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3 delicious and affordable holiday recipes to sweeten the season

By Lisa Abraham

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 9:38 a.m. MST

If you’re going to spend precious time in the kitchen making something special, isn’t it great to make something that can serve two purposes and go easy on the wallet?

clarameetsworld, via Wikimedia commons

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Let’s face it: This is the time of year when folks are short on time and even shorter on money.

If you’re going to spend precious time in the kitchen making something special, isn’t it great to make something that can serve two purposes and go easy on the wallet?

Try baking homemade crackers.

They’re easy, can be served up at your next holiday party, and do double duty as an inexpensive hostess gift. Plus you probably already have all the ingredients you need on your pantry shelf.

Like holiday cookies, homemade crackers can be as simple or elaborate as you desire, but just like with cookies, more elaborate doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Here are three recipes to try out this holiday season. Add wine, cheese and beer and you’ve got a party.

FANCY HOMEMADE CRACKERS

I found the recipe for Fancy Homemade Crackers online and was impressed with how few ingredients it required. Flour, water, salt and a few spoons of olive oil turned into amazingly crisp and tasty artisan crackers that looked like they came from an expensive gourmet store. All they need is some coarse salt and pepper to dress their tops, seeds or any dried herbs that you have on hand.

Roll them out on the back of a rimmed baking sheet, and that’s where you’ll bake them too. Rolling them thin enough is challenging and you could use a pasta maker if you aren’t up to the rolling challenge, but keep in mind, perfection isn’t necessary. In fact, their non-uniform shape only makes them seem more artisan.

CHEESE STRAWS

Cheese Straws are great for parties, but some recipes for homemade ones call for pressing out batter in a cookie press. That seemed a little labor-intensive.

This recipe from Ina Garten’s 2004 book “Barefoot Contessa in Paris” uses store-bought puff pastry dough, which makes these cheese straws quick and easy.

Don’t be afraid to substitute the cheese or herbs in this recipe. We swapped white cheddar for the more expensive Gruyere, and substituted dried Herbs de Provence for the fresh thyme with crowd-pleasing results.

BUFFALO CRACKERS

Finally, Buffalo Crackers are my take on a classic French sable (think savory shortbread). They’re as easy to make as any cookie.

Since craft beers are so popular now, I was trying come up with a cracker that has a bold enough flavor to stand up to stronger ales. What goes better with beer than Buffalo wings?

Celery seed, blue cheese crumbles, hot sauce and cayenne pepper give these crackers lots of flavor and make them a perfect party nibble. Make a double batch so you have some to give away.

FANCY HOMEMADE CRACKERS

For the crackers:

1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp. kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

½ cup warm water

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For brushing on the dough:

½ cup water with 1 tsp. kosher salt stirred into it

For topping:

Coarse salt, black pepper, seeds (poppy, sesame, caraway, celery, flax, pumpkin) or dried herbs

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