Vanilla and Brown Sugar Granola

I had only heard of granola being made by cooking it in the oven on cookie sheets, but then I came across this recipe and I knew I had to attempt to make it. My only reference for granola is the kind of granola you put on greek yogurt, so a little but more clumpy than not. Before beginning the recipe, I read through the recipe and realized there was a disclosure: the granola didn’t really clump unless there were loads of honey and butter aka loads of sugar. So knowing that, I did not expecting this granola to be very “clumpy.”

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 5 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1/8 cup of brown sugar

Making the granola proved to be a very simple task. Fist I mixed the oats, flax seeds, slivered almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds and raisins in the crockpot. Then I added the honey, and then the microwaved melted 1/2 cup of butter. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut, but I do not like coconut, so instead I put in about 3 tablespoons of vanilla and 1/8 cup of brown sugar. Then I stirred it all together, making sure that all of the oats and ingredients were fully mixed.

I had been warned previously that granola can burn easily in the crockpot, so for the 3.5 hours I had the crockpot on high, I would stir every 30 minutes. This tip was a great one, because the original recipe said to stir the crockpot occasionally, but had I done it any less the granola would have been really badly burnt. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, I actually wished I had stirred the crockpot every 15 minutes because at the end of 30 the granola was a bit burnt.

Next, I put the granola on two cookies sheets with paper towels. The original recipe called for parchment paper, but we didn’t have anything like that in my house, so I just assumed paper towels would be the same. Not true. The paper towels acted a bit as an adhesive, so some (not a lot) granola ended up sticking to the paper towels. I lost some granola this way. I also kept the granola out over night, when I think you were only suppose to let the granola cool, so about an hour or two, but I do not believe that this affected the finish product.

Review:

This recipe makes a lot of granola. I have one box/Tupperware container of granola and 4 sandwich Ziploc bags I ended up giving to friends. Even though some of the granola burned at the end, I still liked the recipe but I do wish it clumped more. Instead, this batch is much more like a cereal then clumpy granola. I will for sure be make this again as granola is a great snack option.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $15.00
  • Total Time: 15 minutes to prep, 3.5 hrs to cook, 2 hrs to cool so 5.75 hrs in total
  • Serving Size: A lot! I’m not sure how to measure this as I didn’t measure how many cups/have a set serving size.

Croquettes (A Non-Crockpot Adventure)

Since it is the New Year, I decided to branch out from just using the crockpot. I have done some non-crockpot dishes before, but this is the first one that I have done which required refrigeration, molding and frying. This recipe for croquettes (which I had never heard about before, but who doesn’t love fried cheese) proved to be one that perhaps I should have saved until I had a few non-crockpot recipes under my belt.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (this replaced the sour cream)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp gluten free flour
  • pepper for taste
  • 1/2 cup of corn starch
  • 5 slices of gluten free bread
  • 5 oz of gruyere
  • Canola Oil (enough to deep fry in)

To begin, I washed, peeled and cut up the potatoes and then put them into a steamer. I am back in California right now, and to be honest I had no idea how to steam my potatoes until my mother brought out a steamer device. This device is not the device that you use to steam clothing (that was what I first thought of), but a metal piece that you put into a pot so that the item needing steaming sits right above boiling water.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ab5/63708718/files/2015/01/img_1197.jpgThis contraption blew my mind/ I know that if I tried to make this in my own kitchen I would be lacking this very important kitchen utensil.

While the potatoes became soft from steaming, I combined the milk, Greek yogurt, butter, salt, flour, pepper, and gluten free flour in a bowl. Once the potatoes were soft, I mashed them up with the other ingredients and then put the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. The whole thought process behind this move was that the recipe called for the bowl to sit for an hour in the fridge, but we were short on time, so 30 minutes in the freezer should work. Wrong. Faulty logic at work here. After 30 minutes the dough had not congealed at all. So after 15 more minutes, I took out the mixture and added about 1/2 cup of cornstarch. The addition of the cornstarch proved to be somewhat helpful but the mixture was not combining in a way that would make it easy to work with, so back in the fridge it went for 15 minutes.

While the “dough” was back in the fridge, I cut up the cheese into 1/2 oz pieces/small rectangles that I could form the dough around to make into cylinder croquettes. Then I made my own version of breadcrumbs by putting pieces of gluten free bread through the food processor. The food processor still provides me with some difficulty, but luckily this one only has three settings – on, off, pulse, so I just kept it on and let the food processor do its job.

I brought the dough back out, and it was still not in a solid enough form. I think there were many reasons for this fail. Gluten helps to keep mixtures together and this croquette was gluten free, so lacking the necessary elements to make the dough more solid. Secondly, I don’t think I mashed the potatoes enough, so there were chunks of potato that also made it so difficult to thinks to bond together. Thirdly, I should have put the mixture in the fridge not the freezer like the recipe actually said – so much for trying to take short cuts.

Because the dough was not really dough, but more a mess of a mixture making the croquettes into cylinders just did not happen. I was able to put dough around pieces of cheese and then I put them back in the freezer for 15 minutes to help form more of a croquette shape. Because my mixture was so sticky, I placed the “croquettes” on wax paper before putting them back in the freezer. This was the smartest move of the whole cooking process for this recipe, because when it came to dunking the croquettes in eggs and then breadcrumbs before deep-frying them, the croquettes came right off the wax paper.

To deep fry the croquettes, I brought oil to a boil on our stove and then would dunk in the croquettes. This aspect seemed very straight forward, but somehow I managed to not have enough oil so I had to flip my croquettes halfway through the deep-frying process. Because I have never attempted to deep-fry anything before, let me tell you that when you drop something into oil, it likes to retaliate and jump back at you. Many times when I put the croquettes into the oil or tried to flip them, I was doing so from an arms length away as to not get burned or what I have no deemed as “hot oil’s fire spits” on me. Many of my croquettes came out burned because I was trying so hard to not get burned and because I had no idea how little time an item needs in oil to deep-fry. In case one was wondering how long that is – it is not long at all. But as I made more, they became less and less burned because I understood that each croquette did not need much time. The solution to this problem of the burnt croquettes – more oil so the whole croquette is submerged, not just one side.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ab5/63708718/files/2015/01/img_1199.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ab5/63708718/files/2015/01/img_1198.jpg

Review:

The recipe suggested that you serve these with a dip, but I served these with my mother’s dinner of Teriyaki salmon, broccoli and a salad and the croquettes paired well with the salmon because it had a flavor to it while the croquettes did not. Next time I serve this, I will be sure to include a dip or a topping to make it more interesting.

Overall, I would not make this recipe again, because of the fact that the dough never hardened enough to really work with. When I read the recipe the first time (and yes I said read the recipe before doing it), the author made it sound sooo simple. Lies. This was not easy. This was a war in the kitchen with hot oil fire spits, dough that just didn’t want to harden up, and the outcome was a bland deep fried concoction.  I will probably try this again because it was such a challenge, but this is not one for beginners.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: I have no idea, my mother bought everything. You’ve got to love the Holidays!
  • Total Time: 15 minutes steaming, 2 hours in the freezer/prep, 15 minutes deep frying – 2.5 hrs
  • Serving Size: 18 croquettes

Memorial Day BBQ Beans

In honor of summer finally making its presences known in Chicago for Memorial Day weekend, my friends hosted a lovely pot luck style BBQ. I have been struggling to find great slow cooker recipes that are summer friendly, yet I seemed to find a winner with these Betty Crocker BBQ Beans.

Recipe:

Ingredients:
– 4 cans of low sodium black beans
– 4 cans of Northern Great beans (or Great northern beans)
– 1 cup of black bean juice
– 2 cups of ketchup
– 1 cup of dark brown sugar
– 2 teaspoons of ground mustard
– 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
– 1/2 cup of molasses
– 2 medium onions
– 1 package of turkey bacon

When I was reviewing the invite to the BBQ, I had noticed that about 30 people were planning on coming so I thought I should double my bean recipe to accommodate for more than the 12 people that the beans would serve. Thirty people did not show up to the BBQ. The serving size of twelve would have been perfect because now I’m eating beans for days, but onto the prep.

The first uh oh comes with the molasses. The recipe called for light molasses. Now, perhaps that is to be healthy or perhaps molasses comes in lighter colors, but I couldn’t find any light molasses so I went with regular molasses. (And no, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between light and regular molasses if I had to. Instead I would google that as I should have done at the grocery store to see if it really matter.) Then came the matter of buying medium sized onions. At this store, there were only bags of small onions, so instead I used 4 small onions to equal two medium onions. Again, I am not sure if one can consider that equal, but I decided that yes, 4 small onions = 2 medium onions.

Otherwise, this is a very easy recipe to make. I first sautéed the onions on a sauce pan for 10 minutes (yay for me following directions well this time!). Then I cooked the turkey bacon. I must admit that I am not a big bacon fan, and have had little experience cooking bacon, so many of my pieces of bacon came out charred or slightly under cooked (but I reasoned with myself those pieces would just cook more in the crockpot- debatable). So I can say I have mastered the art of making very crispy bacon in a case any one was worried. This took the longest to prep as I could not fit a whole package of bacon on one sauce pan. However, once all the bacon was cooked, I chopped the bacon into 1/2 inch – 1 inch pieces and added it to the bowl. Only then did I turn the crock pot on high for 3.5 hours. I did at one point remove the crockpot from the wall plug in for a 15 minute period in which I transferred the beans from point a to point b, but the crock pot was still very hot, so the beans kept cooking I believe.

Review:

A very big hit! The next day I brought some leftover beans to my cousin who is a chef’s house and he approved. I must admit that made me feel pretty good about these beans! Everyone who had some liked them! A crowd pleaser!

The Nitty Gritty:
– Total Cost: $25.00 – I had to buy cider vinegar and the molasses
– Total time: 4 hours – if you know how to cook bacon it would be less
– Serving size: 24 – 30

This recipe makes beans on beans on beans, so be prepared or half.

Macin’ on some Cheese

Now this is an idea I had been saving for a really busy time. Recently, I have been extra busy with another one of my coaching jobs starting. I knew that I would want some good old home cooking. I must admit, I don’t recall a time my mother made mac n’ cheese (she may have), but I do know that I love me some mac ‘n cheese. While in the store, I saw some gluten free pasta, and I knew that I would want mac ‘n cheese this week.

Here came the first mistake, in my hurry, the recipe I pulled up was a) for an oven, and b) for normal/non-gluten free pasta. I bought everything on the recipe, but on the day off I realized – this was not the right recipe for my goal. Instead I choose this recipe, which I quickly bought just the evaporated milk.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz quinoa gluten-free pasta
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup 2% evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp light butter melted
  • 1-2 tbsp light butter (for greasing the crock pot)
  • 2 cups light sharp cheddar

First you are supposed to cook the pasta for as long as the box says. I still find this idea to be a bit confusing, because I thought the crock pot cooks the pasta. I did bring water to a boil and cook the pasta for 4 minutes (quinoa only takes 4 – 6 minutes to cook – that seemed like the flash to me in terms of pasta cooking), but I am still dubious that this needed to happen.

While I was waiting for the water to boil (and yes a watched pot never seems to boil), I melted the butter in the microwave. I then added all the other ingredients to this mix. I also buttered the sides of the crock pot to reduce the chance of the cheese and the pasta sticking to the edges. After the pasta was cooked, I put it in the crock pot, followed by the butter and more mix and lastly by the cheese. I gave it a quick stir and then set it on low for 2 hrs.

The recipe called for 2.5 – 3.5 hrs of cooking on low. The issue I came against, was I only had a 1 hr window right before I wanted it done or a 2 hr window to start cooking in the morning. So I put the crock pot on low for 2 hrs when I could, and then put it on warm for the rest of the day (from 11 am – 6 pm). Now in this time period is when I think the dish became less like mac ‘n cheese and more like a yummy cheese dish.

Review:

Next time, I will make sure to cook all at one time so I can stir the dish. This dish is a high maintenance dish. I prefer more low maintenance dishes, as I cannot always be present as much as this version of mac ‘n cheese needed. As the only adult to eat the mac ‘n cheese, I like it! It feels very light, while most mac ‘n cheeses feel heavy. I did give the mac ‘n cheese to the twin two-year olds and one seemed to like it, while another proceeded to say, “No thank you, I want chocolate.” I am not sure if he is a good source.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $22
  • Total Time: 3.25 hours – 15 minutes for prep
  • Serving Size: 8 people

 

Pesto Mozzarella Mashed Potatoes

So this is a recipe that was made on a complete whim and I received a lot of help from my logical roommate aka she advised me on every step because I was so nervous.

During Thanksgiving, ever since I could remember, our mother always made the kids bring something they made to the table. I was usually in charge of something that would be pretty hard to screw up like pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie or apple pie. My brother always made the mashed potatoes, so my experience mashed potatoes – non-existence. 

Pesto Mozzarella Mashed Potatoes:

Ingredients:

  • Pesto (1/4 of a cup – eye balled)
  • Mozzarella block (we eye balled about 2 1.5 in tall x 1.5 in wide x 0.5 in thick)
  • Milk (we estimated around 1/2 cup – but this was again eye balled by my roommate)
  • 1/8 cup of butter
  • 2 cubes of frozen garlic

After the Potato Skins (look at the post below), we had 12 potatoes insides left over to use. We had already baked the potatoes for an hour, so we decided to stick the potato insides into the crock pot with some pesto, butter, cubes of frozen garlic, and the cubes of mozzarella as we headed out to yoga. 

The best part of this whole story is that we never actually attended yoga, because my roommate misread the class schedule. Instead, we went grocery shopping for more food for the apartment. Instead of having the mashed potatoes sit on low for 3 hrs, we had the mashed potatoes sit on low for 2 hrs before bumping it up to high for 30 minutes. Upon first looking into the crock pot, we realized we may have been a bit (extremely) heavy handed with the mozzarella. So note – the less the better  – something I never thought I would say when it came to cheese. I love cheese. 

After being on high, my roommate told me we could finally add the milk. She had to explain to me (multiple times) that if we added the milk to early it may curdle. For some reason, I doubted her (and I still kinda do, so I may just make something with milk to see if it happens). However, as we added the fat free milk – the only healthy part of the meal – the mashed potatoes turned from a lumpy mess to a creamy milky way. 

Review:

Big hit with my friends slash we may or may not have finished the whole thing in one sitting (there were four of us, just to make myself feel better). 

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Total Cost: $0.00 – we used all left overs in the house
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total time – 2 hrs and 45 minutes
  • Serving Size: 4 – 5 people