One of my daughters is allergic (sensitive) to nuts. It’s not anaphylactic but she does get bad skin rashes. She loves granola as a snack, so I set out to create a nut free granola that she would enjoy.
It wasn’t so easy because not everyone in my family likes chia seeds or flax. A lot of recipes called for wheat germ which was met with a resounding “NO”!. So needless to say I just started experimenting.
I started every batch with old fashioned oats. I knew my family likes those. Then I started adding seeds. Which seeds would fit universally at any meal, and would we all like them? From there I added chocolate chips but they didn’t taste like the right fit so I switched to cacao nibs. Then I wanted to sweeten it. I din’t want to use sugar and honey was too sweet for us. I ended up with Pure Maple Syrup. It is set but has just the right bite of bitter. Finally, I wanted some chew, so I started adding dried fruits. A little salt elevated the flavor and I used olive oil to pull it all together.
The recipe is below, but here are a few notes:
You can use coconut oil instead of olive oil, if you prefer. The dried fruit is completely up to you but I used apricots, , dried blueberries, cranberries. Next time I will try cherries to.
For seeds I used sunflower, pepitas (pumpkin), sesame and hemp hearts. You can use any combination. And you can use nuts if you like. In my second batch I used coconut flakes. It definitely a personal choice.
Preheat oven to 350°
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl stir together the oats, seeds, and cacao nibs. Toss in oil and syrup.
Add a nice sprinkle of kosher salt and turn out onto prepared baking sheet.
Smooth out to a single layer and bake for 20-30 minutes. rotate half way through and stir.
When seed mixture comes out of oven, pour into same bowl and let cool a few minutes.
Add dried fruit and toss well. Pour back onto baking sheet and let cool completely.
You can store this in mason jars or other airtight container for 2 weeks in the pantry. You can also freeze for up to 3 months.
This makes a great gift!
So here we are the beginning of January 2020! As I think about resolutions, I’m trying tone way more mindful and intentional (which just happens to be my word for the year). So one of my resolutions is to eat breakfast more often. That also includes having quick and easy breakfast available for me and my family to grab.
The first thing I made in this new year is biscuits. Yes, I know they may not qualify as a healthy breakfast but I also believe that anything made at home with quality ingredients better than anything processed outside my kitchen. If combined with a healthy protein and some fruit or veggies, a biscuit breakfast can take you all the way to lunch, without temptation.
I started with my Great-Grandmother’s Biscuit recipe. It laid out most of the ingredients and these instructions:
“Work in enough flour to work out. Cut. Bake”
By the way flour was not listed as an ingredient. I was able to cull together some instructions and made some beautiful biscuits. I have given you a few more instructions. Enjoy!
Please go to Instagram and follow me: @whiskinthesouthern
Preheat oven to 475°
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
Grate butter, into flour mixture, on large hole side of grater box. Work in with hands. You want a coarse meal feel.
Put butter/flour mixture in freezer for a few minutes, here. You want everything to be cold when you start to work it.
Take bowl out of freezer and make a well in middle.
Pour buttermilk into well and start to mix together with a wooden spoon or your hands.
The dough will be sticky.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, gently, 15 times.
Add more flour if you need and start to roll out dough to 1/2" thick. Then fold in half and repeat, 5 times. This step is important because you are forming layers.
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
Once dough is ready to cut, use a biscuit cutter and cut straight down. Do not twist when making biscuits. Twisting forms a seal and prevent steam which prevents lots of layers of flaky goodness. Place biscuits on parchment paper about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 475° for 15 minutes. Watch your biscuits. Every oven is different and you want a nice golden brown biscuit.
When biscuits come out of oven brush tops with melted butter, immediately. Let cool for just 5 minutes before serving warm biscuits.
We just came through Thanksgiving and I know I am FULL! I’m really trying hard to not gain weight this year, through the holidays.
I love the idea of grabbing a granola bar or something quick, in the morning. The problem is that a lot of the commercial bars you can get at the grocery store are really high in calories, fat or sugar. I made this recipe the first time and it was too dry to “slice and bake”, as I wanted. I pressed it into a sheet pan and made it into bars. They were good, maybe a little dry but good. I added a 1/2 cup of applesauce and got the moisture I was looking for. This made a perfect cookie.
I hope you enjoy this quick breakfast recipe and don’t gain any weight during the holidays!
Add flour, baking soda and vanilla and beat until blended. Add applesauce until just combined.
Fold in dried fruit and nuts. I used apricots and walnuts but you can choose your own combination. How about cherries and almonds? Go tropical with dried pineapple and macadamia nuts.
Shape dough into a log. I like a bigger cookie, so a larger roll is better.
Wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Slice 1/2" cookies and bake on silpat or parchment paper, lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
You can also make these into bars, follow all the same directions, but press dough into a 9X13 pan or 1/4 sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown. It shouldn't take more than the same 20 minutes. Cool and then cut into 12 - 14 bars.
Stir together sugar and juice until desired glaze consistency. Drizzle over cookies or bars when completely cooled.
Pour yeast into warmed (110°) milk, let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks, until well blended.
Whisk together flour and salt.
Give the yeast mixture a quick stir and pour into egg mixture. Slowly start adding flour/salt mixture into yeast/egg mixture until dough starts to form. I reserve about 1/4 cup of the flour mix.
You want the dough to be soft.
Use some of the reserved flour and turn soft dough out onto floured board. Knead slightly and add flour if necessary. Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for at least an hour until doubled in size.
While dough is rising you can make your fillings and streusel.
Melt together dark chocolate and oil. Set aside.
I like to make the milk chocolate filling in a food processor. Make sure your butter is very cold. Pulse milk chocolate and butter in processor until small pea-sized pieces. Put back in refrigerator until ready to use.
Using the same processor, pulse together brown sugar, flour, and cold butter. It should be very crumbly. Put in refrigerator until ready to use.
Putting it All Together
Cut a piece of parchment to a little bigger than 14"x18". Place it on cutting board and lightly flour it. Roll out your dough almost to the edges, in a rectangle.
Using a pastry brush, spread the melted dark chocolate all over the dough, edge to edge.
Then sprinkle the milk chocolate all over the dough. Try to get edge to edge here too.
Using the parchment paper as a guide, start rolling the dough on the long side. Press as you go to keep the roll tight.
pinch the ends closed and wrap in parchment. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes to firm up.
While dough is refrigerator line bottom of 2 loaf pans (9X5) with parchment paper, then spray whole pan with non-stick spray.
Take roll out of refrigerator and remove from paper. Cut in half.
Take each half and, making sure the seam side is down, cut the rolls in half length wise, leaving one end in tact. Essentially you are "opening" them.
With cut sides up, start twisting pieces over each other, keep the open side up. Tuck other end under and place in loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another hour. You should have 2 twisted loaves.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk together reserved egg white and 2 Tbs. milk.
Once dough has risen, brush tops with egg wash and gently press streusel topping into dough.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Here's the trick, if it looks just slightly golden brown but not quite done, it's ok. It will continue to cook in pan and you DON'T want to overcook it or It will be dry.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto rack. You can serve it warm or it is certainly good at room temperature.
While visiting friends in Phoenix, we had brunch at Chico Malo. For now, it is just the local Mexican/South American restaurant around the corner but keep an eye on this one. The Group that owns it is about to explode on the scene. Chico Malo literally means “bad boy” in Spanish. The menu is only good things but with a bad boy edge. The food was AMAZING!! Each item on the menu sounded better than the next. I loved that they aren’t trying to re-invent who they are with a whole new menu, for brunch. There are things like burritos and Chimichangas and in some cases, they turn those up.
Everything we ordered was great, but I can’t get my mind off the Nana Marcella’s Drunken French Toast. I’m going to do my best to duplicate. The presentation was so beautiful and the melding of flavors so incredible. The long pieces of baguette and caramelized bananas were stacked as if building a campfire. I learned from the menu that the bread had been soaked in a tres leches bath that not only enhanced the flavor but softened the tough crust to make it easy to cut with a fork. The 5-spice butter was the perfect balance of flavors to cut the fat in the butter while giving a blend of spices that danced all around my tongue, finally landing at the back with just a hint of heat. I had my idea of what the spices were but a quick visit with the General Manager confirmed allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon.
These two hints gave me the start I needed to play mad scientist in the kitchen. I mixed eggs into the tres leches bath and I let the bread soak overnight. I did the same thing with the butter. I played around with amounts of each spice until I felt they all shined but the heat from the cinnamon was what you remembered. And so, I began. A couple of things I would be sure of before I started. When cutting your baguette, make sure your pieces will fit comfortably in the pan. You want them long but not so long that they fall apart when they are in the pan. Have everything you need to “build” the dish ready to go before you start cooking. This dish is better served hot, so don’t waste time getting everything together at the end. I noticed when I looked at the picture of the recipe again that there is a pool of tres leches under the toast then syrup. I ordered the Aged Rum Syrup and piloncillo from Amazon. You can probably get the piloncillo at a Latin market and make your own rum syrup by adding rum to maple syrup and reducing until the right thickness.
This dish was such a decadent start to the day. It was rich and the Mimosa I had helped to ease the richness. This is a great breakfast to share or even multiply for a breakfast buffet.
Cake for breakfast! Yes it’s a thing and it is all over the Internet. It’s actually not a new thing. It started popping up in my feed in every blog I get, recently. So, I decided to do a little research of my own. Before I get to a really good chocolate cake recipe, that you will probably over indulge in, let me give you some of the Kisses and Nibs of it all.
The original study came out in 2011 and was conducted in the UK. It did say that eating cake for breakfast was a good thing and that you might lose some weight. However, it turns out the study was more about eating a big hearty breakfast than it was about eating cake. It also pointed out that if you’re going to eat sugary unrefined carbs, maybe you want to do it earlier in the day, rather than later. Finally, the UK study was a closed study, meaning that the participants were living and eating in a dorm facility. So the facilitators noted that perhaps the social nature of eating together might have had the participants eating less. Be more social when you eat breakfast, if you can. Talk more, eat less.
The second study was done at Tel Aviv University in 2013. This study suggested that the brain works better when it is stimulated immediately in the morning and that chocolate cake was a great conduit for that. The long and short of this is that chocolate has flavonoids and caffeine; both can act as a stimulant. Flavonoids are also a great antioxidant. Both supply energy to the brain and in my honest opinion are a great way to start your day.
I did the MOST official study of all in 2017. It shows that if you make a chocolate cake, somebody will eat it for breakfast!
Okay, enough with the science! Here is a great chocolate cake recipe. I put it together from several different recipes. Make a double batch of the frosting; one is just not quite enough to frost the whole cake.
Really Good Chocolate Cake
This is three full layers of cake, not one cake cut into three layers! With lots of rich milk chocolate frosting between and all around. Oh yeah!
Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.
The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.
Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.
Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
I am often asked why do I write about cooking. Why is it important to me that “you” cook? It’s often a hard question to answer. Maybe, because it feels existential to me; I cook therefore I am. Recently, I had a small epiphany to this question. I woke up early one morning, I went down stairs and noticed the pungent aroma of too ripe bananas. I immediately got to work on banana bread. My movements around the kitchen, to grab my ingredients were easy and lazy on a warm Saturday morning: three ripe bananas, an egg, some flour and sugar are the basics and then I can get fancy. As I worked it dawned on me, this is why I want YOU to bake. I want you to stumble into your morning kitchen and think “banana bread” or cinnamon rolls or whatever you are craving and not be intimidated, afraid or ill prepared to bake. It is gratifying to bake/cook for your family and friends. It is also extremely gratifying to be the teacher. I want your emails saying you succeeded or even failed with one of my recipes. Let’s walk through it and try again. I love running into you in the store and answering your questions about ingredients or techniques. Send me the pictures! I want to see.
So in turn this answers another question that I have been asked. What’s your voice? Who’s your audience? My voice is just me. And you are my audience. In any article you read whether it is here on my blog or a book or a magazine; I want you to feel like we are sitting at the island in my kitchen, sipping a cup of … and just talking. You can ask me anything and tell me everything. See you soon.
In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In an electric mixer bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.
Mash the bananas and then fold them into the wet mixture.
Ad the flour mixture and beat on medium low until just just combine. Some lumps are ok.
Pour batter into a greased 9X5X3 loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes.
I know that sounds vague but every oven varies and you don't want your bread to be over or under baked. A tooth pick should come out clean but just clean.
Run knife around edges and let cool completely in pan.
Put peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave and stir, in 30 second intervals, until smooth.
Pour glaze over top of turned out bread. Garnish with chopped peanuts. Let set for 10 minutes to set up before slicing.
To paraphrase Julia Child you should never makes excuses for your food. Whether it is good or bad everybody already knows. After a five month absence, I’m back. This is for you Carl!
My pantry is my comfort zone, a larder that has evolved over twenty years of cooking every day. It is my haven and where I go to feel safe. I can look at my pantry and see nothing; my sister looks in my pantry and thinks, “This is where I’m going after the apocalypse.” My pantry is where I go to get my creative juices flowing. It is often where I go to have fun. I can always find a spice, or some ingredient that will spark whimsy and often a party.
There is no one size fits all. You have to start with a few rapid-fire questions. I mean it! Don’t think about your answers. Say the first thing that comes to your mind.
1- what is your (family’s) favorite home cooked meal?
2- what is your breakfast, every morning?
3- what is the meal you cook every week? This may not be the same answer as #1.
4- when asked to bake for a bake sale or office party, what is your go to recipe?
5- when you stand in front of your pantry or refrigerator, what do most often eat as a snack?
6- what is the one recipe that gets the most reaction, wow factor, when you serve it?
Write the ingredients from all your answers down. This is where you will start building your pantry. Be honest with yourself, too. When I was single I may never have thought of turkey burgers. I sleep soundly, now, knowing I have my go to ingredients on hand.
Now I face the conundrum of the well-stocked pantry. Mine is in three parts: Everyday, Panic and Entertaining. Everyday- Here I am a Mom that feeds her family. I can make lunch, snacks, and dinner for my family. This pantry makes me feel nurturing. Panic- this pantry may well have some overlap with Everyday. It has the most basic of ingredients for a quick breakfast and at least chocolate chip cookies for a last minute bake sale. This pantry makes me feel safe. My last pantry is for Entertaining. Here you may find an atypical ingredient, like cherry preserves or capers, in mine. This is the pantry that may get stocked when a specialty ingredient is on sale or as the holidays approach and you know you will be living it up. This pantry excites me. For me some days are utilitarian and on other days I just want to have fun. My pantry in three parts lets me indulge any mood.
Your Everyday pantry will be very personal to you. Here is a glimpse into my Everyday pantry
A quick breakfast item – For me this is grits. For you it may be cereal or pancake ingredients. I like to keep these items at waist high level. That way the kids can be a part of the decision.
We always have PB&J at home – that means not only the best quality peanut butter, but also an almond butter to swipe on a banana for a snack. Because this gets used so often it is on the same shelf that includes the snack items, like dried fruit, or pita chips (for hummus)
A few dinner ingredients – I always have dried pasta on hand and some sundried tomato paste. Sometimes you just have to throw it together quickly and that means dried pasta and jar sauce. I keep sundried tomato paste to stir into jar sauce and give it a richness and fresher taste. I try to keep my pastas, sauces and rice all on the same shelf.
Basics – I always keep cans of tuna (I like the Italian kind canned in olive oil). I like to keep chicken and vegetable broth on hand. They are both great for adding flavor to cooked rice, pasta and vegetables, instead of water. We love tomato soup with grilled cheese so there is usually a box or two of Pacific brand tomato soup. I also use the sundried tomato paste in here and maybe some Pomi diced tomatoes to doctor it up. These items I like to keep all on one shelf.
Baking – I always have flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder on hand. I also make sure there is always a bag of chocolate chips. This makes it easy to do a cake, muffins or cookies at a moments notice.
Spices – I am pretty selective about what spices I will keep on hand. I have small shelves built into the side of my pantry, just right for holding an array of small bottles and jars. However, spices can go bad or lose their potency, quickly. For that reason I try to only “stock up” on the ones I go through quickly. You can see I need to do a New Year purge.There are spice stores popping up that you can but in small, or customized quantities, even some farmer’s markets have spice vendors. I love flake salt so Maldon Salt is always on hand. I love the way a fresh grind of nutmeg can add a secret flavor to cheese dishes so I usually have a couple of whole nutmeg in the house. My husband loves heat so we always have a large container of chili flakes. My daughters love cinnamon and I love garlic so these are staples too. For the cinnamon I give in and buy the Cinnabon cinnamon. They love it so why not? I love a product called Garlic Gold. It is chopped, roasted and then freeze-dried garlic that has amazing flavor. You can buy it dry or packed in olive oil. I use both versions.
Speaking of oils, here is my take. I always have a vegetable oil. I don’t really have a preference of canola or corn. I have a less expensive olive oil for cooking and I have a really high-end olive oil for dressing. When I say high end, I mean you would and could just eat a spoonful of it. It taste that good. One I really like is Laudemio. It has a beautiful green color and a peppery taste.
Alright, get started! To help inspire you, here’s my recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins. It’s one of my favorites from my everyday pantry.
Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.