Archive for the ‘Pecans’ Category

Confession time for Bad Mama Genny: I’ve been using my Crockpot a lot lately.  Also, my text software just tried to edit “Crockpot” to read “crack pot”.

Please let it be known that I have not been using my crack pot a lot lately.

It’s addictive, that thing.

The Crockpot, not the crack pot.

Okay, you know what?  We’re gonna call it a slow cooker from this point forward.

So I’ve been using the slow cooker a lot lately, and once you get started and master a few basics, it’s actually pretty amazing and easy to end up with very nice food that doesn’t always taste like beef stew.

Unless it’s beef stew, and then it tastes like beef stew.  Or, at least, it should.  And if you have a problem with that, well, why were you making beef stew in the first place?

So last night I felt that it wasn’t enough to make salmon croquettes with lemon aioli and a side of steamed spinach and artichokes for dinner.  Hmm, surely there’s SOME ridiculous project I could start too late in the day?…I know!  I know!


Except I’m not a glutton for punishment (lie, totally am, but still) and I’ve burned more than my fair share of granola by leaving it in the oven for 0.29 seconds too long.  This here granola is a delicate business, folks.  And I just wasn’t up for a delicate project.

I’d heard that you could make substantially less finicky granola in a slow cooker, but only recently did I look into it for really reals.   And you know where you should go for the basics?

Right here, to Stephanie O’Dea’s site.  She’s the genius behind the cookbook, “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow,” a bible for those of you who heart your slow cooker big time.  Or your Crockpot.  Or heck, even your crack pot.

I didn’t use Stephanie’s granola recipe, and decided instead to go off in my own direction.  See, while O’Dea’s recipe calls for two liquid components–butter and honey–mine adds a third: fruit puree.  what worked for me was 1/2 cup fat, 1/2 cup sweet stuff, 1/2 cup fruit puree.  This cuts down on the amount of fat and sugar you need, adds flavor, and–oh, fluffernutter!–gives you even more scope for the imagination when it comes to cool taste combos.

Yesterday I made pumpkin granola.  I used pureed sugar pie pumpkin and added cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Three words: OM NOM NOM.

I wish I could explain just how good this smelled while it cooked.  But I can’t.  They just haven’t invented Smell-o-Vision yet.  Or the Smell-ternet.

So now that we’ve added that fruit component, let’s review just a few of the taste combinations that come to mind:

Pumpkin puree with pecans, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Apple butter with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Any fruit puree you desire, or none, with maple syrup instead of honey, and walnuts

Coconut oil instead of butter, banana puree, banana chips (or dehydrated banana, added after cooling), macadamia nuts, chunks of dried pineapple, and shaved, unsweetened coconut

Cherries and almonds.  Mmmm….

Apple butter with blueberries, almonds, and butter…just like a muffin!

Banana puree with walnuts and butter, and dehydrated bananas added after cooling…like banana nut bread!

Pumpkin puree with dried cranberries and pecans…perfect for Thanksgiving breakfast!

Basically, what I’m saying here is: this is the easiest granola you will ever make.  You will not go back to burning tray after tray of granola in the oven and sobbing all over your own The Boy while he tries to console you about all those wasted ingredients.  And the sky’s the limit with this recipe–if you can imagine it, you can do it!

Who’s that on the phone?  It’s Legal?  And they’re telling me I can’t guarantee that if you can imagine it, you can do it?

Okay, revision.  More like, if you can imagine it, you can try it, be my guest, but I won’t be held responsible for the results.

There, that’s better.  Legal should be happy with that.

Hey, what are you still doing here?  Shouldn’t you be playing with your crack pot?  I mean, Crockpot.  I mean, slow cooker.

Damn. Legal again.

Crockpot Granola, a Jillion Different Ways

Go Get:

5 cups oats
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, etc.)
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil, or Earth Balance, or half butter/half peanut butter, etc.)
1/2 cup fruit puree of your choice
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried fruit and/or dehydrated fruit (Trader Joe’s, among other places, sells fruit that’s been dehydrated–the second it comes into contact with moisture, it rehydrates and becomes soft again.  While dried fruit can be added during cooking, I’d hold off on adding dehydrated fruit until you’re bagging the cooled mixture.)

Toss all ingredients except for dried fruit (and any dehydrated fruit you may be using) into the stoneware and set it to high.  Don’t bother melting the fat and honey together first, as O’Dea recommends.  While this is a nice touch, I can’t bear the thought of washing an extra pot when I’m already using the slow cooker.  Call me crazy.  Vent the slow cooker by sticking a wooden spoon in between the lid and the stoneware.  This will help your granola to lose excess moisture.

During the first hour, your butter will melt and you’ll want to make sure it gets evenly distributed, along with the honey or whatever other sweetener you’re using, throughout the dry ingredients.  Watch this stuff–you won’t have to stir much at the beginning, but as your granola gets further along, you’ll wanna give it a stir every few minutes or, as O’Dea says, whenever you can smell it cooking.

When you’re 2/3 of the way through, put in your dried fruit (NOT yet on the dehydrated fruit).  O’Dea has you adding everything at the beginning.  This does work, but my fruit got a bit dark where it touched the stoneware.  I’d hold off next time.

And that’s it!  Keep stirring every so often, and after 3 to 4 hours, everything will look nice and toasty.  It will NOT be dried out.  I’d say, when everything’s golden brown and there’s no excess moisture, you’re probably there.  Toss the mixture onto some parchment-lined cookie sheets and let it cool.  Once the mixture is cool, you can add any dehydrated fruits you’ve been holding onto and put it all into an airtight container or gallon-size ziploc bag.

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We are heaven-sent.  We will make all your problems disappear.  The answers to all of life’s questions lie in this cookie jar.  Yes, we are talking cookies, and yes, we are now controlling your miiiiiiind.

Do you guys ever get the feeling that your food is…you know…talking to you?

Okay, well, maybe it’s just me.  But man, I could’ve sworn those delicious little cookies sitting on the counter were, well, beseeching me to do their bidding.  No?  You’ve never felt like that?

You are nothing without us!  We can give you everything your heart desires!  We look so inviting!  Inviting and, yet, off-limits!  Irresistible we are!  Make us now!

About a week ago, the Boy’s sister (the Girl) came into town to stay with us and attend a ridiculous, poorly-organized corporate conference and spend some good times catching up.  And eating.  She is a Chicago-born expat living in St. Paul, after all.  So while the week certainly didn’t lack for good beer, great Italian beefs, and phenomenal pizza, I felt we needed a little something extra.  Like, something with a lot of butter in it.  And sugar.  That’s also rolled in more sugar.  Enter the pecan sandies.

Yum, yum, yum–if there was ever a recipe that made me wanna find out how to turn everything I make into a slice-and-bake deal, it’s this one.  I mean, what could be easier than six ingredients thrown together, rolled into a log, chilled, and then sliced up anytime you need a cookie fix?  Of course, I didn’t wait for the fix, opting to bake mine all at once instead.  But wouldn’t it be great to just keep a few short rolls of these cookies in the freezer for, you know, like, a cookie emergency?  As an added bonus, it’s practically effortless to make all these cookies the exact same size and shape, and the dough is incredibly forgiving and resists burning.  I wonder what the cookies have to say about that?

Take us to your leader!

Man, you can never count on a cookie to stay on-topic.

Mind Control Pecan Sandies

1 cup butter, softened (the best non-local, grocery brand you can get is Kerrygold–it’s imported from Ireland, where they know how to treat their dairy cows)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

Beat the butter mercilessly with 3/4 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla.  Really go at it until it’s nice and fluffy.  I don’t have a hand mixer (I know–shocker!  I really find beating the shit out of something with a wooden spoon to be therapeutic.  If you’re not up to merciless, it would probably only take you two minutes with an electric mixer.)  In a separate bowl, mix the salt, flour, and nuts.  Add this dry mixture into the wet mixture in thirds, beating well between each addition.  Take the dough out of the bowl and work it with your hands until you can roll it into two thin logs, maybe about an inch and a half in diameter.  Roll the logs in waxed paper and stick ’em in the fridge for at least an hour. (OR, at this point you can stick the logs in the freezer for future use).

When you’re ready to start baking, preheat the oven to 350.  Unwrap the dough logs and use a sharp, heavy knife to cut 1/4 inch thick slices of dough, placing them maybe half an inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (until the cookie tops start to get golden on the edges).  Take them out and pour some powdered sugar into a decent-sized bowl.  Drop the hot cookies, a few at a time, into the powdered sugar, and roll them around until they’re nicely coated.  Then place them on cooling racks.  Repeat until you’re done rolling all the cookies, working quickly so as to prevent the hot cookies from cooling off before they’re rolled (the heat helps the sugar to bond to the cookies).  Once you’re sure they’re all cool as cucumbers, feel free to pack them into cookie tins or mason jars, as I did, and let the mind control begin!

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