Food, Snacks

Homemade Graham Crackers

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Last night I made Rachael Ray’s Penne with Turkey and Broccolini for supper. It’s one of my go-to recipes that seems to be easy, tasty and well-liked by everyone. We also had cucumber spears and berry fruit salad.

But that’s not what this post is about.

After supper I decided to make homemade graham crackers again. I think this is my 4th time making them. Little House Living has a fantastic recipe going on. I love her blog. And she’s right, this recipe is simple and yummy.

My family loves these so much. Its fun for me to make too and I know exactly what is in them. Plus, you know, I get to sneak a few bites of the dough. We still eat graham crackers from the store, these just make for a different change of pace. Kinda like homemade pizza adds spice to the pizza game. This recipe does that for graham crackers.

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Mixing.

I got to use my Hatian vanilla! It smells so good. I followed the directions and added 1/2 of the recipe amount, since it’s concentrated.

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Prepping the dough for baking.
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The marvelous finished product.

These pictures seem like the Instagram type. However, since I am sans Instagram, you get to see them here 🙂 Plus I get bored of listing pictures sometimes. Collages are much more fun.

A few observations about the recipe.

  • Parchment paper does work well for sandwiching the dough during the rolling process. Plastic wrap will work too but it is very annoying to re-adjust. In a pinch you could use 2 gallon ziplocks with the sides cut out.
  • Experiment with thickness. I like mine thicker, more like a cookie. My son J prefers his crackers to be thin and crispy.
  • I used a fork instead of a toothpick to prick the dough..easier and takes a bit less time 😉
  • I baked mine at about 385-390° for 15 minutes. They could have stood a little less time but still taste really good.

Cost:

I broke down the pricing for storebought vs. homemade and this is what I found…

Homemade: $2.06 for 1 recipe. This makes at least 25 squares. So 8¢ per square.

Aldis is: $1.29 for about 52 squares (as well as I could figure our box is nearly empty and the serving size was vague). That’s per square.

Comparable? For me the homemade is worth it. Although they aren’t as shelf stable. But the taste..there is no comparison with the taste.

You can taste the crisp buttery goodness, the molasses and cinnamon. The crispy just baked texture. Heaven. Can you tell I’m currently eating some?? 😛

Last night I officially copied down the recipe and put it in my 3-ring binder that holds all my grocery, food and meal stuff. Right next to the recipe for homemade goldfish crackers 🙂

~Rachel

P.s.- If you’re looking for more healthy snack ideas for your kids (or yourself as well) check out my post Favorite Toddler Snacks.

P.s.s.- Sub non-dairy butter and this recipe is dairy-free! I haven’t tried it yet but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.

Desserts, Food

Double Decker Fudge Brownie Cake (Dairy Free!)

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I made this cake recently and oh my it was good. My son J recently turned 4 and I wanted to make him something special. He does not like cake. I’m just getting him into ice cream too. But he loves brownies.

And because there were some guests in attendence that cannot tolerate dairy, I decided to make this cake 100% dairy free. 

I found a fudgy brownie recipe that I wanted to try. It called for butter and I decided I wanted to sub unsweetened applesauce.

Which led me to this article. Combining these tips with a modified version of the cookbook recipe led me to the delicious finished product.

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We all agreed. It was good.

It is wonderfully dense and moist. The flavor is awesome, even without butter or dairy. The substitution of applesauce for butter can make it less moist though, so its important not to overcook.

I made a triple batch but one of the 3 layers ended up becoming a bit singed. I used 9″ round cake pans, so my layers were on the thinner side. If (or rather when) I make it again, I would keep the recipe as is and use 2 pans.

My oven I set to 375°. All ovens are different though. Mine tends to run on the cool side.


Double Decker Fudge Brownie Cake

Note: this recipe is for a triple batch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon natural (no sugar added) applesauce
  • 1 2/3 cups cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • (2) 16oz jars of non-dairy frosting. I used Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Vanilla frosting.

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and cocoa in a small saucepan. Mix thoroughly and cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare (2) 8″ round cake pans by lining them with greased foil. I used coconut oil to grease my foiled pans.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk applesauce and eggs. Then whisk in cooled cocoa mixture.
  4. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix.
  6. Divide batter evenly between pans.
  7. Bake just shy of 30 minutes. Mine were done by the 27 minute mark.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool before frosting.

To frost:

  1. Place cake #1 upside down on a plate. Frost, heaping frosting towards the outer edge.
  2. Place cake #2 right side up on frosting. Frost as desired. I frosted the top, but left the sides bare.

Note: If cake #1 is uneven on top, use a bread knife to slice off a thin layer to even it out. This ensures that your cake will bear no resemblance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 15th Edition

Food, Main Meal

Homemade Pizza: Part 2

Here’s the second part! The ending of our pizza story.  In part 1, I showed you how to make pizza dough from scratch, without the use of a bread machine. I referenced Erin’s website for the dough recipe. It closely follows the recipe in her $5 Dinner Mom (2009) cookbook with the exception of 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese added in the kneading process.

Here is where we left off.

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During part of the hour that it was rising in the oven, I grated my mozzerella cheese. I typically use more than this. I forgot I was using it for pizza later and J and I ate some. Scatterbrained 🙂

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Here I have made my pizza sauce and am browning about a 1/2 lb. ground beef with onions and seasonings (italian seasoning, oregano, basil, s&p). The pizza sauce is very easy to make. It is nothing but 2 cans (8oz ea.) of tomato sauce; 1 tsp. each of basil, oregano, italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder; and 2 tsp. of oil. I used canola oil. Olive oil would be a very good choice too. Tomato sauce, seasonings, and a wee bit of oil. That’s it.

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Simmering the sauce, cooking the meat & onions.

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So incredibly messy. Some like to follow a special technique for transferring the pizza dough to the baking pan. I don’t particularly have one, unless I’ve rolled it very thin. Then I will wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it onto the pan.

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Sauce!

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Meat & Cheese!

I baked it for about 20 minutes, till the cheese was bubbly and just beginning to brown.

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And then…..

I had a few pieces. It was divine!

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This pizza turned out really well. It was more of a deep dish pizza. The pieces in this picture were about 2″ thick. This is due to the fact that I made a whole recipe instead of a half and did not pre-bake my crust.

I was distracted and worried, as my son was developing a suspicious cough. Had I made a half recipe and pre-baked the dough, I would have had a wonderful thin crust crunchy pizza. Ah well. It was still plenty delicious! Next time I think I’ll work on some pizza topping variations. Maybe a roasted veggie or a simple pizza margarita.

Easy, right? The sauce isn’t a must, but I do think it tastes better than store bought. It also depends on which store brand you buy. Typically, I will do a plain cheese or a pepperoni and cheese topping but some variety (and some real meat) is sometimes nice.

All together, this recipe cost me: 99¢ (dough) +    84¢ (sauce) +    $3.94 (meat, onions and cheese)  =   $5.77

Last time we ordered pizza at my house it cost us about $10 for a large pepperoni pizza. Prices vary by location but I think I can say with confidence that making your own pizza can save you $$. And even though it’s messy it can still be fun. I look forward to sharing this experience with my son when he gets older. And when I am less worried that he will turn my kitchen into a twirling snow globe of flour.

~Rachel

Food, Snacks

Muffins For Your Munchies

**Note: this post is originally from August 2014. One of my first posts. Hanging out in my drafts folder for some reason. We still love these muffins!

Hello Readers,

So, in my last blog, I made a promise to include more pictures in blog #2. This blog will indeed have lots of pictures. 🙂

However, due to the fact that me & mine are currently in the process of moving…this blog will draw on pictures taken several months ago. Still good, right? Hoping to save myself a wee bit of sanity.

This week’s recipe will be from Erin Chase’s The $5 Dinner Mom recipe book, that I shared with you last week.

Have I mentioned how much I love this book?? 🙂 I do. Her recipes are so healthy and blessedly easy. One of my go-to snack recipes from her book is for Fruit or Veggie Muffins. It can be found on the $5 Dinners site.

Here is my mise en place (somewhat) of all the ingredients you will need for your recipe, minus 2.

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I took this today, and was out of sweet potatoes and canola oil.

I’m not going to include a photo of the dry ingredients mixed together, but I will pause and say a word about one of them…cinnamon.

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I grate my cinnamon by hand. Sounds tedious, I know. But I’ve been doing this for 2 years! The grater I bought from Amazon. I originally bought it just for nutmeg, to use in my peanut butter cookie recipe (more on that later). Then I happened to have some cinnamon sticks on hand and decided to use it to grate cinnamon, too.

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I bought this jar of cinnamon sticks about a year and a half ago, and I have used roughly 2/3 of it, in that time.

It takes about 2-3 minutes for me to grate the 1 tsp. of cinnamon called for in this recipe. I really like my cinnamon better this way. That, and well, its just cheaper. And honestly, the taste is just a lot better, in my opinion.

In this particular post, I will be using mashed sweet potatoes as my fruit/veggie of choice. You can use different single (or combinations of) fruits or veggies, but this is my favorite option, so far.

I begin by cooking the sweet potato. I typically cook 2, to be on the safe side. One large one would work well, too. I preheat the oven to 395°, wash and scrub the s. potatoes, prick them all over with a paring knife, put them in a baking pan with about a 1/2″ of water, cover with foil, and pop them in the oven for 1 hour.

If the sweet potato(s) are really big, they may need more time. You can test them for doneness with a knife.

I don’t let them cool much since I’m usually in a hurry. (Just being honest.) Also, if you keep the oven on, you don’t have to wait while it preheats again for the muffins! I peel them, put them on a plate and slice and mash them with a fork. Measure off 1 cup, and you’re good!

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I put the sugar, oil, eggs and mashed s.p. in a bowl. Mix that and then add the dry ingredients.

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I believe that in this particular recipe, I used PAM cooking spray to grease the muffin tins. But I’ve since been using this coconut oil to grease my pans:

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I’m no coconut oil expert, but I’ve heard it has a lot of wonderful health benefits. Yes, I know, using it at high heat ruins the health benefits. But I still like it a lot better than PAM or Crisco for greasing pans. Also, when I made homemade popcorn last night, I used coconut oil in place of canola oil and noticed a distinct difference.

I find I can only get 10 muffins max out of this recipe, even though it says 12. Especially because the sweet potato makes the batter so dense that it really doesn’t rise very much.

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They go in the 395° oven (my oven is on the cool side) for 15 minutes.

We (myself and my son) entertained ourselves by taking pictures for most of the waiting time. Here are a few of the better ones:

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And when the muffins are done, they will look like this:

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As you can see, we ate 2 already because they were that delicious.

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Sweet potato is, by far, my favorite out of the fruit or veggie options. May try more in the future, but this tops apple, zucchini, banana, and apple-banana. The sweet potato adds so much moisture and sweetness. Makes it taste so good with all that natural sugar 🙂

In May, when I made this my ds wasn’t too into muffins. But he is now! I love making this recipe because it is just such a wonderful snack food. Low in sugar, high in fiber, easy to eat on the go. Freezes very nicely too.

For 10 muffins this recipe cost me: $2.00, about 20¢ per muffin. There you go! Hope you enjoyed my Muffin Munchies blog post, complete with lots of pictures!

~Rachel