May 25, 2011

Tupelo Honey spiked Granola

Let’s face it…it isn’t easy having healthy “alternative” snacks readily available for kids after school for all 180 days of the school year. My girls practically pole vault into the kitchen from the bus stop inhaling anything that’s seems even remotely edible. That doesn’t resemble a vegetable, of course. 

Given the amount of cookies and cakes I bake out regularly, it would be all too easy for them to pick on cake scraps and cookie rejects.  Those manage to wind up in the garbage can before they get home.

One of my regular standbys is homemade granola.  A big ol’ jar hangs out, along with plump, dried fruit and mini chocolate chips, on the counter ready to be nibbled on, added to yogurt, cottage cheese or cereal.  No excuses!

My favorite recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  Sweetening the oat and coconut mixture with Tupelo honey is a bit of a luxury, but it’s been a wet, soggy and gloomy spring.  The honey’s soft, clear caramel color combined with it’s sublime notes of melon, crème brulee, butter and dried pears makes being water-logged bearable.

I’ve also gone the agave and brown sugar syrup route and it’s turned out equally delish.

Adding a variety of nuts, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds along with sliced almonds is the way to go. Cutting the amount of shredded coconut in half and substituting unsweetened, desiccated coconut works as well.  Dried mangoes, papaya and pineapples have become a tropical mainstay in our kitchen, but dried cherries are still, well, the berries!

Word of caution, be sure to turn the granola during baking time to ensure even baking and avoid over browning.  The granola bakes to perfection in about 25 minutes in my oven; 20 minutes less than the recommended baking time by Ina. 

Oh, yeah…and keeping the granola and any dried fruits in separate containers will guarantee  the oat mixture will remain crisp and crunchy every time you reach for it. Especially when you want to eat it with homemade yogurt, fresh fruit and that extra dollop of Tupelo honey=)

 Homemade Granola

4 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1 C sweetened, shredded coconut
1 C unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 C sliced almonds
1 C mixed chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans and cashews
1C mixed pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds
¾ C vegetable oil
½ C good honey
1 ½ C small diced dried mangoes or any favorite dried fruit
1C dried cherries or cranberries
1C bittersweet chocolate chips or carob chips
1C any additional nuts of your liking

You will need:

A 13 x 18 x 1 in. sheet pan or cookie tray.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the oats, coconut and nuts together in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil and honey.  

Pour over the oat mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon or with your hands. (Great time to get your kids to “help” create a healthy snack by getting their hands in the mix!)

Pour the mixture into the pan or tray, spreading evenly.

Bake.  Stir occasionally to ensure even baking and browning about 25 minutes.

Once removed from the oven, bring to room temp and then transfer and store to an airtight container. 

Keep granola and dried fruits in separate containers to ensure oat mixture remains crunchy, crispy and good for about a week.

Happy Baking!

May 18, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes for Frosting for the Cause

Buried under a lot of snow back in January of this year, I visited one of my favorite blogsites and the post read 'Frosting of the Cause'.  Once I was done reading, I followed the link and stayed on the site to read some of the other entries and decided what a great cause and how can I join the cause?

Canadian blogger, Paula, has put together, Frosting for a Cause, a blogsite for bloggers and bakers to help raise funds for breast cancer awareness.  Having had my own mom experience the shock of being diagnosed with breast cancer and surviving it, I felt it was a no brainer.  April 29th was my assigned date to come up with a recipe and tutorial to post on this special site. In return, I then needed to donate the baked goods to a local cancer organization, hospital or hospice and pledged $25 to a cancer organization of my choice.

The funny thing about living in the Northeast is how not trusting souls are around here.  When I dropped off the cupcakes at my local hospital's Comprehensive Breast Center, they were received rather suspiciously.  It was like a scene out of Good Fellas with Joe Pesci at the helm.

Joe: So.....Why do you wanna drop off cupcakes?  
Me: Because...yadda, yadda, yadda...Frosting for the
Joe: Blooog?  (Best wise guy accent)
Me:  Yes.  Blog.  Did I stutter?  
A lot of staring on behalf of both parties at this point.   
Me:  Please enjoy them!   
Joe:  Enjoy them?  Enjoy them how?

Trust me, the whole thing was ridiculous.

Happy Baking!

May 17, 2011

Old and New Recipes

So it begins. With much fear and trembling, I’ve joined the blogosphere=)   I guess I was a voyeur for far too long.

During the beginning of the year, I had a catharsis of sorts.  Could have been the record number of snow days we experienced here in the Northeast, who knows.  However, over the past 4 years I’ve indulged in viewing and reading an insurmountable number of blogs and, on occasion, commenting.  

Beautiful images have always drawn me in, from food blogs, my favorite, to crafty and gardening sites. Taking a peek at the daily lives of like minded bloggers, laughing at their humorous posts and reviewing recipes have made me feel like I am a part of a community.

Over the years I’ve collected a ridiculous amount of cookbooks, a disproportionate amount being about baking. I will be sharing the "keepers" from old cookbooks and certainly rocking new ones to see if they can stand up to the old ones!  

I’ve already started to dust off some of these relics and it was like visiting old friends. Remembering what holidays and occasions I first baked them out and also remembering when I was about 20 lbs. lighter, le sigh.

Thanks for joining me!