Spicy Kale Chips

Spicy Kale Chips

I hit a carb wall over the weekend. Not that I don’t love all the cake, cookies, candy, and scones I’ve been gorging on mind you. I can make a breakfast out of a swirl of warm cinnamon rolls draped with icing as eagerly as Paula Deen. But after a long weekend of traveling back east for a beautiful family wedding, I found myself thinking about kale chips somewhere between grab-n-go airport food that satisfied my hunger and little else, and my second indulgent helping of wedding cake capped with a thick layer of fluffy frosting.

And I don’t think I’m alone. When I mentioned my kale chips over the weekend, people’s eyes lit up. Or maybe that was just the glow from my sugar high. Regardless, I knew as soon I got back home, they would be the first thing I would make.

Kale is grown year-round, but it’s at its best in the winter, which is just the opposite from what you might think. Summertime heat and drier conditions conspire to produce a more bitter, tough leaf; whereas the colder, more damp conditions of the winter support a more tender leaf with milder flavor. So we’re in prime kale season now, which is why it will start to pop up on January food magazine covers.

There are a few kinds of kale typically seen at the markets this time of year: the beautiful Red Russian kale, which shimmers with purple highlights on its silver-green leaves; dinosaur kale, with its prehistoric look of pebbly, dark forest green leaves, also known as Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, lacinato, or dino kale; and curly green kale, with its frilly, green leaves. All are packed full of nutrients, making this one of the healthiest greens you can ingest.

Spicy Kale Chips

Spicy Kale Chips

Cook’s Notes:

  • These chips are a great entry point to kale for kids and adults alike, although for kids, I suggest eliminating the cayenne and sweet paprika.
  • I’ve made these kale chips successfully with both dino and curly green kale, but I prefer the shape of the latter.
  • The center stalk of each leaf should always be removed when cooking kale; it’s very tough and no amount of cooking is going to significantly soften it. Think thick floss.
  • You can cut the kale into bite-sizes pieces if in a hurry, but you’ll get prettier shapes if you tear them; although I should add that kale chips are not the prettiest type of chip you’ll probably ever make.
  • I wash kale by tossing it in a bowl filled with ice water, spinning dry in a salad spinner, and laying out on paper towels. If the kale is a little limp coming out of the refrigerator, soaking it in a bowl of ice water is a great way to perk it up!
  • It’s important to line the baking sheet with parchment paper, otherwise the kale leaves will stick to the pan as they bake and crumble when you try to remove them.

Prepping It…

  • 2 bunches curly green kale, central stalk removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ – ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika (I use Pimenton de la Vera) (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated

Making It…

Preheat the oven to 275° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see Cook’s Notes).


Washing Kale

Kale Ice Bath

Wash and completely dry the kale. Set aside, sandwiched between paper towels, while you make the dressing.

Place the rice vinegar in a small bowl. Add the salt and spices (if using them) and whisk a few times to dissolve the salt. Slowly add the olive oil, while whisking to get a good emulsion. Take a kale leaf and dip it into the dressing and take a bite. Adjust the seasoning to your own taste.

Place the dry kale leaves in a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over it. Toss thoroughly with your hands and add more dressing as needed.

Spicy Kale Chips about to go into the oven

Dressed kale ready for baking

Lay the dressed kale leaves on the prepped baking sheets in a single layer. The leaves can touch each other, but if the leaves are overlapping too much, they’ll steam and never get crispy.

Grate the Parmesan cheese over the leaves.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until crispy.

Serving It…

  • Eat like a potato chip
  • Crumble over soups, salads, baked apples, pizza or popcorn.



Posted in Appetizers, Condiments, Greens, Snack | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Gift #6: Maple-Honey Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

For me, nothing evokes living in the country quite like fruit butters. A warm, soft biscuit fresh from the oven burnished with apple butter, and immediately I’m curled up in the kitchen of a farmhouse like a cat in the sun; lazily listening to chickens cluck outside as they peck hungrily, staccato-like, at the ground. And I’m once again in Parker’s kitchen.

When I was very young, and my mother went back to work, she found an older woman, Mrs. Parker, to look after me during the week. This was long before the burgeoning day care options that we now enjoy and my mother endured some criticism from well-meaning friends for her decision. But the truth is, it was the beginning of one of the most important relationships from my childhood; one that anchored me in ways I only fully appreciated as I grew older.

Parker, as I called her, had a tiny house flanked by flower gardens on one side; and fruit trees, concord grape vines, and a huge vegetable garden on the other. In between, assorted work sheds that somehow survived each Pennsylvania winter; a rambling chaos of hundreds of blackberry bushes; and a chicken coop. For a child, it was a wonderland of something new to explore everyday.

Inside the house, her simple kitchen was bright and sunny, filled with pots of herbs. Next to the stove was a stool, so I could watch her canning. Many afternoons, before taking me home, she poured us both a cup of tea, and we shared a warm biscuit slathered with the apple butter she made from her apples, as we talked about our day together. It made me feel so grown up, drinking hot tea in her chipped cups, and to this day, my love of relaxing over an afternoon cup of freshly brewed tea served with cream and sugar, accompanied by warm biscuit blanketed with fruit butter, is a legacy of those lazy, loving afternoons in Parker’s kitchen.

This pumpkin butter recipe is dedicated to her memory, and her gift to me of a love for preserving the fruits of the season. I roasted my first pumpkin last month, and have been making all kinds of pumpkin-y things for several weeks now, as if I just discovered pumpkins for the first time. So it was only natural that one of the things I would make, and share, would be pumpkin butter for a biscuit.

Honey-Maple Pumpkin Butter

Cook’s Notes:

  • The sweetening for this fruit butter comes from the apple cider, honey and maple syrup, and uses less sweetening than most recipes I’ve seen. This is largely because the pumpkin is roasted in the oven, which naturally sweetens it through the baking process. If you use canned pumpkin purée, you may need to use a little more honey and/or maple syrup.

Ingredients…

  • 1 sugar pie pumpkin, about 2 pounds
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Making It…

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice the pumpkin into 4 -5 large sections. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pump and discard (unless you want to save them for roasting!). Place the pumpkin slices on a baking sheet with the cut side facing down, and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.
  2. Remove from the oven, and when cool enough to be handled, peel and cut into large cubes. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade and process until completely smooth. Pour into a medium saucepan.
  3. Over medium heat, reheat the pumpkin purée and add the rest of the ingredients. Adjust the honey and maple syrup to taste, and simmer until the pumpkin butter is the consistency of applesauce. The time can vary based on the amount of moisture in the pumpkin, but this took me about 10 minutes. It’s ready when you can scoop up a little on a spoon, turn the spoon so that it’s perpendicular to the pot, and no pumpkin butter slides off.
  4. Make some biscuits, and brew some tea. Sit by the window with a good book, and spread some of this pumpkin goodness on a warm biscuit. In the midst of the busy holiday season, exhale and appreciate life and all its gifts.
  5. Stir into some yogurt, if you must.
  6. Pour into small jars and give as a gift.
  7. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Posted in Breakfast / Brunch, Canning and Preserving, Condiments, GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, MY PANTRY, Snack, Squash, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Rugelach Cookie Project

rugelach cookies

Sometimes the successful execution of a recipe is more than just following the directions, especially when it comes to a cookie you have never eaten before.

I made a new cookie this week, and it did not go well. I checked the ingredient list twice, carefully reviewed the steps, and on the surface of it, did everything right. But the flavor and texture came out wrong, and the cookie didn’t look anything like the photo (nor, truthfully, did it look anything like what any kind of cookie should look like). All that time and money, completely wasted. If you’ve ever done this, you know how frustrating that is! Aarrgh!!!

As many of you know, this month I’m co-hosting a Cookie Love Blog Hop with a number of fabulous bakers (#cookielove on twitter).  We kicked it off last weekend with great success, and will be posting cookie recipes all month. You can see all the recipes but clicking on the Linky Tools link in this post, and can even join in the fun by using it to link in any of your own cookie recipes that you’ve posted this month. More information on all this is provided in the Cookie Love kickoff posting.

So, one recent evening as I was sifting through an impressive mountain of cookie recipes and ideas, I asked my husband, Myles, if he had a favorite holiday cookie from his childhood he’d like me to make. His face lit up, and his eyes took on a dreamy glow, as he listed off his favorite childhood sweets. At the top of his list was a special rugelach cookie that his mom occasionally made for Hanukkah, including a special batch just for him without any nuts, because of his nut allergies. I’d never actually had a rugelach cookie, but was undaunted. I naïvely thought to myself: “It’s a cookie. How hard could it be? It’s not like this is a Daring Baker’s Challenge.”  And with that, The Rugelach Cookie Project was launched.

Lacking a family recipe, I first pored over my baking cookbooks, scrupulously studying them for ingredients, variations, and tips. Next I went to some trusted blogs. After a couple of hours, I decided on a recipe, lined up the ingredients, read through the instructions, and got started. Eighteen hours later, I sadly pulled some lumpy, shapeless cookies from the oven.

Rugelach cookies

Hoping they tasted better than they looked, Myles tried one.

“Hmm” was all I got at first. And I should note that the “hmm” did not sound like “mmm” – as in wow, that’s delicious. It sounded more like one of those “Uh-oh… how honest should I be?” kind of “hmms”.

I stayed mute, a rare thing for me, as those of you who know me will attest to. But I didn’t want to rush the verdict.

Reaching for a second cookie, he carefully rendered his opinion: “…they taste great, babe, and I know you worked really hard on these…but the texture…well, it’s too…um, …doughy.” And then all at once: “Andthey’retooflat, theyshouldbemorepuffedup, andthere’stoomuchapricotjam.”

OK. (Sigh)

And then, as he was walking out the kitchen, he lobbed a final grenade: “Andthere’stoomuchchocolateinthem.”

Too much chocolate? I didn’t realize this was possible for a man to say who can polish off a jar of hot fudge topping in a couple days. Folks, I HIDE chocolate from him so I can have enough to bake with.

Bottom line, they tasted good (although overpowered by all the chocolate), but the point was: they weren’t rugelach cookies. And it took someone who had eaten them before, to be able to tell me that although I had painstakingly followed every step, I had ended up with a completely different cookie. And not one I should make again – I might add.

Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, making them was NOT the easy path I had been promised in the recipe. Here were the problems, in the order that they happened:

  • The dough was very difficult to work with. I re-refrigerated it at intervals, but it seesawed between cracking from the cold, and becoming limp and sticky as it warmed up, with only a 5-second, easy-to-roll window to work with. Ok, maybe it was a longer window than that, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. Working with a temperamental dough also forced me to make larger cookies, since cutting each gooey dough circle into 16 narrow, precise triangles was impossible. Frankly, I was lucky to get the 8 I had.
  • The dough was heavy and dense, compounded by the thick apricot jam that contained bits of fruit.
  • The mini chocolate chips were a little too big, which at first glance may seem like a good thing. But the size made it difficult to form the cookies into their hallmark crescent shapes, resulting in lumpy cookies that looked more sloppy than rustic. Additionally the chips weighed down the layers, and overwhelmed the other flavors in the filling.
  • In the oven, butter melted out of the cookies and flowed like liquid, golden lava all over the pan, which did nothing for their texture or appearance.

I conceded gracefully. Round 1: Rugelach Cookie 1; Me 0.

Unwilling to be defeated by a cookie, I headed back to the drawing board. After much thought, additional research, and more detailed discussions with Myles, I got a clearer idea of what to be shooting for, and came up with a few solutions. Thank God for all those baking classes I took in school, is all I can say.

So let’s talk about the solutions.

  1. First, I tackled the dough texture, since this appeared to be my biggest single problem. After some experimenting, I settled on doubling the amount of flour to make the dough easier to work with. This also resulted in a less dense cookie dough that, when combined with the chilled butter and cream cheese, now had layers of flakiness.
  2. I warmed up the apricot jam and strained it, but found I didn’t need to cut back on the amount. Straining out any fruit lumps gave me a smooth jelly that was easy to brush evenly on the dough.
  3. I combined the mini chocolate chips with the brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor to chop the chips into smaller nuggets. (I was concerned that if I just threw the chips into the processor by themselves, they might soften from the warmth of the blade. Throwing them in the freezer with the blade and processor bowl would have solved that, but since they were all going into the filling anyway, I chose to throw them all together.)
  4. I froze the shaped cookies for 1 1/2 hour before baking them off, which almost completely eliminated the oozing butter lava flow. Two hours of freezing would likely have completely eliminated it, which I later saw on Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen blog, and I’ll head in that direction next time.
  5. And just for fun, I soaked the currants in some rum to plump them up and bring out their flavor.

The result was an amazing rugelach cookie, straight out of Myles’ childhood that might be my new favorite cookie. This time when he tested one, his face lit up. “You got it, sweetie!!”  What a team. They’ll definitely be on the table for Hanukkah and Christmas this year. And now for the recipe!

rugelach cookie

 Rugelach Cookies for Myles

Cook’s Notes:

  • Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. Mine are nut-free, but fillings can include raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, poppy seed, or fruit preserves, or anything your imagination serves up.
  • Rugelach cookies are a traditional Jewish cookie eaten any time of year, and despite the fact they’re not fried in oil, some sources indicate rugelach cookies are traditional on Hanukkah. For more information, wikipedia is a pretty good resource.

Makes 32 perfect crescent cookies!

Ingredients…

For the Dough

  • 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into around 8 pieces
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into around 8 pieces
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling

  • 2/3 cup apricot jam, heated and strained
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • ½ cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the Glaze

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado (raw, coarse) sugar

Making It…

Making the Dough

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a blade. Pulse 15-20 times or until the dough forms large curds. Be careful not to process it so long that it forms one big ball on the blade!
  2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide in half, and form gently into 2 disks. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.

Making the Filling

  1. Soak the currants in the rum until soft and plump, about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat up the apricot jam in a small pot or in the microwave oven just enough that the jam liquifies. Strain.
  3. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and chocolate chips together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, and pulse until the chocolate chips are reduced to small, ¼” nuggets.

Shaping the Cookies

  1. Remove the first disk of dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour a work surface and begin to roll out the dough. If the edges crack, let the dough sit on the work surface for 5 minutes to allow it to warm up a bit. Pinch the cracked edges back to together, and continue to roll the disk out to a circle that’s 11 – 12 inches across. It’s important to have as evenly round a circle as possible.
  2. Brush half of the strained apricot jam onto the dough circle; and sprinkle half of the filling over the jam. Finish by sprinkling half of the currants over the surface.
  3. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equal, triangular slices. The best way to do this is to slice the dough circle in half, and then into quarters. Moving the pizza wheel or knife from one side of the circle to the opposite side, slice those quarters in half again to form 8 triangles, and one last time to form 16 triangles.
  4. Carefully slide one of the triangles away from the dough circle, and roll it up into a crescent shape, starting with the base of the triangle. It should look like a small croissant. Place on a tray, with the point of the triangle facing down, tucked under the cookie.
  5. Wipe any loose filling from the work space, and repeat with the remaining dough. Place the tray in the freezer.
  6. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Freeze the crescents for at least 1 ½ – 2 hours, until solid.

Baking Them Off

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F, and make the glaze by beating the egg and cream together until smooth. Remove the cookies from the freezer, and brush on the glaze as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the tops of the cookies and immediately place them in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until puffed and a golden brown.
  2. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack, and cool to room temperature.
  3. Celebrate success, because this may have been a Daring Baker’s Challenge after all!!!
Posted in Desserts, GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

Cookie Blog Hop: Robin’s Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Cookie Blog Hop: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Cookie Love Bloghop

If November is the month for thinking about baking pumpkin pie, then December is all about making cookies. So, I was really excited when I was invited to co-host this month’s Cookie Love Bloghop. All though December, a group of us food bloggers posting from all around the world are linking together all of our cookie recipe posts.

This weekend, all weekend, is the kickoff for Cookie Love, and we’ll all be posting our cookies for everyone to see through Sunday night. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anymore cookies after that; cookies will be posted all month and linked through a cool tool called, simply enough, ‘linky tool’. Duh.

And you can join too! Link up any cookie recipe that you’ve posted on your blog the month of December 2011 to the rest of our posts. If you click on the below link, it will take you to a page with photos of all the cookies posted so far as part of Cookie Love. Each photo is linked to the blog that shares the recipe. Below the photos are instructions and a link for you to add your own cookie to the  batch, so to speak. But don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #cookielove event!  Oh, and our twitter hashtag is #cookielove.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Check out the cookies by my amazing co-hosts:

Kimberly at Badger Girl Learns to Cook

Becky at Baking and Cooking: A Tale of Two Loves

Erin at Big Fat Baker

Salome at Bloc de recetes

Valerie at Bon a croquer

Terra at CafeTerraBlog

Lora at Cake Duchess

Karriann at Creative Cooking Corner

Three Cookies at Easily Good Eats

Georgie at Georgiecakes

Richa at Hobby and More

Deb at Knitsamatic

Mike at Mike’s Baking

Junia at Mis Pensamientos

T.R. at No One Likes Crumbley Cookies

Jessica at Oh Cake

Elizabeth at Queen’s Notebook

Linda at Savoring Every Bite

Reem at Simply Reem

Soni at Soni’s Food for Thought

Deanna at Teaspoon of Spice

Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake!!

Laura at The Art of Cooking Real Food

EA Steward at The Spicy RD

Raji at Vegetarian Tastebuds

And now for my first cookie recipe! (Drum roll)

I decided to kick off the month of Cookie Love with a recipe I got from my husband’s step-daughter, Robin. I’ve tweaked it a little bit, for example I’ve added chocolate chips, but it’s really her recipe.  My husband and I were visiting Robin and her family over a year ago, and after a day of making pasta together with my little granddaughter, Robin whipped up these cookies while we were watching TV. I ate at least 10 of them in about 15 minutes.

Some food is delicious to eat and excites our senses, making us want more; some food is laced with a memory that takes us back to a comforting or happy day. These cookies, for me, are both. The combination of the chewy rolled oats, creamy peanut butter and chocolate nuggets is a perfect balance of flavors and textures. But the real gift in these cookies: every time I make them, I remember a rainy day spent in the kitchen with Robin and my little granddaughter, Natalie, making pasta for an amazing dinner and eating lots of these cookies afterwards.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips 2

Robin’s Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

with Chocolate Chips

Cook’s Notes: 

  • Sometimes I like a thin crispy cookie, for example to go with ice cream. For that, I beat the butter and sugars together for a couple of minutes in a standing mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. The butter should turn a slightly lighter, and will become fluffy. I add the egg, and continue beating for another minute or two, before folding in the dry ingredients.
  • If you prefer a thicker, chewier cookie, just mix the ingredients together until they all come together into a dough, and no longer than that.
  • You will have better baking results with a cheaper brand of peanut butter, such as Skippy, than with the healthier, natural, peanut butters.
  • When removing the cookies from the oven, before reusing the baking pan, cool the pan off with running water before scooping more cookie dough onto it.
  • The dough can be frozen in scoops for easy defrosting and baking off when you want a few!

Ingredients…

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or more if preferred

Making It…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F  and place a silpat or a sheet of parchment paper on baking pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk it a few times to thoroughly distribute the baking soda and powder through the flour. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened butter for two to three minutes so that it’s lightened in color and fluffy. Add the sugars and peanut butter and beat to completely mix and add the egg and vanilla extract, and continue to beat for another two minutes for a crispier cookie. For a chewier cookie, please refer to the Cook’s Notes above.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients gradually on the lowest setting of your mixer, or by hand. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips by hand.
  5. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips 3

Posted in Desserts, GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN | Tagged , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Gift #5: Crack Granola

Granola with Dried Fruit

Granola with Dried Fruit

I have struggled for years to find a nut-free granola that I like. Both my husband and I suffer nut allergies, and as a friend once volunteered: it kind of takes the fun out of it if you need to have an epi pen nearby.

Aaah… yeah.

But oddly, I hadn’t really thought to make my own. And God alone knows why, when I make my own ketchup, brown sugar, farmer’s cheese, preserves, and mayonnaise! Go figure.

So, about a year ago, I started to experiment with granola recipes and came up with some versions I really liked. A lot. Maybe too much. Over the space of a few days, I graduated from stirring my newest, favorite version into my virtuous yogurt, and having it as a small, mid-afternoon I-need-a-healthy-munchie-with-some-sugar-in-it snack, to trying it on acorn squash and mixing it into cookie dough. Before I was done, I mixed it into apple turnovers, put a little into my pancake batter, added it to the crumbled topping for a pear fruit crisp, and sprinkled a little over ice cream. Some experiments had a better outcome than others. (Note: unless you want pancakes that stick to your teeth, don’t try this one.) Clearly I was teetering on the edge of needing an intervention, but I thankfully pulled back from the edge when I started sprinkling it on my kale salad.

It keeps changing a little from the first one I settled on, but the great thing about granola is that it’s a bit like a blank canvas that allows for a variety of preferences.

The healthy part of my mixture is rolled oats, sunflower kernels, roasted pumpkin seeds, ground up flax seed, and ½ cup dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, cherries and currants in my case). I’ve also used wheat germ in place of flax seed. Oh, and I’m going to include cacao nibs in this category too, which is a fabulous idea from Jennifer on Food52 that I’ve added to my current favorite version.

A few spices are thrown in to amp up the party: cinnamon, cardamom and a little salt.

And the not-so-healthy part is a combination of brown sugar, maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, honey and canola oil. All I can say here is to use as little of this mixture as you think you can get away with.

Granola is so easy to make, great for hostess / holiday gifts, and you get the side benefit of your kitchen smelling like Christmas.

So NOW I’m thinking of turning it into Holiday Potpourri…

Granola with Dried Fruit

My Favorite Granola With Lots of Dried Fruit

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients…

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed (or wheat germ)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons salted roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, minced (I used a combo of dried apricots, currants and tart cherries)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or regular molasses)
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

Making It…

  1. Preheat the oven to 250° F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, spices, dried fruit, and cacao nibs. Mix well with your hands or a large spoon.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the honey, molasses, vegetable oil, and maple syrup together until well combined. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cardamom until the brown sugar is completely absorbed by the liquid. Add to the dry mixture and mix well with a large spoon or spatula until everything is well coated.
  3. Spread the granola mixture evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes. It’s important to stir the mixture every 8-10 minutes pulling all the mixture from the edges and corners into the middle of the baking sheet and re-spreading the mixture. You might also want to rotate the cookie sheet after each stirring.
  4. The granola is done when the mixture starts to darken a shade or two and you can smell the spices in the mixture.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to dry until crispy (about 10-15 minutes).
  6. If you’re keeping a stash for yourself, store in sealed baggies or jars. I’ve kept mine stored like this up to a month. It might keep fresh longer; it just doesn’t last that long in my house….

Granola with Dried Fruit

Posted in Breakfast, GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, Grains, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Thanksgiving Reflections

Braised Endive and Fennel Gratin

Meeting holiday expectations can be hard.

Sometimes the expectations (and hopes) we have around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentines, take such an idealistic shape thanks to the messages we get on TV, in movies, and all around us, that unless we have a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, we’ve somehow come up a bit short.

While I’ve had some great Thanksgivings as weighed against that metric, and, well, let’s just say some not so much, they’ve been mostly filled with people I care about and who care about me. And I’m thankful for that.

But as the years have passed, I find that more than any other holiday, Thanksgiving has evolved from the family Thanksgivings of my childhood, into a day that reflects where I am in life, and what’s important to me, at that point in time.

Thoughts.

Childhood and Teen Years

  • Parents
  • Resentfully wearing my Sunday best
  • Generally resentful
  • Fried clam dinners at Howard Johnson’s on shiny, smooth, cold formica table
  • Family friends
  • Aroma of my mom’s Pecan Pie, baking in the oven
  • First cheesecake I made; huge Grand Canyon crack down the middle
  • Wanting a large, noisy family to have Thanksgiving with

20’s and 30’s

  • Large, noisy, orphan-dinners (for single people far from home)
  • Wine
  • FEAST
  • Cooking together
  • More wine
  • Laughter
  • More wine
  • Team Pictionary after dinner

40’s

  • Friends with college-age / adult kids
  • Football on TV in the den
  • Bringing a favorite dish to share
  • Champagne
  • Extended families
  • Reunion
  • China and crystal on a pristine, crisp tablecloth
  • Noisy
  • Laughter
  • Connection
  • Thanks

50’s

  • Married
  • Husband’s family
  • Adult children and their spouses I care very much for
  • Love
  • Connection
  • Laughter and antics of young children now in my family and heart
  • Friends that are family
  • Relaxation
  • Football
  • Comfort
  • Caring for elders and those not well
  • Great food, thoughtfully prepared
  • Wine to toast our thanks

For me, that says it all.

And now, a dish from our Thanksgiving table this year. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving as measured against any metric you choose; no matter how small and intimate, or large and noisy it was.

Braised Fennel and Endive Gratin

Braised Endive and Fennel Gratin with Cranberries

Ingredients…

  • 4 heads of Belgian Endive, cut in half, lengthwise through the root
  • 3 medium bulbs of fennel
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, or enough to immerse the fennel
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • handful of fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup or more of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Making It…

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lay the halved endive in a baking pan.
  2. Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb and discard (or keep for another use). Cut the bulb in half lengthwise, and cut very thin wedges, lengthwise, keeping part of the bulb root that holds each wedge together. If that’s not possible, don’t sweat it. The most important thing here is to cut the fennel as thinly as possible. Scatter the wedges around the endive.
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small skillet. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the flour to form a paste. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth until smooth. Add half of the cheese, and the rest of the broth and pour over the  endive and fennel. Add enough vegetable broth to just submerge the fennel.
  4. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top, followed by the cranberries and breadcrumbs. Just before putting the dish in the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the fennel is tender and the cheese is nicely browned.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. Share.
Posted in Endive, Fennel, Side Dishes | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Chiles Rellenos – Frittata Style

Chiles Rellenos Frittata Style

Looking for a holiday breakfast? Here’s a great one I’m planning on. It’s inspired by a recipe I saw in Sunset Magazine years ago for Baked Chiles Rellenos. The recipe is long-lost, but I’ll always remember the photo: whole poblano chiles lazily reclining in puffy, cheesy, eggs. The baking powder in the recipe is what makes them fluffy, and my husband swore it was an egg souffle.

Feel free to experiment with different cheeses, and don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It comes together pretty easily. And best of all for a holiday breakfast – make it the day before, let it spend the night in the refrigerator, and just bake it off in time for breakfast the next morning and look like a Food Network star!

Oh, and Wimpy Vegetarian Warning, it has sausage in it! But the sausage can be eliminated without making any other changes.

Chiles Rellenos - Frittata Style

Chiles Rellenos – Frittata Style

Serves 6

Ingredients…

  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 poblano chiles
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red pepper, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese, grated, or other Mexican mild cheese)
  • 1 cup manchego cheese, grated, divided
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2/3 pound your favorite sausage (I used a mix of spicy and mild)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup your favorite cheese (I’ve used goat, colby and jack cheeses and all are great)

Making It… 

  1. Combine the red onion and red wine vinegar in a small bowl and let soak for 30 minutes. Turn the broiler on and lay the poblano chiles out on a baking pan. Cut a tiny slit in the top of each chile and broil until the skin blackens. Turn the peppers over as needed to evenly blacken the skin. Remove and slide into a ziplock bag and close it up. Let the pepper sit until cooled. Remove and carefully peel the skin. Cut a slit all the way down the front of each pepper and carefully remove all the seeds.
  2. Remove the corn from the corn cobs and combine it with the beans, red pepper, 1/2 cup of cotija cheese and 3/4 cup of the manchego. Add the red onion and the red wine vinegar and mix well. Add salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Fill the peppers with the corn filling and lay in a baking pan.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Remove the sausage from its casing, and fry it up, crumbling it as it cooks. Let cool.
  5. Mix the eggs with the flour and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Add the cooled sausage, 1/4 cup of cotija cheese and 1/4 cup of your favorite cheese in eggs. Cheddar, Jack, and colby are all good choices. Even goat cheese is pretty delicious! Mix well and pour around the peppers in the baking dish.
  6. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 30 -45 minutes, or until the eggs are set in the middle. Serve immediately with a side of breakfast potatoes or a salad.
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Posted in Breakfast / Brunch, Peppers | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments