Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chewy Granola

Last year I had this addiction to Chewy Granola Bars.  You know those Quaker Oats kinds that come in flavors like Chocolate Chip, S'mores, and Peanut Butter.  I mean like addicted.  At least two a day. Craving them in the middle of the day.  I know, weird right?!  I have no clue why I wanted them so bad.  It came so randomly.  

Thank God that addiction has passed.  They definitely aren't the healthiest snacks for you. Well, they aren't the worst either, they just have lots of sugar for such a small and quick snack.  I mean I could've been eating candy and it probably would have the same nutritional value.  I don't know this for sure I am just guessing.   

Even though I don't crave those bars anymore, I still like to enjoy them ever so often.  Mostly at baseball games when I need a quick snack. 

One day when I was eating a bar, I thought -- I could make these.  From scratch.  Healthier for you.  Where I know everything that is included.  So, I went online and quickly found a recipe.  While making the recipe I decided I wanted to make the recipe into granola.  So instead of having the chewy granola shaped into bars, I would break up the granola and serve it as a bite-sized snack.  Instead of having to eat a whole bar you can snack on the chewy granola in small bites.  I loved this idea!  And I've seen granola recipes out there, but never chewy granola (meaning not shaped into bars).  

This chewy granola came out MUCH better than I expected.  I mean it was delicious!  Crazy good!  Worlds above the Quaker Oats bars I was so addicted too. 
It was chewy. 
It was sweet.
It was bite-sized.
It was homemade.
It was healthier for you.
It wad truly incredible!

And to make it even better this chewy granola is No-Bake.  No oven needed!  Just a stove.  And I bet you can do it in the microwave.  I have tried that yet, but I'm sure it would work just as well. 

This chewy granola works great on top of yogurt.  I used mine as a topping for Greek yogurt and it was delicious!  It added a perfect crunchiness and sweetness.   

No more Quaker Oats for me.  This homemade chewy granola is all I need :)!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Caramel Pops

My home is San Diego.  Beautiful, sunny, relaxing, perfect San Diego.  Yes, perfect.  One of the best aspects about San Diego is the weather.  I’d say about 80% of the year we have incredible weather.  And that is one of the reasons I love it so much.  

But now I am on the road with Steve, living in areas that I would deem “Not so perfect.” At least in weather terms.

First we were in Florida.  All I can say is hot, hot, hot.  Humid, humid, humid.  And then rain here and there.

Then we came to New York.  New York seems to be all over the place. 
It’s hot.  Definitely hot. 
And it’s humid.  Not as humid as Florida, but still humid. 
And it rains here.  It seems to really rain a lot here too.  Never thought it would rain this much in the summer.
And now there are hurricanes here.  Or I guess you can call it a tropical storm.  But no matter what it was there was rain, winds, and flooding.  Oh and trees falling over.  

So I moved from San Diego where it’s pretty much a constant 75 degrees F, to New York where the weather goes from sunny and 100 degrees, to crazy winds and rain. 

You win some, you lose some.  I’m wining because I get to experience all these wonderful cities with my husband, but losing because I’m outside of San Diego and all its greatness :). 

You want to know another way I am winning.  All these wonderful treats I get to make and enjoy!  Including these caramel pops.

One day I set out to make caramel.  I started to make a different recipe, but then my mind ventured off and I ending up making these caramel pops.  Caramel on a stick… Yum!

All I did was make caramel on the stove and then pour in onto a baking sheet to cool.  Then I rolled up the caramel into a long log and cut them into 1-inch rounds. 
Then I stuck a lollipop stick in the middle of each round.
Sprinkles some chocolate jimmies around the edges.
Tied a cute ribbon on the sticks.
And enjoyed!

Tasty – Sticky – Sugary – Gooey – Cute… Caramel Pops!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

I have this need to bake with strawberries.  If I pick up a pack of strawberries I have this urge to immediately bake with them.  To tell you the truth I can’t even remember the last time I bought strawberries and actually ate them fresh, as is.  I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or a good thing.  No matter what, those strawberries are eaten one way or another.  

With my last purchase of strawberries I made strawberry scones (that I showed you earlier this week) and these strawberry cupcakes.  This cupcake recipe is one of my favorites.  I have been using it for at least a couple years now.  It is actually the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe.  When I first found it I made it exactly how it stated on the recipe.  But over time I have adapted it to what I think it now perfect..,. At least for now :).

These cupcakes have a great strawberry flavor.  They get the flavor from fresh, pureed strawberries.  Because fresh strawberries don’t give off an overwhelming pink/red color, I like to add a little bit of pink food coloring.  This is of course optional if you don’t want to add any artificial coloring.  If you decide not to add it in them the color will be more of a beige/very pale pink.  I like my cupcakes to be a more pronounced pink color so I add just a little bit of food coloring.

I topped these cupcakes with a Marshmallow Frosting.  This frosting tastes just like marshmallows – its delicious!  I love it not just only because of the amazing taste, but also because of the super white color and the way it holds its shape.  The texture is also just so light and fluffy, almost like air. 

The combination of the light frosting with the fluffy strawberry cupcake is definitely a winner!  My obsession with baking with strawberries continues…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Living in New York you have access to so much incredible food. 

Tasty restaurants on every corner. 
Every type of cuisine within minutes of you home. 
The best pizza you have ever had only 5 minutes down the street.  

But it’s not just restaurants, it’s markets and specialty food stores as well.  I’m sure you know by now that I make almost every meal at home.  Because of this I always have a stocked pantry and refrigerator.  I go to the grocery store everyday, sometimes twice or three times.  Living in New York makes this so much easier.  All I have to do is grab my grocery bag, my wallet, and walk right down the street to the local market.  It makes going grocery shopping so much more easier and convenient.   And what makes it even better is that these markets are incredible.  They have fresh fruits and vegetables, organic products, amazing fish and bread counters, and great high end products that are always so hard to find.  I get giddy when I go grocery shopping… It’s great :)!

One of my favorite things at my local market is the incredible array of cheese available.  There is one wall in the market that is almost completely dedicated to cheese… It’s amazing.  Seeing all of these great cheeses daily gets my mind turning about making my own cheese.  I know, it sounds so strange.  Make you own cheese?  Can you do this at home?  It is hard?  I’ve never tried it before so I didn’t know if it was possible or hard it would be.  But after a little research I was able to find out that it’s really not that hard.  At least some types of cheeses.  

Probably the easiest and quickest cheese to make is Ricotta.  It has simple ingredients that come together very quickly.  All you need is milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice.  What you do is boil the milk, cream, and salt, and then add the lemon juice.  Let it curdle and pour it through a strainer with cheesecloth on top.  Let it sit for an hour and then chill in the refrigerator.  That’s it!  Sounds easy, right?!  We’ll I’ll tell you what… it is!

It was such an accomplishment when I finished making this cheese!  I was so happy that I made my first cheese.  Now I’m hooked and I want to try more types.  I’m thinking Mozzarella next :).  

I smeared the ricotta cheese on a crusty baguette.  That’s the way I love eating it.  It was delicious!  Creamy, slightly tangy, crumbly, and of course… cheesy.  I also want to try cooking with it, such as lasagna and stuffed shells.  Mmmm… I’ve opened up a whole new door and I’m so excited!

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