Homestead Living: Maple Syrup Granola

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It’s  been three weeks since we moved into our little house on the hill and I must say that settling into country living is going pretty smoothly so far. Smith and I are starting to get into a good routine and I am really enjoying my newly updated kitchen (pictures to come soon). One of the goals I have for our new location is to attempt to embrace more of a homestead type of living. This doesn’t mean I’m swearing off modern medicine (I’m a physical therapist, after all). It just means I am hoping to broaden our horizons with more made-from-scratch foods, gardening, and composting. I plan on including my steps toward a modified version of this type of lifestyle. The first project? Homemade granola.

t am always shocked to see the price of granola in grocery stores considering how easy it is to make and that all the ingredients for a basic batch are readily available. Robert has finally joined the Greek yogurt train, but he prefers eating it with a bit of granola. As a result, i decided it was time to start making our own at home.

I perused through recipes and landed on this one. It’s from the folks of the ever-reliable Cook’s Illustrated. It’s a simple concoction with a delicious result. The original recipe calls for almonds and raisins, but old Bert is a no frills type of guy and we kept it simple. This is a great granola recipe that you can jazz up with lots of ingredients depending on your personal preferences. Nuts, dried fruits, seeds, chocolate chips, etc. The possibilities are endless so save yourself some moolah and start making your own granola today!

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Oh and I just couldn’t resist throwing in this picture of my little ham loaf…

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Maple Syrup Granola

Yield: 5 3/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk in the oil until well combined. Add in the oatmeal and mix until the oats are evenly coated.

3. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet. and gently pat down with a spatula.

4. Bake for 40-45 mins, or until lightly browned. Be sure to rotate the pan after about 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Break up the granola with a spatula and store in an airtight container.

Source: My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball

Chocolate Pots de Creme

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I am going to show you the very erudite side of me and tell you that I used to pronounce this lovely custard treat “pots-day-cream” until I saw a chef making it on a cooking show about five years ago and he was saying it the correct way, “poh-de-cccccccrem.” I was just a little bit embarrassed, but I did manage to laugh at myself. That’s what life is all about, right?

Those silly French folk and their fancy words and my phonetically-centered brain. I would fit right in in France. Can’t you see Ina Garten and me perusing the markets while Jeffery worked on his computer back at our Parisian apartment? Yeahhhh…. neither can I.

Nonetheless, pots de creme is a surprisingly easy dessert to make. There is no baking involved and it requires very few ingredients. You just need to allow some extra time for it to set in the refrigerator and the end result is a big ol’ pot of CCCCCCCCCCREM. How fancy; just like those French.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Bonjour!

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Arrange 6 small bowls on a cookie sheet and set aside.

2. Pulse the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a food processor until ground into fine pieces.

3. Add in the egg and pulse until smooth. Set aside.

4.. Place the cream in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat on the stove until bubbles just start to form along the edges (not a full boil). Remove from heat.

5. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the cream through the feed, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides as needed. Mix until well combined and smooth.

6. Pour the mixture into the bowls, dividing evenly, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Enjoy with whipped cream, cookies, and/or fresh fruit.

Source: King Arthur Flour

Homemade Peeps: Version 2.0

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To celebrate this beautiful Easter weekend, I attempted to make homemade peeps again. My first attempt was last spring. Visions of beautiful, sparkling marshmallow treats danced in my head. I had seen several versions on Pinterest and I knew it was destined to be a hit. I was so young and naive.  As you can see in the picture below, the magical peeps I had envisioned ended up looking like it belonged perfectly on a Pinterest Fail blog with the caption, “Nailed It.”

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Not only did the marshmallow I piped on parchment paper turn into a pastel and turd-like blob, the said blobs stuck to the parchment paper even after cooling and there was no salvaging this mess. I was a bird with a  broken wing.

When spring rolled around again this year, I came down with peep fever; and I decided it was time to try again. This time I stuck with a homemade marshmallow recipe I had used before. To prevent the little devils from sticking, I lightly sprayed the parchment paper with cooking spray. Though my homemade version featured a very diverse array of imperfect peep shapes and looks (morbidly obese, two-headed, evil eyes), I was much happier with this year’s version.

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I will definitely be making these bad boys again next year, hopefully with my little sous chef by my side.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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Strawberry Delight

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We are slowly getting settled into our new lives in the country. Things I have observed so far: it gets very dark and quiet at night, having family close by is wonderful (especially when you get sick and you have an infant to care for), I no longer have to pick up Athena’s excrement when we take her on walks because the roads are already sprinkled with horse dung, Athena is the happiest she has been ever, and we have wild turkeys in the woods behind us (that I mistook for Athena one Sunday afternoon).

It’s been a little over a week since we moved in and the reality of being back in the area we grew up in is gradually sinking in. Small town living means that I now usually recognize or run into someone I know every time I go out to run errands. It’s definitely a big change from the anonymity I grew accustomed to in Columbus. But it’s a good change. While living in a small town has its drawbacks, it also has its benefits. There are lots of friendly faces and people willing to help each other at a moment’s notice. The sense of community is strong. We are lucky to have some great folks in our lives.

Speaking of wonderful people, we had my in-laws over for dinner last weekend as a way to thank them for all the help they provided us. We made a simple dinner of barbecued chicken, red potatoes, mixed greens, and this dessert. Strawberry delight is my twist on a classic treat in this area, cherry delight. Traditionally made with cherry pie filling and cool whip, I swapped in a homemade fresh strawberry sauce and heavy whipping cream instead. The end result was a really tasty finish to a meal that was very well-received by our company. I am looking forward to many more family dinners in our new home.

Country living is going to suit us well.

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Strawberry Delight

Yield: 12 Servings

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream

For the strawberry topping:

  • 3 cups chopped strawberries
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Make the strawberry topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, water, and cornstarch. Set aside. Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, gently mashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture, bring to a boil again, and cook for 1 minute longer until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the graham crack crumbs, melted butter, salt, and sugar. Gently press the crumb mixture into a 9×13 pan with your fingers until evenly distributed. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

3. Make the filling: Place the whipping cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Place whipped cream in a separate bowl. Add the cream cheese to the now empty bowl of the electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Add in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar until well-incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped cream until smooth (don’t over mix!).

4. Assemble: Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the cooled crust and top with strawberry topping. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. This dessert keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 days.

Source: Adapted from a local cookbook; Strawberry topping adapted from Annie’s Eats