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updated: 8/18/2011 10:37 AM

Don't toss leftover buns

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By Sara Noel

You'd rather have too many hamburger buns than not enough. But when there are some leftover buns, you're faced with a keep-or-toss decision. Don't let them sit on the counter until they mold or hide them in the back of the freezer until ice crystals form. Don't throw them away, either. They can be used to make homemade croutons or stuffing, baked or fried French toast, strata, garlic bread or sandwiches.

For sandwiches, think: tuna melts, chicken patties, egg or chicken salad, pulled pork or BBQ beef, or meatball subs. For grilled sandwiches on a skillet or panini press, you can place the top of the bun face down for a flat grilling surface or hollow out a bun and place an egg inside and fry. You can use the buns to bind your ground beef when making meatballs or meatloaf. You can make delicious cinnamon-and-sugar toast by buttering and baking the buns in the oven, too.

Here are a few other ways to avoid wasting them.

Avoid freezer burn: If you plan to freeze the buns, you can keep them in their original bag. Squeeze some air out if the bread moves around in the bag, and double-wrap the buns in a larger freezer storage bag. Don't freeze them long-term.

Pizza buns: Don't have time to make pizza dough? Don't feel like working too hard in the kitchen? Make mini pizzas. One reader, CJ from Canada, shares: "Here is a quick way to enjoy pizza. It's a fun way for kids to make their own pizza, too. It doesn't take long or heat up the house much in the summer because the oven is only on broil for a few minutes. You can even use hot dog buns for this. Split 12 hamburger buns and lay them on cookie sheets. Spread 2 small cans of pizza sauce evenly on the buns and add your favorite toppings. Turn broiler on in your oven. Lower rack one level. Place cookie sheets under broiler for a couple of minutes. Watch closely."

Bread pudding: Swap out the bread from your favorite bread pudding recipe. Another reader, Lara B., shares: "I freeze leftover buns until I have six and make bread pudding. I grease a small baking dish; break the buns up and put them in the bottom of the baking dish. Melt a stick of butter and pour it over the buns. Using a whisk, mix together 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 cups sugar and 2 cups warmed milk. Pour over the top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees."

Hot pockets: Another reader, Sarah from Illinois, shares: "This recipe can use up extra buns and can be cooked on a grill (or over fire). The bread you scoop out can be used for bread crumbs. Hollow out the insides of 8 hamburger buns. In a bowl mix 1 cup cubed ham, 1 cup shredded cheese, cup mayonnaise, ⅛ teaspoon yellow mustard and garlic and onion powder to taste. Spoon filling into the shell, and wrap individually with foil. Place on the grill on low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes. It could be done with pie filling, too."

• Contact Frugal Village founder Sara Noel at sara@frugalvillage.com.

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