Savory Oat Croutons

Like most gluten-free people, I gave up on croutons a long time ago. I went so long without them that I never even thought about adding back in a substitute. And to be honest, they're pretty decadent, right? If I can have a scoop of ice cream without sprinkles, I can certainly survive a salad without the starchy crunch of a crouton. Thing is, sometimes you WANT the sprinkles. Treating your own food with the care that a restaurant might take is a pleasure that's up there with doing at-home spa rituals. Enter the new crouton in my life. If you want to get really technical, it's savory granola. But that sounds confusing, so let's set technicalities aside. Using oats and seeds, it's filled with real food nutrition instead of the empty calories in gluten-free croutons. And the spicing makes it totally suitable to sprinkle alongside breakfast foods, snack on with some dried fruit, or top a grain bowl. I tried it out on some girlfriends in a breakfast salad with tomatoes, avocado, and bacon (sadly, no egg on top for me, but if I could eat it, it would have been front and center). It's a fun twist on a topping that can stand up to most dishes that you serve up during the day. I'd love to see what you do with it.

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 c sunflower seeds, hulled

1/4 c pumpkin seeds

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 tsp rosemary

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of red pepper flakes

6 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 c olive oil

Preheat oven to 300°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until everything is well combined and moistened. Spread onto the prepared sheet pan in tight rectangle. The mixture should all be touching and be in a layer that's about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Repeat 2 more times, until it has baked for 45 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Break up into bite-sized pieces and store in a container until ready to use.

Note: If you're making a salad and topping it with this, a maple vinaigrette is the perfect dressing. To make, combine 1/2 c olive oil, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt in a jar. Shake until emulsified. Use liberally.