Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chai Spice Granola

This time of year, it's always a good idea to have a few make-ahead and giftable recipes on hand.  I'm happy to say, this chai spice granola is both.  Whether you're hosting or in need a hostess gift, this is sure to cover you.

I'm a big fan of chai, but I really do think it's best when there's a chill in the air.  The classic blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom is warming and comforting, just like a thick blanket, your favorite slippers, and a cozy fire crackling away in the fireplace.  Added to granola, it gives your household of holiday guests a multitude of breakfast options, no matter what time they wake up and keeps you from being a stressed out short order cook.  On top of yogurt, sprinkled over fruit, as an oatmeal mix in, or topped with your favorite milk for a stellar cereal--everybody wins.  It's vegan and dairy free, too, so family and friends dealing with dietary restrictions won't be left out.

If you're needing a hostess gift, looking for something out of the ordinary to include in goodie bags, or just trying to combat the onslaught of sugary treats this time of year with some solidly healthy breakfasts, you can count on this simple recipe.  Just package it into cute, environmentally friendly containers--be it for yourself or others--and you're all set!

With the warmest, most comforting blend of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom, this chai spice granola is sure to make for the coziest holiday mornings for all your family and friends.

Chai Spice Granola
adapted from Inquiring Chef


Chai Spice Mix:
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

2 c. rolled oats
1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 c. maple syrup
2 TBSP coconut or vegetable oil
1 TBSP dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. pecan halves, roughly chopped
up to 1/2 c. dried golden raisins, cranberries, and/or chopped figs

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a small bowl, make the chai spice blend by stirring all spices together.  Set aside.  

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, coconut flake, and almonds.  In a separate small bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, almond extract, and salt until fully combined.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

3.  Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake 18 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Stir in pecans and bake 3 minutes more, watching carefully and removing if the granola gets darker than golden brown.    

4.  Remove granola from the oven and immediately stir in dried fruit.  Cool completely, allowing granola to dry and crisp up.  Store in a sealed container/s up to one week.

Yield: approximately 4 cups   

Monday, November 20, 2017

Apple and Fennel Slaw

We're at T-minus three days until Thanksgiving.  Is your menu all set?  Might you have room for one more cold, fresh salad that can and should be made ahead?

If so, I think you'll be interested in this apple and fennel slaw.  It brings crunch, tang, and the perfect balance of herbs and sweetness to a meal that can otherwise get fairly heavy.  As an added bonus, it'll be great as part of a leftovers sandwich.  Think slaw on a pulled pork sandwich, Thanksgivingfied.

If you don't have a place for this on your Thanksgiving table, it would also make a great side for a simple pork loin or balsamic barbecued chicken.  Honestly, I ate it as a salad for lunch one day all on its own.  It's that tasty.

Apple and Fennel Slaw
scaled down and adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1/2 head medium green cabbage, very thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly slice
1/2 Granny Smith apple, julienne
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
1/4 plain Greek yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 c. plus 2 TBSP minced Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1/2 c. plus 2 TBSP golden raisins

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cabbage, fennel, and apple.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust any of the ingredients to taste, keeping in mind the raisins will add sweetness.  

3.  Add onions, 1/4 c. parsley, and 1/2 c. raisins to the cabbage mixture.  Pour dressing into the cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

4.  Just before serving, sprinkle remaining parsley and raisins on the slaw.  

Yield: 6 servings    

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meatless Monday--Grilled Caponata Salad

I hope you weren't coming over here for something pumpkin and/or spice.  I'm not there yet.  We still have so much late summer produce to enjoy and that is not something we should ignore.

With a pretty small amount of effort, this salad takes your normal green salad from blah to bellisima.  The idea for this salad came from a caponata panini recipe I'd pulled from a magazine some time ago.  I was looking for something a lighter, and I figured salad was just the thing.  A little chopping and a few minutes at the grill (or indoor grill pan) really make all the difference here. 

Warm, grilled vegetables feel hearty and substantial, while swapping out bread and a good amount of cheese keeps this meal from weighing you down.  In reviewing caponata recipes to look for any possible variations, I noticed some of them called for golden raisins.  I had some on hand, so I decided to use them.  I'm glad I did--the balance of earthy vegetables, salty olives and capers, and sweet raisins made this salad standout.     

Savor the last of summer's harvest with this perfectly balanced vegetarian grilled caponata salad piled high with all the fresh vegetables we'll miss come mid-winter.

Grilled Caponata Salad
an Apple a Day original

For the Salad:
1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. thick planks
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-in. thick rounds
1 small summer squash, sliced into 1/2-in thick rounds (or planks depending on grill grate)
1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/2-in. thick rounds (or planks depending on grill grate)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and quartered
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
salt and pepper, to taste
4 good-sized handfuls fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
1/4 c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/4 c. drained capers
4 oz. goat cheese (omit for a vegan salad)
1/4 c. golden raisins

For the dressing:
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1/3 c. balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard

1.  Preheat grill or indoor grill pan to medium heat.  Lay out vegetables and brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

2.  When grill is ready, brush with olive oil.  Place vegetables down on one side, starting with eggplant and onions, which will take the longest to cook.  Let cook 2-3 minutes, then flip and grill 2-3 minutes more.  Remove, let cool slightly, and chop eggplant and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces and squash and zucchini into half moons.

3.  To assemble salad, divide chopped spinach among four bowls.  Top with one fourth each vegetable mixture, olives, capers, goat cheese, and raisins.

4.  To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake to combine.  Taste and adjust amount of oil according to preference.  Drizzle over salads and enjoy.

Yield: 4 servings 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Honeydew Basil Smoothie

Welcome to the dog days of summer, friends.  Between the heat, my travels, and having my kitchen in various states of functionality due to the renovation, I haven't been doing much major cooking.

But that hasn't stopped me from making a whole lot of smoothies, toasts, and salads.  If there's a meal I can make on a small plot of counter top without having to run the oven for more than a few minutes, I'm all over it.

This smoothie, with all its green ingredients, is nutrient-dense and so perfectly refreshing.  Honeydew isn't a typical smoothie ingredient, but it's integral to the texture.  I'm usually a fan of smoothies so thick you almost need a spoon to eat them, but this one's thinner nature made it feel all the more hydrating.  You don't see basil in smoothies all that often either, but I'm a sucker for nearly anything basil, especially at this point in the summer when my plant is going wild and I've already made a couple batches of pesto.

The days are long and hot right now and my kitchen is constantly covered in dust, but with simple recipes like this, I think I'll make it through just fine.    

Stay happy, healthy, and hydrated during summer's hottest days with this cool and refreshing honeydew-basil smoothie.

Honeydew Basil Smoothie
adapted from Women's Health, July/August 2017

1 c. frozen cubed honeydew melon
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt*
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. fresh spinach leaves
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves
up to 1/4 c. ice cubes (optional)

*note: You can use vanilla yogurt in place of the plain yogurt.  If you do this, omit the honey and vanilla extract and take care to look at the sugar content of the vanilla yogurt you choose.

1.  Place all ingredients, except ice, in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add ice cubes and blend again, if desired.

Yield: 1 smoothie

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bourbon Brown Butter Peach Ice Cream

July is National Ice Cream Month and it seems particularly inhospitable of me to not share a single recipe for my favorite summer dessert.  True, I'm perfectly content to enjoy ice cream year round, but it does seem to be that much better on a warm summer evening out on the back porch.

Especially when it involves the sweetest, freshest, summer peaches.  And brown butter.  And bourbon.  Heavy on the bourbon.

For some of you, peach season is just drawing to a close.  For others, it's just hitting it's stride.  Either way, this ice cream is one of the best ways I can think of to preserve that perfect peak flavor.  Peaches and cream is a classic combination.  But when that cream is married with rich brown butter, deep dark brown sugar, and sweet, oaky bourbon, you've got yourself just the kind of summer treat that could make an otherwise reserved and well-mannered adult run after an ice cream truck.  If the ice cream truck served bourbon, that is.    

Rich brown butter, dark brown sugar, and sweet, okay bourbon give ripe summer peaches just the oomph they need in this decidedly adult version of peaches and cream ice cream.

Bourbon Brown Butter Peach Ice Cream
from Garden & Gun, quantities halved for a smaller batch

2 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. egg yolks (from about 6 eggs)
2 TBSP butter
3/4 c. pecan pieces, plus more for garnish (optional)
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
3/8 c. bourbon 
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. peeled fresh peaches, cut into small pieces and mashed

1.  In a heavy bottom sauce pot, heat together the milk, cream, and granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot to the touch.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.

2.  Place egg yolks in a large bowl and temper them by whisking the hot milk mixture in a little at a time.  Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard becomes thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the custard from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into a container that will hold at least a half gallon of ice cream.  Set aside.

3.  In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pot, combine the butter, pecans (if using), brown sugar, and bourbon.  Cook, stirring until the mixture reaches 200° F on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and strain the liquid through a fine-meshed strainer into the ice cream custard.  Set the pecans aside and keep refrigerated in a separate container.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator for at least two hours, up to overnight.     

4.  When the ice cream base is sufficiently cooled, freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.  When it is nearly frozen, add in peaches and pecans (if using) and freeze completely.  Spoon ice cream into a freezer safe container and allow to freeze two hours more before serving.

5.  To serve, pull ice cream from freezer and allow to sit out 2-3 minutes to soften enough to scoop.  Pour a splash of bourbon on top and sprinkle with additional pecans, if desired.  Do not microwave the ice cream as it will become very hard and icy when refrozen.

Yield: one half gallon