White Bean and Escarole Soup

If you say the word “escarole” Mr. B’s face lights up like a kid running loose in the cereal aisle. His love for this uncommon leafy green harkens back to his days living alone as a bachelor in downtown Chicago. Winters in the Windy City were frequently long, cold, and dark. Lacking a wonderful wife to cook him braised short-ribs, minestrone, or a roasted lemon chicken, he ordered up his comfort in the form of a white bean and escarole soup from Salerno’s. They even delivered.

Years later, when we were dating, it began to look as if he might be eating dinner with me for the rest of his life. Mr. B decided “we” should learn how to make a white bean and escarole soup. At the time I was delighted that he wanted to tackle another project in the kitchen and curious to try a new vegetable. Now, wiser to his ways, I realize he wanted to ensure he could still get his favorite soup whenever the weather called for comfort. Luckily I fell in love with both Mr. B and his white bean and escarole soup.

Making White Bean and Escarole Soup

The clean lemony broth is at once comforting and refreshing. Adding escarole at the very end of the cooking process lets it wilt slightly while still maintaining a pleasing bite. To make a vegetarian version just substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. A healthy soup, this is an excellent light dinner for busy weeknights. Including prep time, the whole recipe comes together in less than an hour- almost as fast as take-out! With a pillowy mound of freshly grated Parmesan melting on top this is a bowl of comfort that you will ‘order up’ whenever possible.

Escarole and White Bean Soup (Printable Recipe)
Serves 4 as a Main Course

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Lemon, juiced
1 California Bay leaf
1 sprig fresh Rosemary, stem removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 Parmesan rind
10 cups Chicken broth
1 large bunch of Escarole, washed and cut into big strips
4 cups cooked White beans (I used Mayacobas)
Salt
Pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add oil, onion, and garlic. Saute the vegetables until they are tender, about five minutes. Add lemon juice, bay leaf, rosemary, Parmesan rind, and chicken broth to the pot. Bring liquid to a gentle simmer, cover pot with a lid, and cook for 25 minutes. Next, use a fork to pull any softened cheese off the Parmesan rind into the soup. Discard the remaining rind and the bay leaf. Add the beans and escarole to the pot, cover, and continue to simmer the soup for 10 minutes until the escarole is wilted and tender. Turn off the heat, and taste the soup adding salt and pepper as necessary. Serve the soup with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

 

 

Baking Bacon

With the holidays now in full swing, it is not unusual to find myself with a house full of guests and the need to quickly pull together a breakfast for the crowd. Certain that I am not the only one faced with this challenge, I want to share with you a method for cooking bacon that is my lifesaver in these situations.

Baking Bacon

Gleaned from an episode of Alton Brown, this brilliant technique isn’t revolutionary but it works beautifully for a crowd. Quite simply, you place bacon strips on a rack that is set inside a rimmed baking sheet (to catch the grease). You place the entire thing in a cold oven, turn it on to 400 degrees, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon reaches your preferred level of crispiness. The bacon drains for a few minutes on paper towels, and that is it.

This method frees up the stove top for eggs, pancakes, or anything else you feel like cooking. It also keeps all of the grease mess confined within your oven, making clean up a breeze. If you really want to spice things up you can even make a maple and black pepper bacon variation. However the best part is that you can bake a few pans at the same time, ensuring that a large quantity of bacon is ready at once and everyone can get it while it is hot!

 

 

Turkey-2


Lets talk about Thanksgiving.

Instead of bombarding you with yet another recipe for Grandma’s gravy, I want to share my general approach to the holiday. In short- we love Thanksgiving. Admitted stuffing junkies, we squabble over the drumsticks (thank goodness there are two!) and sneak bites of cranberry sauce straight from the fridge. Even when it is just the two of us, Mr. B and I look forward to cooking a blow-out feast with enough leftovers to last a week.

The Turkey

I have been responsible for cooking the turkey since I was in high school (mom was often working). I have tried every method from brining to rubbing, and stuffing or salting. The most reliable recipe from all of these attempts is not surprisingly the simplest. Gourmet’s Simple Roast Turkey with Rich Turkey Gravy is a standout winner. My only tweaks are to use the dry brine method and salt the turkey at least 24 hours before cooking. I also stuff slices of lemon, butter, and sage underneath the skin just before it goes into the oven (adapted from my favorite roast chicken recipe). The result is one seriously delicious bird!

Turkey

I have cooked grocery store special Butterballs, pricey Heritage turkeys, experimental injected turkeys (don’t ask), and even beef (my grandparents don’t like turkey). This year, for the first time, I am very excited to be cooking a fresh local turkey. In late September we visited the farm and saw the turkeys in person. Raised in a natural manner, they moved around the grassy acreage in pens, eating bugs and grubs. Knowing the high quality of produce we enjoyed all summer from this farm, I am anticipating a fantastic turkey.

Each year I buy not one, but two turkeys. Two turkeys you ask? Yes, two. I picked this little habit up from my mother who would always buy a second turkey on sale after the holiday and stick it in the freezer. It is an economical way to feed a family later in the winter and gives you a great opportunity to play around with non-traditional turkey recipes. Last year Mr. B and I were enraptured by the Latin feast featured in the November 2008 issue of Gourmet and sometime in February set out to recreate a large part of the menu. In a word it was awesome. So good that we are skipping the traditional route entirerly this year and going straight for a menu of:

Clementine and Jicama Salad
Adobo Turkey with Red-Chile Gravy
Cornbread and Chorizo Stuffing
Poblano Potato Gratin
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (an odd choice, yes, but a family favorite)
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

My family is driving cross-country to join us and I can hardly wait to spend several days eating, drinking, laughing, and hanging out with them. Mr. B and my father are on a mission to go hunting as much as possible, and I’m sure to have several wild pheasant recipes for you in the very near future.

So, what are your plans for the holiday? I would love to hear any favorite recipes or approaches. Please speak up, because as you know, there’s always turkey #2!

 

 

Los Angeles-20

Two weeks ago, Mr. B and I left the cornfields behind and headed out to Los Angeles for a long weekend. We flew West so I could attend an incredible two day course on food styling and photography. Taught by Denise and Cindie, the dynamic duo behind Food Fanatics, and the totally terrific Matt of Matt Bites, it was an information packed hands on weekend and I loved every minute.
Continued after the jump »

 

 

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze and White Chocolate Snowflakes

Every now and then you get an offer you can’t refuse. When an email from Bon Appetite showed up in my inbox asking if I was interested in participating in a holiday dessert contest I almost fell off my chair. Once upright I quickly replied “absolutely!”. My mind went in a million different directions contemplating just what holiday dessert would be prize worthy. I spent at least 24 hours thinking about nothing but cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, and every incarnation in between. It was distracting to say the least! Eventually a clear choice broke free from the chaos and a recipe for mascarpone cheesecake with a cranberry balsamic glaze and white chocolate snowflakes was born.

Making the Cheesecake

Now if this sounds like a lot of work, believe me- it was. Yet the results, oh the results! Lets start at the bottom and work our way up. The cheesecake begins with a classic graham cracker crust spiked with grated orange peel for a nuanced citrus flavor. The soft creamy filling is lightened by mascarpone cheese- giving each mouthful a tangy clean taste rather than that leaden cheesecake feeling (which I dread). On top of the fluffy filling is a thin layer of creme fraiche adding another note of silky brightness. Next a cheery red dollop of cranberry balsamic glaze caps off the cake. And finally a white chocolate snowflake perches on top the dessert giving it a whimsical holiday appearance.

I realize that balsamic vinegar may seem to be an odd duck in this dessert. However the secret is to use just a small bit of a high quality aged balsamic vinegar. I tasted the sauce before and after adding the vinegar and the difference was amazing! Aged balsamic adds an intense undertone to the cranberries, softening their tart acidity and enhancing the berry flavor in a wonderful way. This is truly a holiday dessert, worthy of the time it takes to create and so delicious that you will be tempted to hide the leftovers!

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze and White Chocolate Snowflakes

Now if I may, I would like to ask a small favor. Would you please visit Bon Appetite’s website and vote for this dessert? The site is filled with gorgeous submissions and I guarantee you’ll have a fun time checking them all out. A registration is requried, but it is free and easy. Thank you for voting and passing the word along!

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze and White Chocolate Snowflakes (Printable Recipe)
Inspired by Mr. B’s Birthday Cheesecake and Goodies by Anna

Makes 4 dozen mini cheesecakes or 1 large 9″-cheesecake
If you are making the large cheesecake reduce the crust recipe by half.

Ingredients:

Crust
Non stick oil spray
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (finely crushed)
4 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
Pinch of salt

1 7-ounce container of creme fraiche

Glaze
6 cups cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup Cointreau orange liqueur

1 1/2 teaspoons quality aged balsamic vinegar

Snowflakes
8 ounces Almond Bark

Special Equipment
4 mini cheesecake pans (12 cheesecakes per pan capacity) or 1 9″-cheesecake pan
1 sheet pan
1 Silpat or Parchment paper cut to fit sheet pan
3 clear page protectors
2-3 cookie sheets
3 pages of at least 50 printed snowflake patterns (Find an image you like online and paste it into a Word document several times)
Tape
Pastry bag with a small circle tip

Directions: (Please Note these directions are for MINI cheesecakes. If you are baking a 9″ cake follow the cake baking instructions here.)

Day 1

Make the Crust:
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven. Spray the insides of the mini cheesecake pans with the spray oil. Using a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Once the dry ingredients are well combined, add the grated orange peel and pour in the melted butter. Stir the mixture with a fork until all ingredients are moistened. Evenly distribute the crust mixture between the mini cheesecake molds, placing about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture in each mold. Press the mixture into the bottom of the molds, forming a single layer of crust (not up the sides). Place the pans in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the crust has set up. Remove the pans from the oven and set them on a rack to cool completely. Leave the oven on so the cheesecakes have a steady temperature environment, and make the filling while the crust cools.

Make the Filling:
Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat them together until they are smooth. Next add in the mascarpone and beat until smooth. Add the flour, beating until it is combined and then with the beater still going, add in the eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is well incorporated before adding the next egg. Beat in the vanilla, orange juice, orange peel, and salt. Be cautious not to beat the batter more than necessary. Once everything is well mixed, spoon the batter into the cooled cheesecake molds, filling them each about 3/4 full. Use the spoon or your finger to smooth out the batter in each mold and eliminate any large air pockets.

Place the pans in the oven (baking two at a time on the middle rack if necessary). Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. The cheesecakes should only jiggle slightly if the pan is very gently shaken, and will be beginning to turn a light golden color on top when they are finished. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on a rack to cool completely. Once cool, place the cheesecakes in the fridge for at least 2 hours before unmolding.

Make the Glaze:
Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cranberries, sugar, water, and Cointreau to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, and then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Cook the mixture for 10-15 minutes until most of the cranberries have ‘popped’ and the mixture has a thick jam-like consistency. Turn off the heat and let the glaze cool slightly. Next press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pushing with the back of a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard any solids remaining in the sieve. Finally add the aged balsamic vinegar to the glaze, and stir until it is well combined. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to chill overnight.

Make the Snowflakes: Make more snowflakes than you think you will need, as they are very fragile and some may break when you try to remove them from the sheets.

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze and White Chocolate Snowflakes-2

Place the printed pages of snowflake patterns inside the page protectors. Tape a page protector on top of each cookie sheet, so it will not move while you are working. Fit the pastry bag with the small circle tip. Place the almond bark in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave the bark for 60 seconds and then stir it well. Microwave it for another 30 seconds and stir. Repeat a third time if necessary, until the bark is uniformly melted and has a smooth consistency. Working very quickly, fill the pastry bag with the bark, and carefully pipe it onto the page protectors, using the snowflake patterns as guides. If the mixture hardens in the bag while you are working, remove the metal tip and place the bag back in the microwave for 30 seconds to re-liquefy the bark. (Warning this is very messy.) Once the snowflakes are piped onto the sheets, place the cookie sheets into the fridge so the bark can harden.

Unmold the Cheesecakes:
To unmold the cheesecakes use a small dowel, and press up through the small hole in the bottom of each cup. If the cheesecake sticks, run a thin knife around the edge of the mold to release it. Use a butter knife to remove the metal bottoms from each cake. Set the cheesecakes on a sheet pan lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Whisk the creme fraiche and use a small spoon to spread a thin layer on top of each cheesecake. If the cheesecakes sunk at all in the middle you can use the creme fraiche to fill in the indentation and create a flat top level. Place the cheesecakes in the fridge and chill overnight.

Day 2

Assemble the Cheesecakes:
Using a flat spatula, gently transfer the cheesecakes to a serving platter. Use a small spoon to evenly spread about 1 Tablespoon of glaze on top of each cheesecake (you may have glaze leftover). Very carefully, remove the tape holding the page protectors to the cookie sheets. Lift up an edge of a page protector, working to carefully remove the snowflakes. The snowflakes are very fragile and should be handled with care. Insert a snowflake into the top of each cheesecake, pressing down very gently to embed the snowflake in the glaze vertically. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Sushi

The official line: The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Making sushi at home was a true challenge. Not because the technique was difficult or the flavors were unfamiliar- the rolls actually came together easily and we love sushi. The challenge came in finding fresh sushi grade fish when you live in a small town 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. For a girl who once seriously considered becoming an oceanographer, I somehow ended up about as far away from an ocean as possible! After searching high and low and even online for sashimi grade fish, I finally gave up and decided to get creative. Cooked shrimp and a can of quality dungeness crab were my pinch hitters and surprisingly they delivered an enjoyable albeit unauthentic sushi dinner.

Sushi-3

Sushi-7

The first and longest part of any sushi recipe is preparing the rice. A bag of short grain sushi rice is rinsed several times, drained for thirty minutes, and then carefully cooked with kelp leaves to infuse flavor. Once the rice is cooked, it is mixed with a sauce of rice vinegar and sugar, while you gently turn and ‘fan’ the rice for about 10 minutes. My arm wanted to fall off just thinking about fanning rice that long, so I pulled out my trusty hair drier and turned it to the cool setting. This worked like a charm, creating a beautifully glossy sushi rice.

Sushi-5

Making Sushi

Once the rice was ready to go, the rest of the steps were pretty straightforward. With Mr. B’s assitance I toasted sheets of nori, spread out the rice, and then layered cucumber, crab, green onion, and avocoado to create rolls. Cooked shrimp were perched happily on little mounds of rice ‘nigiri’ style with a dab of hot wasabi underneath to bump up the flavor. As we sat down to enjoy our first round of sushi I was surprised at how happy I felt to be sitting at home with sushi. I have become so accustomed to only enjoying sushi when traveling out of town, it was really a treat to enjoy it at home in my socks and with Oscar trolling for crumbs.

Sushi

So if you happen to find yourself days from the nearest ocean or just want to try making sushi at home I encourage you to set aside an evening and give it a go. Even using cooked ingredients, the results may surprise you! Detailed recipe instructions and accompanying photographs can be found at The Daring Kitchen.

 

 

Braised Kale with White Beans and Turnips-7

My family tree is sorely lacking when it comes to Southern roots. I can count on one hand the number of times I have eaten fried chicken and cannot remember my mother ever using hot oil to cook anything beyond taco shells. Gumbo, grits, greens, all of these words were foreign to me- as strange sounding as tempeh, tataki, or even tamari.

Then one day I decided to grow swiss chard. It was an impulse really. Who could resist a flat of rainbow stemmed seedlings with deep green leaves? To say that the chard was happy in our little garden is an understatement. It multiplied like overeager rabbits and we had arm loads of the stuff. Now what does this have to do with braised kale? Well, chard became my gateway green. In my desperate attempts to work through the abundance of chard I recalled something about Southerners braising greens and decided to give it a try. The chard proved to be too delicate for braising (it got mushy fast) yet once I tasted the creamy tang of the braising liquid I was hooked. I found myself searching for kale, collard greens, and turnip greens at the grocery store and eagerly bringing them home.

Making Braised Kale with White Beans and Turnips

With each attempt at braising greens, my love for this Southern dish has grown. It is pure comfort food in a bowl without all of the heavy calorie-laden meat and fat that one often finds in a bowl of comfort. The addition of white beans, a little bacon, and tender turnips quickly turns this into a one pot meal. The entire dish cooks in 30 minutes making it perfect for an easy weeknight dinner. Combined with slices of crusty bread to sop up the liquid it is a hearty winter meal that will leave you hooked on greens for good. And like most braised dishes- leftovers taste even better the second day!

Braised Kale with White Beans and Turnips (Printable Recipe)
Inspired by Elise’s Beet Greens Recipe
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons of Grapeseed Oil (or olive oil)
4 strips Bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs Turnips (preferably small white Tokyo Turnips), ends and tops trimmed off
3 cups Chicken broth
1/8 – 1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar (adjust to taste)
2 cups cooked White Beans (I used Mayacoba beans)
2 large bundles of Kale, washed, stems discarded, and leaves roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Place a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon strips to the pot and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned. Add the onion, garlic, and turnips to the pot. Stir and cook until the vegetables are softened and beginning to turn brown on the edges. Pour the chicken broth and apple cider vinegar into the pot, and stir while scraping the bottom to deglaze and browned bits stuck to the pot. Next add the beans and kale (pressing down on the kale if it threatens to overflow the pot). Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Braise the kale for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender and wilted and the turnips are cooked through.

Once the kale is tender, remove the lid and add in the sugar, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Stir and taste the liquid. Add salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar, until the flavors are to your liking. Turn off the heat and serve the braised kale with slices of thick crusty bread to sop up the liquid.

 

 

Artichoke

The first person to eat an artichoke had to be freaking hungry. A large green orb surrounded by tight prickly leaves- it simply does not look edible to the casual eye. Yet with the right amount of heat, and a certain measure of patience the leaves will loosen up, yield their sweet meat and reveal an enticing fuzzy interior. When all the leaves are scraped clean and the fuzzy choke is discarded, you are left with a small pale green heart. This mouthful of intense artichoke flavor is a true delicacy, and it explains why nature had to go to take extreme protective measures to keep it hidden from the casual passerby.

Often artichokes in the supermarket look a little worn out. Long distance travel and low shelf-turnover leaves them limp and browning with loose leaves that do not perk up when cooked. However when I spotted two beautiful specimens on a rare trip to Whole Foods I couldn’t resist bringing them home. Mr. B shares my love for fresh artichokes and he excitedly asked if I could steam them in a a white wine broth for dinner. That sounded like a marvelous idea, so I dug around and found a popular recipe from Tyler Florence as my muse.

Making the Artichokes

After a quick trim of the tops and bottoms, the artichokes steam in a white wine broth for about 45 minutes, making this a simple recipe with delicious results. We tore off the outer leaves and dipped them in a basic blend of butter and lemon juice. The flavor was artichoke perfection- sweet, meaty, earthy, and dipped in buttery goodness. If you happen to encounter a beautiful artichoke don’t think twice about bringing it home for a hands on dinner.

Eating the Artichokes

Artichokes Steamed in White Wine (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from
Tyler Florence
Serves 2

Steaming the artichokes creates a delicious astringent broth that can be used in other dishes if you are so inclined.

Ingredients:

Artichokes

4 sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, cut in half
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 quart chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole artichokes

Lemon Butter

4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 lemon juiced

Directions:

Place a large pot over medium high heat. Add the thyme, garlic, bay leaves, 1 and 1/2 lemons, wine, olive oil, and broth to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Taste the liquid and season with salt and pepper.

Rinse the artichokes under cold water. Take a heavy knife and cut off the tough stems close to the base of the artichoke. If there are any small tough petals near the base, pull them off and discard them. Trim 1″ off the top of the artichoke and rub the remaining half lemon on the tops. Afterward toss the lemon into the pot with the liquid.

Set the artichokes in the simmering liquid, bottoms up. Cover the pot with a lid and steam the artichokes for 30-40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a small knife into the base of an artichoke. If the knife enters the base easily they are cooked. Another way to test for doneness is to pull off a lower leaf- it should easily pull away from the base.

While the artichokes cook, divide the butter and lemon juice evenly between two microwave safe bowls. Place each bowl in the microwave and cook for 15-30 seconds, just until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture and serve with the cooked artichokes.

Let the artichokes cool slightly, and then eat them by pulling off the leaves, dipping them in the lemon butter, and scraping the meat off the wide end of the leaf with your front teeth. Once you have worked through most of the leaves and reached inner leaves that are completely soft and a lighter color, pull off the the inner leaves and scrape away the thistle fuzz which covers the heart. Enjoy the delicacy that is the heart!

 

 

Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins-9

Often it is hard to make good life choices. What we ‘should do’ and what we ‘feel like doing’ duke it out on a regular basis with mixed results. I should do laundry and pay bills. I feel like surfing the Internet and watching a movie. I should get out of bed and exercise. I feel like rolling over and ignoring the alarm. For many this battle turns ugly when it enters the kitchen. A piece of fresh fruit for dessert or a bowl of chocolate ice cream? Carrot sticks when the munchies strike or chips and peach salsa? (My ‘should do’ surrendered that battle a long time ago.) Yet, now and then the dust settles and a recipe comes along that makes peace with both sides.

Making the Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins

These blueberry buttermilk bran muffins are filled with healthy ingredients that will satisfy your ‘should do’ and pack a delicious berry flavor that will keep your ‘feel like’ happy too. A quick recipe, I often make a batch on Saturday morning in the hour between my first cup of coffee and when Mr. B rolls out of bed. (Can you tell who the morning person is in our house?)

Baking the Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins

The combination of whole wheat pastry flour, oat bran, and ground flax seed creates a blend of high fiber ingredients while still maintaining a tender crumb. Buttermilk keeps the fat content low and adds a delightful creamy tang. When dipped in a bowl of vanilla yogurt, these muffins will start any morning off with a happy peace of mind because what you ‘should do’ and what you ‘feel like doing’ are one and the same.

Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

Muffins

1 cup oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 cup blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs

Topping (optional)

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/8 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees with a rack in the middle. Line a 12 muffin tray with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Mix the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Next add the blueberries and gently mix them into the dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs until they are well combined. Pour this wet mixture into the large bowl and stir gently until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Be careful not to over mix the batter. (A few lumps are okay!)

In a small bowl mix together the topping, combining the rolled oats, almonds, sugar, and cinnamon.

Using a spoon, fill the lined muffin molds with batter. If using, evenly sprinkle the topping on top of the batter. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the muffins are set and have golden edges. (A toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out clean.) Transfer muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Homemade Granola Bars-1

I have a tiny character flaw. It is not my fault. Really. My father has the same flaw so it must be genetic- right? We both suffer from what Ree of The Pioneer Woman calls LBSCBS (low blood sugar cranky butt syndrome). If too many hours pass between meals suddenly our usually sunny can-handle-anything attitudes are hijacked by a short tempered cannot-deal-with-other-humans mood that threatens to leave a path of scorched earth in our wake. You know- cranky.

My dear mother in her efforts to promote familial peace and harmony learned to recognize the signs of LBSCBS early on and stage interventions as soon as possible. Anytime we would take a family outing more than two hours in length Mom would pack snacks. Cheese, crackers, an apple- anything to keep the dark clouds of hunger from moving in. Her constant attempts over many years to battle the cranky have evolved into an art form. These homemade granola bars are her latest masterpiece.

Granola Bar Ingredients

Making Granola Bars

Infinitely customizable, the granola bars incorporate a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole grains. They are a portable and economical way to keep everyone energized and happy for hours. I have made several batches of the bars already and the ability to mix and match flavors ensures that the granola bars are always appealing whenever you are in need of a quick snack. If any of my offspring inherit the dreaded LBSCBS you can be sure that I will have a few of these bars within arms reach at all times!

Homemade Granola Bars-2
Homemade Granola Bars (Printable Recipe)
Makes Approximately 10 Bars

I have listed optional substitutions below, but you can also replace a portion of the ingredients with puffed rice, chocolate chips, toasted coconut, minced crystallized ginger, cinnamon, raisins, M&Ms (frozen), or anything else that sounds good!

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame, etc.)
1 cup nuts, crushed (pecan, walnut, cashew, macadamia, almond, etc.)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey (or 1/4 cup honey, plus 1/4 cup of maple, agave, or barley malt syrup)
4 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, etc.)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Mix together the oats, wheat germ, seeds, and nuts on the baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and toast the dry ingredients for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally and keeping a close watch to make sure they do not burn. As soon as the ingredients are toasted, remove the pan from the oven.

While the dry ingredients are toasting, line a 11×13 inch rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper and spray it lightly with cooking oil.

Next place a small saucepan over medium-high heat and add in the brown sugar, honey (and any other sweetener), butter, vanilla, and salt. Bring the mixture to a strong boil for two minutes stirring constantly. Turn off the heat.

Place the toasted ingredients in a large bowl, and stir in the dried fruit. Pour the hot liquids into the bowl and stir aggressively until all of the ingredients are moist and well combined.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared baking sheet, pressing down to evenly spread out the mixture. Fold over the waxed paper or add another sheet on top and press down HARD all over the granola. Set the baking sheet aside and let the bars cool for 2-3 hours until they are hardened.

Once the bars are hard, peel off the waxed paper and turn the granola out onto a cutting board. Cut the granola into bars by pressing straight down with a long knife (don’t saw or they will crumble). The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature individually wrapped in plastic wrap for up to a week.

 

 

 

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