Homemade Granola Bars

Dear Internet. I’ve been avoiding you. #sorrynotsorry.

It’s been a bit of a crazy summer here, but I’ve been teasing my Facebook friends and Instagram followers for months with photos of the homemade granola bars that I make every couple of weeks or so, and it’s really not very nice of me to keep holding out.

The first time I made these, I had been running (marathon training… yikes) for several months and had started to increase my mileage enough so that I was constantly on the lookout for a snack.   Said snack needed to be able to stand in for a light breakfast, too, on occasion, so I wanted something healthy-ish and versatile.  I had printed this recipe from some long-forgotten website and it seemed as good as any of the endless stream of results that google will happily spit at you if you are silly enough to search for “homemade granola bar”.  Maybe you didn’t know, but granola, homemade stuff, and healthy snacks are, like, a trend or something.  So I would encourage you to not get overwhelmed with the 2,440,000 results on google if there is something in here that you’re opposed to.  Just switch it out for something you do like and call it improv.

There are a few little shortcut-like tidbits I’ve come up with (after having made a double batch of these bi-weekly since around May) at the end of the recipe – please read all the way through before jumping in.  Enjoy!

Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

1 2/3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 15 ounces), the two mixes I use most often are below.**
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Fruit and Nut Mix:

5-7 oz dried fruit, something similar to this mix.  Publix sells a store brand tropical mix that I like.

3-5 oz unsalted sunflower seeds

3-5 oz flax seeds

2-5 oz pepitas

Cranberry Orange Chocolate Chip Mix:

5-7 oz dried cranberries

3 oz unsalted sunflower seeds

3 oz pepitas/flax seeds

4 oz mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, peanut butter, liquid sweeteners and water. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly coated and sort of crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing the mixture in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap is useful here; just lay the plastic on top of your mix press it into the pan.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are browned and the top is golden. Let cool on a baking rack until you can lift them out of the pan with your parchment paper, and then let them cool completely to room temp before cutting.  I slice them into the size that works for me as breakfast/post-run snack but feel free to customize that as well.

*If you do not have whole wheat flour, don’t fret.  Just use oat flour, which is an equal amount (1/3 cup) of oats that have been processed in a food processor until coarsely ground.  I think the texture is better when the grind is just shy of “fine”.  I’ve made these with the whole wheat flour and the oats, and both work fine.

**This is the tricky part:  put whatever you want in here.  I use my digital scale and just add the stuff I want until I get to 15 ounces, so it’s never the exact same twice.

I use this Earth Balance Spread that I found at Publix.  It tastes awesome and gives the best holding power in my experience, i.e. the bars stick together and hold their shape really well.  Otherwise peanut butter works well, as does almond butter.

I found that the Earth Balance Spread was harder to stir into my dry stuff.  I started adding the spread to my butter when I melt it in the microwave so that it melts and gets good and liquid-y and I can whisk all my wet things together really well and the stirring is much easier at the end.

Advertisements

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil

So I made mention of this recipe a few weeks ago via facebook and instagram, but am only now getting around to sharing it with the rest of you. I will be getting into some details about what exactly is keeping me so busy lately in the next few days, but for now you’ll just have to settle for this. And when I say settle, I mean you should be prepared to drool a little over it. Unless you hate springtime, and strawberries, and rhubarb, and other such lovely things. Which would be weird, you know, since Spring is the best. But I digress.

I usually love nothing more than a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, but I went the crumble route this time for a bit of a change. Ahem. Ok, that’s not really true. I needed a breakfast that I could eat on all week and I thought crumble sounded better than pie. Crumbles have oatmeal toppings and stuff, and oats are definitely healthy and breakfast-esque. Call it whatever you want, but I’m just gonna call it delicious and let you decide which meal you want to add it to.

 

Oh! You may have noticed that I added basil to it. Well, that’s an interesting story, actually. See I had just poured all these beautiful strawberries into my baking dish and I noticed a piece of a strawberry leaf stuck to one of them. In typical Emily fashion (easily distracted) I thought “Hey, that’s pretty. I wonder if I have any herbs to throw in here…” Turns out that the only herb I had was basil, and I kind of thought that might not be too bad. And it was actually awesome.   The bright basil flavor perfectly balanced out the sweet strawberries/tart rhubarb, and I felt like a total genius. So go out and try something new. It might be awesome. Also, try this, because I can guarantee that it is.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil*

Serves 6-8

Topping:

1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (coarse sugar)
Zest of one lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ pints strawberries
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

Filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, basil, and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Remove topping from refrigerator and use your fingers to break it apart over the fruit.  This part doesn’t have to be pretty – just crumble it over top and it will spread out as it bakes.   Place baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes.

*I usually like to be very clear where I’ve gotten my recipes from, but in this case, I have no idea from whence it came.  I had this recipe saved on my hard drive simply as Fruit Crumble and I haven’t the slightest whom to credit it to.  If it looks familiar (like I may have plagiarised it from you) do drop me a line and I’ll be sure to give credit and link back.

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

The delicious mundane.

I’ve only been cooking sporadically for the past few weeks – at least full meals, anyway.  I’ve been making a good meal about once a week, and then we subsist on leftovers and sandwiches in the between times.  Although, in my defense, I do make a mean sandwich and I try to get creative so we’re not just eating lunch meat all the time.  I love to make Reubens, and we do burgers fairly regularly, and we lately came into an 8-10 lb smoked boston butt (chopped, bbq style) that we’ve been slowly whittling away at, but my favorite sandwich – one I fall back on whenever I just don’t have time for a good meal but I really want something delicious and comforting – is the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese.

I’ve really missed sharing with you since I’ve been so busy lately, and when I was trying to come up with something I could post for you I kept finding that I had either a really good recipe to share with no photos, or lots of photos of something too mundane to write about.  But then I realized that this simple mundane sandwich has become such an integral part of my kitchen routine by virtue of the fact that I can put it together in under 15 minutes and still have something that tastes like a million bucks.  And for those 15 minutes I’m frying bacon and eggs, slicing cheese, washing greens, toasting bread… doing all the essential tasks of preparing a thoughtfully created meal, but on a smaller scale.  A small enough scale that I can fit it in pretty much anytime and with minimal groceries.  And after a few days of fast food and leftovers, I start to feel like I need to be in my kitchen preparing a meal with my own hands.  Being in the kitchen is comforting to me.  I like doing all the little things, like washing greens or chopping an onion, that make up a larger set of actions that eventually turns into a meal – but the reality is that I usually find myself missing those things the most when we’ve been busy, or out of town for a few days, and I have no groceries.  And I always find myself coming back to the one thing I always have the ingredients – and the time – for.

Sometimes it’s the most mundane things that give us the most pleasure – and that is definitely worth sharing.  So what do you guys cook when you have no time or groceries and you just can’t go another minute without a home cooked meal?

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Apparently I’m on a quick bread kick here lately.  Or maybe I just had 3 bananas sending me accusing looks from their (rapidly decaying) vantage point on my counter.  Who’s to say?  Either way, I’ve had it from a very picky Banana Bread connoisseur (ahem.  My husband) that this bread is perfect just the way it is and I should no longer mess with the recipe.  The base recipe is from How to Cook EverythingMark Bittman’s epic cookbook, and I only played with it a very little bit to suit my taste.  Actually, that’s not true.  Those chocolate chips ended up in there because I had half a bag of them hanging out in my pantry and this seemed as good a fate for them as any, so really, what happened is that I just dumped some extra odds and ends in to facilitate my house cleaning.  You can omit them if you really want to, but I’ll send you an accusing look if you do.  Because bananas and chocolate chips go together like peanut butter and jelly; like Ross and Rachel.  I also added a bit of coffee emulsion because I have it from a good source that bananas and coffee should also be on that list of meant-to-be-togethers.  Although I think you could use a bit of strong coffee or espresso if you don’t have coffee emulsion/extract.  Also, I would tell you that even if some people who fancy themselves Banana Bread Connoisseurs (ahem.  See above.) somehow find out that you used a teensy tiny bit of whole wheat flour and send you their own accusing looks, you should ignore them and do it anyway.  You can’t even tell it’s in there (cue disgusted snort from said connoisseur) and it gives it a little more substance, a little more chew.  It’s still perfectly moist and light, with a very tender crumb, and I’d like to remind…someone…that they did say it was the best Banana Bread I’d ever made.  So there.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything

8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas, smooshed up (am I the only one who thinks that’s lots of fun?)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coffee emulsion (or espresso or strong coffee)

5 oz mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts (optional.  I omit them because I like my banana bread uninterrupted by crunchy bits.)

Preheat overn to 350 F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.

With a hand mixer, or a sturdy spoon or silicon spatula, cream the butter in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  (You don’t really need a mixer here as long as your butter is fairly soft.  I just sort of mash it around a little then add the eggs, etc).  Beat the eggs and bananas into the butter, then add the dry ingredients. Finally, stir in the vanilla, coffee substance of choice, chocolate chips and the nuts if you’re using them.  Don’t worry about making the batter smooth – it’s supposed to be lumpy, so just mix it up until all of the flour has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, until a tester comes out clean, or with a only a tiny crumb or two.  This bread is pretty moist, so I generally pull it out when a well formed crumb sticks to my tester (not batter, mind you, actual crumbs), since I know it will keep baking for another moment or two until it cools.

 

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I made this with one of my few remaining Meyer Lemons, and I must confess that I was a little worried that the recipe wouldn’t be appropriately wonderful for my rare and precious lemons.   I’ve been dying to cook with them, but I have this irrational fear of using them in a less than spectacular way – you know, of making something just average and wasting them.  It’s silly I know, but I’ll only have them for these few months and I don’t want to waste them on something mediocre.  So.  I hunted around forever before settling on the recipe that I used, and even then I adapted it quite liberally to suit my high expectations.  And readers, it was totally worth it.  This simple little loaf is the very essence of Meyer Lemons.  It’s sweet, tart, and as you pull it out of the oven you will be greeted by the most divine scent: slightly pine-y, citrus-y, and totally delicious.  You won’t want to wait for it to cool so you can smear the slightest bit of salted butter on and enjoy it curled up on your favorite comfy chair.  It’s a typical quick bread type recipe that comes together in no time flat, and then you just have to wait impatiently for it come out of the oven.

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Bread            

Adapted from AmyBites

A few notes:  I added extra lemon zest, juice, and poppy seeds.  I really wanted a pronounced lemon flavor and I love the little crunch of the seeds, and I got what I felt was a well-balanced loaf.  Keep in mind that I used Meyer lemons though, and they have a less pronounced flavor and aren’t as tart as regular lemons, so you may want to adjust if you can’t find them.  Also, milk would be fine in the place of the heavy cream if you want to lighten it up.                                                                                              

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a loaf pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using electric mixer, cream unsalted butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla bean paste. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in lemon juice and poppy seeds.

Pour batter into pan and bake in center of oven until a tester inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 65-70 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto rack. Cool completely.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

MayerLemonMarmalade-2

 

I know I said that I would tell you about the Moonpies from the Baby Shower, but you’ll just have to wait.  See, I was perusing the produce section of my Publix a couple of days ago and I saw a little basket that said “Meyer Lemons, While Supplies Last.”  So I bought them.  Yes, that’s right, all of them.  Every last one.  You can understand, right?  Why I didn’t leave any for anyone else?  I mean, I’ve bought regular lemons masquerading as Meyer Lemons in the past, but I’ve never seen anything I was sure was a real live Meyer before.   These were more orange than yellow, and had a very bright scent.  They were also noticeably softer than other lemons, with a thinner peel.  I loaded them up and ran right home to search my cookbooks for a suitably grand recipe.  I had thought to make lemon-poppyseed bread, since I love it and Jacob wasn’t home to object (he’s not a fan of loud citrus flavors), but when I saw the Marmalade recipe in my Gourmet cookbook I knew that was the way to go.

I’ve never had marmalade before, nor made it, so it was a lot of fun to try it out, especially with such good ingredients.  The lemons had a really great flavor – not overly tart, and sweeter than normal lemons, and with a piney sort of scent/taste.  When they were cooking down, they made my kitchen smell just lovely.  If you’ve never had Meyer Lemons before, I encourage you to give them a try if you see them.  I know they’d be killer in a lemon tart, or meringue pie, but you could also just use a squeeze in a vinaigrette, or over seafood and still enjoy the flavor.

MayerLemonMarmalade-1

 

The marmalade was very simple to make – easier than some jams I’ve made, since there was no mashing, or pureeing.  You do have to soak them for a whole day, though, so be sure to plan your time accordingly.  Other than the soaking time, I had the whole project complete in about an hour, so it’s not a huge time commitment.

 

MEYER LEMON MARMALADE

Gourmet Cookbook

Makes 6 1/2-Pint Jars

Active Time: 1 1/4 hours

Total Time: I day plus 1 1/4 hours

 

1 1/2 lb Meyer Lemons (about 6)

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

 

Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds, but don’t throw them out! Tie the seeds in a small cheesecloth bag – you’ll want the seeds to cook with the lemons so they’ll provide the pectin. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

After soaking, bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to approximately 4 cups, about 45 minutes.

While the lemons are cooking down, sterilize 6 half-pint jars, as well as bands and lids.  (I also put a couple of small plates in my freezer to chill at this point, for checking the doneness later*.)

Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate* gels, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove your seed bag and pour the hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids. Process for 10 minutes (for half-pints, longer for bigger jars), then let cool.

Marmalade keeps, stored in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.

*I’ve never used the cold plate method before, but it worked really well for me.  I put a plate in the freezer when I started cooking down my lemons, so that it would be well chilled.  Then, when you think the marmalade is done, drop a small spoonful on the cold plate and stick it back in the fridge (not freezer!) for a minute or so.  When you pull it out, tilt the plate and see if the marmalade runs – if it doesn’t, it’s done.  If it runs, just continue cooking until it does set.

Book Themed Baby Shower: Spinach & Pancetta Quiche/Green Eggs and Ham

green eggs and ham

green eggs and ham

This was a divine quiche.  Divine, I tell you.  I took a pretty standard Quiche Lorraine recipe and tweaked it just a bit to suit my “green eggs and ham” idea, and it was definitely one of the stars of the baby shower.  There was but one tiny slice left, and the expectant Mama requested the leftovers, so I didn’t get to bring a crumb of it home with me.  Sigh.  But not to worry, I’m planning a repeat of it this very weekend. 

 

Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Adapted from SmittenKitchen

Crust: (see note)*

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
1 egg

Filling:

2 cups spinach (I used a whole bag of Publix baby spinach)
3/4 cup diced shallot (2-4 depending on the size)
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups diced pancetta (about ½ pound, or a little more.)
3/4 cup grated cheese**

Heat a large sauté pan over med heat. Cook pancetta until just barely starting to brown and some of the fat has rendered, then add the onions and cook over low heat until the pancetta is nicely browned and shallots are caramelized, occasionally stirring, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or fingers until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix it until a dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate and press to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the quiche shell chills, mix the heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining three eggs. Add a pinch each nutmeg, salt and pepper and combine to form a batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the quiche shell from the refrigerator and spread the pancetta and shallot mixture evenly over the base. Spread spinach over this,then sprinkle evenly with cheese. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, then feel free to use it.  Or a frozen one would be just as good and save some time. 

**I used a mixture of cheddar and another mild hard cheese (BellaVitano Espresso from Publix) that I had laying around, but you can use gruyere, swiss, or anything else you like and it would be just as good. So I’ll leave it up to you. 

 

Blue Corn Grits

bluegrits-1

I’ll be honest.  I bought these because they’re blue.  Come on people.  Blue grits? Heirloom blue grits?  How could l not purchase them?  I first heard about Anson Mills in some culinary publication or other and, being a connoisseur of grits, I had to check it out.  Their story is pretty cool actually – you can read all about it here – but the short version is that they’ve rediscovered and are now growing and preserving several heirloom grains, including several varieties of corn and rice.  These blue grits are actually Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits, and they are excellent.  

When I say I’m a connoisseur of grits, you must understand; I was born and raised in the Deep South to southern parents, grandparents, etc.  And southerners take grits seriously.  Lately grits have been having something of a rennaissance moment – thank you Hugh Acheson and the Lee Bros – and have been showing up in all manner of fine restaurants and gourmet food stores, but they’ve been a staple in my house since before I can remember.  I can eat grits for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; with shrimp or salmon croquettes; made into grits cakes; or as a side dish at any given meal.  I’ve been getting my grits (stone ground) from a place called the Redneck Gourmet in Newnan, Ga.  You can’t purchase them from their website (deepest apologies to all of you who can’t obtain them, because they’re amazing and you’re really missing out), but if you ask they’ll sell them to you in the restaurant.  The Redneck is kind of famous in my part of Georgia – they’re huge Georgia Bulldogs fans there so they really represent during football season – but they also have some extremely good food.  If you’re in Newnan on a Friday, you should really stop by, because that’s Dawg day, and they have some of the best hotdogs you’ll find – I recommend the RG Dawg: chili, cheese, onions, and slaw.  It’s crazy good.

But I digress.  The grits.  I remain a loyal customer of the Redneck, and keep their grits on hand – they’re coarsly stone ground, so they cook up really large and tender – but I wanted to try the ones from Anson Mill to see if they really were as good as I’d heard.   Well, sleep soundly tonight, dear reader, because they are.  I have to mail order them, and their recipes are a little fussy, in my opinion, but they do have a great deep corn flavor, and the texture is spot on.  You want grits to be smooth and tender, but still with a little chew, and these are just perfect.  They do take a little longer to cook, and they recommend soaking them overnight, which takes more planning than I’m sometimes prepared for, but they are totally worth it.  And if you’re not from around here, and don’t eat grits very often, or, heaven forbid, have only had the instant kind, these are the ones you should try.  These are what instant grits want to be when they grow up. 

Now I’m giving you the recipe provided by Anson Mills – they actually have a disclaimer that says “not all recipes will work with our products, and our products won’t work with all recipes” – and this is true to some extent.  It really does cut down the cooking time if you soak them the night before, or at least a couple of hours, but in my experience letting it come to a boil and then simmering doesn’t adversely affect them, and I have never gone through all the rigamarole of adding water slowly, etc.  This isn’t risotto people, it’s grits, and like the people of the south, grits tend to be made of pretty sturdy stuff.  Just cover with water, simmer, add S&P, chives, cheese, and a pat of butter, and enjoy.

 

Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits

6 ounces (1 cup) Grits
 Salt and Pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

 Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (preferably a Windsor saucepan) and cover them with 2½ cups water. Stir once. Allow the grits to settle a full minute, tilt the pan, and skim off and discard the chaff and hulls with a fine tea strainer. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and keep hot. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them; each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the hot water, adding about 1½ cups water or more in 4 or 5 additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 90 minutes if they weren’t. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes. Add more salt, if desired, and the pepper.

 

Dutch Baby, Etc.

I had an excellent holiday season.  As you can see, my friends and relatives have pretty much accepted that I’m obsessed with food/cooking (and Julia Child, but really, the two go hand in hand) and they have bestowed upon me a wealth of new cooking tomes (Tomes.  That’s a cool word.  How often do we really use it though?  Like, never).  Before you go getting all jealous that I have the best family ever (I do) that spoils me with excessive gifts on Christmas, I should go all full-disclosure on you and admit that I also had a birthday last week that accounts for some of my haul. And I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I got about receiving so many of these “defining” cookbooks, as it were.

That Cook’s Illustrated one, oh it is Awesome.  With a capitol A.  I have been reading it like a novel (yes, I am a nerd.  Deal.) and I had to stop sticky-noting the things I wanted to cook because I was putting one on every page.

The Commonsense Kitchen, aside from the story behind it being one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard, has some of the best, and most simple, “home-style” recipes I’ve come across in a while.  The Dutch Baby I’m sharing with you below comes from it, and it was so good that it was eaten before it’s photo shoot was complete.

And really what kitchen is complete without How to Cook Everything?  I have a love-hate relationship with Mark Bittman since I’ve had some …weird (for lack of a better work)…luck with his recipes in the past, but he does know his stuff, and his kitchen tips are invaluable. And you really can’t beat it for a wide selection – there’s bound to be something in 2000 recipes that sounds good to you.

The others three in there are more specialized, and most importantly to me, are about my favorite kitchen pursuit.  I love to bake, and I don’t discriminate.  Cookies, cakes, pies, bread, you name it, I love it.  So that Peter Reinhart book pretty much made my day.  He is one of the ultimate authorities on bread-baking and an excellent teacher.  Despite the fact that almost all the recipes in this book require a starter of some sort, he explains everything in such a way that it not only sounds like an easy, approachable project, but something you should go out and do Right Now.  As someone who does not particularly care for the typical sandwich loaves sold so prevalently in our supermarkets, this book is invaluable to me since it will (hopefully!) be able to teach me to create bakery style breads at home.

Sky High is the book for you if you like to bake celebration cakes; i.e. towering, three story cakes with a variety of flavors, fillings, and frostings.  Which I do.  Actually, I made one from the book for my birthday, which I will share with you another day.  The pictures are gorgeous, and makes me want to eat the book, but I guess I’ll just have to make them all instead, since I would miss it terribly if anything untoward were to happen to it.

Farmer’s Market Desserts is another book that is near and dear to my heart.  You see, I hate cold weather. I enjoy fall and spring (I mean, it’s gorgeous outside, so I can’t really dislike it), but winter is just not for me.  I hate snow with a passion, and cold, blustery days make me want to stay inside with a cup of coffee and Pinterest Big Bang Theory reruns anything but laundry a good book. Summer, however is my season.  I love everything about it: the produce (oh, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, any-and-all berries, peaches, pears, how I love you!) the weather, the beach, the long days, all of it.  So when I saw this book, I pretty much had to have it.  I mean who doesn’t need to know like a thousand to new ways to use up all of that wonderful stuff that fills the farmer’s markets in the warmer months?  The book also has chapters such as “Autumn Harvest” and “Winter Citrus” for those of you who like that sort of thing, but let’s be honest; I got it just for Aprium Almond Tart.

Lastly, As Always, Julia is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Julia Child.  The book is a collection of the letters between Julia and her friend Avis DeVoto, who played a prominent part in getting The Book published.  Most people have seen the movie, or read those other books, and so know something about how Mastering the Art of French Cooking came to be written, but this is really a whole ‘nother view of it.  Avis was very involved in the editing of the book and finding someone to publish it after the original deal fell through and I really enjoyed seeing all of that behind-the-scenes type stuff.  And all of the little things that two friends talk about (gossip, politics, popular culture, etc) was really very entertaining.

So, what I’m saying is “Go out and get these books immediately.”  Or just stick around here and see what I make from them.  Whatever.

Dutch Baby

Adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen

These are also known as German Pancakes, and are sort of a cross between a pancake and a crepe.  The batter will be very thin but when removed from the oven will be puffy and golden.  After cooling for a moment it will sort of settle down into a thin pancake (or a thick crepe) that is the perfect marriage of the two.   You can serve it with fruit and powdered sugar, or syrup and  butter, or really anything, just be prepared to take pictures for your blog immediately because if it’s anything like our house, it won’t sit around very long.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Beat the eggs, milk, flour and salt in a medium bowl until very smooth.  I started out using a “spoonula” (one of those silicone spoon, spatula hybrids), because I wasn’t sure if I needed to be whisking a lot of air into the batter, but I couldn’t get it smooth at all, so I switched to just stirring with my whisk (not whipping) and that worked perfectly.

Melt the butter in a heavy 10 or 12 inch oven-safe skillet (I used a 10 inch cast iron).  As soon as the butter is bubbling, pour in the batter and immediately put skillet into the oven.  After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake for 7-9 minutes until the pancake is deep golden brown and edges are crispy looking.  (If the center if is puffing up in really large bubbles in the first 10-15 minutes, you can pierce them with a fork, although I forgot, and I didn’t notice that it affected the taste.  See above about not lasting long enough for decent photos.)

Cut the pancake into wedges and serve immediately with your topping of choice.  I used powdered sugar and sliced strawberries, while Jacob chose maple syrup, though again, it’s your choice, and either way it’s delicious.