Friday, December 30, 2011

Vanilla-Almond-Cherry Granola

I love granola. Its one of those staples that's so easy to make! Customizing it is a great way to mix things up for breakfast.
Since I had a lot more of the vanilla syrup than I could conceivably use in coffee (as only an occasional coffee drinker) I knew I wanted to use it in some homemade granola.

Vanilla - Almond - Cherry Granola

3 cups old fashions oats
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds (slivered would work too)
1/2 cup cherries
1/2 cup vanilla syrup (or honey)

Preheat oven to 300F Mix the oats, coconut and almonds in a large bowl. Add syrup and toss to coat. (Or stir with a spoon) spread on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure an even toast. Mix in cherries and allow to cool before packaging in an air tight container.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vanilla Syrup

Earlier this year my father spent a month in India. When he came back he sent us a package that had some wonderful scarves, fabric and dresses for the girls.
He also sent a vial with two vanilla beans.
I LOVE vanilla, but I've always been scared to work with vanilla beans. They are so expensive and what if I mess it up??
I recently was looking at recipes on pinterest and one caught my attention. I can't even remember what the recipe was for but in the article they mentioned that you can buy vanilla beans in bulk and save money.
Needless to say I was googling within minutes. I found and immediately ordered 25 beans. (They take paypal, that's something I can really appreciate.)

Finally today I decided to try making a simple vanilla syrup. This stuff tastes AMAZING. Waiting for it to cool I've come up with several things I want to try it with.
In my coffee, tea or hot chocolate?
Rootbeer + vanilla syrup + vodka?
Vanilla syrup as the invert sugar in my homemade granola?

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Vanilla Syrup
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 vanilla beans

Combine the sugar and water over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Split the vanilla beans in half the long way. Scrap out the black paste on the inside and stir it into the syrup, add the bean itself. Keep over low heat to encourage the steeping but DO NOT BOIL. (You don't want to reduce the water too much or your syrup will be too thick.) Steep for 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally (I stirred far more than that because I couldn't pry myself away from the fragrance.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Crayon Dinosaurs

Silicon dinosaur mold? Check
Broken Crayons? Check
Oven at 350F? Check

Present for my nephew? Check

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peppermint Bark

I made peppermint bark to include in christmas gifts this year.
I loved the look of the empty tray.

Peppermint Bark
4 Candy canes
1 bag Dark chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips

Crush the candy canes by putting them in a freezer bag and either rolling over them with a rolling pin or beating them with a mallet/rolling pin/baseball bat/whatever you have to beat things with.
Melt the dark chocolate, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave, stirring after each 30 second interval. It's ready when it's spreadable - do not over heat, you can burn chocolate.
Spread on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. sprinkle a little bit of the smallest pieces of candy on top. Put in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to harden.
Melt the white chocolate the same way you melted the dark chocolate. Spread on top of the dark chocolate. Sprinkle the rest of the crushed candy canes on top. Press the larger pieces in to ensure they stick.
Refrigerate until firm, break into pieces.
When peppermint bark is made with chocolate chips it needs to stay in the fridge lest it melt. (I prefer to eat it cold anyway)


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brussels Sprouts

Recently I heard someone say "Don't cook your Brussels sprouts with pancetta..." They went on to talk about roasting them. In the past year I tried that for the first time and it was fantastic.
Growing up with only ever eating them boiled, just roasting them was a revelation. Even my husband will eat them now! Adding pancetta? That sounded downright dreamy.
Shortly there after we were out for dinner at one of my favorite BBQ places. Their side dish of the day was Brussels Sprouts with bacon and scallions.
One mouthful and I knew I had to try making them.

5 slices of bacon
1 medium onion
2lbs Brussels sprouts
1/4 c water

Using kitchen scissors, cut the bacon into small strips. Fry the bacon until just cooked (don't over crisp it at this stage). Chop onion, halve Brussels Sprouts. Scoop bacon bits onto plate lined with paper towel. Fry onion in the bacon grease. once it starts to turn translucent add Brussels sprouts. Add water and cover. Cook for 5 minutes over med heat. Remove cover. Stirring occassionally, cook until the sprouts are tender and part are starting to brown. Add bacon. Fry one minute more. Remove from heat, and serve.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

Last night my friend stayed the night. We were up until the wee hours of the morning watching Iron Chef America. I love watching that show because there are so many things where I'm on the edge of my seat ready to lick the television. At the same time there are many dishes that leave me shocked (and grossed out - trout ice cream anyone?)
My husband refuses to eat anything from the squash family. I love pumpkin. So this morning I was able to make pumpkin pancakes without feeling obligated to eat them all myself.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 c milk
1 c pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 T vegetable oil
2 T vinegar
2 c all-purpose flour
3 T brown sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt

Mix together all the wet ingredients (milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, vinegar).  Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Stir until combined but don't over stir.
Scoop about 1/4c onto a hot griddle or pan. Brown on both sides. Top with butter. (bonus points if it's homemade butter)

I still have a bunch left over so I'm going to freeze them for future use.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Morning Breakfast

Cinnamon Bun

Cinnamon Buns

Unfortunately there was bad news this morning too.
But I guess that's the problem with being expatriated.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Ornaments with Kids

Hurricane Irene took our Christmas Tree and all our ornaments in the flooding she left behind.
It's a blessing in disguise because we really need to build a collection of ornaments that are OURS and not what either of us ended up with from our previous lives.

I like the idea of a coordinated tree. I love the shop displays that have a tree with only one or two different colors of ornaments on them. But I also value handmade... I came up with an idea to help keep my tree looking sharp, while still remaining a tree with handmade ornaments.
I have a WIDE variety of crafting supplies and sewing notions. So I picked up some clear glass ornaments. (8 for $2.99 was very affordable!) And I raided my stash (and my friend's stash) for white things that would fit inside.
T had a blast helping me put things in the ornaments. She happily put beads in one of them one at a time. Kept her busy long enough for me to make several others!

Pipe cleaner - be careful with these. If your pipe cleaner is too stiff it will poke a hole in the glass.

Beads - this was a great way to keep T busy while I made others.

Feather - this one is my favorite by far. It's just a single craft feather.

Ribbon - I chose a wide satin ribbon, but it would look cool with a thinner one too!

Zipper - I had to use a zipper with a small head, the other one I had wouldn't fit.

Yarn - I fed cotton yarn into the ball until I was happy with the look then I cut it. Rather than cut a length and have it be too short.

Eggnog Marshmallow fondant

This week I had some leftover EggNog Marshmallows (I make marshmallows over here)
I took three of them and popped them in the microwave for 20 seconds and then stirred in enough icing sugar to make them kneadable. (about 2/3 cup) Kneaded until smooth. wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge.
Et Voila!
Egg Nog flavored fondant!

If you don't have EggNog flavored marshmallows on hand (I mean who does normally?) You can make other flavors using store bought marshmallows, food coloring and extracts.