May 21, 2011

Granola

I tried my hand at making granola yesterday. I've always liked granola, but it tends to be pretty expensive. Also, I'm not a big fan of raisins, which seem to be a part of most granolas. So I set out to make my own version of homemade granola. I started with a very positively-reviewed recipe (called Megan's Granola) from allrecipes.com and then made some minor alterations based on my personal preferences. For example, the original recipe calls for 1 cup sunflower seeds. I don't dislike sunflower seeds, but they seemed like an odd ingredient for granola. Plus, I didn't want the additional expense. I also didn't add the two cups raisins or craisins (No offense, but yick to craisins!) for the reason mentioned above. But you are welcome to add raisins or craisins (yick) if you so desire, after the granola has cooled. I also adjusted a few of the ingredient amounts, though nothing major. Anyway, I quite liked the finished product. Very nutty and oaty. Tasty! I will continue to tinker with the recipe, but this one is a keeper.

By the way, even homemade, this granola still isn't cheap. But I'm worth it, right? ;-)

8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then store in an airtight container. Makes about 30 servings.

Note: I met a professional granola maker the other day, and she recommended baking the granola twice to make it crunchier, but I didn't get any more specific instruction than that--what temperature, how long, etc. So when I made my second batch of this granola, I tried taking the granola out after the first baking time, letting it cool just a bit, and then putting it back in for about five minutes or so and that seemed to enhance the crispiness. Just something to think about. Play around with this recipe.

May 18, 2011

Mexican Vanilla

For anyone out there who knows how delicious Mexican vanilla is, I just found a local source that sells it. In fact, the company is just two blocks west of where I live in Springville. Who would have thought?! Until fairly recently, my family always knew people who knew people (including a former 100+-year-old neighbor) who could get us Mexican vanilla directly from Mexico. We put it in whipped cream, cookies, custard, ice cream, and anything else that called for vanilla. It made everything better. Well, now you can get Mexican vanilla without any special connections. It isn't cheap, but I urge you to give it a try. It's called Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla. It has won awards and been featured on the Martha Stewart Show. Check out this link.

May 7, 2011

Vanilla Icebox Cookies

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla (or you can substitute lemon or orange peel for a slightly fruity flavor)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, beat until fluffy. Mix in dry ingredients. Add nuts and stir until combined. Shape dough into a 1-inch roll and chill. Once dough is chilled, cut into slices and bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.