I was reminiscing the other day about the lost art of passing down a sense of resourcefulness from generation to generation. Placing an increased value on learning facts from an institution and discovering things that are new, we’ve lost a lot of the wisdom that could be learned from the older generations in our own households. It used to be that the recipes you knew were those taught to you by your mother, who learned it from her grandmother, and so on and so on. And with the loss of this practice dies the art of being resourceful, when it comes to gathering ingredients for said recipes. If you asked my grandmother how she would prepare a meal for her eight children, she will probably tell you that the first thing she would do is to scrounge up the little bits of left-over ingredients she already held in the kitchen and make her meals based off of those ingredients. If she needed some other ingredients, she would try to make it from scratch. If she couldn’t make it from scratch, she would search for the produce that are in season, which would also be more plentiful, and thus cheaper. A meal is planned, and does not involve whimsically grabbing whatever looks good on the shelves.
Compare that to today. What most people do when they plan their meals is they go online and look up an exciting new recipe. Usually, it involves grabbing all the necessary ingredients, whether or not they are in season, with hardly a thought about the price. Rather than making teriyaki sauce from ingredients that are already present at home, most would think to go to the groceries and grab a bottle of Teriyaki Sauce, for a hefty $3 or more. Insert other pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods. Frozen foods being the worst.
I have nothing against discovering new recipes, since I am one who is also always trying to do such a thing. But I also place a lot of value in being resourceful. Cooking food at home is something I started to do right when I moved out of my parent’s house. I recognized that I can one-up my colleagues who were going out and buying fast food (or food much fancier than that), every day for lunch and every night for dinner. If I’m being honest, I started to cook, mostly to save money. I still consider it to be one of my top frugal life hacks, to date. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I cook meals for a whole week for Mike and I, with a budget of $50. This includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for 6-7 days a week. With the advent of trying to eat healthier, we have actually increased this budget recently to about $80 per week, which is still what some of our friends and family spend on one meal, per person. It kills me just thinking about it.
Perhaps it is from this resourcefulness which stems my longing to learn how to make bread at home. I decided that in 2018, I will learn to make all types of bread, from scratch. I even started to make my own starter, fermenting flour and water in a plastic bowl, feeding it every day like a child. But what of stale, old bread? Just as people purchase ingredients without a care about the price, they discard food at an alarmingly early stage. Bread is one of the household staples, so I figure it is here that I should start with my recipe series.
Mike and I buy bread from Whole Foods or other local bakeries, fresh, and in a linen bag or a paper bag. Initially, this was to avoid all the plastic, but in the end, we can’t go back to that pre-packaged bread that lasts ages. The experience is just not the same. Unfortunately, that comes with the price of quickly occurring stale bread, if we fail to eat it in a timely manner. Specifically, the crust which was once the perfect blend of flake and crunch, turns menacingly hard, so that I fear cutting into it with a serrated knife will rid me of all the serrations. It’s inedible, unless you want to risk fracturing off a cusp from your tooth. Most would just throw it out. But why not make croutons?
Croutons are another favorite in our household, mostly for my husband. He is obsessed with croutons (as a topping, as a snack, as dessert)! We stopped buying them last year, because, you guessed it, the packaging was always plastic. However, with this recipe, we can make fresh croutons from not-so-fresh bread, while skipping the plastic wrapping. And honestly, it turns out much better than the store-bought stuff anyway. I’ve been discovering that making things at home will always turn out better than the pre-packaged stuff. It’s simple, fairly quick, and uses ingredients that you would already have at home.
So here it is:
Basic Crouton Recipe
- 2 slices of stale bread, cut into preferred crouton-sized pieces.
- 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (depending on how large the slices are)
- 1 tbs of Herbs de Provence (or to your liking. We prefer to have a lot of this stuff)
- A pinch of salt.
- Optional – Parmesan Cheese. We like it equally, with or without.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Simply place bread pieces in a large bowl. Coat with the olive oil and the pinch of salt. Add Herbs de Provence and mix until evenly coated.
- Place bread on a baking tray.
- Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the bread pieces for more even cooking halfway through.
Store in a container with a tight lid. I’m particularly partial towards mason jars.
It should keep for a good few weeks stored this way, although there are no guarantees it would last this long. Not in our house, anyway.