Crunchy Maple Granola

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I snack, alot. I need healthier snacks and I need them at the ready. I need snacks that are available and don’t require any assembly when I am ready to get my snack on. I have hit that stage of my post-partum where I have to get back on track and eat better and start taking care of myself more. Reclaim what once was mine. I always take great care of myself during pregnancy and bounce right back to pre-pregnancy weight within a week. Before you hate me, don’t worry, it comes back real quick!  Once the hectic newborn stage is in full gear I put weight on real quick, grabbing everything and anything to eat. This time around it was worse since it was right in the middle of holiday season. Besides all of the great festive foods, I was also baking a lot and had chocolate morsels and other pantry items at my ready to rummage through. It’s over though, time for a healthy snack.

I’ve never been into granola before that wasn’t in a bar form, but it was time to give it a try. I wanted something that had enough sweets in it so I could ween myself from the junk, but also was provided great nutrition and energy for me. This was it! Not only did I love it, but my daughter and husband have been gobbling it down. It only lasted a few days, but thankfully it doesn’t take long to make and I can whip up another batch this weekend. Don’t worry, I wont stop making yummy baked goods and the such, I just have to throw in a few things right now that are healthy because I am eating all.of.the.food right now!

Crunchy Maple Granola

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Old Fashioned Oats, not quick cooking
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, Grade B or A
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried fruit, such as blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and raisins

Pre-heat convection oven to 275 F. Pour oats and nuts in a large mixing bowl, set aside.

Heat maple syrup and salt in a non-reactive pot until boiling. Immediately remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract.

Working quickly, pour maple syrup mixture over oats and nuts. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir until oats are thoroughly coated. Pour onto baking sheets lined with a silpat or parchment paper. The granola should not be spread even or patted down. Using your hands, scrunch the granola into large clumps.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating 4 times, until golden and crunchy. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Using a spatula with a sharp edge, carefully turn granola over, making every effort to retain giant pieces and large clumps. Place back in oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp.

Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir in dried fruit. Serve.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for 5 days.

Yields 6 cups

Adapted from Pure Canada Maple

Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream

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Who is Ben? Why is his chocolate ice cream so special? Well, it’s Ben from the famous duo Ben & Jerry and his chocolate ice cream is the best that I’ve ever come across. I tried this recipe on a whim right before making many batches of ice cream for my daughter’s fourth birthday party. I have always had good luck with my other two recipes (chocolate ice cream 1 and chocolate ice cream 2) that I’ve made in the past, but I wanted to see what else was out there. I’m glad I did, because I’m stopping here. I haven’t tried Jerry’s yet, and I’m sure it’s good, but Ben’s is perfection to me, my family, and everyone else who has tried it so I think we’re good! This chocolate ice cream is rich and deep with flavor, thanks to the pinch of salt that brings out the chocolate. It’s so easy to make, much easier than other recipes I’ve come across.

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Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, boiling, water. Gradually, whisk the milk and heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Add the cream, vanilla, and salt and whisk to blend.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and blend. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 1 to 3 hours, depending on your refrigerator.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 1 quart

Source: Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

Crisp Roast Chicken

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I love a roast chicken. The smell permeates the house and the oven makes the whole house feel warm. It’s so easy to prepare with a little fore thought and while the chicken is cooking you have plenty of time to make a couple of nice side dishes. What feels like a special occasion dinner can be made simply and rather inexpensively. The only step that is vital to making this chicken is remembering that you need to let it sit overnight. I always forget this, always. But, it’s worth waiting for. I’ll admit it right here in front of the world. I love a little bit of crisp skin. On Thanksgiving day there was always a fight over who would get the skin and now I’m realizing that may start in my household since my daughter has shown an appreciation of that crunchy skin that crackles. Moderation though, moderation!

This simple rub and overnight process will yield a perfectly crisp skin, yet will still deliver moist meat. It’s really the best I’ve found and there is no mess from frying! Whatever you do, don’t brine your chicken otherwise it will prohibit the skin from becoming crisp and your work will be for naught. The sheet of foil between the roasting pan and V-rack will keep drippings from burning and smoking so don’t skip that step either!

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Crisp Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds), giblets removed and discarded
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt or 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Place chicken breast-side down on work surface. Use the tip of a sharp knife to make four 1-inch incisions along the back of the chicken. Using fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, carefully separate the skin from thighs and breast. Using a metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs. Tuck wing tips underneath chicken.

Combine salt, baking powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt mixture. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Set chicken, breast-side up, in V-rack set on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Using paring knife, poke 20 holes about 1 1/2 inches apart in 16-by-12-inch piece of foil. Place foil loosely in large roasting pan. Flip chicken so breast side faces down, and set V-rack in roasting pan on top of foil. Roast chicken 25 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven. Using 2 large wads of paper towels, rotate chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 135 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Continue to roast until skin is golden brown, crisp, and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 10 to 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated March 2008

 

Cake Pops

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Cake pops were all the rage a few years ago, but they still make a great little sweet treat. Perfect for favors or handouts for school parties. Caroline was given one for Halloween last year and ever since then she’s been talking about cake pops. Since I’ve never made them I figured this was a good opportunity to try them out. I figured anything could be less labor intensive than our usual birthday favor bag treat, Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing. Since I had to make 2 birthday cakes and cupcakes for school, I wanted easier!

Here’s the funny thing, I’ve wanted to make cake pops for a long time. I have a million cute ideas bookmarked, I have one of those little machines still in the box down in the basement, and I have all of the materials ready to go. Yet, I’ve never tried them. I was told to steer clear, they were a pain to make. I was told a million different ways to make them. I tried that little cake pop machine that was supposed to make life easier, but it didn’t. Finally, I took some of what I was told by a few trusted friends and just sat down one day and started my journey by myself. That was the key advise I received. Set aside a day. Well, at least a few hours! The next bit of advise that was helpful? Go ahead and use boxed cake if you want. I made them both ways and there was no difference. While I have a ways to go to perfect the decorating portion of cake pops, these earned rave reviews from everyone and I’ll be playing with these in the near future to get my decorating skills perfected. So, here’s what I did.

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1) Bake the cake and let is cool. Once it has cooled, crumble it with your fingers until you have consistent fine crumbs.

2) Make frosting or open up a tub of store-bought. I used almost all of the store-bought, leaving only a couple of tablespoons behind. Slowly add frosting to cake crumbs and mix in with your hands. This was the hardest part for me, it totally felt worse to me than making meatballs! You do not want to add too much frosting that it becomes a sludge-like texture, but enough that the cake will hold shape.

3) Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop cake mixture and then roll into a uniform ball in your hands. Taking care while rolling, you do not want to put pressure on the cake, just gently rolling it until you have reached the perfect shape. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat and continue until you have used all of the cake mixture.

4) Melt a small amount of chocolate that you are using and submerge the tip of your candy stick in, about 1/2″ and then place half-way through your cake ball. Take care not to push the sticks all of the way through the cake ball.

5) Place cake pops in the freezer for about 20 minutes. You do not want to freeze them any longer. Too cold will make the chocolate freeze to it and crack, too warm and the chocolate will take forever to cool and adhere to the cake pop.

6) Melt chocolate in a narrow cup. I used Wilton’s Candy Melts. I accidentally made one batch with the pink raspberry chocolate and the flavor combination with the chocolate cake was delicious!

7) Taking a few cake balls out of the freezer at a time, submerge the cake pops in the melted chocolate. Hold the cake pop over the cup at an angle and tap your wrist with your other hand until you have shaken off excess chocolate. Then, place your finished cake pop in a holder and repeat with the rest. The chocolate should harden within 30 seconds. If you are using sprinkles, add them just before the chocolate hardens. Too early and they will sink into the chocolate as it is hardening and too late and they wont stick at all. Any kind of holder is fine, I used spray-foam since we had some laying around and created my own Styrofoam board. You can also buy some cardboard ones in the baking aisle of many stores. Lots of folks make cake pops with the sticks pointing up, this is the easiest since you can lay the cake pop directly on to a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

8) Once the chocolate has hardened. You can wrap them in cake pop candy bags. They will stay fresh for 2 weeks. The chocolate coating and wrapper will seal in the freshness. I’ve even tried longer and they were fine, but I live dangerously! You can place them in the freezer to quicken the process, but mine were hardened and wrapped within 30 minutes.

If you choose to further decorating, simply do so after the initial chocolate coating has hardened. Then allow to fry and wrap and store them as mentioned above.

Yields roughly 40 cake pops.

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