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Real Deal: DIY Sesame Sticks


No trip to the bulk bin area of the supermarket is ever quite complete to me without bagging a few scoops out of the sesame stick container. After so much barley and millet and quinoa has been piled up in my cart, something a little fun and snappy just seems to be in order. I had never even considered making them for myself at home as a result–the whole point of the exercise was that it was a treat–but they seemed like a simple enough thing to whip up in the kitchen once I started to think about it.

And, at the end of the day, they can be more or less a one-bowl-and-stir creation. The shaping is where I got hung up. At first, I thought I could get a dough that would just flow out of the wide nozzle of a pastry gun, but that was a fool’s game. A rolled out and neatly sliced dough was quite tasty when baked up, but the straight-edged rectangles visually said “cracker” to me more than “fun snack!” They just weren’t the little snakes of sesame that my brain recognized and loved. So I picked up a piece of the raw cut dough, rolled it quickly just three times between my palms, and there is was. By the time I had a whole sheet, however, I wondered how much I really cared about the shape. What was so wrong with rectangles, my back protested. So shape them however your tastes demand. Uniformity for even baking is the important thing.

Sesame Sticks: Ingredients

DIY Sesame Sticks
makes about 3 cups

1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) cup fine cracked wheat
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon beet root powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder or to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons water

Combine flour, sesame seeds, cracked wheat, turmeric, beet powder, garlic powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. In a small bowl, combine water and oil. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly, kneading any remaining bits into the dough by hand.

Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic, flattening into inch-thick squares. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow dough to firm up before rolling.

Once dough has chilled, heat oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness and, using a knife or pizza wheel, cut into small rectangles (approximately 1/4-inch by 3/4-inch). Alternately, roll and cut dough to your desired shape. Uniformity is more important than size to assure even baking.

Sesame Sticks: Shaping

Leave the pieces as they are or roll each one quickly between your palms to form thin rods. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for ten minutes, then flip or roll the pieces around on the sheet so that the bottoms don’t brown. Continue baking 5-8 minutes more, until sticks are crisp but not browning. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


This recipe was created for my “DIY vs. Buy” column on Serious Eats.

DIY Garlic Powder (No Vampires Edition)


It was when I last went looking for our shaker of garlic powder that I was finally motivated to clean out the pantry. After rummaging around for a bit, I discovered it well-hidden in obscurity at the very back of the shelf, its label dusty and faded, its contents distressingly clumpy. Truth be told, that garlic powder had been in my husband’s life longer than I had. Tossing it into the waste bin, I had more fear that its sudden absence would inspire vampire infestation than that I’d miss it in the kitchen. Which is to say, I did not expect my life to change one bit.

Clearly, garlic powder is not a spice rack item I think much about. However, though it’s a seasoning that inspires an eyebrow-raising level of animosity in some quarters, I don’t have any snobbery about using it. I had just kind of forgotten about it. It had slipped out of my life along with those batches of Chex Mix and slices of garlic bread toasted under the broiler that had flavored my childhood.

DIY Garlic Powder: peelings

Having just discovered the “dehydrate” setting on my oven, I figured why not try making a batch of my own? I did the math for this week’s Serious Eats column, but if you don’t care much about that part, know that in the end I had a small jar of powerfully attractive powder. It’ll be much easier to remember to use this stuff.

DIY Garlic Powder

This process also works for onions, and I took the opportunity to do a tray of each simultaneously without damaging the flavor of either. Out of one 13-ounce white onion (chopped fine), I was able to produce 1/2 cup of dried flakes, which reduced to 3 tablespoons of onion powder. It’s a very small amount, but it has a very sweet taste–like a fried onion ring.

Be prepared for your house to fill with the strong scent of garlic during the dehydration period.

2 garlic bulbs (about 5 oz.), cloves separated and peeled

DIY Garlic Powder: drying

Slice garlic very thinly and spread out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray. Alternatively, you can use drying racks or a parchment-lined baking sheet in your oven (convention setting if you have one) with the door cracked open (I found that an old wine cork works well for this purpose).

Dehydrate at 130°F, stirring and turning slices every few hours until garlic is fully dry. When dehydration is complete, the garlic chips will snap in half rather than bend. This could take nine or more hours, depending on the thickness of your slices and the vagaries of your appliance.

DIY Garlic Powder: grinding

Allow garlic to cool completely and then grind to desired consistency (I use a coffee grinder that I reserve for spices). If you want to make sure that the powder is fairly even and fine, pass the ground garlic through a mesh strainer, catching the larger bits for a second pass through the grinder. Store finished powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Makes approximately 2 oz.

Cozy Up (Vegetable Pot Pie Edition)


My oven and I are at war.

Last week, I thought I was losing my mind. I would check on some item baking in my oven, and discover that I had somehow shut the appliance off entirely only half way through the cooking time. This is actually not that difficult to do if you’re using the timer and you punch “cancel” instead of “off” to silence it when it rings. Just as my frustration with myself was about to boil over, however, I saw it happen–a click, a blank screen, and the oven turned itself off. I wasn’t exactly pleased by this but, reassured that my sanity hadn’t walked out on me, I called a repair service> and waited for my house call.

As these things go, four days later when the super-amiable repair duo showed up, the oven worked perfectly–bake, broil, not a single glitch. Nice to avoid the pricey circuit board replacement, but still. Really? I was advised to bake some brownies and call them on Monday if the oven went berserk again.

The suddenly crisp temperatures did make me want to bake something warm and comforting for dinner, so I decided to test the oven and my luck with a roasted root vegetable pot pie I like a lot (adapted from the Poor Girl Gourmet). And so I spent an uneventful afternoon in the kitchen. An hour of roasting and 40 minutes of baking and not a single oven malfunction. I got a beautiful pie out of the deal, so not a bad day, I suppose. But I wish I could have figured it all out for myself before I paid $65 just to have two strangers poke around under my oven and retrieve a pile of lost cat toys.

Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie
Adapted from the Poor Girl Gourmet

For the roasting tray:

3 T olive oil
2 lbs peeled and cubed root vegetables of your choice (I used turnips, carrots, potatoes and a sweet potato)
1 head of garlic, exterior layers of skin peeled away and top of head removed to expose cloves

Heat the over to 375˚F.

Place the prepared garlic bulb on a sheet of foil and pour a teaspoon or so of olive oil over top. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and wrap up into a packet.
Place the prepared root vegetables in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme to coat. Pour them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and spread out in a single layer.
Add garlic packet to the baking sheet and roast all vegetables for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice for even browning.

For the top crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the pie crust. You’re welcome to use your favorite crust, of course, but I love the poof you get out of this version. Mix flours, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening, and then mix in just enough water to pull dry ingredients together. Flatten dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

On the stove top:

1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 T wholegrain mustard
1.5 T all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bunch Swiss chard or dark leafy green of choice

Heat oil and butter in a skillet and sauté onion until softened and translucent. Add mustard and flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring often. Then add vegetable broth and mix well, scraping the bottom of the pan thoroughly. Once the sauce has thickened (about 10 minutes), pile the greens on top of the cooking gravy, cover, and allow them to wilt for a few minutes. Stir occasionally until greens have cooked down. Stir in the roasted root vegetables, then pour the entire mixture into a pie plate. Remove the garlic cloves from the roasted bulb and distribute them evenly around the filling.

For the crust glaze:

1 egg yolk
1 T milk

Don’t worry, you’re almost done! Roll out the pastry crust and lay it over the filling, adding whatever decorative touches you like, and then brush the top with the egg yolk/milk mixture. Place pie plate on the baking sheet and slide it back into the 375˚F oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until pie is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Light a fire, pick out a movie, open a nice Sangiovese, and enjoy!

How Does Your Garden Grow?


The plants are in and the sun is out. Root vegetables are about to take a back seat on the menu for some time.

Clockwise from top: pea shoots, garlic patch (w/requisite flamingo–this is Baltimore, baby), chives, and our porch pansies (for color). Tomato, pepper, and lettuce plants, as well as other assorted herbs have also set up shop nicely in this year’s backyard garden.