One of the many food products I waste too often is bread. I’ll buy a baguette and use half of it, leaving the remains until they’re too hard to chew. I’ll bake fresh bread and let a third of it get soft and stale (which really annoys me). Even a store-bought loaf of bread often languishes in the bread box until it’s far past its sell-by date. This frustrates me, because I love bread!
But I’ve learned you don’t have to let good bread go bad. If you’re in the cooking mood, you can use old bread to make a refreshing panzanella salad or a savory bread pudding. If you’re not up for prepping a dish (which often I am not), there are simple ways to extend your bread’s life and its pleasure-giving capacity.
Craft Your Own Croutons
If you eat salads, you likely love croutons. And if you love croutons, you know that those from of a box pale in comparison with those made from real bread — whether freshly baked or store bought. To make your own croutons, chop bread into 1/2-inch cubes, toss the cubes with some olive oil, place them on a baking sheet, and season as desired. You can season simply with salt and pepper or boost your croutons’ flavor with onion powder, granulated garlic, or dried herbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning and shaking every so often. Like bread, homemade croutons freeze well, so if you have leftover bread regularly, you need never buy croutons in a cardboard box again. Make ‘em, freeze ‘em, and use ‘em when you need ‘em.
DIY Bread Crumbs
One of my favorite ways to use old bread? Make bread crumbs. Throw chunks of bread into a food processor and pulse until you see pebble-sized crumbs. If you’re not ready to use them right away, you can throw them in the freezer (in a freezer-safe bag) and pull them out shortly before using. Toss them with olive oil and top a casserole, or use them to bread chicken, fish, or veggies before pan frying or baking. Homemade breadcrumbs are easy, inexpensive, and far tastier than the ones you buy at the supermarket. Really. Truly. You will sneer at packaged bread crumbs forever after.
Feed The Birds
If all else fails and you have bread to spare, deliver it to your feathered friends. Find a pond or a flock, and share your wealth!
Image credit: rprata via flickr/CC license