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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Agave Limeaide

My new favorite web site is bussongs.com because it has given us the lyrics to On Top of Spaghetti. How great is it to finally have a kid old enough to memorize my all-time favorite childhood song? I think I’ve got our summer plans all shored up now. Lots of running around and lots of signing. Loudly.

Agave Limeaide Recipe

Ice cubes
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons agave nectar

Throw four or five ice cubes in an 8-ounce cup. Pour the lime juice and water over the ice cubes and then add the agave nectar. Stir vigorously until the agave nectar is dissolved. Serve.

Yield: 1 cup
Prep-time: 5 minutes

Salted Chocolate Almonds

Meet my ‘it’ snack of the moment. It’s crunchy. It’s simple and easy to prepare. It’s salty and sweet. And last but not least, there’s the chocolate! We all love these little nuts. I have no idea why oh why it’s taken me so long to pull this together. If I had come up with it three years ago when I started thinking about healthier kid snacks, I might have considered the case closed and never started this blog of mine.

Salted Chocolate Almonds Recipe

This recipe is easily doubled. It would also probably be insanely good with smoked salt if you happen to have any on hand. If you don’t have almonds, use cashews!

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 teaspoon (give or take – more is more) kosher salt

Melt the chocolate chips gradually in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, proceed with caution and set the power level to 20% for a minute at a time. After a few minutes, the chips should not appear melted, but should be soft enough to stir into a semi-smooth mass with a silicone/rubber spatula. Stir for a good thirty seconds or more. The warm bits of chocolate will gradually melt all of the firmer chips as the heat is redistributed. If you heat the chocolate too much, it will turn into a coarse chalky mass (from which it is impossible to recover). Melting it gently and keeping it away from moisture of any kind will allow the chocolate to keep its temper and be shiny when it cools.

Once the melted chocolate is ready, add the almonds to the bowl and stir to coat. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread the nuts into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to dry. This should take about ten minutes. Break apart any huge clusters of almonds and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes (including drying time)

Sunshine Smoothie

One of my newest measures of snack recipe success is how messed up my four year-old daughter’s face gets when she eats. A good snack should leave behind some tell-tale signs of having been consumed with gusto.

Here we have Exhibit A which was the aftermath of our latest Sunshine Smoothie. Her face isn’t actually that messy. But the sprinkles on her chin make it a winner, non? The sprinkles were entirely her idea, by the way.

Sunshine Smoothie Recipe

1 fresh mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 medium ripe banana, peeled
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup orange juice

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve.

Yield: 3 cups
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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

Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla

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The guy at California Pizza Kitchen who came up with the Barbecue Chicken Pizza should really get a medal acknowledging the greatness of his achievment. When my husband replicates the pizza it brings me great joy. But awhile ago I had to cheat and make this quesadilla because I couldn’t wait to get my fix.[/donotprint]

And miracle of miracles, the kids liked them when I made them for dinner the other night. It was a rare moment. We were all eating the same food which had been inspired by my cravings. And we all enjoyed it. Amen and hallelujah!

Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla Recipe

2 10-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 handful coarsely grated Monterrey jack cheese
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon purple onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat. Evenly distribute chicken and barbecue sauce on the tortilla. Sprinkle on the cheese and then the onion and cilantro. Top with the second tortilla. Cook for 3 -5 minutes or until the tortilla starts to brown. Flip and cook the other side for a few more minutes. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board. Allow to cool for a couple minutes. Slice into quarters or sixths. Serve.

Yield: 4-6 wedges
Prep-time: 15 minutes

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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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Mommy Lunch: Japanese Spinach with Rice

When your entire morning has evaporated while you made what you thought would be a quick batch of crackers…and you’re still trying to stick to the vegan-before-6 thing, you quickly learn how important it is to have easy and healhty lunch ideas in your back pocket. Otherwise, you end up eating all the crackers you just slaved over!

Sorry kids!

For the past month or so, whenever I have leftover rice waiting in the wings I often grab a bag of frozen greens and have this brilliant lunch ready in a jiffy. If you’re unsure, please know that eating a big glob of greens (unless they were smothered in white sauce) used to be a relatively rare occurance for me. Despite the abundance of green in the photo above, I’m not overwhelmed by the roughage. It’s perfect. In fact, the other night I had it for dinner…after 6 o’clock.

Japanese Spinach with Rice Recipe

This is adapted from a recipe for Intensely Green Spinach with Sesame Seeds in Seductions of Rice by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid.

For the greens I am currently using a mixture of frozen bagged spinach and mixed greens (collard, kale, mustard, etc.). I toast the sesame seeds 1/4 cup at a time in a skillet over medium low heat and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator in order to have them at the ready.

1 1/2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 cup bagged frozen greens, loosely packed 
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Reheat rice in the microwave. Set aside. In another bowl, defrost and warm up the greens.  Drain any excess liquid. Pour the mirin and soy sauce over the greens and mix to coat. Place greens on top of the rice and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve.

Yield: 1 rice bowl
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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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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