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creative handmade family cooking

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Simply Delicious Crackers

rolling out dough for crackersWhen I roll out the dough for cookies or crackers, it comes out smooth and uniformly thin. I have done this at least a hundred times and I pride myself on being able to create a sheet without bubbles, tears, or creases. Then I carefully cut out shapes with a knife or cookie cutters, tenderly lifting each one onto a baking sheet.

This same dough, in the hands of seven children armed with kid-sized rolling pins, will look quite different when they are the ones doing the rolling and cutting. And this is why I decided to be a teacher.

Nothing is more satisfying that seeing them focus on the task at hand, giving their best effort and attention to the task at hand.

I visit each one, checking their progress, giving words of gentle encouragement where needed:
“I see you’re rolling the pin back & forth really quickly. Can you try rolling more slowly? That will make the dough more even and thin which makes for a tastier cracker.”
“Your dough looks perfect! I think you can start cutting it into shapes with your knife now.”
“Yes I see that crease in the dough but you know what? We can roll over it and it will disappear!”

handmade crackers to make with kidsEach cracker finds its way onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and into the oven. No two shapes are alike, many of the edges are jagged, and the overall appearance of the crackers can best be described as “scrappy.” But most important, they are gorgeous. They make my heart warm and glowy because I am so proud to be in the presence of all this hard work and enjoyment.

This is why we slow down and make things with our own two hands. This is why we take the time to teach our children how to do things from scratch.

After the crackers have cooled we set out tiny cups of whipped cream cheese and hummus. Then we pass out the crackers so the chefs can taste what they’ve made. They love them and would eat a whole plate full if they could. They revel in eating their handiwork…smiles and cheerful crumbs everywhere we turn.

Mixing Snack Cracker Dough in a Food ProcessorHomemade Snack Crackers Recipe

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 egg
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. cold water

Add all dry ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend. In a bowl, whisk together egg and oil. Slowly add egg & oil to flour mixture while pulsing. Dough should form a coarse meal. Add water a spoonful at a time and pulse to blend each time until the dough comes together into a single ball.

Snack Crackers fresh from the ovenForm dough into a thick disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 mins. Then roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/8 in thickness and cut into desired shapes. Cookie cutters work well or you can just cut out squares, rectangles, or triangles with a knife or ravioli cutter.

Transfer dough shapes to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-20 minutes or until browned around edges. Check frequently as cooking time varies based on the thickness of your dough.

Let cool and enjoy with your favorite cheese or dip. Keeps up to one week in an airtight container or 2 months in the freezer.

Topping Ideas:
Try sprinkling dried rosemary, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds over the dough. Roll over them with a rolling pin to set them into the dough, then proceed with cutting out your shapes.

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I Baked You These Cookies…

Children, I think, are genetically imprinted to adore baking. And while the end result is, of course, delicious and sweet, you know that it’s the experience that really sticks with us.

Don’t we all have a memory of baking with a parent, loved one, or friend?

Baking is magical because it is the personification of simple kitchen chemistry. You whip up a relatively short list of ingredients and end up with dough. Amazing! Then you pop that dough into an oven and 15 minutes later there and it has turned into an edible, delicious, sweet biscuit.

Aside from this bit of science, the beautiful thing about baking is spending time together. Even better is that many of us bake cookies for a special occasion. Maybe it’s a bake sale for school, a party with friends, or just a night when the neighbors are coming over for dinner.

It’s just simple, pleasant, and friendly to make a batch of cookies.

Since the first snow is falling from where I write you in Rhode Island, I was inspired to make a cookie that reflects the season.  Starting with a basic raisin cookie recipe I modified it a bit with cranberries, chocolate chips, and the more exotic warming spices that I love in baked goods.

Maybe you can find a little time or a friendly reason to make these in your kitchen with your kids. Be sure to tell us if you do in the comments below.

And oh yes, I hope you like them!

Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ c unsalted butter (1 stick)
2/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

¾ c flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp allspice

1 ½ c rolled oats
½ c dried cranberries
½ c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar. Then add egg and vanilla and mix until combined well.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice. Add to butter & sugar and mix until combined – dough will be quite creamy.

Remove bowl from mixer and stir in oats, cranberries and chocolate chips with a spoon. Drop tablespoon size balls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. You can get at least 24 cookies from this batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes or until just golden brown. The less you cook them the chewier they will be once they cool.

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Comfort Food

Whether it’s a bowl of soup or a skein of yarn, it’s comfort food. Whether you’re snuggled up with a book or walking through a grove of trees, it’s comfort food.

Making time to experience life through your heart and your hands is something we all crave.

It makes us feel better. It connects us to our human nature – we are curious, capable beings who love to make our mark on the world around us.

In my kitchen, as the days are shorter and the nights longer, I crave the comfort of soup. There is no recipe, just instinct. A few basic skills I learned from my family and some new techniques learned from reading recipes. I have also benefited from that great teacher, Trial & Error.

Sitting at the table to a bowl of simple soup keeps me grounded. I have the warm feeling that, with a bowl of soup, I can always be generous. Others are always welcome at the table because there always seems to be extra.

Soup is my comfort food. What is yours?


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