Granola Bars

Growing up my mum almost always got my sisters and I involved in baking.  Muffins, cookies, you name it, at least one or two of us was perched on a chair helping to scoop, stir, or sift ingredients.  Along the way we learned a host of math skills (I may never have learned fractions but for the practical application to baking!), patience, and even turn taking!  It can’t have been easy with 4 daughters, but I appreciate the effort and the time she took encourage our participation in the kitchen!

One of my favourite recipes which made a frequent appearance was my mum’s granola bars. The recipe had a long list of ingredients (lots of turns to measure and pour) and involved a variety of measuring cups.  The product itself is pretty good too!

If you’re looking for another way to use the granola recipe from a few posts ago, give this recipe a go.  It’s a tasty way to use up random kitchen cupboard dry goods and is a nice treat when you’re on the go.

I always forget to take pictures...granola bars in the oven

Granola bars baked and ready to eat

Very tasty fresh out of the oven

Granola Bars – adapted from Mum’s recipe

1 c granola
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c flour
1/2 c coconut
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, cherries etc)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 c honey
1/4 c butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients together.  Combine the wet ingredients together.  Mix together. 9×9″ pan and bake in an oven preheated to 325 for 30 minutes, watching closely.  Enjoy!


Cooking with friends

I love learning new cooking techniques (or refining some old ones) and learning them with good girlfriends is even better.  Being in London is great, really great, but I still really (really, really) miss my friends in the 416.  One of my favourite cooking memories is from a Calphalon cooking course.  It was a great night out with two fabulous friends and in addition to the memories, I also have some great recipes!

I grew up on a farm.  We ate a lot of beef.  Of the four daughters in my family, two are now some form of vegetarian (that does not include me).  The remaining two daughters (which includes me) are most definitely not vegetarian.  We enjoy a good steak (thanks Dad for bbqing steak regularly!) and glass of red wine.  It’s good stuff.

One of my favourite recipes from the Calphalon class on beef is a ginger-beef stir fry.  It’s delicious, really quick to prepare, and makes for great leftovers.

Just let it sear...don't fiddle with it...walk away if you have to (but not out of the kitchen - that could be dangerous)

Vegetables and Noodles

Ready for dinner (and lunch tomorrow too)

Ginger-Beef Stir fry – Adapted from a Calphalon Cooking Centre Beef 101 Course

Marinade

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
Juice from one half lime
1 thumb size piece of ginger, grated
1 lb beef tenderloin tips (or if you’re fiscally responsible use skirt steak sliced into strips against the grain and let marinade longer)

Vegetables

1 carrot, julienne
1 red pepper, julienne
3 green onion, julienne
1 c bean sprouts
1/2 c snow pea, julienne

Dressing

1/3 c sugar
1/2 c rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin or sherry
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp hot chili sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 c vegetable oil

8 oz vermicelli noodles

Combine the marinade ingredients and let sit for 20 minutes.  While the marinade does its thing, combine the vegetables in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine all dressing ingredients except the oils.  Heat a fry pan (I love cast iron fry pans) over medium high heat.  Turn on your stove fan – this could be smoky.  Place the beef pieces in the heated pan, cooking quickly without stirring, flipping when browned.  This allows the beef to sear (lovely dark brown colour).  Quickly whisk the oils into the dressing.  Combine the vermicelli noodles, vegetables, and beef.  Toss with the dressing and serve.

 

Healthy Breakfast Muffins

I am pretty bad at having breakfast.  Mr416expat?  He’s a pro.  Every morning he has cereal or yogurt with coffee.  I’m fairly certain if he left the house without breakfast the sun would halt in the sky.  I however, like a bit more variety and will only have breakfast foods that I can take with me, muffins, mini frittatas, and fruit make a frequent appearance at my desk at work.

Muffins have a bit of a bad reputation.  They can be the size of a large grapefruit (bit of a portion size issue) and lots of fat.  Lots and lots of fat.  Yuck.  With a couple of alterations, this recipe from thekitchn is pretty healthy.  Plus with some additions, you can pack it full of things to help you last through the morning.

Dry Ingredients Check!

Adding the Wet Ingredients

All combined! But not too combined!

At this point I realized I forgot the topping...opps, next time!

The Finished Product

Morning Muffins – adapted from Faith Durand’s recipe at thekitchn

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c whole oats (not instant!)
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c coconut (shredded and unsweetened)
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
1/4 c sesame seeds
1/4 c olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1 c milk

Topping
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients over top.  Stir only to combine (don’t mix and mix and mix or you’ll end up with tough muffins).  Spoon the mix into the muffin pan.  Combine the topping until crumbly.  Spoon the topping onto the muffins.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425F

Making your own Granola

Sadness is making pork chops with a dijon mustard cream sauce, leaving the sauce in the oven to stay warm, and then burning your hand and dropping the sauce all over your oven, cupboard and floor.  Happiness occurs when Mr416expat sees your sadness and offers to clean it up.

In my freshly cleaned oven (thanks mr416expat) I made some granola.  Granola is a yummy way to start your day.  It’s also necessary when making your own granola bars. Granola is also lovely on top of yogurt.  Granola has so many uses.  The store bought kind often has a fairly lengthy list of ingredients.  The recipe I’ve listed below doesn’t.  That’s kind of why I like it.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Ready to mix it up

That should last us a while...

Granola – Adapted from Jamie’s Magazine

8 tbsp honey
300g rolled oats
40g sunflower seeds
40g pumpkin seeds
75g almonds, chopped
30g coconut, unsweeted and in whatever consistency you prefer
50g dried cherries
50g dates
50g dried apricots
50g dried blueberries or apples or whatever other dried fruit tickles your fancy

Preheat the oven to 300F.  On the largest cookie sheet you have (that will fit in your oven and has a rim), pour the honey.  Place the cookie sheet in the oven and allow the honey to soften.  While the honey softens, combine the rolled oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and coconuts.  Once the honey is softened, pour the combined dry ingredients over the honey and stir it around until it’s all combined.  Put the tray back in the oven and allow the granola to toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 or so minutes.  After 20 minutes, add all the fruit and stir it around.  Put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes, watching it closely!  After 10 minutes (or sooner if your oven cooks fast) remove it from the oven, allow to cool and then store in an airtight container.

 

Cotswolds, January 2011

Last weekend we went to the Cotswolds – 1 hour’s drive outside of London, and essentially a caricature of English countryside.  It’s like Walt Disney’s idea of what rural England is like.  Or, if you prefer, The Shire from Lord of the Rings.  In fact, Tolkien was from this part of England and based much of the geography of Middle Earth on the Cotswold villages.  The tree in the photos below is, reputedly, inspiration for the doorway into Moria.

We stayed in a rural cottage (Squirrel Cottage, built 1715); hiked along a country trail past Roman water fountains; went to a farmers’ market; and explored several of these little villages.  So cute it hurts!

Christmas Presents in Full Use

My grandparents and my sister got us gift cards to John Lewis for Christmas.  John Lewis is a massive department store in London.  Thankfully Mr416expat had no qualms about me running loose with the gift card.  I was able to get something I’ve wanted for a long time.  The sort of thing you don’t often buy for yourself but, well, if it’s given to you (or you have a gift card) you don’t feel so badly.  I’ve wanted a Le Creuset casserole for about as long as I’ve been obsessed with cooking blogs.

What better way to take advantage of all that fabulous cast iron, slow heat goodness, than to make some stew.  Check it out…

Hello there and welcome to my kitchen

leave lots of space between the meat pieces in order to get a nice sear

add one can of beer

simmer away

add some other stuff and enjoy

Beef Stew – adapted from the Pioneer woman’s Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika

2 good glugs of olive oil
1 tbsp butter – for flavour
2 lb stewing beef
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1  12oz can of lager (that’s beer)
4 cups of stock (beef or vegetable)
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
carrots, cut
potatoes, cut
spinach

Add the olive oil and butter to your brand new le creuset (or regular large soup pot as I used for many years quite successfully) over medium-high heat.  Season the stewing beef generously with salt and pepper.  Brown the beef in batches, leaving lots of room in between the pieces.  Remove the beef from the pan once seared on all sides.  Add the diced onions to the pan and stir them around to pick up bits of all that goodness from the bottom of the pan.  When softened, add the garlic and cook for another few minutes.  Pour in the beer, stirring to deglaze the pan, then add the stock, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and paprika.  Add the beef back to the pan.  Stir to combine, cover and leave to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the carrots and potatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked to your desired finish.   In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add several handfuls of spinach, stirring to combine.  Serve up with crusty bread and Enjoy!

Pizza

Our fridge died this week.  We’ve had our suspicions for a while…funny smell despite rigorous cleaning, milk not lasting quite as long as it should and a strangely warm temperature inside, but it’s officially done and has been replaced by our landlord.

The funny thing about it though, is that it’s made me pay way more attention to what I’m purchasing at the market and what I’m using to cook.  There’s a fairly quick turnover (except for that cabbage I still haven’t felt the urge to work through) and very little goes to waste.

This past weekend, Mr416expat pulled an epic fast one.  Friday afternoon I got a text saying that my hair appointment had been cancelled by the salon and that he was off early and wanted to meet me at work.  I thought it was strange but was having a hectic day and didn’t really think too much beyond that.  When I left the hospital to meet Mr416expat, I found him standing outside the main doors holding a suitcase.  Turns out, he’d cancelled my hair appointment and booked us in an adorable cottage in the Cotswolds. I was just about as surprised as I was the day he proposed!  He’ll be posting pictures soon, but my favourite part about the trip, apart from spending time with Mr416expat, was going to all the amazing markets and farm shops.

Daylesford Organics is a neat (fancy) shop selling all sorts of lovely stuff.  I got some great cured meats, cheeses, bread, and butter.  It was a beautiful store and had a really interesting gardening section.  You could take courses on everything from hen keeping to artisanal bread making.  I could have spent all day there!

We also had the opportunity to check out a local farmers market in Chipping Norton.  There I picked up some mozzarella, vegetables, apple juice and pear juice.  The vendors were really friendly and eager to tell you about their produce.

Some of our loot from the Cotswolds

All of this is to say that my fridge was broken but full of fresh produce that I really didn’t want to see go bad.

Enter pizza.  It’s a great way to use up a variety of fridge contents and makes great leftovers!  Thekitchn.com has a great thin crust pizza dough recipe.  I adjusted it to use 50/50 whole wheat and all purpose flour.  It came together quickly and was easy to roll out.  The tomato sauce I made the night before and had thrown in the fridge.  The toppings varied as the pizzas went in the oven…a variety of cheese, with cured meat and red peppers.  It worked really well and was a great alternative to frozen pizzas!

mozzarella, red peppers and cured meats

Pizza dough – adapted from thekitchn

3/4 cups (6 ounces) of water
1/2 teaspoon of active-dry yeast (if using instant yeast, you don’t need to dissolve it during the first step)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven (including the pizza stone if you have it) to 500 degrees.

In a small bowl heat the water until it’s lukewarm.  Add the yeast to the water and stir it until dissolved.  Set this aside while you measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt and stir to combine.  Add the water-yeast mixture and combine it all together.

When it’s come together turn it out onto the counter and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Divide the dough and roll out according to the size of your pan.

Pizza sauce – aka tomato sauce

olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 can whole tomatoes
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
kale

Add a splash of olive oil to a large pot and warm over medium heat.  Chop the onions and add to the pot, sweating onions until translucent.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, chili flakes and salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer for 30-60 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency (longer simmering = thicker sauce)

Top your pizzas with everything except the cheese and bake for 8 minutes.  THEN add the cheese and bake until the cheese is melted, the crust is crisp and you can’t stand to wait any longer.

Enjoy