Monday, January 25, 2010

An abundance of bread

A few weeks ago I started volunteering at our local food pantry. I've wanted to for a while, but they never had an opening until recently. One morning a week I help three other women sort and bag day-old (or a few days old) bagels and artisan bread and assorted pastries that are generously donated by a nationally-known bakery and cafe and by a nationally-known (there's one on every corner) coffeehouse. Mixed in with the whole loaves of bread there are sliced breads that have been half used. They don't like giving those out to the people who patronize the food pantry, so the lucky recipients are the volunteers. A nice little bonus for a job that needs no compensation other than the feeling you get when you know you are helping other people.

The first week I was there, I received a huge bag with probably ten large loaves of artisan bread. They told me I could feed it to my chickens. After bringing it home, I realized that the bread was much too good to feed to the chickens, and anyway they didn't need to be eating that much bread. It's like chicken candy to them. So I rebagged it, gave some to my kids, and put the rest in the freezer. Yesterday I thought the whole family was coming for dinner so I thawed one of the loaves of seeded sourdough. It ended up with nobody being able to make it. So, what do you do with a huge loaf of white bread? You make bread pudding!

Assemble the ingredients:

6-8 cups cubed stale bread
3 large eggs
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
(homemade organic, if you know someone who makes it)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the inside of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, or equivalent deep casserole dish.

  1. Beat the eggs well, then add the sugar and beat.

  2. Beat in the vanilla, butter,  and cinnamon, then the milk.

  3. Pour over the bread cubes and stir in the raisins. Let sit for a few minutes so the bread absorbs some of the milk.

  4. Pour into the baking dish and bake 30-45 minutes, or until the top looks brown and crusty.


Melt 3 tablespoons butter in small pan.
Whisk in 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons heated rum or whiskey until smooth.

But, I still had half a loaf left over after making the bread pudding. So I made croutons. The store-bought ones can't compare to homemade, and they're so easy.

Cut the slices of bread into one-inch cubes. I used about 6 large slices. Toss in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, one teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about 14-15 minutes, giving a stir about halfway through. Cool on the baking sheet and store in a plastic bag.

I ate all the ones that were almost burned. I don't mind making that sacrifice.

I couldn't just have bread items for dinner, so I made a soup that we love.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion, or one large
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
1 pound mild white fish, such as halibut or tilapia, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound bay scallops
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and saute for 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and saute for 7 minutes. During the last minute stir in the dried herbs. This helps release their flavor. Stir in garlic, chicken broth, wine, vinegar, tomatoes and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

  2. Add fish, shrimp and scallops. Cover and simmer 5-8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Add the parsley at the end.

  3. Serve with crusty bread or top with homemade croutons.

NOTES: For a thicker broth, you may add 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste during the cooking process. I substituted a 1-lb. package of Trader Joe's (frozen) Seafood Blend for the shrimp and scallops. That's why you see calamari rings.


Susan said...

I don't know what happened to the numbers not corresponding to the lines and I have no idea how to fix it.

Wanda said...

I didn't notice anything wrong with the numbers actually, but I did notice Susan, that you ate very well yesterday. The ones that didn't show...will be sorry they missed this meal!

Thanks for the recipes.

Deborah said...

Susan, I just finished breakfast but I'm hungry again. Fab-u-lous, is all I can say about your culinary offerings! Bread pudding is something I associate with the English, and although I've had it occasionally, I would never have thought to make it myself. HOWEVER, your post today changed all that. Thanks for the nummy photos and recipes!

PS And three cheers to you for volunteering.

Ruth said...

Are you trying to kill me here? Three recipes?! It's 5:34am, and I think all that looks grand for breakfast.

(Don't you just hate when you can't fix the formatting.)

It's so good you help with the day-old bread. I'm curious, are you not giving the names of the franchises out of politeness? Or did you have to agree to that, sort of like when companies that donate clothing make sure the labels are cut out?

It's very satisfying to use up recycled food, especially in something so delicious. That bread pudding - HARD! I never thought of that - looks divine.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow!!! It's 6:56 a.m., I'm trying to reduce a few pounds, and you've already got my mouth watering.

You had me at the bread pudding. When I first read the words "bread pudding," I said, "Oh my gosh!" out loud.

This is one of my favorite things in the world. My mother used to make it, and I used to make it for my sister. She loved it and I made it when ever she visited. It was our comfort food from childhood.
I hate to admit it, but I drizzle Hershey's chocolate syrup over it. That stuff is like my ketchup.

Susan said...

Wanda, you're welcome! The recipe for the bread pudding was my mother's or the closest I could come to it, because she didn't write it down. Mom didn't believe in wasting anything, so she would save scraps of bread in the freezer until she had enough to make it.

The fish stew recipe comes from Cooking Light with a little adaptation from me.

Susan said...

Deborah, I'm glad I whet your appetite for yummies! I usually eat the bread pudding for breakfast (without the hard sauce!) and it's fairly lowfat and low sugar, so you don't have to feel TOO guilty!

Funny, but I've always associated bread pudding as French in origin, although my mom was about 3/4 German. No matter where it came from, I think all countries have some version of it, and it's all gooood!

Char said...

i love bread pudding!!! yum

and homemade croutons.

but...calamari - nope. LOL but it looks like it tastes yummy.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Don't worry about the numbers...stupid Blogger always puts gremlins in there to test our patience. But lady, you are KILLING me! I am on a diet here! I actually salivated over the bread pudding. Even the croutons made me yearning for food. Ack!

Susan said...

Ruthie, yes, it was quite frustrating to me yesterday trying to get those stupid lines fixed. I finally just gave up. It looks weird, but still readable.

I've actually made the B.P. with soymilk before when we thought David's nephew had milk allergies. You can substitute Earth Balance spread for the butter without much difference, but the eggs kinda have to be in it. Although I've never tried it w/o them, so maybe it would work, just wouldn't be as rich tasting.

I just decided on my own not to mention the names of the donors just in case there's some taboo against it. Or if I become disenchanted with the concept at a later date and need to rant about it. I think you know what I mean. They don't even know that I have a blog, and probably wouldn't look at it if they did. ((rolleyes))

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

My mom used to make bread pudding and I loved it. My girls, however, don't care for it. Perhaps I'll make it just for me someday soon. And that soup looks so good. I'll have to try it as well.

Susan said...

Hehe, sorry about that, Bella! Actually, it's pretty lowfat and low sugar, considering the amount it makes. And I used 1% milk, too. The trouble comes with the portion control part. I find myself going by the counter for a nibble here and a bite there until before I know it, I've eaten a whole piece! I actually considered using chocolate chips instead of the raisins, but decided it would take away the rationalization that it's breakfast food! ;) I always make it when my MIL is visiting. She loves it.

Hershey's syrup is "like my comfort food"! Oh lordy, you're killing me! LOL

Susan said...

Char, I actually get more of a charge out of the croutons myself! I eat them as a snack sometimes!

You definitely don't have to use the calamari, just follow the original recipe. I think you would like it. It's one of our favorite meals.

Susan said...

Sandy, I'm sorry! Really, the soup is fantastically low-cal and good for you, too! Even the croutons aren't that bad. The olive oil is a healthy fat and you can cut the amount to 1 TBS and they taste just as good. You can also use whole grain bread to up the fiber count and nutrition.

Just don't make that bread pudding unless you have a house full of people so you won't be tempted to eat it all!

Susan said...

Hi Sandy! You would love the soup. It has tons of flavor and it's so quick to make. And you can probably get much better fish up there than we can in the midwest. In fact, I've made it without the shellfish and it's just as good. I just double the amount of the other fish.

Oliag said...

How wonderful to be volunteering at the food pantry...

Bread pudding is probably my favorite dessert...sometimes I just hope I have stale bread hanging around:) I have made savory bread pudding too...not sweet and you eat it with your meal...also yummy...

And that fish stew...I have already printed out the recipe...sounds delish and I will compare it to my similar seafood minestrone recipe:) Half my family eats fish but not meat so I am always looking for recipes like this...


Anonymous said...

Well, weren't you busy! I could sit and eat a whole loaf of yummy seeded sourdough.
I've nver made my own croutons, but you've encouraged me to try.
A group I'm in volunteers at the Cleveland Food Bank once a month. If it were a bit closer I'd love to do it more often. Enjoy the warm and fuzzies you get from your new job - and all the bread!

VioletSky said...

So I wasn't the only one a little dismayed at seeing so much yumminess so early the morning?!! (which is why I had to wait to comment...)

I remember trying some wonderful bread pudding somewhere (that part I don't remember) and begging my mother to make it. I also remember the look of horror, absolute horror! - on her face at the suggestion. "Why would you want to eat that? We had to eat that during the war. No thank you, never again".

Somehow, I suspect it wasn't nearly as elaborate as yours!

Cindy said...

Oh my, you have been busy. It all looks so delicious! I had bread pudding during a meeting this morning at a local coffee shop. It wasn't overly sweet with a bit of powdered sugar over it. Sounds like a smart way to use up some not so fresh rustic bread to me. I think that soup is calling my name. I forgot to have lunch.

California Girl said...

Everything looks super delicious and I'm going to try the Cioppino. I made a seafood stew the other night but my husband didn't think it had enough fish in it. I put 2 lbs of cod in it and I thought it was good but he, his mother and my son said "too many potatoes not enough fish".
I felt like a fast food restaurant.

CottageGirl said...

You went ALLLLLLL out, my dear Susan!
Holy Moly!
I just ate dinner, but I feel extra full after viewing your virtual yummy soup AND the croutons and ...
of course the bread pudding!

You are so industrious and creative! When life gives you bread ..

Good for you for volunteering at the food pantry! You make such a difference in many needy lives!

Susan said...

Oliag, I think bread pudding must be a generational thing. Not too many young people like it...too heavy, not sweet me it's comfort food because my mom made it, and it's delicious.

I think you will like the soup. As I'm sure you know, just be careful not to overcook the fish. I actually forgot to add the red wine vinegar this time and it was still delicious, so it's very flexible.

Susan said...

Stacy, really, croutons couldn't be more simple to make. If I'm using sourdough bread, and if I'm going to be using them up within a couple of days, I like to underbake them just a bit because I like them to have a mixture of crunchy and a little bit chewy.

It is very satisfying to know that you're helping other people. I had to stop bringing home the bread after that first couple of weeks though...that's all I wanted to eat! And my freezer is full!

Susan said...

Sanna, I promise the next time we get together I will make you some bread pudding. It really isn't elaborate at all...quite simple, in fact. But you may be right about it compared to what your mother may have had available to use during such harsh times. Plus, she probably connected it with some pretty bad memories.

It's funny, but these dishes that my mother created out of practically nothing when we were very poor are some of my favorite foods now. As I said before, comfort food and wonderful memories of my mother.

Susan said...

Cindy, that's the way I like my bread pudding, and really most desserts, not overly sweet. This one has very little sugar compared to the size of the dish. Once I forgot to put the sugar in and we just added maple syrup on top and it was delicious that way for breakfast! I have to say that normally I don't make the hard sauce as that makes it too sweet for me and it's not how I grew up eating it.

Don't forget to eat your lunch!

Susan said...

Cali Girl, so your family basically wanted fish casserole! :) Two pounds is what this recipe has in it and I thought it didn't quite have enough broth for me. Of course, it's easy to add more of either one. I hope you like this one.

Susan said...

CG, boy I missed the boat with the title of this post! I wish I had thought of "when life gives you bread..." That would have been perfect! I'm going to start consulting you on titles!

I'll say I was busy! Between cooking, taking pictures and being on the computer all day, I was worn out! It's a good thing I don't have a real job! lol

Cora said...

OK now you've made me hungry!!! I want some bread pudding...YUM! I love that stuff.
Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Good for you for getting so involved in your community!
What a yummy looking soup, perfect for the cold weather.

Susan said...

Cora, you're welcome! I hope you get a chance to make it!

Susan said...

Natashya, thank you! I can't hold a candle to the beautiful dishes that you make and photograph, but it is a good soup and I wanted to share it.

Diane said...

OMG...these recipes sound and look heavenly. WW will not appreciate the calories/point values I'm sure :)

Susan said...

Diane, that probably depends on the size of the portion! :)