Thursday, December 29, 2011


...because so often pictures are worth more than words.

I hope you got to spend some time in a place you love this holiday season, and were really able to savor your time and the people there. Farewell 2011. Bring on the next year.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

simple granola

Short post this time. Some quick thoughts.

It's Christmastime, first of all. Let us not forget the reason for the season.

There is no not much snow in Minnesota. I happen to be okay with it after last year. I hope that didn't offend you.

I would like to learn to cross-country ski sometime this winter though....

Showing people you love them with food is so great. I've been doing it a lot lately. You know who you are.

Mad libs are really fun--remember those?

Choirs made up of small children are absolutely precious, especially when they're singing Christmas carols. My favorite is always the one little boy in the front row who insists on yelling the songs.

No one is ever upset about a gift you can eat. Nevermind that it isn't going to last.

"Jolly" is such a great word--I think the word alone makes me smile. I wonder why people don't say it at all times of the year... 

When you get to open surprise packages that show up at your door, it's even better than opening the presents from under the tree...because you really weren't expecting to get a gift in the mail, right?

Sister skiing in Colorado this Christmas, I will miss you very much, and will be very sad that we'll not have the chance to adventure in the kitchen together.

I freaking love candy canes. And all things peppermint, really.

That's enough for now. Should you get tired of all the cookies and candy everywhere, here's something else to try. I'm not saying it's not just as addicting, but it might be a little tiny bit healthier for you. Maybe.

Simple & fabulous granola
This is just the basic recipe...a blank canvas for any kind of creative spin you want to put on it. use your favorite spices, nuts, and dried fruit--make it your own, and then use it to make someone else smile.

4 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. raw almonds, chopped
1/3 c. raw pepitas
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp.cinnamon (optional)
1/3 c. flowery honey
4 tbsp. butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shredded or flaked coconut
dried fruit, etc.

Preheat your oven to 325 and find a large rimmed baking sheet

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and honey together over medium-low. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, pepitas, salt, and cinnamon. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir very well to make sure everything gets coated with the sweet goodness.

Spread your oat mixture onto the baking sheet and put in the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the pan and stir the granola. Place the pan back in the oven and stir every 5 minutes after, until the oats are fragrant and lightly toasted. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes total. Also, if you're using coconut, add it when you think there's about 10 minutes of baking time left, so it doesn't get too dark.

Remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Stir in dried fruit and whatever else you want to add. Finally, devour at all times of the day!

pistachios & cherries
macadamia nuts & dried papaya
pecans & dates
hazelnuts & chocolate chips
crystallized ginger & cranberries
dried figs & apricots creative!

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

butternut squash muffins with a frosty top

Here we go with the squash again. Oh you're excited, you really are. I have yet to lead you astray in this area. I did include some pictures of the last bit of fall in case you actually are bored by all the talk about orange vegetables...even though I could never imagine such a thing. As a sidenote, I've discovered that colors look really amazing when you start playing with the saturation.

So first of all, I didn't actually bake these muffins--that credit goes to my lovely roommate. I can't say for sure how she happened upon this particular recipe other than the fact that there must just be something about a recipe title including the words "frosty top" that makes it attractive. I can vouch for that, I think. You really can't argue that it's fun to say...and picture.

This is that time of the year when we find ourselves with a cupboard full of different kinds of squash, and we decide we've grown tired of using it in any kind of "traditional" way. So the experiments begin...and just to give you an idea of all the different directions we've gone with this ingredient, here's a list of everything squash-related that I can remember from the last year. We had a lot of squash to use...just be warned.

Squash...pudding, bread, muffins (with a frosty top, so yes, these ones), pasta (with goat cheese and basil), lasagna (ridiculously good), soup (with and without curry), stew (different than soup!), risotto (with bacon and parm, oh goodness), more soup (with chicken and noodles)...and really, I probably forgot a few things. It's been much fun indeed.

So I'll just tell you that I'm providing the original recipe for the "frosty top", but it's not what we used the last time we made these muffins. Did we eat them unfrosted?! Well no...but we may have just used plain yogurt with a little bit of nutmeg instead, because...yogurt goes with everything! And I hope you don't think I'm exaggerating by saying that...because if you do, the reality here is that you just don't know me...heh.

Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top

So this recipe was adapted from one by Jamie Oliver, and one of the unique things about it is the fact that it doesn't use squash puree, but rather chopped squash, with the skin left on--and this results in muffins with really amazing flavor and texture...hopefully you have a food processor if you decide to try them. Also, I love Jamie's use of the word "whiz" in this recipe, haha.

14 ounces (1 3/4 cups) butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Handful of walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Frosted Cream Topping:
1 clementine, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tins with paper cups. 

Whiz (ha!) the squash in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, and crack in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon and olive oil and whiz (again!) together until well beaten. You may need to pause the machine at some point to scrape the mix down the sides with a rubber spatula. Try not to overdo it with the mixing - you want to just combine everything and no more. 

Fill the paper cups with the muffin mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see whether they are cooked properly by sticking a wooden skewer or a knife right into one of the muffins - if it comes out clean, they're done. If it's a bit sticky, pop them back into the oven for a little longer. Remove from the oven and leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack. 

As soon as the muffins are in the oven, make your runny frosted topping. Place most of the clementine zest, all the lemon zest and the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the sour cream, powdered sugar and vanilla seeds and mix well. Taste and have a think about it - adjust the amount of lemon juice or icing sugar to balance the sweet and sour. Put into the fridge until your muffins have cooled down, then spoon the topping onto the muffins. Or eat them covered in yogurt! Either way, they're good!

thanks roomie!