Homemade Pesto Croutons

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A salad isn’t really a salad without croutons sprinkled over top. They add some crunch and textural contrast to an otherwise endless sea of leafy greens. However, store-bought croutons aren’t all that great. They’re hard little cubes of sawdust, sometimes coated in artificial butter and garlic or powdery cheese. They’re strangely tasty, yes, but in a Cheeto or Twinkie kind of way: not unpleasant, but riddled with artificial flavor.

Why degrade a fresh salad or homemade soup with dry hunks of preservative-coated bread? Give your meal the topper it deserves: Homemade Pesto Croutons. These addictive little devils are crispy-crunchy and loaded with flavor from a coating of garlicky basil pesto. They only require two simple ingredients and next-to-no time to make, but that little bit of extra effort yields the most delicious croutons you’ve ever had in your bread-munching life. I’m talking crunchtastic croutons, like the ones you’re used to from the store on steroids.  Their crisp exterior makes them hearty enough to stand up to your dressing, but their moister, softer insides are much less sawdusty and don’t require a glass of water to choke down.

Plus, you’re not limited to fake butter and garlic or even faker cheese when it comes to flavors; my croutons are dressed up in fresh, vibrant pesto, an easy 1-ingredient way to make your taste buds explode with pleasure. Fresh basil bursts through each bite with supportive hints of parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. These croutons are such a simple thing, but so delicious that you’ll find yourself craving them with or without a salad to put ’em on. _DSC8398

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can switch up the bread flavor, but stick to good-quality bread from your grocery store’s bakery, and choose something sturdy and crusty. Soft, moist breads won’t hold up.
  2. Feel free to make the pesto homemade.
  3. These babies will last a while in an air-tight container.
  4. You must use at least day-old bread, or it won’t be dry enough. However, that makes this a great use for old bread you don’t want to go to waste!

Pesto Croutons
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of day-old, good-quality Italian bread (not the thin stuff from the bread aisle; buy from bakery section)
  • 2 7-oz. containers of basil pesto (about 2 cups)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cube the bread into 1-inch cubes. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake until crunchy on the outside but not yet browned, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove bread from oven and turn oven up to broil. Generously spread pesto onto all sides of each crouton. Return to oven and broil until golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them; broiling takes things from done to burnt in a second.
  3. Let cool then serve over salad or munch on them for a snack._DSC8387

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Ring

Very rarely is it acceptable to rip, tear, and/or obliterate your food. People expect you to use utensils (and your manners). You must be neat and civilized.

I scoff at such social norms. Why, you ask? Because there’s always a loophole. Take this Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Ring, for example. It laughs in the face of proper eating habits. You can use your hands to rip off little pieces or hearty hunks and chow down. No one will judge you for it. It is finger food at its finest. No utensils required.

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Party Bread

New Year’s Eve will be upon us in six short days. Now, ask yourself this questions: are you properly prepared to celebrate?

If you don’t have all the ingredients to make this Party Bread, then the answer is: no.

You see, I’ve been ringin’ in the New Year with this cheesy, buttery, heavenly bread for as long as I can remember, and I don’t think I could celebrate without it. It is so insanely good; we’re talking blow-your-mind-all-the-way-to-the-moon-and-back good. You won’t even be able to wrap your head around the utter deliciousness of this hot, cheesy bread.

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Cheesy Potato Soup in a Bread Bowl

Today, I had a revelation:

Soup is so much better in a bread bowl.

Now, let’s not get it twisted. This Cheesy Potato Soup is my favorite soup ever, and it’s incredible with or without the bread bowl. It is smooth, creamy, and oh so cheesy. You see, it’s not your typical potato soup. Most utilize cheddar cheese, which is a fine option, don’t get me wrong. However, my soup uses a combination of American & Sharp Cheddar. This is the key, my little cookies. That American cheese gives this an incredible cheesy flavor and creamy, smooth texture like nothing you’ve had in soup before. Plus, that little bit of cheddar gives you just the right amount of tang. Toss in some tender, buttery chunks of Yukon gold potatoes and a handful of scallions for a burst of flavor, and you’ve got the PERFECT potato soup. It’s one of those meals where you’ll go to test a spoonful and you’ll just smile and say, “That’s GOOD.”

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Sweet & Simple: Basil Garlic Bread

Garlic is a beautiful thing. It’s flavor is so fantastic and so powerful. And yet, garlic is also universally complimentary of a plethora of foods. That’s one brilliant bulb. But garlic is in danger, my little cookies. It’s being exploited, overworked, and depreciated. We use garlic all the time, but hardly give it its place in the spotlight that is deserves. Basically, we’ve been putting garlic in things just for the sake of putting it in. Don’t get me wrong, most dishes are bettered by the addition of garlic. But sometimes, we need to step back and remember why garlic is such a wonderful herb/vegetable/spice in the first place.

Garlic bread is a fabulous way to showcase that. I’m not talking about that crap you get in the frozen section of your grocery store; I’m talking about the stuff you make fresh at home that is practically just as easy as throwing some frozen slices onto a baking sheet and tossing it in the toaster. There are a few simple steps and an itty-bitty ingredient list. The results that this quick and easy recipe yields are unbelievably delicious and packing tons of garlic impact. You won’t believe how this simple homemade bread can be some of the best you’ve ever had. Olive garden breadsticks, step aside.

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