Monthly Archives: September 2013

Disgustingly Easy Super Cheesy Better Than Store Bought Crackers

I first started making these when my daughter became addicted to a pricey store-bought cheese cracker. I couldn’t have afforded her ‘habit’ without this recipe. The best part, for me, is that they can be so easily adapted to accommodate food allergies, taste preferences, and seasonal influences. And yes, it’s another ratio recipe.

Ingredients:

3 Parts Your favorite firm cheese, shredded (Use really sharp cheddar if you want to replicate They Who Must Not Be Named’s crackers.)

1 – 2 Part(s) Baking Mix (ambient humidity affects this recipe greatly)

Milk or water

Toppings to add just before baking, if desired

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to (US) 350F (or your local equivalent).

Melt the cheese over medium/low heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly.

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Add a splash or two of milk to thin out the cheese. Keep stirring over the heat until it is like a thick potato soup.

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If you want to add dried herbs or veggie bits, now is the time to do so.

Turn off the stove, but keep the pot on the burner.

Add the baking mix a handful at a time, stirring each addition in before adding the next. When you find yourself chasing a big lump around the pot, it’s ready to be turned out onto a baking mix sprinkled flat surface for the next step.

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Roll out to 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness and cut into desired shapes. I like to use cookie cutters, but some people prefer to just slice the whole slab into squares or rectangles.

Use a fork to poke holes in the center of each cracker after transferring to ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle with more cheese or crushed nuts at this point, if you want them to be topped.

Bake until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes, give or take).

Transfer to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Notes:

If the dough in the pot is really greasy and not coming together after you have added all of the baking mix, add milk (or water) a splash at a time until it comes together. Not more than 1/4 cup, though, or you’ll end up with really thin flat biscuit-like things, not crackers at all.

If fully cooled before being stored in an airtight container, these crackers have a shelf life of… Hmmm. I have no idea – they’re always gone within a week of baking. so they last at least a week. Probably longer, but I can’t say for sure.

Do NOT (I repeat DO NOT) microwave the cheese – the end result is not pretty. It’s not edible. It does make for fabulous home defense weaponry, if you can get the intruder to eat one.

Microwaved cheese makes these crackers way too hard. Not the ‘oh dear that’s a really crunchy cracker’ kind of too hard, but the ‘honey call the dentist I just broke three teeth’ variety.

And, as I found out this week, always make sure the oven is set to Bake, not Broil, or this happens:

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Baking Mix

I blame my sister Bonny for this one. She was on this ‘make-a-mix’ kick for a good couple of years before we figured out how to make our own baking mix without having to purchase industrial shelf-stable shortening that we couldn’t really afford. The only drawback to it is that you have to store it in an airtight container in the freezer. Not the fridge; and definitely not the cupboard. Use it the same way you use your favorite boxed baking mix, and enjoy the savings.

Super Basic (mix up a little bit as you need it) Recipe:

1 C Flour

1 1/2 tsp Baking powder

1/4 tsp Salt

1 TBSP Room temperature stable fat/oil:  this can be shortening, lard, butter, coconut oil, or chilled olive or grapeseed oil, or even rendered fat*

Instructions:

Combine everything in the blender or food processor (or you can whisk it by hand, but that takes a very long time and a rather strong arm). Process until the fat is completely absorbed and the whole mix is a powder. Store up to 6 months in an airtight container in the freezer. I label my stuff with the date to toss so I can keep track.

Big Batch (keep it in the freezer) Recipe:

6 C Flour

3 T Baking powder

1 tsp Salt

1/3 C Room temperature stable fat/oil

Notes:

The ratios do change as you increase the overall volume. Slightly less salt is required as you get larger amounts, while the fat content goes up a smidge. 

The other thing to keep track of is your fat/oil. Some things go rancid faster than others, while some things have stronger or softer flavors than others.

Coconut oil has a strong scent, but almost no flavor. It is also still solid at room temperature and doesn’t go rancid very fast (one of the reasons you find it in so many products).

*Rendered fat – the fat or grease that is left in the pan after dry-cooking any meat such as pork, lamb,  or duck. Bacon grease blends in to the baking mix beautifully, but will impart a very salty bacon flavor on milder recipes. My favorite coffeecake recipe came out too salty, for example. But my biscuits and gravy turned out great!

For a gluten free mix, use equal parts brown rice, tapioca, and oat flours in place of the regular flour.

For vegans, I advise the use of Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil for multiple reasons, not least of which is that it is organic and coconut oil has more nutritional value than the other non-meat options.

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BoozeyFruit and Basic Homemade Tinctures

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Do you make your own extracts and tinctures? I do. With a little modification to my original process, I have found that I not only get great full-flavored tinctures, but the vodka-infused fruit left behind is pretty cool, too!

This is a measurement-less recipe as the time of year, fruit used, personal taste, and your location will affect how much vodka and fruit you need. 

You will Need:

1 1-Quart mason jar
Fruit of choice
Vodka
Sauce pot
Mesh strainer
Cookie sheet
If fruit is small, like berries or grapes: wash and leave whole.
If fruit is larger, like peaches or pineapple: wash, peel as needed, and cut into rough, thumb-sized chunks.
Fill sterile mason jar with fruit, then add vodka to brim.
Pour the whole lot into a sauce pot over low heat (I do mean the very lowest possible setting on your stove).
Warm the fruit, but do not cook or stir it. Takes about 15-30 seconds.
Transfer everything back to the mason jar. Cap tightly and store in a cool dark place.
On the 3rd day, strain most of the fruit bits out of the liquid.
Transfer the strained fruit to a cookie sheet and into the freezer. When fruit pieces are solid, transfer to a freezer-burn resistant container (This is your BoozeyFruit).
Reseal the liquid and remaining fruit, and put back into a cool dark place for at least six more weeks (This is your tincture).
The best part? Everything gets used! I still kick myself when I think of all that fruit I wasted over the years.
A Note:
I have done this with vanilla beans, and then used the infused beans (made into a paste) instead of extract in a couple of my baking adventures.
The flavor overwhelmed my sugar cookie recipe, but really made my sage bread stand up and shout!

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Adventures In Frozen Comestibles…

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This is my new favorite way to get my daily serving of fruit. I prefer to make this with berries that were fresh when I froze them, but the bananas should be at the ‘only good for making banana bread’ stage of ripeness. That’s the key to the creamy texture without any dairy or sugar added.  The super cool thing about this recipe is that it’s really forgiving. It’s a ratios recipe, so no specific measures or conversions will be needed.

Basic Recipe:

1 part Frozen Banana, cut into chunks
1 part Frozen Fruit of choice (or frozen homemade apple pie filling, as pictured below)
When fruit chunks are well and truly frozen, put it into a food processor. Blend on high until smooth. Put mixture into a container and back in the freezer until refrozen.
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To serve:
Eat this the same way you would normally enjoy ice cream.
Works great in a cone, or as the base for a Sundae, or even in your favorite milkshake or smoothie recipe.
   ~Or~
Scoop balls of the mixture onto a cookie sheet and freeze overnight.
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You can stop here (see above picture), or dip them in chocolate and place back on the cookie sheet in the freezer for another hour.
Viola! You’ve just made mostly-healthy frozen bonbons!

Hoochielicious Recipe:

2 parts Frozen Banana, cut into chunks
3 parts Frozen Boozey Fruit
When fruit is well and truly frozen, put it into a food processor. Blend on high until smooth. Put mixture into a container and back in the freezer until refrozen.
Black Cherry un Ice Cream
To serve: Scoop into a Martini or Highball glass. Garnish with fresh berries on a cocktail pick, if desired.

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