Chutney

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I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.


Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.


It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.


As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

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I happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!


Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!


Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my favorite florist Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.


You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.


I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

A Cookbook Gift

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Right after my daughter got married, a bit over 7 years ago, I did something that I’m very happy I did. I wrote a cookbook for her. Not just because she was married, or because she’d reached a certain age. It’s just that as she got older and busier, we didn’t really cook together much anymore, and I had so much I wanted to share.

I’m pretty much 99% self-taught, so I learned the hard way how to cook. I had no Grandma in the kitchen with me showing me the ropes, which is fine, but that’s what I mean about learning the hard way. I read recipes, and cooked. And I made mistakes.

When I made the decision to write the cookbook, I purchased a metal-ring binder kind of book. (There are many options on Amazon.com.”) It came with dividers, and pages I could put through my printer. I also used plastic-lined blank pages, so there was lots of room for pictures, drawings, and personal notes.

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A lot of the pictures I glued were pages I’d saved from Chefs Illustrated – they have the most beautifully illustrated tutorials, like on boning a chicken, for example. And I had copies of helpful reference charts, like how long it takes to steam different vegetables, or at what temperature to remove meat from the oven.

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I ended up being so happy with my “cookbook” that I made a duplicate for my younger daughter, and gave both girls the cookbooks at Christmas.
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Although I rarely cook the same thing twice, I still do have my favorite recipes, and these are in the cookbook. My Favorite Barbecue Sauce, for example. Or a recipe for White Sauce. I remember once thinking once that only chefs in fancy restaurants could make white sauce. How silly is that?!!!

My older daughter, who cooks often, has told me that she has referenced my cookbook quite often over the last few years. Of course, You Tube is available now for just about anything, but I think she likes having me “talking” her way through some helpful instructions.

I especially love that both of my daughters cook beans. They figured out how easy it is to cook a dollar’s worth of dried beans and make spectacular meals. I know adults who have never cooked beans from scratch! And, I credit my cookbook for encouraging this, because I simply showed how easy it is. It’s easier for young people to jump into cooking without any pre-conceived notions as to how difficult some of it might be. And honestly, as we all know, home cooking is quite straight forward and easy. It aint’ rocket science!

So I’m not writing this post to pat myself on my head. This is not a cookbook that I will be sharing with anyone else. I designed it just for my daughters, who both enjoy cooking and eating, so that they might not learn some things the hard way.

I wanted to pass this idea along to any of you who hadn’t thought about it, so you can gift your children a cookbook from your heart and soul. (Or anybody, really!)

Even if your children are young, it’s something you can plan for the future, gathering culinary tidbits here and there, maybe keeping track of the meal you made on every birthday and a photo to go along with the meal. Or a special section just on holiday menus that were enjoyed by all.

They grow up fast so plan ahead!

But I do know one thing. They will treasure your cookbook always.

Date Nut Logs

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It’s funny how easy it is to lose a recipe. And to think I’m so organized. These date nut logs have passed through my brain from time to time, and yet I haven’t been able to locate the recipe for years.

And then a while back I got out my little book called Glorious Liqueurs, when I posted on spiced pear liqueur. Just for fun, I looked through the book to see recipes I’d bookmarked, and also recipes I’ve made. And there it was. Just in time for the holidays. Glory be.
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The book, which is available through Amazon, was published in 1991. It contains recipes for making your own liqueurs, as well as recipes utilizing the liqueurs.

The author describes these date nut logs as “halfway between a confection and a cookie.”

If you love a sweet treat, give these a try for the holidays. They have a lovely flavor with dates, pecans, and orange.
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Date Nut Logs*
from Glorious Liqueurs, by May Aurea Morris

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
8 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped (about 3 1/2 ounces)
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan; set aside.

Onto a sheet of wax paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

Toast the pecans in a skillet, then set them aside to cool before chopping. (The author didn’t toast her pecans.)


Combine the chopped dates and pecans in a medium bowl. I added about a tablespoon of the flour mixture and tossed it into the dates and pecans to make them less sticky and more able to separate.

In a large bowl with the electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggs until they are foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted from it.
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On low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until absorbed. Beat in the liqueur and zest.

Fold in the dates and pecans. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

With a sharp knife, cut 9 lengthwise strips and 8 crosswise ones, forming 6 dozen tiny rectangles.

Sift the powdered sugar onto a sheet of wax paper. Gently roll the rectangles in the sugar, coating all sides and forming log shapes.
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The log rolling only works when the cake is still warm. If you get carried away on HOTELS.com like I did the evening I made these, just leave them in mini rectangles. No one cares what shape these are, because they’re that good. I’ve actually undercooked them before, ever so slightly, and rolled them in to balls.


Store the cookies in a tightly covered container.
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From experience, I know they freeze well in a ziplog bag or plastic ware.
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Cran-Cherry Chutsauce

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As you might deduce, this recipe is a cross between a traditional cranberry sauce and a chutney, using a combination of fresh cranberries and dried cherries. My husband voted for chutsauce over sauceney…

Every November I make small batches of at least two different kinds of both cranberry sauces and fruit chutneys, because I love them so much. Sadly, I’m the only one who really enjoys them in my family, so I can’t make large batches. But to me, they’re so much fun to make, fun to experiment with, and just a good festive thing to do in the kitchen – with Christmas carols playing, of course.
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This chutney-sauce would be fabulous with turkey or pork or duck, but it would also be a pretty and delicious topping a slab of cream cheese.

The recipe that caught my eye was on Epicurious.com right here. I altered it quite a bit.
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Cranberry Cherry Chutney Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 purple onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed
1/4 cup white sugar
12 ounces clean, sorted cranberries

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7 ounces dried, pitted cherries*
3/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1/4 cup ruby port
1/4 cup water

Place the butter in a medium-sized enamel pot over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onion and saute them for about 5 minutes, without any extreme browning.
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Add the salt, brown sugar, and white sugar. Stir together and cook until the sugar dissolves.


Add the cranberries, cherries, and the Chinese 5-spice powder. Give everything a stir.

Then add the port and water. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat. It should take about 15 minutes until all of the cranberries have popped and the liquid is reduced.
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Remove from the stove and let cool completely.
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To store, place the chutney sauce in clean jars, cover, and refrigerate. Or, alternatively, freeze the chutsauce/sauceney until needed.
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* I used dried Rainier cherries, which are extremely large. The original recipe listed 1 cup of dried cherries, but didn’t indicate the size or kind of dried cherries, so I weighed mine instead of measuring out 1 cup. You can adjust according to what kind of dried cherries you use; dried cranberries can be substituted as well.

note: Instead of port or just water, which was in the original recipe, consider using a liqueur, like an orange liqueur, or just orange juice or pomegranate juice. It all works to help plump up the cherries and cook the cranberries. Orange zest could be included in this recipe as well.

Cranberry Hazelnut Cookies

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I know. Everybody loves cookies with chocolate. But if you’re willing to try these cookies, they will, I promise, make your top two favorite cookies ever list. I’m not kidding.

Cranberries – fresh ones – so that they’re moist and bursting with flavor, pair with the fragrance and crunch of toasted hazelnuts in this cookie. Everything else is a pretty standard drop cookie dough. There’s just something about the cranberries and hazelnuts!

This recipe was actually published in Oklahoma Today magazine years ago. They didn’t want the recipe, per se, it just came with the article they asked me to write on cranberries. I jumped at the chance because, as with many of my fellow bloggers, if not all, I just love cranberries. They scream holidays for me.

Plus, they’re so verstile. They’re just as good in a cake or cookie, like this recipe, as they are in a cranberry compote or chutney – adding that tartness that is so unique and yet so necessary. I just have a love relationship with these little guys. Back in our lean years, I even made cranberry garlands for our Christmas tree. So beautiful and festive.

But back to the cookie recipe, here it is. I know you’ll enjoy its uniqueness and fabulousness as much as I do!

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Cranberry Hazelnut Cookies

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup, packed, brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups chopped cranberries*
1 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts*

Before you begin, have all of your major players ready. Have your cranberries rinsed, dried, and chopped. Have your hazelnuts skinned (directions here), and have the flour sifted along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

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Place the butter in a large bowl, along with both sugars.
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Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until fluffy. Then add the eggs, milk, and vanilla.
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Beat the batter well. Then gradually add the flour mixture, beating at a low speed, until it’s almost all incorporated into the batter.
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It will be slightly crumbly.
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Switch to a spoon, and add the cranberries and hazelnuts.
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Fold them in until they’re completely incorporated into the batter. At this point you can chill the dough for a couple of hours and continue with the recipe, or chill the dough overnight, which is what I did. To continue, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and let it warm for about 30 minutes.
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Then, using a scoop, place balls of dough, approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter on a non-stick or greased cookie sheet, approximately 2″ apart from each other.
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Bake them for approximately 15 minutes; the time will vary depending on how thick they are, your oven temperature, and the temperature of the dough. When they’re done they should be ever so slightly golden, but still soft to the touch.
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After about a minute rest, place the cookies on a rack to cool. Then they’re ready to serve. Or hide, whichever you want to do.
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I have frozen these cookies with good luck, so if you need to hide them from people, freezing is a great idea.
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If people get to them, there will be none left. Guaranteed. Merry Christmas. Now you can’t say I never got you anything!

* To easily chop the hazelnuts, place them in a food processor and pulse until they’re the right size; for this recipe halved hazelnuts are fine – you don’t want hazelnut meal. Empty out the food processor jar, and then do the same with the cranberries! Easy chopping!

Fruit and Nut Crackers

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A while back I purchased these beautiful crackers from Whole Foods. I was visiting my daughter at the time and we paired them with cheese that night for a pre-dinner treat.

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The brand is Raincoast, and the crackers are $9.99 for 6 ounces – yes, a bit pricey. They have a few different varieties, but I don’t know how many exactly.
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Once home, I paired the leftover crackers with my faux Boursin this past July. The combination of the fruitiness with the goat cheese was just perfect.

Really, these crackers aren’t extremely sweet, even with the dried fruits. But there is just enough sweetness that they really add something to a cheese pairing of any kind.

Because Whole Foods is a four-hour round trip for me, I decided to make these little guys myself. How hard could it be?!!

This was a first for me – I typically make yeasted breads myself to pair with cheeses, like my fruit and nut bread or olive bread.

But these are simply dense little quick breads, that were then sliced, and toasted. I couldn’t wait! Most of the fun was picking out the fruit and nut combination. I decided on sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, dried plums, dried cranberries, and cocoa nibs.

They turned out fabulously. I had to freeze them so I wouldn’t keep eating them! But you know I’ll be pulling them out of the freezer come the holidays…

Fruit and Nut Crackers

1 cup dried fruits – I used half cranberries and half diced plums
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups rice milk or dairy milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/2 cups white flour

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 3 little pans – mine were approximately 3 1/2″ by 7 1/2″ bi 2 1/2″ inside diameter.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
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In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the rice milk.
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Then add the brown sugar and molasses and whisk well.
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Add the rye flour and whisk to combine.
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Then change to a wooden spoon and add the 1 1/2 cups of white flour. Stir just until combined.
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Add the bowl of fruits, seeds, and nuts, and stir just until even distributed.
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Divide the batter in between the three pans.

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Bake for approximately 25 minutes. They will look like this:
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Let the breads cool completely. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.

Slice the breads as thinly as possible.
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Then place them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
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They will then look like this.
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Toast the remaining slices, if you can’t do them all at once in the oven. You should end up with approximately 68 crackers.
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Today I served the crackers alongside Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk. It’s a washed rind cows’ milk cheese that’s really soft. It’s not as “pourable” as a French Époisses, but it’s still fabulously soft.
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It was really good with these crackers.

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