Granola

Making your own granola is simple.  I think this basic granola tastes better than just about any granola you can buy at the store.  Once you’ve mastered this recipe, personalize it with your own flair.  Ideas for variations and additions below.

8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 ½ cups raw slivered almonds
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a big bowl and thoroughly mix together.  Turn out the mixture onto two rimmed, parchment lined baking sheets, and lightly press the contents onto the pan. Bake the pans of granola for 30 minutes at 325 degrees, switching upper and lower pans and rotating pans ½ way through baking time for even browning.  Do not stir the baking granola.  After the granola looks nicely toasted, light brown and fragrant, cool the granola undisturbed in the pans.  When it’s cool, store the nice, sweet chunky granola in an air-tight container.  Makes an ideal breakfast served with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit. Serving size is small — ½ cup, as it’s a dense cereal.  It’s also great on ice cream for dessert.

Variations:  Get your crunchy groove on and make it YOUR granola!

Add before baking, mix into the unbaked granola mixture one or more of the following: unsweetened flaked coconut, sesame seeds, raw cashews, raw hazelnuts, raw sunflower seeds, raw pecans, puffed whole corn, puffed kamut, puffed brown rice, wheat germ, different spices.

Add after baking, to cooled granola: golden raisins, currants, dried fruit, banana chips, Craisins

Walnuts tend to toast quickly, so if you like walnuts, add them ½ way through baking.

Try substituting a rolled multi-grain mix for all or part of the oats

For more or less sweetness, adjust the amount of brown sugar

For more or less chunkiness, adjust the amount of honey.  The sticky moisture in honey is what makes the granola cluster together. Try substituting pure maple syrup or agave syrup for all or part of the honey.

Apple Pie Granola:  Start with basic recipe, and include ½ tsp. cloves before baking.  Add 1 ½ cups diced dried apple and ½ cup currants to cooled granola.

Tropical Crunch Granola:  Start with basic recipe, but omit cinnamon.  Before baking add 1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut and 1 cup raw cashews.  Add 1 cup diced dried mango and ½ cup diced dried pineapple to cooled granola.

Berry Crisp Granola:  Start with basic recipe, substituting 3 cups puffed brown rice for 2 cups of oats.  Add 2 cups freeze dried strawberries and 1 cup dried blueberries to cooled granola.

Sesame Sophisticate Granola:  Start with basic recipe, adding 1 ½ cups sesame seeds before baking.  Add 1 cup golden raisins to cooled granola.

Reply to this post with your awesome creative granola combo.  Let your creativity and your taste buds guide you.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

This is a soft, scrumptious sandwich cookie that I developed from my own chocolate drop cookie recipe.  The cookie is easy to prepare – a straight forward drop cookie.   The buttercream is a classic Swiss meringue buttercream recipe – silky smooth and less sweet than a powdered sugar frosting.  A great video tutorial is here.  You can do this buttercream recipe!  It’s pretty fool proof once you get it.  Please reply if you have any questions.  You are the boss of this buttercream!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Sandwich Cookie
Makes about 30 sandwich cookies. These cookies freeze well.

For the cookie pieces:
1 1/4 cups white flour ( 6.5 oz)
3/4 cup cocoa (2.5 oz)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz), soft but not melted
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed (5.5 oz)
3/4 cup white sugar (5.5 oz)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Sift once, and set aside.  In mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until just mixed.  Drop small balls of dough on baking sheet, allowing room around each for spread.  Each cookie should be about 2 inches in diameter when baked.  I use a small portion scooper to keep the cookies even in size.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or until just set. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move to rack to cool.

For the Swiss Meringue buttercream filling
3 egg whites (approximately 3 oz)
3/4 cup (6 oz) white sugar
2 sticks and 1 TB (9 oz) unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

In heatproof mixing bowl, mix egg whites and sugar.  Heat over a water bath until the mixture reaches 140 degrees, being sure to constantly stir to prevent hot spots.  The sugar will have dissolved in to the egg white by this time.  Transfer bowl to mixer and, using whisk attachment, whisk on medium until it is fluffy and cooled to near room temp. It should be a soft marshmallow consistency.  Switch to paddle attachment and add the butter, 2 TB at a time on medium speed.  Continue to beat on medium until the buttercream is no longer curdled looking, but looks and acts just like good buttercream.  Add vanilla extract.

Assembly:
When cookie pieces have cooled completely, put two together with a nice thick layer of buttercream.

Kale Sausage Hash

I developed this simple, one-dish meal as a way to use one of my favorite cooking greens — kale.  There are several types of kale, and all are delicious in this recipe.  Kale is a bona fide superfood, absolutely packed with nutrition.  But we eat kale for the fabulous taste, especially in this recipe.  On a nutrition note, the fat in this dish helps our bodies to absorb the nutrients in kale.

Red Russian Kale

Kale Sausage Hash

2 TB olive oil
1 LB mild or hot Italian sausage, out of the casing
1 1/2 LB new potatoes, cut in to 1 inch chunks
one yellow onion, chopped
two big bunches of kale, chopped fine
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

In a large, covered pot fry the sausage in the olive oil for a couple minutes.  Add the onion and potatoes.  Saute for 4 – 5 minutes, then add about 1/3 cup water.  Keep the heat high, cover the pot, and let it cook for about 5 minutes.  Uncover, stir the contents around and then pile the kale on top.  If it doesn’t all fit at once, just cover the pot to let it wilt, then add the rest of the kale.  Your goal is to have the potatoes cooked through, with a nice brown crust on the bottom of the pan, but not to let them burn.  Total cooking time will be around 20 minutes, but much depends on your pan, and the heat output of your burner.  You can always add a little water mid way through the cooking if it’s looking too dry.  If there’s too much moisture, keep the lid off and let it evaporate.  Season with salt and pepper, adding red pepper flakes to taste if you like it a little spicy.

Kale Sausage Hash

Fresh Pea Soup with Mint

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I have been making this recipe often this Spring.  It’s just right – – tasty, fast, and as beautiful as it is good for the body.  It’s so GREEN.  I use my homemade chicken stock in this soup, but it’s nearly as good with water.  Takes about 20 minutes to make.  Seriously – it’s that fast and easy.  Enjoy!

Fresh Pea Soup with Mint
Serves 2 – 3 for an entree, or 4 – 5 for a starter.  Doubles easily.

1 shallot, minced
1 TB butter
1 LB shelled fresh peas (I use frozen petite peas)
3 – 4 cups chicken stock
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh mint, about 1/4 cup chopped

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Sauté shallot in butter for a few minutes.  Add peas and barely cover with chicken stock.  Be careful not to add too much, or the soup will be thin.  You can always add more stock if the soup is too thick.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add mint, then immediately puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Add more stock or water if it’s too thick.  Season with salt and pepper, garnish with a fresh mint leaf, and serve.

Old-School Yeast Rolls

I am always the one to bring these buttery, soft, tasty rolls to holiday meals.  I’ve posted this recipe the day after Easter, as I’ve just made these rolls  — and they are a quintessential part of our traditional Easter brunch.

Old-School Yeast Rolls
(makes 15 rolls, and doubles easily)

1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 eggs
1 packets  yeast
organic white flour  – approximately 3 1/2 cups
1/2 stick salted butter, melted

Scald milk, then skim off the film that forms.  This will help your rolls rise better.  Add the unsalted butter, sugar, and salt to the hot milk, and stir until combined.  The butter will melt.  When the mixture is cooled to about 110 degrees, add the eggs — stirring as you add them.  This will cool the mixture to be just the right temp to add the yeast (100 – 105).  Add the yeast, and two cups of flour then begin to mix, on a low speed if using a mixer.  Add flour a scoop at a time until the dough is right — not too sticky, but still soft.  Put the dough in a warm place, cover loosely with a towel, and let rise until it’s doubled in size.

Prepare the 9 X 13 baking pan by pouring the melted salted butter into the bottom.  Punch down the dough, and form the rolls.  Cut the dough into 15 pieces, and loosely shape each into a ball, pinching the dough on the bottom to create a smooth top.  Allow the rolls to rise until they are puffy and again, doubled in size.  Bake in a preheated oven, 375 degrees, for about 20 minutes.  They are best when fresh from the oven.

Cinnamon Rolls:   This dough also makes great Cinnamon Rolls.  Just roll out the dough, spread with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.  Roll up, slice, and place in pan like the basic rolls.  Frost with a cream and powdered sugar glaze after they’re just cool enough to eat.  Bliss.