Say cheese (soufflé)!

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Another week, another riffle through Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. (New to this series? The preceding link brings you up to speed.) Having thus far only made sweets and snacks from Helen’s decades-old recipe collection, I wanted to make a main … Continue reading

Door County, savory-style

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A recent trip to Door County, Wisconsin, has thus far provided fodder for two blog posts. Please indulge me as I eke out just a few more culinary musings from the four days I spent with a good friend in … Continue reading

not-too-unhealthy cheese, bacon potato wedges

Not a football fan. If the Vikings hit the Super Bowl (unlikely), I’d root for the home team, but still don’t think I’d care overly much. Even the commercials often disappoint after all the hype. I hear you could even catch this year’s Super Bowl commercials online BEFORE the Super Bowl. Whas’ uuuuuup indeed.

But we talk food here, right? And since having kids, it’s been our family’s Super Bowl tradition to spread a plastic tablecloth on the living room floor and watch the game while we eat (relatively) unhealthy fare.

After hosting a big event Saturday night, I didn’t have much get-up-and-go as far as meal ideas for Super Bowl supper. Knowing I wanted to lean toward the carb/cheese/bacon end of the spectrum (tradition must be respected:-)), I microwaved two very large baking potatoes for about 6 minutes, then cut them into wedges. Spritzed with olive-oil cooking spray, they roasted at 425°F just until they started browning (8 minutes?). Next, they were sprinkled generously with shredded cheese and chopped bacon strips. (While heating the potato, I’d baked six or so bacon strips on a wire rack over a baking sheet, again at 425°F. This is The Best Way to Make Bacon–grease drips off onto the baking sheet and you pull the bacon at your preferred doneness, whether its just cooked through, deeply browned and crispy, any point in between.) I also microwaved frozen broccoli florets, which went over the potato wedges along with a handful of leftover caramelized onions. They roasted another 7ish minutes, then were served on a bed of shredded lettuce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese (the kind from a can! only on Super Bowl Sunday;-)), a spoonful of full-fat sour cream, and toss of sliced ripe olives.

I’ll admit to being impressed with my hastily thought through and thrown together meal. It had the bacon, cheese, sour cream bit–potatoes, too–but I managed to get the greens in there as well. Served with root beer floats, we watched the game and helped the girls with eleventh-hour Sunday evening homework. Unstructured, casual, and just plain fun. Tomorrow we’ll sit at the dinner table and eat our well-balanced meal–no TV, no homework. But tonight we enjoyed breaking (multiple) family rules and it tasted good.

almost-potato skins

almost-potato skins

easy cheesy DIY

Doing It Yourself is all the rage these days. Reality TV is ripe with programming devoted to folks doing their own pretty much everything. I’m not a fan of reality TV and you’ll never catch me sewing my own clothes, making my own (or anyone else’s) jewelry, or refurbishing anything in my house. I’m just not crafty like that.

But I have always been a fan of cooking and baking from scratch. Homemade bread? DIY. A batch of cookies? DIY. A pot of soup or broth? DIY.

With the proliferation of do-it-yourselfers, the bar has been raised for what can be done in the kitchen. The food section of this week’s local paper headlined with a piece on grinding your own meat. I’ve also been seeing more about homemade butter (it’s as simple as overwhipping cream), yogurt, and cheese. And then there’s the wave of home brewers and wine makers.

A new cookbook that speaks exactly to this point was also featured in a recent newspaper story. The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila got my attention. This is my kind of book. Make your own foods so 1) you know exactly what’s in them and 2) you aren’t spending hard-earned dollars on foods you can easily make yourself.

I made the recipe offered alongside the newspaper article as it mimicked one of my oldest daughter’s favorite snacks–cheese crackers. I buy them occasionally, but consider them little more than junk food. If I made my own (and they passed her taste test), I could offer her my version of Cheez-Its. They’d contain “real food” ingredients–no additives, preservatives, etc. Also, I’d be paying for ingredients, but not the manufacture, packaging, and marketing that goes into processed foods.

My Cheez-It fan and I whipped up these crackers tonight. The dough took only a few minutes to make and I froze it for only 10 minutes instead of refrigerating for 2 hours. It still rolled out perfectly. I cut the crackers with a crinkle-cutter, but a knife or biscuit cutter would have done just as well. The dough baked up beautifully and the resulting crackers were pretty and tasty–salty, rich, savory, exploding with cheese flavor. I used the Cheddar called for in the recipe, but it’d be fun to change it up depending on your mood or your family’s preferences: mozzarella for pizza lovers, pepper-Jack for those who like it spicy, sharp Cheddar for an extra punch. A teaspoon of dried herbs would also add distinction.

Though these crackers aren’t as crispy as what you find in that red box (might need to fry ’em up for that), my daughter gave them a rating of “good to great” which is high praise from her. I’ll probably buy the book as I’d love a collection of such recipes all in one place. The article mentioned homemade pop-tarts which sounds like a delicious project. Definitely a DIY I would Do.

Homemade Cheese Crackers

adapted only slightly from The Homemade Pantry: 101 Things You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila

  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 ice cube

In mixing bowl, use paddle attachment to beat together butter, flour, mustard, and salt 30 seconds or just until crumbly. Add cheese; beat on low speed 30 seconds longer or just until mixed.

In small bowl, combine water, vinegar, and ice cube; let stand briefly to chill. Add 6 tablespoons vinegar mixture to cheese mixture; beat on low speed until liquid is absorbed. Beat in vinegar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours. (I froze the dough for 10 minutes.)

Remove frozen dough to counter 15 minutes before baking.

Heat oven to 325°F. On lightly floured surface, roll dough 1/8-inch-thick. Cut into small squares or rounds. Place on baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 40 (2-inch) crackers. (I cut them smaller, so got about 60 (1 1/2-inch) crackers.)

crinkle-cut dough

ready to bake

in the oven

cup o’ DIY cheese crackers