Goldfish Crackers

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Before we get started, let me just say that, yes, I do know that most people just buy these at the store.  However.  I’ve yet to find the recipe that promised to help me make something either cheaper or healthier than I could buy it that I didn’t want to try.  Lest you think I’m some sort of kitchen wizard that makes every. single. thing. from scratch, let me assure you that I do not.  I’ll try anything once, but it has to be either exceedingly fantastic or exceedingly easy for me to make a habit of it.  These crackers are both.

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I should perhaps also tell you that I don’t even like Goldfish crackers.  I’ve never cared for any of the cheese flavored snacks that most kids (and husbands) love.  I can’t stand cheez-its or cheetos either.  So why would I bother with these?  Because my child, like many, loves bread.

Wait, what?

Since we’ve been letting our nearly 9-month old join us for meals, she’s been a fairly adventurous eater.  She’ll try anything we give her, and she like the strangest things (for instance: I’ve never seen a baby put away a lemon slice before, but she appears to love them).  And she absolutely adores bread.  Loaf bread, pizza crusts, focaccia.  Plain, toasted, as a vehicle for smearing yogurt all over the table… If I don’t offer her any, she will usually happily pick her way through any number of fruits, veggies, or meats.  If I do put bread on the table, she will ignore everything else and eat only that.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bread myself, and I don’t mind if she does either, but it’s not exactly packed with nutrition.  I wanted to be able to offer her something that she likes, but in a self-limiting package so that she could get her fix, but then move on the to the more nutritious items.  As crackers are really just bread’s smaller, thinner, possibly more delicious cousin, I thought I could offer her one as a side for her veggies and see what happened.  It worked perfectly: she ate the wheat thin right away and then moved right on to the broccoli.

Which leads me to these Goldfish.  They’re small, apparently delicious, and adorable.  Imagine my surprise when I tasted them and found them to be, not only apparently, but actually, delicious.  And by making them myself I can limit the amount of salt, which is my main complaint with store-bought snacks.  They are definitely baby-approved, being the perfect size for tiny fingers to grasp while remaining just outside the bounds of the dreaded choking hazard (although, of course, you should always use caution with small babies and food).  And as I mentioned above, they are exceedingly easy to make.  The ingredient list is gratifyingly short (only 6 ingredients!), and I had these  mixed, cut out, baked, cooled, and ready for consumption in about 45 minutes.  Honestly, the part that took me the longest was “decorating” them, and you can totally skip that and save yourself an additional 15 minutes.

I got the recipe from (no surprise) Smitten Kitchen.  I’ll copy it below, since I did make a change to the type of flour, but I urge you to visit her post if you need any help, as she has several good tips.

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Goldfish Crackers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields aproximately 100 1 1/4 inch goldfish

6 ounces (1 1/2 cups coarsely grated) sharp cheddar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (37 grams) whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon table salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, running the machine until the dough forms a ball, about two minutes.

If the dough feels warm or too soft, wrap it in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes. This also makes it easier to transfer shapes once they are rolled out.

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick. Form shapes with a cookie cutter, dipping it in flour from time to time to ensure a clean cut. If you like, poke a hole for the eye (I used a toothpick), and use the edge of a spoon to make a little smile.  Gently transfer crackers to an ungreased cookie sheet with a 1/2 inch between them. Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are barely browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before removing to a rack.  Keeps at room temperature in an air-tight container for several days.

NOTES: Yes I did buy a special cookie cutter just for this.  Any shape will work, you don’t have to make them in the shape of fish. But they are super duper adorable, and who am I to resist when Amazon makes it so easy to procure such things?

Deb at Smitten Kitchen went full-on healthy by making these whole wheat.  I appreciate that it’s really good for you, but I don’t always love whole wheat cluttering up the flavor of my favorite snacks.  So I switched the amounts and made the larger amount AP flour, and the smaller whole wheat.  I couldn’t even tell it was there.

 

 

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Do you all love cranberries as much as I do?  They’re sweet and tart and oh-so-versatile and really pretty little things, too.  We always had cranberry sauce (from the can.  Best. Stuff. Ever.) at our holiday get togethers, and I’d be lying if I told you that I only ever had one helping.  This year for Thanksgiving I tried a homemade “canned” cranberry sauce recipe that turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself, and I plan to share that with you in just a few days, but right now I’m kind of obsessed with this stuff: Cranberry Pepper Jelly.  It was the simplest jelly to make – I spent about 45 minutes on it yesterday – and even though the ingredient list is (perhaps oddly) lacking in spices, flavor-imparting liquors, or other such things, it still manages to pack a knockout punch of tart-sweet-hot that will blow your mind.

I found this on the Bon Appetit Thanksgiving App (aside:  At first I was like, Really, Bon Appetit?  Do we really need an app for that?  Turns out: Yes.  Yes, we do.  It’s a wonderfully concise collection of holiday recipes that runs the gamut from traditional favorites to modern twists, and my OCD mind loves their genius organizational scheme.) in the Southern Menu section.  Folks down here love to serve pepper jelly over cream cheese as an appetizer and I see no reason to fix what ain’t broke.  My guests for Christmas Dinner will be arriving in the afternoon a few hours before the meal is set to begin, and my ancestors would no doubt do some of that much threatened “Rolling Over in Their Graves” if I didn’t have something for my partygoers to nibble on in the meantime.   Another plus for this one is that it doesn’t require any canning.  I put mine in a wide mouth pint jar for easy dipping, and according to the recipe it will keep for 3 weeks or so in the fridge.  But, really, good luck with that.

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Adapted from Bon Appetit

I couldn’t find red jalapeños in my neck of the woods, so I bought “Red Chiles”.  Which, in my experience, could range in flavor from bell-pepper-mild to habanero-hot.  Mine were on the hot side, which is what I was going for to balance out all the sweet-tart from the cranberries, but I think this would be an excellent area in which to experiment if you were so inclined.  Although I would recommend sticking with peppers on the red side of the spectrum so as not to muddy up the lovely color of the jelly.  I’ll be serving this over whipped cream cheese with some sort of very elegant cracker (ahem. Triscuits anyone?).

3 red bell peppers, finely chopped

2 Fresno or red jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup liquid pectin

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed

Combine peppers, chiles, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt in a heavy wide pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in pectin and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in cranberries and simmer gently until they burst and juices thicken, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer jelly to a jar, let cool, and cover. Will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.  Makes about 1.5 pints.

Thanksgiving

I had the most lovely Thanksgiving!  I was able to visit some family (at a very lovely locale) and the food was, of course, delicious.  I’m so lucky to have such a fun and wonderful extended family with many good cooks and it was one of the best holidays I can remember.  Here is just a tiny peak at the lovely week we spent on St. Simon’s Island.  Enjoy!

Thai Coconut Curry

So I’m having a moment with Thai food right now.  I love it, you guys.  We have a Thai restaurant near us that we have abandoned all of our other old favorites for, and now that I’ve learned that I can make it at home I’m pretty sure it’s going to be making a fairly regular (and by that I mean weekly.) appearance on our table.  But first you should really hear the story of how I learned to make it, because it’s a pretty cool one.

So it all started almost a year ago when I received a very nice comment here on the blog from this lovely lady.  Of course I ran right over to her blog to check her out and proceeded to spend the rest of the night rummaging through her archives and commenting back and forth with her on almost every post, while she did much the same on my page.  This continued for several weeks until she mysteriously disappeared from the internet (side note:  you should all run over to her site and blow it up so she’ll come back and start writing again.  Go on.  Do it.)  at which point I sent her an email to say hello and see what was holding up our comment chat.  She emailed back, I replied, she replied… you see where this is going?  So we discovered that we have quite a bit in common, and in fact our husbands are pretty much carbon copies of one another.  We kept up our email correspondence, then moved on to texting, a phone call, and finally, we got to meet in person (!!!).  We live quite a long ways from one another so it was pretty much the coolest news I received all year when I heard that they were headed to Georgia for a vacation.  We met in the North Georgia mountains and spent a lovely relaxing weekend cooking, eating, talking, and wandering around looking at scenery.  It was pretty exciting to have made such good friends from something so small as a comment on a blog, and it reminds me how small all this technology has made the world these days. 

 So what does this have to do with curry?  Well, Eve was very kind and did some shopping for me since she lives near one of the coolest cities in the world and can find all sorts of ethnic goodies that I just don’t have access to out here in the boonies.  She brought me fish sauce, sesame seed oil, several varieties of  curry paste, crab paste, shrimp paste, some lovely noodles, lemongrass… all sorts of things.   And she showed me her method for this delicious Thai Coconut Curry.

The best thing about it (besides being yummy-scrumptious, I mean) is that it’s basically a one pot meal.  I use my 6-quart Lodge pot, and besides that you just need a pot for rice, a cutting board, a good knife, and a spoon.  That’s not even a quarter of a dishwasher load.  Or a half of a sink-full of dishes.  Or whatever.  My sink is pretty small, so if it all fits in one side then I consider that a victory over the dirty-dishes devils.  The point is that you can make restaurant quality Thai food in your own kitchen in under an hour, and with only like 7 ½ dishes to wash.  Or whatever. 

The recipe is sort of made up – for the curry paste and fish sauce you just taste as you go.  I’ll tell you approximately what I used, but I’d recommend that you start with less than that and work up to whatever level you’re comfortable with.  And I know that fish sauce is intimidating to a lot of people – I mean, it does smell sort of funky, and  it can have a pretty strong flavor if you’re not careful, but please please please give it a try.  It won’t be the same without it.  Also, I give instruction to brown the chicken and mushrooms separately and set aside before cooking the veggies and adding the liquid.  You could just dump all the ingredients in the pot – chicken, veggies, mushrooms, liquids, etc – and cook it all together that way.  It would probably go a little quicker if you’re short of time, but if you’re not then I definitely recommend browning your meat and ‘shrooms first.  Anytime you caramelize something, you’re concentrating the flavor and making it a little deeper, a little more intense.  That’s never a bad thing in my book, and it only adds about 15 or 20 minutes at most to the cooking time. 

Thai Coconut Curry

Adapted from ImpishEve

 1 lb mushrooms, sliced

1 large bell pepper, sliced

1 large onion, sliced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb chicken, cut into medium chunks

1 can coconut milk

1 ½ cups chicken stock, approximately*

2-4 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste**

2-4 tbsp fish sauce**

Olive oil, or butter, for cooking the veggies

Fresh basil, cut chiffonade for garnish

 

Heat a little olive oil in a large heavy pot (like this one) over medium-high heat.  Brown chicken in batches, turning once, until browned on both sides.  Set aside.  Brown mushrooms in batches, turning once, until browned on both sides.  Set aside.  Add onions and peppers to pan and cook until onions are starting to turn golden, 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two until garlic is golden and fragrant.  Add the can of coconut milk and chicken stock and stir to combine.  Add the curry paste and fish sauce, tasting as you go.  Add the mushrooms and chicken back to the pot, along with any juices they’ve lost, and allow mixture to simmer for a few moments so that everything is nice and hot.  Garnish with fresh basil.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

*I just fill my empty coconut milk can with stock and add that, plus a little more.  The curry will look soupy.

** I like curry and fish sauce so I feel like we added around 4 tbsp of each.  I really just scoop a little curry paste in, add a glug of fish sauce, taste, and repeat.  When it tastes good, I stop adding.  I realize that’s not very precise, but taste is very personal you know?  Do what you like.  Same goes for the garlic.

Chile Rubbed Skirt Steak

Well, it’s officially Autumn.  The Pumpkin Spice Apocalypse is upon us.  So I figured I had better get this posted up so you any of who you are feeling nostalgic for summer can whip it up before we’re hip-deep in multicolored tree parts.  Not that you can’t make tacos year round – I totally do, anyway.  It’s just that tacos seem like summer fare to me.  They’re so fresh and light, and you eat them with your hands while the juice runs down your chin.  It’s not just me right?  You guys do that too?

Well you definitely should.  I had this put together in less than an hour – and you could use any leftover meat you had if you wanted to streamline this even more.  I used skirt steak because it’s cheap but it has really good flavor.  And if it can be a little tough, well, it’s tacos, and you’re gonna slice it (against the grain!) pretty thinly anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.  The rub I used was perfect for this – it was pleasantly spicy and very flavorful without totally overwhelming the beef.  I think that rubs, marinades, etc should be flavorful enough to compliment whatever meat you’re using while still allowing you to tell what you’re eating.  This one was spot on, and I’ll definitely be using it again.

I like to use soft tortillas as my base, and I use a pretty simple mix of toppings.  A little cheese, mixed greens, sour cream, cilantro, sliced radishes, and a little red sauce (hot sauce, taco sauce – your choice).  Oh, and squeeze a lime over top – the acid is a nice addition.   Yes, I realize this is the  American form of tacos, and not at all authentic, but I’m OK with that.  After all, this is America, and I happen to like it.

I have a really great Fig Focaccia to share with you in a day or two, but in the meantime: Farewell Summer!  Happy Autumn!

 

Chile-Rubbed Skirt Steak (for tacos)

Serves 8

 

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons mild chile powder

2 tablespoons light-brown sugar

2 teaspoons smoked or sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder or very finely ground coffee beans

1 1/2 pounds skirt steak

On a work surface, crush garlic cloves using the flat side of a large knife; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place the flat side of the knife blade on top of the garlic and salt; press firmly, pulling knife toward you. Repeat until a paste forms; transfer to a small bowl. Add chile powder, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, pepper, espresso, and remaining tablespoon salt; stir to combine.

Rub mixture all over skirt steak, and place in a large freezer bag to marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill pan* over high heat, or use an outdoor grill. Place steak on grill, and cook for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve thinly sliced steak in warmed tortillas; top with salsa, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and lime wedges, if desired.

 

*I used a cast iron griddle and it worked perfectly.

Summer Miscellany

I have so much to tell you!  In words anyway… if you’re watching me on instagram – as you should be! – then you’ll have an inkling of all the delicious news I have to share, since I’ve been posting all sorts of edible tidbits there.  We’ve been making the most of summertime (aka, motorcycle season) for the past couple of months, and due to the strange and decidedly out of the ordinary weather we’ve been having this year most of my weekends have looked like some version of this:

It’s been unseasonable cool here – if by cool you mean around 85-90, and I do, since usually it’s more like 95-100 this time of year – and we’ve had this crazy amount of peek-a-boo thunderstorms.  One minute it’s a torrential downpour, followed by a break in the clouds, then cats and dogs again… I’ve actually been missing our typical hot, dry summer weather.  One thing hasn’t changed this year, though, and its the fact that the best summertime treat is still the simplest one:

There is nothing that says “Georgia Summer” to me more than a truck bed of watermelons on ice.  I hope you’ve all had as lovely – and delicious – a summer as I have, and I hope you will join me as  I get back to the blog full force with all sorts of edible goodness (tacos! gyros! tzatziki! grape jelly! oh my!) as the hustle and bustle of summer dies down.

Augusta, Georgia

A couple of weekends ago, I spent some time in one of my favorite places: Augusta, Ga.  I lived there for almost two years while I was in school, and I absolutely love it.  It’s one of the oldest cities in Georgia, and it has some really lovely old buildings in the downtown area.  I never took the time to take many photos while I lived there, so I was really excited to have a couple of hours with nothing to do while I was visiting.  I spent some time wandering around downtown on Sunday morning, and because most folks were in church that time of day, there was no one around but me.  I’ve mentioned before how much I love old southern towns, and Augusta is a really great one for photos since it’s been around for so long.  I just love the architecture of the old south – it’s so classic and beautiful, and it only gets better with age.  You can see the whole set here, on flickr.  Enjoy!

 

Hustle and Bustle

It’s been pretty quiet – on the blog front at least.  I haven’t updated you in a couple of weeks, but trust me when I say it’s not because there hasn’t been anything going on.  It seems like I’ve been running hither, thither, and yon (as my mother says) for the past month.  I have a wonderful pinterest project to share with you, and a couple of recipes that you simply must hear about, as well as some other odds and ends to share, but in the meantime I’ll tease you with some photos of my various goings-on of the past few weeks.

 

There was some more of this:

Lots of this:

And all kinds of this:

 

In a nutshell: motorcycles, dogs chasing things, and lots of plants popping up all over my yard.  More later!