it, and added the sauce.  Then the pans went into the oven.  People raved about the sauce.  We had some beautiful carrots, too, that were either from the garden or a local farm.  I just boiled those, since they were so fresh and people loved them, too.  We rounded the plates off with cantaloupe slices.  It was hot in that kitchen but I still enjoyed myself immensely.
   That was quite enough cooking for one day and happily, supper tonight was already done.  We barbecued last night and so had leftovers. 

I heated up some potato/cauliflower packets (cauliflower, thinly sliced potatoes, onion, a clove of garlic for each packet, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese bundled in foil and cooked as the coals were winding down) and some grilled chicken breast, which we had on bread with sliced tomato, onion, and grilled cubanelle pepper. 
More burgers, chicken, and cauliflower/potato packets for tomorrow!  Yay!