muesli mix with dried fruit and nuts-2

Muesli with nuts and dried fruit

I’ve been dancing around the idea of making muesli for some time now, and one recent Saturday morning I finally made it happen. A quick Wikipedia search turned up a bit of background and basic approach to the dish. I loved the idea of a grated apple making up the bulk of the ingredients.

I tossed some pantry items together and let it soak in some water for about 20 min, then added the shredded apple (not peeled), stirred it all together and topped with a little milk.

I was instantly hooked. It was so easy, simple, healthy, and refreshing. The next day I made it again for breakfast, and on the third day mixed up a couple of jars of it to have on hand.

muesli mix with dried fruit and nuts

Formula

  • 8 dried apricots, diced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/2 c roasted unsalted pumpkin seed kernels
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1/3 c almonds, raw and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 c walnuts, toasted pieces
  • 4 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 c raisins

Each time I make a bowl, I stir together 1/4 c of the muesli and 1/4 c water with a dash of sea salt. I let it sit in a bowl for about 30 min., while I shower and get ready. Then I grate 1/2 of on apple and mix it in, topping it all with some milk.

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Candied orange peel from scratch

Candied Orange Peel

While perusing Christmas baking recipes, I earmarked one that called for candied fruit, including candied orange peel. I’ve never bought candied fruit or peel, and after some poking around online to figure out what exactly candied orange peel is, saw some tutorials for making it instead. And as luck would have it, I had some oranges on hand (for a cold-buster boost to my morning green smoothies).

Recipes

Jacques Pépin: How to Make Candied Orange Peels and DIY Candied Orange Peel

Process notes

Peel off thin shavings of peel off of 4 oranges using a vegetable peeler. Leave behind the white pith. Slice into long strips.

Place peel in saucepan with cold water to come about an inch above the peel, and heat to boiling. Boil for about 10 seconds, then drain the peel and repeat.

Empty out the saucepan and mix 3/4 cup sugar and 3/8 cup water in it. Simmer for 8 minutes. Add orange peel and stir around to push all of the peel into the liquid. Simmer for about 20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. (Note: instead of using the full amount of water and sugar called for in the DIY Candied Orange Peel recipe, I had reduced it by half since I was only using the thinnest pieces of peel. This wasn’t enough liquid, and it boiled off too quickly, leaving crusty sugary peel. I added a tablespoon of water to loosen it up before tossing in sugar and cooling.)

Remove peel from saucepan and toss in sugar on a baking sheet. Place peel on cooling rack for 5 hours, then store in airtight container in the cupboard.

Yield: 2 cups

Results

I’m a candied orange peel newbie, so not sure exactly how it ought to taste. My peels pack a punch! They’re strongly flavored, rather bitter but sweet as well. I wish I had used more water with the sugar in the saucepan, but overall I think they worked fine. Can’t wait to see how they taste in the final recipe that I made them for.

While these were drying on the rack, I was at the supermarket and checked for candied orange peel. Lots of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives in the ingredients list, so I’m really glad I went the DIY route.

Strawberry freezer jam

Strawberry Freezer Jam

I’ve been craving strawberry jam these days, and although they’re aren’t any crazy good deals on fresh strawberries right now I did find a decent enough price to pick up 2 pounds (2 lb/$5 at Sprouts).

After pureeing the strawberries in the food processor, I was left with 3 1/2 cups of crushed strawberries. The Ball Pectin Calculator didn’t have a conversion for that exact amount, so I upped their quantities a tiny bit to compensate. After mixing together 1 1/3 heaping cups of sugar and 4 slightly rounded tablespoons of RealFruit Instant Pectin, I stirred in the strawberries for 3 minutes. Then I poured the jam into 6 quarter-pint (4-oz) jars and the rest went into a pint jar(14 oz of a 16-oz jar) and let them sit, covered, for 30 minutes. The pint went into the refrigerator and the rest into the freezer.

The jam isn’t as firm as I’d like, but it does have a really fresh strawberry flavor which I like. After I finish this container of instant pectin, I may try cooked freezer jam to see if a different pectin acts differently. I don’t mind the extra work if it results in improved (firmer) texture. Another thing I’d consider is crushing the strawberries with a masher instead of pureeing in the food processor. It might release less liquid and the strawberry chunks would be OK by me.

Cost for this batch

2 lb fresh strawberries: $5.00
Pectin ($.17 to make quarter pint): $1.70
Sugar (1 1/3 cup at $.44 per cup): $0.59
Jars (6 at $.87 per jar)*: $5.22
Total: $12.51 for 38 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this strawberry jam cost me $2.90 per 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $1.09 per 8.8 oz.

*First time using these jars. After this batch, there won’t be the cost of the jars.

Breakfast quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

Recently I watched the Creative Ways with Whole Grains course on Craftsy.com. This course really inspired me to branch out with how I cook with whole grains. There are so many good-looking recipes included in the course materials (one at the top of my list is Farro Risotto with Mushrooms).

I had most of the ingredients needed for this Breakfast Quinoa. Instead of coconut milk, which I didn’t have, I used whole milk. It’s probably also delicious with the coconut milk.

I mixed some raisins into my breakfast quinoa and topped it with sliced banana, the toasted coconut, and a bit of cream. It was really tasty and hearty, and had a tropical flavor to it. I’d definitely make this one again.

Breakfast Quinoa

Adapted from Breakfast Quinoa from Creative Ways with Whole Grains

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, flaked or shredded
  • fruit for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spread coconut on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, stir together the quinoa, milk, water, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Heat to a low boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until done. Stir occasionally.
  3. While quinoa is cooking, bake the coconut for 4 to 5 minutes, until lightly golden. When done baking, set aside to cool a bit.
  4. Divide cooked quinoa into bowls and top with some fruit and the coconut.

Apricot freezer jam

Apricot freezer jam

Ever since making apricot crisp, I’ve been obsessed with apricots. There not something I had purchased in the past but they were so delicious in the crisp. They’re in season right now, and one of the local grocery stores had them at a great price.

I had instant pectin on hand from my raspberry freezer jam project, and just needed to pick up some smaller jars. We had a tough time finishing the large jars of jam last time, plus the curved sides of the jars aren’t good for the freezer anyway. So I settled on the little 4-ounce size that will just go into the freezer and can be taken out as needed. This small size also allows me to feather in another fruit flavor if I find something at a great price, plus as a two-person household there’s that 1-3 week deadline for eating the jam once it’s in the refrigerator.

This jam is going to be great on the buttery croissants that are all rolled up in the freezer and ready to be baked!

Cost for this batch

14 1/2 oz fresh apricots: $0.44
Pectin ($.17 to make quarter pint): $0.77
Sugar (2/3 cup at $.23 per cup): $0.16
Jars (5 at $.87 per jar)*: $4.37
Total: $5.74 for 18 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this apricot jam cost me $2.81 for 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $1.18 per 8.8 oz.

*Since I didn’t have the jars, there was an initial cost to purchase them.

Ginger spice apple cake

6-inch ginger spice apple cake

When I read Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe, the recipe for Apple Snacking Spice Cake jumped out at me as a must-make. I made an apple cake once before that was delicious, but didn’t include the ginger and cloves.

I cut the recipe in half in order to use my smaller 6-inch cake pan, which I bought so we wouldn’t have so much cake sitting around the house. It came together really well at this size. It’s not too rich or sweet, and is a really pleasant little cake, somewhat similar to an unfrosted carrot cake. It would also be good with some vanilla ice cream, or perhaps a caramel sauce.

This recipe calls for some cake flour, but in the future I may try it with all soft white wheat flour and avoid the processed white flour.

Ginger spice apple cake

6-inch Ginger Spice Apple Cake

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Makes one 6-inch round cake. Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang.

Ingredients

  • 70 grams soft white wheat flour
  • 45 grams cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 150 grams granulated sugar
  • 85 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 2 medium peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 40 grams raisins
  • 50 grams pecan halves, toasted and chopped
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and put a rack in the middle. Prepare 6×3-inch cake pan by buttering and flouring the inside.
  2. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment (or beater blade), beat the granulated sugar and butter into the flour for about a minute or until it’s well mixed. Scrape down the sides as necessary.
  3. Add the egg, and mix on low for 10-15 seconds or until well mixed. Then beat on medium-high until the batter is light and fluffy (about a minute).
  4. Fold in the apples, raisins, and pecans. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like enough batter for the apples — once it bakes things balance out.
  5. Spread into cake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until it’s firm in the middle and a toothpick comes out clean. The top should be a medium to dark brown, and the center shouldn’t jiggle.
  6. Cool on a rack, in the pan, for about 15 minutes. As it cools, the cake will come away from the pan edges a bit and make it easy to overturn onto the rack. After removing it from the pan, turn it back over so it’s right-side up and dust with some confectioners’ sugar.
  7. Cover the cake well and store at room temp, eating within a few days, or wrap it well and freeze it for up to 2 weeks.

Raspberry freezer jam

Raspberry freezer jam

I love jam, but holy cow is good jam expensive! I’ve been researching what it takes to start canning fruits and vegetables, and at this point it’s still a little overwhelming and I’m not sure if the payoff would be there since I’m not currently growing my own garden.

This week raspberries are marked way down at the grocery store, and they were on my shopping list but I didn’t actually know what I’d do with them. Coincidentally, I’ve also been planning the meals for an upcoming camping trip. PB & J is on the menu, and I remembered that we actually don’t have the J part of the equation.

My path was suddenly clear — it’s time for me to make my first freezer jam! It’s a relatively small investment (instant pectin, sugar, and fruit — I already had a couple of canning jars) and very little time. It doesn’t require heating, just some mixing and pouring.

My 4 (6-oz) containers of raspberries made 3 cups of crushed fruit, so I used a multiplier of 1.8 when following the instructions on the Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin. After waiting for the instructed 30 minutes before covering and storing in the refrigerator and freezer, it wasn’t as set up as I had expected, but some quick online research confirmed that freezer jam doesn’t get as firm as canned jam.

The batch made two pints of jam, which I split into two 16-oz jars.

By the spoon, it tastes fresh and good. The refrigerated jar needs to be eaten within 3 weeks (which I’m not sure is going to happen with just the two of us), and the frozen jar within a year. Next time, I’ll get some smaller 4- or 8-oz jelly jars so a smaller amount is in the refrigerator at a time.

Cost

24 oz fresh raspberries: $3.48
Pectin (cost for this batch): $1.32
Sugar (cost for this batch): $.31
Total: $5.11 for 32 oz

Compared to my favorite strawberry jam at the store which costs $3.99 for 8.8 oz, this raspberry jam cost me $1.40 for 8.8 oz to make. Savings: $2.59 per 8.8 oz.

 

Basics of French pastry class

Recipes

  • profiteroles (pate au choux) with praline pastry cream
  • lemon curd tart with meringue

Class notes

The tart crust was too bitter for my taste because of the vodka we added to the dough, and the meringue didn’t have enough time to set up so was a bit runny. The profiteroles (pate au choux) seemed a bit undercooked, but were tasty. The praline paste the chef made from scratch is amazing — would like to try that in the future.

I’m glad I had this experience, but I realized I don’t have the patience for a casual, social class like this. I’d prefer something more orderly and focused on learning. Chef Nathan (who went to Scottsdale Culinary) was great, and suggested I look into Arizona Culinary Institute, where some of his favorite teachers are, if I’d like to pursue more serious training.