Chokes. I look forward to artichoke season all year. This is because prices vary wildly and I like hunting down the best bargains. Thus far, two medium chokes for 99-cents at the 99-cent store is the price to beat. Not only do I love eating the chokes but I love saving all the stems. I freeze and collect them, little stalks of goodness. When I have at least 10-12 I thaw them and chop them up finely. I then give everything a quick sauté in olive oil and minced garlic (a couple of cloves) seasoned with loads of pepper. Once cooked through, I let them cool and them toss them in the food processor with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup of mayo and sour cream each and 1 and a half to 2 cups of shredded cheese (I prefer a mix of cheddar, parm and pepper jack but whatever you have on hand will work. Once all this is combined, I bake it in the oven at 350-deg F for about 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Best dip EVER. Jarred artichokes are expensive so this is a special treat and since I use ingredients that I tend to keep on hand, it is not expensive to make. I use up spinach in much the same way.
Veggies. We end up with a lot of leftover root veggies due to Bob’s fondness for roast meats. I always seem to have leftover roasted potatoes and carrots languishing in the fridge and my recipe for using them up is a fun one. It came about the day I was using my old bread to make French toast and ended up with a half cup or so leftover egg and milk mixture staring back at me from the depths of a mixing bowl. Inspired, I quickly mashed up leftover veggies and tossed in the crumbs of a couple of bags of potato chips for good measure. Bread crumbs will work to thicken up the batter as well but think of all the chip crumbs that will find a new home this way. I then seasoned the mixture with lots of pepper and a pinch of salt (the chip crumbs are salty) and shaped them into patties. I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350-deg F until they were crispy and brown and you have crunchy wafers of deliciousness that. These are my version of mock latkes and they are great way to get something from nothing.
Beets. I like beets but pickling them and putting them in salads or as a side seems to wear thin quickly. I came up with the idea of replacing chickpeas and making beet-based hummus instead.
2 or 3 medium beets, cooked, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup tahini paste
Juice of one lemon, zest of one lemon
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup mint leaves
Method: Dump everything into a food processor and process until smooth. You may have to add in a bit of water to thin it out. The mint gives it some zing and balances out the earthiness of the beets nicely. I like to serve this dip with toasted pita chips or a baguette thinly sliced and toasted. To serve, place the dip in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of cumin or paprika and a scattering of mint leaves. Lovely and fit for company or any gathering.
Broccoli stems. I hoard broccoli stems like a crazy person. Once I have a fist full or more, I thinly peel the toughest outer layer and then dice up the stalks very finely. I microwave the minced bits with a splash of water on high for a few minutes in order to soften and cook them. Once cooked, I toss them in the food processor to turn them into a chunky paste. I then mix them with a good cheese sauce and use toasted French bread slices to scoop up all the cheesy broccoli goodness. My granddaughter Claudia, arguably the world’s pickiest eater, adores this and we find it a good way to sneak more veggies into her diet.
Bread. Man would you be surprised to discover just how much bread I have leftover in my freezer. Aside from making French toast, I haul out leftover bread and slice it thin, rub it with a clove of garlic (really makes a difference) and toast for the dips listed above. Freezing most bread does change the texture but toasting it in thin slices brings it back to life in the best way. I also use it to thicken up my Me Too Meatloaf and Scarlett’s Meatballs. I also like to make a savory bread pudding that, honestly? My dogs LOVE. I usually just tear up old bread into my slow cooker that is full of meat drippings after I moisten the bread with a couple of beaten eggs and a splash of milk. I then let it bake on low for a couple of hours and viola, instant savory bread pudding. My puppy pit bull has a seemingly endless appetite so a cupful of this dreamy dish gets her through to dinnertime. Never throw away old bread, the uses for it are endless.