Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Granola

One of the great things about granola is that it's versatile. And it's a good thing, too. Our granola cooking went something like this.

Me: Ok, can you read me the recipe?
Husband: Oats.
Me: Got it.
Husband: Pumpkin pie spice.
Me: Hmm. We don't have any of that. Let me look up a recipe for it. (Time elapses). Ok, we'll just use cinnamon and cloves. It calls for ginger too, but I ran out of that making gingerbread last week.
Husband: Next are the spices. (We have them all this time!)
Me: Gotcha.
Husband: Apple sauce. Maple syrup.
Me: We ran out of maple syrup when we had the rest of those pumpkin waffles. (I'm beginning to think I need to go grocery shopping at this point.)
Husband: How about that agave nectar?
Me: That works!
Husband: It also calls for pepitas.
Me: I have no idea what that is. (Googles it). Oh, they're pumpkin seeds. Why didn't they just say pumpkin seeds? No matter. We don't have them anyway. How about almonds instead?

So really, I could call this Use What You've Got Pumpkin Granola. Other possible names for this recipe: Makes the House Smell Amazing Granola, Feels Like Thanksgiving Granola, and Delicious Granola.

So here's the original recipe.

Here's what we ended up with:

5 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (substituted with cinnamon+cloves)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
¾ tsp. salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup maple syrup (1/4 cup agave nectar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pepitas (1/2 cup sliced almonds)

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, spices, and salt. Mix well.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour wet ingredients into oat mixture and stir until the oats are evenly coated. They will be moist. Evenly spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and stir. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the granola is golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and stir in dried cranberries and pepitas. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cranberry Apple Coffeecake

I love the holidays! This year is even more special, because it's our first holiday season with the Little Darling Girl. We're actually going to have Christmas morning in our own house for the first time in...a while! Of course I don't want to doom my husband to Christmas breakfast of Cheerios (or even Quaker Golden Maple Oatmeal Squares, which are his favorite). I want Christmas breakfast to be special.

For a while, I was thinking about making pain au chocolat, but that's a lot of work. Totally worth it, but I'd like to minimize the hassle factor for this meal.

I'd also like something festive. Remember that Buttermilk Blueberry Coffeecake I told you about? That recipe was just begging for a Christmas update!

I decided to use half whole wheat flour, just to healthy it up a bit. But let's face's still cake for breakfast.

I baked mine in two 8x8 pans. And it definitely accomplished the "less hassle" goal, because I made the batter the night before and then just baked it this morning. Piece of cake. Literally!

1/2 cup butter
1 1/3 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cranberries
1 cup diced apples

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. (Or, you can use two 9x9 or two 8x8 pans) Sift together 4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing just until incorporated. Sir in cranberries and apples. Pour batter into prepared pan. In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup flour and 2/3 cup sugar. cut in 6 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over top of batter. (Note: At this point, you can refrigerate the batter and bake in the morning.)

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Favorite Tomato Soup

When I was growing up, the only person in my family who ate tomato soup was my mom. Sadly, she was also the only person in our family who was allergic to tomatoes. Eek. Life's unfair sometimes. I have no idea how I got started eating tomato soup. I'm thinking that cute guy I married might have something to do with it. That, and this amazing recipe, which Paula Deen came up with and I tweaked to suit my fancy.

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 cups canned chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if making vegetarian soup)
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (29-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice (Note: If you're planning to blend this soup so that it's nice and smooth, it doesn't really matter what kind of tomatoes you use. I used two cans of crushed tomatoes instead of 1 can of sauce and 1 of diced)
2 dashes hot sauce (I used Frank's)
2 tablespoons honey (we used raw honey made locally! Yay Logan's Lake honey!)
1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder

1. In a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt half (51/2 tablespoons) of butter. When melted, whisk in the flour and stir until very smooth. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, until very thick and smooth.

2. In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter. Sauté the onion and garlic over low heat until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add the onion and garlic to the flour mixture and combine. Slowly add the chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition and allowing the soup to thicken slightly before adding more broth.

4. When all the broth is added, add the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes, 1 cup at a time, stirring well and allowing the mixture to thicken before adding more. When all the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes have been added, season soup with hot sauce, honey, dill weed, pepper, chili powder, and basil.

5. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes so that the flavors can blend. Stir frequently, as the soup will stick to the bottom of the pot. Blend till smooth, if desired. An immersion blender is great for this job, or you can use a traditional blender, working in batches.

I like to make this soup at least a day ahead of time, because it only gets better the longer the flavors sit. We've already enjoyed this soup twice, and we're only a few weeks into the soup season!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World's Best Chai Concentrate

I apparently don't have much of a backbone when it comes to peer pressure! Since so many sweet friends have asked for the recipe, I'm sharing what is certainly the best thing I've made all month. Or even last month!

I've tried lots of chai trying to replicate the delicious drink served at my favorite Indian restaurant, but nothing has ever gotten it quite right. I've tried chai spice tea bags (some of which are pretty good, most are disappointing), chai spice powders (mostly blech), and most recently, boxed chai. The boxed stuff is, in my humble opinion, the best at duplicating the chai we all dream of. However, at more than $3 a box for 8 servings of chai (which we can drink in a week, easy!), I was looking for a more economical option.

The upfront cost of all the spices was pretty steep, but I'll come out ahead in the long run. Just for fun, I'm going to keep track of how many batches this makes so that I can let you know just how much I saved over buying the boxed mix. I plan to make this every week until warmer weather comes our way!

Chai Concentrate
(makes 1 quart concentrate, enough for 2-3 quarts chai)

1 qt. cold water
1 family size black teabag (or 4 individual black teabags, or 4 rounded tsp loose tea--I used Irish breakfast and it was super)
2 cinnamon sticks (or 1/2 tsp. chopped cinn. sticks)
12 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 tsp. cardamom seed)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (or 1/2 tsp. tea-cut dried ginger)
1/4 tsp. whole cloves (about 4)
6 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. sugar

Put water, teabag, cinnamon sticks and ginger in saucepan. Lightly crush the cardamom pods. Don't grind to oblivion, just enough to release the seeds! You can do this in a mortar and pestle, or with a rolling pin. Combine cardamom and cloves in teaball, put in pan (Note: If you don't have a teaball, you can put everything in loose and just strain it at the end). Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Remove teabag, cinnamon, ginger and spices. Stir in vanilla and sugar.

To store for future use, pour mixture into container and refrigerate. To serve immediately, mix chai with milk in proportion of 1/3-2/3 or 1/2-1/2 . Adjust to taste. Delicious warm or cold.

For Henderson locals wondering where to find all these fabulous spices, here's where I got my stuff:

Cardamom pods: Ada's sells green ones for a reasonable price. They're not at Wal-Mart or the South Kroger, so don't bother looking. (Wal-Mart has a place on the shelf for cardamom, but apparently the clerks think cumin is the same thing, since the whole shelf is filled with cumin. They are so wrong.) Ada's carries the whole pods and the seeds. I recommend the whole, because they'll stay fresh longer. Fresher means yummier tea!

Cinnamon sticks: Once again, Ada's saves the day! You can get a HUGE bundle of cinnamon sticks for less than $1.50. I mistakenly bought some cinnamon sticks at Wal-Mart (McCormick brand) and got about a quarter of the amount for $4.50. I will be returning them to Wal-Mart, unopened!

Ginger: Several groceries around carry "fresh" ginger, however, I have always been disappointed in the freshness when I've bought it in the past. It was almost always dry, indicating that it had been sitting in that bin for too long. Maybe you'll have better luck. Or, you can do what I did and just get some crystallized ginger. Wal-Mart carries it, and I have also found it in gift boxes at T.J. Maxx and similar stores. Bonus: You'll have it on hand when the urge to make chai strikes you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

I don't often make things up off the top of my head; usually I'll get an "inspiration recipe" and take it from there. Last week, I was feeling adventurous and decided to flex my creative muscles. What resulted was a super-tasty casserole that the hubby demanded I make again. Awesome!

1 lb ground beef, browned
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
6 strips of bacon, browned
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup beef broth

The best part of this recipe was how easy it is. I used ground beef from the freezer and crisped the bacon in the microwave (5 minutes on high should do the trick), so no pans required! Dumped everything in the crock and cooked for 8 hours.

The casserole was good cooked as listed above, but if you're feeling extra cheesy, or if you just want to jazz it up, make this cheddar cheese sauce and pour it in during the last hour of cooking.

2 tbls butter
2 tbls flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add flour and stir till smooth. Add milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes on low, just until it begins to thicken. Add cheddar cheese and stir until cheese is melted. There you go! Easy cheddar cheesy! I guess you could probably use a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup if you wanted it to be even easier, but I didn't have any.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Buttermilk Blueberry Coffeecake

Coffeecakes have always intrigued me. They SOUND good. They LOOK good. But so often when sampling one at a potluck, I've found myself disappointed. They just usually don't taste as good as they look.

Thanks to this recipe, however, that's all about to change! I didn't change a thing from the recipe, except that I had to substitute regular milk with a tablespoon of vinegar for the buttermilk, since I didn't have the real deal on hand.

The picture is stolen, but I do have a good reason! My stupid digital camera is off at the repair center. After going around and around with the tech support people at Kodak, they decided to fix my warrantied camera. Thanks so much.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Big, Fat, Delicious Banana Bread

And now...the bundt cake! Sorry. Whenever I use a bundt pan, I always think of that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. You know the one...where the dry as toast white lady brings her little bundt cake to the lamb-roasting-on-a-spit Greek party. Gets me every time!

But anyway, back to the banana bread. Banana bread has been my Achilles heel as a cook. No matter what I do, it always turns out AWFUL. The inside is mushy, the outside is burned--yuck, yuck, yuck. I can't tell you how many banana breads I've thrown away, uneaten. Well, I guess technically I could tell you, but I won't. Because it's just plain embarrassing.

Today, I am thrilled to announce, I did it! I made a banana bread that was not only edible, it was enjoyable! Even if I don't do anything else that's useful today, I'll go to bed with a smile on my face tonight.

1 3/4 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar (I used raw sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4tsp cream of tartar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup applesauce or oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 400. Mix dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients well. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir. Do not overbeat. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes for a bundt pan, 18 minutes for muffins (I did a bundt and mine was done at 32 min). Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And We're Back...with Waffles!

It's not that I haven't been cooking lately, because I have! I've tried lots of yummy recipes lately! For instance, we had a fantastic pasta tonight, pasta with butter beans and red wine that was simple, healthy, and so yummy. I've also made an excellent Grasshopper Pie (recipe will follow, maybe on Saturday). But tonight I'm excited about breakfast, which will be waffles made with my new waffle iron! I decided to buy myself one with my birthday money. For my first waffles, I'm making a yeasted waffle based on the recipe found here.

1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 c bread flour
1/2 c almond meal
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
4 tbsp butter, melted & cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

The original recipe called for separating the eggs and beating in the whites the next morning. Phooey on that! The idea behind "overnight" waffles is the "set it and forget it" mentality. So I just mixed up the whole lot and set it in the fridge. Tomorrow, we bake! And then I'll update and let you know how they turned out.

While these waffles were certainly tasty (and definitely better than cold cereal for breakfast), I think that I prefer regular old, non-yeasted (un-yeasted?) waffles. Allen thought they were great, but on a scale of 1-10, I'd put them somewhere in the 6.5 range. Nothing to scream about, but didn't make me want to hurl either.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Creamy Potato Soup

We've had a crazy amount of snow days lately. Of course, we expected it this week; it is lectureship after all! But let's recap the snowiness of the past couple of weeks:

Friday, Jan 29--Snow day!
Monday, Feb 1--Snow day!
Tuesday, Feb 2--Snow day!
Wednesday, Feb 3--Snow day!
Monday, Feb 8--Snow day!
Tuesday, Feb 9--Snow day!

All this snowiness necessitates soup. Last week we had chicken with 40 cloves of garlic soup and a fantastic beef stew. Yum yum. This week, we're going with potato soup.

1 onion, diced
6 potatoes, diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

Cooked in the crockpot about 7 hours on low. 30 minutes before serving stirred in

1/2 cup flour mixed with
2 cups half and half

Pureed some of the potatoes to enhance the creamy factor. Served with crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese. This one's a winner!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Italian Bread Bowls

So student teaching is pretty much taking over my life for the next few months. The blog has definitely been put on the back burner. I'm still cooking, but mostly crock pot recipes. Some have been new, but mostly sticking to easy recipes that I've made before. However, yesterday Henderson got snowed in! My first snow day as a teacher! To celebrate, I made Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic Soup and Italian Bread Bowls. Both were EXCELLENT!

I also made really tasty Blueberry Muffins for breakfast. Feeling somewhat remorseful at my lack of posting lately. The whole point of this blog was to help me remember which recipes and I liked and which I didn't, so I guess I should make more of an effort to chronicle my cooking adventures. Still, we've only got so much time, and those lesson plans aren't going to write themselves.