Chunky Guacamole

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It’s a tragic day at the Rowland household. Our eldest decided to taste the guacamole. She was hungry and desperate and tired of waiting for her mother to finish taking photos. She went for it.

“Yum!” she said, “I like guacamole!”

My heart sank. My husband and I have enjoyed exclusive access to the the guacamole bowl for several years now. Apparently, those days are over.

She’s lucky I love her so much. Sigh.[/donotprint]

Chunky Guacamole Recipe

I insist, the avocado must be Haas, preferably ripe but not too ripe. And the lime juice must be from a real lime. I’m a big fan of convience, but quality fresh ingredients make a big difference in this recipe. 

2 ripe Haas avocados
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from one half of a lime

Slice the avocados in half. Discard the pits and remove the flesh from the skins. Place the flesh in a small mixing bowl. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro,and lime juice. Mash it all up with a fork. Serve with tortilla chips.

Store any leftovers (!?) in an airtight container in the refrigerator placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole in order to prevent browning.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes

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S’more Bites

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News Flash: Fix Me A Snack made it into Babble’s list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs for 2011. Fix Me A Snack is  ranked at #51! Seeing Fix Me A Snack in a list along with so many big shots whom I truly admire is a huge honor. A big Thank You to Babble and all my dear readers.

Now let’s get back to snackin’.

The ingredient list in this S’more Bites recipe is a bit schizophrenic, I know.  Brown rice syrup and miniature marshmallows may seem like odd bedfellows. But the truth is that these s’more bites are supremely satisfying and chocolaty without being too sweet. Oh, and unsurprisingly, the kids loooove them.[/donotprint]

S’more Bites Recipe

If you don’t have brown rice syrup, you can replace it with Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Honey is another possibility, but I haven’t tried it because it is sweeter than brown rice syrup and has a more powerful flavor.

The consistency of the chocolate mixture depends entirely on the amount of oil that gets thrown in along with the nut butter. Even when I’m using the same jar of almond butter, the results vary depending on whether I’m at the beginning (lots of oil) or end (getting dry) of the jar. Use the wheat germ to create a consistency easiest to work with. Your hands will get a little greasy perhaps, but the mixture should be easy to roll into balls and not too sticky.

5 store-bought graham crackers, broken up into large chunks
1/3 cup almond or peanut or sunflower butter
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 – 3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
20 miniature marshmallows

Put the graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the processor for about 30 seconds or until the crackers are broken into fine crumbs. Add the almond butter, chocolate syrup, 1 tablespoon of  the wheat germ, and brown rice syrup to the bowl of the processor. Pulse for 10-20 seconds or until the mixture starts to come together into large crumbles.

Take a bit of the mixture in your hands and test to see if it will roll nicely into a ball. If it’s too wet, add more wheat germ a tablespoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add something moist like almond oil, chocolate syrup or brown rice syrup one tablespoon at a time. Run the processor for a few seconds after each addition to incorporate. 

Take pieces of the chocolate mixture a heaping teaspoon at a time. Knead it a bit and flatten it in the center of your palm. Place a marshmallow in the center and coax the chocolate mixture around the marshmallow with your fingertips. Once the marshmallow is covered up, round out the ball by rolling it gently. Serve or store in an airtight container. These freeze beautifully.

Yield: 20 bites
Prep-time: 20 minutes

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Chewy Granola Bars

[donotprint]This recipe is as close as I can come to homemade chewy granola bar perfection. It’s the result of lots of testing and tweaking of every decent looking recipe I could find. Because I have a huge soft spot for Quaker Oats S’more Chewy Granola Bars, I tried a variation that included mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. But sadly, they melted. I also played a lot with the ratios of sugar and fat and this recipe it is as low as I’m willing to go with both. Anything less pretty much leaves you with a crunchy granola bar.

We’ve been doing a fair amount of hiking (i.e. strolling in the woods while potential buyers poke around our house) lately. These granola bars have served us well on the trail. They are also free of nuts or nut-products so they are legal in my kids’ lunch boxes and snack bags. So, at the moment, they seem like one of the greatest snacks of all time.

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Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or Lyle’s golden syrup or corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
3/4 cup brown crispy rice cereal
2 tablespoons roasted sunflower kernels
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. The paper should come out and over the top edges of the pan thereby creating handles for easily lifting the granola out after it has been baked. Lightly grease the paper with butter or spray oil. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat along with the brown sugar, syrup, and salt. Bring mixture to a low bubble and stir for a minute to be sure that all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, sunflower kernels, and raisins. Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir well with a rubber spatula. Transfer the mixture to the prepared 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Press the mixture down into the pan firmly with the rubber spatula. Otherwise, the granola bars may be too crumbly.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. For best results, I wait to cut the bars until the pan is moderately warm or even getting close to cool. After a few minutes out of the oven, you can speed up the cooling process by carefully lifting the granola out of the pan with the parchment paper and placing it on a cooling rack.

Cut and serve or store for up to a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They freeze well too. Best served at room temperature. Try to avoid serving them cold as they are a lot less chewy and sweet.

Yield: 12 bars
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

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Homemade Apple Chips

[donotprint]This easy recipe for homemade apple chips is a new favorite at our house. My kids love them. I love them. Everyone’s happy. It’s been a while since I made something so simple yet brilliant. Hooray Apple Chips!

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Apple Chips Recipe

I used some Macoun and Empire apples to make these and they didn’t require any measures to prevent browning. If you think your apples will brown excessively, dip them in a solution of 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice right after they have been sliced.

3 medium apples
Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and core the apples using an apple corer. Slice off the a 1/4″ of the top and bottom of the apple and discard. Slice the remaining apple using a mandolin set to 1/8″ thick.

Spread the apple rings out onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Try to avoid overlapping the rings. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for approximately 3 hours, rotating once or twice. Start checking on them around 2 hours. They may be slightly pliable out of the oven, but should crisp up when cool. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: I’ve also made these same chips using a food dehydrator set to 155 degrees Fahrenheit for around 6 -8 hours.

Yield: approximately 30 chips (not enough!)
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Bake-time: 3 hours 

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Homemade Polka Dot Fruit Roll Ups

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All we have here is dehydrated applesauce, blackberry puree, and peach puree. And I’m hoping that it will make the my second grader’s classmates green with envy.

Darianne commented on my Homemade Strawberry Fruit Rolls Ups post that her kid is less than happy with the lack of stamped images on her homemade fruit roll ups. It got me thinking.  And I have rapidly ripening fresh local produce coming out of my ears right now. With Darianne’s kid in mind, we made a fruit roll up that kicks it up a notch. Who can say no to polka dots? Or better yet, fruit leather they’ve decorated themselves?[/donotprint]

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
Fresh blackberry sauce
Fresh peach sauce

Spread applesauce out onto a lightly greased lined dehydrator tray to 1/4-inch thickness. I find a large offset spatula works well, but if you don’t have one spread the applesauce out evenly as best you can with the back of a spoon. “Decorate” the applesauce with the blackberry and peach sauces using separate plastic squeeze bottles.

Place the prepared tray in the dehydrator and set the machine to 135 degrees Farhient. Run the dehydrator for 4 hours or more until the fruit leather is no longer tacky and completely dry. The amount of time necessary depends on the thickness and amount of sugar in the fruit.

Remove the fruit leather from the tray and cut into approximately 2-inch wide strips. Store rolled up in wax paper in an airtight container. Should keep for weeks, if not months.

Yield: 1 12-inch square sheet (4 or 5 rolls)
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Dehydrating-time: 4 hours or more

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Cucumber Snack Salad

I love this zippy little summer salad when I have a little extra time in the afternoon. It gives us a break from the usual carrot sticks. If you don’t have champagne vinegar, you can try lemon juice. Champagne vinegar is also lovely with strawberries or on salads containing fruit. (A cucumber technically is a fruit, right?)

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

1 medium fresh-picked cucumber, peeled
A generous pinch of fine salt
Pinch ground white pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill (optional)

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Slice the cucumber thinly and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and dill. Mix with your hand or serve as is.

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Homemade Strawberry Fruit Roll Ups

I’ve seen plenty of recipes for fruit leather using very low temperatures in a traditional oven. But I freed myself from having to fool around with that when I bought myself a refurbished food dehydrator for Mother’s Day a couple years ago.

I find myself using the machine more during the summer and the fall when we are suddenly surrounded by fresh local produce. And since we’re on the go so much more during the summer, I’m sure we’ll have no problem using up whatever I can find time to make.

There is a great deal of flexibility in this recipe. I’ve used all different kinds of berries along with the applesauce.

2 cups unsweetened applesauce, preferably organic*
1 pint fresh strawberries, preferably organic*

Lightly grease two dehydrator tray liners and place them on trays. (My trays are 15-inches square. You may need more or less trays if your machine isn’t a similar size.) Set aside.

Wash and hull the strawberries. Combine strawberries and applesauce in a medium mixing bowl. Puree the mixture with an immersion/hand blender until smooth.

Transfer half of the mixture to each prepared tray and spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick. A large offset spatula might do an even better job of spreading.

Place trays in dehydrator for 4-20 hours depending on the machine, thickness of puree, etc. Set temperature to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine only takes about 5 hours at this temperature. Rotate the trays a couple times if you think of it.

When the puree has dried completely (I always seem to have one stubborn thick spot.) remove it from the tray and cut it into 2-inch wide strips. Layer strips with wax paper and store in an airtight bag or container. The roll ups, if completely dry, will keep for months.

Yield: 13 2 x 12-inch strips
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Dehydration-time: 4-20 hours

*Note: I encourage using organic ingredients in this recipe because the food, along with any pesticides it may contain, is concentrated by the process of dehydration. At least, that’s what I read somewhere once. I’m not entirely sure if it’s really an issue.

Homemade Cheese Crackers

I believe I have achieved my own version of Cracker Nirvana. It all started with a Cheddar Crackers recipe mentioned by The Kitchn. The original recipe is exquisite, but the crackers are a tad greasy, especially after 24 hours. My version of this recipe keeps longer and I’m not as likely to eat them all immediately after they come out of the oven.

This is a huge post for me because crackers used to constitute a large part of our snacking diet. Over the past year and a half I’ve been buying crackers less and less. At this point, they are a genuine treat for us. Even though my preschooler still pines for Goldfish occasionally, it feels terrific to have reformed our snack diet so thoroughly. With this recipe, I know exactly what’s in there and we recognize them for the treat that they are.

The picture below is my latest batch without the paprika. While I love the color and taste the paprika imparts. I was getting the sense that my kids were not so crazy for it. It took me a while to figure this out because I was more than happy to eat them all myself!

Here’s what they look like with the paprika:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
Dash pepper
1 1/2 cups grated white sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3- 4 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized chunks and distribute 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.

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).

When I first started making this recipe, it always formed into a ball without much hesitation. But lately, it’s more likely to look like the picture above. Maybe it’s the weather. Or the cumulative changes I’ve made to the recipe are having an effect. Regardless, if when you take a bit of the dough out of the processor and give it a squeeze 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 knead a few times. Form into flattened rectangles and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place the rectangles in the freezer for 10 minutes (or thereabouts) or in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 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.

Remove plastic wrap and place rectangle in the middle of a non-stick baking mat or sheet of parchment paper. The baking mat is much easier, but it can be done with parchment paper. Roll the dough out evenly until it is less than 1/8″ but more than 1/16″ thick – not paper thin but close. Miraculously, the dough doesn’t require any flour to keep it from sticking.

Cut the dough into 1″ squares. I use a lattice cutter, but any ol’ dull edged knife or pizza cutter will do. Carefully move the baking mat or parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the dough lightly with salt. (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 17-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough, or until 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 if you rolled your dough unevenly like I always seem to do. Don’t stop baking until the outer crackers are shy of burning in order to be sure that the crackers in the center have a chance to crisp up properly. Check the bottom of the crackers to gauge how close they are to being done. They should be golden. 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.

Allow crackers to cool on the baking sheet or on a cooling rack. Store in a airtight container at room temperature. They keep fine for at least 3 or 4 days.

Yield: approximately 100 crackers
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

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Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

These moist, sweet, and satisfying muffins take my whole family to our happy place. They are great stand-ins for cookies; in some ways they’re even more enjoyable!

This recipe was inspired by one from Nook & Pantry – a very yummy looking blog.

For the muffins:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1/4 cup raisins, chopped

For the filling:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Stir in the flour mixture until combined. Then add the carrot and raisins. Stir to incorporate.

 Spoon the muffin batter into a well-greased mini muffin pan, filling each cup only half way. Then place one teaspoon of the filling in each cup. Cover the filling with the remaining muffin batter.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes before gently moving them to a cooling rack. Serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze in an airtight container in a single layer.

Yield: 24 mini muffins
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 13 minutes

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Honey-roasted pecans

Not too long ago, Serious Eats was kind enough to share a recipe from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. I have been looking at roasted nuts recipes for a while now and was feeling a little overwhelmed. But Keller’s recipe for Candied Pecans is everything I was looking for. These nuts have perfect balance of crispy, sweet and salty going on. They are also flakey and buttery. If I close my eyes, it feels like I’m eating a croissant. ‘Nough said.

1 1/2 cup raw pecans
1-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread nuts out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a medium bowl. Quickly drizzle the honey and salt over the nuts and stir until they are well coated.

Return the coated  nuts to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating once. I took them out of the oven when it smelled like the honey was starting to caramelize – a tiny bit smokey.

Remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and quickly separate any clumps as the honey will harden as the nuts cool. Allow to cool completely and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups nuts (easily doubled)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

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