Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Everyday Granola

Simple, homemade, good for you granola is tough to beat.


I buy a lot of granola at the store, but when I have the time I like to make it myself. By no means am I a super healthy eater. I eat what I want.

Sometimes it might be organic other times it might be super processed, deliciously fake cheese. Cheetos! I digress.

When I buy granola though, I'm buying it to be somewhat healthy. Some whole grains. A few nuts. The perfect snack or fiber for your morning yogurt.


What I am trying to say is that I like to have a little control over what goes into my granola, specifically sugar. There does not need to be much in your granola, in terms of fats or sugars.

It can be hard to find a store-bough granola with just a few ingredients. Hence, making it is the way to go, when time permits. It is simple, clean and easy to make.

This is a pretty basic granola, hence "Everyday Granola." Original, I know, but everyone needs a good and safe based to venture out on their own from, knowing they can always come back.

I sort of just use what I have in my cupboard. All the little leftover handfuls of nuts. You know what I'm talking about. A recipe called for all but 1/4 cup of slivered almonds, what to do with the leftovers? Stash 'em away for some granola. 


Perfect opportunity to use up various seeds, like sesame or flax, as in this recipe. So many sesame and flax seeds, with so few opportunities to use them and then there was granola. Everyone gets to play! No, your granola is not going to taste like sesame.

Any flavorful oil will work in here. Until coconut oil was all the rage, I used olive oil. The coconut oil also does not make this taste overwhelmingly like coconut, for all those coconut haters out there.

Egg whites make your granola a bit more crunchy and you could add up to about 3 tablespoons. I used egg beaters and would probably skip egg whites, if I had not had egg beaters on hand. The protein bonus does not hurt either.


If you like granola that is in bigger pieces, press the granola down firmly, with a spatula, not stirring it for the remainder of time in the oven.

After it comes out of the oven do the same thing, letting it cool completely before breaking it up, tossing in the fruit at this point.

If you have not gotten the gist by now, this recipe is flexible. Change the amount of oil or honey you add, maybe it is too much for. Maybe it isn't sweet enough. That is okay. Not offended, promise.


Spread you wings and play around with the ingredients. Use what you have on hand. Go wild. It will be fun. You deserve it.

xo
April 

Ingredients:
2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds

3 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon egg white
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup dried fruit

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth, or microwave in a measuring cup for 30 seconds. Pour honey mixture and salt over oat mixture; toss. Add tablespoon of egg; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 15 minutes, about 40 minutes. 
  2. Place sheet on rack, to cool. Stirring immediately for a less chunky mixture or let cook fully for bigger chunks. Mix in fruit. Granola will keep for up to a week, in a air-tight container.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

Happy Sunday Everyone!

I hope you've had a fun, basketball filled weekend so far and that you're favorite team is winning unless they're playing our Badgers of course ;)  We've had some pretty great spring weather for the most part the past couple of weeks and Ruger has been getting spoiled with extra walks and time outside soaking in some rays.


Us Badger Kitchen ladies and a couple of friends started off the weekend by enjoying cocktails at the Old Sugar Distillery.  It's always good to be able to catch up and unwind at the end of the week, even better when you're sipping on some local spirits.  I was tempted to buy a bottle to take home but couldn't quite pull the trigger.


I've been trying out some new recipes lately.  This spring quinoa salad with honey lemon vinaigrette was a winner.  I'd like to give this garlic parmesan chicken lasagna bake another try and maybe throw in some broccoli and make a smaller batch this time because sometimes there is just too much leftovers for the number of days in a week you're willing to eat the same meal.  If you can't tell, I'm currently spending some quality time on Pinch of Yum while meal planning for the week.


We also made this simple deep dish pizza twice(!) in the past couple weeks.  You may recall that I've mentioned that I was gifted a pair of cast iron skillets for Christmas but I've honestly been a little intimidated to use them since they need to be cared for in a special way.  Deep dish pizza was a dish I knew I wanted to try making so I gave it a shot and it turned out great, the skillet isn't ruined and now I'm ready to broaden my cast iron skillet horizons!  Give me some suggestions!


We have been getting a ton of stuff checked off the wedding to-do list lately.  My dress came in (insert heart eyed emoji) so my mom and I went and picked that up.  Hello extra workout motivation!  We also ordered and received our wedding invitations from Vistaprint and we're getting all the details worked out for the rehearsal dinner at Tutto Pasta.  Funny enough, it's actually the same restaurant where I went to dinner before prom.  One of the extra fun things we got to do, well at least I thought it was fun, was pick out our wedding bands!  We are getting them from BR Diamond Suite where we were actually able to custom design them.  I wanted something a little more unique that I wasn't able to find at other jewelry stores.  Hopefully now that we've accomplished so much some of these crazy wedding dreams will stop!

Have a great week friends!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

This should be called "almost vegetarian winter vegetable chowder," but it is not called that. The name was too long to fit in the allotted space.


That is how we should think of it though - almost vegetarian. Omit the bacon and you've got yourself a vegetarian situation. 

You could go even farther and hold the splash of milk and you'd have yourself a vegan party in a bowl.

Personally, I need the bacon in here. It adds some smoke and a meaty quality. It makes me think of this as more of a meal. Versus a bowl of flavored water and vegetables.

Actually, I could be a vegetarian, if and only if I could keep bacon and sausage. Basically anything pork. I don't really care for the other meats so much, but I do love the dirtiest meat of them all.  


There are lots of people who choose to eat all the meats but pork. I'm the opposite of that. I digress.


  
It is still healthy with the bacon. Bacon is good for you.

Enough talk about my love affair with bacon and other pork products. This recipe is flexible. I went heavy on the cauliflower because I love cauliflower. Love it.

You could use some celery root, squash, sweet potatoes. Whatever floats your boat.


I added a can of white beans to thicken it up and for a bit of protein. It is finished with some lemon juice, for brightness. 



Lemon truly brightens the whole thing up. Don't skip it. If you forgot to buy a lemon, substitute a splash of cider vinegar. It gets finished off with a small splash of milk too for creaminess.

The chowder is fairly creamy all on its own, but it is no cows milk creamy. You know what I mean? Love me some dairy. Again you can be flexible, work with what you have and like.

The crispy sprouts on top add a little color and texture. I love brussel sprouts. They are the best. Even better with crumbled bacon. I think this would be great with some crumbled goat cheese on top. Be creative. 

Reheating this was a breeze too. It thickens up though. Add some water to thin it out or do like me and pour it over some rice. Variety and flexibility. Words we should all live by.



One word of caution, easy on the salt. Taste as you go. The mustard and lemon combine for a pleasantly salty vibe, but you don't want to go crazy. Not the mention canned beans can have a lot of added salt too.

xo
April   

Ingredients:
for the chowder:
3 slices, bacon
1 large cooking onion, small dice (1 3/4 cups)
1 leek, small dice (white + light green part only)
6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4-5 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
1-2 parsnips, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large head of small-chopped cauliflower florets
1 ½ tbsp grainy mustard
salt + pepper to taste
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 can (16 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
 

1/4 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1/3 cup heavy cream 

for the crispy brussel sprouts:
10 brussel sprouts, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning 

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, cooking 8 to 10 minutes, until crispy. Remove and drain bacon, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan, setting the bacon aside for later. 
Add the diced onions to the pot and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the leeks and continue to sauté until the leeks are soft, about 4 minutes more. Add the minced garlic and thyme to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the chopped parsnips and cauliflower florets to the pot and stir to coat in the oil. Add the grainy mustard, salt + pepper to taste, and Old Bay. Stir to coat all the vegetables in spice. 
Add the lemon juice to the pot and stir. Add the vegetable stock to the pot, stir again, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and lower heat to simmer. Let the chowder cook and bubble until the parsnips and celery root pieces are tender, about 15-18 minutes.
Ladle half of the chowder into an upright blender, with the white beans, and carefully purée until smooth. Pour puréed portion of chowder back into the soup pot and bring it back to a boil. Reduce heat to low, adding the cream, stirring to combine. Check the chowder for seasoning, adjust and serve hot. (you could also use an immersion blender, be careful to leave enough whole vegetable pieces.)
While the chowder is simmering/cooking, make the crispy Brussels sprouts. Place the sliced sprouts onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour the 2 tsp of olive oil over top, season with salt and pepper and a generous pinch of Old Bay seasoning. Toss lightly to combine and spread sprouts evenly on the baking sheet. Slide the sheet into the oven and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, or until browned on the and crispy. You'll want to stir them once while they are roasting. Serve warm sprouts on top of the hot vegetable chowder, with crumbled bacon.

Adapated from The First Mess

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

Welcome to March!  Is it just me or has this winter kind of flown by?  I might be kicking myself for saying that when we hit April and there's still snow on the ground.  I'm guessing it's a combination of having a relatively mild December/January for Wisconsin and all of the excitement of wedding planning because it sure doesn't feel like it was that long ago that we got engaged.  A very busy spring and summer will be here before we even know it!

Honestly though, I think I might miss soup season when it warms up.  I have been a lot more into making soups this year than in the past.  Canned soups can be mighty tasty, but there's just something special about homemade soup that you can't get from a can.  Recently I made this minestrone soup and it was mighty tasty.


The past couple of years for lent I've given up candy/desserts.  I choose it because it is actually challenging unlike when I was little and I would give up ice cream even though we never bought ice cream in the winter.  It also helps me make those healthier choices.  This year I did give myself one exception as my sweet friend Emily made me a countdown for my desk at work that requires the eating of one Hershey kiss per day.  I'll oblige if I must ;)
A Wisconsin tradition during lent, well let's be real it's basically a year-round tradition, is Friday night fish fry.  Nate and I decided to turn it into a little bit of a date night this week.  We were hoping to go to Quivey's Grove, a nearby restaurant that is well known for their fish fry, but an hour and a half wait we went elsewhere.  We ended up at the Tap Room at Hawks Landing where we washed down our fish with brandy old fashioneds, another Wisconsin tradition.  We rounded out date night with a game of mini golf on the indoor course at Vitense Golfland where match ended in a tie.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is how in the next few months my kitchen is going to change drastically.  Not only the actual physical kitchen since we'll be moving at some point this summer when I start law school, but also the tools I have in it.  Much of our wedding registry includes new kitchen tools or higher quality upgrades from what we have now.  Inspired by this article on essential tools for your first kitchen, I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison of what my top kitchen tools (meaning most used) are now compared to next fall/winter.
  • Chef's Knife: I have a really bad knife set that came in a kitchen starter kit I bought a few years ago (think, serrated knife can't even cut into a baguette bad) but then on top of that we have a mediocre chef's knife that while not great, can get the job done.  This gets used daily.
  • Cutting board(s): To go along with the chef's knife, we have a few different sized cutting boards that get used daily (at least).  My favorite is a giant one that can hold a ton of diced veggies but can barely fit in the sink to get cleaned.
  • Large non-stick skillet: Eggs, stir fry, grilling a sandwich, making a one-skillet meal, this bad boy can do it all.  I use mine close to daily and I honestly think that as I become more comfortable with my cast iron skillets this might be replaced, but for now, here she is.
  • Baking sheet: I may not use a baking sheet daily like some of these other things, but it does get used frequently and for a variety of reasons.  Besides just for baking, it also gets used for roasting, a tray for foil packets or even just to be there in case something overflows.
  • Spatula: Stirring, flipping, cutting, serving; it's practically a do it all tool!
What would be on your list?



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad

Lately I've been trying to work more and more on developing my own recipes and just sort of winging it when I'm in the kitchen.  I'm becoming more confident in my ability to cook intuitively as I become more comfortable with different spices and ingredients.


I've found that it's best to have some inspiration when getting going and one of the best types of inspiration I've found is thinking about meals that I've really enjoyed from a restaurant or other food establishment and trying to copy it, maybe not to a tee, but at least as a base.  As I have mentioned before on the blog, the Good Food cart is one of my favorite places to grab lunch when I'm at work and you better believe that it inspired this Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad.


A bed of mixed greens are topped with cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes, craisins, pecans and crumbles of tangy goat cheese.  The finishing touches come from a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I can be lazy at times so I usually just toss some pecans on the salad right out of the bag, but feel free to toast them or even go a little crazy and use candied pecans.  If you'd like a little more protein go ahead and throw on some chicken breast.  One of the great things about salads is they can be so easily customizable depending on your tastes by swapping out ingredients or switching up the proportions.

The recipe below is for one personal size salad that serves as the main dish for the meal.  I've increased the quantities at times as well to serve multiple people, just use your best judgement.  Be careful though, because the toppings tend to sink to the bottom of the serving dish!

Enjoy!
Kelsey



Ingredients:
  • 2-3 cups loosely packed greens, depending on what lettuce to toppings ratio you prefer (I like to use a spring mix for the greens)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons craisins
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/8 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
Directions:
  1. Spread greens over large plate or bowl.
  2. Top with sweet potatoes, craisins, goat cheese and pecans.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
  3. Toss as desired and enjoy!


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