Everyone's left a loaf lingering in the fridge or on the countertop for too long — the once soft, fluffy texture now hard as a rock.
But your leftover bread doesn't need to be a loss. Indeed, with a smart strategy and a little ingenuity, you can liven up your loaf and save your stale slices (and money) from the trash.
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These seven crafty and creative cooking ideas will inspire you to make use of your stale bread — no crouton-making involved.
1. Make a Meatloaf
"This is a smart idea for a couple of reasons," dietitian and chef Julie Harrington, RD, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Not only do you prevent food waste, you save money by making your own homemade breadcrumbs to mix into your meatloaf."
Not to mention, cooking from scratch is a healthier option: "Store-bought breadcrumbs contain sodium, so by using stale bread [at home], you have more control over the seasonings you use," Harrington says.
Indeed, you can quickly whip up a tasty batch of breadcrumbs with simple whole-food ingredients like garlic, onion, celery, carrot and parsley.
2. Create Crostini
"Crostinis are super versatile and making them with stale bread will definitely give them that crunch value," Harrington says. "You could use these in soups or salads or even make them the base for hors d'oeuvres."
Since you can get creative with crostinis — and top these crispy bites with just about anything from sweet to savory — people can easily match them with whatever their dietary needs are, Harrington says.
3. Bake Into Zucchini Boats
"I usually fill my zucchini boats with quinoa, but the addition of breadcrumbs would help enhance flavor and texture for sure," Harrington says.
Just toast up your bread and toss it into the food processor with fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil for a crunchy, tasty topping.
4. Try Panzanella
Panzanella is the perfect use for sad, stale bread. The traditional Tuscan salad relies on juicy tomato, vinegar and olive oil to rehydrate and reinvigorate crusty, dry bread.
"With the mixture of a quality vinaigrette and fresh vegetables, stale bread will absorb their flavors to tie it all together for a light and refreshing meal," Harrington says.
And the longer Panzanella sits (and the bread sucks up all the juices), the yummier it'll be.
5. Cook Into a Casserole
We can all agree: Casseroles are the ultimate comfort food. But blending in bread takes them to a whole new level.
From sweet french toast casseroles to savory classics like breakfast casseroles with veggies and eggs, you can transform a loaf of leftover bread into a beautiful bread bake that'll spice up your weekend brunch rotation.
In fact, using stale, crusty bread ensures that your casserole won't become too soft and mushy.
6. Serve as Stuffing
You don't need a special occasion like Thanksgiving to whip up some salivating stuffing. Indeed, all you need are several slices of stale bread, Harrington says.
For a classic stuffing, simply combine cubed bread with onion, celery and fresh herbs like parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary, then mix and moisten with low-sodium chicken broth and bake.
7. Stir in Your Soup
Stale bread serves as a stellar accompaniment to soup, especially pureed varieties.
"Sometimes a creamy tomato soup is dull by itself, hence why it's usually paired with grilled cheese," Harrington says.
By stirring in bread, "you add a new texture which will bring some excitement to the dish," she says. Chunks of crusty old bread can also help thicken a simple Ribollita, a comforting Tuscan bread soup made with hearty greens, beans and, you guessed it, lots of olive oil.