granola bars

chocolate granola 7

I don’t know how best to say this in order for you all to understand the significance: My youngest son can now eat granola bars!

You may be thinking this isn’t big news or noteworthy, yet it is. He has a severe tree nut allergy, and there is not a granola bar available for purchase that is safe for him to eat. Because of this he hasn’t had a granola bar since before his diagnosis, which was about 4 years ago. But now, thanks once again to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, he has granola bars daily! And this makes him happy.

Since I started making these, we always have granola bars in the house. Not only are they easy, but the ingredients are not expensive, and are easy to keep stocked in my kitchen.

I’ve made these in different variations, and my son has declared his favorite are the ones with cocoa as well as chocolate chips that aren’t melted in the mix. I prefer the ones without the cocoa. They’re all good … but we each have our favorite!

Below are the two variations I’ve made lately.

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Chocolate Granola Bars

1 3/4 cups quick oats *Note: Important to use quick oats and not old-fashioned.

1 cup crispy rice cereal

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

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Line a 9×9 (or similar size pan) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats and cereal.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar. Stir well and often.

Once bubbles appear, simmer and continue stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add cocoa. Stir well to combine then remove from heat.

Add vanilla. Stir.

Pour this mixture over the oats and cereal. Stir well to combine everything into a big sticky bowl of yumminess.

chocolate granola 1

chocolate granola 2

Spread the mix into the pan lined with parchment paper.

chocolate granola 3

Top with chocolate chips. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top and press firmly to make the mixture even and to push the chips into the granola a bit.

chocolate granola 4

chocolate granola 5

Cover and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

After the 2 hours, slide the parchment off the pan onto a counter and cut into whatever size and shape you want.

chocolate granola 8

Note: I like cutting them into 1×1-inch pieces — a few of these are perfect for my son’s daily snack at school. Also, for Valentine’s Day I used plastic heart cookie cutters (large and small) and, as you can see, I got the cutest heart shaped granola bars! Since I make these granola bars weekly, I’ll start cutting them using other cookie cutter shapes that I have just to make my son’s daily school snack a little more fun.

Another note: In addition to — or in place of — the chocolate chips, you could add chopped dried fruit and/or crushed/chopped pretzels and/or raisins. I wouldn’t add more than a total of 1/3 cup of these items. Remember to add them to the oats and cereal before pouring on the butter and honey mixture. 

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granola 11

Granola Bars

2 cups quick oats *Note: Important to use quick oats and not old-fashioned.

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Line a 9×9 (or similar size pan) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, cereal, and chocolate chips.

Note: If you don’t want the chocolate chips to melt from the heat of the liquid, keep them to the side until after the mixture is pressed into the pan (as I did in the above batch). 

granola 2

In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar. Stir well and often.

granola 1

Once bubbles appear, simmer and continue stirring for about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir.

Pour this mixture over the oats, cereal, and chocolate chips in the large bowl. Stir well to coat all the oats and cereal.

*Update: I’ve made these so often now that I’ve changed my favorite version. Adding the chocolate chips at this point is not my favorite way of making these anymore. I prefer to add them at the end, as in the first example. By the way, if I were to add other ingredients, such as chopped pretzels, I might add the chocolate chips to the oats and cereal, because I’m not sure how well it would all stick otherwise.

granola 3

granola 4

Spread the mix into the pan lined with parchment paper.

granola 6

Place a sheet of parchment paper on top and press firmly to make the mixture even.

Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

granola 7

After the 2 hours, slide the parchment off the pan onto a counter and cut into whatever size and shape you want.

granola 8

granola 9

granola 10

Note: As noted above, in addition to — or in place of — the chocolate chips, you could add chopped dried fruit and/or crushed/chopped pretzels and/or raisins. I wouldn’t add more than a total of 1/3 cup of these items. Add them to the oats and cereal before pouring on the butter and honey mixture. 

Preparing for our Thanksgiving feast

gravy

Do you see that cool swirl from the steam off the gravy? No photoshop tricks here. I didn’t even know this happened until after I was reviewing the photos!

Here are links to the recipes I’ll be using for our Thanksgiving feast this year.

My meal will include:

turkey with gravy (for the gravy, the link will take you to the gravy I made from a roast chicken — same process for turkey gravy)

stuffing To save oven space for the bird, I now make the stuffing in a crock pot.

???????????????????????????????

vegetables

veggies

sweet potatoes

sweet potatoes

smashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

rolls

cranberry sauce

cranberry sauce

apple pie (I will post the recipe for the pie pictured below very soon. Can’t believe I haven’t posted it yet!)

apple pie

pumpkin pie (I am not a huge pumpkin pie fan, though my husband and oldest son love it, so I use a can of organic pumpkin and follow the typical pumpkin pie recipe — pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves.)

pumpkin pie

chocolate pie (my daughter and youngest son will not eat apple or pumpkin pie … and I don’t mind one bit adding a chocolate pie to the menu!)

chocolate pie

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Here is a link to shortcuts I take to make my Thanksgiving meal easy and less work the day of the feast.

Thanksgiving prep

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To start the day I’ll serve baked French toast. Such a holiday favorite of mine!

baked french toast

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What items are on your Thanksgiving meal menu?

breakfast muffins

The last post was from a link my daughter found. Remember? I mentioned how she emailed me with the subject line “YUM” and three links to recipes. This is the second link on the list. It’s a muffin recipe (here’s the link to where she found it), and we have no idea why the original has the word “French” in the title. Nor do we understand why they are called “breakfast” muffins. First of all, isn’t it common to serve different kinds of muffins at breakfast? And isn’t it also true that you can eat muffins at any time of the day? Yes, and yes. So maybe they are breakfast muffins because they taste very good with a cup of coffee served at breakfast. And maybe they originally were considered French because the person who first made them was from France? We may never know.

My daughter has made these twice. The second time she doubled the recipe, which is the one below, because doing all that work for 8 or 10 muffins seemed silly. I’ve also made a few changes/alterations to have it read better (I’m a stickler for listing ingredients in the order they are used in each recipe).

We really like these muffins. This recipe is a winner! Awesome addition to my morning coffee (or afternoon coffee … or evening coffee).

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Breakfast Muffins

Muffin ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup milk

2/3 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

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Topping ingredients:

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

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Heat oven to 350F.

In a mixer bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix slowly until combined (may be a bit lumpy). Don’t over mix.

Line muffin tins with paper liners (makes about 20 muffins).

Distribute batter into the lined cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.

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For the topping, stir together the cinnamon and the sugar in a small bowl.

Dip the warm muffins in the melted butter (we dipped just the top … we considered attempting to dip the whole muffin, but it was a bit too messy), then dip/roll the buttered section of the muffin in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Make a pot of coffee and enjoy. 🙂

hard cooked eggs

Easter is tomorrow. Dying eggs is a tradition. Cooking the eggs can be a problem. It was years before I finally learned how to cook them correctly. Here’s the thing: they shouldn’t be hard boiled eggs, but rather hard cooked eggs. Hard boiling can lead to a rubbery texture and that unsightly green ring near the yolk. When you hard cook them, those problems disappear!

With many thanks to the Wegmans newsletter from years ago, here is how I learned to do it right.

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  1. Place eggs in a single layer in a large saucepan (my largest one fits a dozen eggs nicely). Add cold water to come to at least one inch above the eggs.
  2. Cover. Bring to a full boil, then immediately TURN OFF HEAT. Remove from burner to prevent further cooking, if necessary.
  3. Let eggs stand as is for 18 minutes if extra large eggs, or 15 minutes for large eggs, or 12 minutes for medium eggs.
  4. When time is up, run cold water over the eggs until cool. Then place the eggs in ice water until completely cooled.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to dye.

Note: The newsletter recommended not using the freshest eggs you have, but rather the least-fresh, since fresh eggs are harder to peel.

 

Updated to include a photo of the decorated eggs:

sour cream coffee cake muffins

Memories from my youth include a lot of baked goods, coffee and tea.

My mom loves to bake, and did quite a bit while we were young. My grandmother baked very often as well. And coffee, well, let’s just say we went from baby formula, to cow’s milk, to coffee within about a dozen years. Tea as well. A cup of tea in the afternoon with mom, or in the evening, well, that was pretty common. And coffee was a huge part of each day — at breakfast, of course, and usually after large meals too. The smell still brings me back … to the house I grew up in, as well as my grandmother’s kitchen. Gram would percolate her coffee. That sound and that smell… ahhhhh, the memories!

Add a baked good, especially one with cinnamon in it, and I’m hooked.

This recipe was one my mom made often, as a bundt cake (the way the original recipe instructed). I tried making it that way, but honestly, I don’t know why it never turned out well for me. Either my oven baked unevenly, or the kitchen spirits were against me. So I decided to make muffins instead. Easy, and they cook perfectly (not raw in the center as it would be when I used a bundt pan).

Another change I made was to omit the nuts and use chocolate chips instead. This stemmed from my oldest son having a peanut allergy. All nuts were off limits for him. But he liked chocolate! As do I. I used to chop the chocolate chips, to make smaller pieces, but now it’s so easy to find mini chocolate chips in the grocery store, so that’s what I use.

When my mom made sour cream coffee cake, she used a Gold Medal flour recipe book (I believe it was Gold Medal brand … will check with my mom). My mother still has that cookbook, even though I’ve tried to steal it — I mean, borrow it — many times. When I was a teen I made many recipes out of that cookbook, and I’d be very thankful if my mom would one day give that book to me. My mom has hundreds — if not thousands — of cookbooks. If I only had one, it would be that one. (Mom, are you reading this? Did you get the hint????? I WANT THAT COOKBOOK!!!!!!! Pretty please?)

A while ago I compared my mom’s recipe to another one that was similar, from Betty Crocker. I think Betty’s is lighter, so I’ve been using that one more often. I’ve made changes to the recipe, including, as I’ve mentioned, making muffins instead of using a bundt pan, and changes to the process, as well as including some white whole wheat flour. Oh, and I use a bit more sour cream, because I think it makes them even lighter and moister.

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins

3/4 cup butter, softened — not melted!

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup white whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sour cream

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Heat oven to 350F.

Use paper muffin holders to line 36 muffin cups, or grease and flour them (I highly recommend the paper liners!!!).

In mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Once combined, mix for 2 minutes on medium/low speed.

While that’s mixing, in a bowl stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Then add to the creamed mixture small amounts of the flour mixture alternatively with the sour cream, until all has been incorporated.

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In a small bowl combine for the filling:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

2 teaspoons cinnamon

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Step #1: In each muffin cup, place about a tablespoon of batter.

Step #2: Put a small spoonful (about a teaspoon) of the filling on top of the spoonful of batter in each muffin cup.

Step #3: Finish each one off with another small amount of batter, about 1 heaping teaspoon.

Bake for between 24 – 28 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if they are done.

Remove from oven and either remove the muffins to cool on a wire rack, or tilt each one in the pan.

Make some coffee, or tea, and enjoy!

baked french toast

Hello dear readers … you are in for a treat! My friend BecciR is my guest blogger for the day! I met her a few years ago, and liked her from the first second. She’s smart and funny and kind and has a peacefulness about her … what’s not to like! But it got better. One day we had brunch at her house and in addition to a beautiful spread of fruit and muffins and chocolates, she made an amazing baked French toast. Oh my oh my oh my oh my it was delicious! It quickly become a favorite breakfast in my family. I now make it for all holiday breakfasts, because it’s delicious, and most of the work is done ahead of time. So on Easter morning, or Christmas morning, and even on non-holiday mornings, such as at the beach house, or when company comes, or for a birthday breakfast, this is what I make! Okay, enough from me, let’s move on to what BecciR has to say! Thanks BecciR!

Edited to add: The *notes* in the recipe section are my comments, and I took the photos.

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I don’t know if I have met a type of bread I didn’t like. Sweet or savory. Soft or toasted. Crusty or crustless. Topped or stuffed. Anyway you slice it (ha ha) it’s a weakness for me.

It’s probably not doing my waistline any favors, but I think in moderation, I can handle a bit here and there. 🙂

While living in Atlanta, I had a fabulous group of friends. I miss them all dearly, but they all gave me wonderful recipes to enjoy wherever life takes me. These recipes are reminders of the laughs and love we shared. A recipe I just love is from my friend “Sherry Berry”.

The original was called Grand Marnier French Toast. Oh yeah! It’s crispy and buttery and oh so delicious. It’s an easy fix-ahead dish perfect for a family breakfast/brunch. Definitely a go-to when family is coming into town.

I know Grand Marnier is expensive and if you don’t keep it in the house, I have found little bottles at the ABC store checkout which work for just this recipe.

Just a note, if you are watching cholesterol intake, we substitute egg beaters for the real eggs. Taste or performance is not effected.

If you give this recipe a whirl, you will not be disappointed…we never have. [;)]

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French Toast

Ingredients:
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (*Note: This ingredient is completely optional — I’ve made it without and the result is still amazing!)
1 16-ounce Italian bread, cut into 1-inch slices
2/3 cup butter (*Note: When making this, I now only use 1/2 cup butter and it works very well)

Combine eggs, sugar, nutmeg, orange juice, milk, and Grand Marnier, if desired. Stir well.

Fit bread into a single layer into a lightly greased 13x9x2 baking dish. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight (if not making overnight, refrigerate at least 8 hours). If possible, turn the bread over once during this time (*Note: I flip the bread right before heading to bed.)

In the morning, heat oven to 400F.

Melt the butter and pour it into a jelly roll pan (or melt the butter in the jelly roll pan in the hot oven). Place bread in a single layer in the pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Turn bread and bake additional 10-12 minutes. You may need to adjust cooking time depending on how soaked your bread is.

Garnish with powdered sugar, fresh fruit and/or maple syrup.

Good morning!

My daughter's piece ... no fruit, no syrup, just powdered sugar. Yum!

so pretty ... and so delicious!

chocolate chocolate chip muffins

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Ever since my youngest son was diagnosed with a severe allergy to tree nuts last year, we haven’t been able to purchase many baked goods for him. That’s usually not a problem, since we enjoy baking at home so much. The problem comes up when we’re away and eat breakfast out, or when we stop by the local bagel place. These places always have a tempting chocolate chocolate chip muffin which calls my son’s name loudly. In fear of cross contamination with nuts, we have to ignore the calls of these muffins, and deal with my son’s sadness.

My daughter couldn’t take her brother’s anguish any longer, and decided she would make him chocolate chocolate chip muffins. What an awesome sister! And what delicious muffins! She searched the internet for a recipe, and after picking one and reading the reviews for it, adapted the recipe to accommodate for the lack of moistness that many reviewers noted. She added extra milk and half a cup of applesauce. What a clever girl! And what moist delicious muffins!

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons butter, melted (use unsalted butter, if you have it)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed in a small amount of flour to prevent the chips from sinking to the bottom of each muffin

Directions

Heat oven to 350F.

Line muffin tins with paper liners. This recipe makes 20 muffins.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In another medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in the butter, brown sugar, milk, oil, apple sauce and vanilla.

Quickly fold the wet ingredients into the dry with a rubber spatula. Just before the batter comes together, fold in the chocolate chips. Don’t mix the batter too much or the muffins will be tough. *Note: After folding together the dry and wet ingredients and the chips, the mixture will look weird and thick — that’s okay.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake about 20 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. *Note: This may be hard to determine due to the gooey chocolate chips that the toothpick will surely go through.

Cool the individual muffins on a wire rack.

*Edited to note: My son loved these muffins (as did I!) but my daughter thought there were too many chocolate chips in them (what??? is that possible????). Next time she makes them she’s going to use 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or my suggestion was 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.