Lately I’ve been inspired to do some serious decluttering. That topic, in itself, could be another whole series of blog posts (of which I am not yet the expert).
But for today, I am going to share with you an easy little recipe that will help you to declutter your freezer.
Did you know that you can make your own tasty, inexpensive and not-filled-with-gunk croutons? These taste so good, you’ll probably have to do as I do, and politely ask your family members NOT to consume them all before you get to enjoy the croutons on your salads.
The original recipe came from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1989). This is the one basic recipe book I chose and purchased when I was newly married (yes, we were married in 1989). I have used their recipe as a guide. A modern rendition of their recipe can be found here, along with some more options for you to try.
I will now demonstrate how to make delicious croutons from your leftover scraps of old bread.
It should be noted that the way to make this recipe out of “nothing”, is to create a habit of keeping any scraps of bread you don’t use in your freezer. I don’t know about you, but I seriously hate to throw away food. Part of this is likely because of how I was raised. My parents were frugal and taught me not to waste, but I especially learned from my grandparents, who told us stories of surviving The Great Depression. Not only that, but wasting food is too much like throwing hard-earned money out of the window.
The next best option would be to take advantage of your local supermarket’s “day old” bread rack. Most markets offer at least 30% off of day old bread, and often much more savings can be found. (Again, a topic for another post!)
So either find some fish or ducks to eat your stale bread, or make croutons (but I recommend the latter).
You could make these with fresh bread and they’d be just as yummy, but I love creating something delicious to eat out of stuff that cost me nothing, since it could easily have been thrown away.
I toss any of the following into the bottom section of my freezer, usually right in their original bags:
- any variety of slightly stale store-bought bread (but especially good are artisan or bakery breads)
- extra unused rolls from hot-dogs and such (even the cheap white-bread kind)
- heels from your bread (the part that no-one really wants to eat)
- leftover homemade bread that is no longer of optimal freshness (mine are usually leftovers from the bread-maker after two or three days).
I usually triple or quadruple this crouton recipe, depending upon how much stale bread I have accumulated and/or how many croutons I wish to make. I also really like to mix several different varieties of bread for more flavor and visual appeal.
Here’s the ingredient list (for a single recipe):
- about 2 cups cubed bread
- 1/4 cup butter or less (the real stuff; no margarine!)
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder (alternately you may use other seasonings such as 1 tsp dill or 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; my favorite combination is to use both garlic and dill)
- The first step is to assemble your bread. If it is frozen, you either need to take it out of the freezer at least a half hour before you want to use it (preferred), or “cheat” and use your microwave on a low setting (being careful not to overheat the bread and make it mushy).
2. Next, you need to cut the bread into whatever size cubes you’d like. Some recipes suggest tearing the bread, which is also an easy option if you don’t prefer cubes (like some of us “neat-freaks”).
3. Melt the butter and stir in your seasonings.
4. Toss the butter/seasoning mixture and bread cubes thoroughly. (Start stirring quickly before the liquid starts absorbing into just one section of your bread.)
5. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. (I love to use my Pampered Chef stoneware, but any cookie sheet will do.)
6. Bake at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake at least another 5 to 10 minutes. You will need to take out your pans often to see if they are done. Always stir the cubes if returning them to the oven.
7. The croutons are done when the edges are lightly browned and they are slightly crisp. Be careful not to overcook them; they will “harden up” a little when they cool. Cool on pan until they can be stored (if you can refrain from gobbling them all up right away!)
8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in your fridge. Enjoy!
Besides being delicious on salads, homemade croutons make a delicious snack (just ask my sons). There are a variety of other uses for croutons, including as a topping for baked fish or chicken.
So tell me, do you love croutons? Have you ever made your own? I’d also love to hear of any other delicious ideas for using your homemade croutons in the comments below.