Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chocolate Almond Granola

So instead of posting some of the recipes that have been sitting around as draft posts for a month or more, like I probably should do, I've decided to bring you something completely new.  This recipe for Chocolate Almond Granola, from Lauren's Latest is sweet, but not too sweet, crunchy, and chocolate-y.  I can't wait to have it with some yogurt tomorrow morning.

You'll need:

9 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups shredded coconut
1 stick butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, heaping
1/2 tbs vanilla extract (I actually forgot to use this, and it still turned out well!)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  

Combine the oats, almonds, and coconut in a large bowl.  Seriously, please use a really big bowl.  Don't be like me and use one that will just hold all of the ingredients, and then make a huge mess in your freshly-cleaned kitchen.

In a microwave-save liquid measuring cup, melt the stick of butter.  After it is melted, add the maple syrup and cocoa powder.  Microwave for an additional 30 seconds until the cocoa mixes in and there are no more lumps.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour this mixture over the oats and whatnot and stir to combine.  Divide this mixture over several cookie sheets/baking pans.  Bake for 1 hour and then allow it to cool to room temperature.  You can store this in an airtight container.  Or containers.  This recipe makes 12 cups of granola.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to hand-pollinate tomato plants + garden update

Hi everyone!  No real substantial updates on my container garden since I last posted about it (here and here), but things are certainly growing!  My Better Bush tomatoes are growing larger, and some other smaller tomatoes have started growing on the plant, too.

My Husky Cherry Red tomatoes (bottom left picture) have started producing some little tomatoes, as well.  And as you can see, the both of the plants themselves are getting bigger.  My cherry tomatoes were out of control big last year, so I'm just waiting for the explosion to happen.

The red bell peppers (left) are looking less sad and droopy, and have grown quite a bit.  Still no flowers on it, though.  The Meyer lemon tree (right) is still looking more like a twig than a tree.  However, it doesn't appear to be dying or anything... so I take that as a good sign!  

Alright, now onto a short tutorial on how to hand-pollinate your tomato plants: I wanted to share this with you all, since I spent about a month last summer wondering why my tomato plant was covered in flowers, but wouldn't produce fruit before doing some Googling and finding the answer.  If you're like me, and are growing in an urban area, it is likely that you won't have many insects capable of pollinating your plants in the environment.  This can be a problem if you'd like your tomato plants to start bearing fruit.  

Luckily, the solution is very simple and takes next to no effort on your part.  You will need one tool: a cheap, electric toothbrush.
I'd recommend buying a new toothbrush solely for this purpose.  Take a look at all of the pollen covering this one, and you'll see what I mean.

All you have to do is wait for your plants to start producing flowers.  Place the bristles of the toothbrush on the stems of the flowers (not on the flowers themselves), and turn it on.  This will cause the flowers to vibrate and release pollen, similar to how a bumblebee would help to  fertilize the flowers by causing them to vibrate.  You only need to vibrate the flowers for a few seconds.

And that's it!  Just take your electric toothbrush with you and hand-pollinate the flowers whenever you visit your garden.  I've read some accounts that recommend hand-pollinating in the morning, which I tend to do.  Although I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference, since sometimes I tend to forget to do it, and end up hand-pollinating at some other time of day.  

After you've begun hand-pollinating your plants, keep an eye out for tiny little green tomatoes that will start to grow from inside the flower!  I've read that a similar process can be employed when growing bell peppers.  Since my plant doesn't have flowers yet, I'll have to wait to try it out.  I'll keep you posted, though!

Happy gardening!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easy Sauteed Kale

I think I've told you about my love of kale before.  I've found that it's good in main dishes (see this recipe, and this recipe for examples), as well as when prepared as a side.  Though there are countless ways to prepare kale, this is my favorite.

You'll need:

1-2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
kale, chopped and hard stems removed
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth or water
red wine vinegar

Start by heating the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and heat until it just becomes fragrant.  Add your kale and stir it around to coat with the olive oil.  At this point, it's going to look like you have entirely too much kale in there, but fear not.

Add your liquid, and put a lid on the pan.  Allow things to steam for about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir things around again.  Your kale should have wilted down significantly.  Add your desired amount of red wine vinegar and a generous sprinkling of salt.  How much vinegar you add is up to you.  I'm sort of a fiend for red wine vinegar, so I add a lot.  If you're unsure, just add a little at first.  Then taste, and adjust accordingly.  I like to let the kale continue to saute for a while after adding the vinegar.  It will continue to wilt.

Then serve alongside a tasty main course and enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I came across this post while perusing Foodgawker.  It's from the blog The Comfort of Cooking.

You'll need:

8 cups (1/2 gallon) whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Line a large strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.  Set this aside for now.

Slowly bring the milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a large pot (6 quarts or so) over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.  Once it has come to a boil, add the lemon juice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring pretty much constantly, until small curds form.  The original recipe said that the curds should form in about 5 minutes.  It took a lot longer for mine.  So if yours doesn't seem to be cooperating at first, don't fret.

Pour the mixture into the lined strainer and let it drain for 10 minutes.  After discarding the liquid (Or hang onto it!  Check out this website for ideas.), chill the ricotta, covered.  It should keep in the fridge for a few days.

Easy, right?  Right.  This ricotta is sweet and fluffy.  Though I was skeptical at first, it is definitely better than anything you could buy at the grocery store.  The recipe makes about 2 cups of cheese.

How can you use it?  The possibilities are endless: use it in a lasagna, stuffed shells, manicotti, calzone filling, pizza topping, filling for a stuffed chicken breast (I'll be bringing you a recipe for one of these this week!), or really anything you can dream up.  In addition to the aforementioned stuffed chicken breasts, I've been eating mine with breakfast.  Toast some bread, slather on as much ricotta as you'd like, and drizzle with some honey.  Delicious.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cheeseburger Beer Soup

Hello everyone!  My friend, Kim, over at Feeeeed Me, Seymour is celebrating National Beer Appreciation Week.  I was so excited when she asked me to contribute a guest post.  I went with Cheeseburger Beer Soup from the blog Soup Addict.

You won't regret it!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More gardening + an easy DIY project

Hello everyone!  Over the weekend I was able to get the rest of my container garden planted.  I added some:

Husky Cherry Red Tomatoes

Chocolate Mint

Red Bell Peppers (looking a little droopy here...)

Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree!!!   Admittedly, it doesn't look quite how I'd expected...  But it's still exciting!

This is how my balcony looks, complete with dog bed and potty patch!

And now for the easy DIY project...  Like so many wonderful projects, this one was inspired by something that I saw on Pinterest.  I've seen a few different pins from different websites (this is an example).  Basically, all you do is gather up some wine corks, write the names of your different herbs and veggies on them, spear them with a wooden skewer, and stick 'em in the pots!  Cute, right?  I have them in all of my pots.  I think that they're pretty adorable.

Happy gardening! =)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

I baked these cookies on a whim a couple of weekends ago.  I had a buttload of work to do, and was well aware of it.  What did I decide to do instead?  Go to yoga (Yes, I started doing yoga!  Though it's kicking my butt, I'm enjoying it immensely so far.), take a nap with Maeby, and then do a little procrasti-baking.  

procrastibaking9 up3 down
to procrastinate writing a paper (or other dreaded task) by baking
Instead of writing my dissertation, I was procrastibaking all weekend. Enjoy the muffins.

Thanks to urbandictionary.com for the definition.  

Perhaps not the best string of ideas, as far as productivity goes... but it yielded some tasty cookies!

This recipe comes from the blog Love Veggies and Yoga.

You'll need:

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (or butterscotch, chocolate, etc.)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium-sized, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and peanut butter together.  Nuke it in 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  It should only take about 90 seconds or so.

Add the sugars to the melted butter and peanut butter mixture.  Stir together.  Place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes, or if you have some time on your hands, allow this mixture to come to room temperature on its own.  The purpose behind doing this is to cool the mixture before adding eggs, thus preventing inadvertent scrambling.

Remove the mixture from the freezer and add the whole egg and egg yolk, and vanilla extract.  Stir together.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and stir to combine.  Add in the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips too, and stir to combine again.

Drop or roll ~1-inch balls of dough onto cookie sheets, approximately 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Then enjoy!