Seven-Year Granola

I love to eat granola (crunchy, sweet AND good for me? yes, please!), but I don't buy it very often because it is so expensive pre-made. I hadn't really thought of making it myself until Melissa from the Traveling Lunchbox posted this recipe for her Seven-Year Granola. If she had spent seven years perfecting this recipe, I felt it was my duty to at least try it out. The verdict? A-mazing. And making it was so easy that I'm never going to contemplate buying it from a store again!

Now, the recipe does say to add any dried fruit after the granola is done baking, but I think this depends on the moisture content of your fruit. I was using blueberries, which were very damp, so I added them before baking and they held up well. I also used sliced almonds and pumpkin seeds for the nuts. And do make sure that you use quick oats, not old-fashioned rolled oats. Quick oats are processed longer than the rolled ones, so they're much lighter and cook more quickly.

Seven-Year Granola

1 lb. (450g) quick oats
3 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 cup, packed (200g) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (115g/1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80ml) water
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
dried fruit, at your discretion

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C. In a food processor, coffee grinder or blender, grind half the oats to a fine powder. In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, nuts and seeds. In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat), combine the brown sugar, butter and water and heat just until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Stir the mixture together until smooth, then stir in the salt and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts, stirring well to coat (I usually do this with my hands). Let stand for about ten minutes.

Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between the clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking up the mixture into small-to-medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so before stirring again. Repeat the bake-and-stir until the mixture is a uniform golden brown and completely dry; this usually takes 1-1 1/2 hours. Cool completely, then stir in any dried dried fruit you want to use.

Store in a covered container at room temperature. Serve with milk or plain yogurt and fresh fruit as desired.

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Dutch Baby Pancakes

Pancakes have never been a food I like to eat; they're always a little too dry and there's always too much of them. I've tried everything to make them tastier -- dousing them in jam, syrup, even hot salsa -- but I'd always rather have a big platter of bacon, done up crispy-style.

However, that all changed when I saw this post on orangette. Jimmy's dutch baby pancakes looked buttery, light, and airy... and I had to have them. The batter is made in the blender, creating little air bubbles that expand when the pancake is baked. You can make this in two small cast-iron pans, or one large one. A glass pyrex dish would also do (I used four small ramekins).

4 tbs unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup 2% milk

1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar (balsamic would also work)
powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the dish on a baking sheet, and into the oven to heat up. After it has risen to temperature, divide the butter evenly between the dishes and slide back into the oven.

Put the eggs, flour, and milk in a blender and give them a quick spin. After the butter has melted in the dishes, remove from the oven and distribute the batter evenly in each dish. Pop them back into the oven for 25 minutes.

Mix the strawberries with the granulated sugar and vinegar in a bowl. After the pancakes are ready, quickly take them out of the oven, dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar, and spoon the strawberries over the pancakes.

These are best eaten piping hot, so serve immediately.

Serves 2.

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