Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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Saltines transform into delectable side dishes, desserts, more

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For an easy Christmas brunch, reach for the crackers, this cheesy sausage-and-egg bake is full of peppers, onions and the secret ingredient, saltines.
For an easy Christmas brunch, reach for the crackers, this cheesy sausage-and-egg bake is full of peppers, onions and the secret ingredient, saltines. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

During the first three months I was pregnant with my daughter, now 17, I subsisted on saltines and the aroma of coffee. I carried a sleeve of saltines with me wherever I went and nibbled like a manic hamster to quell the rising nausea. They were simply the blandest possible carbohydrate I could eat, with the added benefit that the crackers restored essential salts lost through constant vomiting. (If stories about vomiting aren’t the best way to begin a food article, I don’t know what is.)

I also found the saltines comforting because they reminded me of my grandma. Her daily breakfast was buttered saltines, a sliced apple and a cup of instant coffee, bitter and black — and she lived to be 98, so she must have known what makes a body tick. Carbs and caffeine, that’s what.

It’s this bland quality that makes saltines so versatile. They can be crumbled onto casseroles for a crunchy top layer, crushed into filler for meatloaf and meatballs, or called into service for a pie crust in the same way you’d use graham crackers or ginger snaps. I even came across a recipe for brownies that uses crushed saltines in place of flour. I am curious and might try it. It could work, in theory. That’s what prevails in my kitchen: theory over good sense. It’s a fine way to entertain yourself and your loved ones.

Cracking Egg Brunch Bake

Here’s a brunch recipe from that you can make ahead, store in the fridge and pop in the oven whenever you’re ready. If you choose the overnight route, let it set at room temperature for half an hour before baking while you have your first 12 cups of coffee.

Mix 8 large eggs, slightly beaten, with 2 cups cooked crumbled sausage, cubed cooked ham, or cooked crumbled bacon. Add 2 cups shredded cheddar or Jack cheese, 2 cups milk, 1/4 cup each green and red peppers and 1/4 cup chopped onion or scallions, sauteed a bit to soften them. Crush about 25 saltines (about 1 cup) and mix them in, then pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Naturally, I forgot to take it out of the fridge beforehand and had to bake it for over an hour, but it was just as good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cracker Bars

Earlier in the pandemic, I freely indulged my craving for peanut butter, which had the effect of making peanut butter rather unappetizing during the intervening months. These no-bake bars inspired by enticed me to eat peanut butter again.

Blend 1 cup peanut butter and 3/4 cup butter until creamy. If your peanut butter is unsweetened, add sugar or honey to taste. Stir in 3 cups crushed saltines (or Ritz crackers, if you prefer) and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips. I accidentally used 6 cups of saltines. They turned out a bit on the crumbly side, but no one else in my family is complaining one bit, so mum’s the word.

Press peanut butter and cracker mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Next, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with 1/4 cup peanut butter over low heat until smooth. Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate 1 hour then cut into bars. Store in the fridge.

Saltine Stuffing

If you’re casting around for a simple stuffing recipe, what could be simpler than smashing up a bunch of crackers? Sitting on your sofa in sweatpants, maybe? Well, sitting around in sweatpants won’t get the stuffing made, will it?

Cracker stuffing is a thoroughly American idea. Crackers were invented in Massachusetts in 1792 and were used by clever cooks in many 1800s dishes, including stuffings. This recipe from boldly carries on the tradition.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Saute 1 medium onion and 4 finely diced stalks of celery (1 1/2 cups) in a skillet with 1/3 cup butter. When veggies start to soften, remove from heat and mix in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon powdered sage, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 23/4 cups chicken broth, 1 cup milk and 1 lightly beaten egg. Mix with an entire box of coarsely crushed saltines.

Spoon the stuffing into a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through or lightly browned and crisped on top.

Cracker Crack

No article about saltines would be complete without a recipe for the salty-sweet chocolatey toffee treat known among my lady friends as Cracker Crack, due to its frankly addictive qualities.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set your pants to extra-stretchy. Line a cookie sheet with saltines. Melt 1 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar on the stovetop, then boil on medium-low for 3 minutes. Immediately pour the toffee evenly over the crackers, then bake for 5-6 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over everything. When they’re soft and melty, use a spatula to spread them out over the toffee. Sprinkle with nuts, crushed candy canes, mini marshmallows, crystallized ginger, sea salt or nothing at all except your bated breath, held in anticipation of your first decadent bite. Allow to cool and break into chunks. Nibble them like a manic hamster.


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