If I close my eyes, I can smell it - despite two closed doors. The oven churns heat into the cold morning kitchen and the sweet smell of maple syrup, eggs and bread creeps through the house, silent and crafty as a cat. Forty-five minutes earlier, I had shuffled out on slippered feet to transfer the covered casserole dish from the fridge to the oven and then scurried back to cuddle with the kids and Mr. Green Bean. My efforts will soon be rewarded with a cinnamony-sweet breakfast that spewed not a single dirty pot or pan this morning. Bread pudding.
It is a lazy Sunday and we were doing our best to live by the adage: "Waste not, want not." Did you know that "more than 40% of all food produced in America is not eaten." That is just wrong - no matter how you look at it. Moreover, times are tough and we are scrimping where we can.
In truth, stretching meals and reducing food waste is not much of a sacrifice. It only requires a pinch of organization and a teaspoonful of effort.
Bread pudding is one of the ways we don't waste food around here. Old bread gets chopped up and baked with something sweet (usually local honey). Suddenly, it is a delicacy with the kids begging for seconds and thirds.
Vegetable scraps likewise take a round-about trip to the compost bin. They travel from the cutting board to a year old plastic ziplock in the freezer to a boiling pot of water. An hour later, I've got cups of vegetable broth without a can or tetra pack to show for it.
Fruit syrup is another favorite tactic for "not wasting". Mushy strawberries, overripe persimmons, nearly done blackberries. Cook any and/or all of them down with a bit of honey or maple syrup and they become the best pancake topping imaginable. Even better, fruit syrup freezes for eons and tastes like summer in January.
Our efforts to reduce food waste have resulted in a slimmer food bill, a lighter landfill load, and a cut in compost. The only thing we haven't shrunk are our waistlines. Why? Because not wasting food is delicious.
Here are some other great ideas for stretching a meal. How do you stretch a meal?
By request, here is my bread pudding recipe from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook: Your Guide to the Best Foods on Earth.
4 cups loosely packed bread cubes
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place the bread in the bottom of a casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, mix all other ingredients until well blended. Pour mixture evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 until gold brown and firm to touch, about 50 minutes.
Suggestions (that I've not yet tried) for making the pudding differently include adding 1/2 cup pureed fruit, pumpkin or sweet potato in lieu of half of milk or adding 1/2 cup of dried or fresh fruit to the bread mixture.