Butter Pecan Granola

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I cannot even believe there’s only about 1 week left until Christmas. My house has been decorated for a while and I have been wrapping way too many gifts (note to self, next year needs less gifts). The thing is…I have baked exactly zero cookies. I don’t know what’s going on, but I need to make some cookies happen asap. BUT, I have baked 2 batches of this granola for gifting and it is pretty much the equivalent of a cookie in granola form.

A buttery, oat-y, pecan studded, and maple soaked cookie in a granola outfit.

I usually go the coconut or olive oil route with granola, but since tis’ the season and all that jingle-jangley-Christmas-jazz, I went with butter. OH, MAN. Granola game changer. The butter gets that browned flavor from the long, low bake in the oven and mingles with the maple syrup that sweetens the granola in the most perfect, amazing, way. It’ll make your kitchen smell like butter and maple drenched heaven. It’s definitely not you’re health-conscious-crunchy-granola. More like your butter-drenched-sweet-and-decadent type of granola. I couldn’t help but eat a handful (okay, maybe 2) right off the sheet pan, still warm. I mean, the oats make it healthy-ish and the buttery, maple-y, pecan and coconut studded bits make it special and oh-so holiday appropriate. I packed it into jars and added a little tag for a super-easy, super-delicious gift.

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Butter Pecan Granola

Adapted from my Coconut Oil Granola recipe.

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup pecans

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 325ºF and lightly grease a baking sheet (I love to use coconut oil spray for this).

In a large mixing bow, combine the oats, pecans, coconut, salt, and cinnamon.

In a small saucepan combine the maple syrup and butter. Heat over medium-high until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Add the maple-butter mixture to the oats mixture and stir to coat completely. Spread the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and bake in 15 minute intervals, stirring between each, for about 1 hour or until the granola is golden and starting to crisp. It will become more crisp as it cools.

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Roasted Stone Fruit with Ricotta and Mint Sugar

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Today, I have the easiest of summertime recipes for you. Sure, I’m asking you to make cheese from scratch, but it’s super easy. I promise. Plus, you could always just buy good quality ricotta from a cheese counter, making this summery dessert even easier.

If you’ve never made homemade ricotta, I seriously urge you to add it to your list of must-makes. It’s crazy easy and produces something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s creamy and perfect…not at all grainy, gummy, or dry. It’s a totally different animal from the part-skim business you’ll find near the cheese slices at the store. I would definitely recommend going the whole milk route for this venture though, you could skip the cream if you want it a little lighter.

Also, let’s talk mint sugar. I am obsessed with mint these days. I love the smell of fresh mint and the flavor it brings to both sweet and savory dishes. I love to use it in summery chopped salads of cucumber, tomato, and lemon, and recently tried it in a feta and pea laced fritatta at Tasty n Sons here in Portland. It was fantastic. Needless to say, I also love it in all sorts of sweet aplications–it’s my favorite herb to pair with melon, or really any fruit, in this case perfect, summer stone fruits. This mint sugar is perfect for just that.

Speaking of stone fruits, they are crazy good right now. Like, I cannot get enough. I’ve been buying (and eating) a ton of them. It even seems a little early to me for them to be so spectacular but, apricots, plums,  and even cherries, are fantastic. The peaches haven’t been perfection, but they are still darn good and only benefit from a little roasting or grilling. Paired with creamy, lush ricotta and herbal mint sugar, the sweet-tartness of summertime fruits really shine.

Tip: if the pits of your stone fruits are stubbornly attached to the flesh, use a melon baller to scoop around the pit to free it. 

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Roasted Fruit with Ricotta and Mint Sugar

There are a variety of methods for making ricotta that can be found online. I kind of read a bunch, then went for it. I have used multiple layers of cheesecloth before, and it takes forever for the liquid to drain away (several days), so I find a single layer of cheesecloth over a fine mesh sieve does the trick just fine. Of course, you can sub the homemade ricotta with quality ricotta purchased from a grocer. Use any stone fruit you like and if you don’t want to turn on the oven, go ahead and grill the fruit halves, it will be just as delicious!

Homemade Ricotta:

Makes about 1lb of drained ricotta. 

1/2 gallon whole milk

8 ounces cream

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Roasted Stone Fruits:

As many pieces of fresh, not overly ripe, stone fruit you’d like. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, and even cherries would work here.

sugar for sprinkling

Mint Sugar:

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/2 cup sugar

To make the ricotta, start 1-2 days ahead of time, so the cheese has plenty of time to drain.

Place a large pot (a dutch oven or soup pot will work perfectly) over medium heat and add the milk and cream. Insert a thermometer into the milk mixture and clip to the side. Gently heat the milk mixture until the thermometer reads anywhere between 165ºF-180ºF. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the salt, plus lemon juice. Let the milk and lemon mixture sit for 10 minutes off the heat, undisturbed. Small curds will form and separate. Set a large fine mesh sieve over a large bowl, lined with one layer of cheesecloth and ladle the curdled milk mixture into the lined sieve. You may have to do this in batches as the liquid drains away or use 2 sieve/cheesecloth/bowl set-ups. Place the draining ricotta in the refrigerator for 1-2 days until most of the liquid has drained away, you may have to pour off the liquid from the bowl beneath once or twice if it reaches the bottom of the sieve. Once the ricotta is the consistency you like, store in an airtight container for a few days, if needed.

To roast the fruit, preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment. Place washed and halved stoned fruits on the sheet in a single layer, cut side up, and sprinkle with sugar. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the fruits soften and begin to release their juices. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving. Or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To make the mint sugar, pulse the mint and sugar in a food processor until combined.

When you are ready to serve the fruit and ricotta, either spread some ricotta onto plates, top with fruits, and sprinkle with the mint sugar, or spoon some ricotta into the center of each fruit half and sprinkle with mint sugar.

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Blueberry Maple Ice Cream Soda

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One summer during high school, I spent a week with a family friend, Bobby, while her daughter and family were out of town. Bobby was a totally fascinating lady–she attended Berkeley in the 30′s where she studied micro-biology (a lady! in the 30′s! micro-biology!)…and, she introduced me to the ice cream soda, for which I will be forever thankful.

Before, the world of ice cream sodas consisted of the standard root beer float. After, I knew that the possibilities were endless. An ice cream soda is a super simple, old fashioned, soda fountain treat. It’s a simple mixture of ice cream, flavored syrup, and soda water. Here, I’ve paired super maple-y ice cream with a fruity blueberry syrup…because if we’re talking blueberry sans lemon, then I want it with maple. It just is. Adding soda water makes this drink effervescent and mixes the ingredients to create a creamy lavender color with streaks of pale maple ice cream and bright punches of deep purple.

This Blueberry Maple Ice Cream Soda is SO PRETTY and….it tastes like pancakes…enough said.

Blueberry Maple Ice Cream Soda

There will be enough ingredients to make several ice cream sodas…so, have one today, tomorrow, and the next day, OR share! 

Makes 1 ice cream soda.

2-3 medium scoops of maple ice cream (recipe below)

several tablespoons blueberry syrup (recipe below)

soda water

whipped cream (optional)

In a tall glass layer the ice cream scoops with spoonfuls of syrup. Pour on the soda water to cover, garnish with whipped cream and more syrup. Serve with a straw.

Maple Ice Cream

Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup

2 cups milk

1 cup cream

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened

In a medium saucepan, heat maple syrup and bring to a boil. Cook, turning the heat down as needed if the syrup bubbles too much, until reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream.

Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into a bowl and whisk in the cornstarch to combine. Set cornstarch slurry aside.  Whisk in the remaining milk and salt with the cream and maple mixture. Return to heat and bring the maple and dairy mixture to a low boil. Quickly whisk in the cornstarch slurry to combine, bring to a boil and cook, whisking until thickened–about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl (preferably with a spout for easy pouring), and mix lightly with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the hot ice cream base until combined well.

Prepare and ice bath in a clean sink or large bowl. Pour the hot maple ice cream base into a gallon-size zip top bag, seal, and chill in the ice bath until cooled completely. Process the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Scrape into a freezer container and seal, freeze for several hours until firm.

Blueberry Syrup

1 heaping cup of blueberries, rinsed and dried

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, over medium-high, heat blueberries with sugar and lemon until berries burst and release their juices and the sugar is dissolve  Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and press the blueberry syrup through a fine mesh sieve, discard solids. Pour syrup into a heatproof jar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.