Holiday granola

Margaux says…

This time of year, when peaches are extra, super delicious at the farmer’s market (and those 4 lb boxes at Trader Joe’s! Yum!) my favorite breakfast is yogurt, granola and peaches. It’s really like a heavenly dessert for breakfast. Juicy, sweet peaches. Creamy, rich (whole milk, of course) yogurt. And crunchy granola, with tons of nuts and a hint of salty-sweet. I also have it for dessert sometimes, too (it’s great on ice cream!) And for a mid-day snack. We walk through one of those 4 lb boxes of peaches in about a half a week!

Holiday Granola - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

The granola is just as an important ingredient as the peaches. It can’t be too sweet, too chewy, or too hard. Supermarket granola, even the best kind, always has a weird aftertaste to me, almost like a coating is left in my mouth. I really don’t like it. Thankfully, making your own granola is really easy. I have two recipes that I use, both from my Aunt Judy. I’ve already posted one, the original “crunchy granola,” that I make on a regular basis. It’s very cheap, quick and easy. I also use this recipe, which Aunt Judy calls “Holiday Granola.” It has a few more ingredients (more nuts!), and uses real maple syrup instead of honey and maple flavoring like the other one. My aunt makes it for friends and family members as Christmas gifts, which is how I first tasted it. It makes a perfect Christmas gift because of the pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) and dried cranberries: it’s red and green. I prefer it to the “Crunchy Granola” recipe, but don’t make it as often because it’s quite a bit more expensive. But it is totally worth it!

Maple Pecan Granola - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Holiday Granola

4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup large flake, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ, preferably untoasted*
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup dried cranberries, or other dried fruit blend (optional)**

* I’ve made this gluten-free by substituting flax meal for the wheat germ and had great results.

**I leave out the dried fruit during the summer because I don’t want it competing with my delicious in-season fruits. Totally your call, though. 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl. Heat maple syrup, oil and salt together, stirring to dissolve salt. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well. Spread in large flat pan (I use a large baking sheet and it fits perfectly).  Bake in oven for 45 minutes or more, until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes. Sprinkle dried fruit over granola and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in airtight containers.

Note: I have subbed all sorts of nuts for the ones suggested, just sticking to the same measurements. In this last batch I swapped half the pecans for cashews, and in the past I have used chopped walnuts in place of pecans, pistachios in place of pumpkin seeds and an additional 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds in place of sesame seeds. Just make sure all the nuts are raw and unsalted!

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Best Pumpkin Pie

November 26, 2013

Best Pumpkin Pie - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies, and we have them at our house more than just for Thanksgiving.   I like to use Joy of Cooking’s recipe, which yields a crispy, flaky crust, and custardy, delicious filling that’s not grainy or soggy.  The key is the blind-baked crust, which is pre-baking your pie crust lined with foil and pie weights.  I like to do this with all of my one-crust pies, ever since I read about it in Joy.  It really does produce superior results.

Blind Baking a Crust - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

 

Blind Baked Crust with Egg Wash - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I have made only a few pumpkin pies in my time. It seems for holiday gatherings, others make the pumpkin and I bake apple or pecan-sweet potato pie – like this Thanksgiving!  And I usually follow Mom/Granny’s lead and use the recipe on the side of the can of pumpkin. 🙂  I’ve always been satisfied with the results, but then I’ve never had this version!  One thing I will say is that I think pumpkin pie is best made with canned pumpkin. Every time I’ve had it with fresh pumpkin puree, it seems watery. How about you Margaux? What are your thoughts on fresh vs. canned pumpkin?

Margaux says…

I definitely ALWAYS use canned pumpkin.  Not only does it seem watery with fresh, but often grainy and stringy.  Yuck.  It’s really not worth the extra step, because canned pumpkin is just that…pumpkin, no additives.  You would have to have commercial grade equipment to get it the consistency that canned is, which is perfect for pies.  I was happy to see that there was a little section about it in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living…their test kitchen came up with those same results.

Best Pumpkin Pie - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Blind Baked Pie Crust

1/2 recipe pastry dough, like this one

1 egg yolk

salt

Roll out pie dough.  Carefully place it in a 9″ pie plate, trim the edges leaving a 1″ hang over, fold it under and crimp.  Place in freezer and freeze for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take pie shell out of freezer and cut a large piece of aluminum foil.  Place foil into pie plate, shiny side down, carefully pressing it into the corners and leaving a good amount hanging over the sides.  Fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice (I keep dried beans on hand and use them over and over again).  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, and carefully remove foil.  Prick crust all over with fork and put in oven again for another 5 minutes or so, until the crust is golden.  Meanwhile, beat egg yolk with a pinch of salt.  When crust is done, brush with egg yolk all over and bake for another minute or two, until the glaze is set.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

A note about eggs in the recipe: If you like your pie more custardy, use 3 eggs.  If you like a stronger pumpkin flavor and a denser filling, use only 2.  I like to use 3.

2-3 eggs (see note above)

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or half-and-half

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

While mixture is sitting for a few minutes, place foil around the fluted edges of the crust (or use an aluminum pie sheild…one of my favorite kitchen gadgets).  Warm crust back up by placing it in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until it is hot to touch.  Pour filling into the hot crust, place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until center seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when you tap the side of the dish.  Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature.  Serve within one day, store in the refrigerator.

Whipped Cream

1 cup cold heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sugar

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium high until soft peaks form, no longer.  Serve dollops on slices of pie.  Store remainder in refrigerator in airtight container.  Whip with a wire whisk for 10-15 seconds when ready to use again.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We eat quinoa like it’s going out of style in the summer.  Now it’s finally fall (I don’t know about where you live, but in Chicago I thought summer was never going to end!), and I wasn’t ready to give up my go-to dinner starter, but I’m definitely not in the mood for more salads.  So this week I tested out a couple of quinoa side dishes (or in one case we ate it as the main dish with a poached egg on top) that were amazing!  They’re based on a recipe in one of my old Martha Stewart magazines for quinoa hash, which is where I got the idea for the poached egg.  These would be great also as side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner!  Especially if you have vegetarians or vegans in your family, as quinoa has a good amount of protein and can be eaten as a main dish.  I served the beet-sweet potato one with roasted chicken, and it was delicious as a weekend meal.

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts - sweet & Savory Kitchens

I see Aunt Suzy and I are on the same wavelength…her latest post is very similar to mine, with forbidden rice instead of quinoa.  Can’t wait to try that one out, too!  There are numerous combinations of things that you can toss with the cooked quinoa; these are just the two that I have made so far.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We are on the same wavelength! I almost put in my post that I thought the forbidden rice dish could be made with red or black quinoa! I can’t wait to try these.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and sliced thinly
1 sweet potato
2-3 beets with greens, greens rinsed thoroughly and chopped
1 tbsp orange zest
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potato into 1/2″ chunks and toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread on 1/2 of a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil. Peel and chop beets into 1/2 chunks, toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt and spread on other half baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through, taking care not to mix beets and potatoes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks and thyme for about 2 minutes, until they have softened. Add beet greens and sauté until wilted. Turn off heat and set aside until quinoa and veggies are done. Toss quinoa, roasted veggies, and leek mixture together in a large bowl with orange zest. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. shredded Brussels sprouts
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes and squash with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and place on baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, until tender, stirring about halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes. You may want to add a little more oil to the pan by pushing the veggies to the side and adding it (I found the pan got a bit dry and added another tablespoon). Stir in oregano. Turn off heat. Combine quinoa with roasted veggies and Brussels sprouts mixture in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Dutch Apple Pie

October 24, 2012

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Margaux says . . .
This week I bought a bag of Rome apples, mainly because they looked the best, but also because I’ve never tried them and as a huge apple lover, I feel I need to try all of them. I used to carry around a huge list of all the varieties of apples, what their season is, what their taste and texture is, and what their uses are. (I know, a little obsessive, but i LOVE apples!) That list was stolen along with my purse, and it was one of my biggest losses. So I was winging it with these Rome apples. Needless to say, they are not eating apples…But they have great flavor. I looked it up online, and apparently they’re good for cooking, so, oh darn, I have to make a pie.
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I went onto our blog to find our Dutch apple pie recipe, because I was certain that Aunt Suzy had posted it, and discovered that we had not one single apple pie recipe posted!!! WHAT?? I’m still in shock about this. I make apple pie, like, once a month in the fall and winter. Remember how I said I love apples? Well, I really love apple pie. And I know Aunt Suzy probably makes apple pie pretty often, too. So what have we been doing? Yeesh, I’m sorry to our readers out there…we’ve really done you a disservice. My Granny’s apple pie, while totally basic, is the best out there. And this Dutch apple pie is pretty stellar, too! And I have other apple recipes that I realized, while looking for this recipe, I also haven’t posted. I will do my best to get these posted ASAP, before apple season (sadly) ends!

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Aunt Suzy says . . .

I saw this recipe in Food & Wine a couple of years ago. It caught my eye because I’ve only made my Mom’s (aka Granny) basic apple pie over the years.  As Margaux said, that pie is delicious, but I’ve always wanted to make one like this with the streusel topping.  I agree that this one is really good!  And, thanks, Margaux for the reminder that we need to post more apple recipes.  We will indeed be doing a public service :-).

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Preheat the oven to 375°. Set a baking sheet on the bottom rack.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed, for the crust

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, for the topping

1/4 cup ice water

6 large cooking apples—peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used 8, but my apples were small)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar (Aunt Suzy uses a little more than 1/2 cup, I used almost a cup)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

The Crust

In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 cups of the flour and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add 1 stick of the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Drizzle on the ice water and pulse until evenly moistened crumbs form; turn out onto a surface and form into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm. (Or just make your favorite pie crust recipe for one crust. )

On a floured surface, roll a disk of the dough to a 13-inch round; fit it into a deep 10-inch glass pie plate and brush the overhang with water. Crimp the overhang.

The Topping

In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup of flour, the light brown sugar, the baking soda and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the 6 tablespoons of butter and cut it with pastry cutter until sandy (I cut it in until the butter was pea-sized, then used my hands to rub it together make it sandy). Add the walnuts and mix.

The Apples and Assembling the Pie

In a bowl, toss the apples, lemon juice, sugar, 1/4 cup of the flour and the cinnamon. Spoon the apples into the prepared pie crust. Press the topping mixture into clumps and sprinkle over the pie.

Bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cover the edge of the pie if it begins to darken. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

COOKS NOTES: Depending on your oven, this baking time might be too long. Check after 55 minutes.

RED Red Velvet Cake

February 17, 2012


Margaux says…

I realize that I’ve already posted a red velvet cake recipe, but I’ve found over the years that there are two red velvet cake camps: people who like their cake more chocolate-y, and people who want it to look very RED.  Well, actually, make that three camps…I’m in the very small and unpopular “red velvet cake is kind of silly” camp.  I personally don’t get the hype.  Plenty of cakes have cream cheese frosting on them, and besides, GIVE ME CHOCOLATE!  The other red velvet cake I posted is my favorite one, because it has more chocolate in it.  But I have to say, this recipe is also pretty stellar.  There is only a hint of chocolate, but the cake is so delicate and light, it just melts in your mouth.  So when a red velvet cake is requested by someone in the “RED” camp for their birthday, I make this one.  Just a warning, though…there is A LOT of red food dye in it.


The birthday girls that I made this for were born on Valentine’s Day, so of course a heart shaped cake is called for!

Before you really glob on the frosting, I highly recommend doing a thin layer of icing all over the cake first, which I’ve heard called “dirty icing” the cake. When frosting such a dark cake with white icing, it’s best to do this in order to get all the crumbs held into that first layer. Then when you add the second layer, the crumbs dont pop through. I normally don’t take time for such trivial things, but it’s really necessary with this cake, in order to have a nice looking finished cake.

My heart-shaped pans are only 8″, so we luckily had leftover batter to make cupcakes to give out as valentines. And to taste-test, of course!

He likes to eat cupcakes with a spoon-he’s always very careful not to get messy. Oh, and careful to get all the frosting!

RED Red Velvet Cake
adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

6 egg whites, room temperature
4 tablespoons red food color (two 1-oz. bottles)
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups superfine sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk

1. Grease bottom of two 9-inch heart-shaped or round cake pans; top with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray with baking spray with flour. Set oven rack in the lower third of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk egg whites, food color and vanilla in a medium bowl until lightly combined. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Mix oil and butter in bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, 1 minute (they won’t completely mix together, and that’s okay). Add flour mixture and buttermilk; mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened. Raise speed to medium; beat 1 ½ minutes. Lower speed to medium-low; beat in egg mixture in two parts, raise speed to medium and beat 30 seconds each. Pour batter into the prepared pan; smooth the surface evenly.
3. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and cake springs back when pressed lightly around the edges, 25-35 minutes. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto a greased wire rack. Reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I made a double recipe of this in order to ensure that I had enough to fill and frost the cake AND for my extra cupcakes I made. I ended up with a little too much. I think a single recipe would be enough for one 9″ cake, unless you like your frosting really slathered on…then maybe I would make a recipe and a half.

1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high until completely combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and first beat on low until combined. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula, then mix on medium high until smooth.

For my son’s 3rd birthday, which was Spiderman themed, I made a red and blue velvet cake. I made each layer in a separate batch of cake batter, and in the blue velvet cake added almost 2 tbsp blue food coloring, and a few drops of violet, in place of the red. The few drops of violet give the cake that royal blue hue.

Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs

December 27, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I love the pecan shortbread cookies that go by various names, and when I saw this variation with two of my favorite flavors, I knew I had to make them!  I followed the recipe with a couple of minor adaptations.  Instead of using instant espresso powder, I used Starbucks new Via instant coffee, Vienna Roast.  It was perfect – each little packet is one teaspoon and it is plenty flavorful without dominating.  At first I thought the cookies were a little dry, but the next day they were superb!  I made these and the traditional ones, Grandma’s Butter Balls, on the same day and it’s hard to decide which I like better!  Many taste tests have ensued, with inconclusive results, making me think that more taste tests are required :-). One thing we can say is that both are outstanding with a cup of coffee or tea.

Yield:  2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size

2 sticks softened unsalted butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups finely chopped pecans (I use the low-tech nut grinder shown in the Grandma’s Butter Ball post)

Confectioners’ sugar, for coating

Preheat the oven to 325°.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour, cocoa, espresso powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Mix in the pecans – I do this with my hands to make sure they are evenly incorporated.

Working in batches, roll the dough into balls about the size of walnuts and place on 2 cookie sheets – about 2 inches apart.  Bake one batch at a time on the center oven rack for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are dry and the cookies are slightly firm to the touch.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack.  Roll in confectioners’ sugar to coat and place on a serving plate.  I recommend rolling in confectioner’s sugar a second time about an hour later to completely coat them.

Spritz Cookies

December 24, 2011

Spritz maker

Margaux says…

A very fond Christmas memory for me is helping my Granny make spritz cookies. She is the one who taught me to bake when I was very young…we baked cookies pretty often, and she let me do a lot of the work. But spritz was my favorite! I loved twisting the top of the spritz-maker, squeezing out dough in cute little shapes. She let me pick the shapes, and most of them turned out being either too fat or too skinny. But the point was that she let ME do it, and I felt so proud! And then we got to decorate them with colored sugars and silver baubles, making them into perfect little Christmas treats.

I actually didn’t much like eating spritz cookies when I was a kid (I was more of a thumbprint cookie lover); I didn’t get a full appreciation for them until I was an adult.  But now they’re one of my favorites…little butter-citrus bites that are the perfect size.  I always make citrus-flavored (because that’s what Granny always made), but you can do all sorts of variations on them, which I will give instructions for below.  I got these recipes out of last year’s Martha Stewart Living December issue…it is very similar to, if not the same as Granny’s.

Lemony Spritz Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt until fully combined, about one minute. Add flour, and beat on low speed until just combined (do not overbeat). If tinting the dough, divide it into separate bowls and mix in the food dyes. Just make sure you’re not overworking the dough so that it doesn’t make tough cookies.

If you want to make vanilla cookies:
Replace citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp pure vanilla extract.

If you want to make chocolate cookies:
Replace 1/3 cup flour with 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, and citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp vanilla extract.

If you want to make spice cookies: (I think I’m going to try this next year-sounds good!)
Add 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, and 1/3 tsp freshly ground pepper when you add the flour mixture. Replace citrus zest and juice with 2 tsp vanilla.

To bake the cookies:

Knead dough briefly to soften. Fill a cookie press with dough and fit with disk to make shapes (Mirro made a great cookie press, you can find lots of them on Ebay). Squeeze cookies directly onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sanding sugar (optional). Bake at 350 degrees until firm, 12-14 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling rack before glazing (also optional…last year I glazed because I had time, this year I didn’t. I think they’re just as good without glaze. Granny never glazed. 🙂 ).

Vanilla and Citrus Glazes

For citrus glaze:
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp citrus juice
3 tsp finely grated citrus zest
3 tbsp light corn syrup

For vanilla glaze:
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
3 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Dip tops of cookies in glaze, decorate with sanding sugars or small candies while glaze is still wet. Let set on wire rack.