On the Side

Side dishes

Homemade Croutons! Simple and Easy!

Homemade croutons are super easy! Not too long ago we posted our recipe for Caesar dressing and someone asked how we make homemade croutons. Of course, it’s easy to buy store bought croutons and tear open a bag, but it’s not hard to whip them up at home either.

I have never actually followed a crouton recipe, I just needed some, didn’t have any, and gave it a shot. Most recipes out there call for stale bread. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have stale bread on hand. If I did, I’d definitely use it for croutons.

So what do you do if you don’t have stale bread?

You can use any bread you have on hand. Leftover French bread or artisan bread is good. But, I’ve even used sliced sourdough or leftover deli rolls. I don’t know any breads for certain that won’t work, you might want to experiment a bit. I suspect that a more moist bread would just take longer in the oven.

FYI! My method is not exact so I won’t be posting a real printable recipe.

I start with olive oil or melted butter, sometimes I even mix the two together. You don’t need a lot. Just lightly brush both sides of your bread slices, or the outside of your roll. I prefer this method instead of trying to coat the bread after it has been cubed, but if you like that better – go for it. You don’t want them wet, just oiled up enough so that the seasoning will stick to it.

Once the bread is lightly coated slice it into cubes, or even hand tear it into chunks, your choice. I prefer to slice them into bite size cubes.

Here’s the fun part, seasoning! This can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like. You can use dry Italian seasoning and salt, Pappy’s Garlic and Herb seasoning, garlic salt, seasoning salt, or just garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Toss in a pinch of cayenne if you’d like. It’s really up to your imagination how you want to season your croutons.

Most of the time, I season mine with granulated garlic, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. You can season them before you slice them up or you can put them on a baking/cookie sheet and season them and toss them around, just make sure they are well seasoned.

Put them on a baking sheet and pop them into a 325 degree oven. You want to just let them dry out and crisp up in the oven until they are crunchy and golden brown. I honestly don’t have a solid time because I turn on my oven, prep my croutons, toss them into the oven, then make my Caesar dressing, and start prepping dinner. You’ll smell them and that will remind you to check on them. If you aren’t sure if they are done pull one out and sample it. You really want them to be dry, browned, and crunchy.

I’ve found that 4 slices of sourdough bread or two deli rolls will make almost more than enough croutons for a salad for 4 people. If you have more leftover just put them in a baggy or air tight container. I have no idea how long they’ll keep because we usually use them up in a couple of days if I make too much. šŸ˜‰

Homemade Caesar Dressing

We love a good Caesar Salad. It’s perky, crunchy, and zesty. We went searching for recipes and tried several but it finally took some experimenting before we created our own. Once you make it a couple of times the process is really easy. We over emulsified one time and ended up with a really spectacular homemade mayo… *ahem* anyway, this recipe is a double batch. We usually give a rough chop to about 3 heads of romaine lettuce, toss in some homemade croĆ»tons, and top with fresh ground pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. It works great as a side dish or it’s easily topped with grilled chicken or even grilled salmon for a main course.

Caesar Dressing RecipeFeel free to use an olive oil of your choice and, of course, more or less of anything to your preferred taste. We love the Mediterranean Blend (Olive, Canola, and Grapeseed oil) that we get at Costco, it’s seems a little lighter and the flavor blends well with the rest of the ingredients.

Some people get a little freaked over the use of raw egg yolks, but, the acidity from the lemon juice helps to “cook” it. Fact is, a good Caesar salad uses anchovies and raw egg yolks.

Be sure to make it a couple of hours ahead and let it sit in the fridge.

Mike and Amy's Caesar Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 2oz can of anchovy filets packed in olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3-6 med-large cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 lg egg yolks
  • juice of two lemons
  • 2 tspn Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tspn Worcestshire sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups (approximately) of Mediterranean blend oil or your preferred olive oil
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a mini food processor or by hand, finely mash/chop your anchovy filets (with the oil from the can) and garlic.
  2. Add 4 egg yolks to a bowl, add garlic and anchovy mixture, cayenne pepper, Dijon mustard, Worcestshire sauce, and lemon juice. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Stream in oil as you are whisking, once it is blended add Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. We put this dressing in a mason jar and pop it in the fridge. This makes a double batch of dressing that serves 4 people at a sitting with roughly 3 heads of freshly chopped romaine. Additionally, you can double or more the romaine and serve more people using all the dressing.
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Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Triple digit heat here, folks. Triple digits. Summer is here. It is the season of salads! This Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn salad is the perfect side dish for grilled tacos or barbecue of any kind.

Know what is super easy to get a hold of in the stores right now? Corn. Yellow, white, sweet, whatever your pleasure – corn is cheap, fresh, and plentiful right now.

Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn SaladDo yourself a favor this weekend, please. Go buy however many ears of corn you need for a meal and grab two extra. You are about to make a summer salad that will blow your flip flops off. Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn salad is fresh, easy, healthy, and sides to just about anything you want to throw on the grill from chicken and beef to fish.

Now, do yourself another favor, please, I’m begging you… don’t shuck that corn. Don’t open it up and smear it with whatever and then wrap it back up, don’t wrap it in foil, and, for the love of all that is summer goodness, DO NOT boil your corn.

Roasted corn is a simple, summer pleasure that is at its best when cooked right in the package nature gave it!

Do we have that straight?

Roasted CornHere’s what you’re going to do, take that gorgeous, fresh corn and put it on your grill. That’s it. Don’t touch it, don’t baste it, don’t salt it, just cook it out there and let it steam in the package Mother Nature gave it, right there, preferably over coals, but propane will do (maybe, toss in some pecan or hickory chips) and cook up those sweet, yellow, cobs of sunshine.

Now, hide those two spare ears, would ya? I’m telling you, sometimes you have to go full-blown kitchen ninja just to make sure you have a couple of ears of roasted corn handy. And, please, don’t go substituting canned corn. I guess you could, but good grief, it won’t taste as good.

I have the most delicious salad/salsa hybrid you’ve ever puckered your lips around. Just trust me, and follow the recipe. Double it, if you want, but give it a shot as-is your first time through this bowl of summer awesomeness.

Now, I say that because Mike gave me a ration of b.s. over my choice in beans. This isn’t a “Cowboy Caviar” and it’s not a bean salad. We don’t need pinto beans, black eyed peas, or chickpeas.

Serve this salad with frickin’ anything. Tacos, grilled chicken, tri-tip, whatever.

There are lots of variations, but, you can’t beat fresh summer produce and lime juice. It’s perky with a lovely sweet, roasted flavor from the corn (corn you GRILLED instead of using something out of a can or boiling it!) and the summery, herb-y zip from the cilantro.

Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 30oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed in cold water)
  • 2 ears of roasted corn (cut off the cob)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes or 2 big tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 a medium RED onion (diced finely)
  • 1 jalapeƱo (diced finely, don't seed it, wimp!)
  • 1 bundle of green onions (chopped)
  • 1 bundle of cilantro (chopped)
  • 4 limes (juiced)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Dice or chop all the ingredients per the ingredient list. Try to remove as much of the cilantro stems as you can, they tend to be tough. Dump it all into a bowl. Pour over lime juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. I usually make this an hour or two before we plan to eat.
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