Bagels are a comforting breakfast treat. Warm, doughy and flavorful, few foods can match the taste and crunch of a toasted bagel topped with cream cheese. But after breakfast is over, you often have leftover bagels that become stale and remain uneaten. Bagels, even stale bagels, however, are incredibly versatile, and you can incorporate them into a wide variety of dishes.
Seasoned bagels such as garlic or onion varieties make flavorful breadcrumbs. Use the breadcrumbs to coat poultry, fish or vegetables before frying or baking, and bagel breadcrumbs are also ideal for topping casseroles and other baked dishes. To make the breadcrumbs, first rip the stale bagels into small chunks and place the bagel chunks, in batches, in a food processor. Run the food processor until the bagels are finely ground. If you wish, toast the breadcrumbs for a few minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
From leftover stale bagels, you can make bagel chips that are perfect for dipping or delicious on their own. Lay each bagel flat on a cutting board and cut them into thin slices. Toss the bagel slices in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and seasonings to taste. Spread them into a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake in a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit oven. Bake the chips until they turn crisp and golden brown, about five minutes per side. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can salvage stale bagels with a bit of moisture and heat. Pizzas are an easy, kid-friendly lunch to prepare the day after a bagel breakfast. Spread a bit of tomato sauce or pesto onto half a sliced bagel. Top with cooked, cut meat and vegetables and sprinkle with cheese. Bake the bagels under the broiler or in a toaster oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
Stale bagels are ideal for making croutons. They're already seasoned, and the doughy interior makes sparse salads more filling. Tear the bagels into bite-sized chunks. If you're short on time, you can add them to salads just like this. If time allows, toss the bagels with olive oil and bake on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven. Allow them to cool then add to a salad. The bagel croutons will soak up the dressing and the flavors of the salad.
Bread pudding is often the go-to recipe for stale loaves of bread, and bagels are no different. Tear the bagel into chunks, then spread the chunks into a baking dish. Cover with cooked cut-up vegetables, meat and cheese, or, for leftover sweet bagels, use dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chunks instead. Pour a mixture of one part beaten eggs to two parts milk over top of the dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the bread pudding is puffed up and browned. Allow the pudding to cool slightly before serving.
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