What's For Dinner: Strawberry Salad with Warm, Homemade Croutons

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

First off, you need warm, soft, homemade croutons in your life.  Seriously.

I get two loaves of ciabatta bread almost every time I'm at Costco (I get the Semifreddi brand, and they come in packs of two).  My kids snack on torn-off pieces while we circle the store, and that frees me from fighting over strangers at the sample tables.  (I actually am not in the least tempted by the samples, probably because I hate greedy, impolite people...)

That night or the next, I'll make these croutons and we'll eat it as part of a salad, filled with all sorts of goodness I usually have on hand, also thanks to Costco: think rotisserie chicken, lettuce blend, fruit, nuts, bleu cheese, avocados, craisins, hardboiled eggs, deli meat, etc.

On this particular night, we stuck with a strawberry salad.  I used a simple poppyseed dressing recipe and it was very good.  Otherwise, we just use whatever dressings we already have on hand.

It really is an easy, healthy, and taaaaaasty meal.  My kids usually gobble it up.  This is another one of those little-of-this, little-of-that recipe, so alter it as you will!  (I don't usually even use measuring tools, but included that option for you here to at least start with.)

The biggest key about the croutons is to take them out just as they're barely starting to toast and harden up.  They are best when they are on the softer side.  Think, pillowy croutons!  Whatever I have leftover (and it makes a lot), I freeze in big ziplock bags and then make into a breakfast casserole (recipe coming soon).

Poppyseed Dressing:
alternated from here
Note: (I don't use vegetable oil here, but you can.  Just keep in mind it hardens in the fridge, but a few seconds in the microwave cures that)

1 cup olive oil
1 TB sugar
1/2 cup White Vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 TB poppy seeds

Combine ingredients into small bowl and whisk well.

Warm Homemade Croutons
Note: I make these in 1-2 loaf increments, so double the recipe as needed.

1 Loaf french or ciabatta bread
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp basil/oregano/parsley (whatever you have on hand!)
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1-2 TB olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.

Slice bread into normal pieces, sandwich-style.  Cut those slices up into about four-six smaller parts.  Place in large bowl.  Add remaining dry ingredients.  Drizzle in olive oil and toss.  Add a little more oil, if the bread seems dry and the spices are not sticking to the bread.  Spread out on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Take out when the croutons are just starting to toast and harden.  WE love them fairly soft and pillowy, but you can also cook them 5-10 minutes longer if you want yours to be crunchy.  They're great that way too!  Freeze leftovers to use for a breakfast casserole.

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