Posts Tagged 'Snacks'

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

And I’m back! My blog absence is due, in large part, to the fact that my husband and I completed the Whole 30 in the month of January – no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy for an entire month. I really should have written about it on the blog, but all the recipe searching, planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning took just about everything I had. Honestly, it wasn’t all that difficult since we enjoy lots of home-cooked whole foods as it is, but it was challenging to cook every single meal, every day for 30 days. (I had a couple of bad days that month and really didn’t feel like cooking, but Chipotle just wasn’t an option.) We even survived a family visit/trip to the mountains; I just cooked everyone’s food, and we stared longingly at the red wine.

We did it as a digestive investigation (as opposed to doing it for vanity, which is fine, too!), and I think our investigative purpose certainly helped us stick with it. For better or worse, we discovered that we both function optimally eating within the Whole 30 parameters, and dairy really isn’t Dr. O’s friend. Thankfully, none of the foods we eliminated and re-introduced made us sick, per se; we could just tell a difference in our energy levels, digestive function, and yes, bodily appearance when we put them back in. Our plan for now is to stick closely to the plan at home (though I won’t pretend we aren’t having any wine or dark chocolate), and not to worry so much at friends’ houses or restaurants.

Not worrying so much at friends’ houses is a good thing, because what is perhaps the best appetizer I’ve ever made came out of my recipe search for this month’s gourmet club meeting. Our theme was aphrodisiac foods, and I chose this recipe because of the tomato, basil, and honey elements. With its lush, creamy texture, I figured the ricotta couldn’t hurt either. Here it is!

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta
Serves 6
Prep: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr., 45 min.

Ingredients:
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon buckwheat or chestnut honey
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Method:
Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Scrape the tomatoes onto the prepared baking sheet and turn them cut side up. Bake the tomatoes for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, until they begin to shrivel and brown. Let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil for about 30 seconds on each side, until the edges are golden brown.

Spread the ricotta over the baguette slices and top with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the tomatoes with the buckwheat honey, sprinkle with the sliced basil and serve with additional buckwheat honey on the side.

Make ahead: The roasted tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Source: Food & Wine

My notes:

  • Surely, part of the reason this tasted so amazing is because I made my own ricotta. I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe with 1 cup of heavy cream and 3 cups of whole milk. Making ricotta is actually pretty easy and well worth the effort.
  • I made two separate batches of tomatoes over a couple of days, once with a light baking sheet and once with a dark one. The tomatoes on the light baking sheet were softer, and the tomatoes on the dark baking sheet were almost candied. Both were delicious.
  • Since I didn’t feel like tracking down buckwheat or chestnut honey, I used clover honey for the tomatoes and for drizzling (as did several of the recipe reviewers).
  • If you don’t want to make your own baguette toasts, baguette chips from the bakery area of the grocery store work just as well.

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

This is one of those appetizers where people moan while they eat it. Seriously. The combo of crunchy bread, fresh and creamy ricotta, and sweet slow-roasted tomatoes is beyond delicious. The basil adds brightness, and the honey drizzle takes everything over the top. Plus, it’s totally gorgeous on the plate (far more than my photo shows).

I served this twice over the course of two days – once at gourmet club and once at my Downton Abbey supper club – and everyone raved. I’m going to make this again and again, but only when others are around for sharing.  It’s dangerously good!

Recipe link: Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil

Let me introduce you to my current favorite appetizer for entertaining: White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil from Peace Meals.  It’s absolutely delicious and looks really sophisticated, though it’s super easy and can be made ahead.  I originally made it for a gourmet club meeting a few months back, and then re-made it this past weekend when we had friends over for dinner.  It was a hit!

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 bay leaf
30 ounces canned white beans, drained and rinsed, with 3 tablespoons whole beans reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Fresh pita bread or crackers

Method:
Warm 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf, cooking gently for about 1 minute (do not overcook). Discard the bay leaf. Pour the oil and the sautéed garlic into a food processor or blender, setting the sauté pan aside for later use. Add the white beans, lemon juice, and salt to the food processor, and purée the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puréed dip to a serving bowl and top with the reserved whole beans. Heat the remaining 1/8 cup of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium. Add the sage and lemon zest, cooking just until the sage begins to curl and the zest begins to turn golden. Remove from heat and drizzle the infused oil, sage, and lemon zest over the bean dip. Serve warm or at room temperature with pita bread or crackers.

Source: Peace Meals

White Bean Dip with Sage Lemon Olive Oil

Yum, yum, yum.  The texture of the dip is just like hummus, but the sage and lemon create a really distinct flavor profile.  I usually feel like hummus is a bit tangy, but this is smooth, bright (from the lemon), and herbaceous (from the sage).  It’s at its absolute best right when you’ve poured the warm oil, sage, and lemon zest over the top, but it’s still amazing made ahead.  Just allow the oil on top to cool to room temperature, cover your dish with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and then set the dip out 30 or 45 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.  You (and your guests) will love it!

Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins

Yay for mainstream muffin recipes that actually work at high altitude!  I suspect this is because Everyday Food‘s Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins contain 1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt; in my experience, recipes with acidic batters tend to fare better here in Denver.  Regardless, I’m thrilled to have a new recipe I can throw together on the weekends or add to the brunch buffet when we’re entertaining.  Here it is if you want to try it (this one isn’t on the Everyday Food website just yet):

Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Active time: 15 min. | Total time: 35 min.
Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, plus 2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/4 cups blueberries (7 ounces)
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, vanilla, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture, stirring until combined (do not overmix).

In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour to coat, then fold into batter.  Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and set, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.  Let muffins cool in pan on wire rack.

Stir together orange juice and confectioners’ sugar.  Drizzle over muffins and let glaze set, about 10 minutes, before serving.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, January/February 2012

My notes:

  • I did cut the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons (from 1 tablespoon) out of high-altitude modification habit.  I’m not sure if the change was 100% necessary, but it worked for me.
  • I used Mountain High low-fat plain yogurt.
  • This batter is THICK.  Don’t be nervous.  I used an ice-cream scoop to portion it out.
  • I like a thinner glaze than what the recipe creates.  Just add more orange juice if you want to thin it out as well.
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins Crumb

Look at that crumb!

Yum!  These muffins have a nice, moist crumb and a perfect blueberry-to-batter proportion.  They aren’t too sweet on their own, so the glaze complements the muffins nicely.  They come out of the muffin liners pretty cleanly too, which I always appreciate.  Bonus: Only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per muffin.  I usually have two, and Dr. O (with his unbelievable metabolism) usually has four, so we’re able to get two breakfasts out of the recipe.  They are best the day they’re made, but the “here’s breakfast, and I didn’t have to make a new mess” factor makes them almost as good on the second day.

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

I’m a big dessert person, but I don’t always want to make a big effort in order to have it.  When my friend Christopher came over for dinner recently, I was looking for something that would be fun, delicious, and easy.  The answer?  Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  I love Rice Krispies treats – they so remind me of my childhood – and the chocolate element of this recipe elevates the flavor to something adults can really appreciate. Plus, the treats came together in 10 minutes flat.  Perfection!

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats
Makes 16

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides.  Butter paper; set pan aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows, and cocoa.  Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes; stir in rice cereal.  Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate.  Let cool to room temperature; cut into 16 bars.  (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

These are so good!  I’ve never really been a chocolate Rice Krispies treat kind of girl (I love the original recipe), but I’ll totally make these again.  The texture is perfect, with just the right amount of butter and marshmallow, and I love, love, love the rich flavor of the chocolate drizzle on top.  This would be such a fun dessert for a dressed-up comfort food dinner party.

TIPS:  I was always under the impression that Rice Krispies treats got pretty stale if you didn’t eat them the day they were made, but these keep beautifully.

Recipe link: Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Those of you who are lucky enough to have spouses or partners who love to join you in the kitchen, I envy you.  Dr. O is wonderful (really!) and has many redeeming qualities, but he does not cook.  He does not slice, he does not chop, he does not stir.  He rarely even toasts.

So you can imagine how good Alton Brown’s soft pretzel recipe must be if it’s the one thing that gets him in the kitchen.  He asks for them again and again, knowing that I’ll only make them if he helps.  (These pretzels are so amazing that I might make them even if he didn’t help, but I’ll never tell.)

Here’s the recipe if you want to give them a try:

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Makes 8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm (110° to 115°F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Method:
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.  Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.  Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.  Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.  Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.  Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Alton Brown, FoodNetwork.com

Soft Pretzels

This recipe produces absolutely amazing results.  This is the best soft pretzel I’ve ever had – at a stadium, a bakery, anywhere.  If you’re a pretzel person (and I am!), we’re talking ecstasy.

We tried honey mustard and spicy brown mustard as dipping sauces; the spicy brown won, hands down.  The pretzels would be fantastic with cheese as well.  We had a few leftover pretzels (hard to believe!); some were sliced horizontally for sandwiches, others were reheated in the microwave for 25 seconds on high.  The reheated pretzels weren’t quite as good as fresh out of the oven, but they still beat the heck out of a SuperPretzel.

TIPS: If you don’t quite get how to form the pretzels, watch Alton do it here.

Recipe link: Homemade Soft Pretzels

Caramel Corn

And I’m back!  Sorry for the extended absence.  Between helping to plan a major fundraiser for the organization for which I volunteer (Resource Area for Teaching Colorado – check it out!) and preparing for our trip to Tokyo for Dr. O’s brother’s wedding (food post coming soon!), September was almost more than I could handle. We had some amazing experiences, but it’s good to be settling back into our usual routine.

I originally made today’s recipe – Caramel Corn – for a baseball-themed gourmet club meeting this summer, but with Halloween fast approaching, this treat would be so cute in clear bags with ribbons.  What you don’t want to do (unless you’re really hungry or have an amazing metabolism) is make this all by yourself with no plans to share.  It’s so ridiculously good that you will eat the whole batch.

Cracker Jack Caramel Corn Recipe

Ingredients:
2 bags natural microwave popcorn (to yield 16 cups of popcorn)
12 ounces Spanish peanuts
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:
Preheat oven to 300°F.  Meanwhile, pop popcorn in microwave according to package directions and grease two large rimmed baking sheets.

Dump the popcorn and Spanish peanuts in a clean tall paper grocery bag.  In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt over medium heat and allow to gently boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.  Carefully and immediately pour caramel sauce into the paper grocery bag and stir the sauce, popcorn, and nuts with a wooden spoon until the sauce is evenly distributed.

Divide the popcorn mixture evenly between the two greased baking sheets.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.  Cool completely and break up the pieces (if desired).  Popcorn can be stored for at least a week (if it lasts that long!) in zip-top bags or airtight containers.

Note: The original recipe calls for air-popped popcorn and 1 tsp. salt.  Using microwave popcorn was just easier for me.

Caramel Corn

Holy cow, was this ever fantastic.  I think it borders on kettle corn, but any sweet-and-salty snack lovers will go crazy for it.  With this sauce-to-popcorn ratio, the popcorn was lightly coated and stayed crisp.  (I’ve had gooey, chewy caramel corn before and I like this much better.)  It’s a perfect make-ahead snack or dessert as well; it tasted just as good on day five as it did on day one.

TIPS: I made a batch of this caramel corn for my parents, but I used cashews instead of peanuts.  The result?  Things worked much better with the peanuts.  Maybe whole cashews would be okay, but cashew pieces almost burned.

Recipe link: Caramel Corn

Watermelon Mango Salsa

It may be 58° outside, but I’m going to blog summer recipes until the season is officially over, dangit.  Plus, there are plenty of watermelons and mangoes available in my supermarket right now, and this salsa is sooooo good.  I made it for our farmers’ market-themed gourmet club last month, but it would be fantastic as part of a picnic, as an appetizer for a non-traditional Mexican menu, or as a garnish for grilled fish or chicken.  Give it a try!

Watermelon Mango Salsa
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:
Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.  Serve with chips.

Source: Peace Meals (such a gorgeous cookbook!)

Watermelon Mango Salsa

I’ll admit that I was initially a bit hesitant about adding garlic to watermelon, but this combination of ingredients really works.  You get sweetness from the watermelon and the mango, tartness from the apple and the lime juice, and savory goodness from the onion, jalapeno, and garlic.  I enjoyed the play between textures just as much as the flavor; the crunch from the apples and onions was especially terrific.  I’ll definitely make this one again, especially if I have leftover watermelon to use.

Like most recipes I love, the salsa can be made ahead.  I threw mine together a couple of hours before serving it and I thought it was just perfect; if you make yours ahead and it gets too juicy, just drain off some of the liquid before serving.

Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk (aka The Most Fun Way to Make Chocolate Milk Ever)

Has anyone around here been reading this blog long enough to remember the request line?  It fizzled out around the time we made our move from Dallas back to Denver, but a friend from college singlehandedly (and unknowingly) revived it by sending me a recipe a few weeks ago.  Since he specifically said I should try it and blog about it, I’m going to happily interpret that as a request.  And it’s a good one! The recipe was simple and quick (minus the milk chilling time, but that’s hands off) and so much fun.  Thanks, Mike, for reminding me that I love chocolate milk (and should enjoy it more often!).

So, the premise behind the recipe is to make what basically amounts to chocolate ice cubes, and to serve them with milk that has been “enhanced” with a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Kids would love this treat (without the instant coffee, I’m sure) and I think this makes a fun dessert for adults as well.  Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Ice

Ingredients:
200 ml milk
50 ml water
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee (optional) (I used Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso)
70 g dark chocolate (66% cacao) (I ignored the cacao recommendation and used Cadbury Royal Dark because I like it and it was on sale)

Method:
Finely chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.

Pour milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, cocoa, and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Pour over the chocolate, set aside for 5 minutes, then mix gently with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.  Cool and pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Vanilla Milk

Ingredients:
600 ml milk
60 g sugar
1 vanilla pod

Method:
Pour milk into a large saucepan.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Slit the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Cool, then refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight.

To serve, place chocolate ice cubes in glasses (3 – 4 cubes per glass, depending on the size) and pour the cold vanilla milk over the cubes.

Note:  I used the measurements indicated in the recipe because my liquid measuring cups have cup and milliliter markings.  I also have a kitchen scale, so I was able to just weigh my sugar.  Fifty milliliters of water is a little under 1/4 cup; 200 milliliters of milk is a little over 3/4 cup; 600 milliliters of milk is about 2 1/2 cups.  Seventy grams of dark chocolate was all but five squares of a Cadbury Royal Dark bar.  Sixty grams of sugar should be slightly over 1/4 cup.  Thankfully, this isn’t baking, so the recipe should be forgiving of slight variations.

Chocolate Ice Cubes

Chocolate Milk

Holy cow, was this ever delicious!  It’s rare for me to just sit down with a glass of milk (especially chocolate milk), and I feel like I’ve been missing out.  A cold glass of milk is actually pretty refreshing, and I especially loved the depth of flavor the espresso powder brought to the chocolate and the way the milk got more and more chocolatey as the cubes melted.  Mmmmmm.  The flavor possibilities are pretty endless too…  I can totally imagine adding some chile powder, powdered ginger, or cinnamon to the mix.

What else do I love about this recipe besides the fact that it’s delicious?  It’s easily made ahead.  The chocolate cubes can just sit in the freezer (though I would recommend storing them in a freezer bag to minimize freezer burn) and I’m sure the milk will keep just fine in the refrigerator for several days.  Perfect for treats on demand!

Again, many thanks to my friend Mike for reviving the request line.  If you have a recipe you’d like me to try, post a comment or send me a message at sweetandsaucy.wordpress.com@gmail.com.

TIPS:  I ended up getting 27 chocolate ice cubes out of the recipe with about 1 tablespoon of liquid each.  Next time, I would probably double the milk recipe to make more servings since four chocolate cubes per glass was just about perfect.

Recipe link: Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
__________________________________

Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. 🙂

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars

In my mind, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It doesn’t have to be a big production, but it’s essential that it happens.  We go through phases at my house, but common breakfasts include egg sandwiches, smoothies, and oatmeal with fresh fruit.  All delicious, all easy, all prepared by me since my darling husband doesn’t cook.  (His line: “Why should I learn when you’re so good at it?” 🙂  I suppose this is why I haven’t “learned” to haul the trash to the curb on Tuesday mornings.)  Anyway, I’m happy to help him get a good start to the day during the first part of the week when his office opens a bit later, but Thursday and Friday mornings are killer.  In trying to come up with a grab-and-go solution that was more substantial than a banana or a cup of yogurt, I found a great recipe: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars.  They’re soft, chewy, delicious, and filling, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable depending on what you have in the pantry.

Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes plus cooling | Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients:
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds (6 ounces)
Coarse salt
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/3 cup creamy almond butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup light-brown sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup honey and butter over low.  Cook, stirring, until butter melts, 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, and pinch of salt.  Drizzle honey mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine; wipe saucepan clean.  Spread mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool completely on sheet, 10 minutes.  Return to large bowl and add raisins; stir to combine.

Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  In saucepan, combine 1/2 cup honey, almond butter, and brown sugar over medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and sugar dissolves, 10 minutes.  Drizzle over oat mixture and stir until combined; transfer to baking dish.  With a spatula, firmly press granola into dish.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, then cut into 16 bars or squares.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2011

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Holy deliciousness, these are good.  The taste is very similar to the soft packaged granola bars you can buy at the store, but I think they hold their shape better because they aren’t as gooey.  Plus, you get to skip all the preservatives that keep the store-bought ones edible for months; these will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for five days (unless they’re gobbled up sooner!).  I ended up using creamy peanut butter, slivered almonds, and a combination of raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries for my bars.  The flavor profile was terrific.  I can’t wait to experiment with other combinations like cashew and cherry or maybe macadamia nut with coconut and dried apricots.  The possibilities are endless!

Update 7/29/11: I made these again last night, and they were terrible.  I re-made them this morning, and they were wonderful.  The difference?  I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for too long last night.  If you’ve ever made candy before, you know the longer you cook sugar and the hotter it gets, the thicker and firmer it gets when it cools.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cook the mixture for 10 minutes once it began to boil.  I knew something was wrong when I added the cooked mixture to the oats and fruit; it didn’t incorporate very well and some of the oats still seemed dry even after I had stirred and stirred.  When I went to cut the bars after I had chilled them, they were crispy (in a hard-to-eat way, not a good way).  This morning, I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for 10 minutes total, starting with the moment I turned on the burner.  You could even shave a minute or two off if you want your bars to be super soft; just make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and you have a homogenous mixture.  Live and learn!

Recipe link: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars




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