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.

 

 

Shrimp Frau Diavolo

Doesn’t that look delicious?  I admit, it hasn’t been painstakingly food-styled into a perfectly organized and lovingly garnished dish, but sometimes I think you just need to sit down to a warm and gloriously tangled mess of pasta, shrimp, trinity.  This came about as the result of a minor kitchen oversight – we bought a pound of shrimp last weekend planning to make surf and turf on the grill and then promptly forgot about them.  So when lunch rolled around on Tuesday afternoon and I saw them hanging out in the fridge it was a cook ’em or lose ’em moment.

I don’t usually have tons of spare time on weekdays for lunch, so I was looking for something I could make pretty quickly.  It only took me about 30 minutes to whip this up, and a good part of that was bringing my pasta water up to the boil.  This is one of those recipes where you can usually find everything you need in your fridge or pantry – or at least some semblance of everything you need.  I didn’t have diced tomatoes – or any tomatoes – so I used a can of whole tomatoes and diced them myself.  I added a green bell pepper I needed to use, and I pretty much just pulled out the bottle of white moscato from the fridge for the “dry white wine” because I wasn’t really prepared to open a more appropriate bottle at 1:30 in the afternoon.

So the moral of this story is this:  use what you have, make up what you don’t, and enjoy the results.  Cheers!

 

Shrimp Frau Diavolo

via Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed

1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons

1 medium onion, sliced

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.

Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

Summer Bounty

OK, so I know I tell you guys about my farmer’s market outings all the time, but I just can’t help sharing one more.  There is so much color and vibrance in the produce – and the people – and I simply love to photograph the goings on.  Now, in the height of the growing season here in Georgia, there is so much variety in the produce that it makes for a lovely sight.  Enjoy!

Also, if you’ve joined me on Instagram, you know that I have an overabundance of blueberries… Suggestions?

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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I know I said that I would tell you about the Moonpies from the Baby Shower, but you’ll just have to wait.  See, I was perusing the produce section of my Publix a couple of days ago and I saw a little basket that said “Meyer Lemons, While Supplies Last.”  So I bought them.  Yes, that’s right, all of them.  Every last one.  You can understand, right?  Why I didn’t leave any for anyone else?  I mean, I’ve bought regular lemons masquerading as Meyer Lemons in the past, but I’ve never seen anything I was sure was a real live Meyer before.   These were more orange than yellow, and had a very bright scent.  They were also noticeably softer than other lemons, with a thinner peel.  I loaded them up and ran right home to search my cookbooks for a suitably grand recipe.  I had thought to make lemon-poppyseed bread, since I love it and Jacob wasn’t home to object (he’s not a fan of loud citrus flavors), but when I saw the Marmalade recipe in my Gourmet cookbook I knew that was the way to go.

I’ve never had marmalade before, nor made it, so it was a lot of fun to try it out, especially with such good ingredients.  The lemons had a really great flavor – not overly tart, and sweeter than normal lemons, and with a piney sort of scent/taste.  When they were cooking down, they made my kitchen smell just lovely.  If you’ve never had Meyer Lemons before, I encourage you to give them a try if you see them.  I know they’d be killer in a lemon tart, or meringue pie, but you could also just use a squeeze in a vinaigrette, or over seafood and still enjoy the flavor.

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The marmalade was very simple to make – easier than some jams I’ve made, since there was no mashing, or pureeing.  You do have to soak them for a whole day, though, so be sure to plan your time accordingly.  Other than the soaking time, I had the whole project complete in about an hour, so it’s not a huge time commitment.

 

MEYER LEMON MARMALADE

Gourmet Cookbook

Makes 6 1/2-Pint Jars

Active Time: 1 1/4 hours

Total Time: I day plus 1 1/4 hours

 

1 1/2 lb Meyer Lemons (about 6)

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

 

Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds, but don’t throw them out! Tie the seeds in a small cheesecloth bag – you’ll want the seeds to cook with the lemons so they’ll provide the pectin. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

After soaking, bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to approximately 4 cups, about 45 minutes.

While the lemons are cooking down, sterilize 6 half-pint jars, as well as bands and lids.  (I also put a couple of small plates in my freezer to chill at this point, for checking the doneness later*.)

Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate* gels, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove your seed bag and pour the hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids. Process for 10 minutes (for half-pints, longer for bigger jars), then let cool.

Marmalade keeps, stored in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.

*I’ve never used the cold plate method before, but it worked really well for me.  I put a plate in the freezer when I started cooking down my lemons, so that it would be well chilled.  Then, when you think the marmalade is done, drop a small spoonful on the cold plate and stick it back in the fridge (not freezer!) for a minute or so.  When you pull it out, tilt the plate and see if the marmalade runs – if it doesn’t, it’s done.  If it runs, just continue cooking until it does set.

Book Themed Baby Shower

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I’ve been dying to tell you all about this, because, quite frankly, it was awesome.  This is the third shower I’ve hosted with this group of ladies, and we are a great team.  We’ve sorted out our particular talents so that each of us is doing something we’re good at, and also that we enjoy…it really makes for one heck of a shower when you have such amazing co-hosts. The book theme was really fun and easy to work with, and we were able to coordinate all the food, games, and decor with no trouble at all.  My co-host with the Cricut (such an amazing device!  I want one!) made the banner above, as well as the tissue paper Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, and the clothesline for the  gifts was her idea as well.  Another friend (the adorable young man below belongs to her) came up with some children’s book trivia games for us (I didn’t win.  I was actually sad about that, but then, I don’t read a lot of children’s books these days…), and our fourth co-host made us some lovely invitations, of which I have no photo…but they were made to coordinate with our banner (above) and you can rest assured, they were adorable.  Your truly was responsible for the food, and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had with it.  Everything I made was meant to go with one of the books and here’s the list:

Green Eggs and Ham – Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Goodnight Moon – Homemade Moonpies

Give a Mouse a Cookie – assorted cookies, including Homemade Oreos, Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbreads, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip (not made by me, but I will be telling you about them, because they have a secret ingredient that is Killer)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Carrot Cupcakes

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Baked Chicken Meatballs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – fruit Kebabs

We also had Lemon-Berry Punch, which was a Martha Stewart recipe and came out quite well.  I’ve already share the meatball recipe with you, and I will be sharing the rest of them over the next week.  The carrot cupcake recipe came from (where else?) SmittenKitchen, and I’ll just direct you over to her site for the recipe.  As usual with Deb’s recipes, they turned out wonderfully – moist, tender, and tasty.  I did pipe wee carrots on top of them, and I was quite proud of how they looked, since I usually have no great gift for decorating.  Please do email, or comment, if you have any questions about any of our decor or the theme, etc.  We had so much fun being creative with it, but it took a few skype brainstorming sessions and quite a bit of time on Pinterest for us to put all of our ideas to solid plans and then to reality.  For now, enjoy some photos of the happy Mama-to-be, and be sure to check back in a day or two for the recipes!

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Ding Dong Eight Alarm Chili

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Let’s just start off with a disclaimer:  This is not eight-alarm chili.  At least not the way I made it.  In all fairness, it would have been had I been able to find anything I was shopping for at the grocery store last week.  Let me just say, Publix, that I’m really disappointed in you.  You’ve never let me down like this before.   But I’m over it, because it was still delicious.

I found this recipe on Epicurious a while back (like 2 years, actually).  It was originally published in Gourmet magazine back in 2003, and it’s supposed to be the famous chili from the Cosby show (I dunno.  I didn’t watch the Cosby show, but I hear the chili was like a big deal or something).  I just thought it looked like a pretty good recipe so I saved it, and when I had my little impromptu dinner party last weekend, it seemed like a good time to dig it out.  You can never go wrong with a (mostly) one pot meal that you make a day ahead for a dinner party.  It gives you plenty of time on the day of to do any last minute house-cleaning, dog de-hairing (that’s the technical term for the removal of dog hair from miscellaneous surfaces and/or seating areas), or decorating.   I’ll admit it.  I did all three of those things.

Back to the chili.  Please, please, please don’t buy packaged stew meat for this.  They just like to trim off any random leftover bits from whatever they’ve been working with in the meat department and you never know what you’re getting in there.  Buy a shoulder or a chuck roast and cut it yourself.  It only takes a few extra minutes, and you can be sure of the cut of meat you’re getting.  Also, since you’re cutting it yourself, you can make sure that your pieces are all similar size for even cooking.  Once you’ve done that, you brown your meat – get a good sear since that is where all the flavor comes from.  Set your meat aside and throw some onions and garlic in there, then some spices, then your sauce (we’ll talk about the sauce in a moment), and that’s it.  You cook it down for a while, let it cool, and stick it in the fridge.  Let it sit around for a day or two, then heat it back up and voila’,  chili.  Yummy goodness chili.

Now the reason mine didn’t turn out super spicy is because I couldn’t find the right sorts of peppers.  All my Publix had was jalapenos and “long hot peppers”.  I’m not sure what a long hot pepper was supposed to be, but I tasted it and I’m pretty sure it was just a funny shaped bell pepper.   I wasn’t going to inflict habaneros on dinner guests, so I just used the jalapenos and then added some extra chili powder and aleppo pepper.  It was faintly spicy, but not robustly so, so if you like a good scorching chili, you need to make sure you get peppers with some heat.  Also: the sauce.  When you puree your peppers, etc, the recipe has you add a half cup of cilantro.  When I took the top off my food processor I was immediately hit with the smell of cilantro.  Jacob actually said that I had ruined the chili, because the smell was so strong, and I was a little worried myself that it would be overpowering, but don’t fear.  Add the cilantro!  Once you cook it for a couple of hours, it disappears into the background, leaving just a slight herbal note that you really need to balance out the other heavy flavors.

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This made a great chili that wasn’t overly difficult to make, and turned out to be a good, hearty, warming meal.  If only I had winter weather deserving of such a dish…alas, you can’t have everything.

Oh! Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope yours is going splendidly!

Ding Doing Eight Alarm Chili

2 oz dried ancho chiles (4 large), stemmed and seeded*

6 large garlic cloves, 3 of them finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (not pure chile)

4 lb well-marbled beef brisket or boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

1/4 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 lb white onions, chopped (4 cups)

1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled

1 to 4 fresh serrano or other small green chiles, finely chopped, including seeds (1 is fine for most tastes; 4 is the eight-alarm version)

1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (optional; 30 oz), rinsed if canned

Soak ancho chiles in hot water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain well.

While chiles soak, mince 1 whole garlic clove and mash to a paste with 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder. Pat beef dry and toss with spice mixture in a large bowl until coated.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef in 3 or 4 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch (lower heat as needed; spice mixture burns easily). Transfer beef as browned to another bowl. (Do not clean pot.)

Purée anchos in a blender along with tomatoes (including juice), chipotles in adobo, cilantro, remaining 2 whole garlic cloves, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt until smooth.  Add enough oil to fat in pot to total 3 tablespoons, then cook onions and chopped garlic over moderate heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits from beef, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add oregano, remaining tablespoon cumin, and remaining tablespoon chili powder and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chile purée and 1 chopped serrano and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes.

Stir in beer, water, and beef along with any juices accumulated in bowl and gently simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure chili is not scorching, 2 hours.

Taste sauce, then add more serrano if desired and continue to simmer, partially covered, until beef is very tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 hours more. (If chili becomes very thick before meat is tender, thin with water as needed.)  Coarsely shred meat (still in pot) with 2 forks and cool chili completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, 1 to 2 days to allow flavors to develop.

Reheat over low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 30 minutes. Add beans (if using) and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes

* I think it’s safe to say that if you can’t find dried anchos, or any of these specific peppers, the world will not end and the chili gods won’t rain hellfire down on you.  Just use whatever chilies you like, or whatever suits your taste heat-wise.

A Homemade Life

Merriam-Webster defines homemade as being made in the home, on the premises, or by one’s own efforts.  And that’s the key isn’t it?  The effort part, I mean.  In our modern world of technology, convenience, and instant gratification, it’s a simple thing to purchase ready-made items – be they food, clothing, decor, gifts…you name it and you can find it packaged up and ready for immediate use.  And there’s certainly a place for that – I’ll be the first one to admit that I take full advantage of the wonders of modern civilization – but there’s a joy that I get from making something myself that no amount of convenience can replace.

Deep thoughts, right?  It’s not something I ever used to think about – 10 years ago I’d have laughed out loud had you suggested that I’d be in such a mood at any point in my life – but as I’m making my home, my new lovely dream home, and looking to the future (a few years yet, parents and in-laws!) when I might have some tiny people running around, I find myself wanting more and more to have the things around me be things that I particularly love.  And lately I’ve been finding that the things I love the most are the photographs that we’ve taken, the special meals we’ve made and shared, the handmade cards given on momentous occasions…the things that I’ve invested my time and effort in.

My birthday is approaching (next week!) and I’ve had several bewildered reactions to my statement that I am making my own cake, and gladly.   Friends will offer to purchase a cake for me so that I can “enjoy my day” and not have to make all that effort, but I want to.  You see, in my baking, I rarely make anything that I choose.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the fruits of my labors – far from it! – but I usually make things at the requests of others, or because I know that my husband or my guests or whoever will particularly enjoy it.*  So for my birthday, I would like to make something spectacular that I alone have chosen.  I’m not a bad baker so I’m sure my friends and family will enjoy it as well, but really it’s my birthday, and I’m making the exact cake that I want.  And I will enjoy it all the more because I’ve taken the time to create it myself.

Where’s all this coming from? Where’s all this going?  I guess that I’ve just been so inspired lately – so many wonderful projects that I have in mind for my home, my garden, my kitchen.  One of my favorites of the modern conveniences is our present access to almost unlimited inspiration via the internet.  It seems almost everyone is an artist these days – sewing, writing, building, cooking, designing, photographing, and on and on and on.  And all of these words and ideas and images make me so eager and excited to create my own things that will inspire my family and friends and guests in my home – to share some of the joy and satisfaction I get from the creation of something lovely.

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*Please don’t think I mind making things for you!  There’s no greater compliment for me than to have someone request that I make something for them.  I’m flattered that you think I can do justice to your favorite dessert/meal/jam/etc, and no time spent in my kitchen is wasted when I know someone’s going to enjoy and appreciate my efforts.  And let’s be honest, I love to cook, so really I’m doing it all for me anyway [insert evil laugh here].

Link Love

Hi everyone!  Maybe you’re wondering where I’ve been?  Well I certainly haven’t discovered like 96 cool new sites to check out and not told you about them.  Oh wait.  Well better late than never right?

Tasting Table is the coolest thing ever.  If you like cooking or just food, really, then you should check it out.

Jim Harmer over at ImprovePhotography has one of the best photography sites on the web.  Not only is he a great teacher, but the sheer amount of information on all things camera related is awesome.  And lest you think that I’m all “quantity over quality”  – the articles are all extremely well written and informative, but go see for yourself.

Jeff Cable has the coolest job ever.  Jealous.

I’ve just discovered Cooking For Seven – it’s a really great blog with really great (healthy!) recipes.

And lets not forget Pinterest, shall we?  I mean, I practically live over there.