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It’s been a while since I’ve done a homemade post, hasn’t it? The truth is, a lot of the things I make from scratch are used in the Tuesdays with Dorie or French Fridays recipes. Any time you see me make something with a pie crust – that’s homemade. Pizza dough? Homemade. Hummus? Homemade. Bread crumbs for meatballs? Homemade. That crusty bread that gets served with soups and stewed meat dishes? Homemade. I bake that bread every week. Batches of pie crust and pizza dough get made once a month (they both freeze extremely well), as does hummus and bread crumbs, which – as I’m sure you can guess – are made from any homemade bread that’s starting to go stale.
So, really, it’s been a while since I made anything homemade that I haven’t already been doing for a few months now. I’ve got plans, though. And I’m starting to put them into action.
I’m afraid today’s offering isn’t incredibly exciting. I mean, it’s granola. How exciting can granola possibly be?
Let’s talk about breakfast for a moment. I love breakfast foods. Eggs, bacon, biscuits, oatmeal, pancakes – if it’s breakfast, I probably like it. But I hate making breakfast. I don’t mind cooking for two hours for dinner, but I want breakfast at once. I’m hungry practically from the moment I get out of bed. When I drive Geordie to work, that delays breakfast by about an hour, and that drives me crazy. (Except that it does work out – 6AM is too early to eat breakfast, but 7AM is just about right.) Breakfast should take about 5-10 minutes to make. Anything more than that, and I’m not interested in making it. At least, not for breakfast. That’s totally acceptable for dinner, which is why when I get a craving for pancakes or eggs or whatever, I schedule it for dinner. Pancakes for dinner never fails to make me happy.
The same thing goes for lunch. 5-10 minutes. That’s it. A sandwich is about as complicated as lunch can get. Leftovers are even better, as long as I can put them in a bowl or on a plate and stick them in the microwave a couple of minutes. Hummus and chips are perfect. Also, Greek yogurt and honey. Easy, simple, fast. Just the way I like my lunch. Also, healthy. That’s just a bonus.
Last week, I came across (another) homemade granola recipe and thought, that would be a nice addition to the whole yogurt and honey thing. Because yogurt and honey is yummy and all, but it’s not exactly thrilling to eat day after day. Granola would add some pizzazz to the whole thing – a little crunch to go with that smooth yogurt and honey would be nice. And granola is easy to make, especially when you’ve got a huge container of unopened old-fashioned rolled oats sitting in your pantry. I see no reason to buy granola. It’s usually expensive, it often has at least one ingredient I don’t want (example: coconut flakes, ew), and it almost always has more added sweeteners than it needs. Also, homemade granola is completely customizable. I used maple syrup and brown sugar as the sweeteners, but honey or agave syrup would work. I had dried cranberries and dried cherries in my pantry, but I’d love to try this with golden raisins and dried apricots. Or, ooh! dried figs. With pistachios. That’d be fun to try.
In short: granola is fun stuff, a little goes a long way, and it keeps for a couple weeks. Can’t go wrong with that.
Here’s the recipe I worked from, but there are a lot more granola recipes out there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. All it has to do is taste good (and this one does).
makes about 5 cups
adapted from Recipe Girl
3½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup unsalted nuts (I used slivered almonds, but any chopped nut would do)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
½ cup chopped dried fruit
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or simply spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the oats, nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon and stir together until well-mixed. Place butter and maple syrup in a separate microwave-safe bowl and heat gently until the butter is melted. Stir, then pour over the oat mixture. Mix until the oat mixture is just moistened. Press the granola into the prepared pan.
Bake on a lower rack for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to stir around the granola. You want to expose any pieces that didn’t get the direct heat. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the granola is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Add the dried fruit and stir to mix it all up. Transfer to an airtight container, where it should keep for about two weeks.
For my honey-granola Greek yogurt, I combine ½ cup of Greek yogurt with half a tablespoon of honey, then mix in a quarter-cup of granola. Combined with an apple or banana, if makes for a pretty satisfying breakfast or lunch.
Before I married Geordie, I’d never heard of caldo verde, which is a soup popular in Portuguese cuisines. It’s often eaten at celebrations, but for us, it’s a winter standard, and one I love to make.
One of the first people I met from Geordie’s extended family was his Aunt Lynne. By an interesting coincidence, she and her family lived in St. Augustine, where I had gone to college and lived for a good seven years. It’s where my BFF still lives. So, naturally, after we had arrived back in the States, we made plans to go to St. Augustine and visit.
Aunt Lynne works for a catering business, and she is quite the excellent (self-taught) cook. She makes delicious food, and she’s so terrifically awesome that she always made a point to make something fabulous to eat when we came to visit. The first time I met her, we went to the catering office, where she was toiling away over a big pot of soup. After a very emotional (and adorable) reunion between her and Geordie, she told us that she hoped we’d want something to eat, because she was making Portuguese kale soup.
Geordie’s eyes fairly lit up. “Oh, boy!” he said. Aunt Lynne sat us down at a picnic table outside the building and brought us two Styrofoam bowls of steaming hot soup. It was overflowing with veggies, beans, and sausage. I took one look at it and thought, um.
You see, I prefer creamy soups. I always have. I’ve always been shy of big bowls of soup with large pieces of vegetables looking at me. This is how you get when you don’t like onion and celery in your soup, since quite a lot of chunky soups are built upon their base. But Geordie was shoveling the soup into his mouth as quickly as he could, and nobody could hate onions more than the man I married. So, to be polite, I took a teensy bite.
Of course I liked it. It’s a very tasty soup. It’s a very hearty, very filling soup – perfect comfort food for a winter’s day. I liked it well enough that I told Geordie I’d make it sometime if he wanted me to, and that made him happy, which made me happy. It was the first recipe I asked Aunt Lynne for, but not the last one. But it is the one I’ve made the most.
I’ve been eating this soup for only a year now, and it’s easily one of my favorite soups. Second only to homemade lobster bisque. It’s quite popular where Geordie comes from, but as I’ve never had much exposure to Portuguese cuisine, I’d been terribly ignorant of its existence. Thank goodness that changed! It might not stay cold for long here in Texas, but this is the perfect soup for a chilly winter’s evening.
It’s a fairly simple recipe, one that’s good for tinkering with. For one thing, you can, if you choose, make this soup with onion and celery. But not in this house. You can play with the veggies a little. I usually dice up a carrot or two to add to the soup, but I had run out of carrots when I was making this batch. I used a can of corn instead, and it came out quite nicely. You could also use a different kind of pasta, though smaller types are best. It’s not a finicky soup – do with it as you please, and it won’t treat you badly.
Portuguese Kale Soup
yields 4 plentiful servings
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
½ cup diced carrots
1 cup diced potatoes
5-6 cups chicken stock
12-oz can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
6 oz chopped linguiça or chorizo
15-oz can of kidney beans, drained
½ cup uncooked elbow macaroni
2 bunches of kale, stemmed and chopped
seasonings to your taste (salt, pepper, thyme, basil, etc.)
Saute the garlic and carrots in the oil over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and chicken stock and heat through. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the linguiça (or chorizo) and the beans. Add in the seasonings – I toss in a couple teaspoons of thyme and basil, along with some salt and pepper, but you can use whatever you’re comfortable with. Bay works well too, though be sure to fish it out before eating. Simmer until the veggies are tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add the kale and the macaroni and cook until tender, 7-10 minutes. Serve with a nice, crusty bread.
The last of the ginger treats and easily my favorite. This is a relatively “new” Christmas tradition, in that Heather and I have been baking them for about six years or so. I honestly don’t remember exactly when we started or even which cookbook we got the recipe from – Heather has the book, so maybe she remembers which one it is. You can find all kinds of gingernut recipes on the internet, with varying ingredients and results. Because I use a very specifc recipe and can’t recall where it came from, I’m going to include it at the end of this post.
Gingernuts are also called ginger biscuits, and they’re known in European countries by many other names. They’re not quite the same as what Americans call ginger snaps; those are a drop cookie, whereas gingernuts are rolled and coated in sugar. While they all have their slight variations, they are essentially a butter cookie flavored with ginger and other spices (such as cinnamon and nutmeg). Thus, the ginger effect is quite subtle, which is probably why I like them better than other ginger treats. They are super easy to make, and they can be addictive little snacks. I find that they’re particularly tasty when paired with coffee or eggnog.
It’s a simple process to make gingernuts. The dough is quick to bring together; most of the time involved with this recipe is in rolling out the cookies and baking them. So it’s nice to have a dough that takes maybe 5 minutes to make.
These are best when they’re crackly and crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They can over-bake quickly, and it’s hard to tell when that’s happening. If you take them out of the oven when they’re still a bit soft, they’ll harden up nicely as they’re resting. They should be just lightly golden on the bottom.
Of course, the true test is when you bite into them, and even if they’re a little overdone, they still taste wonderful. If you don’t like them crunchy, try baking them for a minute or two less. They make for a very nice Christmas treat, and I always leave a few for Santa!
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (+ more for rolling)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tsp ground ginger (to your taste!)
pinch of salt
½ cup cold butter, cut in pieces
1 tbsp light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Rub in butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat together the egg and syrup; add to the dry ingredients. Mix together until it forms a firm dough ball. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat and place on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly colored. Cool and serve. Yields about 6 dozen cookies.