Cheese Pips

This is another one of those posts about making things yourself instead of buying. Buying is definitely a convenience… because not everyone has time to roll out delicious cheesy dough with a rolling pin, press out crackers and then carefully bake them. Seriously. It’s a labor of love. And deliciousness. I tend to make major sacrifices for deliciousness. (I’ll take a minute to add here that I might sell you one of my children for a doughnut. And I’ll take another minute to add to that the fact that I don’t have children, so there’s no need to call DCFS.)
As I mentioned in my last post, there are also ingredients to consider. And the certain cheese crackers that this recipe is meant to mimic… they contain MSG (flavor enhancer), annatto extract (a color enhancer), and some other stuff that I can’t pronounce but that probably lengthens their shelf life. *shrug*

Fresh & Easy approves this recipe.

Fresh & Easy approves this recipe.

Here’s the thing though… to make your own, you need flour, cheese, butter, salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika. That’s it. Well… actually you need an oven and some other cooking tools and some time, but that’s all the INGREDIENTS you’ll need. Six ingredients + your time + your love = better cheese nips pips. (not to be confused with Gladys Knight’s pips)

Okay… run and get yourself this stuff:

1 1/2 cups flour, 2 cups room-temp shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup room-temp butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy… *shimmies shoulders*)

Do all of this with all of that:
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and ready two baking sheets for battle. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper if they’re not guaranteed non-stick… mine are pretty trusty so I go without.

Like play-doh, only REALLY delicious.

Like play-doh, only REALLY delicious.

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until everything comes together like The Beatles. Dump that mixture out onto a floured countertop and form it into a beautiful yellowy ball.

What’s that you say? No food processor? That’s cool. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and do some mixing around until a dough starts forming. Then transfer everything into a Ziploc and knead them together and into a dough ball like a master massage therapist. Sure… it’ll take you longer than an automated, gadgety food processor but your fingers will be much stronger and then you can challenge me to a thumb wrestling contest next time you see me. (You’re going doooooown!)

Time to break out the rolling pin and flatten that dough out to about an eighth of an inch thick. If your dough ball is sticky, try putting it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before rolling it out. It shouldn’t stick to your hands when you’re ready to begin. When rolling, think thinner than crackers because they’re gonna rise a bit in the oven… go as thin as you can without losing the ability to pick the dough up off of the counter.

Once you’ve flattened things out, cut your dough into shapes…squares, circles, stars. I did this batch in hearts because I LOVE YOU for reading this blog entry. You complete me.

Lay your cut-outs onto the baking sheet ever so gently and bake for 12-15 minutes… just until the edges brown. Allow your crackers to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Once cool, transfer them to an air-tight container for freshness… or transfer them into your mouth for gluttony. This recipe makes 3-4 dozen crackers depending on how you cut them. They’re a great accompaniment to soup and salad. And they’re also awesome just by themselves.

And they’re especially great to share with derby girls too… named Biz.

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Why Buy When You Can DIY?

So sometimes I act like a responsible adult and actually read the ingredients in some of my favorite store-bought foods and snacks. And sometimes that experience is depressing. And then I need some ice cream… and then the cycle starts all over again.

*ahem*

*ahem*

I have had a particularly serious love affair with granola bars since I was a wee little girl and there’s always been a particular brand that I’ve been loyal to… but because I’m about to semi-slander said brand, I won’t name it.

So err uhh… here’s the ingredient list for their Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip variety.

 

 

 

Hmm.  That’s over 25 ingredients/sub-ingredients… some of which I can’t pronounce… some of which are created in a science lab. Now, I’m not about to get on a soap box or high horse (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”). I’m just going to let you know that you can make a comparable product with just 7 ingredients… all of which you can pronounce and none of which you need a lab coat or Bunsen burner to create. Bam. You have the power. Like He-Man.

Here’s what you need:
2 1/2 cups rice cereal
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Here’s what you do with all that stuff:
In a large bowl, stir together the rice cereal and oats. Set aside.
Prepare a shallow baking dish (I actually use a cookie sheet) by lining with wax paper. You could also give it an ever-so-light coat of cooking spray. That’s not my personal preference… but if it’s yours, go for it!

 

 

Combine the brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat just until boiling and remove from heat. (If you know anything about candy making and/or hot boiling sugar, you know that it can be disastrous when it comes in contact with skin… be careful, dude.)

 

 

Stir peanut butter and vanilla into the saucepan until smooth. (The peanut butter will help cool the molten sugar down.)
Pour over the cereal and oat mixture and mix well. The goal is to coat the dry ingredients with the sugar solution sauce stuff. (Let’s pause here for a quick derby shoutout: We miss you, Sugar Solution!!!)

The resulting mixture will be dense and sticky. You can work the chocolate chips in during this step… but read the chocolate chip disclaimer below.

Keep working at it while the sauce is warm… once it cools and hardens too much, it’ll be really hard to make bars. But it’s still totally edible. Trust me on that.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan using the back of a large spoon. Or… you can totally cover your hands in plastic wrap and press the mixture into the pan yourself like a boss. Guess which one I do.

Allow to cool, then cut into rectangles. Or whatever shape you want – squares, triangles, rhombuses. But I mean, everybody knows that granola bars are rectangular. Seriously. Don’t be a granola bar rebel.

Adding the chocolate chips:

I will neither confirm nor deny that this is only 1/4 cup of chocolate chips

Because the mixture is warm, milk chocolate chips are prone to melt while you’re still mixing. Again… totally edible, but I need to SEE the chocolate chips in my granola bars. So I sprinkle half of the chocolate chips in the bottom of the pan and then press the other half into the top of mixture once it’s flattened out.

About corn syrup substitutions:
I know corn syrup gets a bad rap. Just for the record… this recipe doesn’t call for high-fructose corn syrup. Just regular light corn syrup (Google will provide great explanation of the difference). I tried making this recipe once with agave syrup instead. I found that it changed the flavor slightly (agave syrup has kinda caramel-ly taste to me) and made for a sweeter final product.

These beauties definitely need to be stored in an air-tight container so that they don’t become peanut butter chocolate chip rocks. They’ll keep for a couple of weeks… but remember, they don’t contain all of those crazy preservatives that allow foods to last for 8 months – eat them sooner rather than later. If you’re having trouble with that, call me, bro.

Huge benefit to this recipe – it’s extremely versatile so you can get really creative with your ingredients. Dried fruit, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, flax seed meal, protein powder, other types of cereal. Go wild! Just remember to try to adjust your dry or wet ingredients as needed so that your sugar solution sauce stuff can coat your oat/cereal/other stuff mixture.

I made this batch in an oatmeal raisin flavor – added raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg and ditched the peanut butter. Nom.

Now go forth and create granola bar magic.  I believe in you.

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Tee Shirt-ectomy Part 2: Tutorial!

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Removing the unnecessary parts

After acquiring a sweet tee shirt, preferably one that is a size or two larger than what you usually wear, the first step will be to cut off the sleeves, the bottom (I removed about two inches–you’ll be using the fabric removed from the bottom later on) and, if you want to, the collar.

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Snipping the sides

Your shirt should now look similar to the above picture (minus the marker lines…you don’t have to draw in where you’re going to cut, I just did that so it would be easier to see).  Now you’re going to cut about half an inch to an inch off of each side.

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Poking holes

Now you’ll poke holes down each side.  You can measure these out or just poke randomly…the shirt I did in the first post I went with random, this time I measured it out.  Protip?  Try to space them more than an inch apart.  I did an inch on one side, and it was pretty tight.  I went with an inch and a half on the other and liked it a lot better.

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Lacing the sides

Remember when I said you’d need the bottom of the shirt for later?  It’s later.  You’re going to need to cut this fabric in half length-wise, so you have two long strips of fabric.  You’ll essentially be using them like shoelaces–starting at the top hole on each side of the shirt, you’ll lace these strips of fabrics down through the holes, just like you would lacing a pair of shoes.  When you get to the bottom, depending on how much fabric you have left and what you want to do, you can tie it off in a bow or a knot or any other way you’d like to…I don’t really know of any other ways to tie something, but hey, get creative?

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Shirtlaces!

Now you’ll have a cool little braid going down each side of the shirt.  Making the holes close together will look like the above picture, nice and tight and close together.  You can also make the holes further apart if you want the braid to be looser (just know that if you do that, there will probably be gaps in the sides that people will be able to see through).

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Voila!

After you’ve finished lacing both sides, you should have a finished project similar to the one above.  Now all that’s left is to wear it and make people super jelly of your shirt makeover skills!

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Performing a tee shirt-ectomy

I’m not a big fan of tee shirts (or pants, really, but we won’t talk about that right now).  Something about the sleeves bothers me…maybe my shoulders are claustrophobic.  Whatever the reason, I can’t help but feel that tee shirts use too much fabric.  Don’t get me wrong, some of them are pretty cool.

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This one, for instance, seems pretty perfect for me. Do the Dew!

I took a look at it, though, and it ended up coming with quite a few spare parts…I figured I didn’t need to carry all that extra tee shirt weight around, so I did a little tee shirt-ectomy.

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What is all this stuff?

Turns out, all I needed was a pair of scissors and a little patience, and the shirt was totally wearable!

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So much better!

I think I might have been born to be a tee shirt doctor.  It’s my destiny.

Edit: Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to do this!  It’s coming soon!

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On the lookout for overripe bananas…

I think I’m the person for whom red-line bananas at the grocery store were initially sold.  Overripe AND half price? Whaaaaaat? So I can buy them now and take them home and get started immediately on banana nut bread? No leaving them on the counter for a few days hoping no one will throw them out? Done and done. Plus… bananas should always be mixed up with flour, sugar, butter and eggs. It makes them like a kazillion times better. For realsies. (Shout out to my vegan derby sisters… I love you all.  But I also love butter.  Don’t hate my guts please.)

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I have a particular love for this banana bread recipe even though it has completely evolved into my own creation (what’s a recipe without one’s own special spin?). I frequently give loaves away as gifts (I made one for Ammo’s housewarming but SOMEbody cut into it while I was at work… *eye roll* Who does that? Just assaults an innocent loaf of banana bread?). And I also made them into muffins for Shag Me Salon’s 5th Annual Shag-a-Thon bake sale last summer.  Rumor has it that these same muffins will appear on the bake sale table at the Sin City Junior Rollers bout on Sunday, February 24… and you know how rumors are like ALWAYS true.

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Here are the provisions:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 medium bananas, mashed

This recipe will make one loaf but is that enough? No. I always make at least two loaves. Seriously ALWAYS.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9×5 inch loaf pan. (Actually grease and flour two of them… because you should totally be making two at a time.)
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients above (a little at a time or you wind up with flour all over the counter… not that I know that from experience or anything. I’m just saying.) Mix until smooth and then fold in the sour cream, walnuts, and mashed banana.
Spread evenly into the prepared loaf pans. Pans… plural.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

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Special spins:
So I don’t like walnuts. I use pecans. *shrug* No offense, walnuts.
I don’t mash my bananas. I slice and dice them to death. (as ripe as they are, I suppose it’s akin to mashing, but whatever)

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I add a streusel crumb topping to mine that goes a little something like this:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Sprinkle this magic over top of the breads (plural) before they go in the oven. It’s like the pay dirt.

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Happy baking. Yay for ripe bananas, sugar, butter, flour, and magic!

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A little added incentive

In case you haven’t already heard, the Sin City Rollergirls are kicking off their eighth season with a double header at Southpoint on February 23th.  Two bouts for the price of one??  I’m sold.

In case you’re not, though, I figured I’d provide some added motivation for coming out to cheer on our girls in black and orange.  Not only can you sit in the stands with me and heckle the other team (you don’t want to miss this, trust me–I’m an amazing heckler), but you’ll also have the opportunity to get your hands on some skater-made merchandise.

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Mustache on a stick, anyone?

Let’s recap here: Two bouts for the price of one, heckling with Dewey, and the opportunity to purchase your very own mustache on a stick?  I think we can all agree that this is not something you want to miss out on.  Mark your calendars now so you don’t forget, and I’ll see you in the stands on the 23rd!

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An SCRG blanket, just for you?

Has it been a lifelong dream of yours to own a blanket made by a bunch of roller girls?  I know, I know, that’s a silly question…of course it has.  Well, lucky for you, there’s a way to make that happen!

See, a bunch of us skaters got together and decided that we would all make squares–knit or crocheted–and stitch them together to make one fabulously awesome derby-themed blanket.

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Squares like these, contributed by Yeti Page!

This one-of-a-kind blanket will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at our March bout, when one lucky fan will get to have their dreams come true.  Like us on Facebook and be sure to check our website for more details on the start of the season so you can be there, and that lucky fan just might be you!

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