Sunday, June 24, 2012

Homemade Granola

This recipe is originally from the University of Michigan Biological Station, delivered to me by my wonderful sister. It was so long ago that she gave me the recipe though, that she now asks me for all of the measurements. I eat this granola every day - on top of yogurt or ice cream, with milk, mixed with fruit, or just as little handful as a snack. It's the best - Give it a try!

The finished product - it's even tastier looking in person

Homemade Granola

1 C loosely packed brown sugar
A little less than 1/2 C cooking oil
1/2 C honey or pure maple syrup (I do a combination of both)
1 tsp vanilla extract
~ 1 tsp ground cinnamon

6 C oats (NOT quick oats!)
2 C nuts - I recommend chopped pecans and sliced almonds

2 C dried fruit
(I do raisins and cherries, but you could try anything like cranberries, bananas or apples, etc.)

First, heat the brown sugar, oil, honey/syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium or medium-high heat. Stir it occasionally to help the sugar to dissolve, cooking the mixture for about 3 minutes, until it is smooth and bubbly. Meanwhile, combine the oats and nuts in a large bowl. When the sauce is finished, remove it from the heat and pour it over the oat mixture. Use a rubber spatula to remove every last drop from the saucepan, then quickly stir it all into the oat mixture. Feel free to dive in with your hands here - you want to mix it in very well and break up any clumps by rubbing them between your fingers. 

Pour the granola onto the biggest cookie sheet you've got, or distribute it across two. You want a nice thin layer of granola so don't try to squeeze it on too small of a cookie sheet. Also, make sure whatever you use has nice high sides so the granola doesn't spill out when you stir it! 

I use my giant commercial size baking sheet which easily holds an entire batch of granola, but whatever you've got will work

Bake the granola at about 250 deg. F, checking and stirring it every fifteen minutes or so. I have to do mine on the bottom rack so that my giant cookie sheet will fit, but any middle to low rack should be fine. If you are doing multiple sheets, be sure to rotate them accordingly so that everything cooks evenly. 
When you stir the granola, be sure to shift the layers and move everything all around. For me, the stuff in the back of the oven cooks faster, so I am always sure to either move the oats front to back or rotate the cookie sheet. 
After about three fifteen-minute increments, or when the granola is starting to look nice and golden brown, it is time to add the fruit! Add the fruit to the cookie sheet and give everything a good stir, then put it back in the oven for about another ten to fifteen minutes. The key is to get the raisins to puff up - that's when you know you're done. Don't cook the fruit for more than about 20 minutes max - it will get crunchy rather than the perfect chewy texture. 

Here you can see a "puffed up," perfectly done raisin. (Right smack dab in the center of the photo)

When the fruit is done, remove the sheet from the oven and allow the granola to cool. for at least an hour before packing it away. I always store half of mine in an air-tight container on the counter and the other half in a one quart ZipLock in the freezer. Don't let your granola get stale! 


Friday, June 22, 2012

Tzatziki Potato Salad (SK)

Here is yet another DELICIOUS recipe from

I only did about 3 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes, so I scaled most of the other ingredients back just a bit - except for the cucumber. This dish is absolutely delicious - it's just as creamy as the common mayonnaise-based potato salad, but tastes fresher and is much better for you. The Greek yogurt even provides some protein! 

Oh - and don't miss the comment about putting the potatoes in the freezer to cool. I can't imagine how long they would have taken if I hadn't been able to put them in the freezer!

Check out the recipe and post at this link:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I made this as a side salad with Pad Thai. The peanut dressing is spot on - exactly what I had hoped for. I am sure that lots of different ingredients would be good in this - maybe broccoli, bean sprouts, snow peas, or any other crisp veggie. I tweaked the original recipe to fit both what I had in the fridge and what flavors I was looking for.

Serves 2

Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

Adapted from


1/8 C honey
1/8 C olive oil
1/8 C unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 Tbs. creamy peanut butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp Sriracha sauce (hot sauce)
1/2 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1 clove minced garlic


2 C red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 C shredded carrots
half a red bell pepper, cut into long, thin strips
1/2 C cooked shelled edamame
2 finely sliced green onions
1/4 C chopped peanuts
1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Toss the salad ingredients in a serving bowl, then add the dressing and toss to incorporate. For best taste, allow it to rest a bit before serving so that the veggies soak up the flavors of the sauce. 


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vegetable Pad Thai

My sister and I are big Pad Thai fans. The classic dish doesn't have as many vegetables as this version that I made last night, but we decided that we liked the larger veggie-to-noodle ratio. I kind of combined two recipes to make this - actually I literally combined them. I highlighted what I liked in each one and worked from both as I cooked. I would recommend reading through this entire recipe before you begin - I have a bad habit of not doing that :p

Another note - I just decided to use Annie Chun's Pad Thai Sauce for my recipe, but I will post the recipe Alton Brown's version provided for the sauce. Annie Chun's tasted great, but next time I think I will give homemade a go. 
If you aren't going to make homemade sauce,
 I would definitely recommend Annie Chun's - and any
 other sauce or ingredient of this brand!

Vegetable Pad Thai

Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe at and a random online recipe
Serves 2

For the sauce:

1/3 C Annie Chun's Pad Thai Sauce


1 oz. tamarind paste
3/4 C boiling water
2 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. palm sugar 
(I've read that you can use brown sugar but that palm sugar is worth looking for)
1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

For the rest:

4 oz. rice stick noodles

6 oz extra firm tofu
low sodium soy sauce
1  tsp. Chinese five-spice

2 eggs

1 C. chopped scallions
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
half a red bell pepper, sliced thinly into strips
1 C carrots, cut into thin matchstick pieces
3 oz. bean sprouts

1/2 C crushed peanuts
3/4 C fresh chopped fresh cilantro 

First, cut the tofu into 1/2 inch strips (I like them cut to about 1 inch in length) and place it in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle about 1/2 C soy sauce over it (or more or less as you prefer) then toss the tofu in the Chinese five-spice powder. Allow it to marinate for as long as possible.

If making your sauce, put the tamarind paste into the boiling water then set aside. Whisk the remaining sauce ingredients in a separate bowl and set that aside as well.

Place the noodles in a large bowl of hot water and leave them for about eight minutes before straining. 

If making your own sauce, Alton says to "press the tamarind paste through a fine mesh strainer and add to the sauce." Whisk the sauce ingredients to thoroughly combine.

You will want to cook your tofu and eggs before starting the stir fry. For the eggs, simply whisk them in a small bowl then scramble them in a pan with butter. Set them aside. Clean the pan for the tofu and add about one tablespoon of olive oil. Heat on high and add the tofu, shaking the pan constantly to keep the tofu cubes moving. Cooking the tofu shouldn't take long- just until it is golden brown or about two or  three minutes. Add the tofu to the eggs.

Finally, heat some olive oil (or peanut oil or sesame oil) in a large skillet or wok. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions and saute about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, peppers, and snow peas. Cover and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, mixing regularly until the veggies are just tender. Add in the noodles, sauce, and bean sprouts, as well as the cooked eggs and tofu. Toss all of the ingredients, then cook until the mixture is heated through.

**You may find that the noodles will not completely mix with the veggies, but that is normal. You may just have to pick out all of the goodies when you serve it **

Toss in the cilantro and sprinkle on the peanuts. Serve (I would recommend using pasta tongs) and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blueberry-Lemon Coffee Cake

Add this one to the "Keeper" list - it was a hit! I have always loved lemon cakes as well as anything with almond extract, and this cake has both. It's a great one to make in early summer when blueberries are prevalent, fresh, and on sale. It's nice and light - good for breakfast or dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Blueberry-Lemon Coffee Cake

Adapted from

Original recipe's picture. It tastes even better than it looks...


1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 C sugar
1/3 C almond paste **
2 Tbs. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 Tbs. lemon juice

3/4 C skim milk
1 3/4 C blueberries
2 tsp. grated lemon rind

**Almond past can be difficult to find depending on your grocery store. It may be in the baking aisle, with fresh dairy (near the cream cheese), or in some other odd place - like in my grocery store it is in with the "specialty foods". Don't give up looking - it's totally worth it!


1/4 C sugar (half brown sugar half granulated sugar)
4 Tbs. sliced almonds
1 1/2 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9-inch square baking dish. 

Mix the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Combine the 1/2 C sugar, butter, and almond paste in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until blended and smooth. Beat in the egg and lemon juice.

Alternate adding a bit of flour mixture followed by a bit of milk, mixing well each time. Start and end with flour. Fold in the blueberries and lemon rind, then pour the batter into the baking dish.

For the topping, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and toss with  a fork until it is combined an "crumbly". Sprinkle the sugar topping evenly over the surface of the cake. I thought it looked a bit naked at this point, so i sprinkled another handful of plain sliced almonds on top.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Greek Lentil Salad

This dish is great as a side dish to a light entree or served as a main dish with pita and hummus on a hot summer evening. It's also a great picnic packer...

Greek Lentil Salad

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

1 C green lentils
~ 1/2 C finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C diced tomatoes (any type works)
1 C diced cucumber (I peel them, but it's personal preference)
1/4 C fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
 1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

Put the lentil in a pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. I like to keep them nice and chewy for this recipe - you definitely don't want mushy lentil here. 

Drain the cooked lentils and set the in the fridge to cool, ideally for a few hours. 

Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together in the serving bowl. When the lentils have reached room temperature, toss them with the onion, garlic, tomato, cucumber, and parsley in the bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the feta cheese and serve.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes

Here is yet another delicious recipe from Again, I want to give all the credit to the original blogger here, so I will just provide the link.

The only changes I made to this recipe were as follows:
1. I used two 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes instead of one 28 oz. can of plum tomatoes and skipped the food processor step (I wanted to use what I had in the cupboards)
2. I had no fresh thyme, so I did a bit of fresh flat-leaf parsley and added a few pinched of dried cilantro.

We had it with brussels sprouts, Whole Wheat Molasses Quick-Bread, and Citrus Salad with Fresh Fruit

Click here to find the recipe on Smitten Kitchen!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

(Mom's Favorite) Citrus Salad with Fresh Fruit

This is a refreshing salad that goes perfectly along side a savory dish that may need a little sweetness to wash it down.

Citrus Salad with Fresh Fruit

Adapted from Catherine Walthers' Raising the Salad Bar


4 C fresh greens 
(I usually use all baby spinach, but you can add romaine, arugula, or any other tasty green)

1/2 C thinly sliced red cabbage
handful of sliced almonds

~ 1/2 to 3/4 C sliced strawberries
One orange, peeled and chopped

~ 1/3 C freshly grated cheese, such as Parmesan or Gruyere 

Feel free to add in other fruit such as blueberries, pears, or apples!


~ 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
~ 1/3 C orange juice

Toss the salad ingredients together in a bowl - I like to use a glass bowl for this salad so the you can see all of the pretty colors.

Using a dressing jar or a small bowl and a whisk, mix the dressing ingredients together. Obviously my measurements aren't exact, so add more or less of each ingredient as needed. My mom always says that you can make any dressing by combing a fat, an acid, and a sweet; all you have to do is balance them out. This dressing is a prime example. 

Once you have concocted the desired flavor balance, toss the dressing into the salad and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Whole Wheat Molasses Quick-Bread

I made this bread to go with a stew tonight. It's hearty and a little bit sweet, great served warm with a little butter on top. It's super easy and only takes about 10 minutes of work time!

Whole Wheat Molasses Quick-Bread 

from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt (or 11/2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar)
2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C molasses

First, preheat the oven to 325 and lightly grease a loaf pan. If you are using milk and vinegar instead of buttermilk, warm the milk a bit in the microwave (I did one minute on 60% power) then stir in the vinegar. Let the mixture sit while you prepare the other ingredients - the vinegar will sour the milk, making buttermilk.

Meanwhile, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Stir the molasses into the buttermilk, then combine the buttermilk mixture with the dry ingredients, mixing just long enough to incorporate the flour mixture. Pour the dough into the loaf pan.

Here is Mark Bittman's spiel about thickness:
"Making a good quick bread requires not only technique but a little judgment, the same one you use in making pancakes: there is an ideal thickness for the batter. In this case, it\'s pourable but not wet, like good (not too dry) oatmeal."

Bake your bread until the top sounds hollow when tapped and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean - about one hour. Allow the bread to cool for about 15 minutes in then pan, then the loaf should slide right out. 

Slice and enjoy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Tortellini with Pea Sauce

As I've said before with homemade pasta, there is no greater satisfaction than serving up a beautiful dish of hand-crafted noodles. They taste good too!

I can't believe I haven't posted the recipe for this sauce before. I absolutely love it and it is super easy to make. You can pair it with any pasta - the recipe calls for egg tagliatelle. Yesterday though, I decided to go "all-out" and make my own fresh tortellini. It turned out great, and I'm sure it will only get better with practice.

Homemade Ricotta Tortellini with Pea Sauce

Sauce from Thirty Minute Pasta by 
Tortellini from Alton Brown

Here is the picture of the pea sauce from the cookbook.. Obviously that is not tortellini, but like I said, the sauce goes great with any pasta!

1 batch of whole wheat pasta dough 
(See my post, "Whole Wheat Bow Ties with Pesto" for the dough recipe)

For the filling:

1/2 C ricotta cheese
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbs finely chopped spinach
1 egg
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
a pinch of grated nutmeg

egg wash: 1 egg + 1/2 tsp water

For the sauce:

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz frozen peas

First, mix up your pasta dough according to the instructions. When you get to the rolling stage, use either a pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll the pasta into thin sheets. Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut circles about 3 inches in diameter into your dough. Gather the scraps and repeat until you have eked out as many circles as possible.

Mix together all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Make the egg wash in a small bowl by whisking the egg and water together. 

Next, dollop about 1/2 tsp of the cheese mixture onto the center of each round. Use your finger to spread a bit of the egg onto the edges of the circle. Fold half of the circle onto the other half so that you have kind of a folded half-circle shape. take the two corners of the half circle and pull them together to make a loop, pressing the corners together. And there you have tortellini!  Don't worry if your shapes don't look perfect or just like what comes from the store. As long as they hold together and the filling doesn't leak out, they will be great. If you do find that the filling is oozing out when you fold, use less cheese mixture and it will work just fine.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, and start your pea sauce while it heats. Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 to 8 minutes, until it is tender and golden brown. Next, add the peas and about 1/2 cup of water. Season well with salt and pepper (I always am very generous with the pepper in this recipe). Cook until the peas are tender and heated through, about 6 minutes. You may need to add water if it evaporates too quickly.

When the peas are done, remove about half of the mixture and puree it in a food processor, blender, or food mill. Return the puree to the pan with the remaining peas.

When the water is briskly boiling add the tortellini and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the pasta floats to the surface. When the pasta is about half done, add about 3/4 cup of the pasta water to the peas and stir to create a creamy sauce. 

Drain the tortellini well and stir it into the pea sauce. Serve immediately, perhaps sprinkled with a bit of Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!