Monday, February 25, 2013

cherry chocolate coconut granola

Granola is as versatile as the day is long.  It can be eaten on yogurt, in milk, by the hands full, in ice cream...  I am really loving it lately.  

I am a huge fan of the Caramel Apple variety I made last fall.  I decided for the winter, and in particular, honoring Valentine's Day, I'd search for a chocolate cherry option.  This one fit the bill nicely and made good V-day gifts for the boys' teachers.  

I adore dark chocolate, so I chose to do a Ghiradelli 60% cacao bar as my chocolate of choice. Obviously, if you don't appreciate that deeper, slightly bitter flair, go for milk chocolate.  

Hey!  Maybe you have a chocolate Easter bunny hiding in the back of your pantry too!  

I have shared before how I'd love to have a bed and breakfast one day.  And with that, it would thrill me to have a few items to stock a small shop... a few baked goods, homey art, maybe a smattering of hand-sewn or knitted items.  Maybe I'll have a "granola of the season" to serve for breakfast and also buy by the scoop.  What do you think?  Hmm...  Fall and Winter are covered. On to Spring, I say.  

My wheels are spinning...

Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola
makes about 14 cups
  • 2 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cups sliced almonds
  • 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 6 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 8 oz. chocolate, coarsely chopped
~ Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
~ Place a large* skillet over medium heat.  Add the coconut to the pan in an even layer and
    cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and toasted.  
~ Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan.  Return the pan to the heat and add the chopped 
    walnuts and sliced almonds.  
~ Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.  
~ Stir in the oats and canola oil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats
   are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
Transfer the oat mixture to a large bowl and stir in the honey, cinnamon, and salt.  
~ Spread out onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  
~ Bake, stirring every few minutes, until the granola is light golden brown, about 20 
Stir in the toasted coconut and dried cherries.  
~ Move the granola to one side of the baking sheet and press gently into a thick slab.  Let
    cool to room temperature.  
~ Break the dried and cooled granola into small clusters, mix in the chopped chocolate, and
    store in an airtight container.

Tips and Tricks

*This requires a good amount of ingredients to fit in the skillet.  Make sure to use a large pan or have a stock pot of sorts handy.
  • The mixture might appear "wet" for quite a while.  The original recipe called for stirring and baking for 15 minutes.  Mine was closer to 20 to 22 minutes.  It will harden as it cools.

  • This keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a good while.  At nearly two weeks, it still tasted fresh.  I think glass containers help with the freshness factor.

Recipe barely adapted from Annie's Eats 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

good morning! breakfast burritos

Mornings.  I really do like them.  

I think it's because I've always been afraid I'm going to miss out on something if I ly around too long. In fact, when I'd want to have sleepovers growing up, Mom would only agree to it if I would pinky-swear promise that I wouldn't wake up my guests at the crack of dawn.  I was always so eager to see what the day had in store, it never dawned on me my friends wouldn't feel likewise.  So... I would begrudgingly stick to my promise.  But with every ounce of my being, I'd lay there thinking, "What a waste... sigh...".  

Now I'm nearly 38 with two school-aged children and having to get up at the crack of dawn.  My, how that changes one's perspective.

Actually, I'm still good with early rising, but I just can't get up quite early enough to get in everything I want to.  The alarm goes off some days at 4:45 and some days at 5:00, depending on the state of my hair the night before (short hair would be so much easier!).  To get myself ready, the boys all together, pack lunches, and prepare breakfast, it's all we can do to get out by our goal launch time of 6:40 without scratching each other's eyes out (not really... but those of you who are in the same boat know exactly what I'm talking about).  Thankfully, John is a huge help... huge.  

Needless to say, breakfast can be trying.  Because of our somewhat lengthy drive to school, we need to have options that are car-worthy.  

(Speaking of that, did you know one of the biggest indicators of child neglect is eating breakfast in the car?  Yep.  I read the article right after going back to work full time.  I've almost let go of that guilt.)

I have been mulling around a protein-centered grab-and-go idea for a while now, and it finally came together.  Within about 15 minutes on Saturday morning, I had six Good Morning! Breakfast Burritos made; four prepared and wrapped for the freezer, two we ate right away.  Cheap, healthy, flavorful, and fast.  

So... yesterday morning... Monday morning...  the mother of all mornings... I tested one.  I'll have you know:  requiring less than two minutes in the microwave, tasting as fresh as the day I made it, I was eating one successfully in the car by 6:42, and rocking out to Mandisa's, "Good Morning," with the boys.  And you know what?  We all still had our eyes.


Good Morning Breakfast Burritos - makes 6 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup frozen diced veggie mix
  • 6 whole eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup cheese of choice
  • 6 flour tortillas of choice (pictured are soft low-carb, high fiber)
  • 2 tbsp. salsa
  • 2 tbsp. scallions, sliced (if desired)
~ Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in large non-stick pan until shimmering.  
~ Add veggies and sauté until softened, 5-7 minutes.
~ Remove veggies and place in a bowl.  Set aside.
~ Beat eggs in medium bowl along with milk and salt and pepper.
~ Wipe out pan and heat remaining olive oil until shimmering.
~ Pour beaten eggs into pan and continue scrambling until cooked through.
~ Add in cooked veggies and cheese, incorporating everything until veggies are heated and 
    cheese is melted.
~ Spread out tortilla in front of you.  Spoon 1/4 cup egg mixture evenly onto each tortilla's 
    edge closest to you.  Divide salsa evenly on top of the mixture or save to garnish if not 
~ As you roll the tortilla and filling away from you, fold in side edges and continue to roll 
    until closed. 
~ If freezing, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze.  If serving, place on plates and 
    garnish with salsa and sliced scallions.

Recipe from the Lazy Daisy Kitchen.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

hot-cocoa affogato with peppermint ice cream

I know, I know...  two chocolate posts in a row.  But if any of you live in Nashville, you know how unusually warm the weather has been to be smack in the middle of Winter, and I feel it necessary to take advantage of this cold day to share yet another delicious cup of wonderful!  

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Maple Chai that stole my heart.  It is a great stand-in for the expensive versions found in coffee houses.  In other words, I've had something very similar many times in multiple places.  But this recipe - this recipe, my friends - is a beauty.  It's unlike anything I've had. Anywhere.  

And so, you know me.  It gets posted!

If you are not a fan of chocolate or peppermint, you may not be interested in this one... at least, not as it is in its original state.  But non-chocolate lovers everywhere, you really want to keep reading and be inspired to mix your own faves to satisfy your taste.  The idea behind this concoction is ingenious - hot chocolate, with a scoop of ice cream plopped in the middle, topped with a dollop of whipped delight. There are so many different ways you could celebrate this combination... so many flavor ideas...  

Luke and I absolutely loved this one, but then again, we are both okay with the idea of drinking a candy bar from a cup and washing it all down with a spoonful of ice cream.  

Speaking of that, don't skimp on the ice cream.  Make sure you add a generous amount to balance out the richness of the hot chocolate. Oh.  And partake immediately.  You want to experience the hot and cold all at the same time.  

Before I go, just a tidbit of information so you'll sound smart at your next social gathering:  Affogato in Italian means 'drowned.'  But in the Green household?  'Yuu-uu-uum!'

Hot-Cocoa Affogato with Peppermint Ice Cream -
makes 8 servings
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large pinch kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used a 60% cacao bar), chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 pints peppermint or mint chip ice cream
~ Combine the milk, 1/2 cup cream, sugar, salt, and 1/4 cup water in a large heavy 
    saucepan.  Scrape in seeds of vanilla bean; add bean.
~ Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  
~ Add chocolate and cocoa powder; whisk until chocolate melts and mixture just comes to 
    a boil.
~ Whisk remaining 1/2 cup cream and espresso in a small bowl until firm peaks form. 
~ Remove vanilla bean from hot cocoa; discard.
~ Transfer cocoa to a blender and puree until thick and foamy, about 2 minutes. (I used a 
    hand immersion blender... so easy!)
~ Scoop ice cream into teacups; pour hot cocoa into cups, dividing evenly.
~ Top each with a small dollop of coffee whipped cream and garnish with small candy cane, 
    if desired.

Tips and Tricks:

  • You can make the cocoa a day ahead.  Just let cool, cover and chill.  Bring to a simmer before continuing.
  • You can make the whipped cream 2 hours ahead.  Cover and chill and rewhisk before using. 

Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

world's finest chocolate pie

A few months ago, I mentioned that some of the best recipes I've found come from packaging labels.  I am slightly embarrassed to share with you where I got this one.  And before I tell you, I want you to know that the main ingredient was not expired or even close, for that matter.  It's just that out of a recent desire and heart-felt attempt to try to use up our abundance of stocked edible items that currently fill our freezer, drawers, pantry, you name it, I was bound and determined to use up... well... are you ready for this?...


There.  I said it.  And, yes.  You read right.  Last year's bunny.

I have a terrible time throwing away anything, let alone perfectly-good-solid-chocolate anythings. Hence the reason we've had a bunny in our cabinet for the last ten months.  So when we were preparing to visit friends, and I agreed to bring the dessert, I started rummaging through our "stock" to see what I could use.  

Now that the admission is over, we'll move on.

There is nothing fancy-schmantzy about this recipe whatsoever, but it is really wonderful.  And for those of you who think a homemade graham cracker crust won't be a huge difference from store-bought, I urge you to think again.

I am a great fan of ice cream and frozen creamy desserts, so even though the recipe didn't call for it, I found this to be even better following a short stint in the freezer.  The result is creamy and light with an authentic chocolate flavor.

I do need to confess how humbly proud I am that I have worked through all the overstock I mentioned earlier. I committed at the start of the new year to not "store up" until I had exhausted all my options from what we already own.  I am getting closer to my goal.  Only two more bags of egg noodles, a handful of canned goods... oh... and would you look at that?  Another chocolate bunny.  Hm.

Expiration 4/13?

No problem. 

World's Finest Chocolate Pie - makes 1 pie
For the crust:
  • 16 whole graham crackers, finely ground
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
For the filling:
  • 6 oz milk chocolate, broken in pieces (keep small piece for garnish shavings)
  • 180 mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 16 oz. unsweetened whipping cream
~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees
~ Pulse crackers until finely ground.  Add in remaining crust ingredients and pulse a few 
    times to incorporate.  Dump into 9-inch pie pan.

~ Press mixture evenly on the bottom and up sides of pan.

~ Bake until golden brown and fragrant, about 12-14 minutes.
~ Set aside to cool.
~ For the filling, place chocolate pieces, marshmallows and milk in double boiler or very 
    heavy pan.
~ Melt over low heat, stirring constantly.  
~ Let cool until just warm.
~ While cooling, whip cream with blender until stiff.
~ Working quickly, scrape chocolate mixture out of the pan and fold into whipped cream. 
    Because of the marshmallows, the chocolate can stiffen and be hard to scrape out of the 
~ Pour into cooked crust and chill in fridge.  As mentioned, I prefer to place in the freezer 
   until ready to serve.  Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Pie crust recipe from Martha Stewart.
Pie filling slightly adapted from World's Finest Chocolate.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

pig lickin' cake

It's a strange name, isn't it?  But anyone who's even remotely connected to the south knows everything one needs to know about this cake... it's g-oo-oo-d!

I first found the recipe in a cookbook my mother-in-law gave me for a kitchen shower just weeks before my wedding, and I decided to make it for John's birthday the year we married.  He raved about it so much, I've made it for the occasion every year since.  

This dessert makes a stunning addition to an Easter spread, Mother's Day event, or simple celebration of Spring.  Lucky us, John's birthday is a December one, so it's a ray of sunshine even in the midst of overcast days.   

Trust me on this one, folks.  Let in some light and whip this up soon - it'll put a smile on everyone's face!

Pig Lickin' Cake - makes one 2-layer cake or one 9x13**
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick margarine, softened
  • 1 can (14 oz.) mandarin oranges, juice reserved (plus more oranges if using to garnish)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 package (5 oz.) vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple, juice reserved
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 carton (16 oz.) frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip)
~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour pan/s. 
~ Combine cake mix, margarine, 1/2 cup reserved mandarin orange juice, eggs and vanilla, 
    and beat well, about 3-4 minutes.
~ Add mandarin oranges and mix on low until broken up in pieces.
~ Pour batter evenly between pans (or into one if using 9x13) and bake until cake tester 
   comes out clean and cakes are golden brown, about 30 minutes.
~ Set aside to cool.
~ For the frosting, combine pudding, pineapple and powdered sugar, adding about a 1/8 
    cup of pineapple juice to dissolve the sugar and pudding mix. 
~ Fold in the whipped topping until thoroughly mixed.  Add more pineapple juice if 
~ Frost top of first layer and place second layer on top.  
~ Frost top of second layer and sides.  Garnish with mandarin oranges.**
~ Refrigerate at least 4 hours (overnight is best).**

**Tips and Tricks
I have deep 9-inch round cake pans, so I chose to use two of those and cooked the cakes longer than directed to accommodate.  One could certainly do three smaller pans.  It makes a beautiful presentation.  Level them for better, more even, stacking.

Many recipes call for dumping the entire 20 oz. can of pineapple with its juices when making the frosting.  I prefer to reserve the juice and add it in smaller amounts, as needed, so that the frosting doesn't become too runny.  It's not as necessary with the 9x13 option, but you definitely want a good consistency if choosing to do a stacked cake.  

Making this in the dead of winter, I don't have my abundance of fresh mint at my fingertips.  If making this during the spring or summer, mint leaves tucked beneath each orange slice is gorgeous (in my humble opinion).

Like the coconut cake I posted a few weeks ago, a good day in the fridge before cutting will serve you well.  The flavor deepens with time.