Saturday, February 18, 2017

Take Your Accolades...Fabulous Homemade Croutons

Croutons are just multi-purpose little pieces of fabulous. Being soup season, we go through croutons a lot. Who doesn't love a nice, hot, french onion soup with melty cheese and croutons? Or baked potato soup? Or pasta e fagioli? I could go on and on...

They real are not just for crowning your salad. Nope. They have multiple uses like:

Use them as a topping on a casserole.
As a soup garnish.
Cook them into your breakfast omelet for extra crunch or spice.
As a stuffing inside pork...with some apples? Oh yes!
Mac-N-Cheese topping.
Whirl them in your blender for a quick Panko or your bread crumb needs.
Under meat when baked.

They are really so versatile that almost anything goes.
And when you buy them, it may not seem like much at the time...a dollar here...two bucks there. But it does add up. Have you seen the price of Panko? Holy moly...
And I'm frugal.

So when I needed a baguette to go with my potato soup dinner and lucky me, they were BOGO? Yeah, I came home with two baguettes. You can't beat free (unless someone is paying YOU to eat which case, where can I get *that* job?).

I left one baguette out on the counter to stale, and used the other for that night's soup dinner.

This morning I got around to making my croutons. And if you've never made croutons? Why not? They are so easy and take almost no time. The benefits?

For starters they're healthier than store-bought croutons. Plus, you end up with five to ten times more croutons than if you bought them.

Trust me, you CAN make croutons.  And you can make them any way you want. Any flavor, any crunch-level. Want no salt? Don't add it! Want extra garlic? Add more!

Think of this post next time you're at the store and need croutons. Trust me- you'll be a homemade crouton convert, too.

makes 2 large batches

1 loaf bread, stale (I use a large baguette but any bread will work)
1/2 c olive oil (you can use vegetable oil, or coconut oil or even melted butter)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme

Preheat oven to 350

Cut your bread into small squares, whatever size you like.

Add 1/2 the bread pieces to a large bowl twice as big as you think you'll need.

Slowly pour 1/2 the oil over the bread while stirring with a wooden spoon. The idea is to get each piece of bread just slightly oiled.

Once the bread is oiled, add your spices, one at a time sparingly, stirring as you go. Again, you want each bread piece to have flavor. Not all the spice on one crumb!

Stir well once all spices have been added.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pour bread pieces on sheet in a single layer, or as much of a single layer as you can.

Bake for 5-7 can stir (move them around) a bit halfway through the baking time.
If you want extra crunchy croutons, bake for 10 minutes...It's kind of hard to say exactly, because each oven is different.
Just watch them the first time you make them and time it.
Remove from oven once done (to your crispiness level).
Let cool.

Make your second batch the same way as your first, or change up the spices. Use butter and italian herbs if you like. Or plain garlic. Or add some cheese powder.
If you want really, really, flavorful croutons, use a tbs instead of a tsp.
It's up to you how you want them, really.

Place in labeled baggies and store in the fridge.
That's it. You're done!

I currently have a package in the freezer. I've never tried freezing my homemade croutons and really want to know how well they fare. I'll keep you informed.

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