Aw nuts...

VACgranola 2

Normally I'm pretty upbeat here, but something has been weighing on me for a while now. You know me, and though I feel I can be honest, I totally understand if you want to sail on by this little intro and move onto granola, because that's why you're here. I get it. Toooootally understand. No hard feelings if you skip on to crunchy, sweet things. But if you're interested, then here we go.

I've been feeling really off-center lately. I'll go through these periods of feeling in control and on top of my game, and then the pendulum swings the other way and it's like a huge wave pushing me under. When someone asks me what's wrong, it's hard to pin point an exact reason for feeling negative and bluesy, though I do my best to work it out and explain. Some of the time I can suppress it, but some of the time it's impossible. My brain can't pull out of the murky gray cloud its fallen into, and everything seems wrong/difficult/upsetting/too much. It affects my relationship, the way I move through the world, my friendships, the state of the house... There's nothing I dislike more than losing control, and in these low moments I feel I've lost all of it. 

When someone says "Don't think that way" or "It'll all work out/be okay/be fine", it makes me feel worse. It's like being blind, taking confident strides forward, and then suddenly falling into a deep hole. Gradually and then suddenly buried in the dark. 

Do you ever feel this way? How do you pull yourself out? Are you finding yourself in this place, too? I hope you're doing okay. Reach out if you need to, okay?

Okay, enough of that. Let's move onto breakfast with honey, and oats, shall we? Yes, let's. 

VACGranola 1

Vanilla Almond and Coconut Granola

 

160 grams whole raw almonds

375 grams old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

70 grams brown sugar (the level of dark/light is up to you)

3 oz honey

3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

 

Position oven racks in the upper half of the oven and preheat to 350℉. Line two unrimmed baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a food processor with the blade attachment, finely chop half the raw almonds and then pour into a large bowl. Pour the second half of the almonds into the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped (I love the occasional whole almond in my granola - if this isn't your thing, pulse them a bit further). 

Add the oats, salt, and brown sugar to the bowl. Stir to combine with a rubber spatula. 

In a separate microwave safe bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil. Microwave for roughly 40-50 seconds. Remove the container from the  microwave and stir together until the coconut oil has dissolved. Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the honey mixture and stir again until combined. 

Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and fold together until evenly combined. Add in the coconut flakes, if using, and fold again to combine.

Divide the granola evenly between the two baking sheets and spread out into an even layer from edge to edge. Bake in the oven for twenty minutes, rotating every five minutes and stirring with each rotation for even browning. 

Once evenly browned, put a long sheet of parchment paper down on the counter and spread out the granola on the paper to cool. The granola should be no deeper than 1/2 inch thick on the paper. Once completely cooled, gather together (if any clumps stick, break them apart with your hands) and put into an airtight container to store. 

 

 

 

B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Banana Muffins 1

Does anyone know what in the world is happening with the weather? Besides climate change, I mean.  I don't know how to be!

Is it jacket weather? Do I need a sweater? Can I wear flannel or do I need something in a soft cotton or rayon? WHAT SHOES DO I WEAR??? Going from 32℉ to 70℉ in 24 hours is off-putting, to say the least. It's chilly and I already need to mow the grass. What will I mow it in - a parka and snow boots? T-shirt and long pants? I really want to wear this and start singing Bonjour from Beauty and the Beast. 

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time for a breakfast to start the day (whatever the weather) off right. I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to my breakfasts. I like them sweet, salty, crispy, pillowy... basically in my belly. I love the waffle, the pancake, and any way you want to serve an egg is fine with me. Give me syrup or salsa, cheese or cinnamon. Just. Give. It. To. Me.

Recently I'd been sinking my teeth into yogurt, granola, and bananas. The combination of sweet, crunchy, and smooth... SO GOOD. Buuuuut I did accidentally leave a few bananas out on the counter for a wee bit too long, causing them to turn into dark brown-ish slugs on my counter. Fortunately, I also love banana muffins. So it seemed it was decided - banana muffins for all!

What are you wearing lately? Picked up anything... transitional? Have you put away your sweaters and gotten out the tanks, or are you covered from head to toe and shivering under a blanket? WHAT SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?

 

I know you're wondering where those beautiful plates and things are from... it may not surprise you they're from Anthropologie! Click each number to find links to my new spring obsessions: 1  2  3  4  

I know you're wondering where those beautiful plates and things are from... it may not surprise you they're from Anthropologie! Click each number to find links to my new spring obsessions: 1  2  3  4  

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Makes 12

Adapted slightly from Amelia 

 

For the muffins:


210 grams AP flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
90 grams granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons milk (whatever kind you have on hand will work)
100 grams butter, melted and slightly cooled
120 grams dark chocolate, chopped (use even the "dusty" bits!)

For the streusel:

35 grams AP flour
35 grams dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
25 g butter, cold and cut into cubes

 

Place an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 375℉. Prep a regular muffin pan with liners and set aside.

In a small bowl, make the streusel by mixing together all the ingredients with your fingers. It should turn out to be the texture of rolled oats. Set aside and begin making the muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, egg, and milk. Add all of the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients at once, and fold together with a wooden spoon until the flour disappears. Pour in the cooled melted butter and mix again until evenly incorporated (some lumps are okay, kind of like pancake batter!). Fold in 3/4 of the chopped chocolate. 

Fill the muffin liners with half of the batter, top with 1/2 of the streusel, and then fill with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the remaining half of the streusel and top with the rest of the chopped chocolate. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and "bounce" when poked with your finger. 

Once the muffins are done, remove them from the oven and let cool in the muffin pan for 10-15 minutes. Let continue to cool by removing them from the pan and placing them on a cooling rack until they are room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to three days. Enjoy!

Room by Room

Cinnamon Peach Pie

Just because something is the way it is, doesn't mean it can't change. I've never understood why some people wait until they sell their house to update parts of it. Thinking back to when my parents were about to sell our house in Virginia, They installed new carpet, painted ALL the walls, and updated the kitchen. It was so beautiful and I felt we were missing out on enjoying it for more than a few months. 

So when Cori and I decided to buy a house, I went CRAZY making Power Point presentations for each room and the exterior of the home. Each slide showcased my dreams for the house's potential, living in a fantasy. From small updates such as wall colors, to large projects involving tearing down walls and completely redoing the exterior and landscaping, I was a Barbie girl living in a Barbie world. 

While it's taken a long time to get *cough* most of the projects off the ground, We have started with a few of the important ones. The bathroom upstairs has been expanded (and yes, I still have to paint the GD ceiling in there...), the laundry room has been painted from poo brown to dove grey, and we've installed the hood above our range. Everything else has been a little update like switching out a light or putting up a shelf. Hardly anything worth counting when comparing it to my wish list Power Point slides.

The current project I'm working on is our mudroom. Essentially it's a small room off the kitchen that leads to the garage. Hardly a foot wide and maybe six feet long, it has a door to the back yard, the basement, and the garage itself. Plus the doorway from the kitchen to this area, it makes for a high traffic space and I felt it needed to function well while staying clean and keep everything organized. Back in the fall I built a bench and had made plans to have shelves, cubbies, and hooks added above, plus a new light that didn't feel like Home Depot Special #349. This past week I was able to get back in the saddle and paint the room (and its ceiling!), and install a new light. I've begun making the high shelf and have scrapped the cubby idea, and I'll install it and its big wooden brackets this weekend. Then I'll replace the gross faux marble floor tiles with dark slate. Finally I'll add trim at the top of the ceiling and replace the gross black rubber at the bottom with matching trim. I'd LOVE to replace two of the doors (the back one is begging to be a Dutch door situation), but doors are expensive and we gotta wait on something, right? 

Redoing smaller rooms and then leading up to bigger ones will continue to build my skill set as a homeowner/weekend warrior. I have so many plans and dreams and both Cori and I want to enjoy them as soon as we can. Just once I'd like to be able to walk into a room and not spot something I'd like to change/update/fix/replace. It's overwhelming sometimes, but with each little update I feel more at home in our house. It'll all get done, I just have to be patient and eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Speaking of enjoying things as quickly as possible, I got a wild hair the other day and couldn't stop thinking about peach pies. You know when you're in your 20s and you have a favorite bar? It's the place you and your friends go, the drinks are always to your liking, and you're there like clockwork every time you go out? Well I've discovered in your 30s that bar is replaced with a new favorite - grocery stores. If you're like me you have a favorite grocery store or two. I just recently discovered I'd been settling for the one closest to my house when an even better one was two minutes farther away. I walked in (still with pie on my mind) and fell in LOVE. It's huge, bountiful, well-lit, and has a vast selection of produce, natural foods, and a kick ass staff who'll make sparkling conversation with you at the checkout. I'd take this over any bar anytime. 

I know it's not peach season, but I couldn't help it when I saw the peaches were on sale. Glowing, red and yellow variegated colors pulled me toward them. I went straight home and began to bake.

I'd never made peach pie before, so of course I learned several things in the process:

  1. Out of season peaches need a longer time to bake in order for them to soften. 
  2. The juices developing in this recipe will work against having a good bake on the bottom crust, so make sure you don't "scoop up" additional brown sugar and butter out of the bowl they were mixed in. 
  3. More. Cinnamon. Maybe ginger as well?
  4. Letting the dough rest fully makes for an easier dough to roll out later. When it says "several hours or overnight", it's not an option.
  5. Braided crusts are beautiful. Period. 

I'll make this beauty again when they're more in season - I can only imagine how magical they'll taste in late summer. Until then I'll be back at work on my house projects. 

 

Cinnamon Peach Pie 2

Early Spring Cinnamon Peach Pie

adapted from Style Sweet Ca

 

For the dough:

2 2/3 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons very cold butter, cubed (I put mine in a bowl in the freezer for a few minutes)
½ cup cold tap water
¼ cup ice cubes (not crushed)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (white vinegar could work as well)

For the egg wash:

1 egg, lightly whisked
splash milk (whole is best, but use what you have)
raw sugar, for sprinkling

For the filling:

2 ½ pounds fresh peaches (make sure they aren't hard)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

 

To make the crust, whisk together in a large bowl the flour, salt, and sugar. Add in all of the chilled butter and blend it into the flour with a pastry blender or your finger tips. You want to work it into the butter until the flour and butter form pea-sized bits. 

Add the ice to the water to chill it. Add the apple cider vinegar to the dough. Working two tablespoons at a time, add in between 6-8 tablespoons total of ice water. Stir in between each addition with a wooden spoon until the dough is quite shaggy and holds its form when pressed together with your fingers. Try not to overwork the dough!

Turn out the dough onto a wooden cutting board and divide in half. Pat each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight if you can. Resting the dough while chilling it will make for a more flaky crust later on.

Once the chilled dough is ready, bring out one of the discs and let it rest on the counter for ten minutes. Liberally flour a large work surface and roll out the dough until it is between 12-13 inches of a circle in diameter. It should also only be about ¼ inch thick. 

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it over a 9 inch pie pan. Using your fingers, gingerly press the dough to fit the inside of the pan and up the sides, allowing for an overhang of an inch all the way around. Trim away any excess of this overhang. Put the pie pan in the fridge to chill.

Repeat the same step for resting the second disc of dough for ten minutes and roll out. This time, you'll cut it into 15 strips at ½ inch wide. Braid each set of three strips and place on a cookie sheet and put back in the fridge to chill. Meanwhile, make the peach filling.

Pit and slice each peach into ½ inch wedges. Add the lemon juice to the slices and toss.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugars, cornstarch, spices, and salt. Add to the peaches and toss by hand to coat, taking care not to bruise the peach slices. 

Take out both the pie plate and the braids from the fridge. Add the peaches to the pie plate, ensuring you are not adding the additional liquid at the bottom of the bowl (as this will make for a very soggy pie). Place the braided strips on top. Then take the one inch overhang and fold over, towards the center of the pie, and pleat to create a boarder around the edge. Place back in the fridge for 15 minutes.

While the pie chills, place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400℉. Have a cookie sheet at the ready.

Meanwhile, make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and milk.

Once the oven has preheated, remove the pie from the fridge. 

Brush the egg wash over the pie and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Place the pie on the cookie sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes. The top should be golden all over and shiny. Should the top become too brown, cover with foil while it continues to bake. 

Let the pie come to room temperature before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Potato Quality

Poached Egg

Recently, I asked my friends and family on Facebook if there was anything they'd like to see me attempt in the kitchen. Several great suggestions came through, but one intrigued me... take a video of myself poaching an egg. Jordan... challenge accepted!

I've poached eggs a few times, mostly to success (RIP watery rubber egg...). As far as my testing goes, I have tried vinegar vs. non-vinegar, pre-boiling, and the non-swirling vs. swirling of the water. The method which works for me may not be the one that works for you, however I do suggest you give it a go and try it several times. Like making pancakes, the first one (or several) come out weird as hell. Once you get it, however... it's magic.

For me It comes down to this: I add vinegar, I don't pre-boil, and I make the swirl in the water. The vinegar is suggested because chemically it helps to "tighten" the egg as it sets in the water while it cooks. You can certainly do this without the vinegar, but I find I get more egg soupy-ness without it, which is gross and not at all what I'm going for.

Okay, enough build up, let's go!

What you'll need:

  1. An egg
  2. A deep pot with a tight fitting lid
  3. Small bowl
  4. White vinegar
  5. Spoon or spatula
  6. Paper towel
  7. Small plate
  8. Skimmer or slotted spoon  

First, you'll need to fill your pot until it's a couple inches deep of water (this is why you need a deep pot) and add a splash of white vinegar. Set it over medium heat and put the lid on. Bring the water up to a simmer (small bubbles on the bottom of the pot will form but no actual "boiling" will be occurring. 

Next, crack your egg into a small bowl and set aside. 

With the water simmering, take your spoon or spatula and begin swirling the water. You are essentially making a whirlpool happen. As soon as you get a good vortex going, slip your egg from the bowl into the middle of the vortex. The water will swallow up the egg and begin swirling the white around it.

It reminds me of this (start at 0:25):

You can use your spoon to continue to push the whites around the yolk as it cooks. Let it simmer, without too much poking and prodding, for 3-4 minutes. It will begin to float around the pot and look like a balled up wet t-shirt. 

Make sure you have your skimmer or slotted spoon ready. You'll also want to put the paper towel on your small plate in preparation for the egg. Remove the egg carefully, avoiding as much of the foam as you can, with the skimmer and let it drain for a second or two over the water. It is super delicate, so don't bounce it around. Gently let it roll from the skimmer onto the paper towel to finish draining. Seriously looks like wet laundry, doesn't it?

And that's it! You've (hopefully) made a poached egg! Let's say you want to make these for a crowd and don't have eight pots to use... the cool thing about poached eggs is you can make them ahead of time, store them individually in small plastic sandwich bags in the fridge, and then quickly heat them up for a minute in simmering water again before serving. 

IMG_3942.jpg