Friday, February 26, 2010

Cheese Crackers

Cheez-its are quite possibly the most addictive snack ever. I can't buy them. I will eat the whole box! Of course I was immediately drawn to this recipe when I saw the picture of those little crunchy, cheesy crackers. It's ok to make them at home though...yeah, that's what I told myself.

I never guessed making crackers would be this easy. Since I had my food processor out for the one-ingredient ice cream, I decided to go ahead and try this too. That sucker weighs 28 lbs. YES - twenty-eight! I don't like getting it out very often because of that and the fact it's a pain to clean all the parts. I think once I start making baby food, it will have a nice home on my kitchen counter. Until then, it's not so easy to drag out of the cabinet and I use it as little as possible.

Back to cheez-its. I followed this recipe, but substituted half of the flour for whole wheat flour. The crackers came out great. They were crispy, cheesy, and poofed up quite a bit. I think next time I would not refrigerate as long before rolling, and maybe even roll them thinner to keep them from getting as puffy. Aaron thought they needed more salt, but that's just personal preference.

Source: Home Cooking

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper (optional)
4 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
3-4 TBSP water

Pulse the flour, salt and pepper, then add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add grated cheese a little at a time until the mixture again resembles coarse meal.

Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms into a ball. It will probably take a minute or so. (I ended up using 3 TBSP)

Remove, wrap in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours. I left mine overnight. This way the butter has time to solidify and I think makes for puffier crackers.

Roll the dough out to 1/8th-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet. You don't want to roll them paper thin, neither do you want to roll them too thick. If they are too thin, they will not puff up as much. If they are too thick, they will not be as crispy.

Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut 1 inch squares. Or, if you're like me and know the chances of making mini roll-out sugar cookies is pretty slim, use your cutters here! I made little spring crackers of bunnies, chicks and tulips.

Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Watch them after the 10 minute mark.

One-Ingredient Ice Cream

This just might be the most genius dessert ever - ice cream made from bananas. That's it - just bananas! You won't even need an ice cream maker. I tried it out this week and it's pretty good! Sure, it's not Cold Stone, but it is tasty and healthy at the same time. I was a bit worried when I started the food processor. It sounded like I was processing rocks, but it finally smoothed out into the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.

This would also be a great alternative for anyone who can't/doesn't eat dairy. And you can use up the bananas that always seem to get too ripe too fast.

I mixed a little chocolate syrup in mine, so technically I made two-ingredient ice cream. I'll be trying peanut butter next time.

I'm wondering - can you make this ahead and freeze? If you've tried that, leave me a comment and let me know. Also give me your mix-in ideas.

Source: The Kitchn

Ripe Bananas

Peel & slice the bananas into small pieces.

Freeze for just 1-2 hours (I did overnight).

Blend, blend, blend - scraping down the bowl when they stick.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thai Chicken Wraps

Wraps are a popular dinner in our house. We have two regulars: Chicken Caesar and Southwest Chicken. Now we have a third - Thai Chicken. I recently had a really good Thai wrap for lunch and wanted to find something similar to make at home. While this recipe was very good, I am still on a hunt for a different sauce. The sauce I had ordered was much lighter in color and very spicy. I know how to fix the spice level, but not sure what was in, or not in, the sauce to make it much lighter. I'm guessing no soy sauce? Either way - these wraps are super easy to make and taste great!

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

3 (6-ounce) chicken breasts
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use Lite)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned cucumber

1/4 cup room temperature chunky peanut butter, soften in microwave if it has been refrigerated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (12-inch) flour tortilla wraps

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Toss chicken with soy and oil and grill 6 minutes on each side.

Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and cayenne together. Stream in vegetable oil.

Slice cooked chicken on an angle. Toss with carrots and cucumber.

In a very hot nonstick skillet or over a gas burner heat tortillas 15 seconds on each side.

Pile chicken, rice and veggies in wraps and drizzle liberally with spicy peanut sauce before wrapping and rolling.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chicken & Basil Dumplings

Now that I'm back to work, my evenings are pretty hectic. It seems like a rush to try and get everything done before Caitlin needs to go to bed at 8pm. That includes dinner and cleanup, and packing leftovers for lunches. Not to mention all of the cleanup of bottles and clothes, and re-packing for the next day. Basically, I've worked 6 days now and am already not liking this new schedule. Luckily I am taking Wednesdays off as a vacation day for a while, but still need to get things more manageable because those days are limited.

To save some time, I'm trying to use my crockpot more. It's great in the winter to make a big pot of soup and have dinner ready to go without much effort. I found this recipe for Chicken and Dumplings and although it was meant to be made on the stovetop in about an hour, I used the crockpot instead. Check out the source link for the original recipe. I have adapted the ingredients and directions below to the way I prepared the recipe.

This was one of my favorite soups I have ever made. It's healthy, hearty, and you probably have all of the ingredients to make this already. The broth is thick and has a rich chicken flavor. The dumplings were the best part, though. With the garlic, basil, and butter, they weren't at all bland. We'll definitely be making this again. Next time I might add in some peas.

Source: Adapted from For the Love of Cooking

Soup Ingredients:
1 chopped onion
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 cups of chicken broth (I used about a quart of water and extra chicken bouillon)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I put in frozen to start)
1 tsp dried basil
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken bouillon

Soup Directions:
Put all ingredients above into slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6 hours.

1 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine the flour with basil, garlic powder, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. But in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine buttermilk and egg, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.

Remaining Ingredients:
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 cup of chicken broth (I just dipped some out of the crockpot to mix)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and shred with 2 forks. Add the chicken back into the slow cooker. Combine the cornstarch with the chicken broth and mix thoroughly to make a slurry. Add slurry to the soup.

Dumpling Directions:
Drop dumpling dough, 1-2 tsp per dumpling, into the chicken soup. Cover and continue to cook on low for another hour and a half - two hours. Add the chopped parsley to the soup and serve.
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