Homemade Honey-Free Graham Crackers

I’ve been having a hard time finding graham crackers without honey in them and taking that as a sign to make them from scratch– which has been on my to-make list so it makes me very happy to be able to cross that off!  They aren’t hard to make at all and I wish I had done it sooner so I could have used these for this pie crust recipe!  Next time, next time.

Today felt very much like spring;  the sun was shining through the windows, daffodils are blooming in the yard, and I saw our neighbor’s tulips starting to unravel while walking the dogs the other day.  I couldn’t help but add some spring time color to these graham cracker pics by putting everything on a sheet of green polka dotted paper.  I think I kinda like it!

I actually discovered a huge stack of the paper covered with multi-colored stripes, little dots, big dots, black and white patterns, ditsy florals– all kinds of fun stuff!  I am excited to continue to play around with more color and patterns in my pics.

Happy early spring and enjoy!

Honey-Free Graham Crackers

Adapted from Rebecca Paulus’ Honey Graham Crackers recipe posted on allrecipes.com.

*This recipe takes two days to make as the dough needs to refrigerate overnight.

Makes about 24 squares, about 2 1/2″ big.

– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup AP flour (or you can use all whole wheat flour)
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 cup vegan butter/margarine, softened
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/8 cup of agave nectar plus another TBS
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

For cinnamon flavored crackers:  Mix together some cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour(s), baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the vegan butter/margarine, brown sugar, and agave nectar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla.

Add half of the dry ingredients and all the non-dairy milk.  Mix, then add the remaining dry ingredients.

Transfer the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Wrap up the dough and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the over to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Divide the chilled dough into smaller portions so it is easier to roll out.  The dough can be sticky so flour your work surface and the top of the dough.  Using a non-wooden rolling pin (like the ones used for fondant) works the best.  Roll out the dough to be about 1/8″ thickness.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into rectangles or squares.  I just eyed the size of the squares, I think the uneven sizes lends a little homemade charm to them.

I used the top of a knife (the flat side that is not sharp) to make an indentation in the center of my squares, then a fork to prick some holes into them.   You can really do whatever you’d like with the shape and size so go with the traditional graham cracker look or do something that’s never been done before!

Transfer your crackers onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  They shouldn’t be touching but can be pretty close since they don’t spread.

Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top of the crackers if using.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Eat alone, make some s’mores, or make some “cheese”cake!

National Margarita Day + Handmade Tortillas + Black Beans

This past Wednesday was National Margarita Day!  Not sure exactly when this holiday was invented, but good job to whoever did!  Who doesn’t love a margarita in a salt rimmed glass?  I celebrated at Acapulco, taking advantage of their $2 margarita offer that went on ALL DAY!  But I spent too much time eating and talking that the waiter walked by at the end of the meal and said, “WHAT HAPPENED?” to my 3/4 finished margarita lol.  Those suckers are big…but next year I will not disappoint!

Because margaritas are pretty easy to make, in honor of this holiday, I decided to make homemade whole wheat tortillas and with those try out Martha Stewart’s recipe for a Tortilla + Black Bean Pie.

Whole Wheat Tortillas

This recipe was found on asksasha.com by Sarah Pachev.

The below recipe yields about size 6″ round tortillas.

– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
–  1/4 tsp salt
– 1 TBS olive oil
– 1/4 cup warm water

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the olive oil and with a fork stir until well combined.

Add in warm water 1 TBS at a time, mixing well after each addition until the dough can be gathered into a ball.  Add more water (1 TBS at a time) if needed.

In the bowl, gather the dough together and knead about 15 to 20 times.  Transfer your work surface (I used my wooden cutting board) and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

(I am learning how to clean as I go so the 15 minutes was a good time to wash all the measuring spoons, cups, and bowl since we won’t be needing them anymore.)

Divide the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball.

Flour your work surface and start rolling out your ball, making 1/4 turn after each roll to help keep the circle even.  (If you need to trim them a pizza roller works really well for the job!) Roll until the circle is about 6″ wide.  Continue this process until all the balls are rolled out.

Cook each tortilla on an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat on each side for 30-45 seconds, or until they are puffy and edges/bubbles start to turn golden brown.

That’s all there is to making homemade tortillas!

Tortilla + Corn + Black Bean Layered Pie

I came across this recipe on MarthaStewart.com under the vegetarian section and adjusted it to become vegan which just meant forgoing the dairy ingredients.

I used a 6″ round cake pan when I made mine– you can use a bigger size if you’d like, just use the correct sized tortillas and you may want to make a little but more of the corn + beans if the size is much larger to make sure there is enough!

– 4 flour tortillas (handmade if you’d like now that you know how!), 6 inches
– 1/2 an onion, diced
– 1 jalepeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat, which is what I did)
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 tsp ground cumin
– 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 1/2 cups of frozen or canned corn
– 12 oz of beer (check our Barnivore.com to make sure the brand is vegan) or 1 1/2 cups of water
– a stalk or two of green onions, sliced (put some aside for garnish)
– canola or vegetable oil, for cooking
– 1 1/4 cup Daiya cheddar shreds (optional)
– non-dairy sour cream (optional)
– avocado slices or guacamole (optional)
– salsa (optional)

Before starting make sure all your tortillas fit into your pan.  If they don’t, trim them down with a knife.

Heat oil up in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes until onions are soft.

Add the beans and beer/water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.  (By the way, I forgot I had halved this recipe and didn’t halve the water so it took me FOREVER to get it all to evaporate!)  Stir in corn and green onions.  Cook until corn is heated through.  Remove from heat, give it a taste test, and adjust seasoning if needed.

Preheat oven to 400F.

It’s time to assemble to layered pie!  Start with a tortilla at the bottom of your pan.  Add a layer of the beans and corn.  If using cheese, add that on top.  Repeat until all the tortillas are used; make sure to save some of the bean mixture to top the pie with.  Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese melts or tortillas are crisp.  Remove from oven.

Place your serving plate on top of the pan and using oven mitts, flip the pan and plate over. Remove the pan.

Top the pie with reserved bean mixture.  Top with fresh slices of avocado, vegan sour cream, and green onion slices (if using).  Cut into slices.  Serve with salsa and/or guacamole on the side.

I Love How Schmidt says “Chut-a-ney”

And in honor of that, I am making…some mango chut-a-ney!

If you are a New Girl Schmidtty fan, you will know exactly what I am talking about.  If you don’t know, it all started when Schmidt was trying to impress CeCe by telling her all the things he loves about India.

“I love, you know, I love Slumdog, naan… pepper, Ben Kingsley…the stories of Rudyard Kipling.  I have respect for cows, of course.  I love… the Taj Mahal, Deepak Chopra, anyone named Patel… I love monsoons… I love cobras in baskets…growing up to be a doctor… love mango chut-a-ney… really any type of chut-a-ney…”

If you haven’t seen it, watch it here.  If you have seen it, watch it again– I love it THAT much more every time!

So here is a recipe for mango chutaney as well as one for these yummy stick crackers to eat the chutaney with!

PS: If you saw last week’s twirly episode, “AAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” about what happened at the end and can’t wait for tonight’s episode!

Both recipes below have been reprinted from The Indian Vegan Kitchen by Madhu Gadia by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2009 Madhu Gadia.

Mango Chut-a-ney

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this recipe only.

You will need a blender/food processor for this recipe.

I have a confession to make.  I started making this without realizing I basically didn’t have any of the spices….so mine only has the salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, and vinegar lol and it tastes great!  So I can only imagine, with all of the ingredients, how amazing it would taste!

- 3 1/2 cups of mango, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1″ strips (measure the slices after they have been peeled and sliced)
– 1 1/2 TBS salt
– 1 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 tsp fennel seeds
– 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
– 1/2 tsp kalonji
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/3 vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

In a glass bowl, mix mango slices and salt.  Cover with plastic wrap or lid and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.  (In my case I accidentally let it set for like 3 days!  It got hectic and I completely forgot about it!  But after the first night I had stuck it in the fridge– so in case you don’t have time you can do the same :)

Strain the mango slices over a large bowl, squeezing them to get any excess juice out.  Reserve the juices and set aside.  Place the slices on a clean cloth and let set for one hour.  (I guess because mine had been in the refrigerator for days that there was not that much juice so I didn’t put them on a cloth to set for an hour.)

Blend half the mango slices in a food processor or blender until it becomes the consistency of apple sauce.

In a medium saucepan, place the sugar and reserved mango juices.  (Since I did not have any mango juice, I added a TBS of water.)  Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until sugar has dissolved and syrup has thickened.

Add the mango slices and blended mango.  Bring to a boil.  Add fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, kalonji, and cayenne pepper.  Lower to a simmer and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, until mango slices are very soft.

Add vinegar and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until chutney is thick.  (The chutney will continue to thicken once it cools down.)

Remove from heat and let the chutney cool completely.  Store in an air-tight jar.  The book says you can keep in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.  It is also important to use a clean spoon when dipping into the chutney, and do not return the leftover chutney to the same container.  Refrigerate your chutney if desired (which is what I did.)

This is the most times I have typed “chutney” in my life!

Stick Crackers

The original recipe calls for frying the crackers– I tried both frying and baking.  Both come out nice and crispy, just the coloring is a little different but they taste the same.  I love how easy this recipe is and makes for a great snack!

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this recipe only.

- 3 cups flour (I used whole wheat– you can use that, AP, or a combination of both)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ajwain (oopsies, I didn’t have any on hand so I used cumin seeds instead…also thought about adding flax seeds next time!)
– 1/3 cup canola/vegetable oil
– 3/4 cup water
– canola or vegetable oil (if frying)

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and ajwain (or whatever you are using in place of it).  Pour the oil over the flour and mix well.  You can use your hands but a fork works really well and keeps your hands clean.   Mix until all the flour has become coated with oil.

Gradually add 3/4 cup water to the mixture until a stiff dough forms.  I continued to use the fork until the dough started forming, then I used one clean hand to hold the bowl and the other hand to mix.

Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and soft.  To keep things clean and easy for clean up, I just kneaded the dough in the bowl itself (instead of turning it onto a surface.)

Divide the dough into 2 parts and flatten each into a large disk.  Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

On a floured wooden cutting board or plastic pastry sheet, roll out each disk until about 1/8″ thick.  With a knife or pizza cutter (I think the pizza cutter is so much easier and faster!) cut the dough lengthwise into 1/2″ strips.  Then cut crosswise or at a diagonal (for the pointy tips) 1 1/2″ apart.

If frying:
Heat up a large saucepan with about an inch or so of oil.  I didn’t use any more than that since this amount is enough to cover the crackers.

It should take a couple of minutes, and you can test the oil by sprinkling a drop of water into it– if it sizzles, it is ready.

I get really scared when oil splatters everywhere so please remember to be careful and safe!

Once the oil is ready, place several strips into the hot oil.  I actually used my hands but you can use a flat spatula to do this part.  You can cover the entire bottom of the pan with the strips.   Fry each side for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown, then flip and cook the other side.

When crackers are done, place on a plate lined with a paper towel to grab the excess oil.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

If baking:
Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place crackers onto parchment paper about 1/2″ apart (they don’t really spread, just rise while they are baking.)  Bake until edges of crackers start to brown.  You can test one and if it is not as crunchy as you like, continue to bake until crispier.

Enjoy with some mango chut-a-ney, while watching New Girl!

“Cheese”cake + Chocolate Crust + Strawberry Topping

I have to start off by saying that the presentation of this cheesecake may not be the best but it is really really delicious.  I promise.

A few things happened during the making of this.  First, the cheesecake rose a LOT while it was baking then sank back down…I don’t know if it’s suppose to do that or not (the texture of the cake was good though).  But in the process of rising and falling it got some crust on the cake and there’s a chocolate ring around the cake now and some of the cheesecake is on top of the crust.  Secondly, I put too much of the strawberry sauce on top so it’s looking a little too red to me (but it tastes so much better than anything store bought).  There’s nothing wrong with the taste but the visual presentation is not my finest work.  Even my mom said, in more or less words, “This looks a mess but it’s really good.”  I will definitely have to remake this and take some prettier pics!

The other issue I seem to have is that when I bake things that are chocolate, I am never sure when it’s done or not.  I can’t tell if it’s burning or what so I feel like the crust was a little bit over baked.  Next time I will try regular graham crackers but they didn’t have any without honey at TJ’s so I ended up using chocolate chip cookies and adding cocoa to that.  But it is a good way to use left over too crispy cookies.

I definitely have a bunch of notes from trying to make this and there’s nothing like learning by doing, so hopefully with some more practice the better I will get at making cheesecake and baking chocolate pie crusts!  I hope you will give this recipe a shot and I will get back to you on better photos!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie Crust

Based on the Dairy Free Graham Cracker Crust by Ashley Skabar on about.com‘s dairy free cooking section.

You will need a food processor or blender for this recipe.

This recipe yields one 9-10″ crust.

– 2 cups finely ground chocolate chip cookies or dairy/honey-free graham crackers
– 1/3 cup agave nectar
– 1/3 cup canola oil
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 2-3 tsp cocoa
– pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly oil your pie pan or baking dish; set aside.

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until ingredients just start to come together.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan/dish with your hands.  I like to put a large piece of plastic wrap on top of the crumb mixture while I am pressing into the pan so that it’s a little more sanitary and my hands don’t get dirty.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before using.

Vegan Cheesecake

This was the easiest recipe I could find!  It is from Food.com by smallstream and was adapted from invinciblemuffin.org.

This recipe yields enough for 8 servings.

You will need a food processor or blender for this recipe.

– 2 containers of plain vegan cream cheese, I like TJ’s brand or Tofutti
– 2/3 cup of sugar
– 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 TBS extra firm tofu, drained

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is smooth and well combined.

Spoon into prepared pie crust.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the tops of the cake becomes a golden brown.  Check often while you are baking.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Eat as is or top with fresh berries or the strawberry sauce below.

Strawberry Sauce

This recipe is from Food.com by evelyn/athens.

This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.

– 1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled or 1 pound frozen strawberries if you want to save some prep time
– 1/4 cup sugar, or less/more depending on sweetness of berries
– 1 tsp cornstarch
– a squeeze of lemon juice
– a pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Cook over medium love heat until sugar dissolves and berries are soft. about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool.  It will become thicker as it cools.

Pour over individual slices of cheesecake.

Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I have been craving pineapple upside down cake for the past 2 months now.  I have never made it before and I am pretty sure I have never even had a piece of it in my life so none of this makes sense until I tell you that 2 months ago I came across elephantine, a beautiful blog by Rachel and her drool-inducing video on how to make a pineapple upside down cake.

I love everything about this video from the music to the easy-to-follow directions to the editing to the font–  you must watch!!

Now tell me you don’t want some of this brown sugary goodness?

Here is a lighter version of a pineapple upside down cake that is vegan and still tastes just as good!

Since I can’t stop making things into hearts this month, I made a heart pineapple upside down cake…

…but I also made a regular one that’s striped based on the Martha Stewart recipe.

Mmmm there is nothing like satisfying a 2 month craving lol.  I’m not waiting this long next time another one hits, that’s for sure.

Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Based on the MarthaStewart.com recipe, just switched out some ingredients to make it vegan.

This recipe fits a 9″ round pan or two 6″ square pans (which is what I used.)

– 1 cup flour
– 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
– 2 egg substitutes
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil
– pineapple slices (I just got a box of the pre-cut pineapple from Trader Joe’s)

Pre-heat oven at 350F.

Line your pan(s) with parchment paper and grease the sides with vegetable oil.  If using a square pan, lay the parchment so that it covers two sides plus the bottom, the remaining parchment can hang over the sides like in the pictures.  Set aside.

Prepare your pineapple.  Decide what design you want to make– just make sure the slices are about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.  Depending on the design you’d like, cut the pineapple accordingly, lay it out to make sure it works, then set aside.

Sprinkle the bottoms of the pan with a 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  If you are using two pans, split the 1/4 cup between the two.

Arrange your pineapple slices at the bottom of the pans on top of the brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, egg substitutes, vanilla, oil, and remaining brown sugar.

To that add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix until all ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter over the pineapple.  If using 2 pans, split the batter evenly between the pans.  Make sure the batter is evenly distributed and smooth; if not, use a spatula to smooth it out.

Bake until cake has risen and batter has firmed, about 40-50 minutes for the 9″ round or about 20 minutes for the two 6″ square pans.  Test with a toothpick.

Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes, then invert onto serving platter.


Note to self: I need to get some square plates– I didn’t have any and didn’t want to put them on a round plate because they all have dents and the cake wouldn’t be laying flat.  I ended up inverting the cakes onto an upside down square baking pan covered with parchment paper which works too!

Super Bowl Sunday Munchies: Chips + Dips

I was only slightly tempted to find out who this Tim Tebow person was after I had seen post after post about him on facebook.  I finally got some info from one of my best friends who told me something along the lines of, “He’s the QB for the Broncos!!! What are we going to do with you?!”  (He is the QB if I remember correctly…)  All I know is that he has something to do with football and the big football game called the Super Bowl is going down this weekend.

Here are some other things I know about the Super Bowl:
– Madonna is doing the half time show
– The game is on today…I think it’s over by now
– It is two words (I thought it was just one)
– The Voice is on afterwards

Impressive, right?

But the most important thing is that I know you need to be fed while watching this super long game and chips and dip are always a good staple to have in your spread.

We are going to go DIY style for this one and make everything from scratch.

Both recipes are pretty easy and fast, the most time consuming thing is probably the baking of the chips.  I actually thought the longest part would be slicing the potatoes but it turned out to be a pretty quick step.  I used a mandolin for some of the potatoes– so those slices are super thin– then I cut the rest as instructed by Martha about 1/4″ thick.

I think I prefer the thinner slices better because you get super crunchy chips without having to bake them for so long.  I haven’t mastered baking the 1/4″ slices yet– so far my batches have some crunchy, some chewy, and some that are part crunchy and part chewy which is not good.  I just finished baking the last batch of thick slices and I think the trick is to flip them and  remember to check on them.  That way you can take out the chips that are already done so they won’t burn while the others continue cooking.

{ thin vs. thick }

And all you need for the dip is a food processor and you are good to go!

Have fun watching the game tomorrow and for those of you like me, at least it’ll be fun to eat, drink, and hang out :)

Go Team….who is playing again?

Baked Potato Chips

This recipe is from MarthaStewart.com.  I love her.

– 2 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/8″ to 1/4″ slices (I took the peeled mine, you can leave them on)
– 3 TBS olive oil
– coarse salt
– freshly ground pepper
– a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
– fresh herbs, finely chopped (optional– I happened to have extra dill and thought that would be good, or rosemary)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Wash, peel (optional), and cut potatoes into slices.

Place in a bowl and toss with the olive.

Place one layer of potato slices on the prepared baking sheet.  Try to pick ones that are similar in size to bake more evenly.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper/herbs if using.

Bake until slices are crisp and browned at the edges.  Check after the first 15 minutes of baking, then flip them over.  Remove any chips that are already done, continue cooking the rest.

{ Baked =) || Burnt =/ }

Creamy Dill Dip

This recipe is based on LiquidFrequency’s post on allrecipes.com.  I just swapped out some ingredients to make this vegan-friendly.

– 1/2 (4 oz) cup non-dairy cream cheese
– 1 cup non-dairy sour cream
– 2 TBS green onions, finely chopped
– 2 or 3 TBS fresh fill, finely chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Put everything in a food processor and blend.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the flavors meld together and the dip can thicken.  If after chilling the dip is too thick, stir in 1 TBS of unsweetened non-dairy milk until you get the consistency you’d like.

I find that vegan sour cream/cream cheese can get runny when blended or left out too long so make sure to keep it refrigerated before it needs to be set out.

Serve with chips and/or raw veggies.