Pantry Clean Out Granola 


A few weeks ago I decided to repurpose some of my oatmeal / oatmeal toppings into granola.  I almost always have oatmeal, dried fruit, and a variety of nuts in the pantry.  Because it has been so hot out, a bowl of oatmeal isn’t really that appealing.  But granola?  Absolutely.  I love it as a snack because it’s so filling and packed with nutrients.  I also like that once you have a basic formula down you can customize it and make it with anything on hand.  It’s also vegan, if that is important to you.

The basic formula is oats, nuts and/or seeds, shredded coconut (but you could leave this out!), a binder made of olive oil and maple syrup, some kind of seasoning, and dried fruit.  It then gets baked at a low temperature, cooled, and then broken up into pieces.  I love that this recipe is kind of basic because I always have this stuff on hand.  I always rule out granola recipes with weird binders like brown rice syrup because I don’t like buying speciality ingredients that are kind of uni-taskers.  I also avoid granola recipes that are overly sweet.  This one really isn’t!  The only sugar is natural – from the maple syrup and dried fruit (and honestly that may have added sugar — so if this is a concern, read the label before buying).  It could even go savory by changing out the spices.

I like my granola to be full of little clusters, and I finally realized that the way to achieve this is to really pack it into the sheet pan and not spread it out at all, and then avoid stirring it until it is completely cooled.

I have adapted my recipe from one from Carla Lalli Music’s.  It is so good that I’ve been making it at least once a week and eating it dry, as cereal, or as a yogurt topping.  I’ve adapted the recipe by cutting it in half (because it’s just a more manageable amount and I’m really just making this for Rob and myself) and adding ground flax seeds.  I like this addition because I found that it helps bind the granola.
Recipe 

Ingredients

1.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup of seeds and nuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds  (almond flour would work, too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp cardamom or cinnamon
3/4 cup dried fruit
Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Start by mixing together the oats, nuts, coconut, flax seed, salt and cardamom.  Don’t mix in the fruit yet.  It is going to get mixed in after it comes out of the oven.  I made this mistake the first time I made this granola and had to painstakingly rake golden raisons out of my mixture.  They look sooooo similar to walnuts.  Don’t do this to yourself.  Add the olive oil and maple syrup and stir until everything is well-coated.

Pack the mixture into a sheet tray, only use about half the pan, don’t spread it out.  Pull the granola out of the oven when your kitchen starts to smell like toasted nuts and everything is sort of golden brown – about 25-30 minutes.  The cooking time really depends on your oven.  I would play around with lower/longer cooking.

Once the granola is out of the oven, sprinkle the dried nuts overtop and press them in.  Do not stir our break up the granola until it is completely cool.  Resist picking out little clusters and snacking on them because it will be like molten hot and really not enjoyable.


So clustery! 
So far my favorite combos are golden raison / walnut, cashew / cranberry, and pecan / dried blueberry.  I have also just done a mix of everything.  I really like flavoring it with cardamom, but cinnamon would be fine, too.   Let me know if you make this or if you have any interesting flavor ideas!

CARDAMOM SWIRL BREAD

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*Adapted from a recipe in Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann

My favorite thing from my trip to Sweden last year was the incredible tradition of Fika.  Fika is like a coffee break but is focused on slowing down rather than speeding up.  It’s about taking a moment to enjoy the company of a friend, a cup of coffee, and (most importantly) a sweet treat.  My favorite pastry was the kardemummabullar (in English, cardamom bun). Unlike a traditional cinnamon roll, which is rolled and sliced and looks like a snail’s shell, the cardamom buns are cut in strips and wrapped into something resembling a ball of yarn.  This formation disperses the cardamom filling generously throughout the bun.

My aim in creating this cardamom bread was to make something like the cardamom bun, but in a loaf, so it could be easily served in slices.  It also seemed easier than forming all those yarn balls.

This recipe can be made as a cinnamon bread instead of cardamom: just sub out the cardamom for cinnamon in the dough, filling, and topping, swap the granulated sugar for light brown sugar in the filling, and omit the orange zest.

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Ingredients

Dough 
2 1/4 tsp. Active dry yeast (should be one packet, but measure it just in case)
1 c. Milk, warmed (about 110 degrees)
1 Egg
425 g. All-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups)
50 g. Sugar (1/4 cup)
1 tsp. Cardamom
1/4 tsp. Salt
75 g. Softened butter, cut into pieces

Filling 
100 g. Butter, softened (7 tbl.)
75 g. Sugar (1/3 c.)
2 tsp. Cardamom
1 tbl. Orange zest

Topping
2 tbl sugar
1 tsp. Cardamom

Method

Add the warmed milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the yeast and whisk just to break up the yeast a little.  Let the mixture stand for about five minutes until the yeast starts to activate (it will look a little foamy).  Add the egg and whisk to incorporate.  Switch the whisk attachment for the dough hook.  Add the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt and mix on medium until the dough starts to form. Add the butter a few pieces at a time and turn the mixer up to high.  Let the mixer knead the dough for about 8 minutes.  The dough will be smooth and all pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Scrape the dough off the hook, cover the bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours to rise.

Make the filling by mixing butter, sugar, cardamom, and zest in a bowl until the mixture is the consistency of cake frosting.  It should be soft and easily spreadable.  Leave it at room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 9 x 16.  Spread the filling on the dough in an even layer.  Fold it in fourths — think of folding a letter, but with one more fold. It should be about the size of the loaf pan.   The dough is really soft and stretchy, so work quickly to avoid stretching it out too much.  Cut the folded dough into thirds length-wise.  Braid the strips, tuck the ends under, and plop it into a pan.

 

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Sprinkle the dough with with the cardamom-sugar mix.  Bake at 350° F for 45-55 minutes.  Test with an instant-read thermometer; the internal temperature should be around 200° F.  Let it cool before turning it out of the pan.

 

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Helpful Tools: 

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Bench Scraper, Loaf Pan, Instant Read Thermometer, Scale 

Apple Tart

Apple Tart 

Recently I made an apple tart that I really liked.  It wasn’t too sweet and the thin layer of apples made for a great balance of crust and filling.  Another reason why I like the tart format is because it is less indulgent than a piece of pie, because there is a little less crust and filling.  Aside from the time it takes to peel the apples, the tart came together very quickly.  This is a pretty adaptable recipe so if you want it more or less sweet, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar.

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Ingredients 

Crust

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 c butter (1 stick), cubed
1/4 c cold water

Filling

4-5 Granny Smith or other Tart Apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbl of brown sugar
1 tbl of butter, cut in pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Topping

4 tbl butter, cubbed
3/4 c flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Flakey sea salt
Method 

Start with the crust.  I cube the butter first, then, put it in a bowl and stick it in the freezer while I measure out the other ingredients.  It won’t freeze while it hangs out there for a few minutes, but it will stay nicely chilled.  Next, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the butter and either with your hands, a mixer, a pastry blender, a food processor, etc.  incorporate the butter until the mixture is course, but some pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Add the water and mix until it holds together.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and pop it into the fridge for about an hour to chill.

In the same bowl that I use to make the crust, I will start to make the topping.  The topping recipe is pretty… open to interpretation.  The key elements are flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt, but I add to the crumble until it looks, feels, and tastes right. Sometimes I add oatmeal, different spices (maybe some cardamom, or cloves?), nuts, etc. In this case, I think walnuts work really well. The end result is sort of like wet sand.  If it’s too wet, add flour, and if it’s too floury, add butter.  I use a similar method to the pie crust – first add all the dry ingredients and mix well, then incorporate the butter.  Once a good consistency and taste is achieved, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge.

Peeling and prepping the apples is probably the most time consuming task.  I really think it is worth it to put effort into slicing the apples into reasonably equal pieces and arranging them in the tart, even though it will be covered with topping.  After peeling the apples, I cut 1/4” slices.  I piled all the slices into a bowl and doused them with brown sugar, pieces of butter, cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt.  After stirring to incorporate, I let the apples macerate for at least 30 minute, stirring occasionally.

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Finally, it’s time to assemble the pie.  Start by pre-heating the oven to 350F.  Roll out the dough into a disc about two inches larger than the pan.  Then, roll it back onto the rolling pin and slowly unfurl it over the pan.  I gently lift the overhang and use my fingers to make sure the dough is nestled in the fluted edges of the pan, and finish by trimming the excess. Arrange the apples.  I think of the tart like the face of a clock and start by putting a few at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and then filling in the gaps.  Repeat with the inner circle.  This also makes it really easy to cut and serve.  Drizzle the apples with the juices left from maceration and add crumble topping.  Bakes at 350F for 45-55 minutes.

 

Helpful Tools: 

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Baking Mat, Oven Thermometer, Tart Pan.

All About My Kitchen

Our Kitchen

As a passionate cook, I was really hoping for a better kitchen in our Squirrel Hill apartment, but we moved out on really short notice and had to make some compromises.  Our apartment is wonderful with a great view and lots of space. We are very comfortable.  While it isn’t much to look at, I’ve made our kitchen work for us with just a few adjustments and some organization.  It’s a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty happy with how we are using the space.  

When I’m cooking, I like to have easy access to the most important tools and ingredients. When we first moved in, I knew I wanted to use the walls to help organize and keep the kitchen user-friendly.  My favorite addition has been the Ikea peg board above the sink.  We’ve re-arranged it a lot as we get used to the space.  I have so much fun changing up what we hang on the board.  Ikea sells so many different hooks and holders, so these peg boards are infinitely customizable. 

Kitchen Peg Board
Ikea SKÅDIS Peg Board Collection, All-Clad Pans Williams Sonoma Fish Spatual, Measuring Spoons, Whisk, Peeler, Microplane, Kitchen Aid Tongs, Williams Sonoma Dish Soap Bottle, Redecker Scrub Brush and Bottle Brush, Ikea Tumbler (to hold brush), Williams Sonoma Pop-up Sponges, PUR Water Filter

Counter StorageI like to have things I use frequently on hand: Trader Joe’s Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt, and tasting spoons.  I used to put my blender away every time I use it, but it is so heavy I started to leave it out all the time.  The knife rack just went up this weekend. The shelves in our cabinet gave us plenty of space for our pretty extensive collection of glassware, jars and mugs.  We picked up the shelves at The Container Store, they only cost $7 a piece and made a world of difference.  In the other set of cabinets we store spices and other ingredients that I mix into smoothies.  The second shelf houses our collection of storage containers and mixing bowls.  Admittedly, this area could use a little more organization.  

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By hanging things on the walls, we opened up our drawer space.  We use the drawer closest to the sink for flatware, spoons and spatulas.  The drawer next to the oven hold more tools, things like plastic wrap, foil, and trivets. The left most drawer has cooking tools and a tin that holds all those little things that are nice to have on hand in the kitchen: a pad of paper, pens, a measuring tape, phone charger, scissors, rubber bands etc.  We use the main lower cabinets to hold most of our All-Clad collection.  I made the small cabinet into something that is really special to me: a baking cabinet.  It is pretty packed with most of my decanted baking ingredients, specialty pans and tools, and my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  

The kitchen as it stands features a lot of beige.  I wanted to make it more modern by incorporating a lot of stainless steel with the knife rack, the hanging pans, and the tea pot on the stove.  I’m looking for some sort of art or decoration to customize the kitchen and make it feel more homey.  It would be nice to use the wall in the entryway for some organization and storage for mail and keys.

The Pantry is small but we’ve made it work.  The bottom holds our garbage and recycling, and the shelves above hold dry goods.  I installed hanging baskets from Ikea for kitchen linens – pot holders, aprons, and a huge stack of my favorite Ikea kitchen towels.

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For additional storage, I bought a small sideboard for the dining room.  The cabinets and drawers hold things that aren’t used very frequently like our 12-quart stock pot and specialty things for serving.  The sideboard mostly functions as a coffee bar for my Nespresso Machine and collection of analogue coffee makers (a French press, a moka pot, and a pressure espresso maker).  We also store wine in one cabinet and can convert the sideboard to a bar or buffet for entertaining.

One of the keys to making it work in a small kitchen is making sure everything always gets put away and the counters stay clear.  I like to minimize clutter and only have what I need.  It makes the small kitchen not feel so small.

Potato Leek Galette

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What’s a reasonable way to have pie for dinner? A savory galette, naturally. Recently, I made one featuring leeks and Yukon golds. The beauty of the galette is that it really doesn’t have to be much of a beauty. The scraggly, folded edges give it somewhat of a rustic charm. A galette comes together pretty quickly and bakes for less than an hour. I was very tempted to use a store-bought pie dough, but it didn’t seem reasonable since I had all the ingredients for dough on hand. Galettes work well in a lot of places: a small wedge could be an appetizer or side dish with salad, roast chicken, or scrambled eggs. The versatility of a galette really lends itself to a lot of dishes. We had ours with a glass of White Burgundy.

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Potato Leek Galette 

Pie Crust 

1 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Butter
2-3 tbl. Water

Filling 

2 Leeks
2 Large or 4-6 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes
Thyme
3 tbl. Butter
1 tbl. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt & Pepper
1 beaten egg
Assemble the pie dough by mixing the dry ingredients, cutting in the butter, and bringing together with water.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  For the filling, thinly slice the leeks and add to a pan with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook until leeks soften.  Thinly slice potatoes (either using a mandolin, a knife, or a vegetable peeler).  Toss the potatoes with the cooked leeks.  Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  Roll out the dough into a large circle.  I can’t emphasize enough that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Add the filling to the center and fold up the dough around it.  Brush the pie dough with the beaten egg.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until crust is golden brown.