Dear Sara:

I would like to make a bread pudding recipe I found online. I have all the ingredients except for the 8-ounce cream cheese and 1 cup half-and-half. I do have skim milk, vanilla yogurt and about 1/4 cup of sour cream in the fridge. Will I be able to use my skim milk and yogurt in some way to create this dish? The reason I want to make this recipe today is that I have a 1/2 loaf of very hard Italian bread sitting on my kitchen counter, and this would be a great recipe to use it up. Any and all creative advice would be great. -- Marie, New York

Dear Marie:

Without buying anything new to use as a substitute (my suggestion would then be Neufchatel cheese), I would try the yogurt or sour cream. Strain it by setting a colander or wire mesh strainer in a large bowl (you don't want the strainer to touch the bottom of the bowl). Line the strainer with a couple of layers of cheesecloth. Spoon in the yogurt or sour cream, cover and let drain in the refrigerator for a few hours (overnight would be best). Use the cheese that is left on the cheesecloth. As for the cup of half-and-half, you can try to replace it with 1 tablespoon melted butter and enough milk to equal a cup. But because you have skim milk and not whole milk, you should probably use 1/2 cup skim milk plus 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream.
You can freeze your bread until you have the proper ingredients, or choose a new bread pudding recipe that doesn't require cream cheese or half-and-half. There are plenty to choose from, including this one:
Apple Bread Pudding
2 medium apples, diced (I prefer Gala or Granny Smith)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup raisins
3 eggs
1 cup milk (can use eggnog during the holiday season)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of ground nutmeg
8 slices bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray. In a skillet, add the apples and butter. Mix in cinnamon, brown sugar and white sugar, and cook until soft. Fold in raisins. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg. Gently fold in the bread cubes until coated. Add apple mixture. Scoop the bread pudding to evenly fill muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over bread pudding. Serve warm.

Dear Sara:

I made a crockpot full of beef vegetable soup. The recipe called for about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, which overpowers the taste of the soup. What do you suggest I add to it to mask the cinnamon taste? I don't want to throw it out! -- Jackie, email

Dear Jackie:

Cinnamon is often added to soups. Many people love the flavor of cinnamon in soup, while others find it completely inedible. Half a teaspoon is quite a lot to deal with if you're not fond of the flavor. I would double the soup recipe and hope for the best.


photo by indiachick7