Thursday, September 13, 2012

My First Rule of Cooking

One of the slower things in life that I believe is more than worth the investment is making homemade food.  I do quite a bit of baking and cooking from scratch and I truly feel it is worth the planning and the extra few minutes that it takes to do this for my family and myself.  And you might be surprised at how few extra minutes are actually needed in order to create healthy and delicious whole foods.

Making whole foods at home allows me the opportunity to make health and moral choices that I believe strongly in, while still living on a teacher's salary.  I could talk all day about why I feel these choices are so significant, and I will probably write later posts on the varying subjects, the important thing to know is that eating healthy, whole foods does not have to be out of reach.  It is something that anyone can do. 

Making healthy foods yourself is a key component to being able to eat well and not sabotage your budget.  But so often we get bogged down in knowing where to start or how to do it.

There are oodles of amazing resources out there on how to make everything and anything yourself.  I love having so much information available, but in the past I often found myself too intimidated to actually try any of them

Finally, I came to the realization that recipes are flexible.  Recipes are not the Bible. They are not legally binding documents to which we must adhere.  Recipes can be altered and changed.  They are a fabulous springboards that allow us to create amazing dishes.

I have found this realization to be one of the most useful tools in my kitchen.  Many of my favorite foods, ones that I use every week, were derived from original recipes, that have since then morphed into something that I like so much better.  Of course there are some components of cooking that really can not be altered, but for the most part recipes need not be set in stone.

Sometimes the change came about because I didn't have a certain ingredient on hand or because maybe there was an ingredient that I liked better that I wanted to try.  Or sometimes I tweak the method of preparation to better fit me and how I like to cook. Sometimes the new recipe tastes better, and sometimes it does not.

The key is to shake free from the shackles of recipe bondage.  Use recipes as a starting place and allow yourself the freedom to deviate when you need or desire to do so. 

One of my favorite recipes that has taken on a life of its own my graham cracker recipe.  I make a double batch of these babies at least once a week, if not more.  Here is the original recipe from Whole Foods Market (


Sugar-Dusted Whole Wheat Graham Crackers Makes 2 dozen

If you don't have raw sugar on hand for sprinkling over the graham crackers before baking, substitute regular cane sugar. Serve these sweet treats with mugs of hot chocolate or tea or use to make old-fashioned s'mores.
 Sugar-Dusted Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 egg whites, divided
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add butter and work into flour with your fingertips until completely incorporated and mixture resembles fine meal. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 egg white, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Add this to flour mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms.

Turn half of the dough out onto a very well floured surface and roll out into a (10-inch) square. Cut into 12 rectangles and transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Repeat process with remaining dough and second prepared baking sheet.

Brush graham crackers with remaining egg and sprinkle raw sugar over the tops. Bake until dark brown and fragrant, 12 to 14 minutes. Set aside to let cool completely (graham crackers will harden as they cool) before serving.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving:

  • Serving size: 1 cracker
  • 60 calories (10 from fat)
  • 1g total fat
  • 0.5g saturated fat
  • 5mg cholesterol
  • 80mg sodium
  • 11g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 6g sugar)
  • 1g protein

Here is the tweaked version:
I double the ingredients (except for the eggs because I skip the egg wash)
1.  I put the butter, flour, cinnamon (I have also used cocoa instead of cinnamon on occasion), baking soda, and salt in my food processor.  I found the part of the recipe when I had to work the butter into the the flour mixture to be too much of a hassle and it prevented me from wanting to make the recipe.  So I improvised and found that the food processor worked just fine for me.

2. While the flour mixture is going in the food processor I whisk up the wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Then I dump the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir.
3. I spread flour on a large cookie sheet.  Then I roll out the dough directly onto the cookie sheet into one big rectangle.  I did not like rolling the dough, cutting the rectangles, and transferring them to the cookie sheet.  It just didn't work well for me.  So, I roll it into one big piece.  I also skip the egg wash, but I am sure that it is tasty.

4.  I put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 6-7 minutes.  Then I use my pizza cutter to cut the large rectangle into smaller rectangles and pop it back into the oven for another 6-7 minute.  When they are done I put them on a cooling rack and try not to eat them all before they even cool.

Changing up this recipe was nothing spectacular, but it took a great recipe that didn't work well for me and turned it into something that I can use and enjoy. 

What are some of your favorite recipes?  Have they morphed over time?


  1. so.....the Annie's pretzels that I just sent home for you to bake reeeeally didn't fit into the healthy, clean eating lifestyle....YIKES! I'm sorry, truly you can pitch those if you want! LOL!

  2. Yum! I'll have to try these. They sound delicious!