Monday, March 31, 2008

Out of Granola - Again!



I found a delicious recipe for Vermont Maple Granola in a King Arthur Flour catalog and I've been using the recipe ever since. The jar is getting empty so it's time to make more. Here's the recipe the way I make it...

Vermont Maple Granola

7 cups rolled oats, uncooked
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup wheat germ or flaxseed meal, optional
1 cup almonds, chopped or whole
1 cup pecans, chopped or whole
1/2 cup Nonfat Dry Milk, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 cup maple syrup or honey or a combination
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup or more raisins and dried cranberries

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, wheat germ, nuts, and milk powder. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Pour over dry mixture in bowl, stirring and tossing till everything is very well combined. Spread granola on a couple of 9x13 casserole dishes. Bake in a preheated 250°F oven for 2 hours, tossing and stirring mixture every 15 minutes or so. Remove pans from oven and cool completely. Transfer granola to a large bowl, and mix in dried fruit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mmmmm!


I took Easter as my excuse to bake (like I need an excuse!) and here's the result (as pictured from left to right):
Ricotta Tart - a recipe I had to try after Breakfast with Enrico - not as sweet or heavy as traditional cheesecake which makes it better in my opinion
Raspberry Pie - Mark's favorite by request and delicious as always, made from raspberries we picked from our garden last summer
Coconut Cream Pie - new recipe from Cook's Illustrated, got rave reviews at Easter Dinner at Grammy's. I think I heard someone say "You could sell these pies!" Who knows, maybe someday you'll see me selling my goods at the farmer's market!
Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March Madness

It happens every year. I don't know why I'm always caught off guard. I sit down to have my lunch, search TiVo for The Young and The Restless which is reliably always there, and it's NOT! What a disappointment when I realize that CBS has again contracted to show the College Basketball Finals. So I turn on something else because I don't think I could eat lunch in total silence. I turn to the Food Network, Paula Deen is on and this is another disappointment. I'm not a big fan because everything she makes looks like it would clog my arteries. Down one channel to E! which is showing the 101 Sexiest Bodies in Hollywood. They were only on 100 - I mean who wants to be rated the 100th sexiest body? How many bodies are there in Hollywood and wouldn't it be an insult to be 100th? Too many commercials, so back to Paula...what I saw next was shocking! Perhaps the fattiest, unhealthiest recipe Paula has ever made - Deep Fried Macaroni and Cheese - ranks right up there with Deep Fried Candybars you hear about at the State Fair. Here's the recipe. Chill prepared mac and cheese and cut into squares, wrap with a piece of BACON, dip each square in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and fry in lots of peanut "ole" and then consume. I'd like to see the nutritional breakdown of that little snack. I hope good old Y&R is back on soon so I don't have to watch the horrors of other daytime TV.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Started

There are many things I'd like to do and just haven't gotten around to doing it - like organizing my photos, hanging shelves in my sewing room, and figuring out how to sell something on Ebay. Just getting started on these projects seems to be the hardest part. Well, I can cross one of those things off my list because yesterday, I finally posted my first item on Ebay! It's amazing how easy it is and within an hour or so I had watchers on two items and by this morning, those two items had bidders! My kids each posted items too - some toys that no one plays with anymore. It's funny, but I seem to be looking at everything in my house differently now-could I sell THAT on Ebay? So it looks like I'll be rid of that like-new baby monitor and the extra mixer bowl from my old Kitchenaid which I sold to a friend years ago so I could buy the bigger, newer model. I wonder if starting on my photos will be as easy - I should just get started and see.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Patrick's Day was so Yesterday...


Today it's on to bread pudding. I couldn't let the day old bread from Enrico's breakfast to go to waste. A little brandy, vanilla, cinnamon, apricot preserves and plenty of butter went into this one - a little sweet and rich for me. I wish I could duplicate the bread pudding from a restaurant where I worked for a summer during college. I ate that by the pan-full! But then again maybe I'm better off not having that recipe!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Food


It's St. Patrick's Day and since I have young picky kids, I can't make the traditional Irish fare of cabbage and corned beef unless I want to eat it all myself, so I opted for green food. Lately I've been into reading cookbooks from cover to cover while I'm waiting for the kids to go to sleep. Actually, they can be pretty interesting, especially when you're a foodie like me. One of the latest I picked up from the library was Lidia's Family Table and I noticed a recipe for Spinach Pasta Dough. I figure the best day to try to get my kids to eat it was today, when everything is green. Pasta is surprisingly easy to make - much easier than bread and no waiting for it to rise. Only a 30 minute resting period, roll it out and voila! pasta! I love using my Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment too! The menu - Spinach Fetuccini with butter cream sauce infused with fresh rosemary, chicken tenderloin sauteed with a brushing of homemade basil pesto, steamed, buttered broccoli, and mint brownies with green icing. The kids devoured it, with the exception of Annie - my pickiest eater who wouldn't touch that green pasta even if the leprachauns DID make it turn green! All in all a success - must be the luck 'o the Irish!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Breakfast with Enrico

This morning, a friend and I went to The Strip (in Pittsburgh) and had breakfast with Enrico. My husband was a little jealous of this rendezvous we had planned (particularly because it meant he was in charge of the kids for several hours) but it was really all his fault to begin with. He drove me into the kitchen of another man! Actually, he had heard of this "bread baking" class and signed me up and gave it to me for Christmas, knowing it is exactly the kind of thing I'd dig. Well, when they called yesterday and said "come hungry", I still had no idea what we were in for. It's 10 am and there are about 12 of us and we all sit down at a long table and Enrico starts bringing out the food! There were white beans, slow-cooked all night in a wine bottle over ashes from the brick oven, a HUGE bowl of kale and chickpeas, sausage and peppers, yummy sweet ricotta pie, pastries, ziti with mushrooms and zucchini in a white sauce, and homemade red wine. Wow! As we were eating, Enrico told us basically that all events in history can be traced to the peoples' love of bread and control over the wheat. It made sense!

Then he gave us basic instructions on how to shape a round loaf of bread to get the perfect "skin" and the cardinal rule of bread baking - NEVER add flour to the dough after it's been kneading, only more water. Oh, and never open the oven door to check on the bread, or it will do funky things to your loaf. We learned that fresh yeast and "00" flour is the best and salt is just salt. It was a great morning - and we got to bring home a little brioche loaf and big Italian loaf of bread we'd made. The movie, filmed in Pittsburgh, called something like The Bread, My Sweet with Scott Baio? can somehow be traced back to Enrico (said the movie was his idea). I'll have to check it out and let you know. In the meantime, I just might try a brioche for Easter and see if my kitchenaid oven can compete with Enrico's industrial sized handmade brick oven (now I'm jealous!). If not, I'll do as Enrico's last words to us pleaded - buy Artisanal Breads and support the small bakeries to keep a dying tradition alive! A future Friday night dinner with Enrico might be in the cards - just me and him (and 10 of my closest girlfriends). I hope my kids and husband understand...

Marbles


About three weeks ago, we came up with an idea to motivate the kids (mine are ages 11, 8, and 5) to do more around the house and limit their screen time. Now, we're not the most controlling of parents (and the kids were taking advantage of that), but we decided to give it a try. Here's how it works: The kids can earn a marble by doing jobs from a pre-established list of things we traditionally had a hard time getting the kids to do. For example, read a book for 20 minutes, practice piano, set the table for dinner, make your bed in the morning, etc all can earn you a marble.

As you accumulate marbles during the week, you can exchange a marble for screen time or save them to exchange for allowance at the end of each week. In haste, I offered up 50 cents per marble up to $10 total for the week and this has been expensive, BUT I have to say that this method has worked like a charm! Unbelievably, the beds were made before school by someone other than ME! My kids actually started reading - ALOT! I have told everyone who will listen about this fantastic "marble method". When's the last time your kids argued over who's turn it was to set the table with each one hoping it was their turn?! Well, tonight the kids started lobbying for a marble vacation. My son, who has been extremely motivated by money since he was two and scrambled by week's end to have at least 20 marbles in his jar, begged us to go back to "free TV and playstation", telling us he didn't care about the money anymore - (another shocker!) In his exact words, "I just want to be free!". I told him I'd think about it...

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