Cheese “Crackies”

Cheese Crackers

I’m going to date myself. Do you remember that 80s Faberge Organics Shampoo Commercial where Heather Locklear says she told two friends about this fab shampoo, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on . . . ? (What, you weren’t born yet? Then click here and see the giggle-worthy commercials that us oldies grew up with.)

Anyway, this is how things went with my mom recently. She tried these cheesey, sorta but not quite crackers, at a friend’s place and couldn’t stop talking about them. Her other friends were intrigued. Then they tried them. Now a few of mom’s friends have requested the recipe and so did I.  Your (rotary dial) phone line was busy, so I thought I’d be all new age and post the recipe here so that you can check them out. Then you can tell your friends, and so on. Get the idea?

The source of this cheesey kinda cracker-like recipe is mom’s friend Raymond, who goes to her church. Apparently Raymond has been making these cheesey bites for about 40 years and it’s one of his most requested recipes. Raymond is someone who really knows his way around the kitchen and has catered countless dinner parties over the years. While I’ve never met Raymond, my mom raves about his cooking abilities, so he’s got my vote of confidence.

I hope that Raymond doesn’t mind, but I’ve adapted his recipe–mostly because his secret ingredient, MacLaren’s Imperial Cold Pack Cheddar, is only available in Canada. I’ve also renamed them “crackies” because I’d describe them as a cross between a cracker and a cookie. And, I’ve spiced them up with rosemary and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, even though I usually make half the batch plain to keep the ponytails happy. My oldest daughter likes to take them for her school snack.

Rosemary Crackies

Cheese “Crackies”

Yield: approx 50 crackers

1/2 cup vegetable oil + 1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup flour

2 cups tightly packed grated old cheddar (orange)

1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce

t tsp dry mustard

2 cups rice crispies, crushed

2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary + a few unchopped rosemary sprigs

fleur de sel for sprinkling

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until mixture is smooth and well mixed; roll into balls the size of a quarter and flatten with a fork dipped in water. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Place one small sprig of rosemary and a pinch of fleur de sel (or sea salt) on top of each “crackie” after it has been flattened with a fork.

The crackies freeze beautifully. Reheat at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Raymond’s Original Version:

Imperial CheeseFollow the instructions noted above, except replace the 2 tightly packed cups of grated old cheddar with one container of MacLaren’s Imperial Cold Pack Cheddar and do not add one extra tablespoon of vegetable oil (total amount of vegetable oil will be 1/2 cup) or the chopped fresh rosemary and fleur de sel.

NOTES:

  • For crispy crackies, be sure to press them down well with a fork dipped in water until they are quite thin.
  • To retain the crispness, they are best stored in a tin container, rather than plastic. Mom likes to freeze any uneaten crackies and crisp them up again in the oven before serving.
  • If you live in Canada, I recommend trying this recipe using the Imperial cheese. Just eliminate the extra tablespoon of vegetable oil. The rosemary and fleur de sel are optional.
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Healthy Apple and Dried Cherry Mini Muffins

The wonderful thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable. The challenging thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable.

There are times when I expect a negative reaction to a situation, and my girls will completely surprize me by showing a level of maturity that is beyond their years. Yes (smile), they are unpredictable.

One week something is an all-time favourite. The next week it is the worst thing ever. This is particularly the case when it comes to food. Yes (sigh), they are unpredictable.

But, I find that if you hold your ground, they eventually eat the dish or snack that you made for them. And I think they like it too . . . they just won’t admit it. (They get their stubborn streak from their father.) Otherwise they’d have a very unhealthy and boring food repetoire (think mac & cheese, pizza and grilled cheese). Somedays it wears you down, but it keeps me on my toes as I live in search of recipes that my ponytails will like.

These mini apple muffins went over well last week, which made me very happy since they are made with lots of healthy bits, such as apples, oats, dried cherries and sesame seeds. They were perfect to send to school for snacks, since they are nut-free, but still have some crunch to them from the sesame seeds. I guiltlessly ate quite a few myself because they are made with very little fat–only 2 tablespoons of canola oil for the entire batch. They ranked right up there with the Blueberry and Banana Muffins that I wrote about in my very first post.

I keep wondering how many more years until the girls become more adventurous about their food–the way they were when they were really little and weren’t influenced by the kids menu at restaurants? Is there cause for optimism?

Healthy Apple Breakfast Muffins

Slightly adapted from Style at Home Magazine

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used 1%)
  • 2 cups grated peeled apple
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°
  • Combine the oats and yogurt in a medium bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together the apple, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  • Add the apple mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir to blend.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Pour the yogurt mixture over the dry ingredients and sprinkle with the dried cherries and sesame seeds.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into a mini muffn tin and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are brown. If using regular sized muffin tin, bake for 35 minutes.

Notes:

  • For tips on making mini muffins, see my original post.

5 Grab N’ Go Snack Ideas for Kids and Adults Alike

Quinoa Oatmeal Breakfast Bars, Herb & Parmie Baked Tortilla Chips, Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes, Dried Pineapple and Smoked Paprika Roasted Chick Peas.

I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately, and as a result, everyone in the family is eating more fruits and veggies. I’ve been sending carrots, cucumbers and grapes to school with my grade one ponytail — and that worked well for a couple of days. Then I started to notice that the veggies and grapes were still in her lunchbox at the end of each day. When I asked her about it, she said that she was too busy at the monkey bars and didn’t have time for her snack. Although, she did have time for the goldfish that I sent for her morning snack.

I recently mentioned this interesting observation to my mom friend Carolyn  and she said that any time she sends carrots or cucumbers for snacks, they end up back home at the end of the day as well. Hmmm, what’s a mom to do?

Thanks to some terrific fellow bloggers and informative websites, I can offer five fairly easy snack ideas that are quite family friendly. Some of them manage to sneak in some dried fruits and veggies in a very tasty way.

1. Quinoa Oatmeal Breakfast Bars — This recipe from Yummy Chunklet is fantastic! (I’ve just started following this blog and I’m really enjoying it.) These bars are quick to make and I just loved the texture that the quinoa adds. I swapped chopped dried cherries for the hazelnuts, so that they are safe to send to school and I used 3 eggs, as suggested in the recipe. I also added a handful of butterscotch chips on the top of the bars before baking. (The Kitchen Sink Granola Bars that I posted a while back are another breakfast bar option as well.)

2. Herb & Parmie Baked Tortilla Chips — These are easy peasy to make. Spray 4 to 6 medium tortilla’s with cooking spray. Cover with finely grated parmesan cheese, a dash of both garlic salt and onion powder, and a pinch of dried parsley. Cut each tortilla into six wedges. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 5 minutes;  turn over the tortillas and bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Careful, they burn easily. You could also try other seasonings, such as chili powder, lime juice and dried cilantro. Since these don’t really require a recipe, you can make as few or as many as you like — although they do seem to disappear quickly!

3. Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes — I followed a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe, but omitted the walnuts to make them nut-free.

4. Smoked Paprika Roasted Chick Peas — I slightly modified a recipe for Garlic and Cumin Roasted Chick Peas by Charles over at Five Euro Food. (If you haven’t read his blog, I highly recommend it. Charles was one of the first people that I met when I started blogging and his upbeat personality really shines through in his blog.)  The girls really loved the Smoked Paprika Almonds that I made recently, so I figured this would help them to give the chick peas a try. It worked! Modifications: I used 2 tbsp oil instead of 3,  2 tsp smoked paprika, a pinch of pepper and one clove of garlic. Everything else was according to the recipe.

5. Oven Dried Pineapple  – I followed the directions for oven drying fruit on eHow. I baked the pineapple pieces for about 5 hours at 170°, as that was the lowest setting on my oven. I left them on the pan in the oven overnight (turned off) and then stored them in a plastic container. I skipped the process of leaving them for 10 to 14 days in a pot, as I found other sites that didn’t include this process. (I also noted that others who tried this techinique baked their fruit for 6 to 8 hours.) The dried pineapple had an intense, delicious flavour. We ate them in a couple of days, so I’m not sure how long they would keep this way. I’d like to try using them in my next batch of granola bars. I plan to try this process on some cherries this summer as well.

You can never have too many good snack ideas, so I welcome any other suggestions you may have. I’d also love to hear about your experience with oven drying fruit, as this was new to me.


The Banana Bread Switch Up

You are in desperate need of a coffee. You head to the cupboard to grab some filters—but they are not there. You can feel the panic rising as you look in another cupboard, then another. Finally, success…there they are right next to the Cheese Whiz. That’s funny, you didn’t put them there. You breathe a sigh of relief as the coffee brews. Now, just grab a mug and…what the hell, where are the mugs?

I’m sure that this is the scenario (or one very similar) that played out many years ago for my mom. I had just started my first full-time professional job (the one where I met Eva of Kitchen Inspirations) and I had moved in with mom so that I could get my financial feet on the ground. First thing I did was completely rearrange her kitchen.

Need I point out that she wasn’t impressed? Mom was particularly upset when she discovered that several of the items she needed hadn’t just been “relocated”—they’d been thrown in the garbage. I’d like to blame it on my youth—the verve of my adventurous twenties—but I can’t.

I’m just that way. I like to switch things up. You know, make them my own. I know that I’m destined to get what’s coming to me one day soon, as I have two very spirited and strong-willed ponytails.

But until then, I continue to switch things up—particularly with my mom’s recipes. This time, it’s her much-loved banana bread recipe. (It has quite a following with the after-church social crowd at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.) Although, this time I don’t think she will be mad at me—I didn’t throw anything out.

Mom’s Original Banana Bread

  • 1-½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking soda) in small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix wet ingredients (bananas, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla) in large bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  4. Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

#1 Switch Up: Whole Wheat Butterscotch Banana Bread

  1. Replace 1-½  cups all purpose flour with ¾ cup of all purpose flour and ¾ whole wheat flour.
  2. Add ½ cup butterscotch chips after completing step 2 in directions for Mom’s Original Banana Bread and mix well.
  3. Follow steps 3 and 4 of same directions.

#2 Switch Up: Marbled Chocolate and Peanut Butter Banana Bread

  1. Prepare Mom’s Original Banana Bread batter.
  2. Divide batter in half, placing second half in a new bowl.
  3. Add 2 tbsps of peanut butter to first half of batter and mix well.
  4. Add  2-½  tbsps cocoa powder to second half of batter and mix well
  5. Pour chocolate batter in half of greased loaf pan.
  6. Then, pour peanut butter batter in other half of greased pan.
  7. Using a knife or skewer, pull and swirl chocolate batter through peanut butter batter until you are happy with the marbled effect.
  8. Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Kitchen Sink Granola Bars

They say that many hands make light work. But, I think that all depends on the size of the hands.

Although little hands—like those of two energetic and competitive (“no, I want to add the honey”) ponytails —certainly do make things more fun. Well, fun in a making sure your helpers don’t eat all the ingredients before they are added kind of way. Okay, and fun in a bonding kind of way too.

These granola bars are perfect for making with little ones, because there are only four simple steps involved. Measure. Add. Mix. Pour. Of course you must also put them in the oven, but that is no different than lifting a spoon or a fork to your mouth, is it?

The end-result of all that adding and mixing is pretty tasty, and rather healthy I might add. These are perfect to make if you’re looking to reduce the number of pre-made, store-bought snacks (with packaging) in your world. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying snacks—we all have busy lives. I just like to mix things up (literally) and add some homemade snacks to our routine. These are fast and easy.

I’ve adapted the recipe that I found with some substitutions, and added in a few extra goodies. We really like this recipe, but if you have a granola bar recipe that you recommend, I’d love to hear about it. 

Kitchen Sink Granola Bars

Adapted from the printed version of TogetherFamily.ca

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar (packed)
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dried blueberries (substitute with chopped dried cherries or dried cranberries)
  • ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup butterscotch chips
  •  ½cup marshmallows (optional)
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the oats, sugar, wheat germ, sesame seeds, cinnamon, flour, raisins, dried blueberries, coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, marshmallow (if using) and salt.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil honey, egg and vanilla. Mix well.
  5. Pat the mixture down well in the pan.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Be careful not to overcook.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes and then cut into squares. Do not let them cool completely or they will be difficult to cut. Once cut, let cool completely before removing from the pan—as they crumble easily if they have not had time to set.

TIPS:

  • When adding your ingredients with your measuring cup, be sure to add the oil before the honey. The oil coats the measuring cup, making the honey slide out more easily.
  • We also added ¼ cup of cranberries, along with the blueberries because we had lots on hand. We didn’t add any nuts because the school is a nut-free zone.
  • Be sure to follow instruction #7 because they will be too hard to cut if you don’t cut them shortly after taking them out of the oven. And, if you try to remove them from the pan right after they are cut, they will be crumbly.