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Homemade granola – it’s worth the effort

I drafted this post on February 27… it’s been almost exactly a month later and I can’t believe I haven’t shared it with my blog audience! There are many reasons (aka excuses) for this. I had out of town visitors, I baked several cakes, I started crafting much more at home and yada yada. Anyway, this is a great recipe from my idol Pioneer Woman. After I purchased all the ingredients, I realized I could have spent about $5 to buy some good granola instead of the estimated $10-15 I spent on making my own but homemade > store bought. Here’s a link to the original recipe. Let me note now that I didn’t follow instructions and grease my baking sheet well so I ended up making a bowl of granola versus granola bars. Grrrrr… but it’s ok because we ended up eating our granola crumble on Greek yogurt and it was fabulous. Check out the recipe below:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Rolled Oats (not Quick Oats)
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted, Plus More For Greasing (Greasing is critical!!)
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Or Canola Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Apple Juice (I juiced my own!)
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup Wheat Germ
  • 1/2 cup Finely Chopped Pecans (I omitted this and just used almonds)
  • 1/4 cup Roughly Chopped Almonds
  • 8 ounces, weight Milk Chocolate Or Chocolate Almond Bark, Melted (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, toss the oats with the canola oil, melted butter and salt. Spread the mixture out on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.

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Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, apple juice and molasses. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring until all combined. Stir in the vanilla.

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These are the apples I juiced to make my own apple juice.

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Toss together the toasted oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, pecans and almonds. Pour in the sugar mixture, stirring as you pour. Toss to combine; it will be sticky!

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Press into 1 baking sheet (thoroughly greased with butter, or line pan with foil and grease foil) and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut pieces with a sharp knife and remove from the pan. Or if you’re doing it like me, scrap off that wax sheet and just break your granola to pieces!

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It’s so golden and beautiful!

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As Lucy Ricardo once said: “It’s so tasty, too!”

So what will you do with all the leftover wheat germ and molasses that you now have from this recipe? You can add it to your morning juicing routine (if you do that). I started to add some wheat germ to our drinks and I can’t taste it but I heard it’s good for you. I’ve also heard of people taking molasses by the spoonful to help with iron deficiency. I won’t do that but you can! Enjoy!

Can Women Do It All?

I have been tasked by a few friends at work to read “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by this Saturday so I can join their book club discussion. This gives me less than 72 hours to read 240 pages. While I’m quite the fast-paced reader, I’m not sure if I can meet this goal but I will try my best. This lead me to think about this ever so popular question – can women do it all? On the drive home daily, I run through a list of to-dos in my head. Gym. Check. Walk the dogs. Check. Pick up groceries. Check. Check your email. Check. Check off your check list. Check. On and on my mind goes and then sometimes I ask “Why are you trying to juggle everything? Can’t you just sit at home and relax?” NO. That would mean I’m failing…but who is grading me anyway? No one but myself (and the other awesome stay at home women bloggers). I imagine that those women are judging me because they can juggle it all. They can be the awesome stay at home mom who blogs, cooks, post beautiful pictures on their Instagram, Facebook and websites, make their children everything from scratch and are the most amazingly, fit trophy wives. Thank goodness for Yahoo and their brilliant, down-to-earth women writers for finally talking some sense into me. No, women can’t do it all. Stop trying to be that super-mom or super-woman, just be that super-you. Do what you want, not what others ask of you. Put yourself first. Your sanity will thank you. Read this short article titled “Why ‘Super-Mom’ Stopped Trying to be Perfect” and it makes sense. You’re human, you’re allowed to make mistakes and color outside the lines. I’m going to take this writer’s quote to heart but make some edits of my own:

“I want to slow down, and not try to cross all these things off of my list, and not worry about the dishes piling up in the sink,” said Cindy Williams, a wife to an amazing husband and one little fluffy pooch mother of two. “I just want to enjoy whatever is going on in the moment with my small but mighty family kids.”

So does this mean I won’t force myself to meet this deadline this Saturday? No. I’ll do it and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing which is cooking, cleaning, trying to start my own business, blog, craft, see friends and more but I now know I can to slow down if I need to. I can learn to say no and choose to sit at home, watch TV and relax with my husband by my side if I want to. I have to remember that there is no deadline on everything that I do and that my life is my own and I don’t have to be a super-wife/friend/daughter/employee/future mom.

See you later checklist!

Writer’s Block

Yesterday, I had writer’s block. It doesn’t show in my blog but it’s showing in my work! Today, however, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m writing ferociously like Speedy Gonzalez! The first photo shows how I really felt and the second photo just made me feel better about myself. Thanks, Ryan!

Writers Block

Hey Girl. You Make Writer's Block Look Good.

Weekend Recap – SD, Home, Run, Bake

Last Friday, I made a trip back to San Diego to see one of my girlfriends, explore my old stomping grounds at UCSD, catch up with one of my other girlfriends and play with her adorable two-year-old and go line dancing. The morning began at 6 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. with plenty of running around. After scooping up some caffeine and breakfast for my friend and me, I went to my college bookstore to do some exploring (or rather look at things and say to myself “That’s where my tuition went.”) I ended up giving more money to the campus by purchasing some books and t-shirts (nope, no buyers remorse here…). The Christmas tree was set up and decked out with Grinch-y items in celebration I assume of our love for Dr. Seuss things. Dr. Seuss is our semi-mascot as our library is named after Theodore Geisel (creator of the Dr. Seuss line).
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While I was away and being a paranoid parent who kept wanting to check in on Vixen, I got this text message reassuring me that she was doing A-OK. That little smug face is too cute.
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So after doing the cowboy cha cha and running around on a playground with my friend’s son, we needed some time to just relax at home. Saturday morning didn’t go that way at all as I did several loads of laundry, went to the groomers (for Vixen, not me) and went on a grocery run. FINALLY, in the afternoon we found time to squeeze in a little hike to connect with nature and enjoy the lovely SoCal weather. We went to Peters Canyon which is just a few miles from home and did a nice three-mile trek around the lake. Daniel was totally surprised by it’s existence (as it hides quite nicely behind some homes and a shopping center). I’m sure we’ll be back again.
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After the hike, I knew that I had two desserts that I needed to bake for Sunday but I just wasn’t up to it. I should have planned my schedule better though because Sunday was totally nutty. We all got up at 5 a.m. to attend our dog rescue fundraiser. I had to make a bagel/doughnut run while Daniel had to set up the tents. Our rescue group, Lovebugs Rescue, raised $18,000 which is absolutely spectacular! Thanks to everyone to who donated!! More dog lives will be saved!! Vixen and I did a 1K with all the other furry friends at the park and she had a blast. Next year we are aiming to do the 5K (well it’s really me who needs to aim higher). After that event, we rushed to our softball game and then went home to have lunch and bake two desserts. I could have made one dessert for the dinner we were going to but I just couldn’t! Reason – Daniel told me that one of the guests of honor was the best baker he’s ever tasted baked goods from. Since she impressed him, I wanted to impress her and I sure did with this brownie recipe. Woo! The first recipe is from Pioneer Woman and it’s called Knock You Naked Brownies. I’m not sure if I can say that these brownies blew my clothes off but my socks came off and my teeth screamed a little.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines) – I used Pillsbury and it was only 15 oz.
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans – I used just a handful
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted – Daniel stared at me as I laughed with much guilt
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped – I used only 20 and I thought it was more than enough
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – I used a small handful of mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar – Not necessary but I used about a pinch

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.

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  • Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside. (Not pictured)
  • In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.

20131114-085635.jpg <– This took forever to melt!!

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  • Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.

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  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. [I cut this part out and just did a light sprinkle of the powder sugar]. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan. Slice below.

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Ooey-gooey, moist and oh so sweet!

On to my next creation! Pumpkin spiced everything is everywhere this year. I decided to make the most of this pumpkin season by making pumpkin bread. Originally I was going to make pumpkin pie but Daniel said it’s not special enough and that he missed my bread. I get more inspired when he tells me what he wants to eat! This recipe makes two loaves. It’s very moist and light in pumpkin flavor. It tasted a bit bland to me but that’s because I cut down the sugar by half but it makes a great breakfast bread because it’s dense and will hold you over for some time. In the future, I will add a bit more sugar and some nuts to add additional texture. Thank you to My Baking Addiction blog for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (I used only 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inch loaf pans.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until well blended. (I just mixed with my spoon – nothing fancy here).

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  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.

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  • Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

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  • Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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As everything bakes, take a moment to stare at your spouse relaxing as you sweat in the kitchen. JK, he was so helpful afterward as he washed all my dishes!! Can you spot Vixen in the picture? She’s under the blanket laying her head on Daniel’s leg.

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Voila – Here is a not so great photo of the desserts that were nearly finished at the dinner!

And as if I wasn’t all ready spreading myself thin in the span of 72 hours, I decided that I should make soup too! This is a repost from my old blog that faded into the sunset. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (6-8 servings)
From Ina Garten
Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs ripe plum (aka Roma) tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) canned plum tomatoes with their juice (I used regular diced tomatoes in a can)
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tspn fresh thyme leaves (I left this out)
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water ( I used chicken stock)
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Toss the tomatoes with1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

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  • 15 minutes before the tomatoes are done roasting, saute the onions, garlic, 2 tbspn of olive oil, butter and red pepper flakes in a large stockpot for 10 minutes over medium heat. Once the onions start to turn brown, add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.

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  • Remove the roasted tomatoes from the oven and add it to the pot. Also add any liquid that is left on the baking sheet into the pot.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and allow it to simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  • Take the soup off the food mill and use the coarsest blade. I don’t have such equipment so just poured it into my Ninja blender.
  • Get some tasty bread and mozarella cheese and press it in a panini maker or make garlic bread to dip in the soup. Enjoy!
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My next to dos: Two birthday cakes and Christmas yarn tree tutorial!

Productive Sunday

My plans to keep this blog going is coming to fruition! I spent the last two days in Las Vegas on a mini getaway. The plan was to celebrate a friend’s birthday and experience Halloween in Sin City. Seriously, this is the year of Vegas shenanigans as I went three times!! Anyway, I learned that I am getting a little too old to deal with overcrowded dance floors and have high expectations for hotel pools. Note to you Planet Hollywood, you have a ridiculous amount of space around the pool, why do you insist on only using 5 percent of the area?! And club goers, why don’t you dress up for Halloween? Halloween is better in San Diego. The plus side is I had good food, saw many professional bull riders (cowboys everywhere), got some rest and relaxation, watched my fave shows and read my book. Weekend getaways are great for catching up on things I don’t do while at home. The best feeling when I leave town is coming home and seeing my little family – Daniel and Vixen. i missed them so much!

Today, I caught up with an awesome friend, made holiday cards and cooked soup! This is quite productive for a Sunday.

Stampin Up parties are the new thing for me. I really enjoy making these cards with this group of ladies. It’s relaxing and I love sharing the cards with my family and friends. Stationery is really a lost art and people should continue to send mail again! Here are a couple of photos from today:

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I can’t wait to send these cards out in the next couple of weeks. Can you believe the holidays are only a couple of weeks away? After spending a few hours card making, I came home to make a soup from a recipe I saw in my latest Rachel Ray magazine. It was good, but a tad salty. I will need to remake the soup and cut back on the chicken stock which I think is the culprit for making the soup salty! Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup whole-grain (not pearled) farro
2 tablespoons EVOO
8 ounces hot Italian sausage (about 2 links), casings removed
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 cups chicken stock (I would sub half the stock with water)
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (didn’t use it)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grated pecorino-Romano (didn’t use it)

Directions:
– In a large, heavy saucepan, cover the farro with a couple inches of water.
– Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, salt the water and simmer gently until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
– Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium. Cook the sausage, breaking it up, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook the garlic until golden, 2 minutes. Add the stock; bring to a simmer. Stir in the farro and kale and simmer until the kale is tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
– Return the sausage to the pan and stir in the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the stew among bowls, top with the cheese and drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp. EVOO.

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Have a great week!!

I love my RR magazines

Well, there’s no avoiding it. I took a long hiatus from blogging because life got too busy. There were many great shareable moments from summer but to take the time to post and write, it’s nearly impossible. I’m going to take baby steps to start this process again. Let’s start with one soup that was really tasty!

I love subscribing to many cooking/home-style magazines: Southern Magazine, Food Network, Real Simple and Rachael Ray. I don’t have much time to read all of them but I always try to make something from my Rachael Ray (RR) magazine because her recipes are easy to make for a large group and they are tasty. The latest recipe she featured was chorizo and black bean soup. I’ve copied and pasted it below. This is for my soup making buddy Fab!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil or vegetable oil
1/2 pound raw chorizo, casing removed and meat crumbled or chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Serrano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (a scant palmful) – I didn’t use this
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans, divided
3 cups chicken stock, divided
4 eggs – I didn’t use this
Optional toppings: I love cilantro so plenty of this!

Directions:
In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil, 1 turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp at the edges, 2 minutes. Add the onion, chiles, garlic, chili powder, cumin and coriander; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, to toast the spices for a couple of minutes.

In a blender or food processor, purée 1 can beans and 1 cup chicken stock. Add purée to the Dutch oven along with the remaining 1 can beans and 2 cups stock. Simmer over medium-high heat for a few minutes to thicken. Then Bon Appetite!

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Doggie Treats

Daniel and I started fostering dogs through a local foster agency in November. We did it to save the many adorable stray dogs that end up in shelters. I thought we would foster several dogs before settling down with one but then Vixen came into our lives unexpectedly. She is such a great dog; she loves to go in walks, she can be left alone at home and she doesn’t ask too much of us. It’s not that we neglect her but we just needed a dog that could be independent. All in all, she is wonderful and I have become that dog mom that likes to spoil their dog. I don’t buy her lots if things but I like to feed her organic/home made goods. Since it was a rainy day, I stayed indoors and wanted to bake. I wasn’t in the mood to make something for myself so I thought it would be a neat to make my own dog treats. I found an easy recipe from Curbly. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (to make about 8 treats):
– 4 ounce jar of organic baby food (any flavor you’d like. I think dogs like orange flavored veggies like butternut squash and carrots) make sure that it doesn’t have ingredients that are deadly to dogs!
– One cup of 100% whole wheat flour

Recipe:
– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
– Mix both ingredients together in one bowl. Add about one tablespoon of water if you need moisture to gather more flour if some of it doesn’t stick.
– Flour your counter and roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness.
– Grab your favorite cookie cutter (I just happen to have a bone-shaped one – really, I’m not crazy enough to buy it just for this project!) and cut away.
– Place the treats on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

That’s it! Let the treats cool and then serve it to your dog. You can save the treats in an airtight container and give one to your dog once a day. Did I mention that this entire recipe only costs you about $1.50 (buy the flour whole sale). That’s a steal!

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