Friday, June 17, 2011

Ginger Binger!

When a rich dessert like good ol' Cheesecake calls for a crumb crust, what ingredient comes to mind? Or what about the traditional yet decadent S'more?

Really??!! Graham Crackers??.....Sigh.....Yes, you were right....but how did this Cardboard even come to be considered an edible pantry staple? And why on Mother Earth, was its weak ass paired with the lusciousness of the aforementioned desserts?

Not totally sure, but I assume it's because of how cheap it is to produce, which then allows the brand *ahem* (Nabisco) to spend most of its budget on advertising and market availability. Appealing to the busy American family seems the ticket! Parents in a hurry and the kiddos need a snack? Break 'em off some honey (flavored) crackers and they'll suffice 'til dinner (McDonald's).

Here's something to consider...the average box of name brand Graham Crackers costs $3.99 depending on if you have a coupon for it or if it's something a specific store has on special (almost always). And this is why you would be purchasing $3-4 worth of Cardboard - Nabisco Brand Honey Maid Graham Crackers <- here you'll find the ingredients and the nutrition facts. Or plentitude and lack thereof, respectively. So are you willing to shell out that much money for something that may just sit and grow more, uhm, board-like, or may even be consumed so quickly it can't really be enjoyed (and honestly, you can't ever Enjoy a Graham Cracker!). What if I told you there was something similar in nature because of its versatility, yet is so extraordinarily tasty and cheap that it deserves a spot in your pantry right now... For half the price of those crackers, you could buy yourself an eco-friendly bag of offbrand Ginger Snap Cookies! Not only do they offer some zest in any way you eat them, but their ingredients are going to be far fewer in number (which is Always something to keep in mind when you're shopping intelligently), but the sugar content is less likely to be refined because the good Ginger Snap recipes call for Molasses, which lends a darkly sweet that your tummy and taste buds will appreciate. Something even better to consider is making them yourself! These are among the simplest cookies to make from scratch because you most likely have every ingredient on hand, the instructions are very clear and Short, which of course means they are not time-consuming! Making them yourself means spending a fraction of the cost of that bag on several dozen more you can store in the freezer for later and it serves a variety of meals.

These weren't really my cup 'o tea as a child, because my grandmother made them pretty damn spicy. She was raised to make her own bread, can her own fruits and veggies, and use "her own Damn hands" to fix, make or build something without the convenience of machines or the constant presence of a man. So it's easy to guess what her pantry may have looked like; stocked to the brim with only the necessities, no frivolities. Thankfully, frivolities only included things like sugary cereals and manufactured meat and didn't include her Ginger Snaps or Cinnamon Braid Bread. When she moved in with my mom, dad and I, I was still in diapers and she became a force to be reckoned with, especially in the kitchen. She insisted that if I wanted cookies, she'd be damned if they were purchased (much to the chagrin of my father, who thoroughly enjoyed his Keeblers) and if I didn't learn my way around the kitchen by her side. Eventually, I got up the nerve to tell her why I didn't eat too many of the Snaps and so she backed-off on the spice overload and presented me with a new love of them in a milder form. Over time, I paid attention to the many (at the time, strange) ways she used those cookies; crumbs for breading pork chops, crumbs for cheesecake crust, ice cream topping, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, etc.

I didn't realize how good I had it then, but I sure do now! And boy am I grateful for the discipline and experience in that kitchen. It may have contributed to my content identity as a plucky curmudgeon and opinionated feminist, but I know it made me appreciate the things I am capable of producing with my own two hands and a bit of patience.

Now, remember how I mentioned that you'd probably have the ingredients on hand? Well, It's true. Because if you've Ever tried to make an Autumn themed dessert like Pumpkin Pie, you have the Ginger, Cloves, Nutmeg, and (of course) Cinnamon right in your cupboard. And do you know just how good these spices are for you? They're more than a little good. Ginger has pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory capabilities, and it also aids in smooth digestion. No wonder we've been told to drink Ginger Ale for a grumbly tumbly! Cinnamon not only possesses the power of reducing your LDL cholesterol, but it also improves cognitive function and memory among so many other benefits. And I'll mention now that you can always add fiber to your recipe by substituting some good ol' whole wheat flour, and apple sauce in place of butter if you like.

My point in all of this is to get you thinking outside the box when you try to balance your household needs and the money I know you're trying to hold onto if at all possible. Why not invest in the sacks of flour, the sticks of butter, the jars of preserves, and the spices to make your own treats? The overall time it will save (because you'll be storing most it to make it last) and the cost of the ingredients end up saving you mucho moola because you'll end up needing those very same things to make Other things and so on. Plus, if you have children to consider in this, won't they be more than jazzed to help Make COOKIES?! Teaching them the basics of measuring and composition means you're actually teaching them *gasp* CHEMISTRY. But for JEEBUS-sakes, don't tell Them that....just let them enjoy quality time with you and the end result of a may just develop their character and help them appreciate how special our relationship with our food really is. And don't lie, you birthed these people to be your lifelong Minions, so put them to work, dammit!

Barbara's Ginger Snaps
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsps baking soda
2 tsps ground cinnamon
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
pinch of salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
raw sugar for rolling

- Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment.
- Mix all dry ingredients (not the sugars) in a medium bowl
- Mix all wet ingredients and brown sugar in a separate large bowl.
- Blend dry mix into wet mix until just combined, cover and chill in fridge for 20 mins.
- Spoon out heaping teaspoon fulls and roll in sugar, place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
- Bake for 9-10 mins because you'll want 'em crispy!
- Take 'em out and Leave 'em on the pan for several minutes to firm up then transfer to a wire rack to cool COMPLETELY! No Cheating!
- Freeze what you are not going to immediately eat/use in a ziploc. Crumble 'em up for crusts, breading, stuffing, etc. They go well with sharp flavored cheeses and fruit as a snack too!

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