Sensible Sundays: Homemade Croutons

Everyone loves croutons. That crunchy, savory, herbed bread is the perfect addition to any salad. But why go out and buy a box of them when you can make them yourself at a fraction of the cost? Besides, once you try your own homemade croutons, I promise you’ll never want to go back to the heavily preservative laden, stale, hard as a rock pieces of bread that come in a box.

Croutons

Ingredients:

A few pieces of old bread
Butter (or margarine)
Garlic powder (or I guess you can use fresh garlic minced)
Dried herbs of choice (Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)

The best kind of bread to use it old bread you don’t want to eat. This does not mean moldy or spoiled bread! I’m talking about the heals of bread loafs if you don’t eat them, those two slices sitting in your bread bag that are just too dried out to make a sandwich out of, pieces of that leftover french bread sitting on your cupboard, you know what kinds of breads I’m talking about! What I typically do is save the heals from the loaf of bread we are eating, put them in a bag, and throw them in the freezer until I’m ready to use them. Once enough pieces build up, I let them thaw in the fridge overnight, then use them the next day. Cut your bread into crouton sized pieces and put into a bowl. In a small pan, melt what you would consider to be enough butter to coat the amount of bread you have. If you are only using a few pieces, try a tablespoon or so; more bread means more butter. Sorry I don’t have any exact measurements, it’ll all depend on how much bread you are using. Having a hard time guessing? Melt a little and toss it with the bread and if you need a little more, melt some more. There really isn’t an exact science to this. I like to add my garlic powder and herbs to the melted butter before pouring it over the bread, that way it’s more evenly distributed. Again, add the amount of herbs you want. Like a heavy garlic taste? Add a teaspoon or more. Not so much? Add less. Keep track of about how much you add so that the next time, if you want to add more or less, you can. Pour over the bread and toss with your hands. Once all the bread pieces are evenly moist/coated, spread them on a baking sheet and put into a 300 degrees F oven. They will take about 45 minutes or so to cook, but that depends on how many you have and their size. The best way to tell if they are done is to open the oven and toss them occasionally, allowing you to check on their progress. When they finally reach a beautiful golden brown color, you’re done. Let them cool completely before storing them in an air tight container.

Most recipes suggest eating them within a week, but I’ve found they’ll last longer than that if you store them properly. Besides, you’ll be lucky if they last more than two weeks!  This recipe is great because it allows you to utilize ANY kind of leftover bread that would have only gone to waste. They are incredibly inexpensive to make as I can guarantee that you probably already have everything you need to make them in your kitchen. You know what’s going into them, can customize them the way you want, and pay a fraction of the cost that you would to buy them already made in the grocery store. And of course, they taste great, making them a great addition to any garden or chef salad. The more substantial I can make my salads look and taste, the more willing my husband is to make a meal out of them, and I’m sure that goes for kids too!! So TRY IT!! It’s EASY! I promise, you wont regret it! 🙂

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