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Herbed Croutons

Mary Anne here. ‘Tis the season for cleaning out the fridge and addressing those bits of leftovers too good to toss, but not really all that appetizing in their current condition. This was the case with our leftover breads and rolls from Christmas dinner. And as Michael pointed out, turning bread into crumbs was redundant as our freezer is well-stocked with several bags full!

We are big soup and salad eaters in our family and so the logical solution was to prepare my Herbed Croutons, using some of them immediately and then stashing the rest in the freezer. I love these little gems as they’re crispy and buttery on the outside, but the inside retains some of the bread’s original softness. (I can’t stand those processed wood-like cubes that come pre-packaged!) I add walnuts to the mix and use whatever dried herbs I have on hand. Use your own favorite combo to season the batch – just don’t skimp on the butter and garlic!

Herbed Croutons
Makes 4 to 5 cups

Ingredients:
4 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
4 Tablespoons sweet butter – stock
4 to 5 cups “day old” bread, cut into ½ inch cubes – stock
2 cloves minced garlic – stock
2 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence, or your favorite mix i.e. Italian seasonings – stock
¾ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese – stock
¾ cup walnut pieces (optional) – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $0!
Total Per ¼ cup Serving: $0!

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over a medium flame. Toss in the bread cubes, stirring to coat evenly. Sauté the croutons over low heat, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly, until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, herbs, walnuts, salt, and pepper to taste, sautéing an additional 5 minutes.

3. Transfer to a mixing bowl, sprinkle with the grated cheese and walnuts, and stir until croutons have cooled completely.

4. When cooled, store for several days in a sealed container or freeze for a snowy day. Great on salads as well as winter soups, just click on the links if you need a little inspiration!