Homemade Granola: Your Way

titleI mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week.  Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples.  It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth.  I love granola!  I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.

dry ingredients

I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too.  Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!

wet mix

As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy.  Just think of it as a ratio!  My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener.  I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed.  With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless!  Here are some ideas for each:

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My granola looks extra dark because of the molasses–it’s not burnt!

Customizable Granola!

Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination.  Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!

1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:

Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • melted butter
  • melted coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • safflower oil
  • 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above

Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • Lyle’s golden syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
  • Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
  • Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)

Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.

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My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch.  I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!

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Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola

Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes

  • 3 c rolled oats, raw
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • big pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.  It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated.  Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance.  This will allow the granola to stick to together.  Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces.  Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size.  Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

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Rosemary & Honey Mustard Roasted Almonds

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Greetings from Blizzardville!  After five days at home, I finally went back to work today, only to have the university close early.  So I still did not make it to class.  I’ve only been to one out of four scheduled class sessions in the semester.  County schools are closed for the rest of the week and we have 6-foot-tall piles of snow at the corners of every intersection.  Thankfully, all the days off and missed classes have allowed me to get a week ahead of my homework for this semester!  I’m sure this will help with my stress levels this spring, especially when we reach the end of April and we have four (four!) tech weeks and performance weekends in a row.  Eek!

My gluten intolerance has made me more aware to food allergies than, perhaps, some people without any problems with food.  Working with children, and thus adding health information to countless rosters, I am even more aware of allergies.  Just like more and more schools, nut products are pretty much a no-go during the hours that I am around children or when we have students in our facility.  For years, I have avoided even bringing nuts to work.  Those were sad days since almonds and peanut butter are two of my favorite foods.  Also, with my gluten intolerance eliminating a lot of choices, nut products are a wonderful, nutrient-dense snack.  Recently, I have been carefully bringing nuts back into my meals at my workplace.  As long as I am sure that I can eat my snack away from the students, and I can thoroughly wash my hands afterwards, I have become confident that I can keep my students safe and still enjoy my peanut butter!

In the past few months, I’ve been working to keep our weekly groceries under $50.00 (except for an occasional stock up trip to Costco).  And so we found ourselves with a huge bag of almonds (bulk is so much more economical!)  I want to make more of our snacks, mostly to avoid the added costs that just can’t be squeezed into the weekly budget.  I love stovetop sugared almonds, so I wanted to try a savory option.  I was hoping to make these Honey Mustard Almonds completely on the stovetop, but the honey takes to long to crystallize.  I finished them in the oven without too much added time and these were the result.  The almonds remain a little sticky: they clump together, but are easily broken apart and don’t necessarily leave your fingers sticky.  I haven’t tried the technique, but I bet you could toss the cooled almonds in a teaspoon or two of cornstarch to cut down on the stickiness even further.

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Rosemary & Honey Mustard Roasted Almonds

Serves: 15 | Prep time: 2 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes

  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. ground dried mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground paprika
  • 3 c. raw almonds
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh* rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

*Fresh rosemary really is pretty necessary here, as it is added at the end of roasting.  Dried rosemary would be prickly in this recipe, unless it is ground done very small.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the parchment paper with oil.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the honey, water, dijon mustard, ground mustard, and paprika.  After a few minutes, when the mixture just begins to bubble, add in the almonds and stir until all of the nuts are coated in the honey mixture.  Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, for about 6-8 minutes.  The mixture will thicken up.  Spread the coated nuts out over the sheet pan so the nuts are in a single layer.  Sprinkle the almonds generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the almonds are browned.  When the almonds start to look golden (around 10-15 minutes) and you stir them before the last round of baking, sprinkle over the chopped rosemary before popping the pan back into the oven.  Once cooked, allow the almonds to cool completely in the pan.  They will be a little sticky, even when cool, but the almonds are easy to break up.  Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, breaking apart the almonds as needed.


Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free)

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November.  Oh November.

I am the first person to agree with L.M. Montgomery: October entices me with the promises of sweater weather and changing leaves, of apples and pumpkins and all the activities heralding my favorite season.  I love the Fall.  November, however, always seems to show the first signs of the long gray winter, peeking out between the colorful foliage.  Drizzling rain, a biting cold wind, and bare branches begin to remind us that we are in for the long haul of winter.  I do love the idea of winter, too.  I like snow and I especially like the thought of piles of blankets, bright fireplaces and stoves, and the sense of not having to go anywhere.  Unfortunately, most of winter I do have to go somewhere, and wherever that somewhere might be is definitely going to be through the cold and ice.  Even so, I am trying to treat November fairly.  Most of the time, it is just as glorious as October.  Plus, it contains Thanksgiving.  Definitely a good month.

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In the meantime, I am halfway through my first class of grad school.  I just signed up for two classes for next semester (as full of a course load as I will ever take alongside my full-time job).  I am really happy to be back in the classroom environment!  It’s also been wonderful to be learning things that I can actively compare to my company, so I have a real-life example for all the theory and concepts.  I have been working to get my hustle back–I have settled into a very routine life that allowed for more apathy than I liked.  Fortunately, all of these assignments have been the kick that I needed to find a better balance.  Isn’t it funny that the more we have to do, (usually) the better we are at actually getting it all done?  This was the last piece to push myself back into a state of productivity, though I still have to chant a few girlpower! mantras before I can tackle vacuuming… Another result of my class is that I discovered that I read faster and with much more focus while on the treadmill, instead of lying on my couch!  Studying and exercising?  Possibly my greatest multi-tasking achievement.

Unfortunately, I’ve been knocked off track a little, by catching an awful cold last week.  After a few miserable days, most of my symptoms have cleared up, though I still have a fair amount of chest congestion.  Given my history of allergies and asthma, this is exactly where I expected the cold to settle.  But I am definitely tired of coughing and wheezing.  It also saps just enough of my energy, that I haven’t been able to get up and move in the mornings.  I was looking for to daylight savings time to bring back some early morning light for my workout ventures, but my cold has mostly kept me couchbound.  My reading for school has suffered as well (perhaps the only downfall of that multi-tasking achievement).  Dealing with the cold symptoms over the weekend made the thought of early morning breakfast-making seem a gargantuan task.  And the idea of warm muffins, already-made when I woke up during the week, was all too appealing.  So I pulled overripe bananas from my freezer and set to work on this ultra-comforting recipe.

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Banana chocolate chip muffins were one of our staples in my childhood.  This simple recipe used up overripe bananas, a common occurrence in our house.  And the hearty addition of whole wheat flour balanced the fruit’s natural sweetness and bumped these muffins ahead in the race of healthy recipes.  And they tasted amazing!  I’m certain those were all pluses for my mother.  She made these muffins pretty often, and most of our friends ate a few over the course of our school years.  In fact, one of our childhood friends had a notorious hatred for bananas.  We always carefully avoided telling Z what was in these muffins and he ate them happily.  His mother got this recipe from my mother and continue to make the muffins for him until he finally saw her making the batter when he was a teenager.  Now he won’t eat them!

This is one of those recipes that so clearly recalls my childhood, I knew I needed to make it gluten-free.  Thankfully, it was a pretty simple accomplishment!  The banana keeps the muffins soft and lightly sweet and eliminates the need for any xanthan gum or guar gum as binders.  In order to emulate the heartiness from the whole wheat flour, I’ve used brown rice and sorghum flour, along with a touch of buckwheat flour to darken the batter as I remember the whole wheat flour doing in the original recipe.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Serves: 12-15 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. mashed, ripe bananas (about 2)
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 2/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour*
  • 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour*
  • 1/3 c. sweet white sorghum flour*
  • 1/3 c. +2 Tbsp. tapioca starch*
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet rice flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 c. chopped walnuts

*Or, you can use 2 cups (280 g) of a gluten-free All-Purpose/”Cup for Cup” substitute

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and llightly oil the liners liners.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once uniformly mixed, add the egg and mix until the egg is just incorporated.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt).  In a small bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk.  With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture to the egg-butter-sugar mix.  Mix on low until combined.  Add in the banana-milk mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.  Scoop into greased liners, at least three quarters full.  The batter will rise a moderate amount during baking.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.


Chicken Taquitos with Avocado Crema

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Yes, yes, here are the long-promised Taquitos!  This has become a recipe that I come back to time and time again.  Whenever I roast a chicken, I know that I can use the leftovers to mix up a batch of freezer-friendly taquitos.  I am actually planning to make another batch tomorrow.  This week is our county’s public school Spring Break.  While many families are off to vacations, there are plenty who are staying in the area and my company is hosting a Spring Break acting camp.  We revamped the program last year and now offer a unique benefit of allowing parents to sign their children up on a day-by-day basis.  This draw does come with a fair amount of extra work, so I am expecting to be spending several hours prepping after teaching each day.  Next week’s meals are all about ease and speed!  The taquitos will be perfect to grab for lunch.

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As mentioned in my last post, we’ve moved!  M and I are quickly settling in to having our own place.  We found a complex that is exactly between our workplaces.  It means a significantly shorter commute for me and a bit more time in the car for M.  Since driving serves as his main time to decompress, this actually works out perfectly!  We specifically chose this complex for its amenities, which are lengthy.  Walking paths, a dog park, community gardens, fitness classes, gyms, pools, and sports courts are spread over our complex, and we have tested out most of the amenities.  M and I made a pact to take as much advantage of those amenities as we can, if order to balance out our investment in rent.  Since our students are on Spring Break, we are off from our Saturday rehearsals for a few weeks, so I woke up early and headed to the PiYo fitness this morning.  And died.  Oh man, I have done plenty of yoga and tried a few online pilates videos, but this class was intense!  I stuck it out and then ran over to the community garden next door for a gardening class.  I have been researching square foot gardening ever since we signed up for our spot in the garden, so the content was mostly information that I already knew.  But I learned things specific to our garden that was helpful, even as I froze in this 30 degree weather.  All in all, we have been really happy in our new place!

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Inside the apartment, we are down to one last box.  That box is full of spices.  No joke.  For all the issues with our past two rentals, both had great pantries.  Our townhouse’s pantry was huge!  Honestly, I would not be surprised if the original owners had the choice of a half bath on the main floor, or a pantry.  And they chose the pantry.  So it was tough to move into our house, which has a very reasonably-sized pantry.  But the pantry was there and had nice deep shelves.  Our new apartment has a galley kitchen and no pantry at all.  The limited cabinet space meant we had to look at other options for food storage.  We settled on a small, 5-foot cabinet.  I was hopeful that I could fit everything inside, but it was stuffed!  So we need to order one more, which will allow us space for all of our food, drinks, and baking supplies.  So that is the final major piece that we are waiting on.

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Food storage aside, adjusting to a galley kitchen has been more work than I expected.  Every house I have lived in has had a large, open kitchen.  While I have a look-through that keeps me from feeling too closed off, I have just two small squares of counter space for prep after bringing in my KitchenAid mixer and our convection/toaster oven.   I’m slowly reassessing how much I spread out during prep time and I am learning to corral my dirty dishes and clean up as I go.  Even in my new tiny kitchen, these taquitos keep things tidy.  Mix up the filling in a large bowl and fill and roll the tortillas right on the baking sheet!  1 cutting board, 1 bowl, and 1 baking sheet.  That’s all you need!  I also like using mashed beans as the ‘glue’ in this filling.  Its has more protein than the usual cheese mixture that is normally used to bind the filling together.  I’ve included a little bit of cheese, because you always need some cheese, but the beans are a perfect compromise.  The spice list is long, but you could easily substitute a taco or fajita seasoning mix in place of the individual spices.  The best part about the ingredients all being precooked before joining the mixing bowl is that you can taste as you mix up the filling and adjust the spices to your preference!

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Chicken Taquitos with Avocado Crema

Serves: about 6 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

For the Taquitos

  • 1 1/2 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 c. onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. cannelinni beans
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on your spicy preference)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2-3. tsp hot sauce (depending on your spicy preference)
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 18-20 corn tortillas
  • Olive oil or oil spray
For the Avocado Crema
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1/3 c. Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice

Make the Crema

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Taste and add more salt or lime juice, if needed.  Cover with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap to the surface of the sauce.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the Taquitos

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil.

Lightly sauté diced onion and cannellini beans until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.  Remove pan from heat, stir in cream cheese.  Mash the bean into the onion cheese mixture, stirring well, until the cream cheese is incorporated.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add shredded chicken, spinach, shredded cheese, all spices (cilantro, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt, and black pepper), lime juice, and hot sauce.  Mix to combine.  When the onion and bean mixture is cool enough to handle, mix into the chicken mixture.  I found this to be best done with my hands (hence allowing the onion mixture to cool).  The entire mixture should be uniform, with the softened cream cheese and beans binding the rest of the ingredients together.  When you squeeze the filling between your fingers it should hold together, but the mixture should not be ‘wet’.

Warm tortillas 2-3 at a time in the microwave for about 25 seconds, or in a warm, dry pan on the stove for a few minutes.  Warming the tortillas makes them pliable.  Gently, spoon about 2 Tbsp of the chicken mixture slightly off center in the tortilla.  Shape the mixture into a rough log shape, running from one edge of the tortilla to the other.  Wrap the tortilla around the mixture and place, seam-side down, on the oiled parchment paper.  Continue until all of the chicken mixture and tortillas are used up. Place about 1/2 inch about on the baking sheet, all seam-side down.  Try not to move the wrapped tortillas–the tortillas will get less pliable and more prone to cracking as they cool.   Light spray or brush the taquito rolls with oil.

Cook on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and gently turn over each taquito.  The seams should hold together.  Lightly spray or brush with oil once more. Return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes.  Serve hot with the avocado crema.  Leftover taquitos may be stored once completely cool, loosely packed in a tupperware with paper towels in between the layers, in the refrigerator for up to three days.  Store avocado crema as mentioned above (with saran wrap pressed against the surface).  Taquitos may also be frozen on a cookie sheet, then combined into a bag.  Cook from frozen at 450 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until heated through.  I do not recommend freezing the crema.


A Weekend, A Wedding, and Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

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We had a whirlwind weekend in NC full of laughs, though not much relaxation–at least in terms of catching up on sleep.  We did, however, catch up with many friends, partake in piles of wedding crafts, and (at least on my part) eat our weight in Carolina barbecue and sweet tea.  I actually had a bit of a sugar crash on the first day, since I’m rarely imbibing anything beyond coffee, hot tea, water, and cider these days.  One too many glasses of sweet tea, perhaps.  On Friday, we spent the day preparing for the wedding, and I slipped off to get mani-pedis with the bridal party ladies in the afternoon.  The salon was fairly busy, but spacious enough that even though we waited for almost an hour before nail preparations began, we spent that hour in the massage pedicure chairs.  Fine by me!  Take your time, sir, and let me adjust this kneading cycle up to my shoulders…  We were all saved when M’s mum arrived late Friday night.  While the rest of us were slowly turning punchy, she immediately went into event planner mode, and was the fresh set of eyes that we needed.  She and I, exempt from wedding party duties on Saturday, were tasked with transferring everything over to the venue and doing the final venue check before the wedding party’s arrival.

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(This basket is made out of chopsticks! Pretty fun, isn’t it?)

After a quick stop back at the hotel to change, it was time for the main event.  I can honestly say that this was one of the most enjoyable weddings that I’ve attended.  There was lovely attention to detail throughout the beautiful venue, and the blend of hand-crafted and rented decorations came together seamlessly.  The bride and groom had clearly done their research, and several elements of the ceremony and reception were new to me.  They had a ring-warming, where the rings were passed in a small bottle through the hands of the attendees, to allow for blessings, prayers, and good wishes before the rings were exchanged.  They also filled a bottle with different colors of sand–while I had seen this before, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate their son into the ceremony.  He had his own color to add in with his mother and father’s.   The bride and groom’s young son also provided some beautiful (when he carefully got up from his seat mid-ceremony to pick the fallen leaves off Mommy’s train) and hysterical (wrestling with his cousin on the dance floor) moments throughout the day.  He was impeccably behaved, a trooper through the whole long party (especially considering he missed his nap).  M and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I had such a good time that my phone stayed in my purse the whole time, and M’s hardly touched his, either.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the wedding.  M’s mum snapped a few of us, though I will have to track those down from her.  We really should get better at taking pictures together!

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On Sunday, we took our time getting home.  After breakfast with the entire bridal party, we headed over to show M’s mum Saxapahaw, since we knew she would love it even more than we did.  The old mill and warehouses have been converted into a Performance Venue, complete with Coffee Shop by day-Bar by night refreshments,  a small outdoor amphitheater space, and gallery.  The short row of establishments continues: a charter school, a rental/sales company for the apartments built in the converted warehouse, and a general store.  The general store is a lovely little place full of local/organic vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products, locally made soaps and lotions and crafts, and tons of hard to find products: specialty beers, gluten-free brands, homeopathic remedies.  It also has a short-order kitchen and seating area that dishes up specialty sandwiches and breakfast items–most of which can be made gluten-free.  The duck fat homefries first tempted us into ordering (anyone else mildly obsessed with the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives where Guy Fieri visits the beer place serving duck-fat fries topped with pulled duck meat and duck jus?  Or is it just me?).  But M caught sight of a special: “Coconut Milk Braised Pork Shoulder Sandwich with rice wine cucumbers, manchego cheese, basil, sriracha & soy sauce”.   A not below the menu said all sandwiches could be made with gluten-free bread, but we faltered at the soy sauce.  Just as he was settling on the roast beef sandwich that I was ordering, we saw the bottle of soy sauce on the counter.  The cooks were using Organic, Gluten-free Tamari as the soy sauce for everyone.  I can hardly express my gratitude when restaurants take these precautions as well as proving that “gluten-free” doesn’t have to mean a loss in flavor.  A few more questions settled the issue–the sandwich was definitely gluten-free….  Oh man, you guys!  This was sandwich heaven.  My roast beef, while delicious, absolutely paled in comparison.  A slow braised in coconut milk infused the barest touch of creaminess and flavor into the pork, melting in your mouth amidst the crisp bite of lightly-pickled cucumbers and red onions, rounded out by the traditional flavors in the herbs, tamari, and sriracha.  It was unbelieveable!  I went back up to the specials board to snap a picture, so I would have the base of ingredients for recreating this sandwich, and it was already sold out!  M must have snatched up the last of the pork.  Lucky, lucky man.  The homefries were quite tasty as well.

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Too good to stop and wait for photo set-ups!

We purchased some local steaks, local beef stock, real fermented pickles (!), and (to M’s delight) a pound of local, European-style butter.  I am so glad I remembered to bring a small cooler with us.  The meat and stock were frozen solid, enough to keep it all cold for our drive back home.  I broke out the stock the next day to make a riff on pho, while the butter emerges at nearly every breakfast.  That weekend was the last of the sunshine–we have had pouring rain all week.  M and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday, but that will come in another post as my very first attempt at a restaurant review!

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I first tested this muffin recipe a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love with the deep chocolate flavor paired with the knowledge that a healthy dose of vegetables were included.  I made it again right before we left, and this batch truly powered me through the weekend.  A muffin and my homemade granola made a meal out of the motel’s grab-and-go breakfast bar, where there wasn’t much beyond yogurt for us to eat amidst the cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and gravy.  I brought them over to the bride’s house for morning wedding preparations, where the muffins were kid-tested and -approved by the four year old of the house.  A variety of fruit and vegetable combinations replace the oil in this recipe (and are the “surprise” part), while whole grains, flax, and the option of nut flours round out these little chocolate powerhouses.  While I use a combo of eggs and flax seed, the eggs can certainly be replaced to make this muffins vegan.

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Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

Serves: about 12 | Prep: 20 minutes | Cook: 25 minutes

  • 1/2 c. almond meal (can replace with additional 1/3 c. of buckwheat flour for nut-free)
  • 1/3 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. mashed pumpkin or mashed sweet potato or applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 2 “flax eggs” (1 Tbsp ground flax seed+3 Tbsp boiling water per egg)*
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. grated carrots or grated sweet potato or grated zucchini
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (Milk, Dark, White…optional)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

*Can replace eggs with flax eggs for a total of 4 “flax eggs” OR can replace “flax eggs” for a total of 4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix up flax eggs and allow to gel.  Set paper liners in muffin tin and spray liners lightly with cooking oil to grease.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, buckwheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and cocoa powder until thoroughly mixed.  In a small bowl, stir together mashed pumpkin/sweet potato/applesauce with water, additional flax, eggs, flax egg mixture, vanilla, and grated vegetable.  Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients.  Stir in optional mix ins.  Scoop batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean (a few clinging crumbs are okay).

Allow muffins to cool completely on baking rack.  Store, tightly sealed, on the counter for up to two days or in freezer for several months.  Thaw or warm before eating.


Moving Update and Un-ravioli (Gnudi)

gnudi close

I was trying to think of clever titles for this post, but all I could think of was “Dancing in my Gnudi pants”, in reference to the Georgia Nicholson series, which I devoured one summer at my cousin’s house when I was fifteen.  But that really isn’t a good reference to make, when I’m trying to convince you to make this recipe for dinner…

Today is day two in our new house!  My Sunday was spent madly packing the last –okay, most of my belongings into boxes and bins and miraculously fitting, at least, 80% of my life into my car.  Tabby may be small, but she’s a beast.  Just saying. (Even more miraculous, I think she got better mileage while packed with stuff–like, 5 more miles to the gallon, better.  That, or I filled up the tank partway and forgot about it…but I don’t think that I am so exhausted as to forget a trip to the gas station). Anyways, Monday was moving day, and we did a lot of it.  Between picking up the U-Haul, picking up keys (the rental office did not open until 10am, which set our day back a little bit), grabbing a new dining table from a friend’s, and packing up the first load at M’s house, we didn’t actually get into our new townhouse until 1:30pm.  But, all of our belongings and furniture made it into the house by 5pm, which is a great achievement.  Now, we are stuck trying to unpack everything, which is really the hard part.

I did not, to my relief, cull down any of my kitchen supplies, but this move has proven how strange of an assortment of kitchen gear I own.  Brotform proofing basket? Check. Madeleine Cookie mold? Check. Bread proofer, crockpots, muffin tins, baking tins, measuring spoons, pot holders? Check and check.  But when it came time for dinner (M had already claimed making a curry), we had no knives or plates (the plates got left behind in the plot of a long explanation).  After four years in a college dorm and three solid years of regular cooking and kitchen experiments, it turns out that I do not (nor does M or S) own my own knives.  Or a vegetable peeler. Or measuring cups, mixing bowls, pots and pans, cutting boards, or spatulas.  I’ve always used my mother’s.  Or M’s mother’s, or whichever roommate had brought those tools for the year. It was an enlightening and disappointing discovery.  While I have lovely plans for a shopping spree for such essentials, my wallet does not support that plan.  We’ll have to see what we can get by on borrowing and buying piecemeal as we go along.

Luckily, S did own (and bring) a few pots, and with M’s pocket knife, dinner got on the table–in mason jars, the only containers that had made it into the kitchen.  It was an interesting end to the day, but I don’t know if I have eaten more delicious curry.  The next day, I bought a cast-iron skillet and a chef’s knife, and M grabbed some of the plates.  We may have enough tools to survive now! 😉 Since Monday was my last day off for a week, and the last day off for M and S for at least another 10 days, the actual unpacking process has been quite slow.  Some cooking is certainly happening in the little corner of counter space cleared by the stove, but I’ve been more lax in documenting it.  Last night, the boys grilled steaks while I tossed together an herbed mediterranean salad and skillet potatoes.  I’m sure I will be making both again soon–photos will have to be taken on the second round.  I’ve always been a little torn about posting salad-type recipes…I guess some of my favorites (this mediterranean, a two-bean salad from my sister, my mother’s ambrosia, or macaroni salad, etc) don’t seem to be very revolutionary.  Tasty, absolutely, but they are simple enough that I’m sure you could find another recipe on the internet.  However, since this blog was started to serve as an online collection of my recipes, as much for myself as for anyone else, I think I do need to share my salad “recipes”.  If I really get my act together, maybe I will have a salad week!  Especially with summer coming around.

Speaking of summer, it certainly isn’t here.  While we haven’t gotten any snow for a few weeks, it has now become reliably sunny.  Looking out a window is looking out to a glorious promise of sun and warmth…a promise that is, in fact, a lie.  It is still quite chilly with the wind, in spite of the sun beaming down.  Maybe it is because of this disconnect that I have found myself craving tea, constantly. I may, or may not, have just stopped to make yet another cup of Earl Grey. (See, I am not quite as random as I seem–only tangential!)  Even though it is April, and even after last night’s lovely salad, I am still wrapped in sweaters, holding a cup of hot tea, and thinking about the rich, warming stews, rich gravies, and filling squash dishes of winter.

For today’s recipe, especially since I am still bogged down with unpacking, I have a recipe that I made several weeks ago, when the season, definitely, could still be counted as winter.  I came across Giada’s recipe for Gnudi and was intrigued by these “nude ravioli”.  Filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini and chinese dumplings, were a staple in my house when I was young.  After going gluten-free, I have had one dish of GF ravioli that was actually passable (in fact, it was delicious!) at a local restaurant.  I was very much interested in trying gnudi as a substitute.  A creamy mix of ricotta under thick tomato sauce would be the perfect warm and comforting dish to make for dinner.  (Ultimately, my binge-cooking got the best of me, and I made cabbage rolls to go along with this.  Recipe for those coming soon!)

My expectations for this recipe were, honestly, entirely wrong.  Though the ingredients make up the soft, creamy filling of ravioli, I should have thought more about their counterpart in name: gnocchi.  Gnudi are dumplings, in the “chicken and dumplings” sense–thick all the way through, rather than holding the soft ravioli center.  This didn’t diminish their tastiness, but it was rather surprising when I came to the finished product.  Because I was expecting these to be a tad softer, I made them into larger rounds, like the dinner-sized raviolis of my childhood.  Next time, I will definitely keep gnocchi in mind and form my gnudi much, much smaller into little bite-sized pillows of cheesy awesome.  But their large size wasn’t much of an issue–two gnudi made the perfect snack, three were great for dinner with a side dish.  M, ultimately, ate these with his fingers, dipping them into the marinara sauce like I have photographed.  Either way you form them, big or small, gnudi are a delicious option for any meal.

gnudi plate

Gnudi 

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6 | Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1 c. whole-milk ricotta, undrained*
  • 2 c. kale leaves
  • 1 c. grated parmesan or pecorino romano (please use REAL cheese, not the Kraft Green Bottle stuff)
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. (each) salt and pepper
  • 6 tsp gluten-free flour mix + extra for dredging(I used 2 Tbsp, each, White Rice Flour, Sorghum Flour, and Tapioca Starch)
  • 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
  • Pasta sauce (marinara, bolognese, vodka sauce, etc)

*Stir the liquid at the top of the ricotta into the rest, then scoop out ricotta to measure

Rinse and dry the kale leaves.  Chop finely.  Mix the ricotta, kale, cheese, eggs, egg yolks, and spices in a large bowl.  Whisk 6 tablespoons of flour mix and xanthan gum in a small bowl until well-combined.  Stir in flour mixture, incorporate well.  Refrigerate for ten to fifteen minutes.  This rest will help the flour begin to absorb the liquid, as well as firm the mixture slightly.  The mixture may still be rather loose and “goopy”.

After mixture has chilled, place a large pot of water on the stove.  Heat to boiling, then turn down to a simmer.  Add additional flour to a wide, shallow bowl. Using a spoon or two, scoop out desired amount of cheese mixture for one piece of gnudi.  Drop mixture into flour and coat lightly (I spooned some flour over top, then rolled a little bit).  Once coated, the gnudi will be able to be picked up by hand, but will still be delicate.  Drop gnudi into simmering water in small batches and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, until the gnudi are cooked through and float to the surface.  Drain and keep warm until serving.

Continue shaping, dredging, and cooking gnudi in small batches.  Serve warm with your favorite pasta sauce.

gnudi top

Would you make small gnocchi-size gnudi?  Or keep them big (and potential finger foods)?  Do you have the same everlasting love for tea?  Do you name your car? (Fun fact: Tabby’s full name is Tabitha.  And my KitchenAid Stand Mixer is named Henrietta.  Those are the only inanimate objects that have names, though.) Have you read the Georgia Nicholson books?


Quick ‘n Easy Recipe: Kale Chips

kalechip

I feel a little bit silly giving this ‘recipe’ a whole post.  It’s one of the easiest things I have made in a long while.  But, it is also a recipe I held off from making for a very long time, but it was intimidating.  Somehow, staring down at a fresh bunch of kale, I just couldn’t believe that it would be so easy to transform them into a crispy, flavorful snack.  Don’t let you logic fool you…I’m a believer now.  Kale chips are fast and easy.  And, in this dry, cold winter weather, my chips stayed crispy overnight and through the next day after being sealed in a Ziploc bag.  I can’t tell you exactly how long they’ll stay crispy, we ate them all the next day.

It’s amazing to watch such a “tough” green turn into a shatteringly crisp chip.  I felt like I had to be careful with the fragile baked leaves, but they held up considerably well.  And they are far more filling than they seem.  I’ll be making more chips again soon!

Flavor combinations are endless.  Just keep to as little liquid as possible (here is a time that dried spices triumph) and keep testing new tastes!

kalechips2

Kale Chips

  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • Cooking spray (I prefer real olive oil sprays)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Additional Seasonings (I used garlic powder and paprika, see below for more suggestions)

Wash you kale leaves well and dry completely.  Wet leaves will wilt, rather than crisp, in the oven.

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  Remove the stems from the kale leaves and discard stems.  Tear the leaves into slightly-larger-than bite-sized pieces.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.  Spread the leaves on the baking sheet.  Mist the leaves with baking spray, then stir gently to make sure all pieces are evenly coated.  Spread the leaves into one layer on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and additional seasonings.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, stirring halfway, until the leaves are crisp and the edges have begun to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Flavoring Suggestions:

  • Cheese & Onion: Powdered cheese (parmesan, or the Popcorn Flavoring shakers) + Onion powder
  • Chili-Lime: Squeeze one slice of lime over leaves after misting with cooking spray.  Mix well to evenly distribute juice and oil.  Sprinkle with chili powder and lime zest.
  • Salt & Vinegar: Drizzle a few drops of white vinegar after misting with cooking spray.  Mix well and sprinkle with extra salt.
  • Barbecue: Use your favorite grill seasoning/dry rub
  • Rosemary & Garlic: sprinkle with crushed rosemary and garlic powder
  • Curry: Use your favorite curry seasoning
  • Old Bay: Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning and lemon zest.

Do you have any other flavor ideas? (I’ll be eating these chips until kale goes out of season…)