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

Whisk together the flour and salt, then stir in the water and olive oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the dough at medium speed for about 5 minutes until it comes together into a nice-looking ball; it will look shaggy and unpromising at first, and then suddenly smooth and suave. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix and knead the dough by hand, adding a bit more flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry.

Shape the dough into a ball, put it back in its bowl, coat it lightly with olive oil, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour to an hour.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Divide the dough in half. Flip over a heavy rimmed baking sheet, flour it heavily, and roll out half the dough onto the back of the sheet until it covers the pan more or less from edge to edge. It should be quite thin. Trim off any overhang and brush off any extra flour.

Brush the dough with the salt water, prick it all over with a fork (so the crackers don’t balloon up in the oven), and sprinkle with the toppings of your choice.

Use a pizza cutter or a large knife to score the dough into the cracker size of your choice. Don’t worry about making sure the crackers are separated: they’ll break apart easily after baking.

Bake the crackers for 5 to 10 minutes, until they are nice and golden and browning slightly on the edges and looking very baked. Remove the baked crackers to a cooling rack, where they will crisp up nicely. Repeat for the other half of the dough, either on a second cookie sheet or on the first one after it’s cooled. After cooling, break the crackers apart and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on size.

— Adapted from Catherine Newman, www.disneyfamily.com

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BUFFALO CRACKERS

1½ sticks unsalted butter

(¾ cup), softened

½ tsp. celery seed

¼ tsp. Tabasco sauce

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Pinch of salt

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

5 oz. container blue cheese crumbles

In an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter. Add celery seed, Tabasco, cayenne and salt and combine.

Add in flour and mix on medium-high until mixture comes together like cookie dough. Add cheese and mix until combined.

Divide dough in half. Roll each into a log about 6 inches long by 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice crackers off of logs, about ¼-inch thick. Place circles on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes until light golden brown. Don’t over-brown crackers or blue cheese may taste bitter.

Makes about 4 dozen crackers.

— Lisa Abraham

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CHEESE STRAWS

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1 extra-large egg

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it’s 10 by 12 inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry.

Sprinkle each sheet evenly with ¼ cup of the Parmesan, ½ cup of the Gruyere, ½ teaspoon of the thyme, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry.

Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Makes about 2 dozen straws.

Editor’s note: Gruyere is an expensive cheese. We substituted sharp white cheddar and these turned out fine. Also, don’t hesitate to substitute another favorite herb for the thyme, or a dried herb for the fresh. These will still taste great.

— Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa in Paris,” Ina Garten

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©2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): CRACKERS

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