Rainy days are perfect days for cooking

Winter in Eugene means rain...and lots of it. And even though it's not quite Winter yet, this weekend gave us a preview of what's to come in the months ahead and rained for most of it. Fortunately for me, lots of time spent indoors out of the rain means lots of time for cooking! I took full advantage of the opportunities the rain provided this weekend. :)

First, I tried a recipe I've been meaning to make for quite some time. Nic, over at bakingsheet, posted a recipe for English Muffin Batter Bread that intrigued me from the moment I saw it. I'm always a sucker for the thought of making things that I usually only buy at the store...breads, stocks, yogurt and ice cream account for some of them...and as you all know, homemade always tastes better. That said, I do have to say I am not at all opposed to taking shortcuts either and just buying something ready-made if I'm not in the mood to make it. But this recipe is stellar. After finding a few recipes for making your own english muffins - this is much easier. Most english muffin recipes require a second rise of the dough and you cook them on a griddle. The batter bread, on the other hand, is simple. It gives you the chewy texture of an english muffin, the yeasty taste, a gorgeous golden-colored loaf and the only regret that I have is that I only own a single loaf pan and so could only make one. This recipe is definitely going in the book and will be made over and over and over...I think my English muffin buying days are over for good!

Another culinary adventure I embarked upon this weekend was making my own granola mix. This is another item I generally just buy pre-made from the store. The recipe is originally from a Barefoot Contessa Food Network episode, but hers included shredded coconut (it would be wonderful with it), which Loving Boyfriend is not ecstatic about. I also chose only the dried fruits that were available from organic sources at my local PC Market of Choice (PC is awesome...you can get all the organic goodies you want, as well as your triscuits or cheetoes or Pepsi or anything else you want). Organic dried fruit (no sugar added) generally tastes far superior, looks better and tastier (more like a dried version of the actual fruit), and doesn't have any weird preservatives in it.

Homemade Granola, originally from Barefoot Contessa, but adapted by me

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup good honey (I used a white Hawaiian honey that I had bought on a trip to Hawaii; it has a slight gingery taste to it)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raw pecan pieces
1 cup turkish apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried calamyrna figs, chopped
3/4 cup zante currants

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the oil, vanilla and honey in a small bowl and whisk it together (this is kind of hard - I whisked and whisked and it would never quite go completely together, but it didn't seem to make any major difference). Mix together the oats, almonds and pecan pieces in a large bowl until well combined (add the coconut here if you'd like it too), then slowly mix in the honey mixture with a wooden spoon until it coats everything evenly. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and bake until an even, golden brown. Let it cool completely. Note to self: If doing this on a Pampered Chef stoneware baking sheet, take the granola off of the sheet immediately after removing it from the oven so that it can cool...otherwise, it willburn on the bottom, even if taken out when perfectly baked...oops :) Mix in the remaining ingredients, and store in an airtight container. Makes about 10 cups. Combine this with some homemade yogurt, have a slice of English muffin batter bread with butter, and you've got yourself a breakfast of the Gods (or Goddesses!).

More of my adventures to come...

6 comments from you:

vlb5757 said...

Michelle, the Granola looks great. I saw the episode where Ina made this granola. It looked really good then and your picture just confirms it's a winner of a recipe!

cookingdiva said...

Good morning Michelle! I love bread, and specially homemade bread :) The problem is that I am a compulsive homemade bread eater, specially when it's still warm---ahhh! that is why I just bake for my clients and when I have people over!

michelle said...

Hi Vickie,
I like her show a lot, and her recipes are always easy and tasty...plus, she and her husband are so cute! You should definitely try the granola!

Hi Cookingdiva!
Good morning to you too! I love homemade bread too...though mine never comes out quite right (except this one because it's so easy)! That's why this loaf is already gone (sigh).

Nic said...

Woohoo - an english muffin convert! I'm so glad to see that the bread worked out for you , Michelle. And that granola looks great.

michelle said...

Hi Nic,
I'm definitely a convert - and I was really surprised that there were no eggs or butter involved! I might try a whole wheat loaf. Thanks for the great recipe!

ldsulli said...

This is very similar to a recipe my mom has used since I was very young. One tip: In order to mix the wet ingredients more easily, put them in a pan on the stove over low heat and mix occasionally until just warmed through (you don't want to boil it). Also, the one and only food my husband won't eat is coconut; however, I like it so I put it in my granola without telling him. Surprise--he loved it anyway. It adds a nice texture but not a lot of overpowering flavor to the granola. I'm also going to add the apricots in the Barefoot Contessa's recipe--I think it will be a nice touch.