Deliciously cheap granola!

Maple-Nut Granola, Jan/Feb. 2010, pg. 60

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For some reason 2013 was the ‘Year of Oats’ for me.  I would go to the grocery store and think we needed oats, by October I had three large containers of Quaker Oats.  Needless to say I was pretty happy there are so many recipes in the January/February 2010 issue that need oats!

I’ve made this granola several times since I first received the issue in 2010.  Good granola is so expensive to buy at the store and so easy to make at home.  Granola is one of the main components of my breakfast, ‘yogurt slop’.  At first glance people usually say, “What are you eating?” with an awful expression on their face.  After I explain that it’s plain yogurt, fruit, and granola, the awful expression changes, “Oh.  I bet it’s pretty good!”…It is!

'Yogurt Slop'

‘Yogurt Slop’

The maple-nut granola is simple to make, delicious and very easy to make variations of the original recipe.  This time I made the granola with walnuts and blueberry infused dried cranberries, and of course some Lewis County, NY maple syrup.  I didn’t have pecans and almonds, and I had already new that the original variation was delicious.

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The walnut and blueberry infused dried cranberries was fantastic!  I also froze half of the granola and sent some to my brother.  Who works all of the time and eats healthy, but time is his limiting factor.  I hope he likes the granola as much as I do.

I would definitely recommend the granola.  Experiment with the add-ins.  It’s pretty difficult to make bad granola.

FYI.  It’s January 2014 and I’m down to 1.3 large containers of oats!

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Guest post: Maple Bourbon Cider

Maple-Bourbon Cider

the ingredients

the ingredients

D here again, handling bar-tending duties.
We’re trying out the recipe for Maple-Bourbon Cider, another of the recipes designed for holiday parties. Bourbon, maple syrup and lemon: this recipe sounded like it had potential to be very tasty.
As it turned out, the key word is “potential”…..
First off, there’s two things about the recipe as-written that are annoying to me. The first is that the measurements are a hodgepodge. Drink recipes are typically written in ounces, but if you’re dealing with a batch recipe, then it’s fine to use traditional kitchen measurements like cups. Anyway, I’ll save you the math if you’re making a batch: 6 ounces of bourbon is 3/4 of a cup.
The second annoying thing is that it is a batch recipe that doesn’t give you the breakdown for a single drink. This is a minor inconvenience.  I can divide.
So I divided this down to a 2 drink test batch so that G and I could both try it. We sampled our drinks first without the optional pinch of cayenne on top, and then we both tried it with the pinch of cayenne.
Underwhelmed. The drink was good but it mostly just tasted like apple cider with a little bit of bourbon in it. The lemon juice and maple syrup flavors were so muted that the drink ended up tasting watery and unsatisfying. But I was not giving up.
I’ve tinkered with enough cocktails in my day that I feel pretty confident in tasting a drink and being able to nail down what needs adjusting within a permutation or two. Back to the kitchen I went….
Version two came out, G sampled, and her assessment was the same as mine: much improved with a pronounced maple flavor, but the drink was too sweet. This is actually what I was going for. I reached into my secret tool kit, and the result (version 3) was so pitch-perfect that G refused to give it back.
So here’s the deal: to get the recipe right, you need to ramp up the lemon juice from the original some, but you need to ramp up the maple syrup even more. Once you make these adjustments, it will give you the right flavor proportions, but then you need to balance out the sweetness.
Hence, bitters. Angostura bitters. Total gamechanger.
Here’s what the recipe should be, for a single drink:
2 ounces apple cider
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake. I could see this drink being fine up, but we went with what the original recipe called for and had ours in a rocks glass. Or “rock” glass – as you can see, I have those fancy ice cube trays that make a single, huge, ice cube for rocks drinks. Because I’m weird like that.
vintage glassware...from 2000

vintage glassware…from 2000

Fun fact: those are Martha Stewart Everyday glasses. I bought them at the local K-Mart when I was going off to college. I felt so grown up.
But really, this drink is all about the bitters. If you don’t have a bottle of Angostura bitters on hand, go get one. This is a perfect training-wheels drink for someone who has never experienced the subtle depth and balance of flavors that bitters can bring to a drink.
Angostura was the only bitters I tried in this drink, and it was pretty much perfect, but I’m not sure that you couldn’t use something else to balance out the sweetness of the cider and the maple syrup. I’m sure Peychaud’s would work nice, but I wouldn’t be afraid to try an orange bitters, especially a spicy one like Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6. What’s that you say, this is a cooking blog? I’ve lost you all? Sorry. I’ll go back to doing my thing. Carry on. Come get me for the next cocktail recipe. I’ll be at the bar.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Baked Brie with Pecans

The spread.

The spread.

Just a quick Thanksgiving teaser!  Since we are having a later dinner, I decided to make the Baked Brie with Pecans.  It was so worth it!  Once the cheese has softened in the oven (or in my case toaster oven), you toast the pecans and then basically make a thin caramel sauce out of the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Mmm... Gooey...

Mmm… Gooey…

It gets super gooey once you cut into it and kind of all melts out, but that just makes it easier to scoop up cheese, nuts, and sauce all in one go.  It’s so good.  Maple and pecans might be best friends.  I really hope all of you make one of these this holiday season.  It’s so much easier than a brie en croute but definitely a crowd pleaser.

I also hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving!  Expect to see an epic post from me soon featuring my Thanksgiving dinner!

Pecan Pie with a twist…

Delicious piece of Maple-Nut Tart

Delicious piece of Maple-Nut Tart

Maple-Nut Tart*

  • 1  our favorite pie crust (recipe follows)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 cups pecan pieces
  • 1.5 cups walnut pieces

Step 1. Preheat oven to 350°.  On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll chilled dough into a 12-inch circle.  Carefully fit into 9-inch tart pan, gently lowering dough into bottom and sides of pan without stretching.  Roll rolling pin over edge of tart pan to cut off excess dough.  Set tart shell aside.

Step 2. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and salt.  Then whisk in maple syrup.  Add nuts, and mix filling to combine.  Place tart pan on rimmed baking sheet, and pour in filling.  Bake tart until filling is set and crust is slightly golden, 55-60 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Remove tart from pan before serving.

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47, pg. 114, November 2007

Our Favorite Pie Crust**

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons ice water

Step 1. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients. Then using a pastry blender cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

Step 2. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of ice water and continue to work dough with pastry blender, continue adding 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers.

Step 3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, forming a ¾ inch thick disk.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (Or wrap in plastic, place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling.)

**adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47, pg. 88, November 2007

 

Raw dough

Raw dough

I offered to bring the Maple-Nut Tart to my husband’s cousin’s house for Early Thanksgiving Dinner.  I didn’t want to mess the tart up and I only had one chance to get it right.  We were going to the Syracuse football game on Saturday leaving me with a couple hours that night to bake before we headed out the next morning.  While reading the recipe for the Maple-Nut Tart I realized it was just a Pecan Pie with a few changes.

I usually avoid baking pies because I have some difficult shoes to fill.  I can’t compete with my mom and mother-in-law, and my mother-in law was most certainly going bring a few pies to Early Thanksgiving Dinner as well.  I guess it’s time to start practicing my pie skills…

I don’t own a tart pan and have no intentions of adding such a pan to my collection until I have a larger kitchen.  Considering the crust for the tart was just a pie crust I thought it would be fine to turn the ‘Maple-Nut Tart’ into a ‘Maple-Nut Pie’.  The pie crust was very easy to make and I really liked using butter instead of shortening.  I love using simple ingredients.  I know how butter is made, but I can’t say the same about shortening.  I was pleasantly surprised how easily the dough rolled out and did not stick to the counter.  I fit the crust into my Pyrex pie pan with NO problems.

MapleNut PieCrust

The maple nut mixture was also really easy to throw together.  Again very simple ingredients: eggs, pecans, walnuts, brown sugar, and maple syrup.    It was awesome to use pure maple syrup instead of corn syrup!  I like to eat maple syrup off a spoon (I can’t say the same for corn syrup)!  Although using a cup of maple syrup almost cleaned my supply out.  Good thing we always get some pure maple syrup from Lewis County every year for Christmas!

Uncooked Maple Nut Tart

Uncooked tart/pie

I baked the maple-nut pie for 60 minutes in my little unreliable oven.  The temperature ranged from 300-400°F.  I was a little nervous that the center was either going to be under- or overdone, but the outside looked delicious.  Only time would tell if my contribution to dessert was a success.

Finished product!

Finished product!

The following day when it came time for dessert I made sure P and I had a piece of Maple-Nut pie.  It was amazing.  The crust was done to perfection the outer layer of nuts and syrup was crisp and the center was nice in gooey.  Everyone else liked it too.  SUCCESS!

In the future if I ever need or want to make a pecan pie I am going back to the Maple-Nut Tart recipe!  Maybe next time I could even add some chocolate…