Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nutty granola

I’ve made granola from time to time over the years but never consistently.

I love it on top of yogurt, but once my favorite yogurt became unavailable, I gave up on it for almost a year.

I’m on a yogurt kick again, so I decided to try some new granolas. I also wanted a granola I could eat as a breakfast cereal with fresh fruit and milk.

I started reading recipes, as I always do, and pulled out a recipe from Ginny Tarleton for soy nut granola I had made a number of times. I knew I didn’t want to use soy nuts this time around because they hurt my teeth when I bite down on them.

I read that recipe and several others before coming up with a recipe that combines plenty of healthy ingredients including rolled oats and flax seed meal, which I keep in my freezer for bread baking.

For my nuts I chose pecans and almonds. I love toasted pecans (who doesn’t!) and thought they’d add a wonderful addition to the granola, and they did. Next time I make this, I will probably add 1 cup instead of the half-cup I added the first time. I also had roasted almonds on hand, so I chopped them in my food processor and mixed them in as well. (Come to think of it, I didn’t have to buy anything special for this recipe.)

Many granola recipes I read have dried fruit, but I’m not a big fan of dried fruit, so I didn’t add it to mine.

Once mixed, the granola is baked at 325 degrees until nice and brown. You will smell the toasted pecans. It will not have a crunch until it has cooled, so don’t keep baking it until it crunches!

This is a very good granola. I’ve had it sprinkled on vanilla yogurt topped with strawberries and as a breakfast cereal with milk and strawberries. (Can’t wait to try it with blueberries.) It was a very filling breakfast.

Many recipes for granola add cinnamon, and you can add it to this one if you’d like. I made a delicious granola this winter that had cinnamon, and it was good, but I prefer it without. And, you can certainly substitute the type of nut you prefer in this recipe and throw in some dried fruit for good measure!

Easy Nutty Granola
  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds (I used roasted almonds)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, use a spoon to mix oats, almonds, pecans, flaxseed meal and brown sugar. In a small bowl, whisk vanilla, oil, honey and apple juice. Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and stir with a large spoon until blended.

Pour mixture on large cookie sheet or two smaller ones prepared with cooking spray.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Take out of oven and stir. Bake for another 10 minutes. Depending on how thick your granola is on the pan, you may need another 5 to 10 minutes.

The granola will harden some after it cools.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All for a sandwich

Sometimes it just takes an image to convince me to try a recipe. This time around, it was a grilled cheese sandwich I saw on someone’s blog.

It wasn’t just any grilled cheese sandwich, mind you. This sandwich was made with mozzarella cheese between two slices of Italian herb bread. I craved that sandwich to the point that I made a loaf of bread just to recreate it. Sounds like I have way too much time on my hands, but trust me, I don’t!

I had never baked a loaf of bread made with Italian herbs, but I’ve made herb dinner rolls many times. That recipe is a family favorite.

So I decided to try my luck with the Italian herb bread.

First I looked around the Internet for a recipe. I found plenty but decided to make my own. Just a few days before, I had baked a loaf of one of our favorite breads. It’s a recipe I have made plenty of times, so I decided to adapt it for this herb bread. I looked at the herb ingredients on several bread recipes online and also compared the herbs in the dinner rolls we like so much to come up with a combination of herbs — oregano, thyme and sweet basil — that had a wonderful aroma. I added Parmesan cheese for extra flavor.

As usual, I used my bread machine to mix the dough for the first rising. Then I removed the dough from the machine and formed a loaf to rise and bake in a glass loaf pan.

The house smelled so good as my loaf of herb bread baked. I made the bread one day, and had my sandwich the next. I grilled it on the stove with butter, just as I do any other grilled cheese, but I used two slices of mozzarella instead of American cheese.

I must say the sandwich was delicious and worth the effort.

My husband ate the bread with a meal and really enjoyed it. He said it would be delicious dipped in pizza sauce. Last week, I made the bread again, and we all enjoyed the bread with a plateful of spaghetti.

If you have any leftover bread, make croutons.

Herb Bread for Bread Machine
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (I use skim milk)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine yeast or active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sweet basil
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Scald milk. Remove from heat and add olive oil and honey. Stir until butter melts. Cool to room temperature.

Add milk mixture and other ingredients to bread machine in order suggested by manufacturer. Use dough setting. Might need to add extra flour; keep an eye on it.

When dough is complete, form in shape of a loaf and place in greased loaf pan. Let rise for about 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes.

*When I make this bread without herbs, I follow the same recipe but use 2 tablespoons butter instead of olive oil, and omit the oregano, thyme, basil and Parmesan cheese. You can also use 2 cups of bread flour and omit the wheat flour. My husband and I love this recipe for breakfast as toast with jelly or cinnamon toast. We also enjoy it as sandwich bread, especially for toasted pimento cheese.

Lisa Batts

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day treats

I’ve never been a big fan of food colorings, thanks in part to an incident from my childhood when my sister, Susan, and I dyed our milk blue. I still shudder when I think of swallowing that royal blue milk. Suffice it to say that neither of us drank our milk that night, and we never tried that experiment again.

So when thinking of a St. Patrick’s-themed recipe for this column, I surely did not want to suggest adding green food coloring to your mashed potatoes or biscuit dough as a way to bring a bit of the holiday spirt to your dinner table.

Instead, I propose adding some pistachio pudding to a cake mix and making some green cupcakes!

I’ve made a number of cakes where I’ve added vanilla or chocolate pudding mix to the cake batter, but I had never tried pistachio until this week. In fact, I guess I have never even used pistachio pudding for anything because I was surprised when white powder poured out of the envelope when I added it to my mixing bowl. But as soon as the liquid ingredients hit the bowl, a beautiful shade of green emerged.

I opted not to use cupcake holders for these cupcakes because I assumed they would be a pretty shade of green and I wanted to show off the green in the photograph and to my family. They are not a beautiful shade of green on the outside, more of a brown cupcake with a green tint. But once you bite into the cupcake, more green shows.

The cupcake itself is sweet and very good, but it’s not much different from other cupcakes I’ve made with a yellow cake mix. But it is green and would be fun for St. Patrick’s Day treat.

To make your cupcake even more festive, put green sprinkles on top once you’ve frosted it. I use both whipped topping and a chocolate glaze for mine.

Pistachio Cupcakes
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • Pistachio pudding mix (3.4 oz. size)
  • 1⁄2 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 cupcake pans by lining or spraying with baking spray.

Pour all ingredients into a bowl. Mix on high for 2 minutes until all ingredients are blended.

Pour into cupcake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Frost and decorate after the cupcakes have cooled.

Makes 24 cupcakes.