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.