June 2015 archive

homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s’mores

When I think of 4th of July, I think of ribs, fireworks and Georgia.

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

When I was growing up, my family never had any strict 4th of July traditions. Sometimes we were on vacation, sometimes we stayed home and searched for a fireworks show, sometimes we just had brunch while listening to patriotic Aaron Copland music and a reading of the Constitution. When Will and I had been dating for a few years, he brought me to his family’s 4th of July celebration in Georgia. Their family traditions include cooking ribs for hours on the grill, making homemade ice cream, running around in the backyard with cousins, fireworks, sparklers and whiskey.  Don’t worry, the last few don’t go together, but after a fun day in the sun most of the family likes to relax with a cold glass of ginger ale with whiskey, or whiskey with a splash of ginger ale, depending on who you ask.

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

To me, Independence Day always seems like the pinnacle of the summer.  S’mores and bonfires are such a great treat and activity for summer and fall.  So, what could be a better dessert for the upcoming holiday weekend than one that combines s’mores and whiskey and cookies and chocolate?

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

I’m so excited to share these with you!  Homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s’mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!  These marshmallows have just enough whiskey in them to stand out, but not so much that you don’t want to eat them on their own. When paired with chocolate, the combination is a match made in campfire heaven.  For a 4th of July treat, I used Trader Joe’s’ “Fireworks Chocolate” – dark chocolate with a hint of chili and pop rocks embedded in the bar for a fun popping surprise when the chocolate melts in your mouth and the pop rocks do their thing.

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

To give the graham crackers their distinct flavor I used a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flours.  Whole wheat flour means they are healthy, right?  So eating them for breakfast is acceptable?  Good.

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

If you are looking for a great treat to make with your family and friends this 4th of July, these whiskey s’mores are a great step up from the normal s’more and will excite everyone with their complex but still simple flavor and ingredient combination.

Happy holiday week! I’m already excited about our trip!

Honey Graham Crackers
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
1/3 honey
5 tablespoons milk (full-fat is better)
2 tablespoons vanilla

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla. Add the honey mixture to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low just until the dough comes together. It will be soft and very sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it and chill in the refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

After the dough has chilled, spread a layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the stiff dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so sprinkle flour on it and the rolling pin as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle. Cut 2-3 inch squares out of the dough.

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. You may need to reroll any of the scraps (this is easier if you squish them together, chill, then roll and cut again).  Alternately, you could just eat them ;) I won’t tell.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, until browned, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.  The cooking time depends on how big you cut them and how crunchy you like your graham crackers.  The longer you bake them the crunchier they will be after they cool.  I cut my crackers into about 2 1/2 inch squares and 10 minutes in the oven gave me golden, soft crackers while 15 minutes made crisp, crunchy crackers.  Check them throughout the process to make sure they don’t burn.

Whiskey (or Bourbon) Marshmallows
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
½ cup cold whiskey (or bourbon, your preference)
½ cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour ½ cup cold water and 3 ½ packs of gelatin. Let the gelatin sit while you beat the egg whites and make the sugar mixture.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a medium pot combine the sugar, bourbon, corn syrup and salt. Heat over low heat and whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and let the sugar come to a boil. Watch it to make sure it does not overflow. Let it boil for 8-12 minutes, until it reaches 240 degrees F (measure with a candy thermometer, or just set a timer). The mixture will appear to be a light brown color – have no fear, the marshmallows will still be white (or at least off-white).

Once mixture is at 240 degrees F, turn off the heat. With the mixer on low speed, gently pour it into the mixer over the gelatin. Once all of the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high and beat for 6-8 minutes. The mixture will grow in size and become white, fluffy and sticky. About 3-4 minutes in, add the stiff egg whites and the vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

Pour marshmallow mix into the prepared 9 x 13 pan. It will super sticky and you will not be able to get it all out of the bowl. Scrape out as much as you can, then spray a spatula with non-stick spray and smooth. Dust the top of the marshmallows with powdered sugar and let sit to firm up for 3-5 hours. Once firm, you can turn the pan upside down on a cutting board to release marshmallow rectangle and cut into pieces of whatever shapes and sizes you like, or cut them directly in the pan.

With the graham crackers, marshmallows (preferably toasted) and some chocolate, assemble the s’mores how you like them best (more chocolate is always acceptable) and enjoy!

Graham crackers slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen.  Marshmallows slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats.

These delicious homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s'mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout!

link love

It’s FriYAY!

Link love 6-26-2015

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I’m off to celebrate some great friends getting married this weekend – enjoy these links of the week!

This tumblr is hilarious.  Why did McCall’s patterns look the same for so long?

So, J. Crew is struggling.  Bring back the basics!  But also, thanks for being trendy?  There are aspects of both I love but man, they were great in the hayday.  The scary thing is that I definitely still have that Holiday 2012 catalogue.  It was a good one.

The women’s world cup is in full swing!  Are you keeping up?  Here’s your interactive guide.

I often don’t get enough sleep and I almost never get the recommended amount.  This guy puts that in perspective.  Is that worth it?  No.  Catch some more zzzs.

The Supreme Court of the United States made some huge rulings this week.

Yesterday, they ruled that the Affordable Care Act is law (here is your guide to the case and the decisions).  Today they ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.   In his speech after the ruling, Obama said, “this morning the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality, in doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law, that all people should be treated equally regardless of who they are or who they love.”

So much history making in one week!  Go SCOTUS, go!

Have a wonderful weekend!

oatmeal toffee chip cookies

Happy belated Father’s Day!  Instead of working on this post yesterday, we spent most of the day and night with my family celebrating Father’s Day.  But, have no fear!  There is still a recipe for you this week!

These toffee chip cookies are a delicious treat with a great nutty flavor.

When I was growing up my parents shared kitchen responsibilities. They both cooked, together and separately, depending on how everyone’s busy schedules each night. From a young age my siblings and I were involved in meal preparation too. We would get cookbooks for kids from the library and, in the summer, the kids got to choose and make one dinner during the week (with supervision, of course). Granted, they were not elaborate, or probably even very good meals, but we were proud of what we made and learned a lot of skills from those experiences. The kid’s cookbooks stand out vividly in my memory, but my love for baking came even before we looked at any picture-filled pint-sized cooking guides.

These toffee chip cookies are a delicious treat with a great nutty flavor.

My dad taught my brother, sister and I to be creative from a young age. He told us about all of the inventions he made as a kid and encouraged any creative ideas we had. One of the ways I was encouraged to use creativity was with my good ‘ol Easy Bake Oven. I mixed together desserts from those crappy little packages made for the toy light bulb oven and very proudly served two bite-sized “treats” to my family of five for dessert (my perception of how many people those tiny pans served was a bit off).  When I got old enough and graduated from the Easy Bake Oven to the real oven, my dad was the one who taught me to bake and to love the process of baking.

These toffee chip cookies are a delicious treat with a great nutty flavor.

We often made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies together, with me carefully putting the butter into the mixing bowl and him demonstrating how to crack an egg.  After so many years of cookie-making together we both know the recipe by heart now. Working together, we can make over 100 cookies in 40 minutes, start to finish. Talk about a good team.

These toffee chip cookies are a delicious treat with a great nutty flavor.

These oatmeal toffee chip cookies still have the oatmeal from our traditional cookie recipe but provide a much nuttier flavor throughout the entire dessert.  The toffee and little bit of sweet chocolate add a great crunch and butteriness to each bite while the oats ramp up the texture and make the cookie more substantial.  Brown sugar replaces all of the granulated sugar and adds depth while enhancing the toffee flavor even further.  These cookies are so easy to whip up and offer a great twist on typical oatmeal cookies.  No matter the cookie, these, our usuals, or a new recipe, I can thank my dad for encouraging my creativity to try new things, experiment and enjoy the wonderful baking process.

These toffee chip cookies are a delicious treat with a great nutty flavor.

I’m so blessed to have such an encouraging, loving father.  I have learned so much and continuously learn more and more every day from you, Pops.  Happy belated father’s day to the best dad in the world!

Oatmeal Toffee Chip Cookies
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats (not quick cooking)
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ sea salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups brown sugar (I used a combination of dark and light)
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup toffee (or Heath bar) bits

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in the egg and vanilla.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated into the wet ingredients.  Fold in the toffee/heath bar bits.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (if you bake them right away your cookies will spread all across the pan).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place golf ball-sized cookie dough balls on each sheet, with room between them for spreading.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.  The edges will be brown but the centers will still be soft and may not look all the way done.  Let them cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

This dough can also be frozen for ready-to-eat cookies at any time.  To do this, freeze the cookie dough balls on a baking sheet.  After they are completely frozen, transfer to an airtight bag or container.  When you are ready to bake, follow above directions and increase baking time by a few minutes.  Keep an eye on them as baking time in different ovens may vary.

link love

Link Love 6-19-15 blackberries

 

Hey there!  It’s hot out there.  Let’s pick blackberries from the woods out back then stay inside and look at links!

First, I think this is hilarious.  I hate the phrase “I can’t.”  Maybe I’m already an old person?

Have you seen these Serengeti selfies?  It is a pretty cool concept that uses the online community to classify and count animals of the Serengeti.  Not to mention we get to see funny “selfies” of wild animals in the process.  That’s what I call a win-win.

The new Pixar movie Inside Out was released in theaters today.  With a focus on how we think about our emotions, the movie is supposedly one of the more psychological works the animated film company has made.  I can’t decide what I think about it, but I guess that is kind of the moral of the movie, so maybe I should go see it.

This food blogger and mother plays with her food and creates awesome art and faces out of it.

Speaking of food, I visited DC last weekend and saw this artist’s watercolors in my friend’s house.  Such lovely food art!

Sticking with our food theme to round out the post, a new study came out in the medical journal Heart that chocolate may help protect you from cardiovascular disease.  Awesome, right?!  What a great excuse to eat up :)

memorial day weekend

I’m final catching up on some of the pictures I took over Memorial Day weekend! Three-day weekends are sometimes the best. That third day adds just enough time to make the whole weekend so much more relaxing. I think all weekends should be three days long – I believe it would make offices everywhere happier places to be during those four days of work. Maybe more productive too?

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with family

I digress. We spent Saturday afternoon at one of our favorite local coffee shops, sipping tea, eating hot minis (bite-sized melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon sugar covered doughnuts) and toasts loaded with almond butter, honey and granola.

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with family

I am a planner and I love logistics (I promise I’m not a UPS ad ;) ).  This is a trait I share with my dad but not something we get to do together very often.  I loved planning out some of our upcoming adventures and what we need to do in preparation while we were all relaxing together in the secluded corner of the small coffee shop.

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with family

On Monday, Will and I woke up early and headed to my family’s house to make brunch together. With good efforts to have a big brunch on the table around 10 or 11, we didn’t end up sitting down until after 12. Whoops. All of the fruits of our baking labors were delicious though, so the wait was justified.

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with family

The rectangular pan is filled with sticky toffee pecan monkey bread – it was so delicious!

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with familyI tried to make doughnuts and almost succeeded. (I didn’t leave enough time for the dough to rise so we had some good, but flat, doughnuts.)  The pastry cream made them worth it though. Yeast and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love yeasted baked goods; yeast doesn’t like to cooperate when I try to use it in my own baked goods. Someday I’ll conquer the challenge that is baking with yeast.

A wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with family

While I tend to cram my regular weekends full of plans, three-day weekends give us an excuse to leave town or set aside time to slow down if we stay in town. They provide a usually much needed reprieve from the hectic go-go-go weekdays. Memorial Day was the perfect weekend doing the things we loved with people we love. I’m already looking forward to the long 4th of July weekend :)

one year

This time last year Will and I were on the way to our New England honeymoon.  It is crazy to think that it has already been one year since we got married – how time flies!  It feels like our wedding was just a few months ago and the hot days of moving into our apartment when we returned from our honeymoon seem like just yesterday.  I look back at pictures from our wedding and first year of marriage and am flooded with so many wonderful memories.

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After dating for 7 years, it is hard to believe that we still had (and have) so much to learn about each other, but this year has been a learning experience for both of us.  We now know each other better than ever and can recite the other’s likes and dislikes like they are our own opinions.  I know to stock up on Frosted Mini Wheats for his late night study snacks and he knows to grab Pink Lady apples for my lunches.  We can make trip to the grocery store together as good of a date as dinner and a movie.  I’m not so naive to think that we know everything about each other yet.  I’m sure we will continue to learn more and more every day of our marriage, and isn’t that part of the fun? :)

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Each day is a new adventure, and the two of us, we make a pretty darn good team.

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This year has been such a wonderful one.  From cooking adventures to exploratory walks and late-night tv show watching, from laughter to tears, through happiness and frustration, I am so lucky to have my biggest supporter and my best friend by my side.

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Thank you to all who have supported us throughout our friendship, wedding and marriage.  We are so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful encouragement and love.  Here’s to a fantastic first year of marriage and to many many more adventurous years together!

 

All photos by Graham Terhune Photography

brown butter chocolate chip sea salt cookies

Cookies are my favorite baked good to make. I have a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe that I know better than the back of my hand and can make in less than 45 minutes, including baking time. Still, I love to experiment with additions and substitutions to make different variations on the classic chocolate chip cookie.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies-2

After reading so many recipes that rave about browned butter I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try in my cookie recipes. I tried recipe after recipe after brown buttered recipe, each one disappointing me in a different way. The cookies were flat and thin instead of leavened and chewy. The brown butter added a nutty flavor but the batter didn’t stay together. I altered recipes and changed the ingredient ratios with a little success but still not good enough to meet the expectations my regular chocolate chip cookies set for my palate.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies-3

On a mission to make the best browned butter cookies, I did a little research and determined that part of the problem with my failed cookie attempts was that browning the butter releases water, resulting in a moisture loss. The lower amount of moisture made it difficult for the dough to stick together. We alleviate the crumbling dough problem by browning most, but not all, of the butter, to keep some of that lost moisture.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies-9

While browning butter might seem intimidating, have no fear! I had trouble browning butter until I learned to listen for the popping, or lack thereof. Browning the butter takes a bit more effort than throwing a stick of regular butter in the bowl but these browned butter sea salt chocolate chip cookies are well worth it.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies-5

Browned butter smells delightful and infuses its delicious toffee aroma and flavor into the chocolate chip cookies. It pairs so well with pools of dark chocolate spread throughout the cookie and bits of sea salt that highlight and enhance all of the flavors. Unlike so many browned butter cookie recipes I have tried, these stay tall and the dough sticks together easily. Success!  The cookies come out soft on the inside with a crunchy exterior.  The chocolate drips out of the crevices of the caramel colored cookie.  They are the perfect cookie for those times when chocolate chip cookies need that extra boost or you want to impress your friends.  Really, is there ever a bad time for brown butter chocolate chip sea salt cookies?  The answer to that is no.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies-7With the intensity of the dark chocolate chunks, depth of the browned butter and zing of the sea salt, these ooey, gooey cookies are by far the best browned butter cookies I have tried!

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup sugar
1 ½ dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 pound dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (I used a combination of bittersweet chocolate chips and a chopped up dark chocolate bar)
sea salt (for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.

Over medium heat melt 12 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. The butter will bubble and pop. Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally, until the crackling noises stop. Once the butter stops popping swirl continuously until brown bits begin to form at the bottom of the pan. After about 2-3 minutes, once the bits become amber, remove the butter from the heat and pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until completely melted.

Add the sugars and vanilla to the butter and stir until incorporated. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing well after each addition. On low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture until incorporated, then add the chocolate chunks.

Scoop the cookie dough into 3-tablespoon sized balls and place on your prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with sea salt (optional).  Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, or until the edges and tops are golden brown. Allow the baked cookies to cool for a few minutes on the trays before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

*Slightly adapted from Handle the Heat

link love

Welcome, Friday!  It is feeling like summer around here.  The air is thick, the temperatures stay warm into the night and the weekends are busy!  I’m so excited to share our pictures from last weekend soon :)  In other news, there are at least two or three free concerts every Thursday night (and another on Friday night) in our area throughout the summer.  We can hear some of the music from our apartment and it is a great, relaxing way to bring in Friday.

link love 6-12-15

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Here are some links I’ve been loving this week:

These diary entries from Dancing Girl emoji are hilarious.

We realize first impressions of everything.  People, designs, brands, cities, you name it.  This is a fascinating article on the power of first impressions and how we judge things.

In case you missed it, the royal family posted new pictures of little George and Charlotte together.  Aparently Duchess Kate has a knack for photography and took them herself.  Bravo, Kate.

I love a good food instagram, but I’m not loving this new technology from Google that will count the calories in the photos you post.  No thank you.  How can that be accurate?  What if you substituted ingredients?  Again, the food nerd in me come out here.

I am an avid tea drinker.  I drink coffee every now and then, usually when I am really struggling to stay alert.  When I do grab a cup of coffee it isn’t until after I am at work and have set up for the day, but I know many people can’t function unless they have had a cup immediately after they roll out of bed.  Are you getting your morning caffeine at the right time of the day? 

Have you ever been to a “Wine and Design” class?  The names of these classes vary depending on where you live, but they are essentially what the name entails – enjoy a glass of your favorite wine while you learn how to paint a canvas like your artist instructor.  All of the classes I have been to have been great and I always leave impressed with my artwork.  This wine and painting party is adorable and, I think, would be just as fun!  I’d love to try it but I’m not so sure my painting would look as good as it does when I follow the leader.  It’s about the experience though, right?

Have a great one and check in this week for some pictures from Memorial Day weekend and our beach trip last weekend!

Classic Granola

I have made granola about a thousand times.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but not by too much.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

Granola is one of those snacks that I can eat any time of the day and any time of the year. Granola is so customizable. It is easily altered depending on what you have on hand and what you are craving. Sometimes you feel like a granola chock full of nuts and dried fruit, sometimes you might be feeling the peanut butter chocolate chip combo. Often I eat it straight out of the container, but if I want a breakfast treat I’ll add it to a bowl of milk and eat it like cereal. When I’m feeling really elaborate I’ll sprinkle it between layers of fruit and yogurt. I know, so fancy.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

I took a class in college about food in American culture. As you can imagine, it was a great class. We had an entire unit devoted to studying barbecue and a unit on community cookbooks. Despite the titles of these topics, I learned a lot in the class and a lot from my classmates. Each time we had class one person was assigned to bring in a food that they loved or a food that was traditional in their household.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

One of my classmates grew up working in the bakery her parents owned. She had many fresh bread recipes memorized and lots of pastry techniques up her sleeve, but when it was her turn to bring food to class, she brought in the bakery’s locally famous granola. At that point in my novice stages of granola making I had only attempted to make the treat a few times. I held on to every tip and sliver of information she told us about the granola and how her parents created their recipe. That is where I learned about powdered milk and egg whites.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

Powdered milk is not an ingredient I use in really anything else. It is a bit strange when you think about it, but it does make a difference in granola. It and egg whites are the secret keys that hold the ingredients together well and help create those large clumps that I love.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

Over the years making granola recipe after granola recipe, I have determined just how I like my classic granola: not too sweet, a little salty kick, large clumps – not itty-bitty pieces that freely roam about a bag or bowl of milk. I like it nutty with small morsels of dried fruit for great texture and natural sweetness, but not so much of either of these ingredients that the granola falls apart (remember, no roaming granola). This granola recipe combines all of those aspects and creates an addictively delicious snack or meal that can be tailored to your liking.

This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day This classic granola is deliciously addictive and perfect for any time of the day

A few notes about the recipe before you begin (don’t worry, they are helpful, not overwhelming!):
– Flaxseed meal is optional and doesn’t add anything super substantial to the granola, just a good nutty flavor and some extra nutrients. If you leave the flaxseed meal out, add a bit more almond meal in its place so you have the same amount of dry ingredients.  Conversely, you can also use all flaxseed meal and no almond meal if that is how you want to roll.
– Powdered milk and egg whites both make the granola stick together and clump better. You can use one or both. I find that both are helpful because the powdered milk on its own doesn’t always make the granola as clumpy as I like it and adding more egg whites to make up for a lack of powdered milk just makes the granola strangely chewy, rather than nicely crunchy.  Powdered milk is usually easy to find on the baking aisle in the grocery store.
– Sometimes I chop the nuts, sometimes I don’t, depending on how I’m feeling. The granola turns out great either way, so go with what your mood and craving is telling you.
– I like to use a combination of sweeteners like honey and pure maple syrup. Sometimes I add in molasses and use equal amounts of the three ingredients. You can use your favorites but remember that each provides a different flavor.
– Adding the dried fruit before baking the mixture incorporates it into the granola pieces, but can also make the fruit a bit tougher. I usually add it before baking because I like to have a bit of everything baked into each bite. You can also add it after the granola bakes if you don’t mind having the dried fruit separate from the granola pieces.

Hope’s Favorite Classic Granola
2 ¼ cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup coconut
¾ cups nuts, chopped or not – your preference
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal (optional, see note)
2 tablespoons almond meal
1 tablespoon powdered milk (optional, see note)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoons almond extract
1-2 egg whites
¾-1 cup craisins or other dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the oats, coconut and nuts evenly across the prepared baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Pour the toasted ingredients into a large bowl and add the flax seed meal, almond meal, powdered milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt. Mix well then set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the honey, maple syrup, melted coconut oil, olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts until combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are coated. You can either add your dried fruit now or after the granola has cooked. Adding it now will incorporate it into the granola pieces but might make the fruit tougher. Adding it after the granola is broken up will maintain the softness of the fruit but it will not be cooked within the granola.

Add the egg white(s), if using and mix until they are fully incorporated into the granola.

Evenly distribute your granola onto the parchment covered baking sheet you used to toast the oats, coconut and nuts earlier. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through and checking to make sure the edges do not burn. I like my granola in large clumps so I typically don’t mix it up during the baking process but if you like smaller chunks, toss the granola around on the pan when you rotate it. After your granola is done, let it cool completely before breaking it into pieces.

freedom hot air balloon festival

The first time I saw hot air balloons in person was when our family took a vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years ago.  Early each morning we could look out onto a field at the bottom of the mountain and see the colorful balloons rise into the pale sky.  It was so peaceful to watch the smooth rides as they rose from the field below, passed our house and up to higher altitudes.

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Since that trip, I have added the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta to my bucket list.  I think it would be amazing to see 500 plus hot air balloons in one place, with all of their colors and glowing flames lifting off together.  Over Memorial Day weekend, our local news station hosted their inaugural Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival with two locations and 40 balloons.  We went on Saturday night and LOVED IT!  We all took so many pictures!  Since the light was changing as the sun went down the views changed too.

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

While we were at the hot air balloon festival we watched a balloon being set up, many balloons fly-offering tethered rides.  It was really cool to see one team heating their balloon into the sky, but one of my favorite parts of the night was “the glow”.

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Will was studying for finals most of the weekend but I had so much fun getting out and enjoying the views with my family, including these two :)

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

My sweet, lovely, beautiful, crazy, fun sister, I’m so glad you are home for the summer.

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

When the sun went below the horizon and the sky had been dark for a while “the glow” began.  The balloon captains led a countdown and as spectators shouted “ZERO,” all of the balloons lit up with their propane fire, creating a bright, colorful scene in the midst of the dark.

Fun at the Freedom Hot Air Balloon Festival

I have many more pictures from our fun night with the balloons to share later, but until then, thanks for coming to town, Freedom Balloon Fest!  We can’t wait to go back next year!