Homemade Cheese Crackers

Homemade Cheese CrackersI’m not exaggerating that my three-year-old has an addiction to a particular brand of snack mix. I can still picture him in the cart when we picked out our first bag with its jumble of cheddar & butter bunny crackers and pretzels. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought them. They are organic—not an endorsement of nutrition—and when we run out, it’s a full-on emergency situation.

With no school today, I spent the day with my little one. This morning he helped me pulse together the dough in the food processor for homemade cheese crackers. I used whatever shredded cheese we had in the fridge, a mix of cheddar, jack, Asiago and Parmesan. When he woke up from his nap, he was excited about them, but didn’t try one. Maybe I needed to cut out bunnies?
Homemade Cheese Crackers
Homemade Cheese Crackers
Adapted from Food52

Makes about 5 cups crackers

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling crackers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
7-1/2 ounces (about 3-1/2 cups) finely grated cheese (cheddar, jack, Parmesan, Asiago)
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

In a food processor, combine the flour, baking, powder and salt. Add the butter and cheese and pulse into a crumbly dough. Mix in 2 tablespoons of water. The dough should hold together when squeezed. If not, add up to 2 tablespoons of water.

Divide the dough in half and pat into a rectangle. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out one rectangle of dough at a time until it is just less than 1/8-inch thick. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips and then cut into perpendicular 3/4-inch-wide strips. Use a skewer to poke a hole into the center of each square. Chill in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Brush the frozen crackers with egg white and sprinkle with salt. Use an offset spatula to transfer them to the prepared sheet pans and carefully break them apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the crackers are puffed up and golden brown. If the crackers are fully frozen, they will need to be baked longer.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

PBJ French Toast

PBJ French Toast
From kindergarten to well into adulthood, I took a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with me to work or school everyday. For some inexplicable reason, I never got sick of it. I looked forward to my midday routine. Last year I said goodbye to my beloved sandwich. Not forever, but for just for lunch. I’ve moved onto veggie-centric soups and grain bowls.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I brunchified my favorite sandwich. I’ve partnered with Turano to share this recipe for PBJ French toast using their Pane Turano Italian Bread. These special sandwiches go heavy on the peanut butter and jelly. I wasn’t shy about slathering it on! This breakfast treat was finished off with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar.
PBJ French Toast
PBJ French Toast

Serves 4

4 slices Pane Turano Italian Bread
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup jelly
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Maple syrup for serving
Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Cut the bread in half. Generously spread the slices with peanut butter and jelly to make 4 sandwiches.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and melt about half the butter.

Whisk together the egg and milk and dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture letting the excess drip off.

Cook the sandwiches for a few minutes on each side until they brown. Melt the remaining butter in the pan as needed. Drizzle with maple syrup and confectioners’ sugar before serving.

This post is sponsored by Turano.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
Always on my Sunday to-do list is to make a giant batch of soup to last through the week, so I am set with lunch and/or dinner. Once the weather gets warmer and more fruits and veggies are in season, my warm, comforting bowls of soup will morph into hearty salads that I can make first thing in the morning and will still be fresh for lunch at work.

What I love about those salads and what I miss about soup is texture. So often soup is just veggie puree in a bowl, and I want more bite and lots of different flavors. I made vegetarian minestrone soup that eliminated all the jealousy that soup can have for salad. With green beans, pinto beans, kale and pasta, this version was chock full of all sorts of tasty ingredients.
Minestrone Soup
Minestrone Soup

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup trimmed green beans, 1/2-inch long
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups vegetarian stock
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-15 ounce can kidney beans
1 cup shredded kale
1 cup small pasta (I used mini shells.)
Fresh chives for serving
Shaved Parmesan for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, carrots and celery until they start to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and green beans and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute

Add the tomatoes, stock, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the soup thickens slightly. Add the pasta and kale and continue simmering until the pasta is al dente.

Garnish with chives and Parmesan before serving.

Mini Almond Bundt Cakes

Mini Almond Bundt Cakes
With Valentine’s Day coming up I felt obligated to bake something extra special. This year I had trouble figuring out what I wanted to tackle. After hours spent browsing my bookshelf and online, I decided I should use a much-neglected gadget or tool in my kitchen and that the recipe should involve chocolate. This strategy helped narrow down all the options.

I’ve had a mini bundt pan in my cabinet for years, and I think I’ve only used it twice. For some reason it has survived multiple kitchen purges. I dusted it off to bake these mini almond bundt cakes drizzled with bittersweet chocolate ganache. The cakes were dotted with almonds and flavored with almond extract. I am pretty sure they won’t last until the 14th!
Mini Almond Bundt Cakes
Mini Almond Bundt Cakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living May 1998

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature plus more for pan
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease six mini bundt pans with butter. Spread the sliced almonds on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl combine the chopped almonds and brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and almond extract until combined. Add a third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream and beat until just combined and repeat and finish by folding in the last of the flour.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of batter into each bundt pan and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the chopped almonds on top and cover with an additional 3 tablespoons of batter. The batter should be about a half inch from the rim.

Bake the cakes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack before unmolding them. Arrange the cakes on the wire rack on top of a sheet pan.

Place the chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until it is very hot and bubbles start appearing at the edges. Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 1 minute before stirring until smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate over the cakes and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Let the chocolate set before serving.

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