Friday, July 1, 2016

Grab and Go Snacks

from Kris B.

Sometimes during the Texas summer it is just too hot to eat a "real" meal.  We find ourselves snacking our way through the day.  A go-to snack is crackers and cheese, sometimes with a slice of fruit or veggie added to make it feel more "meal-like."  But sometimes,  it's just a handful of crackers on the go and that's it.

I like almost any kind of store-bought cracker - plain, seedy, sweet, spicy - I'll eat them all; but, store bought crackers are not always made with the most wholesome of ingredients.  And, they often times have a ridiculous amount of sodium, something the we are careful about in our own cooking.

Several years ago, I went on a kick to try and find a recipe for crackers that would replicate the good qualities of store-bought Wheat Thins, a personal favorite,  but cut out some of the "not-so-good" ingredients.  I am happy to say that I found a great recipe...I think it was a King Arthur Flour recipe.  And in making them, I learned how easy and fun it is to make my own snack crackers.

One of the things that is nice about making your own crackers is that you have control over the size and shape.  You are only limited by what cookie cutters you have!  With the batch of Basil Parmesan crackers that I made this week, I used half of the dough to make the bite-sized circles that are pictured here and the other half to make squares about the size of traditional saltines.  These circles, which are about the size of a quarter, are the grab and go snacks.  The squares will get some cheese and apple added to them for lunch over the weekend.

1 Cup flour
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 TBS butter, at room temperature
3 TBS heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the flour, basil, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the cheese.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter.  Work the mixture until you have an even "sandy" consistency.  Add the cream.  At this point, I usually mix it with my hands.  It takes some time before the ingredients come together into a ball.  Be patient and resist the urge to add more liquid!  It will eventually form a ball of dough.

Once the ball of dough has formed, turn it out onto a lightly floured board.  Roll to a thickness of about 1/4'.  Use a cookie cutter to make the desired size and shape of crackers.  Place the cut crackers on the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges turn a golden brown.

The number of crackers will depend on the size of cutter that you use.  

These crackers are also good with a nice hot bowl of soup during the winter months!

A note about the photograph... I was bored with the standard food photo set-up that and nothing I was doing was making me happy.  When Weber asked if he could try one of the crackers, I thought, food is meant to be eaten so why do I always photograph it with no people?  I told him he could have some crackers if he would be in my photo for this week.  Today's shot was kind of an experiment.  I was a bit unsure about it so I sent the image to Tracey, my partner in crime and fabulous food photographer, and asked for constructive criticism.  She gave me a thumbs up, so I went with it. Lol!  As with any kind of photography, sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone and try something different.  Sometimes it will work.  And sometimes it won't.  That's OK.  It's all about learning and growing along the way.

from Tracey G.

My offering this week is food, just a little bit different kind of food - food for the critters!

This has been a crazy year for the hummingbirds. Usually it's put the food out, they come. Not this year - they were waiting for me! I didn't have the feeders out yet, and I was sitting in my chair one evening - I look out the window next to me and there's one hovering at the window looking in... I laughed because that was a first. A little while later, I look over - and there he/she is again (I couldn't see the colors of the feathers at the time) - hovering. I sent Kris a text AND a short video telling her I feel like I am being stalked! Never have I had it happen once, let alone twice - so you can bet I went and made some food for my little feathered friend!

I've never bought it, I've always made it at home and the food color probably isn't the best thing for the little guys, in fact the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center says specifically not to add red dye. It's super simple to make it at home, and I'm sure it's probably a lot cheaper too! All you  need is some sugar and water! It's a simple recipe of 1 part sugar and 4 parts water.

Hummingbird Food Recipe

makes 4 cups

4 cups water
1 cup sugar

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to kill any bacteria or mold present. Cool. Once cool, fill the feeder(s). Any leftover sugar water may be stored in the refrigerator.

I now make sure I have a supply on hand at all times - I don't want them ganging up on me! 

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