March 30, 2011

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers

I'm going to tell you first that I don't really like cheese flavored snacks. I was never a fan of goldfish crackers until they made the parmesan cheese flavor - and even those I would never buy. I don't like cheez-its either. Yellow cheese and I are not great friends. I have eaten more recently (meaning the past 5 years) in an attempt to be less picky and compromise on sandwich cheese with M. After all, we don't need to store multiple cheeses in the fridge or they get moldy too quickly. I like most other cheese, even the smelly ones. I've also grown to like bleu cheese, thanks to our good friends at Williamson Winery. It will be hard to forget Bleu cheese on top of Irish Cheddar with a little drop of honey. mmmm. 

Now that you know my history of cheddar cheese dislike, you may be asking why I chose to make cheese crackers for the Easy Bake cOven recipe of the month.... I could have made home made oreos or pop tarts. Home made graham crackers should have come before goldfish crackers as well! Fortunately for me, there was a block of neglected cheddar cheese in the fridge calling my name. It started to look a little frosty on two edges so I cut those pieces off and put the rest to good use. (yeah yeah, but all cheese is mold right?)

M and I eat a lot of crackers. They are a good snack to pack with lunch, and are good to munch on when we get home from work if we won't be cooking for a while. The whole wheat version of a goldfish cracker was pretty tasty. They puffed like goldfish (though I wasn't as interested in creating an exact replica as Smitten Kitchen). They had a nice crispy exterior, and as Nicole mentioned when she picked the recipes, you can control every ingredient that goes in. 

The recipes we used all came from Smitten Kitchen. The version I made using 100% whole wheat flour. I don't know that I need to try these with all purpose flour, but I imagine the AP flour version tastes slightly more like the original. Give them a try yourself! They are quick and cheap to make, and your children may love them! 

Whole Wheat Cheese Crackers

1 1/2 C cheddar cheese coarsely grated
4 T butter
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse a couple of times to incorporate. Mix for two minutes or until the dough forms a ball and sounds like it might break your machine. Immediately roll into 1/8 inch thickness (if I did these again I'd make them slightly thinner). Cut with any shape cookie cutter as long as it is easy to eat. (I used a 1 1/2" biscuit cutter). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet as close as 1/4" and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Cool on the pan for 30-45 minutes. Remove and store air tight. 

March 12, 2011

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is one of those tasks you either love or dread. If you have no idea what you need, you might dread walking up and down every aisle, but if you are prepared and have a game plan grocery shopping can be great. 

One of my favorite grocery stores in San Francisco is Rainbow Grocery Coop. While only supporting the vegetarian needs of the community (they don't sell meat) they have managed to make organic produce and bulk items affordable. They have everything from bulk herbs and spices, to grains, chocolate, peanut butter, honey, and every specialty oil imaginable. It is definitely a fun and cheaper way to try out new products (like the the dried refried bean mix I bought). Purchasing in bulk I also find fulfilling. Less waste from plastic and cardboard packaging, and you get to store everything in pretty jars when you get home. 

So how do you shop? I usually never go without a list or I end up buying things I don't need but can't remember if I have. Knowing what you need is essential in sticking to a budget and not over-buying. It will also help keep you from purchasing snacks and other products on SALE that supermarkets intentionally place in your path to get you to buy! 

I keep a magnetic notepad on the fridge and write daily the items we run out of or items I need for a specific meal. You could also try these spectacular notepads from Knock Knock with all the basics. Knowing what you need is step one. Then you just need to remember to bring your list and re-usable bags to the store with you! 

The best way to circulate a grocery store is first to shop the perimeter, then move in to the aisles. On the perimeter, you will find Produce, Dairy, and Meat. If you fill up your basket with fresh and healthy products first, you will have less room for cheetos and chips later. I also like to limit which aisles I shop. I steer clear of the snack aisle and stay near the canned beans, rice, and tomatoes. I actually find the aisles in the middle of the store overwhelming, so having a list helps me navigate to the items I know I need rather than staring at a shelf full of salad dressing trying to find best possible deal. 

On my last outing to Rainbow, I may have bought slightly more veggies than we need, but we are trying to eat less meat. For all of the items you see in the first picture (minus the eggs and yogurt because I forgot to set them out), I only spent $100. This is more than enough to last M and I two to three weeks. I have our staple items like fruit, rice, beans, lettuce and potatoes, but I also bought some fun items as well. At Whole Foods or Safeway for the same organic ingredients, I would have spent at least 20% more. 

If you don't know how to stock your kitchen, Real Simple has a great checklist for you. Listing ingredients by Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer. Happy Grocery Shopping Everyone! 

March 4, 2011

A Delightful Trio

I love avocado. I tend to over-use the word love (and I sometimes "hate" things I only dislike) but I do love avocados. Their skin is beautiful deep purple and slightly lumpy. They fit perfectly in your palm while you slice them. Their flesh is silky and vibrant green and I will eat them plain, entirely plain. 

Since moving to land of Avocado (aka California) I have adapted very well to eating almost everything with it. Likely anything on the menu that is "California style" has avocado on it. We even add avocado to BLT's, which you must try if you haven't. Within a couple of months of living here, I had developed my signature Guacamole. It's the perfect amount for a dinner for two, and can be scaled easily to feed more people. 

This year, the Superbowl happened to fall on one of the warmest days of winter! It was close to 80˚ outside when our normal highs are around 55˚. We hosted a small party and probably spent more time in the kitchen and on the deck than watching the game. Ok, so maybe that was me and some of the other girls, but it was so hard to escape the sun! I made the guacamole as usual, and created a black bean and corn salsa and a pico de gallo for fun. All three were delicious and almost completely gone by the end of the night. Fresh salsas are really quick and simple and you can spend less than you would on sauce in a jar. And they're FRESH! If you can slice a tomato, you can make fresh salsa. (If you can't slice a tomato, maybe you should call me for a lesson). 

serves 2
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 T minced onion
juice of 1/2 of a lime
2 T diced tomato (optional)

Mash the avocado with a fork in a small bowl. Mince the garlic, or use a garlic press and add it to the avocado. Mince the onion and mix it in. Add the lime juice and salt and stir until combined. Adjust salt to taste. Add tomatoes to the top and serve. (Double everything for additional servings). 

Black Bean and Corn Salsa 
serves 4-6
1 15oz can low sodium black beans drained and rinsed
3/4 to 1 c fresh or frozen corn (if frozen - bring to room temperature and drain)
1 jalapeno seeded and minced (add seeds if you like spicier salsa)
1/4 c red onion diced
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lime

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit for at least one hour before serving. 

Pico de Gallo
serves 4
4 roma tomatoes seeded and diced
1/4 C diced red onion
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 jalapeno seeded and minced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit for at least on hour before serving. 

March 1, 2011

do you know Sweet Paul?

I just learned about Sweet Paul today via the lovely Decor8 blog. If you haven't hear of Sweet Paul before, you should definitely take a minute to check it out. They just released their Spring 2011 Magazine which is full of kid friendly crafts and foods. Here is what they have to say about their magazine:

"Sweet Paul magazine is based on Paul Lowe's wildly successful blog Sweet Paul, which ranked 22nd in the London Time's Top 50 Best Design Blogs. With over 100,000 hits a month Sweet Paul has become a regular read for editors, stylists and foodies all over the world. Paul's motto is "chasing the sweet things in life" and the magazine sure lives up to that. It will be filled with easy and elegant recipes, fun and stylish crafts, entertaining ideas, shopping tips, up and coming crafters and so much more." 

 One of my favorites - Hand Talking Tattoos from Hand Talking Hands A+R 

Why do I love it? It's a web based publication (although you can order a printed copy if you desire) which you can download, or "clip" pages from. It is full of beautiful, elegant photography and simple and inspiring recipes. I've added a few of the Spring pages here but you should check out the 128 page issue! Also, be sure to read the back issues beginning in Spring 2010 and the blog! 

p.s. I'd like the dog on the blog cover... please feel free to hand deliver a puppy at any time! 

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