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Well, I probably exaggerate but it sure is good.  I have been making a Vanilla Almond Granola from Sally’s Baking Addiction for a while.  It is fantastic!  Recently I discovered her recipe for Maple Pecan Pie Granola.  It too is fantastic!  I love the crunchiness of the second – and the pecans, of course – but it was quite a bit sweeter than I really want for every day.  So I made a sort of mash between the two recipes, and it’s now my favorite.

Serve 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this delicious granola on top of plain yogurt, with fruit or by itself.

2-1/2 to 3 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar (dark, light, your preference)
1 to 1-1/4 cups of chopped pecans
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line an 18×13 inch sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  I find the silicone mat makes life easier because it stays in place better when you stir the granola during the baking process.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, chopped pecans, cinnamon/pumpkin spice, and salt.  I use three cups of oats, but if you like it a little clumpier, use the smaller amount.  This isn’t going to make a very clumpy granola even with the lesser amount of oats.

In the microwave heat the 1/2 cup of maple syrup in a one-cup glass measure  for one minute.  Add the 1/4 cup of coconut oil and give it a good stir.  If the coconut oil is still partially solid after a good stir, stick it in the microwave for 15 or 30 seconds, and then give it another good stir until it’s well mixed.  Stir the vanilla extract (I recommend Trader Joe’s Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract – it contains no corn syrup!) into the syrup/oil.

Pour the syrup/oil/extract mixture into the dry ingredients, tossing till all of the dry ingredients are coated.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan, then bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.   You don’t want to overcook it, because the nuts will over toast and the oats will get too brown.  If I’m not right on the timer at the first two 15-minute intervals (sometimes I’m feeding the dog, and we can’t make the dog wait!), I’ll pull the granola out of the oven before the last 15 minutes have expired.  You don’t want to overcook the pecans or let the oats get too dark.  When you pull it out of the oven for the final time, it will continue to cook a bit because of the retained heat.  Let it cool in the pan.  Store in an airtight container.  I have some for breakfast every day when I make it, so I know from experience it can be stored for at least two weeks.  I doubt this will be in your cupboard longer than that.

How many calories does this have?  I have no idea.  I do know that, with yogurt, it is a delicious breakfast that satisfies my stomach until lunch time.   Enjoy!

Aunt Helen’s Almond Torte

I’ve been enjoying this cake my entire life.  It was a family standard, introduced by my great-aunt Helen.  She probably started making it some time in the 1940s.  It is a beautifully elegant, light cake.  Perfect for summertime or to follow a heavy meal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds*
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 heaping tablesppons cinnamon sugar

Grease two 8- or 9-inch cake pans** with butter or shortening.

Sift flour together with baking powder. Set aside.

Seperate eggs and set aside. You can add vanilla and milk to the yolks to save trouble later, because they go into the batter together.

Cream butter. Beat in sugar and salt. Add egg yolks, vanilla, milk, then sifted flour mixture. The batter will be very thick. Don’t be alarmed. Spread it divided between two round greased cake pans (it will just cover the bottoms of the pans, don’t worry).

Beat egg whites until just stiff. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time without stopping the mixer until it holds a stiff peak. Spread on unbaked batter in both pans.

Sprinkle each pan with 1/4 cup of almonds and 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon sugar makes a lovely crackly surface after baking.

Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Let cool for 10 minutes, remove from pans.

Whip the cream with your preferred amount of sugar and vanilla extract.

Put together, with whipped cream between the two layers.

NB: Cakes may be frozen individually.

*Really, any sliced almonds will do, if you don’t happen to have blanched sliced almonds on hand, as I often don’t.

**Eight-inch pans are probably better but 9-inch will work.

Pitching rice into wagon. Crowley, Louisiana.  September 1938.  Russell Lee, photographer (1903-1986) Courtesy of Library of Congress

Pitching rice into wagon. Crowley, Louisiana. September 1938. Russell Lee, photographer (1903-1986) Courtesy of Library of Congress


I’ve been making this rice pudding for forever – since the 1970s? Anyway, it’s the single greatest rice pudding you’ll ever eat, bar none.

4 cups milk
1 cup rice
1 vanilla bean*

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 to 1 cup raisins, plumped

____________________

To plump the raisins, place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, letting them sit for five to ten minutes, then drain and use. For additional flavor, you can soak them in hot water mixed with bourbon or rum.

Cook milk, rice and split vanilla bean in a double boiler at medium heat for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Do NOT boil the milk/rice mixture. If it starts simmering, lower heat so it does NOT boil.

Mix together egg yolks, sugar and cream. Stir egg/sugar/cream mixture into rice and milk. Now you can raise the temperature a bit (not too much, you don’t want to burn it). Bring to a boil. Not a HARD boil, where stuff is splashing out, but more than just a simmer.

Remove vanilla bean. Pour into baking dish/dishes. Brown quickly in very hot oven (450 degrees) or under the broiler.

Serve with whipped cream (optional – as in like who has time when you’ve got this delicious rice pudding to put in your mouth?)

*Vanilla bean can be difficult to find, even more difficult to find vanilla beans that aren’t dried out and hard. You can substitute a teaspoon (or two) of pure vanilla extract added at the end, when you would otherwise remove the vanilla bean. I recommend Trader Joe’s Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract – it has no sweetener in it, which, to me, is as it should be.

Thompson Falls Hydroelectric Project, Chicken House, On island between Forebay Channel & ClarkFord River, Thompson Falls, Sanders County, MT

Thompson Falls Hydroelectric Project, Chicken House, On island between Forebay Channel & ClarkFord River, Thompson Falls, Sanders County, MT

CHICKEN COOKED WITH YOGURT (as adapted from one of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks, it’s been so long I’ve forgotten which)

Serves 4

1 whole chicken breast, bone in, skin removed.
l/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
5 medium size onions
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
A piece of fresh ginger, about 1-inch cube, peeled and coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Skin the whole chicken breast (two sides) and cut into four pieces. Pat the chicken dry and set aside.

In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup yogurt with 3/4 cup water, a little at a time, beating with a fork to fully incorporate.

Peel the onions. Cut 4 in half, lengthwise, and slice into half rings, about 1/8 inch thick. Chop the other onion coarsely.

Put the chopped onion, garlic and ginger into food processor with 6 tablespoons of water, blending into a smooth paste.

Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch pot over medium heat. Add sliced onions and fry them, stirring, 8 to 10 minutes, until they have turned dark brown at the edges but are still limp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot, bring the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken in shifts (do a few pieces at a time so as to not overcrowd the pan), removing to a plate to hold in reserve.

Turn heat to low and carefully pour onion/garlic/ginger paste into the pot, averting your face as it will pop and splatter somewhat. Scrape the bottom of the pot for browned meat juices and mix in scrapings with the paste. Raise the heat to medium and fry, stirring, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon yogurt, scraping bottom of pot and continuing to fry and stir another minute. Add 1 more tablespoon yogurt, stirring for another minute.

Put the chicken pieces, yogurt/water mixture, salt, cayenne pepper into the pot with the cooked paste. Stir and bring to a boil, then cover it, lower the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

After it has simmered for 20 minutes, raise the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes to boil down some of the liquid, turning the chicken pieces carefully. You should be left with a thick sauce.

Add in the reserved fried onions, and continue cooking at medium heat for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice. As a side dish, serve cucumber and tomato with lemon juice.

The very idea of granola always turned me off.  The word conjured visions of unwashed people eating wood shavings. And then I discovered home-made granola.  O.M.G.  It is incredible.  And really easy to make.  Adding to the basic joy is that you can adapt the recipe to suit your personal likes.  Breakfast (and snack time) has never been so delicious.  I basically doubled the recipe I adapted, so this should be split and cooked on two 13×18 sheet pans so it toasts properly.
IMG_20150503_083139

Here we go:

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1-1/2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or butter)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 to 1-1/2 cups dried fruit (I like dried cherries but chop them to get better distribution)

* * * * * * * *

Preheat oven to 300F degrees.

Toss the oats, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.

I like to cut down on the number of dishes to wash by using the same 4-cup measuring cup used to measure the oats to measure and combine the coconut oil and maple syrup. If you have never used coconut oil, you might think it would impart a strong flavor.  It does not.  It is solid when cold, like slush at 75F degrees, and liquid at 90F degrees.  You can use butter or your preferred oil instead but I really like the coconut oil.

Since the coconut oil will go chunky when you add cold maple syrup (or depending on the temperature of your house it may be solid in the jar), you’ll want to stick the syrup/oil mixture into the microwave for 30 seconds (possibly twice or three times) so it can be whisked to combine.  Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts, then pour the whole thing over the oats mixture, tossing to thoroughly coat the dry ingredients, and then spread evenly, all the way to the edges, onto two 13×18 half-sheet pans lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Bake for 15 minutes, stir the granola around, bake for another 15 minutes, stir again, then bake for another 15 minutes, for a total cooking time of 45 minutes.

After it has cooled on the counter (about half an hour), mix in 1-1/2 cups of whatever combination of dried fruits strikes your fancy.  I really like candied ginger but because it is so strong, I wouldn’t recommend using more than 1/2 cup. Chopped dried cherries are my current favorite.

Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks, although I doubt you’ll have any around that long.

New Year’s Eve Dinner

The North Jersey Onion Burger and home-made mac-and-cheese topped with buttered bread crumbs, with brownies for dessert. Nom nom nom!

If you can’t watch video, here is the text version of the burger recipe.

Happy New Year, kids.

UPDATE: It’s useful to provide the brownies recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 stick of butter (1/4 lb)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 to 3 cups chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preat oven to 350F

Line 9×13 pan with waxed paper

Melt chocolate squares together with butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs together with sugar and salt. Mix in chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla, then flour and nuts. Spread into lined pan, then bake for 30 minutes. Toothpick should come out not completely clean. Let brownies cool in the pan for 20 minutes before lifting out and cutting into pieces.

I like to bag them up two to a bag and freeze them, because frozen brownies nom!

THE FLIGHT FROM DALLAS

From noon to dusk on November 22, 1963, history went dark, locked inside the closed and crowded cabin of Air Force One. Fifty years later, what happened after JFK died has fully come to light.

President John F. Kennedy

Esquire‘s Chris Jones tells the story of President Kennedy’s last flight from Dallas to Washington, DC.