A Tale of Two Granolas

So in betwixt and between this crazy, unpredictable, totally off-the-wall weather we’ve been experiencing lately, I have found myself doing an incredible amount of productive work on my computer for the blog, the cookbook, and of course, taxes.

A necessary evil..

Seriously, the climate is not conducive to scurrying about town, so I’ve been keeping close to home and only venturing out when absolutely necessary. Which really means, I’m ferrying the posse to and from school, making stops at the market and dry cleaners, and mail runs at the ranch once a week.

Aaaaaaaand I just received an email from the school that classes are cancelled tomorrow due to the weather.

Again.

In my continuing effort to keep warm (aside from cranking up the heat, which just dries my skin out), I have been baking quite a bit. Yesterday, I had this idea to make two separate recipes of granola to see which one we liked better. Because really, why make one when you can make two?

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To keep the comparison fair and unbiased, I made both recipes the same way, omitting the nuts, coconut and dried fruits.

The verdict? While both were very good, I preferred the brown sugar version from Anna’s site. It tasted a bit lighter to me, and interesting enough, Sabrina agreed. Of course, our testing was completely unscientific and your results may vary.

Just like the gas mileage on your car…..

Brown Sugar Granola – adapted from Cookie Madness

  • 3 ½ cups oats
  • 2 tbs. flaxseeds
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line a 12×17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flax, chia seeds and cinnamon. Put the brown sugar and water in a large microwave-safe measuring cup and heat on high just until it begins to boil, about a minute. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the oats and stir until well blended. Empty the mixture onto the baking sheet and press it down flat as if you were making a giant granola bar.

Bake for 45 minutes, checking after 20 minutes or so to make sure granola is cooking slowly and edges aren’t burning. During the 20 minute check, Use a spatula or scraper to lift and flip the granola from the edges and push it towards the center. In other words, break it up a little, but leave it in big chunks.

Check granola at 45 minutes and if it appears to have browned somewhat, go ahead and take it out. If not, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. Granola will not be crunchy until it is completely cool, so let it cool on the baking sheet.

Maple Granola – adapted from Serious Eats

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (next time I would use less) 
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 3 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients but the egg white in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan to prevent the granola from baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to the cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up the granola into large chunks and store in an airtight container.

Bob Armstrong Dip

Did you know today is Texas Independence Day? According to my source, “Texas Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. This event marked Texas’ independence from Mexico.” Pretty cool, huh?

So to celebrate, instead of giving away free beer (which is what Rudy’s Barbecue is doing today..) I made Bob Armstrong Dip. Named for the former Texas Land Commissioner who asked a restauranteur’s son to “surprise him” with something new to eat, this dip combines homemade taco meat and homemade queso. A winning combination, in my eyes.

Then again, anything involving cheese is a winner in my eyes…..

This was so easy to make, and I especially appreciated the omission of processed cheese in the recipe. Now before I get pelted with boxes of the orange substance that is a mainstay here in Texas, let me say that I don’t have anything against Velveeta, I just don’t have anything for it.

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Which puts me squarely in the minority with that statement.

Bob Armstrong Dip – adapted from Lisa Fain via Matt Martinez

Taco meat:
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

Chile con queso:
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs. corn starch
1 cup milk
1/2 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. shredded monterey jack cheese

Sour cream, for garnishing
Tortilla chips, for serving

Instructions:
To make the taco meat, in a large skillet heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Add the ground beef to the skillet, along with the cumin, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until everything is well combined and then cook the ground beef for 15 more minutes, or until browned. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat and drain any excess grease.

To make the queso, in a saucepot heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the jalapeño and onion. While stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Leaving on the heat, stir in the cumin, black pepper, and cornstarch until the dry ingredients are well combined with the vegetables. Pour in the milk and while stirring cook until the sauce has thickened.

Turn the heat down to low and working in batches, slowly stir in a handful of the cheese. After it’s melted into the sauce, repeat the process until all the cheese is added.

To assemble, pour the taco meat into a large skillet, then pour in the queso over the meat. Top with sour cream. Serve warm with chips.

Homesick Texan’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

Today, as you are undoubtedly aware of by now, is March 1. Which means several things:

° Spring is coming. Hopefully that means warmer weather. And the ability to sit outside on the patio without catching hypothermia.

° Daylight Savings time is next Sunday. Can I be honest? I am soooo looking forward to more sunlight during the day, which (fingers crossed) means I should be able to take better pictures in natural light. Should is the operative word. 

° Easter is a month away! It will be special, because this is our second Easter together in Austin. Hopefully we can convince the Queen Mother and Dad to venture over to this part of the country, gather round the Green Egg, and partake in the leg o’ lamb that will most certainly be cooking on said Green Egg.

And last, but not least, we should begin construction of the ranch. We meet with the builder this week to go over the final round of details/prices, and if everything is correct, we are good to go.

Stay tuned…..

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Homesick Texan’s Spinach Artichoke Dip – adapted from Homesick Texan

This may very well be my favorite version of spinach artichoke dip. It was quick to put together, and not heavy or cloying like some versions can be.

  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used sour cream)
  • 1 tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • tortilla chips, crackers, or a sliced baguette, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 4-cup greased baking dish, stir together the artichoke hearts, chipotle chile powder, cumin, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice, spinach, cheese, and black pepper to taste until well combined.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers, or a sliced baguette.

Chicken Fried Steak

You know, I’m not one to brag (I find it to be such an undesirable trait), but I am on point and have made more than a few impressive dinners lately.

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Is that bragging? No? Good.

Although I said I probably wouldn’t make chicken fried steak again (I prefer chicken), this was too good to pass up.  You know how bad I am about making the same recipe twice….

Besides, in all seriousness, J and Alexander love chicken fried steak  – in fact, Alexander took the remaining piece of steak as a sandwich to school the next day – he got to it before Sabrina did. To say she wasn’t happy is an understatement….

Anyway, once you get the hang of it, this is surprisingly simple to prepare. Time consuming, yes, but simple. I also think that the type of steak I picked up for this recipe go-round was much better than last time – it wasn’t tough at all, and cooked up to crispy perfection.

Verdict? This will definitely go on the monthly roster of recipes. Now if I can just perfect my white gravy making skills…..

Chicken Fried Steak – adapted from Serious Eats

  • 4 long, thin sirloin tip steaks (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 quart canola oil (depends on the size of your pan) 
  • For the Gravy:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tbs. coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste

For the Steaks: Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Place steaks onto a sheet of foil, and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, pound steaks out to an even 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness.

Place cornstarch in a shallow dish. Whisk together egg and 2/3 cup buttermilk in a separate shallow dish. Whisk together flour, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, baking powder, and cayenne pepper in a third shallow dish. Drizzle remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk into seasoned flour and rub with fingertips until mixture is coarse like wet sand.

Working 1 steak at a time, coat well in cornstarch. Lift steak, shake off excess cornstarch, then transfer to egg mixture. Coat steak well in egg mixture, lift steak, letting excess egg drain off, then transfer to seasoned buttermilk-flour mixture. Coat steak well, pressing seasoned flour all over to help it adhere to the meat. Lift steak, shake off excess flour, and transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining steaks. Let steaks stand for 10 minutes.

Place oil in a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat to 375°F over high heat. Carefully lift 1 steak and gently slide into oil. Cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes total. Transfer steak to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 steaks.

For the gravy: Transfer 1/4 cup of hot frying oil to a medium saucepan placed over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir in pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; season with a bit of salt and additional pepper to taste.

Transfer steaks to plates, top with gravy, and serve immediately.

Impossible Cheesecake Pie

I’ve made many, many cheesecakes in my lifetime – some that were really bad (an Atkins version, which still makes Alexander cringe from the memory of it), some that were mediocre a (no finger pointing), a slow cooker version (it was really good!), a no-bake version (perfect during the summer when you don’t want to turn on the oven), and all the way down to our personal favorite.

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But this version, which contains an ingredient I have never bought or used before (Bisquick), was surprisingly good. Due to my own error, I overbaked it by about 10 minutes, which made it a bit dry. I am determined to make it again (watching the baking time more closely, of course), and not skip the optional sour cream topping. Because in our world, sour cream in any form is never optional.

Which reminds me, I’d better check our sour cream supply… heaven forbid we run low…..

Impossible Cheesecake Pie – adapted from Cookie Madness

  • 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
  • 2 (8 oz) packages of cheese, softened

Optional Topping: 1 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pie plate generously with butter or spray with cooking spray.

In a blender, blend the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and Bisquick for 15 seconds. Cut the softened cream cheese into pieces and add it, then blend for about 2 minutes or until smooth.

Pour mixture into pie pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about an hour, then chill thoroughly before serving.

Chicken Chile Verde

Last week, I was standing in our local market, looking in the produce department for inspiration as to what to make for dinner. I ran through the usual list of suspects – cauliflower (just made a fabulous souffle that I haven’t posted yet), collard greens (made those recently too), eggplant (hmmm, haven’t made eggplant parmigiana lately), and then, I spotted the tomatillos. I thought to myself, someday I’ll make something with those, since I’ve never prepared them before. I’ve encountered more than a few recipes for them (especially here in Texas), but have never taken the leap and actually bought them.

Until now. As luck (or fate, whichever you prefer) would have it, the current issue of Food and Wine showed up in my mailbox that very same day, and the recipe for Chicken Chile Verde practically jumped off the page at me. It was sign from the tomatillo gods, I was sure of it. I went back to the market that afternoon, grabbed a pound of the paper-covered green orbs, and set about making this chile. I did come home first, I didn’t actually start cooking right then and there, but I think that’s kind of a given, isn’t it? Although I’m sure my popularity would have increased dramatically if I had cooked in the middle of the market….

Anyway, this recipe gets extra props for being exceptionally simple to prepare and extremely good. In fact, the leftovers were turned into Chile Verde enchiladas, which the posse will enjoy this evening – while J and I dine with the Queen Mother (and Dad!) for her birthday. Something about crab legs for her (that’s crab with a “c”, not a “k”…) and copious amounts of pasta, chicken parmigiana and wine.

Disclaimer: The first part of the last sentence is true, the second part of the sentence may be what I’m hoping for ….

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Chicken Chile Verde – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 pound tomatillos—husked, rinsed and quartered
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Steamed rice, chopped avocado and sour cream, for serving

Roast the poblanos and jalapeño directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning, until charred all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, stem and seed the poblanos and jalapeño, then cut into 1/2-inch dice.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, and sauce until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, water,  poblanos, jalapeño, garlic and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a blender, combine the boiled vegetables with the cilantro and reserved cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining onion and the poblanos and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the sauce and bring to a boil, then simmer over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve the chile verde with steamed rice, avocado and sour cream.

Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie

Sometimes, in life, one must give credit where credit is due. And this, my friends, is that time. Right here, right now.

Can I be honest with you? …..like I would lie.… Seriously, I totally nailed this pot pie. I mean, it was perfect. Like I impressed myself “perfect”. And as we all know, we do tend to be our own worst critic. But not the other night, and not with this. Lest you think that I might break my arm patting myself on the back, the other three members of the house wholeheartedly agreed with me on this one.

It was “absolutely delicious, honey”, “really good, Mom, and “wow, Mom, your pie-crust making skills have really improved”.

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An A+ dinner, and one for the record books.

Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie – adapted from Bon Appetit

The only major change I made to the recipe was to use my new favorite pie crust, instead of the puff pastry originally called for. Oh, and I used wine instead of broth. Because I think it tastes better :)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  •  pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2″ pieces
  • slices bacon cut into ¼” pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbs. brandy
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cups red wine
  • 5 tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 8 ounces pearl onions, peeled (I used frozen) 
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (two 14-oz. packages or one 17.3-oz. package), thawed
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Season ½ cup flour with pepper. Add beef and toss to coat; shake off excess. Working in batches as needed to avoid steaming meat, cook beef, turning often, until browned all over, 8–10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Cook bacon in same pot, stirring often, until brown and crisp. Add ¼ cup wine and cook, scraping up browned bits, then add onion, leek, and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and return beef to pot. Add brandy and simmer until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add thyme leaves, bay leaf, and wine and season with pepper; bring to a simmer. Mix 1 tbs. flour and 1 tbs. butter in a small bowl until smooth; stir into meat mixture. Cover pot and braise in oven until beef is very tender, 1–1½ hours.

Melt remaining 4 tbs. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and pearl onions and cook, stirring, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Season with pepper. Add mushrooms and onions to stew, cover pot, and return to oven. Cook until onions are very tender, 25–30 minutes. Let stew cool.

Meanwhile, working with one at a time, roll out pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface until about 4” larger than baking dish (use a 2-qt. oval or an 8” square). Place 1 sheet on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill. Transfer remaining sheet to baking dish. Lift up edge and let dough slump down into dish. Trim, leaving about 1” overhang. Transfer stew to baking dish. Brush edge of pastry with egg.

Using a cutter, punch out a circle in the center of chilled pastry. Drape pastry over filling and trim to a 1” overhang. Press edges of dough together to seal and fold overhang under. Crimp edge, then brush top of pastry with egg. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let pie cool slightly.