This weekend I caught a cold and couldn’t force myself to do much of anything yesterday except watch Alien and Aliens (today will be Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection). I have a ton of projects I wanted to get to, but they require more physical energy than I’ve got at the moment. So I decided to make vegetable stock and homemade croutons to not only make the kitchen smell nice but also make me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something this weekend. They’re two of the easiest and laziest things I know how to make. Besides microwaveable brownies.

How to make vegetable stock:
Step 1: Save vegetable scraps for a few weeks and store in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. My scrap pile included squash peels, squash seeds, scallion ends and skins, garlic nubs and skins, thyme, sage, oregano stems, carrots, kale stems, broccoli stems, sweet potato scraps, and I think even some ginger scraps.
Step 2: Dump your scraps into a pot and add about 2 quarts water for every 4 cups of vegetables. I dumped in the water first, then my bag of veggies. I also added half a dozen small peppercorns for flavor. It seemed like I needed more than 2 quarts of water for the amount of veggies I had, so I added an extra quart. In hindsight, this was a good idea because an entire quart of it ended up boiling down. (Leaving me with exactly 2 quarts).

Step 3: Bring the pot to a boil, then take down to a simmer for about an hour. Taste the stock while cooking to make sure it tastes ok (I’ve read warnings in other recipes that it can turn out bitter if you over-boil).
Step 4: Remove from heat and strain the stock out into whatever container you want to put the stock in. Mark it with a date so you can remember when you made it (and so it doesn’t sit unused in the fridge for too long). Now add it to soups, substitute it for cooking water for quinoa, rice or couscous. Or use it for whatever you want, really. And compost the boiled veggies afterward, if you can.

Now, let’s make croutons.
Step 1: Let some good farmers market bread go stale, ignore it for a week, or simply forget what the hell is in that brown bag on your counter. The bread will get hard, but make sure it’s not moldy. I used some pricey fig and walnut bread I bought at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market last week, and didn’t want to feel guilty about throwing away the half of it I didn’t get around to eating (though it was awesome bread when it was fresh).
Step 2: Cut it into cubes. If you need to use a hacksaw, your bread is probably too stale to use at this point– compost it. If you can saw it with a bread knife, you’re still in the crouton zone.

Step 3: Toss onto a (preferably rimmed) baking sheet with salt, pepper, olive oil (or butter) and whatever fresh (or dried) herbs you have on hand. I happened to have some fresh thyme, sage and oregano.

Step 4: Bake at 350° – 400° (whatever you feel like, doesn’t matter all that much). Enjoy the smell wafting from your oven, and try to stir them at least once while cooking. Bake for 15-30 mins. This isn’t an exact science – baking time depends on whether you’ve preheated your oven, how fresh your bread is and how toasty you want your croutons. But don’t forget about them and let them burn! I’ve done this before and it’s a damn shame to have to throw out what would have been a delicious batch of croutons.
Step 5: Let cool and dump croutons into a container of your choice (Ziploc baggie, plastic container, mason jar, etc). They’ll stay good for quite a while, until they start to smell strange. Use as toppers for soups or salads.

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