Crouton love.

Coffee.  That’s a given.  But I am also a salad girl.  Give me a good salad over a steak any day.  And I particularly love a salad that goes crunch. 

Salad, soup, or snack.  I.  Love.  Croutons.

I know these little bits of heaven are scarcely more than dry bread and a sprinkle of seasonings, but simplicity often leads to true deliciousness.  

Have you seen the prices retailers demand for such a treat?  Even my local store brand croutons are $1.88 for a mere 5 ounces of crusty, old bread. 

When I discovered how easy (and absurdly inexpensive) it was to make my own croutons, it naturally became a part of my weekly routine. 

It’s also a great way to put good use to dry, leftover bread (thus saving more pennies!).  We recently went out of town for a few days and returned to a cupboard of various breads that I had neglected to use up beforehand.  No problem.  The ends of the Italian bread (which no one in my house will eat), and a half loaf of whole-grain sandwich bread were transformed into delectable little croutons.

I have one child that refuses to eat the crusts.  Always.  (I think there must be a law written down somewhere that says every household must have at least one child like this.)  I have since decided it’s truly not worth the fight.  I oblige her by cutting off the crusts and saving them for my weekly crouton bake. 

I am also one of those cheesy moms that cuts little shapes into sandwiches for the kids’ lunches.  (Even my dear husband requests a heart-shaped PB&J every now and then.  And I am certain he is thrilled that I just publicly shared this information.)  All those edges are perfect candidates for croutons!

Throughout the week, I toss all the crusts, heels, edges, and any other stale bread into an air-tight container for “croutoning.” (I’m pretty sure I just made that word up.)  I use almost any kind of bread.  French bread, Italian bread, various homemade breads, sandwich breads (even hearty whole-grains!), leftover hamburger or hot dog buns, etc.  Endless possibilities.  Then once a week (usually on Monday), I work my bread magic.

Here’s my favorite way to season them:

Parmesan Croutons

6 c. ½-inch bread cubes (any bread: French, Italian, sandwich, whole-grain, etc.)
¼ c. butter
3 T. Parmesan cheese, grated
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1. In a large skillet, melt butter. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.

2. Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Add seasoned butter mixture and stir until bread is thoroughly coated.

3. Spread bread cubes in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake about 10 minutes more or until bread cubes are crisp and golden. Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

NOTE:  These croutons taste absolutely fabulous when used in the Breakfast Casserole recipe from yesterday’s post:  Upside Down and Sideways!

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