Cracker Bonanza

After a few unsuccessful attempts we ended up with three really good cracker variations. One of the keys to success seems to be to roll the dough as thin as possible….and then roll it a little more.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups rye flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3  cup oil
  • 1 cup water

                Variation 1 – Rye: add caraway seeds (about 1 tbsp)

                Variation 2 – Italian: add Italian seasonings (about 1 tbsp)

                Variation 3 – Sea salt and fresh ground pepper: add 1 tbsp of sea salt and 1 tbsp of ground pepper

We get the feeling that you can experiment with spices to get the taste you love… red pepper next?

Add all dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients. Mix with wooden spoon.

Roll out super thin (1/16 of an inch). Score with a pizza cutter. Poke each cracker with a fork. Sprinkle one last time with salt. Roll very gently to press salt into dough. Bake 18-20 minutes on parchment paper at 350 degrees (turn convection on for added crispness). Bake one at a time!

Super Spicy Mustard

With grilling season officially open at our house, we had to make mustard. It was on our “to make” list from the beginning… but we just never got to it. So yesterday we did it!

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup mustard powder
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Grind seeds with mortar and pestle until semi crushed.

Mix seeds, powder and salt. Stir in vinegar, water and honey. Mix well.

Pour in glass jar. Let sit for at least 24 hours.

I’m sure it depends on the kind of seeds you use…. But holy smokes… ours turned out super spicy – but really tasty!

Kinderbrot

I remembered this recipe that we sometimes made when I was little. It’s not only really good tasting – you can also really get your children involved. Marlena LOVES to mix and knead dough. And to eat it afterwards, of course.

Kinderbrot (or Kinderbroetchen – meaning something similar to rolls) are easy and fun to make and a healthy snack.

Ingredients (for about 6-8 rolls):

1 tsp yeast
1/3 c warm milk
1/2 tsp honey

2 1/2c whole wheat flour
a little bit of salt
1 c lukewarm water
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients in a small bowl. Wait until it gets a little bubbly.

Mix everything else but the flour together. Once the mixture is smooth add yeast mix. Stir well. Add flour slowly into mix. Your kid can help stirring. Wooden spoon works best.

Once all the flour is mixed in, take dough out of bowl and knead by hand until it gets all smooth and a little shiny.

Transfer into new bowl with a little bit of oil. Let rise in a warm place until it doubles (about 30 minutes). Knead (briefly) again.

Make little or big breads. Be creative.

Put on baking sheet with parchment paper.

Let rise again for a little while.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes (for smaller breads).

Eat pure or add butter, fruit spread etc. Tastes best warm…

Marvelous Muffins

This muffin recipe is definitely a keeper. I played around with it for a while and ended up with an easy-breezy recipe that tastes great, is kid friendly and your kids can even help …

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup of raisins, nuts, fruit, etc.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the eggs, honey, oil and orange juice. Mix everything together with a fork.

Now you can either mix in the whole cup of fillings at once or divide the dough and have different kinds of muffins (e.g. I like raisins, Ken likes walnuts, Marlena wanted blueberries). (You can even pour the batter in the pan and “fill” each muffin individually.)

Grease the muffin pan and fill with batter.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Soooo good!

Banana Chocolate Bread

Marlena asked me yesterday if she could have a piece of chocolate for dessert…. “Sorry”, I said, “but I don’t think we are going to have a lot of chocolate for the next few weeks. How about we make some banana bread?” –Pause- “How about some chocolate banana bread?” she responded.

So that’s what we did. And it turned out really yummy. (But not very sweet – just to warn those of you who like it rather sugary…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 2 t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • 2 T milk
  • pinch of salt

Mash bananas. Mix all the wet ingredients together in one bowl. Combine all the dry ingredients in a second bowl. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mix. Blend for about 2 minutes. Pour in buttered loaf pan (8x4x2) and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Enjoy.

Counting on Beans

I was inspired by a post on www.keeperofthehome.org that talked about how to use beans to manage the food budget. I have to confess that I tend to shy away from cooking with beans – so far. I love lentils but I generally use beans only to make chili.

My hesitation with beans might be slightly based on my first experience – about four years ago – when Ken and I decided to cook chili with dry beans. We soaked them for maybe an hour and then added way too much chili powder to the mix. The dinner ended with us trying to politely eat around the beans and at the same time consuming enormous amounts of milk to cope with the extreme spiciness of the dish…

So I decided that a good way to begin my “second” bean discovery would be to modify my chili recipe – making the bean more a center piece… and hopefully a little more tender.

Lenten chili:

  • 3 cups of mixed beans and lentils.  – I never really paid enough attention to how beautiful and colorful beans are. So I tried to make the nicest looking blend possible.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 can tomato sauce

Sauk bean/lentil mix over night. Than simmer for two hours.

Heat some olive oil in large pot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until soft. Add spices. Mix in tomato sauce and cooked beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Garnish with whatever you like. Delicious.

Snack Time

I’m not quite sure why toddler crackers (or any crackers, for that matter) need to have 20 ingredients. Even though half of them are organic and none of them sounds too scary. But still, these are supposed to be simple, plain crackers. And, of course, they are not going to work for this fast. And probably not afterwards, either. I’m feeling a little bit silly that I never read through the whole list before. But that’s what “organic” sometimes does to you. It tricks you into thinking that it’s automatically good for you. But that needs to be the content of a post dedicated to just that topic.

Another problem we had was baking powder. Our original one contained aluminum – so we had to switch to an aluminum free version.

So here’s what we did. After looking at tons of cracker recipes and trying to take bits of pieces from each of them, we ended up with our first batch of homemade crackers yesterday…

Lenten sweet potato crackers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 big sweet potato
  • 1 Tsp of baking powder
  • 3 Tsp of butter
  • A little bit of salt

Mix flour, salt and baking powder together. Put in food processor with dough hook and setting if available. Add semi melted butter. Mix until it’s kind of coarse.

Put sweet potato in microwave and bake under “baked potato setting” – twice. Puree sweet potato. Add the puree to the rest of the dough. Mix until you have one big clump. (You might have to add some water to get enough liquids.)

Divide dough in 3 or 4 parts. Wrap in plastic wrap. Let cool in refrigerator for about an hour.

Roll out really thin. I used a pasta maker which did a wonderful job.

Cut out small crackers with cookie cutters. Make sure you or your kids like the shapes you use J

Place on baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake for 10 more minutes. Let cool. The crackers are really crispy once they are cool – they seemed to be a little chewy while they were still hot which made me nervous first…

Scary discoveries #1: What’s this?

Ingredients: salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated palm oil, cornstarch, dried leek, garlic powder, spices, artificial and natural flavors, turmeric, disodium inosinate, caramel color, TBHQ

This is one of my favorite kitchen helpers: veggie bouillon cubes. I used to think that every soup and sauce would be better if you would throw one of those in there… better definitely doesn’t mean good for you if you take all these ingredients into account.  (I had no idea what TBHQ actually was. After reading about it, I’m sure I don’t want this to be part of our daily diet: http://www.naturalnews.com/031318_TBHQ_food_preservatives.html )

So I’m busy cooking and freezing real beef and chicken stock. I imagine that should work even better when it comes to preparing tasty healthy soups, stews and sauces. But I have to say that the hardest thing about this is really to actually handle all these bones and meat pieces. Yuck! I understand that it’s important to know what you eat. I might need a few more cooking sprees to be completely convinced…

How I make stock:

Chicken stock:

  • 1 whole organic chicken
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery sticks
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • Fill up pot with water

Bring water with chicken to a boil. Skim off the scum. Add everything else and cook in slow cooker for 16 hours.

Beef stock:

  • 2 pounds of soup bones
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery sticks
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • Fill up pot with water

Cook in slow cooker for 16-20 hours. ( I know that some people recommend using parts like calves foot to the mix… so far, I can’t get myself to do that…)

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