Baked Parmesan Kale Chips

Parmesan Kale Chips

The huge burning question in my life this afternoon is “Which is best: baked or dehydrated kale chips?” Researching this question on the internet led me to Gluten Free Fix’s recipe for Parmesan Kale Chips. I just took them out of the oven and YUM! I will be making these again for sure. The littlest taste tester in my household was not keen on them, but she’s just biased against kale. I’m sure my eldest would love these, but she’s over at a friend’s house. So they’re basically all for me which is not a problem at all.

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So before I get on with sharing the recipe, if any one out there is a dehydrated kale chip guru, please be my new best friend and tell me how to make them yummy. The no frills batch I tried a year ago tasted way too green and seaweed-like.

I haven’t dove into the whole raw fake cheese version with cashew sauce and nutritional yeast because the more raw vegan stuff I try, the more I do not want to become a raw vegan. But not too many years ago I wouldn’t have touched kale and now look at me. So please attempt to educate me if you have any feelings on the subject. So far the best kale chips I’ve made have come out of a low-heat convection oven. But I feel like the ones they sell in the store are dehydrated and I’m dying to figure it out.

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Baked Parmesan Kale Chips Recipe

Adapted from Gluten Free Fix. All I’ve really changed is the baking technique which I think is extremely important as a burnt kale chip is extremely unappetizing. If you don’t have a convection oven, follow the baking instructions in my Kale Chip recipe. The end product will be almost the same, it will just take longer.

1 large bunch curly kale, washed, dried and stems removed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat convection oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place kale in a large bowl and sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top. Mix and massage for 30 seconds with your hands. Spread kale onto two baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 2 quarts
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Baking-time: 25 minutes

Cheese Popcorn

There are hard-core cookbooks out there that have recipes for homemade cheese powder. But somehow, I haven’t gotten around to making my own. Actually, I think cheese powder is where I draw the line. People think I’m crazy enough already. If I made cheese powder from scratch I couldn’t tell anyone about it for fear of the looks I’d get, so what’s the point? It’s much more normal feeling to get really excited about King Arthur’s cheese powder. This stuff is the bomb.

I make about 8 or 10 cups of popcorn in our whirly pop and immediately sprinkle on a couple tablespoons of the powder along with a pinch of salt and viola! If you use an air popper, you might need to spray a little oil on the popcorn to help the powder stick.

King Arthur is not paying me for this. :(

Maple Kettle Corn

[donotprint]Thank goodness I write a food blog or I never would have taken the leap and bought a little container of maple sugar for what seemed like way too much money. But for you, my dear readers, I forked over the $4.00 and got busy making some maple kettle corn.

We picked up the sugar at the Hebron Maple Festival after we sampled maple ice cream, frothy maple milk (yum!), and maple cotton candy. The line for the maple kettle corn was too long. A long line is always a good sign. But at that point we’d eaten so much we didn’t see the point of waiting it out even if maple kettle corn was a life-changing event. So I went about making some a couple days later with my trusty maple sugar.[/donotprint]

Maple Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle corn made with maple sugar is more prone to burn than regular kettle corn. So don’t go anywhere while you’re making it. Get all the ingredients ready ahead of time while your pot is heating. Things can move quickly, but the pay off is worth it. Imagine crunchy-salty-sweet goodness with undertones of molasses. Or is it caramel? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely tasty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately or store for up to a couple days in an airtight container. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Kettle Corn

[donotprint]You must make this snack as soon as you possibly can. It is brilliant simplicity.

Today when the kids were munching happily on kettle corn I told them I didn’t want to hear any more whining about how they never get Oreos in their lunch like all the other kids at school. As long as they get to snack on homemade kettle corn, I can do no wrong.

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Kettle Corn Recipe

I like to get all the ingredients ready for this snack while the pot is preheating. Things happen quickly once the pot is ready and the popcorn needs all of your attention while it is popping. But then 4 minutes later you get to experience a snack trifecta: crunchy, sweet, and salty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Crostini

These crostini are the backbone of dip and cheese plates that I find myself putting together in the winter months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a baguette  into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Pour 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl. Brush a bit off the oil onto each slice with a pastry brush. Bake until golden and dried out, approximately 30 minutes.

As far as I can tell, these will keep for months in an airtight container, if they are completely dried out. I always make way more than I think I’ll need because the kids devour them and we can always save them for the next get together.

Yield: variable
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 30 minutes

Cheese Straws

[donotprint]Lord knows why, but I’d never made a cheese straw until recently. Since I’ve been wanting to make them forever and we were having a bunch of people over I decided to make three different kinds and see what we liked best. It turned out to be a crazy amount of work that I’m not anxious to repeat anytime soon. But once I’m rested, I assume I’ll be happy to have a promising cheese straw recipe under my belt.

I started with the Lee Brothers‘ cheese straw recipe which I believe Smitten Kitchen has taken a crack at. In fact, I made a batch a few days beforehand planning on storing them in the freezer, but they mysteriously disappeared so I was forced to make a second batch. This recipe is brilliant, easy, and simple. The dough handles relatively well. The red pepper flakes are perfect. But, in my opinion, they are a tad too rich.

Next, I tried a recipe from 101 cookbooks. I used spelt flour instead of the buckwheat flour that is called for. My youngest liked these cheese straws the best, probably because they’re flavored with thyme instead of cayenne or red pepper flakes. But I found them a tad weak on flavor and the dough was hard to work with. 

Last but not least, I tried the cheese straw recipe in the New York Times Cookbook. I was a little unsure about this one because bread crumbs are a major ingredient. But I dove in anyway because a) I couldn’t find any other recipes for from-scratch cheese straws in my humble cookbook collection and b) how could Craig Claiborne steer me wrong? The recipe turned out well and was happily gobbled up by all of our guests.[/donotprint]

Cheese Straw Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
3 cups soft homemade whole wheat bread crumbs
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayeanne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Dash of paprika
Grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process for until the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the processor and form it into four equal-sized discs. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farhenhiet.

Remove one disc at a time from the refrigerator. Unwrap it and set it on wax paper or a silicone baking mat. (I highly recommend the later.) Roll it out until it is about 1/8 inch thick. With a pastry cutter or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1/2-inch by 6-inch strips. Seperate the strips slightly while transfering them to a parchment lined baking sheet (or you can use your trustly silicone baking mat). Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown and slightly crispy. They should crisp up a bit more once they cool.

Yield: 4 dozen
Prep-time:  30 mintues

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Wheat Thins

[donotprint]I’ve been trying my best to pretend otherwise, but we moved to a new home a few weeks ago. I’m starting to realize that a tiny break from blogging may be necessary. We have no internet at the new abode and don’t expect to for another month or two. While I’ve been able to make due with sneaking off to the public library while my youngest is at preschool, it’s starting to get a little old.

The chicks have grown leaps and bounds so I’m hoping to write a post about their exploits soon. But for the most part, I need to lower my expectations for a while. I’ll be back. I promise.

I wish I could make these crackers all day long today. They are perfection. My time in the kitchen has been rather minimal lately. Snacks consist mostly of fruit or store-bought crackers. When we were busiest with the move, the kids were eating lots of junk and seemed to be constantly hungry. It was a nice reminder of how far we’ve come and I’m anxious to get back to a healthier place. At the moment, I’m focusing on healthy meals and hopefully in a few more weeks the snacks will fall in line. [/donotprint]

Homemade Wheat Thin Crackers Recipe

This recipe is minimally adapted from one by the same name in King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I discovered it through Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship who features her own version of this recipe in her splendid Healthy Snacks on the Go ebook. (Given my snack-driven lifesytle, Katie was kind enough to send me a copy. Thanks Katie!)

If you’re able to roll them out nice and thin, I find these even tastier and more addictive than the supermarket variety.

If you don’t have any silicone baking mats, you can use 11 x 16-inch sheets of parchment paper.

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for topping
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the flour, sugar, salt, and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the processor for 10 seconds. Spread the butter chunks over the flour mixture. Run the food processor for 10-20 seconds until the mixture is the texture of cornmeal. The occasional large chunk of butter is more than okay.

Mix the water and vanilla together in a small bowl. With the processor running, pour in the water mixture through the feed tube. Run the processor for 30 seconds to incorporate.

Dump the dough out onto a silicone baking mat. Press the dough into a ball and knead gently. Divide the ball in half. Shape the halves into fat rectangles and place one on the center of a silicone baking mat. Keep the other half covered with some plastic wrap. Roll the dough out until it is thin (1/16th-inch)  and covers almost the entire mat. Try to roll it out as evenly as possible. Lightly sprinkle the dough with flour if it sticks to the rolling pin.

Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares with a pizza wheel. They do not need much space between them as they shrink slightly during baking. Place the baking mat onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt.

Bake for 5 – 10 minutes, rotating at least once. The time it will take for the crackers to bake depends on their thickness. They are done when the edges just start to brown. I usually have to save the crackers on the edge from burning and return the rest to the oven for a few more minutes. Keep a close eye on them after five minutes as they burn quickly. Transfer the crackers to a cooling rack. Serve. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 100 crackers
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 5 minutes

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Cheese Crackers

I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for this blog and the whole healthy family snack thing that I’m supposed to be investigating, I wouldn’t be making crackers at all. But this is definitely one of those times that the genius of blogging shines through. I love these crackers.

Despite what you may think, these are pretty darn easy to make. The food processor makes blending all the ingredients a snap. The only tricky part is rolling out the dough after it’s had some time to relax in the refrigerator. But if you’re willing to take on that little challenge, you could have a batch of warm cheesy crackers fresh out of the oven. So completely worth it in my book.

I’ve gradually made a some relatively significant changes to the original recipe I posted a year ago. Things have changed enough that I’m thinking it’s about time I shared how I’m baking up cheese crackers these days.

Cheese Crackers Recipe

I highly recommend using a silicone baking mat for cracker-making. From what I gather, parchment paper will work. But the silicone baking mat is sturdier and is a lot less inclined to slide all over the counter while you’re rolling out the dough.

This recipe is easily doubled. My standard-size Cuisinart food processor seems a little cramped, but turns out a perfectly good dough with a double recipe. But unless you have a double oven, remember you’re looking at two rounds of cracker babysitting by the oven window.

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground pepper
3 ounces coarsely grated orange sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons cold butter, sliced into chunks
3 – 4 tablespoons water

Place the flours, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds. Add the cheeses and pulse for 10-15 seconds.

Distribute the butter over the top of the flour mixture. Run the processor for 10 seconds or until the butter is mostly incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Occasional larger chunks of butter are more than okay.

With the processor running, add the water one tablespoon at a time through the feed tube. Continue to run the processor until the dough starts to lightly clump up or form into a ball (about 30 – 60 seconds).

If you take a bit of the dough out of the processor and give it a squeeze, if it looks like this, you’re all set:

Give it a squeeze

If it doesn’t add a little more water and pulse until it does.

Remove the dough from the processor. Divide it in two and form into flattened rectangles and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place the rectangles in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight. If you leave them in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, let the dough sit out on the counter for 10 minutes or so to soften.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove plastic wrap and place rectangle in the middle of a non-stick baking mat. Roll the dough out evenly with a wooden rolling pin until it covers almost the entire (11 x 16-inch) mat. This takes a little muscle, but gets easier as the dough warms up. I find it impossible to roll the dough out completely evenly. But the closer you get it, the easier they will be to bake.

Cut the dough into 1″ squares with a straight edge, lattice cutter, or pizza wheel. Move the baking mat  onto a baking sheet. (The squares do not need to be spread apart as they shrink and puff up during baking and are easily broken apart afterwards if they do not separate on their own.)

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough, or until the bottoms of crackers are puffy and golden. Start checking on them often after 15 minutes. The crackers on the outer edge may brown more quickly. I’ve been known to remove some of the crackers from the baking sheet in order to save them from burning and put the rest back in the oven for a few more minutes. Check the bottom of the crackers to gauge how close they are to being done. They should be golden crispy perfection. They will crisp up a bit when they cool, but not much.

Transfer the crackers to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze.

Yield: 100 crackers
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Inactive prep-time: 1 hour to overnight
Bake-time: 20 minutes

Whole Grain Baby Biscuits

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With my youngest heading off to kindergarten in the Fall, I’m feeling some self-imposed pressure to squeeze in every last “baby” snack I can before my kids get too old and jaded. Before I took a crack at this recipe for digestive biscuits, I thought the taste would be a little bland for our maturing palates. But I was wrong.

Tasting something like the love child of a cracker and a cookie these biscuits perfectly showcase the whole grains’ naturally sweet and nutty goodness. And I really mean it when I say perfectly. My kids and I can’t get enough of them. 

This recipe uses spelt flour which reminds me of coarsely ground whole wheat flour and has a wonderfully nutty flavor. I order it from King Arthur, but I believe I’ve also seen it at Whole Foods. Another recipe that uses spelt flour that I love  is the Pie Dough recipe in Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce.

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Whole Grain Baby Biscuits Recipe

This recipe was inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Digestive Biscuits in How To Eat. From what I gather, digestive biscuits are the United Kingdom’s version of the graham cracker. Unfortunately, I’ve never tasted an actual digestive biscuit. But for that very reason I felt free to get rid of the shortening and generally tinker with Lawson’s recipe which I’m sure perfectly replicates the real thing.

1/2 cup quick oats
1 1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 10 chunks
Scant 1/3 cup milk
All-purpose flour, for rolling out the dough

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the oats in a standing mixer with paddle attachment and crush them by running the mixer at medium speed for 3 – 5 minutes.

Add the spelt flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to the mixer bowl and stir for 10 – 20 seconds. Stop the mixer and place the butter on top of the flour mixture. Mix at low speed for 3 – 5 minutes or until the butter is incorporated but there are still little chunks here and there. With the mixer still running on a low speed, drizzle in the milk and wait 20 seconds or until large clumps start to form.

Stop the mixer and squeeze the dough together into a ball. Split the ball into half. Form the balls into a flattened rectangles and roll them out individually on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. The top of the dough may require a sprinkle of flour in order to prevent the rolling pin from sticking.

Cut the dough into 1 by 2-inch rectangles and transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. If they are sticky, try using a metal spatula or bench scraper to pick them up. They can be placed close to one another on the baking sheet as they do not expand much during baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on them and check the bottoms after 10 minutes as they tend to brown quickly once they are done.

Yield: 40 biscuits
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 10 minutes

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Homemade Bagel Chips

When I’m dead and gone I think I’ll have cumulatively spent about 3 weeks of my life wiping up the seeds and junk that fall off of my husband’s favorite breakfast – an everything bagel, toasted, with cream cheese, chopped red onion and capers. How he came up with this I have no idea. Fortunately, my hatred for the everything bagel may ebb now that I’ve found a quick and easy way to turn them into a snack that my kids enjoy.

Bagel Chips Recipe

2 Everything bagels
Canola  (or other neutral) oil spray
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice the bagel in half from the top down, not from the side as one usually does for toasting and serving. Slice each bagel half into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick rounds. Lay the rounds on two baking sheets in a single layer. Spray lightly with canola oil. Sprinkle the garlic powder over the rounds.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden and crispy. Allow to cool on the baking sheet before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 3 cups chips
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Bake-time: 8 minutes

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