Pineapple-Coconut Bread Pudding 
1 (20-oz) can crushed pineapple
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 c. cream or coconut cream*
½ tsp. salt, divided
1 loaf stale French bread, cut in 1" cubes, or a pound of other bread, cubed
1/2 tsp. cardamom
3-4 eggs 
1 c. whole milk or coconut milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. shredded coconut

If your bread isn't already stale and dry, put the bread cubes in the oven at 375 until they're dried out.  
Make a caramel sauce- combine 2 Tbsp. juice from the canned pineapple with 1/2 c. sugar in a saucepan.  Heat on high until brown, stirring often.  Add 3/4 c. cream; stir until the caramel chunk has dissolved.  Add 1/4 tsp. salt.  Pour about half of this into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.  Save the rest.
Mix together bread, undrained pineapple and cardamom.  Dump into a 9x13 pan.  Using the same bowl as before, beat the eggs, then stir in 1/4 c. sugar, the remaining cream, milk, vanilla, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Mix until  sugar dissolves.  Pour all of this over the bread and let sit for 5-20 minutes to soak.  Sprinkle the coconut over the top.                                          

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until center is set.  Serve warm, with a little of the remaining caramel sauce drizzled on top.

*If you don't have cream, use milk instead, for a total of 3 cups.  Also melt 1/4 c. butter and beat it in with the eggs.


Most salads like this use so much dressing that there's a pool of it at the bottom of the bowl.  And the dressing is about all you taste.  
Not this one.  There's enough oil in the salad to help you unlock those fat-soluble vitamins; both cabbage and cashews are very high in Vitamin K.  And you can actually taste the cabbage, in a way that accents only its best features.  

If you have any left over, even though the noodles will not stay crunchy by the next day, the cabbage does.

Cabbage Ramen Salad        Serves 4-6.  Or two who really, really like it.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 package Ramen noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger OR 1 1/2 tsp. chopped crystallized ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1 small cabbage, shredded, OR a 14-16 oz package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1/2 c. cashews, optional

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet on high heat.  Break the Ramen noodles into small pieces and add to the hot oil.  (You won't need the flavor packet for this recipe.)  Stir dry noodles constantly for about 2 minutes, until some of the noodles start turning a toasty brown.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, honey/sugar, salt, pepper, and ginger. Stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage or coleslaw mix, green onions, turkey/chicken, and cashews.  Stir thoroughly, until no puddle of dressing remains on the bowl's bottom.  Serve right away for the crunchiest noodles.  

The sauce in this filling is from my great-grandmother, who I hear was an excellent cook. She lived in the ‘Mormon’ colonies in Mexico, left in 1912 to avoid Pancho Villa and other warring factions, returned after the Revolution, and earned money through millinery (making hats) and sewing.  Her last few years were in Arizona, where she cooked and sewed at the LDS Mesa temple.   This recipe was her enchilada sauce, only she used 3 cups of water and 3 Tbsp. chili powder when using it over enchiladas, since more liquid is needed for those.  

These are gluten-free if you use cornstarch and not flour in the filling.  Using shredded meat instead of burger makes these a little more authentic, but ground meat is awfully convenient.  Unless you happen to have some leftover roast available to shred.

Individual Tamale Pies 
Makes 12 muffin-sized ones, or can be made into a 9" pie pan

2 c. masa harina  (OR use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 c. flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil or other fat (oil, butter, lard, etc)
about 3/4 to 1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all together to form a moderately thick dough.  Grease 12 muffin cups.  Shape a ball a little bigger than a ping pong ball (3 Tbsp. dough), then press dough in a muffin cup, making a layer about 1/4"- 3/8" thick.  Repeat until finished.  Set aside.  

2 cups cooked burger or shredded beef, pork, or chicken
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. butter, optional
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour

 Mix together the meat, tomato sauce, butter, salt, sugar, and chili powder, and bring to a boil.  Stir the cornstarch or flour into 1-2 Tbsp. water,  to form a slurry.  Gradually mix the slurry into the boiling mixture, cook and stir until thickened, about a minute.  Taste it and add a little more salt if you like.

Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into each of the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is set and the filling just starts to bubble around the edges.  Let sit for a couple minutes, then remove them by placing an upside-down cookie sheet on top, then flipping the whole thing upside down (see slideshow below).  

Serve with plain or with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, or anything else that sounds good.

A quick way to have tender, barbecue pulled beef is to start by having a roast a day or two before.  

On Sunday, I cooked a nearly 4-pound roast.  Once it was done, and before my family could dive into it, I cut it in half.  The first half was carved into slices for dinner.  The second half went in the fridge for another day. I used some storebought BBQ sauce this time, but if you'd like to get a recipe for a simple from-scratch sauce, see Mom's Barbecue Sauce.

Today's version was served over fresh rosemary bread made with a little bit of orange marmalade mixed in.  That was a delicious combination- the bread, rosemary, orange, and barbecue!

Weeknight BBQ Beef

1 1/2- 2 lbs. cooked roast (you can use burger if you don't mind a different texture)
1 cup water
1 cup bottled barbecue sauce*

Combine in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid; simmer 30 minutes or until tender.  Shred meat using two forks.  The meat will absorb more of the liquid as it cools some; if it's too thick, add more water; if too thin, simmer a few minutes with the lid off to let water evaporate.

That's it!

*For a less sweet sauce, use 1/2 c. plain tomato sauce and 1/2 c. bottled BBQ sauce 

You know how they say "great minds think alike"?   Three neighbors gave me cheeseballs as a Christmas gift.  One of them (Juliette's) was so good I made a batch of Juliette's Green Chili Cheese Ball to give out (and eat too).  The result was that I had a tad too much cheeseball in the fridge.  Granted, it will last a couple weeks if wrapped well- 

but I also had some leftover smashed potatoes.

And the two leftovers turned out to make a beautiful couple.  What's a cheeseball?  Cream cheese, shredded cheese, seasonings... all stuff that goes well with potatoes.

Maybe you'll find a cheeseball on clearance at the grocery store, or maybe get handed the leftovers at a party, or maybe you'll make one...

At any rate, here's a new favorite side dish.  I cooked some leftover-from New-Year's-Eve sliced summer sausage to go along with it, and served with a salad and sliced apples.  I'd even eat it as a main dish; we often cook meatless meals.  (It's cheaper.  And probably healthier.)

Leftover Cheese Ball Potatoes
4-6 cups mashed potatoes
1/2 cup (4 oz) leftover cheese ball
2 eggs (these make the casserole puff as it cooks, plus adds protein)

Mash everything together and spread in an 8x8 pan.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
OR, to make it faster, reheat the mashed potatoes in the microwave before adding everything, bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then move it to the top rack in the oven.  Broil for 2-4 minutes (check at two minutes!!), until browned on top.
About six years ago I discovered my boys had a vocabulary problem.  They were using one word to describe everything that tasted good: 'heavenly'.
This bothered me for two reasons-  one, I'm sure heaven is much better than the best food, and two, they weren't expanding their vocabulary.  This was a perfect time.  So we pulled out a thesaurus and looked up 'delicious' to come up with a new word to use.  'Toothsome' had them rolling on the floor laughing, so that became the new favorite.  
I've discouraged them using 'heavenly' very often- but I'll tell you, that was the first word that popped into my head (I didn't say it!) when the first spoonful of moist, custardy, caramel-y, pumpkin dessert hit my tastebuds.  

My apologies to Heaven.

This is a modified version of Caramel Bread Pudding.  (The link has other ways of using up stale bread, too.)  The spices in this play a supporting role to the pumpkin flavor: just enough there to help you notice the pumpkin, not the spice.  If you want to taste the cinnamon, double or triple the amount here.

Caramel Pumpkin Bread Pudding- fills a 9x13 pan

15 slices good-quality white bread, cut into 1” pieces (about 16 cups or 20-24 ounces)- baked until crisp (about 10 minutes at 450 degrees)
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
¼ c. honey or corn syrup  
5 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 1/2 c. half-and-half, or use the last ½ cup evaporated milk from your can (above); use whole milk for the remaining 2 cups here.   
5 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon  OR 2 tiny drops cinnamon essential oil
1/4 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 tiny drop clove essential oil
1/2 c. toasted nuts, optional

Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan on medium-high heat.  Stir about 4 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.  Remove from heat and stir in cream or evaporated milk, corn syrup, and 2 tsp. vanilla.  Pour one cup of this caramel into a greased 9x13 pan.  

Set aside one more cup of caramel, to use as topping later.  

To the remaining caramel, add the half-and-half (or mixture of evaporated milk and whole milk).  Beat the eggs together, then whisk in pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves.  Whisk in the half-and-half mixture.  Add remaining vanilla.  Fold in the bread, and let sit until soaked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Put bread mixture into the 9x13 pan, bake about 40-45 minutes, until the top is crisp and the custard is barely set.  Sprinkle with toasted nuts.  Serve warm, with the reserved cup of caramel drizzled on top.
If you're making homemade bread, you're bound to have a few crumbs.  Most of the crumbs come from slicing the bread, but there are always a few in the bottom of the empty bread bags, too.

It's common to just shake them into the sink or the garbage, but is there anything else!

Oh, yeah.

Since they're already dry, they don't spoil if kept fairly airtight.  I scoop them into a plastic container with a lid and save up until there's enough to do something with them.

Add to hamburger to extend it a bit
Use in  Meatballs
or Zucchini Cakes
coating for Chicken Nuggets

You can even use them as a substitute for oats or flour in recipes- 
1/2 c. crumbs = 1/2 c. rolled oats, 
1/2 c. crumbs = 1/4 c. flour

Or use them in place of graham cracker crumbs for a pie crust.  See below.

Crumb Crusts
1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs 
¼ c. sugar 
5-6 Tbsp. melted butter 

Stir together crumbs and sugar, mix in butter. Press firmly and evenly in a 9” pie pan. Chill 1 hour OR bake at 375 degrees 6-9 minutes, til edges are brown (and it smells wonderful).  
Use a blender to crush the cookies/crackers, or a cereal box liner or big zip top baggie and a rolling pin
Breadcrumb crust:use dry breadcrumbs, increase sugar to 1/3 c. You’d never know!
Chocolate Crust: use 1 ½ c. crushed chocolate cookies (take out creme filling), don’t use the sugar in the crust recipe.
Gingersnap Crust: use all gingersnap crumbs or part gingersnap, part graham. Leave out sugar.
Nut crust: add 1/3 c. finely chopped pecans, almonds, walnuts, or other to any crumb crust.
Vanilla Crust: use crushed vanilla wafers, leave out the added sugar.

Try it!  (Now, won't you feel thrifty?)
They are the bane of some people's existence, the best friend of others.  Some people turn them into casseroles, but they often turn into soup at my house.

What are they?


Yup, love 'em or hate 'em, we often have 'em sitting in the fridge or pantry.  That last half-cup of gravy, a lonely bowl of chili, a stack of day-old (OK, maybe several-day-old) corn tortillas...

They call out to be useful.  To be loved.  To be eaten.  Maybe disguised first.

Dinner tonight was Tortilla Soup, sort of a Mexican twist on chicken noodle soup.  So how does this tie into using leftovers?  Those dry tortillas got cut into strips, then toasted in the oven while the soup cooked.  The soup itself was made using water, some Mexican-type fat free salad dressing (like a watery lime-cilantro salsa, a great flavor base), a cup of leftover meatless chili (for fiber, heartiness, and deeper flavor), that aforementioned 1/2 cup of gravy (providing a little body and more chicken flavor), a package of frozen cooked turkey from just after last Christmas, and a can of corn (sweetness, saltiness from the 'juice', and a pleasant 'pop').  The tortilla strips were stirred in at the last minute because they disintegrate if you cook them much.  If I had any fresh cilantro or sour cream it would have gone on top as a garnish.  Cheese would be delicious there, too. 

Take a look in your fridge and see- what can you do to give those leftovers another shot at life?

Leftover Tortilla Soup  the way I made it.  Feel free to improvise; that's what this is!

10-12 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2" wide strips
1 quart water
1 (14 oz.) can whole kernel corn, WITH the juices
10-16 oz. salsa or similar
1 cup of chili or 1 (14 oz.) can of beans
2 cups cooked diced chicken or turkey

Spread tortilla strips on a baking sheet, put them in the oven about 8" under the broiler, just long enough to toast them a bit, about 2-8 minutes, depending.  (The idea is that if they're toasted, they might not disintegrate as quickly in the soup.  I might be wrong.  They at least have a better flavor when toasted.)

Combine the water, corn, salsa, beans/chili and chicken/turkey in a 3-quart or larger pan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors.  Remove from heat and stir in tortilla strips.  Taste, then add salt and pepper if needed.  If it needs more flavor, a little lime juice, chopped cilantro, chicken bouillon, or chili powder would taste good.

Have fun!

Just about everyone seems to know about potato bread, or potato rolls, and how moist and tender they are.  There was even a while when mashed potatoes were added to raised doughnut dough (which is essentially the same as roll dough anyway); the finished product ones were called "Spudnuts".  Potatoes aren't your only option here, but here's how to use them:

Adding about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes for every 3 cups of flour in the recipe seems to be about as high as you'd want to go.  Potatoes don't have gluten, so adding too much would result in a dense, heavy bread.  I like to reduce the water in the recipe by about 1/4 cup for each 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, since they have a lot of water in them.  You can use the basic bread recipe for this, or any other one you like.  If you don't have mashed potatoes, add potato flakes in place of some of the flour.  Even using the water you cooked potatoes in, as the liquid in your bread, will help with moistness.

You can make a 'fully loaded' potato bread by adding some sour cream (reduce your water again!), bacon pieces, cheese, chives, or whatever else.  See TheFreshLoaf for one version of this.  Just remember- adding high-water ingredients- like the mashed potatoes, or sour cream- will require you to either reduce your water, OR add more flour.  Adding mix-ins, like the bacon, cheese, chives, etc, doesn't affect the dough.  However, it's easier to knead the bread without them, so add them last.

Now- for more options-

Use other purees!  Use up to the same ratio as above, for the same reason.  This will work best if the purees are warm, to help the dough's yeast grow.  110-120 degrees F is ideal.

-Mashed pumpkin- plain (which you won't taste), or with some cinnamon and pecans added!
-Mashed sweet potato
-Pureed fruit - good for using up overripe things, or old bottled fruit that's turning darker (as long as the jar's still sealed).  You might want to reduce the sugar in the recipe; too much actually slows down (but doesn't kill) the yeast.
-Pureed vegetables- I've used green beans (up to 1-2 cups puree in the 6-loaf batch), pureed corn, chiles, olives, carrots, etc.  Unless you want that particulat flavor, though, its best to avoid the cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower family.   Just remember to reduce salt if you're using salted veggies, reduce by 1/4 tsp. for each cup of puree.
-Mashed cooked beans or other legumes.
-Cooked hot cereal- this includes leftover breakfast oatmeal, cooked 7-grain cereal, Cream of Wheat, cooked millet or amaranth, or whatever you happen to have.  I've even added an abandoned, soggy bowl of cold cereal before.

This is a good way to use up little bits of (clean) leftovers- imagine the flavors of bread you can create!  Just keep in mind that if you add something that has meat in it, you'll need to refrigerate the finished bread.

What things have you added to bread?
Have you ever made tartar sauce?  It's simple, delicious, and has only the ingredients YOU put in it!  (No questionable preservatives, etc.)
Homemade Tartar Sauce

½ c. mayonnaise
1 T. chopped pickles (or use pickle relish)
1 T. minced onion
1 T. lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

This is best if chilled at least 30 minutes, but still good if eaten right away.   Makes about 2/3 cup.

Now, how often do you really use all  of that tartar sauce?  You can stir it with a couple boiled and cubed potatoes, to make it into potato salad, or try this.....

Second-Day Tartar Sauce-      Ranch Dip!

To a half batch of tartar sauce (about 1/3 cup), add

1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. onion powder (recipe here)   
1 ½ tsp. minced chives
a dash of garlic powder, opt.


There were NO leftovers this time.  :D