Cooks Exchange

Don’t throw away those leftovers, put them to good use

“What are these bags of bread pieces in the fridge?” my daughter asked as she was rummaging around for pizza rolls or Hot Pockets, staples in her diet.

“And what’s with these black things that used to be bananas in here, too,” she commented. “They are taking up space. We need a regular freezer.”

The freezer comment I have heard more than once especially when something falls out of the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.

As I often have said, I am a pack rat, but not about blackened bananas or bread crumbs. They can save a home cook a few dollars at the grocery store and can be put to good use in recipes.

Frozen bread cubes can be turned into croutons, whirled in the food processor for fine bread crumbs for breading for meats or chicken or topping casseroles.

Simply defrost the cubes, put some butter and garlic in the skillet and add the cubes and cook until crispy. A touch of Parmesan cheese doesn’t hurt either.

A friend of mine loves bread pudding and likes it when I make it. The bread cubes work well for bread pudding, too. Bread pudding is better made with day-old or frozen bread cubes. The liquid absorbs more readily into the older bread.

These bread cubes can be added to cornbread for dressing or used alone in a bread dressing.

Frozen bananas make the best smoothies. Peel or leave the overripe bananas in the peeling and simply freeze in a plastic freezer bag. When ready to use, remove one banana from the freezer. Place whatever smoothie ingredients desired in the blender and drop in the frozen banana. Give the blender a whirl and, voila, icy smoothie without the ice to water it down.

This is great when craving something sweet. I also keep a package of frozen blueberries just for smoothies. Banana smoothies can be as simple as three ingredients or a multi-tropical treat.

Let the frozen bananas thaw and use in banana muffins or bread. Overripe bananas make the muffins moister.

These two bags of bananas and bread cubes can be used in multiple ways. It certainly is easier to reach in the freezer than taking a trip to the supermarket.

NEW GADGET, NO MESS

While my daughter may not know why I keep bread and bananas in the freezer, she does know what her mom likes when it comes to kitchen gadgets. I am the proud owner of a titanium-infused DuraCeramic Belgian waffle iron.

I have looked at waffle makers for years, wishing I had one, but not wanting the spend the money on something I would use infrequently. I have too many gadgets like that.

I confess, I love this one. My waffle maker is great and not at all messy. From the first waffle, the not-just-for-breakfast-anymore concoction came out so beautifully. Nary a one stuck. I love that it is one of the flip upside down waffle irons. Both sides get nice and crunchy.

Elyssa made plain waffles, and I tried my hand at blueberry ones. Like I said, I keep frozen blueberries in the freezer year-round. Today, I thought I would share our experiments with you.

The plain waffle would be great with fried chicken and a drizzle of honey. The blueberry one is great by itself or try it for dessert with a blueberry-raspberry sauce topped with sweetened whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

For those watching carbs, I offer a recipe for whole wheat waffles made with skim milk and a little honey.

BLUEBERRY BELGIAN WAFFLES

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs (separate)

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

In bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Set aside. Separate egg. Beat the yolks, add half and half, and butter and blend. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Fold in the blueberries. Bake in waffle iron per manufacturer’s instructions.

CLASSIC WAFFLES

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons cornmeal, optional

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 3/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

In large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder and salt to blend thoroughly; set aside.

In mixer bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar, continue beating just until stiff peaks form; set aside. Whisk together egg yolks, milk and vanilla. Using rubber spatula, stir milk mixture into flour mixture, blending just until dry ingredients are moistened. (There should still be small lumps. Do not overmix.) Stir in melted butter. Fold in beaten egg whites, until combined. Pour batter onto hot, greased waffle maker and bake. Makes about 5 1/2 cups batter.

Note: Cornstarch makes the waffles crisper. If you don’t have cornstarch, you could still make great waffles by omitting cornstarch and increasing flour to 2 cups. Bake as directed.

TOASTED PECAN & CRANBERRY WAFFLES

Sprinkle chopped pecans on bottom grid of hot, greased waffle maker. Pour batter over pecans. Sprinkle dried cranberries over batter. Close waffle maker and baked as directed.

BLUEBERRY-BANANA SMOOTHIE

1 frozen banana

1 cup blueberries

1 cup milk, can use almond milk or whatever you like

Place ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Makes 2 smoothies.

Variation: Skip the milk and add a small carton of blueberry, vanilla or banana yogurt and 1/2 cup cold orange juice.

WHOLE WHEAT WAFFLES

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat bran

2 tablespoons wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, separated

3/4 cup skim or nonfat milk

1 tablespoon honey, optional

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, baking powder and salt to blend thoroughly; set aside. In mixer bowl, beat egg white just until stiff peaks form; set aside. Whisk together egg yolk, milk and honey.

Using rubber spatula, stir milk mixture into flour mixture, blending just until dry ingredients are moistened. (There should still be small lumps; do not over mix.) Stir in melted butter. Fold in beaten egg white until combined. Pour batter onto hot, greased waffle maker and bake. Makes about 2 cups batter.

Recipe from Oster

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