Sweet Cooking

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

I’m a Sucker for Granola

In breakfast on March 31, 2010 at 9:22 am

I have the pleasure of living a few blocks from Whole Foods, and they have an entire granola bar. That’s right, a whole area full of nothing but different types of granola – banana flavored, chocolate, almond, apricot…..I could go on and on. The problem with granola is that it’s really not that good for you. It looks good for you. I mean it looks like oatmeal and nuts. But don’t fool yourself, it’s as full of calories, fat and sugar as a cookie!

As with any food, the best way to control your granola is to make it yourself. So, I whipped up a batch in my little kitchen. I am really, really happy with the results. And my kitchen smelled so good after the granola was done baking. I came in from the street, and my entire floor smelled of toasted coconut and honey.

LaVon's Blueberry Granola Ingredients

My recipe is VERY easy:

LaVon’s Blueberry Granola

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped almonds

2 T canola oil

2 T honey

1/4 cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss all ingredients together until well combined. Pour onto a baking sheet or pan. Bake the granola for 17 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove the granola from oven (it should be lightly browned and smell heavenly), and scrape the pan to loosen the granola (you don’t want it to stick). Let the granola cool and store in an airtight container.

Smells and tastes delicious!

I like to put my granola over Greek yogurt and fruit. My husband and I eat this almost every weekend. He is very liberal with the granola…I use about 1/4 of a cup. I encourage you to adapt your own granola. You could add more nuts, different dried fruit, even tiny little chocolate chips (after baking, of course). If you find a combination that you love, send me the recipe!

Yogurt topped with granola and blackberries

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A Sandwich for My Dad

In Just Good Food on March 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Today is my dad’s birthday, and I thought of him this morning when I decided what I should post today. My dad can smoke a mean turkey and scramble a good egg, but other than that, he has very little culinary skills. When his wife goes out of town, he survives on charity from friends, popcorn, and his two favorite sandwiches:

1. Peanut butter and jelly

2. Banana and mayonnaise

So, when I came across this sandwich called “Peanut Butter Plus”  I immediately thought of him. It’s the best of both worlds….creamy peanut butter plus banana and a few other good things! I think this sandwich is amazing. It’s made with staple ingredients that are always on hand. It’s great for a hearty breakfast, lunch or light dinner. I also think kids would like it.

You can find the recipe here. I followed everything exactly. I like the sunflower seeds, but if you don’t have them, just use crunchy peanut butter. The raisins are okay in there, but if left out I don’t think you’d miss them. I toasted my bread. Enjoy!

This sandwich is made with pantry staples

This photo does not do this delicious spread justice

Peanut butter plus sandwich

A Twist on Chicken Salad

In Lunch on March 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

In general, I do not like to eat chicken. I have read too many books and seen too many Dateline exposés about the way chickens are farmed. It’s a really disgusting thing. I almost gagged the last time I roasted a whole bird. I find that if you just deal with the breasts, it seems less chicken-y, so I buy a lot of organic, antibiotic and hormone free, humanely raised chicken breasts. I prefer to buy these from a local farmer who has a stand at the Union Square Greenmarket. I think if you can actually meet the farmer (or one of his/her employees), it’s likely that he/she is not part of the industrialized food industry that is making all of us sick and contaminating our food. Sorry about the soap box here. Watch the first 30 minutes of Food, Inc. and you’ll never eat chicken again.

Nevertheless, chicken (that has raised in an old-fashioned farm kind of way) can be a good source of lean protein, and my husband likes it, so I make it. This week for lunch, I’m having Cantaloupe-Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Creamy Tarragon Dressing. This is a recipe from Cooking Light that I adapted. The biggest change is no mayo. I substituted Greek yogurt instead. I think the results are delicious. The little bites of cantaloupe are a great surprise, and it’s not very chicken-y (which I like). Here is the recipe as I made it:

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup 0% Fage yogurt (if you are a mayo person, by all means, sub equal amount of mayo here)

2 T champagne vinegar

1 T minced fresh tarragon

2 cups cooked chicken breast (diced into 1/2″ cubes)

1 1/2 cups cantaloupe (diced)

1/2 cup chopped celery

mixed salad greens

salt and pepper

whole wheat pitas

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, cantaloupe, and celery. Stir gently. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Take a pita, cut it in half, and stuff each half with salad greens and 1/3 cup of chicken salad mixture. Two stuffed pita halves = one serving. Serve with baby carrots, grapes, sliced tomato, etc.

So easy! The Cooking Light nutrition facts say that one serving is 262 calories. I am not sure what it would be with the yogurt instead of mayo, probably not a big difference, but yogurt is definitely better for you than mayo!

Cantaloupe Chicken Salad stuffed in a pita

It’s a Cheese Wafer-Puff.

In Savory Baked Goods on March 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

In 1997, my mom gave me a cookbook called “A Cookbook for my Southern Daughter.” Reading it is like stepping back in  time. Some of the recipes use a whole can of shortening, one of the recipes is called “mawmaw’s fried squash”, and there are lots of entries by women named Gladys, Bertha and Jenille. I have never seen a collection of recipes using so much shortening, karo, mayonnaise and butter! Nevertheless, it is full of traditional southern recipes that people all over the South grew up on.

I am having some friends over to watch the last round of The Masters in a few weeks (it doesn’t get more southern than that!). I will be serving light hors d’oeuvres with a southern flair. So, I decided to make some type of cheese straw. I researched a lot of recipes, and finally decided on “Grandmother’s Cheese Wafers” from the aforementioned southern daughter cookbook. Making anything out of this book is like cooking in the dark. There are no photos, the list of ingredients and instructions aren’t very descriptive, and you have no idea how much food you’ll end up with. So here is my adapted recipe:

Grandmother’s Cheese Wafers – My Version

1/2 lb. freshly grated extra sharp NY cheddar cheese

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if desired)

1 stick butter at room temp

1 1/2 cups cornflakes slightly crushed

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and cheese with a hand-held mixer. Add all other ingredients and mix with hands (really get in there). Shape into balls using a cookie dough scoop (or you may use your hands). Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 20 minutes. Yields 27 wafer/puffs.

Now….I tried two different baking methods. As the original recipe instructs, I pressed the first batch with a fork and flattened them into a wafer. I was short on time for the second batch, and decided to skip the flattening step. I just popped the little cheese balls right in the oven. I actually like the way these turned out better! They are like little puffs and seem light and airy. The wafers seem hard and crisp. I’ll put them both out at the party and see what guests like the most!

Here are the ingredients.

Flattened wafers ready to go in the oven.

Wafer vs. Puff

Extra Oranges? Make Biscotti.

In Cookies on March 25, 2010 at 9:13 am

In Manhattan, there is a great on-line grocery store called “Fresh Direct”. I’ve had mixed experiences ordering produce and meats, but I love it for dry goods. They deliver directly to your door, and that beats schlepping around in the snow with a case of paper towels any day. I probably place an order every few weeks. Well, the last box I opened contained 6 blood oranges! I didn’t order them, they were part of a promotion encouraging customers to order foods that are in season (December through March).

So, I ate one orange, sectioned one and put it in a salad and still had four sitting in the refrigerator. I did some on-line recipe browsing and decided to make biscotti with the extra oranges. Biscotti is an Italian twice-baked cookie. I have never  made biscotti before, so I wasn’t sure how difficult this would be.

I chose a recipe from Fine Cooking called “Triple Orange Pecan Biscotti”. The recipe doesn’t specify what type of orange to use, so I assumed that the blood oranges would be fine (they were). Making the dough – no problem. I didn’t have any orange liqueur around, so I increased the amount of orange juice. Rolling it out was easy too. My mistake was actually in the baking. The ends of my dough got a little too done, and when I tried to cut them they crumbled into a million pieces. Obviously, I had to throw those pieces out. This recipe makes a TON of biscotti. I wasn’t at all upset about losing the ends.

I dipped the biscotti in some melted white chocolate and let it harden in the refrigerator. Overall, I really liked the biscotti, but it is a lot of work. I’m not sure I would try this recipe again, but I might try a different biscotti. Maybe one with chocolate and cherries – yummy!!

This blood orange was the inspiration.

Perfect coffee companion (the dog and the biscotti)

Triple Orange Pecan Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate

Lunch Time

In Lunch on March 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

I recently put up my briefcase and black pumps and quit my job! When I worked in an office, I ran out at 1PM, ordered a side salad and small soup and then ate at a ravenous pace at my desk. Now that I’m at home more, I have the opportunity to make a healthy lunch and enjoy it at a normal speed. I try to make a lunch that will last a few days and be filling enough to keep me from snacking before dinner. So, in this blog, I’ll post some of my more successful lunches. After all, we can’t just eat cookies all the time.

This is “My Dad’s Turkey Chili” by Jenny Levison (aka Souper Jenny). Jenny is a b-list celebrity in Atlanta, Georgia, where she owns a very successful restaurant/cafe. The chili is a staple on her menu, and I’ve made it several times. There are several awesome things about this chili:

1. It is very tasty and relatively healthy

2. It makes a ton so you can enjoy half and freeze half or serve it all to a crowd

3. You can add all types of toppings or throw it on a baked potato for an even heartier meal

You can find the recipe in Jenny’s cookbook or here! If you like a lot of spice, increase the amount of hot sauce and chili powder. I do!

Top with cheese, jalapenos, sour cream or crackers.

These Cupcakes Are Ridiculous!!

In Cakes & Cupcakes on March 24, 2010 at 9:50 am

I got married last year and a friend gave me one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (or I should say, she gave it to us – not as though my husband would ever cook!). Flipping through the cookbook is so much fun. I love to look at new recipes and photos of great food. Anyway, I’ve heard people rave about Ina’s chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. I stumbled upon the recipe and decided to give it a try. They are like heaven. I could eat 2 in one sitting for sure. I took them to a birthday party, and I wish I had just kept them for myself. They are easy too. The peanut butter icing puts this one over the top for me (I love peanut butter), but I think the cakes would be good with any type of frosting.

Delicious!

The perfect combo of chocolate and peanut butter.

The cookbook is Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten. I followed the recipe except the brewed coffee. I didn’t have any, so I substituted water. I don’t think the cupcakes were negatively impacted, but I’d like to try again with the coffee. I used Jif peanut butter (low fat) for the icing – I wouldn’t use any of the all-natural butters for this recipe. The texture would be awful, I think. These little cakes would be beautiful with chopped peanuts sprinkled on top too!

Making the world a better place – one cookie at a time!

In Cookies on March 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I recently made my first “fancy cookie”. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I followed a recipe from Food and Wine – almost exactly – and the result was 18 amazing little chocolate chip cookie sandwiches. The filling is chocolate ganache which really is just a fancy way of saying icing. The cookies are the perfect balance of nutty and sweet, and the ganache brings it all together.

My only change to the recipe was in the ganache. I added an extra tablespoon of creme fraiche, and I used 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. I don’t have a kitchen scale (must get one asap), so I just guessed on that. I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips for the cookies and the ganache.

Be liberal with the ganache!

Here is the recipe: ganache stuffed chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made 2 batches of these little delights, some went into the freezer and the rest were given to friends. The ones that were frozen thawed easily and tasted just as good as the non-frozen cookies!