Chocolate, cherries, oatmeal, coconut, smoked almonds; all delicious ingredients on their own. Combine and bake all of these individual ingredients with a touch of butter, a bit of locally produced fresh honey and something magical happens! Store bought granola is delicious but nothing can compare to freshly baked granola.
We all know that homemade granola is the perfect addition to our morning routine, but why does it just have to be limited to a breakfast staple? Bittersweet chocolate, melted and spread into a thin layer then sprinkled with a handful of homemade granola is the perfect mid afternoon pick me up snack. Portable and packed with protein, chocolate cherry granola bark will keep you going through the toughest part of your day.
The leaves are beginning to fall, the air is crisp, and autumn has arrived. My thoughts drift to hot apple cider, crisp fresh picked apples and everything pumpkin I can create. Pumpkin is a unique flavor reserved exclusively for the fall season. Rarely do you see a pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread gracing the table in the heat of the summer.
Leaves are turning bright red, yellow and orange. The smell of fresh cider and hot cinnamon donuts lingers in the air. Swimsuits and suntan lotion are traded for hayrides, wool blankets and cold metal bleachers at football games. It's fall in Michigan! The apples are abundant and it is the perfect time of year to make caramel apples.
The caramel apple has an uncertain history. Some say that a Kraft caramel salesman is credited with the first commercially publicized caramel apple. In the 1950's a man by the name of Dan Walker convinced Kraft to print and publicize a caramel apple recipe on the back of their wrapped caramel packages. It was an instant success. Families were able to make simple caramel apples with just three ingredients. An apple, a wooden stick and packaged caramels from Kraft. While this is a very heartwarming story, many historians would disagree, stating that there are recipes for caramel dating back to the 1700's and even earlier.
I have been struggling to eat healthier, exercise more and limit the amount of sweets I consume throughout the day. Most days I am really good at it, but some days not so much.... I have expressed to you in previous posts that I have no problem eating chocolate cake, cold out of the fridge for breakfast, but I haven't told you my ultimate weakness! I love anything salty and sweet, especially sea salt soft caramels. I can't get enough of them, and all my healthy eating willpower flies out the window whenever I am near them. I made a batch to photograph, posted it to Beanilla and then sent them over to my neighbors. My neighbors were very happy to be the recipients of the caramels, and I was utterly proud of myself and my willpower. Yah for me!!!
Fleur de Sel caramels are soft and creamy, sweet and salty and relatively simple to make, as long as you bring the mixture to an exact 241 degrees using a candy thermometer. A few degrees either way can result in caramel hard candies or a delicious bowl of caramel soup. Delicious, but not what we are striving for!
Granola can be a pretty boring breakfast option. It often is dry and practically void of flavor. In addition to that, most store-bought versions are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives (you thought you were being healthy, didn’t you!?). However, Homemade granola is easy to create in your own kitchen. In addition to ease of preparation, it is easily portioned and can keep for up to a month in a tightly closed container. The addition of dried exotic fruits, sweet coconut and maybe the occasional dark chocolate chip adds flavor and texture to a basic, tasteless granola. Adding Tahitian vanilla beans amps up the flavor even more; the sweet, fruity and floral notes of the beans mix with the dried fruits and coconut to create an exciting granola you will jump out of bed for. Plus, it looks beautiful in the bowl!
There is nothing quite as bright and cheerful as a lemon. I often buy a bag of lemons as a centerpiece for the breakfast table. The addition of these bright little fruits can cheer up even the grayest day! They are also one of the most versatile fruits; they can be used in both savory and sweet applications. The lemon's bright and tangy flavor can liven up just about any dish from roasted chicken to a beautiful fresh lemon curd tart.
I am surrounded by runners -- not just your every-day-I-think-I-will-go-out-for-a-leisurely-jog runner, but hardcore I-think-I-will-run-a-marathon runners! I am not a runner. I try to get out there and run a few miles, but my boredom gets the best of me. I know there are many people who love the freedom it gives them to be able to put on a pair of shoes and leave the stress of family, work and financial obligations behind. I know the health and weight benefits that running provides, but as much as I want to be one of those people, I just can’t get past the monotony and boredom of a long run. But….. I live with a family of runners, and I am their biggest supporter. You will always find me on the sidelines cheering for them at their next big race. I will always be there with a water bottle of Gatorade and a Clif bar to congratulate them on their accomplishment. I will always be their biggest fan.
Whoopie pies are a classic lunch box treat. Growing up it was always a treat to find whoppie pies, swiss cake rolls or oatmeal crème pies in our lunch nestled amongst the frozen juice boxes and the flattened tuna sandwich! (Courtesy of the frozen juice box)
Times have changed; the classics are delicious and bring back happy memories of child hood but parents these days are much more aware and concerned about what their children are consuming. Highly processed snacks and treats are being replaced with whole foods and nutritous snacks. Baking from scratch allows parents and health conscious persons to regulate the amount of refined flour, sugar and fats we introduce into our diets.
Some days there is nothing quite as nice as cuddling up with a warm blanket, a good movie and a big bowl of freshly made popcorn! I'm not talking about the kind you pop in the microwave with the fake butter substance, no. But, I am talking about good old fashioned cook-on-the-stovetop popcorn. The kind that pops up light and fluffy, begging for a drizzle of real melted butter and perhaps a sprinkle of vanilla fleur de sel.
Certain foods evoke memories of holidays; peeps for Easter, candy corn for Halloween and, of course, candy canes for Christmas. Each year, as Christmas draws near, my son asks to make peppermint bark; a tradition I am more than happy to continue with him. I always encourage parents to cook and bake with their children, and peppermint bark is an easy recipe to create with just about any age child.
It’s that time of year once again; the pumpkins are popping up in every grocer and on neighbors' porches. Giant ones, orange ones, white ones, warty ones, multi-colored ones and, of course, the very versatile pie pumpkin ones. The pie pumpkin can be cleaned, roasted and pureed, then made into delicious pumpkin desserts. Alas, I don’t have the time to roast my own beautiful pumpkin puree, so I use the next best thing -- canned.
Food allergies are on the rise in the general public, and peanuts, dairy and gluten are the top offenders. In order to stay competitive and offer consumers a product they can consume without worry, many chefs are offering dishes that are free of peanuts, dairy and gluten.
As a working pastry chef, I have tested and offered these products in many of the businesses I have worked in. A few of my favorites include red velvet cupcakes, chocolate flourless cake (to die for) and my go-to 10 minute recipe of gluten-free rice crispy treats with callebaut chocolate.
Candied nuts are a wonderful sweet treat any time of the year! I enjoy eating them straight off the baking sheet but they are equally delicious on baked goods or even fresh mixed green salads. A simple salad of mixed greens, blue cheese and French vinaigrette begs for the sweet crunchy candied pecan. In baking candied pecans can be added to fudge, used as a topping for scones or folded into homemade ice cream. The uses for the candied pecan is unlimited!
Homemade Graham Crackers (S'mores Part 2)
As promised, here is part two of the homemade marshmallows recipe that was posted on Tuesday. Homemade marshmallows are delicious and definitely a treat to have around the house. But, what would a s'more be without the graham cracker?
When I was much, much younger, I had a best friend whose mom would give us graham crackers sandwiched with leftover homemade frosting. I still love it to this day!
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows (S'mores Part 1)
Part one? This week I would like to do a recipe for homemade s'mores in two parts, so be sure to check back on Thursday for the graham cracker recipe.
Living in beautiful West Michigan has its perks. Great lakes surround us, beautiful scenery abounds, wonderful communities of friendly neighbors and four seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter -- that time of year when no one can go to the lake, the cabin, or the beach. Summer is a time for Michiganders to soak up the sun in preparation for winter hibernation. Labor Day weekend is usually the last weekend when we are able to go to the lake, the cabin or the beach house. In celebration of these last days of summer I am presenting you with a quintessential summer camping recipe, s'mores!