Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade Granola - Chocolate, Cherry and Pecan

This is another wonderful recipe from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.  Not only do the flavors go well together, but the granola ends up crunchy, with a slight taste of salt and sweet to it all.  Since I have made this granola even my fiance has been eating it and not eating his usual cereal.  I have a desire to change up some of the items to experiment and try other flavor combinations, but it will just have to wait.  I have already made a second batch and we still cannot stop eating it by the handful.
 It is sweet and savory at the same time and you too will not be able to stop munching on these delicious treats for breakfast...or snacking....or anytime really.  Who really can resist chocolate and cherry together?

Homemade Chocolate, Cherry and Pecan Granola
3 cups oats (not quick cooking)
1 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup chocolate chips (more if you like it very chocolately)
1/2 pure maple syrup
1/2 virgin coconut oil
1/3 packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 300F.  Mix all of the ingredients, except cherries.  Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 40- 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Removed from oven and let cool.  Add a few more chocolate chips if desired.  When cool add the chopped cherries and mix.

I have made this with hazelnuts, almonds and apricots as well.  Mix it up depending on your tastes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rhubarb Muffins

Since I started growing my own rhubarb, I have collected many recipes to try out.  I have only made a few of them because the few recipes I made went over so well, I didn't need to experiment further.  I had an urge to make muffins one weekend and pulled out a Minnesota cookbook and found this recipe for rhubarb muffins with a crackly topping.  They were cooling on the counter when a friend came over for dinner.  Drawn not only to my cooking, but baking as well, he asked if he could have one on his way out the door.  The answer of course was yes!  They were also shared with my coworkers as they too benefit from my overcooking for a two person household.

Rhubarb Muffins
(adapted from Always Superb by the Junior League of Minneapolis and St. Paul)

Yield: 16 muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together.  Combine 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla in a separate bowl and mix well.  Stir in the flour mixture just until moist.  Fold in the rhubarb.  Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 cup full.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar over the tops of the muffin batter.  Bake at 325 F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from pan to rake for cooling.

Oven Pancakes - Scandinavian Style

When I was in high school, two of my friends worked for a restaurant called Pannenkoeken Huis, which basically meant Pancake House.  They had to wear uniforms which made they look like Dutch girls, and anytime anyone ordered a pannenkoeken they had to call it out while they were delivering it to the table.

At any rate, I don't think these pancake restaurants are around any longer, but when I saw the recipe in my Scandinavia cookbook, I knew I needed to make it.  I invited some friends over for breakfast and as I pulled it from the oven, everyone was shocked at the pancake I had produced.  None of them had seen a puffy oven pancake before, so it was to great acclaim when I served the pancake.

This recipe is adapted from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas.  It has a great presentation and it is best served hot from the oven, so be prepared and have your toppings ready!

Oven Pancake

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter (or 1/4 cup)

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk , flour, sugar and salt.  Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 500 F.  Melt the butter in an oven safe skillet as the oven preheats.  Remove just when butter is nearly melted.  Make sure to coat the sides of the pan with the butter.  Pour in the pancake batter and bake for about 15 minutes or until puffed up with a set center.  Serve immediately.  I served with lemons and powdered sugar as one option.  Another option was fresh blueberries and strawberries with vanilla whipped cream.  (Do not mix the two.)

Serves 4.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Making Homemade Cheese

Homemade cheese is something I never thought I would be doing or that I could do without a lot more things which I don't already have in my kitchen.  However, I was happy to find a couple of cheese recipes which do not require anything out of the ordinary.  This recipe for a simple cheese comes from a cookbook I recently purchased called Home Made by Yvette van Boven.  I was excited to read through this book as I love to make things from scratch.  Her photos and procedures are easy to follow and several of them have step by step procedures like the one for making the cheese.

The recipe is simple....4 cups milk and 4 cups buttermilk. Plus a few drops of lemon juice and a teaspoon salt.
 This is what is looks like as you heat the milk, buttermilk and lemon juice.  You can see the edges starting to separate into whey and curds.  Once they have separated you have curds.
 These are the curds which are left behind.  They are better known as ricotto cheese.  To continue to a block form, add the teaspoon salt and stir.  This is now lightly salted fresh cheese.

To actually make the form you will need a can with both ends cut off and cheese cloth.  You place the curds into the cheesecloth and place a weight on the can (with a plate below).  Keep the weight in place for about 12 hours and you will end up with a small block of cheese.  You can even see the pattern from the cheesecloth on the cheese.
 It makes about 8 ounces of fresh cheese.  I served it with the artisan bread that I have been making consistently now for a year.  It went vary well with the sesame version of it.  Enjoy!

Pineapple Cakes

Last year I traveled to Asia for the first time.  As in traveling to any new place, I was excited to see my family, but I was also excited to have a new place to explore.  Not only would I see a great deal of Hong Kong during my stay there, but I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel into China and see a small piece of the mainland.  In addition to seeing a bunch of new places, I was able to try a lot of new food.  While the sweets are not as sweet as they are in the U.S., they were still present and very good.  Once of my favorites was a pineapple cake.  You could find them individually packaged in a sort of bakery just for these types of sweets.  I didn't think that I would be able to find them in the U.S., but they are available in Asian grocery stores....the unfortunate part was they didn't taste the same.  So in my nature is to find something which I would be able to make at home and here it is....this recipe is adapted from two I found online.  This version has a crumbly almost pie like outside instead of a firmer more cake-like texture.  Both are delicious as once you bit into the pineapple, all the flavors meld together.

Pineapple Cakes
Makes 24 pineapple cakes.
2½ cups flour
⅛ teaspoon. baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons nonfat milk powder, sifted to break up lumps
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup shortening (I used butter flavored)
½ cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 recipe Pineapple Paste (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and milk powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Place the butter, shortening and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat on medium-low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed. Add the remaining flour and beat until all of the flour has been absorbed, 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat 1 minute. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces and roll each piece into a 10-inch log. Wrap each log tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  4. Cut each log into 12 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Use a tablespoon measure to divide the pineapple paste into 24 evenly sized 1-tablespoon balls.
  5. Place a dough ball in the palm of your hand and flatten into a disk.  Divide dough in half and flatten each part.  Pat into a small tart pan.  Place a teaspoon or more if you wish of pineapple paste in the center of the disk, place the other half of the dough on top and pinch shut
  6. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.. Place the tart pan on wire racks to cool 10 minutes before transferring the cakes to the racks to cool completely.  They can be tricky to remove from the tart pans.  After letting them cook thoroughly they are easier to remove.
Pineapple Paste
Makes 1½ cups pineapple paste

12 oz. (weight) peeled, cored, diced pineapple (from 1 pineapple)
1 pound, 4 ounces of peeled, seeded, diced winter melon (from about 2½ pounds winter melon wedges)
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup agave syrup

  1. Finely chop pineapple and melon.  Pour into a dutch oven.  Cook the combined mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the winter melon begins turning translucent, about 20 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar, and cook until the mixture has thickened, about 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the agave syrup and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, sticky, and uniformly light amber in color, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Transfer mixture to a shallow bowl and refrigerate until cool.