Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homemade Croutons

I can't help it, if I'm going to eat a salad it better come with croutons.  I do enjoy a good salad, but there's just something about a crunch crouton to make it better.

On my quest to do away with most processed foods and to make more from scratch, I tackled my crouton obsession.  I do limit the amount of croutons that I'll eat in a salad but since I eat an average of 3 salads a week for my lunch at work, that's still a lot of croutons.

Now, my favorite are the Texas Toast Croutons and price isn't really an issue since they go on sale for $1 a couple of times a year and I always took that opportunity to stock up. Plus, I can normally use coupons to make it even less.  However I still wanted to try homemade. I didn't for a long time though because I figured it wasn't worth it, it would cost more for me to make them.
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Then it dawned on me, it would actually be more eco-friendly for me to make my own.  Here's why.  Husband is the one you normally eats sandwich bread in our house. I tend not to take sandwiches for lunches during the week and I rarely eat toast. I can go several weeks without eating any sandwich bread.  He eats it almost every day.  However whenever I bring home a new loaf of bread, he will stop using the current loaf.  This means that I tend to throw away at least 5 pieces of bread from each loaf.  It bothered me, but by the time I would go to use the bread it would be stale so I wouldn't use it either.   Then one day the light bulb went off.  Duh!  Use the bread he discards for my croutons!  Then I'm not actually buying anything specific for the croutons, which solves my issue of it costing more to make than buy, and I'm saving food from being wasted.  Plus, since I'm not buying a bag of croutons from the store, I'm not throwing away a bag in the trash that will live in a landfill for the next 50 years (at least..or so I'm guessing).   How is that for being eco-friendly, eh?

I've made croutons twice now and liked the way both batches turned out. I think that making croutons is something that I'll have to do every 2-3 weeks since I don't make a lot each time.  It's so easy and fast though, so I'm not worried about it.

To make croutons, all you need are spices, bread, and olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer).

I cut the bread into squares.  For me, since I normally have around 5-6 pieces of it, I just stack it up on a cutting board and cut it all at once.

I mix the spices with some olive oil.  So far I've been using about 1/4 tsp of the following spices: garlic powder, oregano, and parsley.  All of which I already had at home and didn't need to buy.  I've also been known to sprinkle in some onion salt but don't put it in too much or it will be salty.  I'm also planning to try doing this with just garlic powder. I do love garlic. Oh, and fresh Parmesan cheese. I think I'll sprinkle on some of that next time too.  I haven't measured the amount of olive oil I use.  I just kinda pour some in a bowl and mix with the spices.  The more bread, the more olive oil.  You don't need a lot though.

Pour the mixture over the bread and stir.  Don't stir too much or too hard, if you do you risk breaking up the bread and then you get crumbs and not croutons.   You basically just want the bread to be coated with it.

Spread the bread out evenly on a cookie sheet. I do spray mine with Pam first so it doesn't stick.   Then place in an oven at 325 degrees, for roughly 10-12 min.   You want the croutons to be crunchy but not burnt.  Once cool, store in an air-tight container. I've read some sites that say to only keep for a day or two, but I keep mine for over a week and so far they haven't made me sick and they have tasted fine.

That's it!  Anybody can do that right?  You get tasty croutons without any preservatives, you save bread from being thrown away, and you keep bags from ending up in the landfill.  Sounds like a win-win solution to me.

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