Tag Archives: baking

Easy Homemade Granola

11 Jun

Over the course of the last year, I started getting into the habit of making my own granola bars, and then of making my own cereal, so after hearing from multiple people just how easy it is, and a few months of being frustrated at how quickly I ran out of my cereal base, I decided to make my own granola at home, too.

Once again, I don’t see myself going back:

  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Large batch
  • On-hand ingredients

What’s not to love?

I really just perused a few recipes online and tweaked them based on what I had, and was ultimately very happy with the super-easy results.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado, because it’s what I had, but brown sugar would probably be yummy, too)
  • 1/4 cup milled flaxseed (optional, but replace with additional oats if you’re cutting this out)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Note: I opted not to incorporate any extras like nuts or dried fruit, because I wanted to be able to use the granola interchangeably (some morning I feel like almonds, some I feel like pecans) but you could easily add those into this recipe and get it all done at once.

How You Do It:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry.
  5. Stir.
  6. Spread evenly over baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour (or until browned and crunchy), stirring every 10-15 minutes.

It’s that simple. And truthfully, as per usual Marissa, I got distracted during the baking and only stirred the granola once. Came out just fine. A few tips: use a rimmed baking sheet if you have one, to make your life easier while stirring. Use a rubber spoon or spatula to mix, spread and stir the granola. This helps chunks of the granola bake together, and if you’re gentle when you remove it from the sheet,  you can maintain some of those, should you be a fan of clusters of oats.

Store the granola in an airtight container, and so far, mine is going on two weeks and still crunchy!

What are you favorite uses for granola — or granola recipe variations? Leave a comment and let us know!

Marissa’s Vegan Cranberry Carrot Ginger Muffins

20 Feb

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a strange craving. I wanted cranberry muffins. But I also wanted morning glory muffins. I had carrots in the house and for some reason, the idea of eating some of them for breakfast would not get out of my head.

To the internet I went!

I didn’t actually know what was in morning glory muffins, despite how much I enjoy them. And while all the recipes I found sounded delicious, I didn’t have any pineapple, coconut or raisins, and I wanted something with a bit more spice. So I searched for carrot ginger muffins, and found this delicious-looking recipe.

And so began my very first “invented” recipe.

My modifications from the original recipe were pretty simple, actually. I used a “flax seed egg” as detailed in the original post, and vanilla almond milk instead of dairy milk, making the recipe fully vegan. But where I got really crazy was that instead of using a 1/2 up of raisins, I used a 1/2 cup of my homemade cranberry sauce.

This was a little risky, because the cranberry sauce is basically a liquid ingredient, so to balance the additional moisture, I slightly increased the amount of flour in the recipe to 2 1/4 cups. The muffins did take 18 minutes, the upper end of the cook time of the original recipe, to set fully in the center. They needed a few minutes on a wire rack to firm, and the texture of the muffin overall stayed moist, for the entire week or so it took me to eat my way through the batch.

But… it worked! And they were really delicious! I was so excited with my kitchen innovation that I texted my pastry chef little sister, who was very proud of me for both my ingenuity and my vegan baking skillz.

Ok, so I used another recipe as a base, and I’ve certainly modified recipes before. But with the exception of substituting applesauce for eggs, I usually don’t modify baked goods, knowing there’s a good deal of chemistry involved.

And I have certainly never done something so adventurous as add a completely different flavor and liquid ingredient before. So when these muffins turned out deliciously, I cannot express just how proud I was.

As I’ve told you all before, I spent most of my life thinking of myself as a total failure in the kitchen. Learning I could learn to cook was a huge victory for me — cooking well is all bonus, as far as I’m concerned. Never did I think I could come this far. Never did I think I would have the knowledge — or the guts — to try something outside the box when it came to baking.

Having it turn out well is the ultimate prize for an awkward clumsy nerd turned-food advocate, because it means what I say is true. Anyone can do this. Trust me. When you settle in to enjoy two warm, soft muffins that are your idea and your recipe with a cup of coffee on a winter Saturday morning, the burned cakes and smoke-alarm fries and leek tarts will all have been worth it.

Cranberry Pecan Bread

13 Dec

I have a major soft spot for cranberry-orange flavors. The coffee shop just a few blocks from my apartment in Iowa sold cranberry orange muffins and for about a month one summer, I think I ate one nearly every morning. When I was in New Hampshire for a few days over Thanksgiving, my mother made an amazing cranberry spice cake and cranberry-orange bread that I ate happily even though it didn’t cook all the way through. That’s right. I ate around the unbaked part.

So when I returned to Kansas and stopped at the grocery store for a few supplies, the fresh organic cranberries called out to me. And the next morning, when I needed to dream up something I could make a big batch of for quick breakfasts for the final three weeks of the semester, I knew it had to be cranberry.

But in an effort to switch things up a little, I decided to try and search for some options that would include the pecans I also had lying around. And boy, look what I found.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe — I used vanilla soymilk because I was out of orange juice (thereby eliminating the flavor that was the original inspiration, which is probably a good thing because I might have gone into cranberry-orange overload). I also never have buttermilk in the house, so I’ve long-since learned that yogurt is a perfect substitute, as it keeps the tart flavor and the live cultures of the buttermilk needed in the recipe without causing you to buy something you might not use again  in its limited window. And because I love pecans, I didn’t chop or toast them, and the big, nutty chunks in the final product are great.

Finally, though the recipe (this one and all the others I found) do mention that frozen or dried cranberries would work just as well, I would highly recommend using whole, fresh cranberries if you can. The other options would certainly not change the flavor of the bread, but the fresh cranberries create these wonderfully tart, explosive little juice pockets in the middle of the bread. The perfect wake-up call.

While baking this tart/sweet breakfast bread, a soft, wet snow was falling outside. I was listening to Bon Iver and Massive Attack (some of my favorite heavy winter sounds). I put up my fabulous fake Christmas tree…

…And generally got into the spirit of holiday merry-making. Enjoy!

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake

8 Nov

Since I haven’t shared a baked-goods recipe with you all for awhile, I decided to devote this week’s recipe post to a sweet snack. And this one comes, not from a magazine or cookbook, but from my very own recipe box!

Well, ok, from my mom’s recipe box, where I coped this down from. Don’t worry, I got her permission to share this one with you. Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake.

In New England, where I grew up, autumn looks like this.

Yeah. And we celebrate fall like nobody’s  business — state fairs, haunted hay rides, pine needle houses (this is where there are so many pine needles in your front yard, that when tasked with helping your father rake the leaves, you have to learn how to separate out the sticky needles, and you and your sisters shape them into the outlines of houses to play in. Multi-room pine needle mansions, complete with pine needle beds to lay on).

One of my family’s most treasured fall rituals is apple picking. Now plenty of people will hit up a U-Pick orchard in fall, but there were seven of us, which meant we left with BUSHELS of apples of five or six varieties, and had to come up with a lot of things to do with them.

(Note: I definitely did not ask my little sister’s permission to use an old photo of her wearing braces in this post. File under hazards of knowing a nonfiction writer. Love you, Caitlin!)

We’d have apple crisp, of course. My parents would invite their friends over for cider-pressing parties. My mother has developed an epic applesauce factory. But my favorite treat was always apple snacking cake.

We call it “snacking cake” because it serves many purposes: you can eat this sweet but fruited cake for breakfast, an after-school snack, or for dessert. Versatile and delicious.

It’s not burdened with the syrupy-sweetness of a caramel apple, but neither is it overly tart. The apples melt away into the cake, leaving it incredibly moist, even after weeks in the refrigerator or freezer. The best part is the secret ingredient — rice krispies! –  leave these little crystallized pockets of chewiness in the cake without adding too much sweetness.

Here’s the recipe…

Mom’s Apple Snacking Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. rice krispies
  • 2 c. apples, peeled and sliced not too thin
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer. Add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
  3. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and mix.
  4. Add oil, vanilla and apples, stirring gently.
  5. Fold in rice krispies
  6. Pour batter into a 13 x 9 – inch pan (glass, ceramic or aluminum will do, but I prefer glass) coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy with tea, milk or fresh whipped cream. Cake will keep in freezer.

Dessert Can Be Healthy, Too!

14 Jul

We all know I’m a big fan of looking beyond the headlines — understanding just what it is that makes a food healthy or unhealthy, exposing the truth that Big Ag doesn’t want us to see, explaining the complicating factors behind an organic or ethical label, etc. I believe that when we take the time to understand the why of food, it becomes a lot easier to understand how. How to tell the difference between what we should or shouldn’t eat.

This is the same principle I use on dessert.

Because I’ve got a big-time sweet tooth (though not as big as some people I know…) and I don’t believe in depriving myself, but I also know that lots of sugar, especially refined or corn-based, is not that great for my body, I’ve taken to figuring out ways to create healthier, lighter versions of desserts — that don’t skimp on the taste!

The bourbon fudge brownies pictured above are my latest conquest. (Ok, I swear, I’m not a huge lush. I just like to cook with bourbon. And drink it. Often.)

Derived and only slightly modified from my favorite cooking publication, Cooking Light magazine, these brownies were rich without being too heavy, and the perfect cake/fudge texture. You can really taste the bourbon! And best of all — they come in at only 148 calories per serving.

Now, I’m no calorie counter, but when it comes to dessert, the lower the better, because that means I can have one every night with no guilt. So how does it work? What is the magical hidden ingredient in these brownies to make them both delicious & relatively healthy? Prunes? Beets?

Nope. Nothing like that. Sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate, bourbon. All standard brownie parts.

In all my searching for lighter desserts, the one major principle that I’ve discovered is this: substitute. It’s remarkable how much better for you a recipe can become when you swap out an ingredient for a lighter counterpart.

Baking, my pastry chef sister will remind me, is very much a science, and I’m no chemist. In fact, I used to be particularly bad at baking because I was so bad at following recipes, and you can’t easily skip or change ingredients when baking — unless you understand what that ingredient does. Once you learn that an egg white is there as a binding agent or that the butter beaten with sugar helps aerate the cake, it becomes a lot easier to imagine what might fill in for those ingredients, and what to leave alone.

I did  not learn this overnight. And in fact, I still don’t know most of it. The key to substituting in recipes for me has been to have someone else do it for me. I rely heavily on resources like Cooking Light, which I love because they provide recipes plus an explanation of how they’ve modified it.

Which means you get a brownie whose 150 calories include bourbon-infused melted chocolate. Which I most certainly did not stick my finger in to try while baking!

Vegan baking is another great way to learn substitutions. Since vegans will not eat eggs or dairy products, a vegan recipe is often already lighter. And then you learn great tricks you can apply to any recipe — my favorite being using applesauce in place of eggs or oil. I get a lot of great ideas from NYC’s vegan bakery babycakes, the website post-punk kitchen, and my awesome friends Ashley & Stephen at (never home) maker.

Once you begin practicing baking a bit more often, you gather these ideas, and that hard science of baking starts to become more manageable. If a recipe calls for buttermilk, you no longer need to make a special trip to the store — you can use some of that Greek yogurt! Want to avoid molasses? Try maple syrup instead! Maybe you’re out of eggs — but you have a browning banana?

It’s not quite a free-for-all, but it can be empowering. And fun. Once I got into it a little, baking became less intimidating, and more of a really cool adventure. We already know I like to make everything my own little by little, and it feels great to look at a coffee cake and know, whatever recipe I followed, it was my idea to use chocolate pudding in place of the yogurt.

Which is why, when I serve up delicious brownies on these crystal dessert plates, I pretend that the initials don’t stand for Maureen Finnegan Landrigan (my grandmother, to whom they once belonged). No, they stand for Marissa, Bad Ass Baking M*therF*cker.

I’d love to hear about your baking victories! Healthy desserts? Killer substitutions or modifications? Leave a comment and share your bad-ass baking moment, or subscribe to We*Meat*Again to stay up-to-date on my baking adventures!

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