The journey of a Christian wife, stay-at-home mom, quasi-tree-hugger, and cheapskate to find ways to "CHanGE" her life to be Cheaper, Healthier, Greener, and Easier. Constructive feedback always welcome!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Healthier: Alternatives to Packaged Bread Crumbs

I love me some bread crumbs. Especially on top of something cheesy. Mmmmm. Comfort food. But then I made the "mistake" of reading the ingredients on a canister of bread crumbs. Among some other things I couldn't pronounce were high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils (in other words, trans fat).

No wonder they tasted so good.

But in my efforts to make healthier changes around the house, I've started experimenting with other types of breading/topping to see what works. Granted, I could make my own crumbs out of regular bread, but that takes more time than what I'm willing to commit. I need something Easier than that. Here's what I've found.

Saltine Crackers
It's hard to find saltine crackers that don't have the nutritional no-nos that I'm trying to avoid. However, I did find that whole-wheat crackers both by Zesta and Premium are about as natural as you can get in this realm. So I tried crumbling a bunch and sticking them on top of my test dish--homemade au gratin potatoes. Result? Good texture, but the dish tasted way too salty. Guess the term "saltine" should have been my first clue, right? Here's my sign.

Bran Flakes
Definitely less salty than the crackers, not to mention healthier, but they were almost too bland on the potatoes. And a bit crunchy for my taste even when crumbled. Might work out better when breading chicken.

Panko Bread Crumbs

Winner! Kikkoman makes these, and they can usually be found with ethnic foods. They're usually about $2-2.50 per box, but I scored a GREAT deal at Publix about a month or so ago on two of them. After tax, I actually MADE about 40 cents per box with the coupons I had--and they weren't even on sale! So, in this one particular case, definitely Cheaper. By a long shot. I've tried them both as the topping on my au gratin potatoes and as a substitute for homemade Bisquick on chicken nuggets (I needed to make more Bisquick and didn't have time). Huz, who is now thankfully home from Afghanistan (which is why I've gone so long without posting), said that as much as he loves my Bisquick-covered chicken nuggets, the panko ones are actually better. They're not quite as good on the potatoes as regular packaged bread crumbs are, but they still have the proper texture and just enough taste to not overpower the rest of the dish. And they lack all of those ingredients that I'm trying to avoid. I still need to try them in meat loaf to see if they're a good binding agent.

Hope you find the coating you need for your homemade breaded meals!