Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas


We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We were lucky enough to travel to New Mexico (a true desert) for Christmas, and have spent that last few days away from the stresses of daily life with family. New Mexico even granted me a snowy December 26th! Hurray for snow! Thanks for visiting my blog- I hope your holiday was fantastic and I wish you the very best in the coming year.
photo of Sandia Mountain snow from abqstyle.com

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Homemade Wheat Thins


Yesterday I worked all morning to create . . . dun dun dun . . . a box of Wheat Thins. Sigh. A lot of work for some crackers. But I was home-bound due to the fact that Chris took the car to have a transmission leak fixed. So, why not bake? (Its not like I have Christmas cards to send, a sewing machine calling my name, a dirty apartment or anything like that.)

I am still trying to figure out some- let's call them- food allergies (I do not have allergies or intolerances by definition, but certain foods do cause adverse affects within my knees and feet) so monitoring what I eat is important. So far, all I have found out is that I cannot eat tree nuts with abandon. But I am still in pain, so I am still eating something(s) that bother me. In order to figure out what those things are, I am trying to eliminate store bought good with funny names, hydrogenated oils and HFCS because they are known to be inflammatory. (Hopefully, I can figure out what is wrong and go beck to eating more "normally.") But for now I needed to find a way to get crackers without the $4.00 price tag of natural crackers.

So I have set out to make my our crackers. I had success with graham crackers, so why not try something new?


Homemade Wheat Thins
adapted from lifespy.com
  • 2 3/4 cup Whole Wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch sea salt (plus more for sprinkling on the crackers)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
~Pulse flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together in food processor.
~Add warmed butter and mix until it resembles coarse meal.
~Slowly add buttermilk, stopping when the meal forms a ball.
Now here is the 'fun' part:
~Roll the dough out until it is 1/8'' thick or less.
~Cut to desired size, place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
~Poke with fork and sprinkle with salt.
~Bake until browning on edges. (I really don't remember how long I baked them- I just kept checking on them.)

Cool and enjoy.


I am not sure I will make these again, they were a workout just to roll out. I would roll the dough out until it was thin, but the goal is 1/8'' thick or less. In order to achieve this thickness, I rolled mine so it wouldn't stick. I would roll the dough between parchment paper until I thought they were thin, then cut away half, and roll the dough as flat as it would go again. My arms are definitely going to be sore.

And all my rolling seemed to be for nothing, because the crackers rose in the oven. Why did they rise? I thought it was baking powder's job to make stuff rise, but as this recipe shows, baking powder didn't come to work. Is baking soda also responsible for rising dough?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Peanut Butter Choclate Chip Cookies

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday; I was feeling a little under the weather and thus was a bit crabby. Nobody wants to read about peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from a crabby person. But after a night of doing nothing but watching all the free shows I have downloaded from iTunes and a quasi-good night's sleep I am ready to tackle the challenge that is Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

On Wednesday night, my husband and I were attending a dinner party with some friends from church, and we volunteered to bring dessert. I had to work most of the day Wednesday so I didn't get a chance to make the dessert before the husband got home, so he romantically offered to help make dessert.

Footnote: The husband is a software engineer with some slight OCD tendencies. He likes to do things in the correct order, exactly as the directions say. His need to follow directions and my free spirit and hap hazard way of measuring ingredients causes some tension in the kitchen. I used to measure up to his standards, but ever since I have been doing a significant amount of baking and cooking to avoid foods that cause adverse reactions in my body, I have discovered that even baking is not nearly as precise as they taught us in home ec (however, candy making is definitely an art requiring exact measurements and an accurate temperature reading). In baking and cooking, I have found that as long as you are pretty close with the flour, sugar and such, it seems to work.

So, while making the cookies, I measured by sight, instead of leveling the flour and brown sugar with a knife, and I eye-balled the volume of baking soda and other ingredients, like I have done for the past few months. This was enough to give the husband a heart attack and he left the kitchen saying, "I cannot be part of this." But in the end, he was part of it, and came back to help me roll the dough in sugar and flatten the balls with a spatula (of which he did a superb job).

And guess what? The cookies turned out great! They were a huge hit at our house and the party, here is all we have left:


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
modified from Smitten Kitchen
  • 1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat flour and White Whole Wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

~In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy.

~Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract.

~Add the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips.

~Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a spatula, lightly flatten, but do not overly flatten cookies.

~Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Nummy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Acorn Squash


So yesterday I was cleaning up our apartment (as it had gotten fairly dirty with both of us being busy and all) and in the kitchen I found an acorn squash from the fall. I decided now was as good a time as ever to cook it up. I have had good luck with butternut squash and I thought my new found skills would carry over into acorn squash.

I got my recipe from Cooking Light, but I didn't use the "spicy" ingredients they suggested. So, in reality, I didn't actually use their recipe, I just baked the squash with a technique most adults know (except for me as a newbie in the kitchen). For others who are new, here is what I did:

~Cut squash in half
~Scoop out insides like a pumpkin (save seeds for toasting later)
~Cut squash into wedges, arrange on parchment papered cookie sheet
~Coat wedges with spray cooking oil, sprinkle some salt, melted butter, honey and brown sugar (Since it was Cooking Light they went light on the good stuff- I went heavy).
~Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes (until tender).

Easy. I did that. They smelled good and even looked good. I took a bite, and my childhood memories came hurling back. Seriously . . . I gaged. I remember why my mother felt when she fed when my sister and I squash as kids we acted like she was trying to poison us. It's 'cuz she was!! I don't what it is about this squash, maybe it is a texture thing, but I do not like it.

Does anyone know the difference between butternut squash and acorn squash? Are their textures really that different? Or was it the baking that did me in? If I had cooked the acorn squash like butternut in the Barley-Squash Pilaf, would I have refrained from gagging?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Homemade Graham Crackers


While I was writing, I did find time to be a little distracted . . . so I made graham crackers! I think they turned out great- better than expected actually. They are not quite as light and airy as store bought crackers, but what do you really expect from whole wheat flour? Even the husband conceded that they tasted "a lot like real graham crackers." Victory!

I got the recipe from here, and didn't really change much. I did not actually use graham flour but they still tasted good, so I don't know if I will buy graham flour next time or not. If you make these and use real graham flour let me know how it goes.

Homemade Graham Crackers
  • 2 heaping cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 tsp backing powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C water
~In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
~Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so.
~Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough starts to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer.
~Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough 1/8-inch thick.
~Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm (I chilled for several hours).
~Preheat oven to 350F. Retrieve dough and roll it a bit more if it is not yet 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on parchment lined baking sheets. With a toothpick, prick several holes in each cracker. (If you cut the dough through but leave the squares together, you can break them up after they're baked, just like a store-bought graham.)
~Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.

Yield: 48 crackers

Note: I waited until most of my crackers were hard straight out of the oven, but had a few squares that looked like they were not cooked enough, and were going to be soft. However, it is the ones that looked soft that you see in the picture above- they turned out the best. And the others (which were hard out of the oven) are almost burned. So, I guess what I am so eloquently trying to say is this- follow the recipe, and take the crackers out when they start to brown on the edges.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hurray I'm Back!

So hello there- I am sure you missed me very much. I have handed in my second draft of my thesis to my reader and now I must anxiously await her critiques. However, in the meantime, I have lots of distractions to keep me busy. Such as the new sewing machine my parents got me as a graduation present! (I guess they felt sorry for me when I had to sew the quilt by hand.)
I am very excited to use the sewing machine; I kinda feel like I am back in 8th grade home ec, trying to learn how to sew a duffel bag and bean-bag frog. Oh well, I am sure it will all come back fast one I get it going. I also am back at the blog, so I hope you can stop by every now and again.

Christmas is in full-swing and we have sort of missed it due to finals and thesis deadlines, but we do have our mini-tree up, along with our nativity scene that I got last year for Christmas (which I LOVE). Here are some pictures of our festiveness:

The Tree
(Notice the dual tree toppers? The husband got to pick and he picked both!)


The Nativity
I love the tropical feeling the scene has with the spider plant hanging out in the back, and did you notice the huge bird peeking out behind the bull? It spices things up a bit, don't you think?


The Beautiful Bulb



Merry Christmas!

Singer image from target.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Study Break

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving- I know I did! Tons of food, family and fun. We are now back in Colorado and enjoying a snow-less existence. I would love to share our mini Christmas tree and homemade nummies with you but I have vowed to stay away from distractions (i.e. this blog) until I have my next draft of my Thesis to my reader. I should be back by December 15th- but until then Happy December!