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Month: June 2016

Almond and Mixed Berry Granola

Almond and Mixed Berry Granola

I’ve gotten into a rhythm finally of making granola every other week now that we’ve moved into our new place.  I’m always trying new combinations, though now that Clay also eats granola with his yogurt, I’m a little limited on my options for nuts, as he’s allergic to walnuts, pecans, and a few others.  Almonds are a safe bet, so I’ll likely be posting more recipes that include these.  I’m finding that I especially like slivered almonds or chopped almonds in my granola as these cuts of almonds get golden brown and crispy (in a good way). 

I’m also always on the lookout for interesting variations of dried fruit and tend to find the most interesting at one of our local discount grocery chains here in the PNW – Grocery Outlet.  In addition to having a great wine selection, they tend to carry some interesting organics.  The mixed dried berries I used in this granola are from Patience Fruit & Co and included dried cranberries, wild blueberries, goldenberries and tart cherries. 

mixed berry dried fruit

They add a nice chewy element to the granola and don’t compete too much with fresh berries, since we are in the midst of berry season already. 

mixed berry dried fruit granola 2

Almond and Mixed Berry Granola
Serves 8-10

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup olive oil
½ cup honey
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup dried mixed berries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, olive oil, honey and chopped almonds.  Spread on the parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Cook for 10 minutes at a time for a total of 30 minutes.  Stir between each 10 minute interval.

Let cool and then add the dried mixed berries.  Store in an airtight container. 

Blueberry Feta Salad

Blueberry Feta Salad

One of the greatest joys for me living in the PNW is berry season, which has come very early this year due to some of the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having.  Despite my very vocal complaining all last weekend about how hot it was, I was very, very happy with the blueberries and marionberries from the farmer’s market.  I will eat blueberries in just about anything: mixed with yogurt and granola, with cottage cheese, in muffins, in bread, and as a salad ingredient.  I especially like the combination of slightly sweet with intensely salty, so have often paired blueberries and feta cheese. 

This week, I could barely muster the energy to even tear up lettuce leaves for salad.  Still, I managed somehow, and threw together this salad with what I had on hand.  I couldn’t be bothered to mix up a proper vinaigrette though, so dashed a bit of balsamic vinegar and a bit of olive oil over the top and called it good.  I realize this isn’t the greatest recipe direction in the world – a dash of this and a dash of that, but so be it.  This salad paired nicely with the curried chickpea wrap.  I imagine it would also go well with a variety of other sandwiches.

blueberry feta salad

Blueberry and Feta Salad
Serves 4

½ pint blueberries
2 cups arugula
4 cups lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
½ cup chopped or slivered almonds
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Olive oil to taste

Combine all ingredients through the feta cheese in a bowl.  Toss gently.  Divide into four bowls and dress each with a dash of balsamic vinegar and a dash of olive oil.  Taste and add more balsamic vinegar and olive oil as needed. 


Curried Chickpea Wrap

Curried Chickpea Wrap

At eight p.m. last night, I was finally getting around to making my lunch for the week: curried chickpea wraps and blueberry feta salad.  Just for the record for my readers, usually lunch cooking and recipe writing takes place much earlier in the day on Sundays, allowing me ample time to try things out, taste, and refocus if anything should go too badly wrong.  However, this was no ordinary weekend here in the PNW.  This weekend was scorching, searing and miserably, miserably, hot.  We spent two days languishing in front of two box fans and one oscillating fan and by we, I mean all the cats, the dog, and Clay and me.  I finished one Scandinavian murder mystery and then promptly started reading another set in Alaska.  I spent a lot of time thinking about Alaska and how cool it must be in the summer time.  I am just not a fan of hot weather, ever. 

So this week’s menu, by necessity, had to stay simple.  The only thing heated up in this recipe are the chickpeas and these are heated only very, very briefly to coat the chickpeas with the spice mix.  I opted for Neufchatel cheese rather than cream cheese for these, only because I was curious about the Neufchatel cheese.  Really, it tastes like cream cheese.  I did a bit of research to see exactly what the difference was and it turns out that Neufchatel cheese is made from milk, whereas cream cheese is a combination of milk and cream, so Neufchatel is a little lighter than cream cheese in fat content. 

I also did drag myself to the farmer’s market this weekend.  It was nearly a literal dragging, as I had made the questionable decision to go forward and run/walk in a 10K on Saturday morning and the temperatures were already in the 80s by the time I hit the half-way mark.  Fortunately, the farmer’s market is in the same park as the run, but I was so hot and miserable I wandered past the artichokes, the gooseberries, and the raspberries with barely a notice.  I did get some amazing heads of lettuce and a flat of  berries, so there’s that at least. 

curried chickpeas chickpea curry wrap

Curried Chickpea Wrap
Serves 4

1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch salt
1 cucumber, sliced in strips
4 pieces of lettuce
4 tortillas
4 tablespoons cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, room temperature

Combine the chickpeas, spices, salt and lemon in a small frying pan.  Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until chickpeas are well coated with the spice mix.  Take off the heat.

Assemble wraps by spreading tortillas with 1 tablespoon each of the cheese.  Divide the chickpeas and cucumbers evenly over the tortillas and then add a lettuce leaf to each.  Roll the tortillas.  These can be eaten immediately or wrapped up in foil or plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a few days. 

Roasted Strawberry and Rhubarb Martini – Friday Happy Hour

Roasted Strawberry and Rhubarb Martini – Friday Happy Hour

Happy Friday everyone!  It’s martini time!  The temperatures are rising here in the PNW – there’s a threat that we may see close to 100 degree temperatures by Saturday.  I think that this calls for a whole pitcher of martinis.  Ok – maybe it’s not quite that extreme yet.  At the very least, if you are looking for a recipe that makes a fruity martini for one, look no further (or – feel free to double the recipe to share).

roasted strawberry rhubarb martini

Roasted Strawberry and Rhubarb Martini
Serves 1 (but could easily be adapted for more)

1 ounce roasted strawberry and rhubarb mashed
2 ounces vodka
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a dash vanilla

Muddle the roasted strawberry and rhubarb in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.  Add the vodka, lemon and vanilla. Add ice and shake.  Serve in a chilled martini glass with a sugar dipped rim (I ran a bit of vanilla over the rim of my martini glass and then dipped it in sugar).


Roasted Strawberry and Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Roasted Strawberry and Rhubarb Coffee Cake

I love coffee cake.  It’s a guilty pleasure – a little slice of foodie heaven next to a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  I am so decidedly not a morning person.  It takes a strong Americano in the morning and at least a half hour or so of reading email updates and listserv posts before I’m able to really and truly be functional.  All of this can be made so much better if the coffee is accompanied by breakfast food.  Two weeks ago, I decided I was tired of the temptation to wander down to the nearby coffee shop and buy something (a bagel, a croissant, and so on), and the strawberries and rhubarb were looking so good at the farmer’s market, and I’m a recipe creator now, after all – a food blog writer, I should be able to design my own coffee cake.

Please take note that that was two weeks ago and this recipe is just showing up now.  That’s because I learned a little secret about being a recipe writer: sometimes, you are bound to have an epic fail.  The first coffee cake I made that incorporated strawberries and rhubarb developed a buttery life of its own in the oven.  It gurgled, it oozed and eventually, after much whining on my part, it ended up in the trash, as it was totally and completely inedible.  There was much too much moisture in the fruit.  I’d tried to treat the butter in the crumb like you would in a pie dough (not melted, just made into butter pellets that then melted with great drama in the oven).

That’s the great thing about being a home cook.  If at first you don’t succeed, go back to the drawing board and try again.  This week, I managed to make this picture perfect beauty.  I started by doing some research about the coffee cake crumb – that delectable, sugary, buttery, crunchy topping.  No matter what anyone tells you, be sure to melt your butter first and use an adequate amount of flour in the crumb.  This will actually create a crumb, rather than a butter lake in your oven.  Second, I decided it was time to get on the roasted fruit train and decided to roast my strawberries and rhubarb to reduce the moisture content a little.  Yes – I can now see why roasted strawberries are a thing.  They are soft and melty and lovely.  The rhubarb also takes on a buttery softness and, as I didn’t use much sugar, stays a little tart.  My advice is to either make more of the roasted strawberries and rhubarb than my recipe here calls for or save just a few tablespoons from what you make here and use it in the roasted strawberry rhubarb martini that will be showing up on the blog tomorrow.

Until then, happy mornings.

coffee cake with coffee

Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Serves 8-10

Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
6 strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 stalk rhubarb, sliced into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Coffee Cake Crumb
¼ cup butter, melted
¾ cup flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Coffee Cake
¾ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cut strawberries and rhubarb in a single layer.  Sprinkle with sugar and vanilla.  Roast for 30 minutes, scoop the fruit into a bowl and then set aside to cool.  Once cool, mash gently.

Coffee Cake Crumb

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.  The flour should be completed blended.  Set aside.

Coffee Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Cream the butter and the sugar until it is fluffy.  Add the eggs and mix.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix again.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet, about ¼ cup at a time until all is incorporated.

Butter a 9 inch cake pan.  Spoon the coffee cake mixture into the pan.   Spoon the roasted strawberry and rhubarb mix over the top.  Spoon the coffee cake crumb mixture over the fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of the coffee cake comes out clean.

coffee cake crumbs whole coffee cake one piece out coffee cake

I’m happy to have linked this recipe with Lavender and Lovage and The Hedge Combers for June’s Tea Time Treats challenge.

Tea Time Treats



Picnic Potato Salad

Picnic Potato Salad

By and large I am not a huge fan of potato salad.  I have a fairly significant aversion to mayonnaise, though I will use it for tuna or chicken salad.  I used to not like hard-boiled eggs, so this may have something to do with it as well.  In recent years, I’ve started to experiment more with this type of salad, using a minimal amount of mayonnaise and skipping the eggs all together.  I went one step further with this salad and just ditched the mayonnaise, opting instead for a dressing of red wine vinegar, oil and mustard.  Even better, I threw in some nicoise salad touches: Kalamata olives, blanched snap peas, and a whole hard boiled egg in each serving.

On a side note, I recently discovered a new red wine vinegar (because generic red wine vinegar just isn’t that thrilling.)  Meet the chianti red wine vinegar of my dreams:

chianti red wine vinegar

Ok – maybe it’s not that exciting and maybe it does taste mostly like red wine vinegar, but still.

This is a great time of year for little potatoes straight out of the garden or from the farm or farmer’s market.  The snap peas could certainly be replaced with beans.  The dressing made plenty of extra, so save it for a green salad later in the week or to go with roasted chicken and focaccia.

potato salad

Picnic Potato Salad
Serves 4

10 – 12 small (fingerling size) potatoes
10 – 12 snap peas
10 – 12 Kalamata olives
4 hardboiled eggs
Chianti red wine dressing (below)

Chianti Red Wine Dressing
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chianti red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
pinch salt
a few grinds fresh pepper

For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar.  Cover with a tight lid, shake vigorously and set aside.

For the salad: Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the snap peas and boil for one minute.  Put the snap peas in a strainer and rinse with cool water.  Set aside. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and boil until tender.  Drain, cool and cut into quarters.  Combine the potatoes, blanched snap peas and Kalamata olives.  Dress with Chianti Red Wine Dressing – all ingredients should be well coated.  Chill for at least an hour for flavors to develop.  Add the hardboiled eggs on each plate when the dish is served.