Thursday, August 28, 2008

feelin' crunchy with granola

Yes, I'm alive. Our internet connection has been down for a couple weeks. Being on vacation from the computer is not all that bad. I felt a bit disconnected, but I quickly found myself less distracted during the day. I could go on about what we've been up to during the past weeks...blah, blah, blah. I'd rather not:)
Looking out the window, you'd think it was late September. There is a breeze in the air and the temperatures are down in the upper 70's. I have been baking a lot and planning more meals with a fall theme. Those comfort foods we all shun during the heat of the summer; we come to embrace with the first ring of the school bell. Among the pumpkin and banana breads, a hearty dish of macaroni and cheese, and a huge pot of red lentil stew ("dahl" for those Indian food fans out there), I've had a craving for granola. That crunchy, sweet, cinnamon-y concoction that has the perfect balance between what's good to eat and what you just plain crave.
I've always loved the stuff. My mom used to buy the Quaker Oats granola cereal. It was always kinda pricey for my family, and the boxes were small. I loved to get a bite with a big cluster of oats and a date or raisin to sweeten it up. From a box or homemade, it was all good to me.
Over the years, I've shied away from it from time to time. If I added up the fat grams or the total calories, my guilt would take over. I'm a much more rational eater now. The way I see it, I would rather get my fat and calories for the day from nuts and oats that from some processed junk I can't even name!
My recipe combines oats, almonds, pecans, coconut, maple syrup and raisins. The nuts and raisins can be substituted for whatever you have around. Try cashews, macadamia nuts, craisins, dried cherries. Just take some time to mix up a batch of this granola and see how long it lasts at your house:)

Coconut Almond Granola:

3 cups rolled oats (not quick-oats)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup coconut
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 T. dark brown sugar
5 T. pure maple syrup, or honey
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins, or other dried fruit

Heat oven to 250*
Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large bowl.
In separate medium sized bowl, combine syrup, oil and salt.
Mix together in large bowl and spread out onto 2 sheet pans.
Bake for 1 hour 15 min., stirring every 15 minutes.
It should be nicely browned when done. The granola will harden up as it cools.
Remove from oven and pour into large bowl. Stir in raisins. Allow to cool and keep in airtight container.

I like to eat mine as a snack, on yogurt or with milk as a cereal.
How do you like your granola??

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

chocolate chunk-pecan-coconut cookies

Whew...that's a mouthful. So are these cookies. I try to always have treats in my cookie jar and these have become one of our favorites. They have a ton of great ingredients in them, but the recipe makes a ton, so I think its worth it. Give it a try and don't be afraid to change it up a little to suit your taste buds:)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of sea salt
24 oz. semi or bittersweet chocolate (I use some chips and some blocks chopped into chunks and shreds. The shreds melt into the dough and make it extra gooey!!)
2 cups toasted chopped pecans
1 cup coconut

In a mixer with paddle attachment or whisk, cream the butter with the sugars until its good and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat until smooth.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add it to the mixer in small portions, beating it on low until blended in before adding more.
Add the chocolate, pecans and coconut. Stir by hand with a spoon or spatula till evenly mixed.
Chill dough in fridge 30 min or more. Preheat oven 325 degrees.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop onto sheets and bake 18-20 minutes till browning on edges and cooked in center. Cool two minutes on pan, transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
I get 6 dozen cookies using the Pampered Chef small scoop.

**chef's note: I toast the pecans in a skillet over med. or med low heat. Stir the nuts a little and watch closely. You can smell them when they're ready. They burn easily, too.
**If you don't use parchment paper, be sure to grease your baking sheets for this recipe.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

breaking dawn at the mall

Vampires + humans + werewolves + Barnes and Noble = Midnight Release of "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyer. Confused?? Well, you are in the minority:)
So, I'm talking the other day to my friend Kristin and she's so excited about the release party for "Breaking Dawn", the (sort of) final book in the "Twilight" series. I read the books. Enjoyed them. Why not go for the party, too? I never go to a midnight-anything without Jenn, so we made it a girl's night.
There were quite a few of us there: Me, Vicki, Jenn, Kristin.
Je'lana, Vanessa, Javan, and his friend, too.

It was a good time. Unlike the Harry Potter parties, we didn't bring our children. None of us were dressed up in costume. There were plenty of others who were...

(check out the tattoo eyebrows...this chick is serious)

I didn't leave the mall with a book, 'cause I ordered it from Amazon. Won't get it till Monday, so
Kristin and Jenn better keep it to themselves till then:)

Friday, August 1, 2008

say cheese(cake)!

Cheesecake at midnight? Heck yeah, 'specially when it's at the Factory. Cheesecake Factory was having it's 30th anniversary and selling cheesecake for $1.50. Jenn, Jenna and I got the kidlets in bed and when out for a slice of heaven. It only took a couple hours, but we had a good time.

Check out the receipt:) Wahooo...